Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother?

Show up on the holidays at a family gathering and everything you thought you’d handled comes flooding back in. Great, another opportunity for healing! We’ve done so much work on family “stuff” in our various therapies and believe we’ve forgiven our parents, and think we should be done with it by now.

Elisa Novick; photo by Eric.

Maybe we can be, or maybe this is just the required curriculum that you will be working with all your life at some level.

When I work with clients’ family constellations in sessions and in my workshop, Kinship Dynamics and the Flows of History, we put on display the ways in which we have been in unconscious agreement with the negative dynamics that we grew up in. We include those patterns that have been passed down for generations, seeking for resolution. And through the very act of witnessing, healing can begin.

Often decided in the womb or soon after birth, our innate love and loyalty caused us to allow our selves to be sacrificed, to take on the family’s unresolved issues as our own. When you live in the energy fields of those upon whom you are wholly dependent, how do you know their patterns are not yours? It is difficult to resolve what you didn’t create when you think it is yours. So we’ve made self-suppression or sabotage a way of being, whether grossly or subtly. As a way of coping and trying to create distance we carry blame or rebelliousness or numbness or construct a ‘puppet self’ to meet the world and think all is well. Until we show up for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Passover.

There are key elements necessary for healing to take place. For some people, one of the most poignant moments of choice comes when I suggest honoring our parents as one step of the resolution. I understand the depths to which this choice can take us. Growing up, I bristled when I heard the biblical commandment to “Honor thy father and thy mother.” I spent the 1970s in Primal Therapy crying and beating pillows about what my parents had done to me. In sessions with clients, I hear stories of childhood abuse so horrendous and unconscionable that honoring parents or even accepting them as they are is difficult to consider.

Yet over and over, when we explore from a higher perspective, we see that the challenges we’ve gone through were called in by karmic necessity or our need for understanding, and that in truth there is actually nothing out of balance. We also see that true healing cannot be complete without reconnecting to our ancestral history.

We can change our names and say that we have surpassed the family, but we have an insistent primal need to come from somewhere. We have built-in arcs that need completion, and one of them is the need to connect in time to the Source of Life through our parents. From one point of view this is sad but from another it is a cause for rejoicing, and the process of moving stuck traumatic experiences back into their proper place and time can begin.

We honor our parents for there is no greater giving than the bringing forth of life. Parents advent a soul into this world and nurture and teach this being. They may be good at it or they may not be good at it. The lessons they teach may be excellent or terrible. In the end it matters only that life continued.

When we begin to mature, there is another great blessing, often missed, when the parents pass on the badge of adulthood to their children. The grace of the willing bestowal brings strength and vigor unsurpassed. If it is not willingly bestowed, then it will be wrested from them. (In groups we often fill in this essential act with representatives.) For us as children and for those of us who are parents, there can be grief in that moment, for the movement from one stage of life to the next often entails grief, but there is also the great joy of seeing the fruits of our endeavor, the awe of life proceeding.

Elisa’s grandparents, Anna and Louis. Photographer unknown.

As a result of or despite all of the challenges we have come through, there emerges the awareness that indeed, it was worth all we endured and all that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents endured. And so we weep in gratitude, we release our bitterness, our misunderstandings, our apparent failures, and stand in for God as we proudly and endlessly offer life to our progeny.

The healing of the progression of the family from the past into the future is essential if we are to be whole. The passing on and the receiving of the gifts of the genetic lines, and the acknowledgment and reconciliation of the past distortions and corruptions of those gifts, bring peace to the ancestral line going backward and forward in time. Then we are free to receive the blessing of these ancestors.

In acknowledging our commonality, accepting ourselves and the consequences of our actions, allowing others their own consequences without judgment, and taking responsibility for conducting our lives to the best of our abilities without regret, we handle and transform the terrible inheritance of the past and move into our future unfettered.

What of those of us who do not bring forth or raise children, who are the end of the line for those who brought us in the world? For us, there is the opportunity and challenge to bring healing and closure to the pain of the past.

We fully receive and embrace and utilize the gifts of the genetic lines that came together to give us life, the genetic imperatives that drove our ancestors to procreate despite hardship, war or suffering. We cannot rely on our children to try, yet again, to attempt reconciliation and balance the many forces playing through them. We ourselves can either bring the gifts to fulfillment or spend our lives feeling vaguely guilty or as though we have in some way failed, though we know not at what we fail.

The imperative of the life force demands movement. When it backs up upon us we have pain and disease and dissatisfaction. We can open ourselves to allowing this inexorable movement of life to flow through and beyond us, to pass on these gifts to the future — if not through children, then in participating through our loving, our creativity and the expression of the beauty within us to the world. In that way we widen the circle of the family to include all of humanity. The inheritance we pass to future generations takes a larger pathway.

Let us free ourselves of our pain and the pain of others, of our unnecessary sacrifices and our wishes for revenge and death. Let us be a new promise of life, forgiveness, tender touch, thriving and joy.

To listen to and read past conversations with Elisa Novick on Planet Waves, plus her articles, please use this link. You’re invited to visit her website and Facebook page.

Elisa Novick, MSS does profound work as a healer, teacher, counselor, coach, minister, and facilitator of workshops and trainings in personal, professional, and spiritual development. She can assist you to clear personal, karmic and genetic patterns that have limited you and teach you exquisite attunement skills so you can become the magnificent master of life and Light that all of us are destined to be. Elisa has been assisting people in their growth since 1982 through her counseling practice and in facilitating over 1,000 workshops in holistic health, human development, family constellation, systemic constellation, organizational dynamics, planetary healing and spiritual awareness. You may email her directly at elisanovick [at] thrivingplanet [dot] org.

2 thoughts on “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother?”

  1. My thanks too Elisa for this beautiful piece.

    I am constantly surprised at just how much time and effort is involved in the healing process of sifting what is mine, what is anothers especially with respect to family.
    My father died in 1974 and I did a lot of psychological work in the 80s to heal the pain of grief..
    He popped up in a profound dream in the early 1990s when I was pregnant and then miscarried…and then no more contact until this Summer when I had another powerful dream about him.
    Since then I have realised how I am still carrying something of his pattern in relating to the world ( avoid it, mistrust and fear )…nearly 40 years on! how can this be? well it is..so I have to finally lay it all to rest in order just to be ME.
    I give thanks for the spiritual journey ( unencumbered by any religious upbringing ) and for astrology in helping me see the bigger pictre of time and the collective.

    Wishing you a joyful 2013 and many thanks

  2. Thank you so very much for this piece, dear dear Elisa. A true gift, a healing balm and a precious lesson for these difficult days spent with the family. Much love and thanks, and a wonderful New Year to all of you at PW. xxxx

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