A few weeks ago I acquired a bookcase specifically to hold all my family history and genealogy notes, documents, folders, books and other paraphernalia. The bookcase is tall, narrow and old fashioned looking and is perfect for that purpose.
I am not a tidy or methodical person much to my disappointment. These are qualities which would be great for my hobby and pastime of family history research. However, the acquisition of this bookcase will allow me to keep everything in one place. Well, that is the theory anyway.
As I was gathering everything from various rooms and shelves and bookcases and other nooks and crannies I came across a book that I had bought about ten or twelve years ago. The title is “Healing Your Family Patterns. How to access the past to heal the present” by David Furlong, published in 1997. I was delighted to rediscover this book. I hadn’t completely forgotten about it but at the same time I had not looked at it or thought about it for years. At the time of purchasing it I was completely intrigued by the author’s claim that patterns from past generations can continue to affect us today and that healing the imbalances in these patterns is crucial to the health and well-being of not only ourselves and our families but even future generations. At that time the idea truly resonated with me because I was going through some difficulties in my own life but it also made me think about some vague but unsettling feelings that I had about my own family. Nothing sinister or nasty but just a lack of closeness, a holding back in some way. For example, adults whispering when it came to the mention of some deceased family members and also a complete lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to talk about previous generations. At the same time I had only just begun my journey into genealogy and family history and it spurred me on to persevere and to gather as much information as I could so that I could try out the techniques suggested in the book.
This book has two parts. Part 1 discusses ancestors in general terms. The author states that the underlying themes of their lives are similar to ours in their concerns about family members, health, financial security, relationships and so on. He suggests that their experiences in these matters may have influenced subsequent generations. Part 1 also discusses the role of ancestors in Religion and Myth, it explores the role of DNA in our genetic makeup and what impact our genetic inheritance has on us, and it shows how to set up a particular type of family tree chart called a genogram. A genogram allows you to see family patterns through the generations: not just naming patterns but patterns in careers, relationships, illnesses, causes of death, coincidences and so on. These charts could take some time to prepare because there is a lot of background information required and that is why the author suggests that you gather information not only about your 14 primary ancestors (your parents, grandparents and great grandparents) but also their children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. This may seem daunting but it is quite surprising how much of this information is available and often comes to you unexpectedly when you are doing consistent research. There will be gaps in your knowledge but these can be accepted for the time being and filled in at a later date as more information comes to you in the course of your research.
Part 2 of the book gives instructions on how to clear or change any harmful patterns or energies that may be making life difficult for you or other members of your family. The method usually involves sitting quietly in a type of meditation and focusing on a particular ancestor or ancestors and then following the steps that the author sets out for each healing exercise. The names of some of these healing exercises are “to send healing to one of your ancestors, “ to send love to one of your ancestors”, “to bring healing and release to the ancestors”, “to free up the ties of past patterning” and “to determine the balance of energies between the two halves of your family”.
When I first read this book I couldn’t wait to get started on contacting my ancestors. I must admit I didn’t set up a genogram. I didn’t even know much about the lives of my grandparents let alone my great grandparents. However, I did feel that there was a lot of sadness and anxiety associated with the First World War. I knew my maternal grandfather had served as an Anzac in this war and family stories suggested that before the war he had been a happy man, renowned in the district for his whistling. Family legend implied that he came back greatly changed. He suffered from nervousness and anxiety and was rarely heard whistling. My mother often spoke about the effect of the war on him. So, when I decided to do the first of the exercises in the book which aims “to access the dynamics of one of your ancestors”, I thought that I would concentrate on my grandfather. To my surprise however, no sooner had I begun the exercise when his mother, my great grandmother, came very prominently into my focus. I even felt her sitting beside me. She was dressed in a heavy, black, high necked dress and seemed to impart a feeling of great sadness and a life of hard work and sorrow. I knew very little about her at the time apart from her name and the details stated on my grandfather’s birth certificate. I still don’t know a lot about her life but I do know that her husband died very young leaving her with 6 children aged 2 to 16 and pregnant with another child who was born a few months after his death. I was very moved by this experience and it really brought home to me that our ancestors are much more than just names and dates on certificates. I think it was the beginning of my interest in researching the history of the times in which each of my ancestors lived. This, I have come to realise will be a life long project as there is so much to discover about times past.
In the book, the author David Furlong suggests that at first we need only go back as far as the past three generations. He says that it is these generations that would be exerting the strongest patterning on the present generations. However, in my family I feel that I need to go back one more generation to my great great grandparents. In my family history, in that generation, there are convicts, a female famine orphan and refugees from the devastating effects of famine in Ireland. This poverty, suffering and hardship must surely have had an impact on the generations that followed.
I realise that the ideas in this book may not be for everyone. Many people may think that the life of an ancestor could not possibly have any influence on their life today and that the healing techniques suggested may seem too spiritual or “new age”. However, family therapists and ancestral healers are beginning to speak about patterns of behaviour and experience that flow through generations and appear to cause disharmony and repetitive patterns of dysfunction. They say that the first step to changing these patterns and clearing blocked energies is to become aware of them. I can see many unhelpful patterns in my family which have been repeated through the generations and I am very open to the idea that there are ways in which I could clear and change them for this generation and future generations.
I believe that the lives of our ancestors are part of us and their stories are within us and I also believe that loving our ancestors for the people they were goes a long way to healing the past. I believe that everyone who is researching their family history is already doing this by recognising and naming their ancestors and documenting their lives. You have only to attend a family history session or seminar or a research library and listen to people speaking about the details they have discovered about their forebears to know how important they are to them. They speak with pride and awe of the achievements, survival stories, quirkiness and yes, even the bad behaviour they have uncovered. In my opinion, there is great healing power in doing this because we recognise and honour those who went before us and who have made our lives possible. However, for those who would like to go a little deeper into discovering family patterns that may be making life more difficult than it need be for the present generations I think that undertaking some healing rituals could be a very meaningful task. I am definitely going to continue with it.