I am not really a television watcher, not at all really. However, recently I purchased Hulu for a month to watch a documentary series. After finishing the series, I began to watch a show I had heard many of my friends talking about– This is Us. If I’m being honest, I usually think sitcoms are the worst reflection of society, but I have to say, I truly enjoyed this show. I began to ask myself what it was about this family’s story that grabbed me.
Yes, the acting and the writing are truly superb, but I knew it was more than that bringing me to tears throughout the episodes. I realized, what was engaging me was not simply the memories of my own family, or that hearty desire for a lifelong love, but more so, the universal sense of connection within individual families. Witnessing how forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, and tolerance are shaped within the family dynamic.
It’s amazing how much of who we are, as adults, is defined by our childhoods; the experiences, the words, the environment, the memories, and ultimately the meanings we made of them. At this very moment, there is something that happened to you before the age of five that is likely shaping a current pattern in your adult life! When we are children, we are not capable of processing situations with the same emotional maturity that we do as adults. Often, in our human need to have order or understanding, we will take our experiences and twist them, to make them absorbable.
Think about it like this – as children, we rely on our parents to care for us; they are the stability and safety within our lives. However, if, let’s say, you have a parent that is alcoholic, or abusive, and acting out from demons within– as a child, that jeopardizes our safety and stability. So, instead of understanding that the adult has unprocessed issues, we make the problem about ourselves, so that it can be solved, and our safety and stability can be restored. In doing this, we create a belief about ourselves, and it is likely that belief is still shaping you, even to this day.
If we make ourselves the problem, then there is hope, or control restored to our lives, and ideally we can find a solution to set the world right again. However, mind you, this is still in the child’s emotional mind, and it is limited to only a few ideas. Typically, the beliefs we carve out during this time are: I am not enough, I am a problem, I am not worthy of what is lacking, I am not smart, I am not capable, I am not lovable, or who I am is not acceptable. Often though, we go beyond these harsh, over-lying beliefs into even smaller beliefs, such as: That happened because I was wearing red, so I’ll never wear red again. Or, the music I’m creating aggravates others; clearly I have no talent. And so on, making meaning out of the reactions that we are trying to process as children.
If you close your eyes, and allow yourself to follow backwards along the timeline of your life, to the very first moment you remember feeling like a long time held belief, such as, I am not lovable; can you remember the moment it began? Chances are, you can, and it’s likely between the ages of birth to five years old! Reconsider the circumstances of that experience, bringing your adult emotional intelligence into the mix to consult with. It’s likely now that you can see how the adult in that situation was inappropriately processing their life, or another sibling was acting out – likely you were simply the brunt of their lashing out. So, if I asked the “adult you,” what does that mean about you? It’s likely you would recognize that the experience actually means nothing about who you are; but rather it is about who they are. And, if you were to then remove that belief from your life – what might your life look like now?
It’s these types of exercises that can get us to the heart of our beliefs, and help us to begin to allow them to be rewired. Typically, it can take a few times of doing this before we will allow ourselves to let go of an old belief, and recognize new thought patterns to be considered and engaged.
Perhaps what is fantastic about, This is Us, is that we often see the characters having these connections. We witness them shaping their belief structures in their youth, and we see how they are directly reflected in their adult lives. They are wonderful mirrors for us to consider these efforts in our own lives.