How many times have you said something like, “My mother did x so I will do y.”

Or “My mother was this way so I am going to do the opposite.”

Or, “I’m going to break the cycle of [insert dysfunctional pattern here].”

Only to find yourself doing the same exact thing or falling into the same pattern?

::::raising my hand::::

I remember very clearly my mother saying that she wanted our relationship to be different than the one she had with her mother.

And yet, here we are, very much in a similar relationship, although the work I’ve done (on me) has helped.

Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it. The pain that exists within us and therefore within our families is oh so patient, and unlike most of us, it knows it’s worth. It will not leave until we give it the wholehearted attention it demands. Should we chose distraction, busyness, material successes, “positivity,” or any other of the myriad of shortsighted dissociations, all we really are doing is choosing to make the pain we carry the legacy of our children. In the words of Brené Brown, shit rolls downhill. Whatever pain we experienced as children WILL become the pain that our children and others we interact with will experience UNLESS we allow ourselves to feel it and ultimately heal it. We can take ownership of our pain, or we can pretend it isn’t rolling. I have chosen to hold myself accountable. ~ Stephi Wagner

I used to think that the cycle ended with me because I chose not to have children.

Now I know that the reason the cycle is ending with me is because I have chosen to feel the pain. To feel it and process it and name it and acknowledge it. To give it its due.

The intense fear of rejection that caused so much inauthentic behavior.

The pain of feeling that I’m not loved unconditionally.

The anger that wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t safe and so it found its outlet in self-destructive behaviors.

The grief of what was lost, but which I felt ashamed of because, it seemed, my grief made my mother feel guilty.

The pain that exists within me – that was passed down through my maternal and paternal lineages – was willing to wait for me to feel it because it knows how important it is for me to feel it. It would not leave until I gave it the attention it was insistent on receiving.

Before I understood this, I unconsciously carried the pain and passed it, not to children I’d intentionally not had, but to my husband, my stepchildren, my sister, my mother, and others.

Then I consciously decided to take ownership of my pain…to hold myself compassionately accountable. I did that by…

…noticing when I was pointing fingers (at myself and others).
…noticing when I was shaming (myself and others).
…noticing when I was guilting (myself and others).

I used blame, shame, and guilt to protect myself from feeling pain. This is what was modeled for me.

Now I have an intimate relationship with fear, rejection, anger, and grief. With pain. And do you know what the amazing thing about that is? I am also very much alive and well and content and creative and peaceful.

And it makes all the difference.