Engage your Curiosity and Explore your Legacy

by Karen Byrd, M.A., L.P.C.C.

Legacy, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and for the purposes of this post, is something transmitted or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.  In this life, we receive a legacy from those that have come before us.  We also, leave a legacy as we go forth, for those that we come before.

Your existence is part of a story that started long ago.  You are part of a lineage and history that would captivate any audience.  Your story is a unique blend of the personal experiences of your ancestors, encounters with cultural, and historical significance, journeys to and from far away lands, tradition, conflict, joy, sadness, romance, loss, and perseverance.  Within you is the map to this story.  You are not the map maker of this history and what has come before you but you are its owner.  You will be the one to add to it, as it is far from finished.

Over the past 15 plus years, in my work with client’s and their families, I have seen over and over again, the benefits and healing that comes from a client’s own exploration and understanding of their familial and cultural history.  It is healing from within, mind, body, and spirit, healing familial wounds and sometimes societal and cultural wounds.  There is understanding to be had and freedom.  Freedom to take forward what is of value and sacred, freedom, to let go of what is no longer needed.

Ideas on how to Explore

In working with client’s, I often suggest that we complete a Genogram, to begin exploring their familial legacy.  This is a great place to start in our quest to understand their map, where they have come from and where they are going.  Even if someone is very familiar with their family of origin and cultural history, I believe and continue to see, that there is still something to be gained from this process.  Understanding and learning about self and life, is circular.  Each time something comes around again and you take another look, your perspective, experience, and knowledge is different than the time before, and therefore, you see it again and gain something new.

Another tool I have used with client’s in this work, is helping them to identify familial and cultural beliefs that exist within themselves.  Beliefs are passed through families and cultural communities for a reason. These beliefs should be studied with respect to their relevance of the time from winst they came and weighed and measured for their their relevance today.

Accomplished author and well know expert in the field of inherited family trauma, Mark Woylnn, talks about “core language”, in his book, It Didn’t Start with You: How inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle.  He writes about how the experiences of past familial and cultural traumas, particularly those traumas that have have been, “unresolved”, can show up in our language or essentially in what we say and thus believe today.  In addition, he also talks about the research that supports the concept of “the family mind” and the power of “epigenetic inheritance”.    He describes how epigenetic changes that occur in DNA can transmit traumatic memory from one generation to the next generation and affect and impact us on a biological, emotional, and physical level, long after the original trauma has occurred.  That being said, I am compelled to believe that experiences of great joy and triumph can be passed in this same way, as well.  I am always striving to hold the balance for this in my work with client’s, as I believe that it is essential for healing to occur.

Are my words catching your attention? Do you notice spark of curiosity within yourself to explore your familial and cultural history? Maybe not, perhaps reading this makes you want to run the other way.  Either way, your reaction to this has meaning and significance.  I have worked with many people whom have experienced both of these reactions to thoughts of exploring their familial linage.  I find that it is normal to have a mixture of thoughts and emotions about this process and I welcome them all.  They all have a place.

You might wonder, how do I get started on this journey?  What does this look like for me? Well, I think, it is actually quite simple.  You need only to be  mindful of your desire to know more and a willingness to grow.  Leave your judgement, and everyone else’s for that matter, at the door and allow yourself to just explore with curiosity.  Then when your knowing is ripe and full, take with you what is good in that and be fully embodied as the map maker that you now are, today.

Another clinician said to me, not very long ago, “don’t doubt what you see, when you look at the person in front of you and you see the generations before them”.  That was very powerful for me, as I have always believed in the body, soul, and spiritual connections that we have with our ancestors.  You can see the generations in one another and you will see them, when you do this work.   I find joy in helping people reunite with their people, so to speak, and to heal their familial and cultural wounds.  It is part of what makes this work so beautiful to me.  It is amazing and should be seen as nothing less than that.  So, I encourage you, if you have never consider this, or maybe you have, but have not had the chance to move forward with it, find your map, engage your curiosity, explore your legacy, learn, and grow.

Interested in exploring your family legacy with a provider at WECHC?  Contact Us