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Breaking My Family Cycle - Can We Really Change?

"When we heal from past hurts and trauma, we heal both future and past generations."

Juanita Smith – Activate Hypnotherapy

When I was a child, I was told to be quiet every time I spoke. 

I grew up in an environment where there wasn’t a lot of conversation and in particular not directed toward me except when I was told that I was doing something wrong.

When I was two my old brother Terry and I were taken away from our mother and put into a home. Then a little while later, we were split up and I went to live with my paternal grandparents.

As I shared in my book, Is It A Habit Or An Addiction? my mother was not in a good place emotionally and mentally during our childhood. Recently, I found a scrawled note that she sent me over 15 years ago. In the note she said, “You wouldn’t stop crying as a baby and the doctor told me to put you at the other end of the house and leave you to cry.” (Such a typical 1970’s approach.)

Somewhere along the line in those first two years of my life, I subsequently lost two thirds of my hearing from severely infected ears. As you can imagine, as a baby, I would have cried because I was in pain.

Nana and Grandad had a beautiful home and I had a lovely bedroom, lots of nice clothes and plenty of food, which was a far cry from my first two years with my mum in State housing and poverty.

However, the challenges didn’t end there, Nana was angry, judgemental and critical of everything I did.   She spent a lot of time looking after my cousin Kerry who was only 3 weeks older than me.  It was wonderful when Kerry stayed, she was my best friend and became my sister.  We are still extremely close.  But where …

  • I was inquisitive, outspoken and questioned everything
  • Kerry was placid

In fact, I know now that Kerry had been absolutely terrified of Nana, so she just didn’t speak around her. On the other hand, I was constantly berated, hit and sent to bed many nights crying because somehow… “I had messed up again.”

Kerry and I with Nana when we were babies

In hindsight, I can see now that Nana was dealing with her own trauma. There were no friends over, no outings and Nana herself didn’t seem to know how to hold a conversation. When Kerry wasn’t staying, I was very lonely.  Nana and Grandad’s life consisted of cleaning and TV and we didn’t live in an area where there were kids to play. I had no extended family or community.  It was just the 3 of us most of the time on our own.

My father would visit once a week and take me out, but because he ‘wasn’t talking to Grandad,’ he never came inside the house. Spending time with my father didn’t help improve my conversation skills as he didn’t know how to have a conversation either. My father wasn’t really interested in hearing what I had to say but enjoyed giving me ridiculous lectures.

I remember my father took me on a school picnic and while the other parents were socialising and sharing food, he sat in the car. We didn’t bring food to share either.  Through loneliness I learnt to use my imagination and became very creative, but I never learnt the art of conversation. I recall many times that when I did speak up, I was criticised and shamed so I learnt not to.

Kerry and I as adults

When I was around 10, my beautiful grandad died, and Nana couldn’t cope with me. I was shipped out to my fathers, but in reality, I was taking care of myself as dad was out every night and I was once again without conversation.

By contrast, at 14, I went to live with my mother’s sister and her family and there was a lot of conversation!  By that age I had lost any potential of natural flow and struggled deeply with conversation.  I doubted that anything I said was witty enough or smart enough, so I was quiet.

My Nana was born in 1912.  A time when children were seen but not heard. But not only that, Nana passed away completely unaware that …

  • she had lived a life full of anxiety, anger, despair and bitterness which was passed onto my father and … had the potential of being been passed onto me.

The mind of a child

Until the age of 7, children’s minds are wide open to learning. Meaning until that age a child is in a constant trance state (the learning state). There is no barrier between the conscious mind and unconscious mind and therefore everything surrounding the child downloads directly into their unconscious mind and becomes their programming, their belief system, their reactions and coping mechanisms. 

So, as an example, let’s follow the journey of the first years of my life:

  • In the first 2 years of my life when no one answered my cries my brain learnt that
    • there was no one there for me and I had to rely on myself.
  • At a deep unconscious level, for the years I lived with my father and grandparents, I was not taught how to express myself. In fact, …
    • I was taught not to trust myself when speaking.
  • Circumstances meant that …
    • I had self-doubt, anxiety and shame programmed into my unconscious. I therefore became a quiet person.
  • Would this have been the case in different circumstances? We will never know for sure, but what I do know now, is that…
    • I had choices to make about who I wanted to be and once I was old enough to do so, I chose to make different choices about my life and who I was.

We can make different choices

Since those early days, my life has become an incredible journey of self-discovery, self-awareness and healing. I chose to process my life, habits, reactions and learned behaviour and thinking patterns as ‘not set in stone.’ I chose to change what was not working and enhance what I wanted my life to be like instead. I chose to undo the programming I learned from those early environments that wasn’t working for me.

In fact, I become a conscious person, rather than letting programmed thoughts, habits and doubts decide my life for me.

And now I get to share those skills and confidence with others in my clinic and training programs.

As a result of my past and what I learned to overcome, I understand the effects of trauma and the patterns of the past when I work with my clients. I am also acutely aware of allowing my own daughters, aged 16 and 13, to express themselves.

Me and my girls
  • I try my best to purposely build their confidence up and empower them by speaking to them positively.
  • I genuinely believe in them and take time to instigate and hold conversations with them, to listen to them and hear what they have to say.
  • We try to sit around the table over dinner to ensure we make time for conversation in our busy lives, which is also important in my continuing journey of self-healing.

"When you heal from past hurts and trauma, you heal both future and past generations. That’s what I’ve chosen to do, I’m breaking my family cycle."

My parents and grandparents have passed now, and they spent their whole life playing out their unconscious programming from their past traumas and experiences, their memories and everything that had been downloaded into their unconscious awareness as children too.

I don’t blame my parents or my Nana, I honour the journey they took to get where they were at that time of their life. We can change, when we look back with hindsight and see what else could have been possible. I have only a little understanding of the traumas my family undertook to become the programming they had become.

That is not to say I condone poor behaviour; it doesn’t make what happened to me or others who experience trauma right or wrong; it simply makes it a choice to either continue that behaviour, hold onto that pain… break that cycle… or not!  As you become aware that you have a choice, the only thing you have to do is make a choice about who you choose to be today. Not who you were programmed to be yesterday.

If my story has triggered anything for you that you’d like to discuss, please reach to book a complimentary consult, let’s get to the bottom of what’s possible for you and those that you love.

Book a consult with me.

With love,

Juanita Smith

Author, Trainer and Clinical Hypnotherapist.

Founder of Activate Hypnotherapy


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