Psychotherapy and the Family Tree

"I never cease to be amazed by the precision with which people often reproduce their
parents' behavior, although they have no memory of their own early childhoods......
Merely forgetting early traumas and early neglect is no solution.  The past always
catches up with us, in our relationships with other people and especially with our
On the one hand, barriers in the mind are our friends because they protect us from
pain and enable us to fend off the anxieties aroused by events in our past.  On the
other hand, this same action makes barriers our enemies, as they cause emotional
blindness and urge us to do harm to ourselves and others."   
Alice Miller, PhD,
The Truth Will Set You Free

Our family shapes us, and then we shape our families.  Growth and healing often
involves facing the frequently shameful truths of your family, forgiving them all,
rejecting their negative influences, and moving on with your life.  There’s the
tendency to keep trying to get an impaired parent’s approval, love, protection,
support that the parent was never able to give.  We carry the
hopefulness/hopelessness in out attitudes long after adulthood, and frequently after
the parents are dead.  
There’s a joke about a young daughter asking her mother why she cuts off the ends
of the ham when she puts it in the pan to bake.  The mother replied that her own
mother always did that, and there was no other reason.  They later asked
grandmother, who said that that’s the way ham should be prepared because that’s
how her own mother cooked.  They went to ask great grandmother, who said she cut
the ends off the ham in the old days because her pan was too small.  Traditions are
often carried on long after their apparent necessity is gone, especially traditions of
compulsions, emotional problems, inadequate parenting, etc.  
Often, an emotional state is triggered when one of our own children reach an age
when our own neglect or abandonment/abuse was started or at its height.  Our
suffering is consciously or subconsciously reactivated through the necessity of
providing for, or protecting, our own child, and sensing that the parenting was
insufficient for ones self.  Giving to your own child what you never got will often trigger
strong emotions that can be surprising, powerful, and yet often remain subconscious.  
The genogram is a standard intake tool which quickly documents the influences
between and among the generations that can be influencing the current concerns.  
The genogram is the beginning of the process of filling in the personalities,
interactions, stories and fates of the family members.
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James M. Hilsop  Office Address:  6 Executive Park Drive, Albany, NY 12203
Phone: 518-482-6160   E-mail:  
Family Tree, Genogram
The Journey
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~
Constructing your family tree will encourage you to think about
your family life in new ways.  You will uncover ''inherited"
talents, values and ways of coping that can be, but don't have to
be, irrevocable legacies.  Chart your past with a view towards
your future.  The past does not
have to be tomorrow's
prologue.  Today, you can
reject inheritances and break
traditions.  The genogram can be an instrument of change.  
Use it to make the changes you want to make".  Emily Marlin,
Genograms, the New Tool for Exploring Your Personality,
Career, and Love Patterns You Inherit
Tthe above obituary was a lie.  James died
of an intentional  drug overdose suicide
What happens when you ''wake up" to realize that some
people in your life are not, and never have been, who you
thought they were?   
"..........What about him, Mackenzie?   Is that man guilty?  Should he be judged?"
"Is he to blame for your loss?"
"What about his father, the man who twisted his son into a terror, what about him?"
"Yes, him too".
"How far do we go back, Mackenzie? This legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam, what
about him?"
The Shack, by William P. Young, 2007