Reverb day 6: unravelling old tales

Sign over the door

As each year progresses, we unknowingly gather many thoughts, beliefs, and patterns to us. In fact, what we are carrying may have been passed down to us from previous generations.

Looking at the thoughts and patterns that may be holding you back from living the life you want, trace back through the generations of your family and see if your beliefs originated generations ago.

In 2016, how can you bring healing to these patterns of thought that are holding you back?

Back in the day, the Jowitts were in wool up in Yorkshire. When they started out in wool, they were Quakers; they converted to the Church of England somewhere in the mid nineteenth century, but they retained a lot of that stubborn integrity that one associates with the Society of Friends.

In the First World War, there was a high demand for wool; there was an army to clothe. The chairman of the board, who would have been one of my distant cousins, felt extremely guilty about making a profit out of war. At the end of it he worked out what the firm had made from it and wrote a cheque for that sum to the Russian government, having judged that the Russian people had suffered most. Fortunately for the survival of the family business, there was nobody to countersign the cheque.

I smiled when I read that; although my branch of the family had given up and gone south by that time it is very similar to what I’d have been tempted to do in that position, and I, too, might have needed circumstances to intervene to prevent me placing principle over practicality.

This doesn’t answer the question at all. I do occasionally worry that I’m Hopelessly Idealistic and Ought To Live In The Real World, but I’d rather hang on to this trait than otherwise.

Let’s approach it from the other side. Let’s list a few unhelpful assumptions and see where they came from. Some of these are current; some are more or less dissolved, but occasionally pop up to the surface when I’m particularly distressed or fatigued.

  1. I must never look stupid or foolish.
  2. My duty is to ensure that my own preferences always give way to others’.
  3. Anything short of perfection is insufficient.
  4. Some parts of my identity are less presentable than others, and I ought to suppress them.
  5. It is my job to keep things going.
  6. One must always buy the cheapest option.

The first, perhaps, comes from my maternal grandfather, via my mother; we are long on brains and short on money. And if our intellect is all we have, then that must never let us down. The last is also only a couple of generations old. The rest I’m inclined to blame more on Biblical literalism (and similar approaches to faith), Improving Fiction for young girls, and the way that women have been socialised over generations at large, rather than in my family in particular.

And really, when it comes to it, I’m not overly concerned with where these ideas come from. Oh, it’s interesting, when I catch myself saying something like, ‘You see, I shouldn’t get these things, because I just wreck them,’ and realise that it isn’t my voice at all, but my strategy for dealing with it is exactly the same as if it were a more general cultural story.

Observe. Question. Discuss. Interrogate. Assume it ain’t necessarily so, and see if there’s a different way to approach the problem. Rinse. Repeat as necessary.

12 thoughts on “Reverb day 6: unravelling old tales

  1. Oh Kathleen! You wrote on this challenging topic so well! I haven’t written mine yet and am struggling with my response. I was surprised how concisely you managed your family history and some of those lessons that got passed down. Truly appreciate your clarity! Love the tools for managing these patterns: observe, question, discuss and assume it ain’t necessarily so! Great!

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  2. I’m fond of the saying “God looks out for fools and madwomen,” even though I know better than to actually trust in it. But I adore your cousin the chairman, and your sense of fellowship with him, and when I next get dressed for work I shall don one of the sheep pins I inherited from my Aunt Louise (who was, during part of her retirement, proprietor of a yarn shop in Canada) in honor of you two. 🙂

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  3. Thank you sharing the story of your ancestors and their wool business! Stubborn integrity, I understand that. What resonates most for me in your post is when you say that you catch yourself saying something and realize it isn’t your voice at all. That is truly powerful place to find yourself, isn’t it?

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