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Family Traditions

Are your family's traditions the reason for your trauma?

By Leah EllaPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
Family Traditions
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

I just got through streaming some pretty existential shows on Netflix, all of which had a re-occurring theme of parenting. 3%, The Umbrella Academy and now I'm onto Sense8, in that order... Time and time again we are either reminded of the great job our parents did raising us and preparing us for the "real world," or the adverse opposite trauma of bad parenting. Of course, the real world is subject to your cultural background and demographic right? What of your Parent's Traditions and their Parent's Traditions? I appreciated 3% for this message- what your parents teach you about life's values may be the worst thing for you. It's up to you to create the world you want to live in and be the catalyst for that change.

The Ever-Evolving World

The landscape of the world changes so much with time and the majority of it is influenced by the West, so what do you do if your family's tradition does not match up with your new culture, society and environment? Do you become the square peg in a round hole? These are probably questions that I will ask till the end of time because I'm currently operating against my family's tradition and also feeling the affects of it. If you know anything about me, I am an optimist and an idealist but every now and again, being a realist is my most valuable quality. I've been doing a lot of inner work in an attempt to heal any trauma's that I'm unaware of. Unfortunately, those trauma's are generational and I didn't even stand a chance inheriting them. So, how do you separate such from the person you are today and the person you want to be tomorrow? (Not literally tomorrow but your future self, ya know?)

Unusual Family Traditions

Now, I'm sure there are some crazy ones out there spanning across every single culture- Jewish, Hindi, African, Asian and their subcategories... The list goes on and on really. In just about every walk of life there is a family tradition to be honored but what of the outcasts? The outcasts who bring disgrace upon their family's name, even if that disgrace looks like you becoming the best version of yourself... It still pains me to know how some in my family react to the different sexualities other than hetero. I love and not quite hate but dislike a bit of mine, in particular, the religious component of my family's tradition that tells you to "disown" or black sheep the person in your family who no longer follows the same belief systems that you do. The more I study mental health, the more tied in it is with spirituality. Unlearning, creating new belief systems, neuroplasticity, affirmations... Find the things that speak to you and explore them as you discover a new you.

Are Our Beliefs Us?

We are our beliefs, wouldn't you agree? We are what we tell ourselves about ourselves. Pay attention to your internal dialogue... The encouragement from the mental wellness community is abounding but deep down inside, if you're anything like me, you wonder just what your family thinks and feels about you going deeper and deeper into the you that you're becoming and farther and farther away from their tradition. I believe it is referred to as shame or guilt. I should've just started by saying that my Mother does not speak to me. She goes out of her way to make it extra difficult and awkward, even online, to not speak to me. Our family had a group chat last summer of which she gracefully declined to remain apart of, the moment I popped onto the chat. I don't know if there are words to describe the sort of pain you feel being shunned by a Mother. Not just a Parent but a Mother. Some people don't know their biological Mothers or never got to know them, or, in my Mother's situation, lost hers at a young age. My Mom is one of four siblings, all sisters and she is the baby.

Mother and Daughter Relationships

The Mother she was to my brother and the Mother she was to me were two different people but so are me and my brother, so it might be reasonable to conclude that was fair. My Mom knows it, my Father knew it, not sure if my brother does too but he probably does. My Mother would slap me over the mouth and pinch me till my skin peeled and sometimes bled from her sharp nails, when I was a little girl. My Father would always take up for me, often times, pretending to hit me harder than he was, with a belt, at my Mother's request to discipline me and he would often urge her to not hit me in the face. It's pretty safe to say that growing up in our culture, discipline and physically so, was not uncommon in the Caribbean. I remember telling one of our family friends that I wish she was my Mom. I had to be about 5- or 6 years old. Her name was Lydia and she would always sit me on her lap, talk gibberish to me and play with my hair. She was just so gentle and happy, she and her husband wanted to start a family so I may have been practice. The point being, even at a young age, me and my Mom fought. I'm sure that Freud had a lot to say about the relationship dynamics between my Parents, my brother and me but at the end of the day, my Mom was and still is mean-spirited and unhappy. I remember later on in life after living with her as a single Mother for a few years, thinking to myself, I don't think she will ever be happy. I don't think that anyone could ever make my Mom happy. Today, I say to myself, she has got to learn how to make herself happy.

Getting Older

I think the hardest part of getting older is realizing that you're still looking for and yearning for the childhood you never had. What is that feeling of warmth that reminds you of home? The older I get, the harder it is to connect to and not having a relationship with my Mother (her choice, not mine) doesn't make it any better. I just recently accepted that we have an "estranged" relationship. I listened to a spiritual healer say the other day, "become the Mother to yourself that you wish you had." Nurture, care for and love yourself, take time for yourself, get to know what you enjoy and what you don't and with whom. Living without the support of a Mother is hard. I wish I could tell you that it was easy. Every accomplishment, every win, everything that makes you feel happy also makes you feel a bit sad because she's not there to share it with you.

The Adverse Effect

How does not having the influence of family tradition work itself out in dating and considering new familial bonds? This is a trauma that I'm still working out and probably will for a few more years. I've only met one ex's family and I cried on the plane flight there and cried a few days in as well. His Mother was the opposite of mine, really imposing, always in your face trying to read you and inject some unwanted advice, for some reason I thought she was the sweetest thing. You could feel the love, care and concern she had for me and her son, she wore it on her skin. She wanted to know everything there was to know about us. That was over 15 years ago. Today, more and more people ask me about marriage and kids and the truth is, as much as I would like it, I know it won't be easy because mine wasn't. I would like to think I would have all the time to teach my children things instead of just telling them what to do and say, "don't do what I did, don't make the mistakes I made," while still making those "mistakes." I wish I would have the time to be there for my children without having to worry which of my friends can watch them while I'm at work and fill in on parent-teacher meetings (while not being a parent or guardian) when I can't due to being a single parent. I'm wondering how will I make sure to never neglect my child by being emotionally unavailable, never neglect my husband, be the best version of myself while being in full service to my family? Before all of that, how do I even trust someone to love me and create a family with? Have I ever questioned my Mother's love for me? To be honest, I only questioned the way she chose to show her love, not her capacity to love.


I don't know if I will ever "outgrow" my Mom. I may be able to outgrow a lot of people who remind me of her but not nearly as close. Just about every Maternal relationship I hear about, triggers me. The good ones and the bad ones, the bad ones make me feel hopeful, the good ones made me feel sad. I've heard psychologists describe her or what sounds exactly like her as a Narcissist, a Covert Narcissist specifically and what I'm feeling is "narcissistic abuse." The type of narcissism that grows from being a victim yourself. You are extra controlling, you punish the person when they disagree with you, you take it as a sign of disrespect when a person dares to do what they want to do instead of what you want them to do. The manufactured ways you garner love with things and bribes instead of with authenticity. The idealist in me wishes that I can change the way my Mother thinks about love, starting with self-love, acceptance, leaving shame and grief behind. I've definitely inherited her shame and grief although we've never spoken about it. Will I be happier with my Mom then? It's a strange question to ask because I'm happy if she's happy that's what I said to myself when she got married for the third time. My Aunt told me some disheartening news about her recently that made me realize that she hasn't changed much. Still picking fights with those closest to her. Hurt people hurt people, isn't that what they say?

Two Sides Of A Story

There is of course, her side of the story to consider. If I want a relationship with her again, I'll need to follow the course she has set out for me, starting with a strict, religious regime. Living under her thumb, oh, how my life would be. Sell me on conditional love would ya? Well, for one, she had two matches made for me to marry when I was 17 years old about to graduate high school. I would've been "married and serving the Lord" with a bunch of kids under my belt. I wouldn't have to worry about not having a relationship with my Mother. She loves kids. She would love grandkids. Is my perfect life what my Mother wanted for me? I guess we'll never know, or, maybe we'll find out. Time will tell. One thing's for sure, I'm a problem-solver, like a dog with a bone, until I figure it out. This one, is just taking longer than imagined. My truth is that I do not need her to become the Mother I wished she would've been, now, that is not my purpose. I don't even want her to do anything that makes her uncomfortable. What I do want is a relationship with a "healed" her so that I can finally get to know her through honest, vulnerable communication. More importantly, how can I want expect that of her if I myself am not healed? The journey of self-care and self-love continues. I'm hopeful. Always remember, the change starts with you.


About the Creator

Leah Ella

Caribbean-American(she/her)+Actor+Life Coach student.

Welcome! Get to know me here:

Peer Support Facilitator- https://sharewellnow.com/profile/Elle111

Hear my words, Authenticity Podcast- https://anchor.fm/leah-armour2

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    Leah EllaWritten by Leah Ella

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