Like being hit over the head, the importance of learning from your past has come to me from several directions. With the death of the last elder on my father’s side of my family, I’m wishing for conversations we didn’t have, revering the ones we did. As a therapist, I’m helping people learn the lessons in their lives, reaching back to understand how they have been brought forward from their families. And then I notice the African symbol I have that represents exactly this concept.
Sankofa, the African symbol given to me by my Ghanian friend is from the Akan people in Ghana. It shows a bird looking over it’s shoulder while holding an egg in its mouth. It means that it is never too late to look back and claim or learn what you have lost or forgotten. In fact, it will help you move forward in life and plant seeds for the next generation. We are often too arrogant to think we need to learn from our elders or the past – it’s a cautionary reminder to learn and claim the lessons from our lives and our families.*
How can we utilize this concept in our lives? Here are some thoughts.
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM YOUR ANCESTORS?
We all stand on the shoulders of giants, our ancestors, mentors and cultural icons. I live with my illustrious family history every day. I’m named Cornelia Paterson after the wife of my great great grandfather from the 1700s, William Paterson, signer of the constitution and first Supreme Court Justice*. I have inherited their china and furniture- an awesome responsibility and reminder that with vision you can create important changes in life.
What does your family history tell you? I have friends whose families suffered and survived the holocaust and others who were refugees. They all have important histories to preserve, histories that teach. Search your genealogy and learn from the elders in your family so the oral history can be passed on to the next generation. So many people have come to the US with their histories erased through slavery, war or separation from their native land. Take the time to claim yours.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE BEEN CARRIED FORWARD TO YOUR GENERATION
While we like to use our family heroes as role models, our infamous relatives give us just as much to learn from. There is alcoholism and bankruptcy in my family; there is death by suicide in Lee’s. These cautionary tales provide important information for us to pay attention to.
Learning from your family history is as simple as recognizing what you need to do to avoid the pitfalls that have affected others. Make sure you get the support and treatment you need, make wise choices. Remember, you are not a victim unless you make yourself one by not taking action.
UNDERSTAND YOUR LIFE LESSONS
I’m always interested in how someone’s family history provides learning opportunities. Difficult family issues with substance misuse, victimization, poverty, or injustice provide painful and important lessons. When you learn from them, you do what’s needed to avoid falling into the same place and can help others who have similar issues.
Anything that is difficult is an opportunity to learn, a chance to integrate new ways of coping and understanding. Sit with your history and discern what is most important. You will discover the silver lining in every cloud when you allow yourself to gain the wisdom these lessons provide. Recognize the wisdom in suffering and claim it.
Learning from your past, using the concept of Sankofa, helps you to understand how you can move forward and through the life lessons on your path. Start with knowing your full family history, understand the lessons that have been prevalent in your family and then notice how these may be present in your life as well. It will help you be wiser, giving you information and knowledge that can be carried forward to the next generation.
If you’d like help to understand and work with your family history or the lessons in your life, reach out. My Transformational Coaching and Therapy can help. Go to www.spectrumtransformation.com and use the Free Consultation link to reach me. I’d love to hear from you.
William Paterson – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Paterson_(judge)