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Keeper of the Family Jewels

Hi Friend,

Previously we talked about our cult leader within and the impact our parents have on the development of our life rules and values.

Often for those of us with hoarding tendencies, feeling compelled to save seems impossible to change. Saving is part of who we are. The concern over wastefulness and our need to responsibly recycle, reuse, repair everything is noble and worthy.

What is not noble is living in what amounts to a rubbish dump, surplus store, or warehouse, because you must uphold a particular rule inherited from you childhood.

Often I ask clients if their parents would want them keeping all their possessions despite the burden and dysfunction they create in their home. This question is coming from a logical place. I mean most parents wouldn’t want their child to be unhappy or anxious about their life’s baggage, would they?

However, often the client says:

“YES! That’s exactly what they expected of me. They constantly told me this will all be yours someday. Clearly it was my responsibility to look after the family history and heirlooms once they were gone.”

This is enlightening. This is useful information. Exploring your parent’s expectations of you and the demands placed on you throughout your childhood and into adulthood can be revelatory.

No blame here. Your parents were a product of their time and their own childhoods. Often clients see this as being disloyal to the family and protect parents who in many cases were preoccupied or dysfunctional and even abusive.

But exploring these familial norms and rules, both spoken and unspoken, can allow us to see the holes in our parents' arguments. This allows us to make our own decisions in the future. .

Journalling is an amazing therapeutic tool you can use to uncover unspoken themes that are guiding your thoughts, behaviours, and emotions outside of your awareness.

Even if it’s purely exploratory in the beginning, taking the time to put pen to paper is an extremely important process in the search for our true beliefs and values.

Try these:

Journalling prompts:

  • Have you been told or have you assumed you are the family “historian”? Why do you think you were “chosen”?

  • What does this role mean to you?

  • How do you decide what is a family heirloom and what isn’t?

  • How does this responsibility shape the way you behave towards your possessions and those you’ve inherited?

  • What are you doing to preserve the family heirlooms in your possession?

That last prompt, to me, is the most important of all.
Often we believe we’re doing the right thing by keeping family heirlooms. We know approximately where they are in the home, only to discover they were not protected and have been ruined in the hoard.

Saving the objects that represent our family’s history is noble. Cherishing them so they may be passed on to future generations is a celebration of our ancestral narrative. If we are to cherish them and hand them down we must know what they represent to our family.

The hardest thing to decide is what will stand the test of time and continue our family history. Very few things can do that.

I’ve realised you need very few things to tell a story. Keeping is easy. Understanding our family narrative takes work.

Until next week :)

Jan <3

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