Be aware of your Family Stories!!
How stories do their jobs to unite or divide families and still teach us the most important life lessons.
When you are with your family talking about whatever, the news or auntie C, are you knowingly aware of the most common family stories that influence what you say or think?
Or when something unpleasant is happening to you, do you search for a well-known family story to understand why you feel or act the way you do?
You’ll probably answer these questions with a firm ‘No, I don’t’. But I tell you: ‘Yes, you do, but you are not aware of that anymore’.
Family dinner trauma
In my family we love to cook. Certainly at special occasions, like Christmas or Easter, we love to have family dinners. It is and has been a family tradition for generations… But through our cooking we also pass on a kind of ‘family trauma’, because…
Long, long time ago my great, great grandmother had cooked a lovely dinner for the family. The table was beautifully set with her most precious porcelain crockery. And she was sitting at the head of the table, closely to the kitchen door, looking over her 4 sons, their wives and probably also over some grandchildren already.
The family story says that everybody loved the food, she had made. So my great, great grandmother invited those who wanted, to refill their plates for a second time. An offer that was back than very, very special…
Keeping up appearances…
In those days to have not enough food for your guests would be a big shame. So my great, great grandmother made it seem like there was still plenty of food in the kitchen: “Go ahead, take whatever you want, there is still enough in the kitchen,” she kept on saying. So when a part of the family had scooped their plate and had started eating already, the pots and pans on the table were empty. As promised my great, great grandmother went to the kitchen for a refill…
It took her quite some time to come back and admit that there wasn’t any food left in the kitchen….
We don’t know why she kept up the appearances for her own sons and daughters in law by saying she had enough while she hadn’t. If we look at the family history there must have been famine, so maybe it was a trauma of her own youth or of her ancestors that she neglected. Or the story of ‘not having enough food’ was a community story they all lived in back then.
New family stories
What is certain, is that this family gathering created a new family story that is still being told. Till today every time we eat together as a family this family story is memorized. We all laugh about it the moment people want to refill their plates for a second time: “Oh go ahead, fill your plates, there is enough in the kitchen!…” Which is true nowadays.
But we also still feel the shame my great, great grandmother must have felt at that moment long, long time ago. When I cook and the recipe suggests a certain amount of an ingredient I always put extra….
The fear of not having enough food for my own family or unexpected guests runs deep in my family system… Thanks to my great great granny.
Stories reign over us, certainly our family stories
Family stories are created by family members, sometimes even centuries ago. And even if they are not told anymore, without knowing it they pervaded deep in our lives in an immortalized way. We are not aware of all family stories that still reign over us in our real-time live on a subconscious level in our minds.
Stories allow us to reconnect with a dimension in ourselves on a totally different level. They have all kind of layers and meanings we most of the time don’t recognize anymore. Family stories, even those of our ancestors, are living stories which still play a constant role through our own lives. Stories in general and family stories more particular are constantly and profoundly active in our everyday live and work, both private as in business.
We are “story beings”. We live stories, we create stories and stories live in us. The “not enough food”-story of my family is one that is still being told and therefor it is more easy for me to be aware of how and in what manner it is still alive in my day-to-day behaviour.
As I understand where my excessive need to cook extra comes from, at least I have a choice to do otherwise, because I don’t want to have leftovers or because I don’t want to throw food away. But believe me, even though I am aware of where it comes from, it is still more easy for me to cook extra and to do something else with the leftovers, than to decide to cook less.
That is how powerful family stories are…
What stories reign in your family?