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Is that truly my dream career?



On iPersonic I have already frequently addressed the subject of how important the right career is for one’s happiness and life satisfaction. And therefore, it is so very important to know oneself and one’s own personality in order to make the correct decisions in this area. (You can take our free career test here!)

Today per chance I discovered an interesting article about the influence of the family history on career decisions. As a systemic family therapist I am aware of many cases where – sometimes totally overtly, but mostly entirely subconsciously - “instructions” emanating from previous generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) were given or passed along to later generations. In systemic therapy we call this “legacies”: For instance, because the parents did not achieve this or the other in their professional lives, the child must now succeed in their place without fail. Or sometimes it is exactly the opposite, as well: The child is being subliminally persuaded that although he/she is permitted to do anything he/she wants – that is, except being more successful than the parents in their chosen careers.

These “legacies” occur in all aspects of life. For instance, not long ago I joined a young female client in a family constellation work session whose love relationships always fell apart after a short time because the current partner would leave her. She was desperate because she had no idea why this was always happening. But then, during the constellation work session it quickly became obvious that she already had a “partner” – namely her father. After her mother’s early death of cancer, as a seven-year old she had already subconsciously tried to replace the (dream-) wife he had lost – never in the sexual sense, but emotionally; in her relationship with him she was always especially attentive, loving and responsible-minded: the perfect model daughter never creating problems, always being a source of joy and happiness; idolizing him all her life she had placed him on a, for everyone else inaccessible pedestal. Thus the place on her side was - so to speak - already „occupied“ and although she was not even aware of it, sooner or later every man in her life would be in a hurry to get out of Dodge because he had no chance with daddy still in the picture . . .

Another case had also occupied me for a long time: Again it was a young woman who attended one of my family constellation workshops. On the surface she actually had everything in her life to make her happy – she was beautiful, professionally successful, liked and admired by her friends and physically fit. And still, she felt that she was living her entire life “like being under a dark cloud”. She was never really deep down happy, frequently suffered from unexplainable, vague trepidations and frequently even thought about suicide. She had absolutely no idea about the nature of this persistent shadow weighing so heavily on her. When we took a closer look at her family history it turned out that a great uncle had been active as a Nazi-officer in Jewish extermination camps. This subject had always been a strict taboo within the family – the war in general was never discussed and the careful pretense that he had never existed was to the point that it was left to her to find the great uncle’s name in the family genealogy! – However, somehow this subconscious awareness about the great uncle’s existence and dark role must have made its way into her head and soul. Although she did not carry any guilt as an individual, she was vicariously very much atoning for him and his crimes and thus she could not now permit herself to lead a happy life.

For instance, some indications of having subconsciously incurred legacies from former generations and now “processing” something that does not really appear to a part of one’s nature could be:

  • Repeatedly experiencing feelings like rage, depression or fear for which there don’t appear to be any reasonable reasons in one’s own life but which one still can’t shake.
  • One frequently feels overwhelmed or excessively stressed.
  • One frequently assumes things, tasks or responsibilities when and where one is essentially not responsible (“If I don’t take care of everything . . .”).
  • One during all his life felt the need to “protect” them or relieve important family members (i.e., parents) of tasks.

Legacies like that can very much dominate a person’s own life and obviously also effect career decisions without him/her being aware of it. With the aid of many examples the author has beautifully and vividly described how that works and I would really like to recommend that to every reader who may sometimes have the sense of not having chosen his or her very own dream career but that of another person. In cases like that it may well be worthwhile to investigate the “dark venues leading to one’s career choice” a little more intensely?

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