By Joseph Feusi
In this blog I’d like to talk about family history as it relates to the fulfillment of your dreams. Whenever I talk to mentoring clients I try to have them give me an inventory of the history of their family in regards to specific things that their family has accomplished. Whatever previous generations have accomplished in their lives becomes an option for future generations to do the same. So it seems pretty straightforward that you take an inventory of your family history and find out that there are things that you would like to do that have been done before. An example would be, let’s say that you want to learn how to sail a sailboat and that no one in the immediate generation before you has been remotely interested in sailing a sailboat. Upon discovering that several generations back someone in your family sailed, this now becomes a probability for you, and in some way it makes the fulfillment of becoming a sailor and sailing a sailboat easier. One of your ancestors has broken the mold for you. So it’s straightforward.
But sometimes history is not straightforward, and this is where we get into the strange place where we have to start doing investigations into what our dreams are and what our family has done in the past.This can get incredibly complicated. Let’s use the same metaphor, that you want to sail and that you want to go out and buy a sailboat, and for some reason you have a very, very difficult time doing this. The first place I would have you look is at the history of your family, and there’s an exceptionally high probability that you are going to come back and tell me that absolutely nobody in previous generations was interested in sailing. So at that point we would just decide, well, you are the first person in your family to want to become a sailor. But this is where the not-so-straightforward comes in, because at that point I may push a client to really do a serious investigation to make sure that sailing in one form or another was not a fact or a dream for the family . . .
Here’s why: Let’s say that one of your great-grandparents was an exceptionally good sailor and one of your grandparents wanted to take up sailing but for some reason, your great-grandfather was unsupportive of his child’s dreams of sailing. Then this becomes problematic because if your grandfather was not allowed to sail when he wanted to, he now suffers a loss that is carried forward in conjunction with the talent that is carried forward, and that both of these are now in conflict. Because your great-grandfather sailed, that is an option for you to sail as well; but because your grandfather was forbidden from sailing, you are now in an inherited double-bind: having a dream and not believing you can accomplish it.
Or, your desire to sail is so powerful that it may not be conscious. What happens is that you have been trained by the family by a handed-down familial unrequited loss to not even be allowed to discuss, to harbor, or to even be conscious of the dream of sailing. So then what happens in this metaphor of sailing is your desire to sail becomes an unconscious one that haunts you. Here’s an example: you are taking lunch in an aquatic park and a sailing boat sails by you and you find yourself feeling very melancholy, uncomfortable, or scared as you view the sailboat. In another instance, let’s say that you are sitting there with a friend and they point out the sailboat and you can’t even see it because you have been trained to protect your family from their loss. So then you have a session with me and discuss your seemingly irrational upset in the aquatic park, not even knowing why you’re spending session time on this. I ask you if you have ever thought or felt that you would like to sail a sailboat and you suddenly have a big reaction—anger, grief, frustration. We now know that we are on the track of an unrequited, unconscious expression of self, and maybe even destiny. So, given the reaction, the first thing that I would ask is why do you think your reaction is so big to something that has been absent in your life? The answer I usually get at first is, “I don’t know.” This leads me to conclude that we may be dealing with an unfilled family legacy.
So two things happen at this point: First, I send you out to go take sailing lessons and see if that’s something that you are interested in doing. Secondly, we do a more sophisticated research of your family history to find out if maybe there is a family block in place. Once it becomes evident that there is, and you become aware of it, it is then removed. If there is a lot of grief and anger associated with this, then we might consider sending you to see a psychotherapist to process the grief and anger, while simultaneously I work with you to put into practice getting you onboard the sailboat, and sailing off into the sunset.
In closing, this is what I’d like the reader to come away with—that knowing about both versions of family history is very important—the one that is known to the family, and the one that is not. The one that is not known can be the one that has the most powerful effect on you because it can cause you to miss the fulfillment of your dreams, dreams that you, yourself, are not totally aware of. To quote Leonard Cohen, “He talks his dreams to sleep.”
How you go about discovering your family dreams is to ask every family member about other family members, because if there is an unrequited issue floating around in your family, more than likely whichever family member you talk to directly will not be able to speak about their own dreams, but you often get the unrequited dreams of the others. Example: Aunt Elsie tells you about how her sister, your Aunt Eileen used to dance in a Broadway show, but that she had to quit to start a family—or that the family got started before she quit! Interestingly, from your perspective, this has never been discussed at family gatherings. In our sailing example, there could be some tragedy associated with great-grandpa sailing—his best friend drowned at a regatta—and this is why sailing is not supported in the family.
In my mentoring practice I have helped numerous clients fulfill dreams that were nagging at them in their daily lives and sometimes woke them up at night, and that they themselves could not identify at the time.
What dreams are keeping you awake at night?