Many times, in counseling situations, we use a little tool called a genogram. If you have never heard of this tool, a genogram is just a glorified family tree. Only, many times, what people discover when they make a genogram, is not so glorious.
The purpose of a genogram is to learn more about your family history. An understanding of your family history can be helpful to gain more insight into yourself, especially your decisions, feelings and thoughts. It is important to understand where we came from so we can better navigate where we are going.
A genogram used in counseling will generally focus on relationships and how people function. Deaths, divorces, remarriages, births, siblings, birth order, illness, and many other things can be noted. Discoveries made when creating a genogram can go something like this; “there was a lot of alcoholism in my family”, “women in my family did not pick good men”, “there were so many people who died young in my family”, “divorce was really common in my family”, to name only a few.
What people notice in a genogram is patterns and trends of how their families related to each other. This helps people understand why they do things one way or another and that understanding gives them power to break unhealthy patterns.
In this Pocket Principle, we take a look at the human genogram by going back to the original mother and father of humanity and studying how their behavior affected every person born since. What we learn about our history is not so glorious, but understanding the impact of Adam and Eve’s behavior is important for our own growth and maturity.
last night i went to the first meeting of a group i swore i would never set foot in. the first of 17 meetings.
jesus is quite the practical joker. if i ever swear i won’t do something, it’s pretty much guaranteed that in the next few years, he will take a bulldozer straight through that promise, with me chained to the front scooper gizmo, screaming all the way, and then it will turn out to have been a heaping spoonful of blessing-pants.
2003: “i will NEVER set foot in that campus ministry. they are a cult.” a few weeks later, i step in because they have free chili and i am hungry and lazy. then, i am going every week. a few weeks later i meet my husband inside that building. a few more months and i meet jesus there and the following year i am working full time and living in the house. as alumni, we now give a large amount of money every month to keep this “cult” running, pray daily that our kids will find a community like it when they get older, and even speak at their retreats when asked.
good one, emmanuel.
so i should have known that when i said, “ew, i will NEVER take a restoring your heart group. i’m a hippie jesus chick and don’t like binders and programs and i would NEVER spill my guts to a bunch of lady-strangers,” that i was essentially saying, “give me my name tag and my spiral-bound study guide, i’m IN!”
so a few years back, when wda introduced a new program, called “restoring your heart,” that was developed with the aim of discovering where you have been wounded, how those wounds have affected, and still affect you; and then grieving those wounds, and beginning to heal from them. i thought, that sounds great, i’m sure lots of people who had crappy childhoods will really benefit from that. but again, not for me. i don’t have any huge, glaring baggage that i felt like i was still carrying around. i have never been abused, haven’t dealt with addiction, never dealt with death or abandonment…none of the big headliner issues. i figured, nothing that bad ever really happened to me, so any issues i have are of my own doing.
Ironically, I kept hearing people I respected say, “i never realized ___ about myself until i did the restoring your heart group but….” and we’d hear other couples rave about the results. like: every, single one goes on and on about how much it has changed their lives. how much it sucks at first, but then what freedom and wisdom comes from it.
i started to think more about it. but i always came back to, “no, i really don’t have any wounds that i haven’t already healed from.”
all this has been playing out over the past 4 years. we have dealt with marriage issues, becoming parents, having conflict with friends and family and trying to think about how we want to raise our kids. lots of these issues seem to repeat themselves: hubs and i having the same types of fights again and again, me losing my cool at my son over the same stupid triggers, getting into misunderstanding with friends because i feel devalued. these sorts of patterns made me start wondering.
one night last month we called some wda-ers over for an SOS emergency marriage counseling session. after a few hours of talking through things and them asking questions, it finally hit me that i do a lot of the things that cause me and my husband and my kids pain (and will continue to) because i am wounded. not in any lifetime original movie kind of way, but just in a way that screams, “oh hey, this is a fallen world and sin and lies are everywhere and they are all over you. Didn’t you know?”
i came to the conclusion that while growing up i interpreted and received what i thought was truth the only way i knew how. in the process i was told, perceived, believed and reacted to many lies. lies about who i am. lies about who jesus is. lies about how god loves me. lies about shame and worth and safety.
it is really important to note here that there isn’t a human bad guy in this story. it’s not like my parents or a bully or a teacher ever outright lied to me on purpose to hurt me. and even though, sadly, that can sometimes be the case that people lie to and hurt us intentionally, we have to remember that they are victims of a broken world too. the only person whose entire identity is that of a liar is satan. he is where all of this crap comes from and it gives him amazing amounts of joy when he can convince us to swallow them.
every single one of us is a limping, burned, disfigured product of these lies. in the process we bang around hurting each other, even if we want only the best for and to love one another.
so in the process of growing up, and with the mind of a child, i interpreted false messages that wounded me. that taught me unhealthy patterns and unwise reactions. as kids we are constantly being passively programmed: taking what we see and hear and experience and feel and instantly interpreting it, with no conscious thought–with our tiny minds–into the worldview from which we will operate for the rest of our lives.
so, yes, a 3 year old programmed the brain from which 80% of my thoughts, assumptions and decision originate…awesome! that really explains so much.
satan is a crafty butwipe and he hurts us the most subtly as children, when we are too immature and unlearned to put words to the hurtful things and feelings that we come across. these unnamed things get cemented into our heads as “just the way things are” or “normal,” or, “truth,” and by the time we are old enough to “know better” (no, my dad didn’t love me less because he worked all the time, or no, my mom didn’t think i was stupid because she encouraged me to do better in school, or no i am not worthless because some bully kid singled me out), it doesn’t matter because the fallout from those unspoken lies has already tangled itself around so much of our operating system that it has become our truth, even if we “know better” in our conscious minds.
i would say the easiest people to hate in this life are those that target and harm children. well, the devil is the king of child predators and he started working on us from infancy. he has planted sneaky and evil lies in the hearts and minds of the smallest souls that never even knew they were in a war or had an enemy. it is disgusting and evil to the core. satan’s lies seek to harm us in the only lasting way that we can be hurt: by tearing us away from the truth of how much jesus loves us. it’s his only weapon and he wields it with impunity and skill.
it’s hard to imagine any damage being worse than what we read about in the papers or see on the news about the horrible and rare things that can happen to children, but i am realizing that every single one of us has been the victim of an even worse abuse: trying to have our hearts and minds stolen away from and twisted against our most perfect heavenly father.
and the sneakiest part is that these acts committed against us leave no outward signs, and the victims and eyewitnesses to them don’t even know they have even occurred. let me say it very clearly: satan is a disgusting, malicious piece of garbage and is the only one who hurts us with full knowledge of what he is doing to us and why he is doing it. he isn’t acting out of his own woundedness; he is acting purely out of his identity as a predator who wants to destroy us.
i was always afraid to talk about my “stuff” because mine “isn’t that bad.” i was afraid of looking like a pampered little complainer next to others who have suffered in more external or obvious ways. but you know what? i am just realizing that that’s a lie too. everybody has their own stuff and by saying someone else’s is better or worse than mine, i am attempting to judge what’s good and what’s evil based on some scale that my brain came up with. i seem to remember that doing that exact same thing didn’t work out so well for all of us when adam and eve first tried it out in the garden. and you know who was right there telling them to do it? plot twist! it was the devil there too.
i now hate the little saying, “if we all put our troubles in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d want to grab ours right back out again.” we are ALL living in a broken world and have been poisoned by it. every single one of us is lost. no one wins this contest of “who’s got it roughest/easiest?” because they have the “least” or “smallest” mess. it’s not an objective scale. we are all walking around with the same score: me-0, satan-1.
just like you can’t compare your physical pain to someone else’s because you CANT FEEL THEIRS, we can’t do that with emotional pain either. what wounded me is what wounded me and that’s all i have any control over or firsthand knowledge of. end of story.
so i am done keeping my junk in the darkness. that’s what satan wants anyway. for me to feel like i am a freak or that i am alone in feeling this way, or that i am lucky and didn’t really get hurt. that’s not truth and that’s not jesus. there is no shame in christ. he would never turn me away and say, “shut up, that memory of being humiliated in 8th grade was nothing; try having nails through your hands.” he is ever-comforting, always gentle, and wants to be with me FOREVER. there is nothing in my heart that he would ever dismiss or write off.
so i will be going through this class for 17 weeks with 6 other women, all strangers, led by another woman who has been trained by WDA people who wrote the program. i have committed to a serious covenant of confidentiality about the things i hear during our group about the other women’s stories, but i do want to share my own personal walk through this process in a public way a little bit in case any one else has ever thought their stuff was too big, too small, too ugly, too messed up or too anything to not address.
my goals: to stop some of the cycles of unhealthy behavior and recurring wounds that i exhibit, receive and inflict by discovering the lies and hurt that i developed these behaviors in response to. that sounded fancy. here’s what i really mean: to figure my junk out before i pass it on to anyone else or make it worse for myself. to walk more like christ.
the thing that finally won me over was hearing people I love get emotional saying how much they would give to have gone back and done this before they had kids. they would pay thousands of dollars to have known what their own wounds were so they could catch themselves in the moment of acting out of those wounds and hurting their kids as they were raising them. their grown children are already benefiting greatly from having more healthy and self aware parents, but stopping the cycle for the next generation BEFORE many of the wounds and lies are cemented in childhood is an invaluable opportunity that i couldn’t spit in the face of.
dear jesus, i already know what it feels like to have wounded my kids due to my own issues. i refuse to do that anymore out of my ignorance. will i still wound them? Inevitably, and tragically, yes. but i will have this stuff in the light, before my eyes and turned over to jesus, so its insidious power is lost. i might not ever get the cure on this side of heaven, but just knowing my diagnosis and what the symptoms of my wounds are will go a huge way toward breaking the cycle of their power to cause even more hurt.
i am so ready to start the painstaking process of asking the questions that lead me back down the tangled paths of emotional unhealthiness and identify where the stupid, backward messages started. to call out the lie and deny the liar. to claim the freedom that we have all been promised by the one who is truth. to trade in my scorecard of k8-0, devil-1, and redeem the inheritance that i was ransomed to: jesus-a billionty googzillion for ever eternity, satan-ultimate loser.
bring on my spiral-bound binder of class materials! i don’t expect this to be easy. i don’t expect it to be fun or solve all of my problems. i do fully expect jesus to show up and hold my hand and start turning the pixels of my heart one by one over to the truth side. it’s what he does, when we let go and let him, and he’s kind of undefeated at it.
here we go.
This Blog was written by a Restorative Ministry Participant.
WDA’s Restorative Ministry and Restoring Your Heart Groups are a vital part of many people growing in grace. Learn more about WDA’s Restoring Your Heart.