Like Father, Like Son

Has your significant other ever accused you of being just like your father… mother? Ever say something to your child and you heard the echo of your parent saying that to you?

Growing up my mother would sometimes say to me when annoyed, when you grow up I hope you have TWO CHILDREN JUST LIKE YOU! Funny remembering it. Behaviors we have inherited from our parents are debated as nature or nurture; did they come by some mystery of genes or simply adaptive behaviors and preferences learned from example.

Someone came to see me a short time ago who was discussing difficulties in expressing their emotions, then reflected for a moment and said their two siblings were the same way; even the parents. People say my parents use to drink, smoke, fought, yelled, valued education, loved to cook or were anxious, reserved, outgoing, overweight… just like me. Maybe it’s not only behaviors and proclivities that we copy from our parents but to some extent illnesses as well; it is difficult to completely separate how we feel from how we think. Repeatedly someone with tell me that their father was depressed, my mother was bipolar, had allergies, suffered from migraines… just like me.

It is sometimes difficult to accept that we can be different from our parent because the commonality is a filial link, a bond that connects us even though it is painful. Recently a client observed that in her home a long family history of domestic violence came to an end; “It ends here” she said to me.

Whether our behavior is from genes or learning, it is not our past experiences that actually makes a difference in our lives, the critical element is how we interpret the learning.

Robert Collier