Brains are built for learning. Beginning in the womb they take sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells from the world around us and craft meaningful stories from these sensory experiences. Early sensory impressions tend to be much more entrenched and long-lasting, since the cells and the connections they must use are so sparse – we have little learning to compare anything with. First times are memorable. Early learning becomes gospel. Early adverse experiences are also memorable and tend to condition memory networks in ways that often are less than ideal. My own Unwelcome Inheritances include: poverty, addiction, PTSD and ignorance – just some of the fruit for my own personal juicer. Here are 12 additional ways that early conditioning can become an unwelcome inheritance (borrowed from Marin, CA psychologist, Mark Wolynn). Many of us, me included, spend the bulk of our later lives trying to return these “gifts” to their rightful owners:
You suffered a break in your early security bond with mom or dad.
You were delivered the requirement to be a “parentified child” needing to take care of mom or dad.
You learned how to be unhappy in relationships by observing your parents.
You were taught that it’s okay to leave a relationship when things get hard.
You received implicit instruction in what betrayal looks and feels like.
You learned to accept a primary relationship for reasons other than love.
You observed that big people point the finger of blame at others.
You learned that mistakes deserve punishment in various forms.
You discovered that your mother aborted a child before she had you, or that she considered aborting you.
You were taught that it’s often better to live alone.
You learned there are many problems we are helpless to solve.
You believed it’s normal for families to have a crazy aunt or uncle or grandparent.
I’m arbitrarily limiting the list to twelve early experiences. This list could obviously go on and on, filled with untold early learnings that we might experience and make up stories about – unwelcome inheritances all. But in addition, a lot of learning that we inherit can adversely affect body and brain when it takes place before we actually learn words to make up stories with. Those stories live in the body and the brain without the benefit of language. These inheritances and hidden loyalties are harder to root out and shine the light of healing repair and compassion upon. Harder, but not impossible.