I know someone who is a chronic worrier. She comes by it honestly. Everyone in her family is a chronic worrier. Just being around them makes your stress level go up. It makes me wonder if this is genetic or behavioral or a combination of both. Anxiety disorders can definitely run in families. But you can also learn to expect the worst by seeing that everyone around you does just that.
In addition, you can pick up negative traits based on other people’s trauma. I know a woman who has an intense distrust of men. She freely admits that she learned it from her mother, who also had the same distrust. What she didn’t know until she was in her 40’s is that her mother had learned it from her grandmother, who had been brutally raped. So, in essence, my friend learned to distrust men because a woman she had never even known had once had an admittedly horrible experience, and that experience had since rippled down through the generations.
That’s heartbreaking to contemplate. She is now trying to break the cycle with her daughter. She’s attempting to learn a healthy balance between self-protection and acceptable vulnerability so that she can pass these qualities on to her child. It won’t be easy for her, but the very fact that she’s making the effort is bound to have an impact.
There are many insidious family cycles that need to be broken. Abuse,whether it be physical or emotional, is not something you want to perpetuate. Neither is racism or a devaluing of education.
Think about your family’s strengths and weaknesses. What does your family get right or wrong? Make an effort to stop that wrong stuff in its tracks. This far, and no farther. The destruction you prevent could be that of a relative you will never live to see. Let that be your legacy.
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