“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
― C.G. Jung
We are well aware of our biological inheritance. It is expressed in physical characteristics such as the colour of our eyes, skin, hair, height and so on. Less evident, and in conjunction with environmental influence, we may notice the inheritance of intelligence (linguistic, mathematic, social, athletic, artistic to name a few), as well as aspects of temperament.
Beyond physical characteristics, abilities and temperaments our family culture has also passed down another form of inheritance. I call it our process inheritance. Our process inheritance is our unique way of being in the world, our how of living. It exerts a powerful influence over our lives. It manifests both internally and externally, both within us, in the way we relate to ourselves, and between us and the way we relate to others and our environment. There is much more to how we experience and interact with the world than meets the eye. Underneath, and intertwined with the how of the way we live are feelings, perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, values and coping styles, all of which, to one degree or another, have been learned in the environment we grew up in.
Unlike a biologically determined genetic expression or disposition, our process, or way of living is inherited from the environment we grew up in. We have no more of a choice over the environment that we grew up in than over the biological characteristics that we inherit. We are born into these “cultures”, these relationships, in which we grow and develop patterns of being in the world. We are taught, for example, what to believe, what to fear, what to love, how to love, how to cope. And what we grow in these relationship cultures, be they social, community, religious, family or other becomes a part of, or attaches to, who we are and guides how we experience, react to and respond in the world.
Our ways of being are ingrained deeply into the life that we live. It is the air we breathe, the life we know. It is our normal. Our younger self did its best to grow in authenticity, given the “soil” of our cultural backdrop. However, out of necessity we pick up habits of being which allowed us to survive within our original culture. And now, these ways of being tend to happen automatically, and become the bedrock from which we perceive and manage our lives. Our process becomes so embedded and automatic, that the space for choice and alternatives does not appear to exist. And for many people it doesn’t. Without taking the time to garner perspective and create understanding, without determined attention to inner process, and without motivation to change we are destined to repeat these response patterns.
The good news is that we can build a new normal. Unlike a biological inheritance, what is most unique about our process inheritance is the possibility of change, and choice. We can change how we live our lives, how we relate to others and our environment, and how we experience our selves. We can make the choice to move in a new direction within our selves and our relationships, and take the the steps toward change. Any change however, will require time, energy, effort and commitment. It’s not easy. You have to really want it. The irony is that many people won’t make this choice unless they feel they absolutely have no other choice! It is the unexpected gift that comes out of adversity. It is the change we never knew was possible, never knew we wanted until we found that we needed it.
It is the cost of building a new normal.