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By mapping these emotional patterns on to your family tree, you can begin to see emotional and communication patterns emerging, and realise how they repeat across the generations."In the genogram of Princess Diana, shown above, the turbulent relationship between her and Raine, her stepmother, is shown by a zigzag line.A half-shaded box reflects the death of her brother, John, who died 10 hours after birth.According to clinical psychologist Oliver James, from the moment we gather on Christmas Eve, our parents and siblings demand that we enact an appointed role."We're like fictional characters, each assigned a scripted role, tightly directed in its performance, clothed in psychological costumes and required to sing and dance to our family tune, especially when there's a family gathering such as Christmas," he says.Christmas is like the special annual edition of a soap opera, except the stars aren't Pauline Fowler or Deirdre Barlow — they're your mother, your granny, your great-grandfather, your step-father, your sister-in-law and your nephews. Same cast, same food, same rituals but a slightly different story line. As any decent drama writer will tell you, there is always a back story to the characters: how you became who you are and the events in the past that have brought you to the present.And your personal back story is, in part, down to your ancestors.Ways of expressing emotions that are thought to be acceptable in your family may be frowned on by your partner's."Ideas about how people 'should' behave get hard-wired into our family psyche and we are wary of people who behave differently," says Kafton. Your family might have adopted some beliefs of its own about how life should be lived that get handed down regardless.
The ones that go "Ssshhh", the things that never get spoken of — the taboos, secrets and shameful events that are not allowed to be acknowledged.Without realising it, you are quite possibly acting out some ancient emotional and communication traditions that may have been started by your great-great grandparents.Which is why bringing a bit of well-timed emotional detective work to your family tree can be really helpful.James asserts that it doesn't matter if you are no longer the clever, lazy or rebellious one — the family will treat you just as they always did.And, because history repeats itself at a personal as well as a national level, the likelihood is that you are not the first person in your family to play that role.
Death, sex, money: all the skeletons in the ancestral closet.