Belonging and Connecting
By Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., MFT
My wife has really gotten into the study of genealogy. She spends hours on the Internet tracking down who was married to whom, how many children they had, and who those children married. It goes on and on, back and back. It is a never-ending process. It is educational, interesting, and addictive.
Some of us mentally focus on and sort for the past. Some stay focused on the present, while others are only looking at the future. There are advantages for each.
Remember in school math class when you had to graft points? Let us say we place a point to our left representing the past and a point directly in front of us representing the present. If we draw a line from the past (left), through the present (front), and extend it to the right (future), we get some idea where we are headed.
Focusing on the past is a great way to understand our roots and where we come from. Our genetic and cultural heritage is based on making some sense of belonging and connecting with those who came before us. They never knew us, but we can certainly get to know them. It stretches our identity beyond ourselves, our immediate family, and helps us produce a multi-generational and often multi-cultural foundation.
If we had a good childhood, our past can give us a positive sense of identity,
self-image, self-concept, and self-worth. If our childhood was filled with
violence, abuse, and trauma, we may be stuck trying to let the past go. Most of
our problems come from the fear and pain of the past. Sometimes, we have to
revisit the past to own it, accept it, and let it go, or hold it close.
Most of us are caught up in our present. We think itís all about us. We donít look too far back, and we canít see too far forward.
If we do not learn from the past, we are destined to repeat our mistakes in the future. I often ask new parents to make a list of the type of person they want their children to become and the type and characteristics of the relationship they want to see them in. Knowing that identification and imitation is the most powerful parenting technique, I encourage them to act in the present with their eyes on the future of their children and grandchildren.
The future is not just our fantasies; it is the dreams of what we want to see. The present is the fantasies and the dreams of past generations. Each represents the end product of the past and seeds for the future.
I hope that our ancestors are pleased with what they see. When the generations of the future look back on today and study their genealogy, will we leave them a model by which we can be proud and they can be thankful? Letís look forward to the day they can look back and find their roots in us.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally-respected psychotherapist and author with offices in Long Beach and Tustin.
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