When Amy was small she used to go on about all the things she’d fantasized she was going to be and do when she grew up. To this day she can still hear her parents’ voices in her head
“Just who do you think you are?”
And it still keeps her small.
Gene was always different from his family. He never quite fit in. His brothers would challenge him when he tried to do things his own way.
“You think you’re better than us?”
He still finds it hard to be true to himself.
I remember author and medical intuitive Caroline Myss talking about how the “tribe” will never reward you for exceeding it. I often see clients struggling to come to grips with this. Even when you have outgrown the mentality of the group having more authority over your self then you do, it can be a struggle not to be oppressed by their less evolved values.
How are Amy and Gene supposed to know that what their families were unable to say was …
“We feel the need to keep you under control. What you do reflects on us. We are threatened by the idea that it could be different. It’s destabilizing to us at this level when “what is” gets challenged. Since we believe we have to do things “the way you’re supposed to,” then so do you.”
Getting these voices out of your head can be awfully challenging. So instead I suggest Amy and Gene try hearing them differently. Take out the obvious judgment and disapproval and treat them as straightforward questions:
Who DO you think you are?
Amy can let it spark her imagination and connect her with the expansive, inquisitive child mind that used to animate her so much.
Gene will need to translate his phrase slightly. I believe when you remove the tribal interpretation it reads:
Do you think you are more than this?
Like Amy’s question it can be interpreted expansively:
“Are you feeling the need to explore your identity?”
“Are you settling for less than your true self?”
“What would you need to do right now to grow into a fuller version of yourself?”
Amy and Gene were harmed by families that were unable to see what they needed, who they were and who they could be. But if they are willing to take responsibility for the message now, they don’t need to go on harming themselves on their families’ behalf.
How have you – or would you have – translated the messages you received? I’d love to read about your approach.