Family of Origin Influences
Relatively few people are
aware of how they continue to be influenced and controlled in their present
behaviors by aspects of experiences in their family of origins. Family of
origin therapists are interested in helping individuals make clear distinctions
between themselves and their parents; that is, people working out distorted
childhood relationships with their parents in the context of their existing
Various techniques can be used to make individuals
consciously aware of important aspects in their families of origin. Although a
family of origin therapist can be helpful, you can begin work on breaking free
of family of origin influences on your own.
The technique of family
photographs can help recapture the family of origin experience. You should pick
three or four photographs and consider such questions as who stands where, who
is not in the picture, what expressions are on people's faces, etc. An exercise
with photographs can stimulate you to work through forgotten events and
establish a new perspective leading
to a process of change.
In family sculpting family
members translate their feelings and thoughts
into action and space by,
for example, asking family members (or individuals representing their family
members) to move physically in a room to clarify the emotional distances
Rules and rituals.
Look at rules and
rituals--also roles--that existed in your family of origin and that continue to
persist in your current nuclear family. This is a valuable technique to help
you decide to maintain or alter the status quo. This idea can be further
developed by writing a family of origin paper covering your beliefs and
feelings in regard to topics such as sexuality, friendships, parenting style,
A format for drawing a
family tree that records information about family members and their
relationships over at least three generations is the genogram. By using symbols
the genogram maps out the structure of the family first, then gathers
information about family members, and finally examines the interpersonal
relationships in the family. Emily Martin has written an excellent book
Genograms: Tire New Tool
for Exploring the Personality Career. and Love Patterns You Inherit for the lay beginner.
Various instruments have
been developed to help you become more aware of the impact your family of
origin has had on you. They are usually simple to administer and score. Two
examples are the Family-of-Origin Scale and the Personal Authority in
the Family System Questionnaire.
You can read books to free
your adult life from distortions of the past. Two excellent books on the
subject are Making Peace with Your Parents by H.H.
Bloomfield and Toxic Parents by S. Forward.
In summary, family of origin therapy is concerned about the
"baggage" that individuals carry around from their families of origin
into their present relationships. This "baggage" is seen as a
potential obstacle to the establishment of solid nuclear family relationships.
Family of origin work uses an exploration of the past in order to readjust
present relationships. The responsibility for change is on you to behave in
ways that are more clearly your own or, in other words, to become your own