Challenging Your Family-of-Origin Messages

If we look closely enough, we find that a lot of our behavior we can trace back to messages that we received growing up from our families of origin, or, more specifically, from our parents. As small children, our parents are our original models, and we learn about how the world works from them.

A lot of those messages we need to incorporate into our worldview for survival. Unfortunately, many of those messages are outdated, and continue to run like tapes in our brain. Those outdated tapes may continue to play on loop, and our behaviors, emotions, and thoughts are a product of those repeating messages. The relationships that we get into as adults are, in some part, formed from those outdated tapes. We learn plenty of good things from our parents about relationships; we also learn plenty of things that just don’t help us.

Challenging your family of origin messages, or those negative tapes, is the first step towards awareness and waking up to the fact that those tapes or messages can be changed.

Specifically, a lot of our ways of thinking about critical issues come from our parents: money, sex, intimacy, gender roles, professional images, how we fight in relationships, and all types of negative behaviors. We incorporate those messages into our experiences, and have varying degrees of awareness about them.

For men, a lot of the messages about stuffing your emotions, the message that “real men don’t cry”, and about learning how to withdraw, come from having learned those behaviors from a parent growing up, often times from a guys dad. When we get conscious of those  messages, we try to fight them, and sometimes succeed, and sometimes don’t. We often live in overcompensation mode, where we’ll “work harder, be better, be kinder, make more money,” and everything against what a parent did originally.

We have to challenge your family of origin messages to be able to grow up on our own. As long as we carry within us negative family of origin messages that are outdated, we stay stuck in the past and don’t consider alternative ways of being, and lose out on the chance to grow through those messages.

If we’re wanting to develop more confidence and better self-esteem, we have to deal with those early messages that communicated to us that we’re not good enough. If we want to develop healthier lifestyle choices, it may be that we have to face some ways of being that we’ve taken for granted, and have learned from our parents over the years. If we want to learn how to be a better money manager, it may benefit us to take a look at the internalized family tapes that play around money and the problems that result.

Challenging your family of origin messages is difficult. Many times, men stay complacent and don’t really challenge the status quo, where those tapes lie. If we can learn to become aware of some of those negative messages that play, we weaken certain challenge them and incorporate new messages that really will work for us. Change is difficult, and sometimes submitting to those early messages is just more convenient. The promise of being set free through shedding those messages is a promise you can’t afford not to make.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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One Response to Challenging Your Family-of-Origin Messages

  1. Jason says:

    Definitely, Courtney. It would apply to both men and women.

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