Mind Matters: Our “Lot in Life” reframed

Recently, I have been viewing “Downton Abbey,”a
Masterpiece Theatre saga on PBS. The setting is an English country estate in
the early 1900’s. The story is the interweaving of worlds between servants and
the served.

In one dialogue between a maid and her mistress, the disparate
“family mythologies” of each woman become clear. The Lady of the manor born
noted, “you can do anything you want” in an attempt to encourage her maid to
move on in life and go for the secretarial job she prized. The servant’s
response was “M’lady, that’s your world; that’s not true in mine.”

The servant accepted her constricted world as her fate, her “lot
in life” as my mother would put it. I always balked at that line—“lot in
life”—it is both true and false simultaneously.

Yes, there are certain parameters we cannot change—what family
we are born into, what country, what state, what city/town we were born in; what
genetics are ours. Perhaps we are discriminated against because of our race,
gender, or sexual orientation.

However, there are changes we can make in our “family
mythology.” These are the scripts we learn at so early an age we believe that
they are inscribed in stone. They aren’t. One of my own personal family
mythologies that is a work in progress for me is the maternal dictum, “my lot
in life.” While it is true there are some things about our lives we cannot
change, there is a “lot in life” we can.

One of the ways we can change our “lot in life” is to examine
what our firmly held beliefs are. What do we think are “absolutes,” “givens,”
about ourselves and others that might in fact be old scripts learned from our
families of origin (and society too). Old adages such as “I’m not good enough”
or “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not allowed to have my own feelings” are
examples of old messages that need a big re-write.

Maybe we were teased or bullied and internalized those messages
making them our own. When we begin to examine the origin of these thoughts we
can begin to let go of them.

The unwritten rules from one family —or society — of origin
aren’t stuck on the refrigerator as reminders, they are stuck in our brains
almost as automatic as reflexes. The “commandments” may be about feelings (“You
don’t feel that way!”); space (“Don’t expect privacy.”);time; money; secrets;
neighbors; sexuality; play; touching; the body; religion; food; death/loss;
intelligence—and numerous other themes.

We may even discover that we lived in a family of origin where
our mother held one belief system and our father, the opposite. And if we had
to deal with separation and divorce of parents and subsequent blended families,
we have even more contradictory rules swimming in our heads.

What we need to do is reflect on what messages and themes we
want to change. Which rules might we find helpful in life, which ones need to
be challenged?

Our “lot in life” is what we choose to do with our “lot in
life.” Societal mythologies often overlap with family belief systems, but even
the “Downton Abbey” maid eventually fulfilled her dream of becoming a
secretary. Who knows what her grandchildren accomplished when “my lot in life”
was no longer a limiting admonishment but an invitation to follow their own
large journey.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos
holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds
Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888.
Past columns are posted to http://www.drgajdos.com.

About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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One Response to “Mind Matters: Our “Lot in Life” reframed”

  1. jeanne-marie says:

    Well said and so true!

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