Family of Origin work is designed for those individuals who wish to go beyond the creation of a family tree and are seeking instead to understand the impact of their families of origin on their present lives. Typically, when someone is in therapy or counseling, the therapist will ask about the patient’s family history. However, in my experience, this aspect of the work is not given the attention it deserves in the treatment. All too often, sessions quickly focus on the present day.
When I work with individuals who are willing to spend the time in exploring the legacies from their families of origin, we not only create a schematic of the “cast of characters” who are part of the family of origin, but work in greater depth.
The “work” involves both research and process.
As the facts emerge, it becomes possible to trace patterns, legacies, values, attitudes, key events, connections, struggles, triumphs and disappointments and so on that have been passed on from one generation to the next. This often involves conversations with living relatives and family friends as well as siblings, parents, and significant others, as well as the individual searching his/her own memory bank. We are often able to place the individual in a historical context which provides additional useful information.
The process component of the work, which is done concurrently, entails discussing what the information “means.” The goal of this aspect is to help clients understand the ancestral origins of much of their present day pain and suffering; and also appreciate the gifts and talents they have received from the ancestors. It has as its ultimate goal to help individuals heal wounds from the past; and make peace with their forebearers.
If interested, they can also establish a meditation/prayer relationship with their ancestors and perform rituals in their honor.
Who can benefit from family of origin work?
I believe anyone can benefit from this type of exploration into the past. In my experience, many individuals who have “been through therapy” do not feel healed. They may have a great deal of self-awareness and understanding, but the scar tissue remains. Doing this sort of work provides an opportunity to heal old wounds and release oneself from thoughts, feelings and limiting attitudes that bind us to the past. People are often unaware of how much pain, suffering, doubt and shame they carry which is not really “theirs”. Those feelings are what keep people stuck. Family-of-Origin work provides the opportunity to give the past back to those who lived it, take what is useful, and create their own lives.
The two videos below represent my contribution to a project on the ancestors that was offered by the Raices Cultural Center in November, 2011 (www.raicesculturalcenter.org). These two clips represent my personal experience with my own search for my ancestors and some of the discoveries I made in the process.