When you were a teenager, you wanted nothing more than to finally escape from your parents. You probably imagined adulthood as a mythical time when you’d be free to find your own truth, pursue your own dreams and live by your own values, far from the prison of your parents’ expectations.
Well, I’m guessing that by now you’ve figured out that this was nothing more than a myth. We’re all free to make our own choices in life, of course, but the reality is that you can never separate yourself from your family and the way they’ve shaped you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned doing shamanic work with hundreds of people around the world, guiding them to break through their limitations and access the deeper dimensions of their being, it’s that the conflict between our individuality and our family of origin follows us forever.
Whether you like it or not, your vision for who you are and “the way things are” was inherited from your family. On the day you were born, your parents gave you your name, and along with it, your entire structure for understanding the world and your place in it. Emotions, traumas, concepts about life, beliefs and values — along with limitations, struggles, and unrealized dreams — are shaped through the generations and passed down to this moment, this generation, you. Your family leaves an imprint on your character that will never fade, no matter what you might do to try to erase it.
We can’t just detach from everything we’ve learned from our families in order to find our own truth. Instead, understanding how our parents shaped us is a subject we must continue studying throughout our lives. Much better than pushing our parents away (or worse, devoting our lives to pleasing them) is investigating how we can evolve through and beyond our familial conditioning.
‘Honor Thy Parents’
If you grew up in the West, you were taught to live by one golden virtue above all else: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Even if you weren’t raised going to church, the Biblical commandments are part of the basic social programming of all Judeo-Christian cultures, and the Bible decrees that of all our duties in life, the first and foremost is our duty to our parents.
So, how do you honor your parents? What does that mean to you? How much of your own individuality have you sacrificed in order to please them? How much guilt do you hold for failing to meet their expectations? And how much anger and frustration you feel for not having your own individuality admired or at least respected by them?
We can’t avoid the struggle between our true self, with our own emotions, perspectives and dreams, and the dreams and expectations of our parents. It creates an internal conflict that starts at the very beginning of in life. The visions your parents created for you and your life are the first programming of your reality. You absorbed most of this programming when you were very young and didn’t yet have reason to question it. And there’s actually nothing inherently wrong with this programming. It can easily suffocate your individuality, but it’s healthy at the same time. It provides your basic structure for making sense of reality, containing the values and behavioral codes necessary for survival. It also tends to be a load of bullshit (let’s not sugar-coat it) but believe it or not, that’s a good thing too! Breaking through these structures will challenge you, demanding you to exercise your self-awareness and personal power in order to ﬁnd your true self; to create your own set of values and live by them.
We all bring into our lives a kind of hologram, a projection of who we are, created by our parents based on how they dreamed of us since we were conceived: “Such a beautiful girl! You’ll marry a wonderful man one day!” or “Look at him! He’ll be a great lawyer!” What happens when the boy grows up and wants to be a dancer? Or when the girl wants to be a nomadic artist?
Some of us try to spare our parents from the pain of disappointment — a convenient excuse for not claiming our own individuality. Being a human being means you’ll hurt and disappoint people — especially the ones you love the most — and as soon as you accept this, everything becomes easier.
It’s already too late to avoid disappointing your parents. The reality is that you’ve have been hurting them since the day you were born! Your mother’s vagina was never the same after you passed through it. Your parents’ sex life was lost during the endless rituals of changing your diapers and milking you. You caused them immense stress with your crying and demanding attention. For years, attending to your education drained their time, energy and money. There was love there, of course, but don’t delude yourself — you have never been the ‘golden dream’ that they dreamed of! Unless they’re masochistic or enlightened beings, you have always been a disappointment to them on some level. And it’s not just you. This is true for all of us; it’s part of the nature of life.
Breaking the Chain
Ok sinner, let’s come back to question: How are you honoring your parents? Notice that the commandment says to honor your mother and father, but it doesn’t say “you shall obey them” or “you shall sacriﬁce your individuality to make them happy.” It’s up to you to choose for yourself how to honor your family. Choose wisely, for this choice will be fundamental in determining the direction of your life.
The Biblical commandments have messed with our heads in a lot of ways, but there’s wisdom there, too. The Bible tells us to honor our parents, and I agree. You were born with their genes. They’ve walked their owns paths in life. Now, it’s up to you to evolve, renew, and honor their DNA by breaking through the limitations you inherited. For me, honoring our parents means challenging their concepts and structures. It means breaking through the places where they got stuck, and by stuck, I don’t mean wrong. They did their best, and now it is up to you to do yours.
When you choose to honor your true self, your innermost being, you honor your DNA. When you are true to your own nature, you honor the seed of life that created you. That’s the way to pay respect to where you came from. So be brave, face life’s challenges and ﬁnd your individuality! Is there any better way to honor your parents than this?
It doesn’t serve you or your lineage to deny your individuality by forcing yourself to follow your parents’ footsteps. Carry on the family torch and use it to light the path that is only yours to walk.