You can’t break generational patterns or traumas if you don’t know what they are. Generational Patterns are “A cycle of behavior, thinking, and coping that was inherited from your parents, ancestors, guardians, and/or childhood environment to deal with actual or perceived trauma,” according to Adorned Heart’s definition.
Every family has a unique way that they do things. Some of the unique ways of behaving, thinking, and coping are “unhealthy” and cause issues in our lives. When a child grows up in a home with “dysfunction” they learn bad patterns. This is how generational problems are passed on.
Breaking cycles of toxicity and dysfunctional behaviors is a commitment that many people are not brave enough to start or strong enough to finish. It often feels impossible – Almost like you’re trying to break a strong metal chain with your hand. But, if you start the journey you won’t regret it!
Related QUIZ: What is your coping style?
1. Correct Bad Coping Mechanisms
Strategies to deal with emotions are called coping mechanism. Coping mechanism are used to deal with negative emotions such as pain, anger, jealousy, and sadness. For instance, if you are angry and you punch a wall you used an unhealthy strategy to release anger. An individual that releases their anger poorly did not learn how to “cope” or “manage” their emotions in a healthy way.
Difficult moments and emotions are a part of life. When an individual didn’t learn to deal with pain they crumble under the pressure of “hard-times.”
- Dealing with a situation with unhealthy coping mechanism may make the problem worse. Example: If Jill isn’t happy that Bill never takes out the trash she may become passive-aggressive. Jill never learned how to speak about things that bother her so she believes passively punishing her husband with no sex will correct his behavior.
- People with unhealthy coping mechanisms see the world more hostile. They tend to make assumption about people’s intentions. Example: Sally comes from a household where everyone is passive-aggressive. If something is wrong, no one talks about it but they use petty jabs and say rude comments at inappropriate times. Sally is friends with Gina. Gina gives Sally rides to school all the time. In a conversation Gina says, “I hate it when people use other people for rides.” Sally automatically thinks that Gina is “throwing shade.”
- Coping mechanisms work for practical things such as money management as well. Example: Bob is raised in a family where the top priority is expensive clothes and nice things. As an adult, Bob ends up in huge debt because he never learned how to navigate the financial world. Bob also didn’t learn emotional coping mechanisms so he deals with his shame and failure through gambling – hoping he’ll get rich quick. He ends up loosing even more money.
Ultimately, every family has their problems, trials, and tribulations. The way the family deals with it teaches a child how to deal with it in the future as well. There are some “unicorn” children that are very aware of their generational obstacles and fight to avoid that cycle. However, a large majority of individuals are unaware of the cycles in their family and walk right into them.
The next problem is unhealthy patterns get worse and worse each generation. Each generation picks up more and more unhealthy patterns. Eventually, one generation has more “curses,” “bad luck,” or “dysfunctions” to escape than the prior generation.
Example of how problems are passed down by generation:
- Great Grandma deals with addiction.
- Now, Grandma deals with addiction, divorce, and domestic violence.
- Mom picked up addiction and toxic relationships from Granda. She also started new patterns such as manipulation and blame-shifting.
- Finally, Grandchild escapes from the addiction cycle but still has to deal with poverty, manipulation, blame-shifting, divorce, domestic violence, pornography, and depression.
Related Article: What Causes Toxic Relationships?
We all experience pain but we deal with it differently. One person might deal with loneliness by over-eating; while others have a lot of sex to avoid loneliness. When our parents avoid dealing with problems they pass that same “unhealthy” pattern to us. Then, we inherit bad patterns and learn others behaviors as we go along in life. Then, it gets even worse when we enter relationships with others that also deal with life in an unhealthy manners.
2. Unlearn Dysfunctional Patterns
Do children really soak up everything they learn from their parents, family, or guardians? These might be your thoughts as you read this article. The age old argument between psychologists is applied to this situation: nature v.s. nurture. Is the child naturally like this or did the parent train/nurture them to be this way?
The answer? People don’t fit inside a perfect box. Parents that are organized may have a disorganized child. Parents that teach their child to mediate when angry might raise a child that decides to steal.
The truth is each individual has their own life, friends, problems, insecurities, etc. which causes them to see the world differently. Life events and our parent’s bad habits “shape” how we deal with hard moments. They even teach us how to see situations – you might see the same situation as me and we will both disagree if it was a good event or bad one.
Every child will react to life differently and exhibit behaviors based on choices and/or experiences.
Selection of Behaviors From Different Individuals. One child might pick up a mothers manipulative tendencies to deal with life. While the other child might pick up their Grandma’s passive-aggressive tendencies to deal with life.
Biological Factors. A child that has more testosterone is inclined to deal with more anger. Therefore, they are more likely to copy their father’s tendency to domestic violence or drugs to release their anger.
Exposure To Different Situations, People, and Places. An extroverted sibling is less likely to deal with their emotions via depression, in comparison to their introverted sibling. Why? The extroverted sibling may expose themselves to more individuals in which they can learn healthy tactics of behaviors and coping.
Ultimately, we are all raised in some type of dysfunction. Some of us take on more unhealthy patterns than others. While others, strive to fight past the negativity by learning from situations and experiences. A kind friend, extended family member, church friend, etc. can intervene and show us a thing or two about having healthy patterns in life.
Related Article: The God Complex Causes Dysfunctional Relationships
These are natural occurrences that are God-given, to break cycles of dysfunctions and show that HEALING is possible. Role models teach us that emotional health is possible from people that model it well; even if we did not see it growing up.
Then, each child is able to decide: Do I stay stuck in what I learned growing up? Or, do I fight to conquer all the obstacles that keep me from dealing with the world in a healthy way?
3. Introspection Is Key To Learning How to Break Generational Patterns:
To break generational patterns you have to be aware of unhealthy tendencies in your life and families’ life. Looking within yourself and paying attention to your emotions and behaviors – internal reflection and introspection – are key. Then, when you SEE the problem you can FIX the problem.
Related Quiz: Do you have toxic tendencies?
The quickest way to monitor yourself is to track your patterns. I like to journal. I also like to speak with friends & mentors about my life and invite them to identify patterns that I don’t notice. I also pray and commune with God – He was the one that revealed most of my internal problems to me. Some people seek therapy. It may be different for each person but the journey to awareness is vital to breaking generational curses.
Does something happen in your family often: addiction, divorce, abuse, passive-aggression, control, manipulation, jealousy, gossip, pride, victim mentality, defeatism, perfectionism, loneliness, cynicism, negativity, anger, un-forgiveness, single-parenthood, etc.? Did you identify some areas of concern in your family? Your onto something… the issues that are reoccurring in your family are affecting your life in some way unless you have done the hard work of healing.
Start your healing journey by asking yourself hard questions when you are in the heat of the moment. It will really tell you what you need to know.
To further explore inner healing and end cycles in your life: Download The Heart Detox. It walks you through difficult emotions, having healthy relationships, and enjoying your best life! If you want help navigating this sign up for your First 20 Minutes Free: 1:1 Empowerment Coaching! Or, what patterns does your family have?
26 Introspective Journal Questions for Healing:
Do I have unhealthy patterns of coping?
- What do I do when I’m ________________________ (put emotion in blank)?
- How do I deal with people that are ______________________ (put emotion in the blank)?
- When I’m having a bad day I like to _____________________ (put activity in the blank)?
- When I feel negative emotions towards someone: Am I able to talk to them about it calmly? Why not?
- Do I take time to think about something carefully before talking with someone?
- When something goes wrong do I find a solution to fix the problem? Or, do I become _________________ (put emotion here)?
- What are healthy ways that I deal with ___________________ (put emotion here)?
- Do you have problem admitting you did something wrong – even when it wasn’t done on purpose?
- Do you given into what people want, just to keep the peace?
Related QUIZ: What is your coping style?
Do I have unhealthy patterns of thinking?
- Do you get over things quickly or really slowly?
- Do you think about the same event over and over again?
- When someone does something sketchy do you assume they are a horrible person? Do you constantly question people’s motives?
- Do you feel like people are saying things to hurt you all the time?
- Do you feel everyone is attacking you?
- Do you think everyone else is the problem? Do a lot of things bother you?
- Do you feel guilty when you say no or point out someone’s issues?
- Do you believe that there is no way out of your problems?
Related Article: 2 Keys To Stop Thinking Negatively About Your Loved Ones
Do I have unhealthy patterns of behaving ?
- When you’re mad can you control what you say or how you behave?
- Do you lash out on people?
- Do you understand how your behavior could cause someone else to behave poorly?
- Do you know how to communicate kindly when something is bothering you?
- Are emotions controlling you ? Or, can you control yourself when you feel emotional?
- Do you avoid telling people the truth because you don’t want them to get upset?
- Do you try to find solutions to patterns you see in your life? Does anything change when you put the solution into action?