It is interesting that the Hebrew Bible in particular and parts of the New Testament demonstrate huge family problems: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. In addition, there are the verses about the “sins of the father being visited upon the third and fourth generation,” meaning the “sins of the father” transmitted and enacted in subsequent generations result in more pain and more life problems within each generation. No doubt, some of the struggles of the families of the Bible reflect challenges of modern family life, at its worst. We understand that “being” and “doing” family as well as possible requires thoughtful values, respectful interactions with clear boundaries and forms of discipline and emotional regulation for all family members.
Interestingly, the wisdom of the Biblical verses is echoed in family therapy theories: For example, Bowen’s concept of the “multigenerational transmission process” suggests that patterns (substance abuse, cutoffs, family abuse, etc.) are passed down from one generation to the next. When I sit with clients and go back two to three generations, themes and patterns emerge that often can provide understanding of present challenges. Family secrets, myths and “dysfunctions” emerge in various forms with different family characters throughout the generations. These are useful to building awareness and creating change. It is here where I would like to turn our attention:
Philosophical Reflections On Positive Change:
Power of choice: Fundamental to living a life of meaning and empowerment is conviction in one’s power to choose: In each moment, we can engage in actions that uplift ourselves and others, or that which further coarsens the rough edges we wish to smooth.
Power of story: We cannot change the past, but we can set forth to create a story for our lives, which are worthy of the goodness, the “best self,” inherent in all human life. Part of that story’s theme can be “Never again!” to the abuse.
Forgiveness/”letting go”: This does not necessarily mean engagement with the perpetrator; rather, it is for oneself that he or she may not be yoked to the past.
From pain to positive contribution: The possibilities, insights, wisdom gained from painful experiences are endless. While the pain and sense of injustice, may not be assuaged necessarily, transforming ugliness to something beautiful-for ourselves, for others- is worthy of our best efforts.