Our personalities, behaviors, and habits are largely a reflection of our families and our upbringings. As children, we learn how to interact with the world based on what we see from our parents and the other adults in our lives. Then, we’re likely to repeat the same behavior as we get older.
If your parents taught you how to cope with stress, how to form healthy relationships, and how to process and express your emotions, you may find these skills much easier to maintain in your adult life. However, if you learned unhealthy habits or harmful behaviors from your family, you may repeat their mistakes. These generational cycles can persist until one individual makes the active choice to break the habit.
Breaking a generational cycle is not easy, and it rarely happens by accident. To be a cycle breaker, you need to reflect on the harmful patterns that cause your family pain, and you need to commit to rewriting your future so that you don’t promote the same behaviors in your own children.
How Generational Cycles Develop
Generational cycles are repeated patterns of harmful beliefs, toxic behaviors, or bad habits that affect an entire family line. The way we view the world is often shaped by our own families, so it’s very easy for children to adopt the same perspective as their parents. Then, when the kids grow up and become parents, they teach the behavior to their own children.
Generational cycles can take on a wide variety of forms. Some families struggle with financial literacy and pass down bad money habits for generations. In some families, the harmful pattern involves prejudiced or judgmental beliefs toward others. Kids who grow up around their parents’ dysfunctional marriage may seek out a toxic relationship in adulthood. There are endless ways that your family’s habits can influence your behavior.
Some people are well aware of the generational cycles that exist within their family, but they feel powerless to stop them. You might recognize that you’re repeating the same mistakes as your parents, but you don’t know how else to approach your life. In other cases, though, people are completely blind to their dysfunctional family patterns. They don’t realize that there is any other way to interact with the world, so they promote the same beliefs or actions to their children and perpetuate the cycle.
What Is a Cycle Breaker?
A cycle breaker is an individual within a family unit who decides that it’s time to put a stop to the harmful family pattern. The cycle breaker recognizes that the family habits are causing pain or grief, and they realize that they have the power to end the cycle. They commit to self-improvement so that they can enjoy their own life free from the harmful patterns and so that they can be the best possible parent to their own children.
Unfortunately, a cycle breaker often runs into conflict with their family. The parents or other family members might feel uncomfortable as they watch the cycle breaker overcome the generational cycles that continue to plague them. Sometimes, they think the cycle breaker has betrayed the family by refusing to partake in the same habits, beliefs, or behaviors. Despite this tension, though, the cycle breaker is committed to improving themselves and their future.
How to Be a Cycle Breaker
If you’ve noticed harmful generational cycles within your own family, you may wonder how you can break the cycle and prevent the negativity from continuing. Here are five steps for breaking generational cycles:
1. Take note of the common beliefs in your family system.
Sometimes, generational cycles take the form of observable actions. In other cases, the pattern involves internal beliefs or values. Identifying the common beliefs shared by most of your family can help you start to understand the framework through which they view the world. Then, you can explore whether or not your own beliefs align with your family’s.
2. Identify the family pattern of behavior.
You might notice that your family always encounters the same problems, but you may not know exactly why. Figuring out the behavior that’s causing harm is essential if you want to be a cycle breaker. Maybe your family struggles to resolve conflict, or maybe they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms during times of crisis. By identifying the specific family pattern you want to unlearn, you can create a clear plan for yourself to work toward mental and emotional wellness.
3. Heal from the toxic patterns.
Before you can actively take steps to break the habits you’ve learned from your family, you should give yourself space to process the harmful experiences you were exposed to. It’s difficult to recognize and accept that your family perpetuates a negative cycle, and you should explore your emotions about the topic. Taking the time to process and heal will ensure that you fully break out of the cycle without falling back into the old habits.
4. Define your new priorities.
It’s helpful to replace your old beliefs or behaviors with new ones. Instead of simply telling yourself that you’re no longer going to participate in the generational cycle, you should give yourself specific goals and actions that you can work toward. Sometimes, it’s easier to focus on implementing positive change into your life than it is to try to avoid negative behaviors.
5. Set boundaries with your family.
Your family might not respond well to you breaking away from their usual patterns. Some people are proud to see their children overcome a generational cycle, but others feel threatened or defensive when their kids call out their mistakes. Prepare to set clear, firm boundaries with your family if they don’t support the changes you’re making. You can still love and support your family, but creating boundaries will help you maintain your own mental health.
Break Generational Cycles and Promote Long-term Mental Health with Therapy
Undoing learned behaviors from your family can be very challenging, but therapy is an excellent resource. A counselor can help you analyze your family dynamics and better understand how your upbringing continues to influence your behavior as an adult. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides counseling for individuals who want to break generational cycles and promote long-term mental health. You can contact us today to connect with a therapist in Los Angeles.