Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It MUST Be Transgenerational

This is about behaviors and family dynamics that repeat over many generations.

There are some pretty good books on the subject, notably Froma Walsh's work (a text) Genograms.

Here's the kind of thing that will happen in therapy. Like having good china handed down from great-grandparents, people brag that they've had the intangibles passed down, too.

They'll cut themselves slack for all of it, bad tempers, addiction, the right to kill themselves.

The temper thing gets transmitted as follows: ALL THE MEN IN THIS FAMILY HAVE TEMPERS. This is the code men have used on women to excuse themselves from having to control anger.

Nonsense, we now know, in our anger managed world. Having a temper is not like having arthritis. Being easily arouseable (temperament) does not make fury an inevitability.

There is such a thing as playing basketball to let off steam (or any other physical coping strategy, like walking) or thinking of others before venting, good old fashioned empathy:

If I blow up, he/she will feel horrible, so I won't. That's having empathy.

Empathy and exercise are key in anger management.

Some transgenerational patterns can be seen as the family's personal, irresistible madness. I pay attention if a depressed patient tells me there are people up the family tree who have committed suicide.

Similarly, if I know a recovering coke-head or alcoholic is under undue stress, I warn him and his significant other of a potential relapse.

Some things are irresistible, and if they're in the family, there's covert family permission to continue the family mishigahs (yiddish for craziness-- there's just no better word)

It's hard to determine if etiology, the cause, is genetic or environmental. What is at the very heart of the things people do? All of our research explains group tendencies, predicts what most people will do under certain sets of circumstances, not the behavior of any particular individual.

But the individuals are the ones we're talking about. What drives them?

Is it genetics or environment?

Turns out, that as much as empirical science (that predicts group patterns) is favoring genetics, LEARNING still has a more than fighting chance for ascendance in the etiological controversy games.

There’s interaction between the two, no question.

Let's just take a look at an example of how a person can have challenging genetics floating around circa DNA, but can still manage to use learning and experience to beat the family destiny.

I am not making this up.

Call her Sue.

Sue is an alcoholic. Goes to A. A., works a program, hasn’t had a drink in a year, but boy would she like one.

Sue hears her grandfather has died. She has misgivings about going to his funeral in another state because her father is the lone survivor in the family and he’s an alcoholic and a drug addict. Those happen to be her issues, too.

She feels badly, however, for her father who she can picture grieving her grandfather alone. So she goes to the funeral.

The two are alone, approaching the cemetery in a hearse carrying Grandpa. Her dad pulls out a joint. “Wanna’ get high?”

She blew him off.

“So I didn’t,” she told me. “I was mortified, grossed out, disgusted by the idea that he would get high at his father’s funeral. I could have become like that if I hadn’t stopped drinking and smoking. I could have become a person who gets high at funerals.”

All dad was doing was handling his stress, right? His way. Or should we just say it’s his disease and his entire family had it, a predisposition to substance abuse and addiction, some genetic problem.

It doesn’t matter what it was, peops. He couldn’t stay straight for the life of him.

She’s lucky she has other role models and 50% of someone else’s DNA.

I feel the odds are in her favor because she learned not to be addicted. This is no small thing, learning not to be addicted. She did, though, decide at some point, that drinking and smoking wasn't something she had to do. Wow.

Blank destiny and transgenerational patterns, right? Get help and move on.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Anonymous said...

I'm a rage-aholic. or a bipolar. this doesn't seem to be a problem at work, but it is at home. I have two children and don't want them exposed to this (as I was as a child). unfortunately this did not manifest itself until after I had children (I would assume it was easier to manage my own stress prior to taking on the responsibilities of children). If I'd known I would be this way I would never have married or had children.

Have purchased and read books on anger management, but am not able to get this under control myself.

I would love to see a therapist. but I am concerned. If I am one day sued for malpractice (happens to nearly everyone eventually) my personal medical records could be subpoened. Since the crux of malpractice is "harm" + "unreasonable decision making" it is logical to assume that a diagnosis involving poor judgment/impulse control could make me lose a case. What to do?

Foster MD (medicine, not psych)

therapydoc said...

Foster, you should read the legal columns in the medical economics throw-aways. It's likely that your medical records are not part of discovery in a civil suit. But I'm not a lawyer. Talk to one.

I do know that with therapy, especially one that would include a significant other, your anger management can improve dramatically. I don't think anyone who has a problem controlling arousal has a good excuse not to treat it. There are a host of variables that are associated with it. Your transgenerational variable's surely one of them.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

My sun has been diagnose with pdd-non (autism) do you think these new autism age,has something to do with older generations and it would be better if you work with the transgenerational therapy?

therapydoc said...

I think that it is great to have everyone on board with the therapy, and to have grandparents, if they are alive, know and understand the treatments recommended by the professionals involved.

What's Going to Be with Our Kids?