ERP 386: How To Identify & Shift Unconscious Patterns In Relationship – An Interview With Johanna Lynn

By Posted in - Podcast August 22nd, 2023 0 Comments

Do you find yourself reacting in certain ways that you can’t quite explain or notice that you feel more emotion than you would expect for the situation? Have you ever wondered why certain patterns persist across generations in your family? The complex web of family history, with its unspoken stories and unresolved traumas, can leave an indelible mark on our lives.

In a world where we strive for personal growth and healthier relationships, it’s crucial to delve into the depths of our family tree and uncover the hidden influences that shape our behaviors and emotions.

In this episode, we delve into the profound connections between our family trees and our personal growth. From understanding the “ancestral alarm clock” to recognizing patterns of codependency and rediscovering our authentic selves, this episode offers actionable steps and resources to navigate the intricate journey of healing and growth through ancestral awareness.

Whether you’re seeking to break free from generational patterns or unlock a deeper understanding of yourself, this conversation provides a captivating exploration of how our past shapes our present and future.

Johanna has been connected to the world of separation and divorce for decades, originally due to her personal situation, then as a systemic therapist focusing on restoring relationships for the past 12 years. Johanna is the founder of The Family Imprint Institute with an international private practice.

In this Episode

4:47 Introduction to Johanna Lynn’s journey: From personal curiosity to professional expertise.

9:06 Unmasking familiar patterns: The importance of fresh perspective in relationship dynamics.

14:12 The link between language and the body: Tracing patterns from thoughts to somatic sensations

19:50 Empathy and understanding in addressing subconscious influences.

30:48 Ancestral Alarm Clock: Life Stages as Opportunities for Healing and Growth.

37:52 Balancing autonomy and intimacy.

42:51 Sustaining connection through art and symbolism

47:47 Navigating complex family structures.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Explore Your Family Tree: Investigate your family history, looking for patterns, unresolved issues, and traumas that may have been passed down through generations.
  • Pay attention to the language you and your family members use, as it can provide insights into hidden dynamics and emotions that impact your relationships.
  • Regularly take time to reflect on your own behaviors, reactions, and triggers to identify potential connections to family history.
  • Create Visual Reminders: Display family photos or symbols that remind you of your family lineage, helping you stay connected to your roots and triggering awareness.
  • Strive to be your true self in relationships, even if it challenges family norms, allowing for genuine connections without sacrificing your identity.
  • Set Boundaries: Recognize and establish healthy boundaries to avoid over-giving or sacrificing your well-being for others’ needs, thus maintaining your sense of self.
  • Work with therapists, coaches, or experts who specialize in family dynamics and ancestral healing to gain deeper insights and tools for growth.

Mentioned

It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

About Banyan (*Wikipedia) (article)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Connect with Johanna Lynn

Websites: johannalynn.ca

Facebook: facebook.com/groups/1470185283292404 | facebook.com/johanna.lynn.54

YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UC98HkGzauNSSHYfmIA4fVuA

Instagram: instagram.com/thefamilyimprint_institute

Pinterest: pinterest.ca/family_imprint

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/johannalynn

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Johanna Lynn, thank you so much for joining us here today.

It’s wonderful to be with you, Jessica.

Yes. I am very excited about this topic that I’m sure for many listeners, you’ll be able to shed light on. Because it can be confusing when we talk about the subconscious or even unconscious tendencies. I’m really excited about what we’re going to talk about today.

Great, me too! 

Yeah. Well, before we get started, I’m curious, you have a personal story that prompted you to be investigating this more and even supporting people. Would you be willing to share a little bit about what got you interested in supporting people in this way?

Yeah, absolutely. I think even as a young person, I was always very curious about why people do what they do, why we choose certain partners, why some habits we just can’t seem to give up even though they’re not friendly to us. So I was always that way minded. My first relationship was very much like a roller coaster. I think we learned so much about ourselves in the contrast of what we actually don’t want and what maybe isn’t so healthy. That relationship continued on, we were married for five years, and it ended hitting a brick wall in my finding out about his affair. The affair was really a symptom of all the things that weren’t working, that I think I was too afraid to see and really admit at the time. I had a lot of my own family history that I just wanted this relationship to work, and just believed I had to find a way, even though there were so many red flags, it was piling up to the ceiling with the red flags. So the affair was that breaking point for me, where the trust has been broken and I don’t know how to go forward from here. 

Wow! Well, everything you’re sharing, I resonate with. I want to say, and I will also go in my own journey, that my own struggles led me to do a deeper dive and come into contact with things that I would say were rather subconscious or unconscious. I had been doing a level of work, mind you, but it took me on a deep, deep dive, which I’m so, so grateful for. I will also echo the sentiment that relationship can be one of our greatest teachers and an invitation to really turn towards that. The other thing that I’m hearing you speak to is just such an awareness around whatever our mindset is around relationship and where we are culturally, and the collective around wanting to feel successful or wanting it to work, and what we might focus on and also be ignoring or omitting. So there’s a real invitation in the way that you’re describing of like, let’s look at this, let’s really open this up. Let’s look at the family tree, because there is so much that is interconnected.

Yeah. 

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“I often will say, red flags can be so hard to spot or do anything about when they’re just an extension of the familiar. So we don’t even really hold them as a red flag.”

It’s just like: “Oh yeah, my partner slams the door or freaks out about the little things, because that’s what maybe we grew up with.” It doesn’t mean familiar is healthy, and we want to look at it with new fresh eyes.

That’s beautiful, I love that! For you and the work that you’re doing, how do you begin to help someone look at this when it has been so familiar? It’s like, so many times clients are like: “It’s just the water I’ve been swimming in. I never questioned it. Or it’s the air that I breathe. It wasn’t some thinking that I had a lot of contrast.” To your point, the contrast really does help us see things more clearly. So how do you start helping people look at these subconscious or unconscious influences?

Yeah. I joke that I’m a bit more like a detective than I am really a therapist or coach, that that’s my main hat. Because I start off and I build a three-generation genogram. Typically, I’ll do it for both sides of the partnership. So there’s such a clarity of why patterns are coming up, why the same arguments, why the stuck points are just not moving. My clients really are shocked that they’ve tried other therapy, they’ve tried other approaches, and there’s just light bulb moment after light bulb moment when you start to look at it in the really big context, where you’re really widening the view to see why they’re stuck.

Well, I’m sure our work will fit very beautifully together. I tend to focus a lot on the early attachment system that gets developed and those relational patterns. It’s been on my radar for years, but I recently read Mark Wolynn’s It Didn’t Start With You, and I was like, oh my gosh! To your point, if we don’t look at some of these family intergenerational, what’s been passed down, we could do all this beautiful therapeutic work, but there could be something that we’re replicating because of our parents’ or grandparents’ trauma.

That’s it. I like to think of it like there’s a force behind all of us, an invisible force, that ends up shaping how we show up in relationship. To your point, this is where our attachment styles come from. Yet, how do we change it in a constructive way that doesn’t feel like hard work every conversation, but we just begin to change in a way from the recognition that our parents wouldn’t want us to carry what’s broken in them, our grandparents wouldn’t want us to stay stuck where they were. That there’s this evolution and getting more and more freedom as we move through the generations. As we do this work, we also protect our own children. It kind of comes to completion with us.

Yes, and it’s for the health of the whole system. Coming back to looking at the system, our parents or grandparents, there’s no disloyalty when we really look at the overall health, that we actually can be bringing honor when we can bring some of that metabolizing the trauma or the healing. Because one of the things that’s really common, I’m sure you would agree, in humanity, is when there’s trauma or injury or some really extreme hardship, it’s easy to want to pretend or make it go away, or even be quiet or secret about it, even horrific things.

That’s right. You mentioned Mark Wolynn’s book that it really showcases, I really like the case studies that he brought in. That it’s as if, the more we keep it a family secret, it becomes almost like this snowball rolling down the hill that just gets bigger and faster as it moves through the years. 

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“A lot of the times, even if we can give an age-appropriate story and understanding to our kids about what might have happened in the past, we’re equipping them to understand maybe why they have fear about certain things, why they’re sensitive about other things. We’re helping them to understand sort of the lay of the land in the family system.”

Oh, my goodness! I will just speak personally, that when I’ve done my own trauma, much of it was even preverbal, not having a lot of language or explicit memory. It’s been so, so helpful, and also to look at the lineage of that. So how do you help people start to investigate or explore the family tree? Because they might know certain things. It’s amazing to me, there might be certain facts or knowing, but it doesn’t necessarily capture the emotional tone or the lasting way in which somebody related to that trauma. Can you speak a little more about that? 

Well, it’s a little bit like what you said earlier, that the fish doesn’t know they’re in water. It’s all they know. So there’s this piece where, like: “Yeah, I was in an incubator for my first month of life. Or yeah, my mom had to go right back to work after I was born. Like, what’s wrong with that?” So we just don’t recognize, because we lived it, the impact that that has and how we feel in relationship. It’s like, intimacy brings up all of those things that have been recorded in the body. It’s preverbal, we didn’t make sense of. It was just our experience. Now we’re coming from that reference point, as we react and conflict, as we might make meaning in our mind about what our partner has done or said. It all comes from that very early history background. 

So from the three-generation genogram, I’m looking for: where did love stop flowing, where was there a break and trust, where am I even unconsciously repeating what happened with my parents? Because there’s this unconscious loyalty that runs through the family, this feeling like who am I to have it better or have more love than my parents could, or even make more money or have more success? It’s a little bit like a family glass ceiling; we call it a family speed limit in this work. Can I have more vitality and health, where is that stop point? 

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“It’s about starting to look at where our family has shaped us, that we just haven’t looked at because it’s our family, because we’ve lived in it. It’s so darn familiar that we can’t see where it might be messing things up for us today.”

I’m getting a sense, my own experience professionally is that some people are a little more primed or a little bit more ready to start doing this work. Would you agree?

Definitely. I think some people come to me because the other spouse is insisting, or their sister got some amazing changes, and they’re kind of putting their baby toe in. They’re not so sure. And what I really have come to appreciate about this work is it really rests on the facts of the family. We’re not pulling anything out or making anything up. It’s sort of this place of: “Hey, you know how you just described your partner, those are the exact same words you shared about your mom.” So this piece that you think is a relationship issue, is actually kind of a body memory piece, where you lost trust with your mom, or the estrangement that you have with your dad. It’s almost like life says, “I’m going to serve it up again, how do you want to work with it this time?” Well, a lot of the times, if there’s a resistance, or just a natural, like: “Ooh, this hurts, this is a little too close to the heart.” It’s really just looking at the common thread between the present and what is in the family.

I like that a lot. So to reflect what I’m hearing, you say there could be two paths, or maybe many more paths to this inquiry. That if we were to map the family genogram, the family tree, that we could ask questions, and it could be very illuminating to some of the areas that we haven’t maybe given as much attention to, that could be really supportive and healing. You’re also speaking to what our current complaints are, or what our current challenges are, that can be signposts or indicators that we’re participating in perpetuating things that are familiar. 

You will probably recognize this also as a healthcare professional, is we give everything away with how we describe what’s going on. So over the years, I’ve learned to listen, how are you describing the common complaints in your relationship, and now I’m kind of attuned to, is that you’re living life like, or the relationship is going like your parents and where they had challenges? It’s this more of what I call in my work a breaking the bond, where it’s more of an early attachment break and now the things that went on, that we couldn’t resolve because we were babies, we were toddlers, are now showing up in our marriage. That it’s less of a relationship issue, and it’s more of a childhood injury piece that we’ve got to work with, at a body level.

So you’re saying language, and you’re also saying somatic, a felt sense body sensation.

Yeah, I just think they go together. If we only lead with one, we’re missing a huge component. For me, I really need to understand. I need to have that mental component before I can almost filter down into the body, before I can soften into something else. So a big part of where I lead my clients is, sometimes even in the three generation genogram creation, it’s like: “Oh, so that’s why my previous marriage didn’t work out. Oh, that’s why I feel so amped if my partner goes away on business, and I’m just unsettled.” That we’re sort of giving meaning to some of those body sensations that maybe the person has been making themselves wrong for, or thought: “Gosh, haven’t I done this work, aren’t I over this?” It’s not really about that. It’s about, again, understanding the context. Let’s gather that bigger picture so that we’re not stuck.

In my experience too, when there’s an awareness and bringing empathy, and the more conceptual of understanding how this got developed, and like you said, in early upbringing and then as children perhaps, or young ones negotiating the family dynamics, that we learn to adapt certain strategies to get through. Although, perhaps when we’re in adulthood, they’re maybe not needed, or aren’t as necessary, or aren’t as optimal for our health and well-being. As we bring awareness to those tendencies, then we have some ways in which we can work with that. There’s the empathy. There’s also the capacity of like: “Oh wow, I didn’t get the support in this particular way, or I didn’t get the guidance, or I didn’t have the safety to feel like my emotional experience, there was space for that, or that could be seen and attuned to.” So typically, for people, there’s an awareness around it, there’s an empathy around it, and then it can start to take care of those parts a little bit more. Would you like to say anything about just even acknowledging it, and the emotional shifts that can occur when we start to identify these old breaks or challenges or traumas?

I think you bring up such an important point. Because if we aren’t thinking in that way, we automatically lean almost that emotional weight onto our partnership, and it can really collapse the whole thing. It’s almost like what mom or dad wasn’t able to give me, I demand it from you. Sometimes we pull those needs in, in some pretty unhealthy ways. So we really want to recognize: “Okay, I’m feeling amped that my partner is looking at his phone or off on another golfing weekend, and I’m feeling like I’m less important.” Okay, so yes, that is something we approach in the relationship, obviously. But best if we can have our time to really recognize why is this such a charge for me? Where am I in time with this? Why is this so familiar? Then being able to do our own work around: “Gosh, I just came home from school one day, and Dad no longer lived with us. Then I saw him one weekend, sometimes only once a month. So there’s this sense of anything can happen at any moment, and now it’s just changed, and I didn’t have any way to deal with that.” So if that’s rolling over into our relationship, and it does, we’ve got to be able to clean up our side, so that when we go into the conversation, it’s really just about the golf, it’s really just about the desire to spend more time together. So that we’re not coming from a “you need to fill what has been left over from the hurt, from my experience.”

I mean, just what you’re describing is so important. Because one, this could be another indicator. When we can feel a level of charge that might be more intense than what we would normally experience, that could be a good indicator that there might be a little more happening. Would you agree?

Definitely. So it’s not that the desire to have more time with your partner isn’t real and true and in the now, but the way we respond to it, it’s almost like, what else is this connected to, and is there a way I can approach this that feels a bit more present, and how can I really take full responsibility of healing my side? It’s like that beautiful Ram Das quote: “The best way that I can love you is to work on myself, and the best way that you can love me is to work on yourself.” It feels sort of a bit maybe independent and each on our own sides. But truly, it allows us to come together with greater strength. Because I accept, as your partner, as much as I’d love for you to heal that stuff with your mom, there’s nothing I can really do about that. That’s your journey and your path, and you need to do it at your own rate and willingness. It’s almost like, if we love someone who’s in active addiction, we can’t make them be ready to let it go. So sometimes walking in the path with our partner at different rates of readiness to deal with this stuff, that can be another hard part of growing in relationship. So can I put all the focus back on myself? That changes everything!

Well, when I so often am seeing a dynamic, if we’re talking about a monogamous relationship with two people, and you have each individual and their particular experience and journey. As you’re describing, if they can each have awareness and contact with themselves, and also do, one way of looking at it would be the emotional hygiene. If there’s a bunch of stuff that is blocking or interfering with their ability to send clear cues or be more exposed and make themselves more visible, it’s like there’s a level of clarity. I like to think of the analogy, I heard this, I can’t remember years and years ago, the analogy of cleaning your windshield when you’re driving. Like, if you just let a bunch of stuff accumulate as you’re on your journey, it makes sense that there’s a lot of stuff that would debris and various things that would get on your windshield. That’s part of the driving experience when you go a long distance, you’re going to accumulate. So if we don’t do some hygiene, we’re going to lose visibility; we’re not going to be able to see, and we’re not going to be able to interact with where we’re going, and all of the things. 

So if we look at these two individuals and their ability to engage and see the other, I can be so much more present, to use your word, about what is in the here and now, and what’s happening for my person, and being able to see more clearly. I’m going to be in a much better position to do that if I’m in a solid clear place myself. Granted, this is a process that we don’t ever arrive at, that it’s a journey. But the more that we can participate in that, the more the interaction and the interconnection between these two individuals, we’ll be more present, we’ll be more in the here and now.

Exactly. Just like we don’t put the windshield wipers on once in a lifetime journey, we’re coming back to this. But it’s that intention: I’m going to bring my open heart, I’m going to bring my vulnerability, and maybe from that systemic perspective, I’m going to bring the context, the context of my history and the context of yours. So that there’s this sense of what shaped you, I’m not going to take personally. It’s just a part of you. Then we can respond differently.

Oh gosh, such difficult work! It’s so profound and offers so many gifts, and I find that there’s many layers. It’s not just one layer and like, oh, I’ve done that. It’s just a deepening, in my own experience with my husband and just what’s evolved over the many, many years. Also, Johanna, I’m thinking about it, this keeps echoing in my mind, people perhaps who are like, “I don’t know that I need to do this work. I don’t know that I need to go back in my family.” Because I do think in a lot of ways, especially in the West and US, there’s such an individual focus. Even as we’re talking, it’s like, how can I take care of my side and stay in my lane and take care of my lane? But we’re also talking about an interconnection with our family and what’s been passed down. So for people who might question whether or not they need to do this, do you feel like everybody needs to do this? Do you feel like it’s helpful for any person? Or how do you typically approach that question?

I think our life leads us to the clues. Am I ready? Am I walking down the path of divorce? Or am I going to look at what I need to do to repair this? Because the darn windshield, I can’t see out of it anymore. Because I’ve just let so many things build up under that proverbial rug, we just haven’t really addressed it. So I do certainly come across those people that think: “Well, I don’t want to go back, or I’ve done that in another way.” 

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“I just really go back to the facts, which is, chromosomally, epigenetically, we are half our mom, and we are half our dad. It truly is like we’re operating from a blueprint, and so much of what maybe they weren’t able to resolve emotionally or understand or come to terms with, we have imprinted in our very DNA.”

So we might think: “Well, whatever! I haven’t talked to my mom since I was 10. Or my dad left when I was eight.” Well, that’s actually even more of a pronounced reason as to why you might need to do this. Because it’s so much that unconscious embedded impact is running things from behind for you. That pain or that defense is kind of like in the driver’s seat of your life or of your marriage, and it has much more of an influence than even maybe we realize.

Oh my gosh, yes! I will just say, in my own iteration of this, that it was so much a part of me. I’ve heard Harville Hendricks talk about the picker and the amygdala, the part of our brain that stores all the information of where we’ve ever been hurt, injured, or felt betrayed, or whatever. Especially when we talk about these early fundamental years, that we will likely replicate or have this picker out of the field of awareness, that like: Oh, I recognize that! I think I might be able to resolve that pattern. Thus, I’m going to choose this person.” But if we’re not conscious, then we’re likely going to just put it on repeat. So to your point, that we can be in these patterns and continually experiencing the dynamic that we are challenged by, unknowingly, without the conscious awareness.

Very well said, that’s absolutely true. And what’s so interesting about bringing up the amygdala, that emotional center of the brain, it’s online and aware by seven months, gestation. So even us as infants, it’s sort of like: “Hmm, I’m aware of this family I’m going to be born into. Do I need to be the quiet baby? Do I need to be the good baby? Does mum and dad have three other kiddos before me, and so I better not have too many needs?” We’re all organizing around how do I belong? How can I be loved? Because that’s our survival. So all of that is also stored. That symbiotic connection we have with mom, it all begins in utero. 

Yes! For people listening, I wonder if it would be helpful for you to speak at all about what this healing work could look like, for some that are interested in approaching this work.

The good news for many people who think maybe, is I typically work with clients about three to four times. The work is a deep dive, it’s a real eye opener, a new perspective, a new way of looking at things. Then doing body-centric, somatic, land it in the body. So now we’re coming in to those same old arguments, but from a very new perspective. So it’s not like, let me get ready for year after year kind of a commitment. It’s very much a deep dive, and it has a finish line. So sometimes I’ll see clients a couple years later, and they’ll say: “Oh wow, I liked this piece. But now something has come up with my daughter who’s now getting ready to leave for university. Or, gosh, my parent has a scary diagnosis, and I’m just feeling all this stuff come back up again.” So it’s not to say that we’re done and finished. But we’re very much with a new understanding and that new perspective that we can bring into our relationships, it’s like bringing the work into action in your life and seeing it change.

So glad you mentioned that. Because our life stages, or even our chronological age, can evoke, or somewhat replicate something similar in our family tree, that then we’ll feel that rattle, which could be another indicator or signpost that hey, something here to look at, and can I lean into this and have this be an opportunity for healing or for growth?

Absolutely. It’s so common in fact, we call it an ancestral alarm clock. That’s why I always ask, did mom and dad stay together or divorce? Oh, they divorced. How old were they, and how old is the client? If I lost a sibling, how many children do you have, and what are their ages? So we’re looking for this common thread. Because it does happen around the same age and time. The why of it, we still don’t know. But it happens commonly enough to ask and be sure.

For some, just even the awareness and then the connection to the emotion and the body sensation, that could be healing in and of itself. 

Well, it’s so interesting. I remember this case where this woman got married. She felt I picked the right partner, lots of attraction, everything was great. Until they got married, and it was as if everything shut down. She had no more attraction. She didn’t even want to have a conversation. It was more about, how do I get out of this, what have I done? So that was very curious to her. So she kind of came in and thought, it was almost like a light switch, what has changed? And when we look at her family history, very sadly, her mum and two aunts were all in arranged marriages. This was a client from India. The one, I think it was her mom, or maybe it was her sister, I’m missing the case now, but at any rate, had been married to a much older man. So this feeling of I have to, this feeling of I have no other choice. The youngest aunt decided not to marry at all, stayed single and was quite defiant about it. So this feeling around, if I get married, I give up myself, I give up my choice, I give up my freedom, and there was that replication that came over. So for her, it was enough to look at: Oh, that’s why the light switch went on, that’s why my feelings changed so much, because of this imprint that lives inside of me. So she could really begin to open up and find that love again with her partner.

Beautiful. So the awareness was almost enough to help set a different course.

Yes, and that’s not always the case of course. There are things that happen preverbal that go on in families that we really do need that, I kind of call it the slower unwinding of how it sits in the body memory. That’s another beautiful place to come back to your own clarity, instead of being run from behind by that family history.

So with that clarity, the way I’m hearing you describe that, there can be a new experience or you can cultivate a new way of relating to that part that lives. Is that right?

Yeah. It’s almost like, let me step more into me, let me be more influenced by my sensations, by the guide for what’s right for me. It might not be right for you, Mom, or you might not understand it, Dad. But by having that, I give the word courage, to really be me, even if that risks my belonging to how it makes sense to my family members, my siblings, whomever. That there’s a big piece about what do I need to do to belong to this family, and sometimes we give away parts of ourselves to do that. Then that’s really the roots of codependency when we look at intimate relationship of where that sort of experience from the family and family love goes into relationship love.

Or another way of saying that would be perhaps just this automatic reaction to be helpful, or whatever the tendency is. But it’s almost like, I’m not actually choosing this, I feel almost compelled and it’s a reaction, and it feels like my automatic tendency, hence the subconscious. Is that right?

That’s it. It’s almost like we developmentally learned to be over there with the addicted dad or sad mom. So we’ve learned to leave ourselves to be loved, to belong. So now, gosh, our partner could stub their toe or something pretty silly. Oh, are you okay, what do you need? And we’re not noticing, hey, I was in my own focus, I needed to stay here with myself. As you say, it’s just so darn automatic, we don’t realize we’re doing it. I work with a lot of people-pleasers and over-givers. Until that tendency ends the relationship. The over-giver can often collapse that relationship. So we’ve got to learn new ways of being to keep that relationship healthy and flowing.

And self-healthy, because sometimes over-giving can lead towards resentment, can lead towards I don’t recognize myself or my relationship, and perhaps want to blow everything up because it just feels incongruent.

Absolutely, so depleting!

Yes, okay. So just even that ability to recognize where am I having that contact with a sense of self, to be able to make choice, or be able to just occupy space with other and to not lose that ground. That’s a real critical thing to notice if you’ve ran this automatic, habitual just reacting and being there for another.

Yeah. A lot of times, I like the question, where have I lost myself, where am I losing myself? Because I know with even my own relationships, there are some friendships who feel like they push my limits; maybe they don’t have their own healthy boundaries, so they kind of step into mind. So now it’s up to me to say: “Hmm, am I giving myself away for connection? Am I not rocking the boat because I just want this friendship to be okay?” This is just the way she is, we tell ourselves. Instead of, oh, that’s a bit much, that feels like I’m being asked too much. So sometimes we need to reflect; we don’t maybe do it in the moment. But we reflect, how do I feel with this person? Am I needing to address something so that I can stay with myself a little more strongly?

That sounds like a really powerful question and something to reflect on. Wonderful! So part of it if we’re looking at this in bigger picture, there’s a real invitation to look at the family tree and have some awareness around the bonds and history and just have greater clarity. You’re also speaking to when we have complaints or upset in relationship, to have a willingness to get curious around some of these indicators we’ve talked about. Does this relate to my early years or the family lineage in some form or fashion? And you’re also speaking to just how we are in relationship with ourselves, and how we negotiate sharing space with another and not losing a sense of self. That’s the balance between intimacy and autonomy, or closeness and separateness. That’s a real challenge for people sometimes. Do you want to say a little bit more about that part?

Yeah. There’s a quote that always sticks with me, about when authenticity is up against attachment, very sadly, attachment often wins. Because we are wanting to keep that relationship okay, and we might lose our okayness in the process. So can we look at how authentic can I be with my person? Hopefully all the way, sometimes that’s not the case. So that’s a piece we want to look at. And to evaluate each of our friendships. Can I bring all of myself? Or do I have to put parts of it away to keep the attachment solid? So it’s a bit of a negotiation between both. But I think if we can bring it towards our conscious mind, towards our focus, we can be a little more aware of where we might slip, and that giving ourselves away for connection thing comes just back in.

It ain’t great. I realize, just even the language of subconscious, unconscious and conscious, is there anything you want to say about making what’s out of the field of awareness more conscious? I know we’ve been talking about it not as direct. But I wonder, is there anything you want to speak to directly about this?

So I think maybe to use a metaphor, like we are in the family tree, we are a branch. So it’s hard to really see it from that full context. So I often like to use a computer metaphor, that we’re not born with a clean hard drive; we share that operating system with our parents and our grandparents. So the more we can recognize, here I am the branch of the tree, here I am influenced, it’s a part of me. But I want to be sure that I’m not operating from just the family map, but I’ve got my own relationship to my own compass. That that feels a little bit more personal, so that I’m able to follow my direction, not just simply the direction that my family goes, if it’s a different direction. That there’s space and openness and permission to do that. 

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“I think we’re healthiest when we have our compass in hand that’s personal to us, but that we also feel a part of the family map. Again, we’re sort of in these two different places negotiating the two.”

I really am resonating with what you’re describing. I’m trying to take the metaphor with the compass, and I’m like, is it like a banyan tree? Because a banyan tree creates their own little root. I mean, I don’t know the age, but they’re quite old, I’ll have to look it up. 

Longevity, yes. 

Well, this is so powerful. Is there anything else you want to say that we haven’t touched on? I know we’ve really covered a lot of territory.

Well, I really love that you brought in Mark Wolynn’s book, that’s what I recommend most often to my clients. So if your listeners have really loved this conversation, that would be a great way to deepen their understanding. I guess for me, this whole learning has helped me to understand myself in such a deep way, from a place of: Oh, that’s why it is the way it is. Instead of sometimes we can get lost in self-blame or regret, or it shouldn’t have been that way. That if I’m a part of this family map, things are going to flow in a certain way, unless I really cultivate and develop that compass, that personal compass. So I just needed to understand why certain things were happening, and once I could fit that in, then I could start to heal and evolve from there. 

Beautiful! One of the things that I’m curious, just on a personal level, have you ever found clients, or have you ever even encouraged for people to create some form of art? Because I don’t know that the average person, some people are a little more sentimental and have photos, but sometimes it’s not with the essence of what we’re describing. If there’s something, not that somebody would make their family tree into a art piece. But is there anything that you recommend to keep that interconnectedness, but also, perhaps in a new way? 

So one of the things I got from the book, Mark Wolynn’s It Didn’t Start With You, which I’ll put the link on today’s show notes, is that even if the circumstances were less than ideal, and even if one’s parent, if we’re talking about a parent-child relationship in adulthood, even if that parent is still limited and doesn’t have the capacity to engage in real healthy relating, that there’s still a way in which you can still receive their love and their connection, or you can still feel the love and the family bond. I’m just wondering, I don’t know, I’m just curious, this may not be relevant. But if there’s any symbolism or representation or art that you encourage for people to continue to make contact with this? Because I think it’s so common for people, they get wrapped up in whatever they’re doing and lose sight of some of this work, even if they’ve done some profound work. So to keep it in mind.

Oh definitely, that’s such an important question. I’m a big proponent of that. Because we do have this beautiful session and the awareness and wow factor, and then life takes hold of us. So we know that our mind really runs in inner images and pictures. So a lot of the times, if we’ve got that difficult relationship with our mom, can you place a picture of mom on your desk or beside your bed, somewhere that you’re really going to see it and engage with it? Because a lot of the times, our first movement is to create an inner relationship. So this idea that if it’s really hard for me to talk with my mom, or she steamrolls right over my boundaries, or maybe mom has already passed on, that it doesn’t mean that we can’t heal. Or that we’re just stuck, and I didn’t get to say the things I needed to say. But can we start a relationship with mom’s photo? Some of my clients really prefer to do it more on like an altar setting, where they’ll have special plants, or if they’re into crystals, or they’ll read a passage of a book that really feels grounded. A lot of the times, I’ll give my clients a piece of the resolution. I used to be a Clinical Hypnotherapist. So I guide them through a bit of a guided inner conversation with that parent, with that sibling, with their spouse, whatever the challenge is. So that oh yeah, right, we’re grounding into the piece, so that it has a chance to take root in the stress and where life pulls us off and distracts us. 

So that pitcher, or let’s say a grandparent has passed and it was a very difficult relationship with them, can you give them their rightful place with the family photos in the hallway? 

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“The family members that are forgotten, that we try to push away, they actually have a habit of coming back, depending on the hard pieces that might show up behaviorally in one of your children, or the dynamic inside your primary relationship.”

So we want to really face and look at these pieces, and having a relationship with that picture can be a beautiful daily understanding to help it forward.

Well, I can tell, my questions keep coming. So people, just be mindful of your time. One of the questions I have, just an aside, do you find that people who have been either adopted or have a step parent and their family tree is more complex? As we’re talking about epigenetics and genetics, do you find it more important to have an understanding of the biological tree? 

So I’ve worked with many people that have been adopted and have absolutely no family history, or really significant estrangement, or just a family full of secrets; Mom or Dad never talked about it, so I’ve no idea, any of the answers to these family questions you’re asking me. So then it’s a little bit more like reverse-engineering, where I’m using the core language approach that Mark speaks about in his book, where it’s really decoding language, understanding what the language is revealing, around that adopted person. How do your relationships go? How do you feel at work? Where’s your confidence at? What are the today challenges or even just traits and themes that will help me understand what we don’t have the physical history of, so that we can start to work at it from the original root cause kind of place? So language reveals everything. So even if there isn’t family history, a lot of times the language can fill in the blanks, and still we can get to that resolution place.

Wonderful. Well, how do people get in contact with you, what would you like to invite people to connect with, with your work? This is just so powerful. I almost feel like every single person needs to do this, so it’s super important.

Thank you. My website is simply my name, JohannaLynn.ca. You can find me on Instagram under TheFamilyImprint_Institute. I’m on LinkedIn, I do a regular weekly newsletter there under my name, Johanna Lynn. So if you’re wanting to check out epigenetics from what’s going on in the headlines today, I try to weave the two together. 

Oh, beautiful. Okay, so follow you on LinkedIn, and you have your website. Tell me the other thing you said. 

Oh, and Instagram is The Family Imprint Institute. 

Okay, gotcha. Can you say a little bit more about The Family Imprint Institute, and then also what people might find on your website?

Yes. So the Institute is really where I train other therapists, coaches, energy healers, all kinds of unique people have come in, mediators even, that want to understand the systemic approach to helping their clients, really bringing in another tool to how they’re supporting their clients. So that’s a really big excitement for me around being able to pay this work forward. Because just like you, I can only see so many people a week, and by sharing this approach, it means there’s that many people out there that can really pass it on. On the website, there are different classes. So I do online gatherings where people come and experience this work in sort of a real sacred container with a few other people. There’s a way that you can book private sessions with me as well; my practice is fully International.

Wonderful! I’ll, again, make sure to have all of these links on today’s show notes. Johanna, thank you so much for just being willing to share and offer so much, and how important this work is.

Thank you for having me, Jessica. I really enjoyed our conversation.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching