WARNING: Content ahead that makes us think. That’s good, since Ben Franklin said, “If it hurts, it instructs.”
That Important Day
It was 1991 when I told Terry, a marital counselor, about my Upstate New York “home of origin” and family system dysfunction. In that first session, after sharing great detail, I confidently (and foolishly) concluded, “But Karen and I left all that behind when we moved to Minnesota in 1980.”
The truth of Terry’s response still stings:
“You moved from it, John, but you have not escaped it.”
It can take a long time to process our childhood and past—if we ever do. Some folks won’t and don’t because they deny the need. That’s a choice each person has to make. As a fortysomething gal from a family of alcoholics assured me when she returned an unread book I’d loaned her on this topic, “All families have problems. I’m good.”
The Value Of Digging
If healthy digging into our past is to occur, I don’t believe it happens till we’re in our 30s—or beyond. I was 33 when Terry used the 2×4 of truth on me. Little did I know, I had much to come to grips with from my youth. Thankfully, I dug in—and Karen did, too. All that individual digging saved our relationship as we came to understand ourselves and each other better.
Married since June 21, 1980, our marriage is now the best it has ever been.
Digging into my “formative years” and coming to understand the original family forces that affected me also enabled me to create the QBQ! book’s message of Personal Accountability.
I’m grateful for that, but sure wish I’d had QBQ! to use as a teenager!
Parallel Truths Happen
An off phenomenon occurs when truths seemingly in conflict exist side by side. Here’s an example in the form of two questions:
Question 1: Am I completely and totally accountable for each and every choice I make and action I take as an adult?
Question 2: Does my past form the foundation of who I am today?
So, doesn’t that mean it’s worthwhile to do some digging into that past???
The truth is, I must fully own what and who I am today—and all that I say and do—while also exploring my past to understand exactly how it shaped me. And how it is still affecting me today.
I wholeheartedly believe this is what accountable people do.
Of course, if I’d rather not learn, grow, and change to become a better me, I could skip all this emotional and mental work. That, too, is an option.
To dig or not to dig—isn’t that the question? ?
What will you choose to do?
How are you doing today dealing with yesteryear?
What “digging” have you done?
If you’ve done no digging, what has stopped you?
Win a FREE autographed QBQ! book!
Comment on this blog to have your name entered into our 6/24/19 drawing!
John, It is great to see you publishing on this important topic. Yes, we are highly influenced by our past and carry it with us wherever we go–no matter how many years have passed. While you did not discuss it in the blog, I am certain that many people would welcome the chance to hear more about HOW to work with the past and clean up old dysfunctional thinking patterns, emotional responses or chronic anger, fear, doubt worry etc. On top of this, I am sure others may wonder, how do I clean up my past without blaming others who might have “done it to me” when I was young and naïve? Keep up the good work John–have you ever thought of adding a book on this critical issue? I think you would find a lot of interest
Jim, you’re right: It is an important topic. One many ignore or deny. Thanks for commenting!
Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. Even late in life, as children deal with the death of a parent and division of resources, our past comes back to haunt us. Bad feelings between siblings, old or even new hurtful words said, unresolved arguments, rivalries, feelings of unfairness from the past, etc., bubble up and make grieving the loss of the parent hard. Engaging in dialogue at this time is difficult but can be productive. We may learn the one we blamed wasn’t the perpetrator. We may discover that we only knew part of the story and that we played an unknown role. As usual, we should deal with the issues and ask the QBQ. We may once again be surprised at the results.
Steven, you’re so right: When we lose a parent, bad stuff sure can “bubble” up. Peace be with you!
I was raised in a Christian home on a farm with a mother and father who were strict but loving. A few scars but mostly good. However, I carried the parenting Skills on to raising my kids. Didn’t end up with honest, close relationships with my children. Now at 69, I’m trying to repair that.
After first being introduced to your book more than a decade ago, I realized I needed to take accountability for my actions. It’s been a struggle, since I tended to lay blame on others. But I’ve learned that through prayer, I have the strength to take accountability, even in those situations where I could easily blame others.
Keep writing. I’ll keep reading
Ken, such deep thoughts on blame. Yes, it causes one to struggle. Great comment!
My husband thinks everyone in my family gets along with each other. What he doesn’t see, or chooses to ignore, is that we never talk about feelings or about how things affect us. It’s all conversation about the weather, gardening etc.
I read an article about Anderson Cooper and how he and his mother changed their relationship conversation and wondered how to make that change in myself.
Great topic to explore further!
Thanks, Janice. Good stuff!
I started the ‘excavation” process while going through Coach training school in my late forties. Through prayers for wisdom and discernment and peer coaching that my folks did the best they could with what they knew and how they were raised.
I have chosen to honor my parents in their later years by being the example, not the victim.
Honestly, without the hope of heaven, I don’t know how people live with joy and hope.
Thank you for bringing this topic to light.
Mary, so much wisdom in your remark. Thanks for sharing!
What am I doing to dig into yesteryear? I have been journalling (though not at all lately) and also getting help in various ways. Both of these help a lot and I’m so glad to have read this blog today. What an important and vital message!
I think the digging continues throughout our lives, but it is ultimately with a view to planting seeds of faith, hope, and love for the future, not digging up the past for the past’s sake.
Agreed, Justin – we dig for positive reasons. Excellent!
It is amazing this email was sent the very day before I went through the results session on 6/20 with my Neuropsychologist. The week before I had gone through a long day that entailed an interview session, a multitude of mental tasks and tests and then a 360 item questionnaire.
When I received the results a little over a week later, the questionnaire pointed me in the direction of addressing my past childhood because of how it is affecting my current life. I too thought I put all of the things from my childhood behind me and continued on with my life. I’ve been married 31 years and we have a son who has grown into a wonderful man and about to turn 28 (Born in 1991 the same year you mentioned in your opening)
The truth be told, I have a lot of digging to do to address and work through the things I’ve shoved aside all these years. Just hearing her tell me what the questionnaire indicated was actually a relief to me that it is okay to get to the bottom of what is affecting me all these years later. It actually all came up in July 2016 when our Father Passed away and then again when our Mother passed away in May 2017. Truly a blow to lose both parents in 10 months and to talk about my childhood with my brother and sister who are 12 and 13 years older than I am. We all have the same parents who were quite amazing parents, but there were things my siblings were not around for.
I have names of three Psychologists to review and interview to select the one that will help me with the digging process I so desperately need and didn’t know it.
Thank you for your words of wisdom in your emails. The timing for this subject matter couldn’t have come at a better time. I too live in Denver and hope to see you in person one day.
Karen, thank YOU for your transparency. Yes, this is all good and I bet you will gain much from the process. Best of luck in your continued “digging”! 🙂
Thanks John, for always sharing such insightful information. We all have plenty of digging to do and I agree that our past forms who we are today. If we want to plant a tree and watch it grow, we must first dig. The same applies in our lives. We must dig to plant the seeds of tomorrow. Thanks again! Keep the info coming!
Excellent metaphor, Jeff!
I tend to use the term “Pause” as in “Pause for the Cause”. In other words (LOL!) to pause BEFORE determining (thinking, naming, blaming, etc.…) the cause of an “event” in the Now. This is the space in which to remember “What can I do?”
Kim and I were at a Wells Fargo Bank in Norwalk CA this past Friday afternoon. It was a bit after 5:00 p.m. (on a Friday – pay day) and the bank was open until 6:00 p.m. You can imagine that it was crowded, and we got into a long line to get to the tellers.
There were two tellers behind the glass wall (was it bulletproof glass???)
In front of one teller was a man with a backpack pulling out handfuls of rolled coins. Lots of handfuls. The expression on the teller’s face showed that she wasn’t going to have fun counting and verifying all these rolls of coins. It looked like we might be in for a long wait….
Because all we wanted was a cashier’s check to buy a car (another long story), I wandered around a bit to see if anyone at one of the scattered desks could help us out. A man looked up from a “Business Banking” desk. His name was Ben. He asked me if he could help. I explained that all we wanted was a cashier’s check. He said, “You’re in the right line.”
I got back in line with Kim. The line wasn’t moving. My mind wanted to start cussing the man with the rolled coins, wanted to get angry with the bank for only having two tellers on a Friday, wanted to judge everyone in line ahead of us (and behind us just for good measure….) but instead I went on “pause”. Patience? Well, I recognize that the Mind is always impatient, never satisfied, and continually judging. It does all of that all the time and the only recourse I have is to hit the *PAUSE* button – to stop the wild “thinking” and allow the Universe to unfold without my mind’s assistance.
I took a breath and paused.
Ben, who turned out to also be assistant branch manager, first showed up with small bottles of water – handed one to Kim and one to me and offered a couple of others water. Ben must have been thinking “What can I do?” Then he got more water bottles and handed them to others in line. And again! Pretty soon everyone in line was happier and drinking water (it was hot in the bank).
Then Ben was behind the glass wall talking to a woman who was sitting behind the tellers. She got up and opened another teller window. The line started to move more quickly. Ben went back out to the area of desk cubicles and talked to another woman, who then got up and went to another teller window. Ben went through the line from the front to the back, asking if people had transactions that didn’t require any cash distribution. He asked them to step out and go to the fourth window that had just opened. Ben remembered that all we wanted was a cashier’s check. We went from tenth in line to third in line at the “cashless” window.
Everything was moving quickly, now, and everyone was happier. Was it even a bit cooler in the bank? Seemed like it….
Brian, great story and thoughts! Thanks for sharing them with us!
I read the QBQ book and would love to have an autographed book! The book is one that should be passed around the family and for all generations that can read!