Doing Away with Certain Family and Social Mandates Is Healthy

February 4, 2017

Doing away with the unbending family and social mandates is healthy, because those codes and obligations make us captives in a life plan that we did not choose. Sometimes it is better to be the black sheep than a personality created by that false perfection that defines some families.

All of us have in some way been captives of that invisible network woven by family mandates, many times inherited from generation to generation. They rise up like an invisible consciousness, like the soul of a legacy where there are certain things that we must accept without question. In fact, this is how we do things when we are children, until suddenly something wakes up within us. We get tired of being hostages to those admonishing looks, to those expectations written into the family bond.

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

-William Shakespeare-

Each family is like a clan. It is a dynamic and extremely complex dimension where an emotional legacy, a past, beliefs, repressions, and of course mandates are integrated. Viktor Frankl, the famous Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, wrote in his book “The Doctor and the Soul” that the only thing worse than suffering is for our own suffering to go without witness. From there, the value of the family as the first circle of memory, of heir of that legacy.

If that suffering is wrapped up in hard feelings, we can give rise to a bad legacy. Because the most likely thing is for this to generate distrust as its principal mandate.

We invite you to reflect on this.

Parents Cutting Child's Wings

The unconscious mandates that mold us each and every day

A mandate is something more than an implicit obligation to go out to eat with our parents every Sunday. We are primarily talking about those patterns of thinking that build a large part of our emotional castle, brick by brick. It is part of that psychogenealogy that often acts as a true inhibitor of the vital growth impulse.

Phrases like “I can’t be wrong,” “I have to control my emotions,” “You can’t trust people,” or “If they tell me I’m wrong, it’s because they don’t love me” define that impression. Whether we believe it or not, the print left by each of those intergenerational mandates is written with a hammer and chisel in the depths of our personality.

Cognitive psychology is one of the best lenses for understanding this delicate framework. The most significant and determinant beliefs are acquired in our childhood through our relationships with our family. Authors like Aaron Beck remind us that part of those patterns also have a genetic component.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, our DNA transmits information about stressful and fearful experiences passed down from generation to generation. 

Man Blowing

That being said, we have to keep one thing clear in our minds. Genetic predisposition does not determine our personality; it only predisposes us. However, if we add the continuity of these mandates, values, guidelines, and dictates to the weight of our genes, it is doubtlessly possible to establish a continuous cycle of reciprocal reinforcement.

How to do away with family mandates

Doing away with family mandates is not exactly easy. There are many cultures and countries in which the weight of the family has a very powerful influence. Questioning it is almost like a sacrilege to the cement that holds society itself together. In fact, as Albert Einstein once expressed it, “it is easier to break apart an atom than a preconception.”

Nowadays, so-called transgenerational psychology is at its high point. This is a therapeutic technique where they dive into the family tree to prevent repetitive patterns from the past showing up in the present. As such, they help the person become aware of the imperceptible dynamics that have managed to be passed down and that are stopping their growth, their happiness.

Nevertheless, beyond these focuses, it is always helpful to be aware of certain aspects of our daily lives that can also help us do away with those mandates. We will explain these to you below.

Marionette Girl

Keys to break away from family mandates

We must understand family mandates as contracts that we have not signed. We can decide to agree to them if they enrich us personally and emotionally, or we can simply refuse to sign them, not agree to them.

A mandate is a constellation of verbal and nonverbal codes that we have to know how to decode. We ourselves integrate many patterns of thinking that need to be questioned. The revolution to carry out that liberation has to start with ourselves.

Dive into your beliefs. Ideas like “I am clumsy” or “I can’t let them down” are like the “irrational ideas” described to us by Albert Ellis. They are the roots of dysfunctional emotions that we have to correct.

Start questioning those really common phrases that can be heard in all families. Expressions like “your boyfriend/girlfriend is not good enough for you,” “in this house, we all belong to this political party, this religion, this sports team,” “studying that is a waste of time” or “doing anything else is just foolish…” These are codes to invalidate, to start breaking down in our minds.

Being family does not mean we must devote absolutely loyalty, just because we share the same blood. Not if they impose a destiny on us. Not if being oneself has negative consequences. And never if those dynamics subject us to the misfortune of an infinite cycle of unhappiness.

Sometimes, defying and doing away with those mandates from our family clan is much more than an obligation: it is a need. We have the right to reaffirm our own personal integrity so that we do not live to see our identity compromised. So we will distance ourselves from being that marionette that others create and that they feel they have control of.

Images courtesy of Sara Riches