As the story goes, there was a little girl watching her mother prepare the food on Easter morning. She’d help where she could but watched intently everything her mother did. When it came time for her mother to prepare the Easter Ham, the little girl noticed that her mother bore down and cut a good-sized portion off the end of the ham. The mother then placed the ham in a pan and put it in the oven.
The little girl was perplexed by this and so she asked her mother, “Mom, why’d you cut that chunk off the ham before you put it in the oven?” The mom pondered the question for a second, realized she didn’t have an answer and replied, “I really don’t know sweetie, that’s just what my mom always did. Why don’t you go ask your Grandma why she cut the ham this way.”
The little girl went and asked her grandmother and low and behold, her grandmother didn’t know and was given the same answer – that her mother had always done it that way and was told to ask her great-grandmother for the answer.
Undeterred, the little girl went over to her great-grandmother and again asked, “Great Grandma, my mom cut a chunk off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven but she said she didn’t know why, just that her mom had always done it. I asked grandma and she said the same thing – that she didn’t know but that you had always done the same. So Great Grandma, why did you cut a chunk off of the end of the Easter ham?”
Her great-grandmother simply replied, “Well sweetie, I suppose it was because I didn’t have a pan big enough.”
I’ve always loved this story, partly because it perfectly describes how traditions sometimes begin but mostly because it is usually received by the listener with a unique “aha” and the look upon their face that indicates a new concept has been received by the brain and is being evaluated for consideration. Furthermore, it is a story with which most of us can relate.
While this is a cute story of a tradition of sorts within a family, it is also an example of how we can follow a habit, belief, system or tradition without any real consideration or evaluation as to whether it has any merit or benefit to us.
We don’t just do this with Easter Hams.
In the story we can see how the Mom had to stop and think about it? Now, the bigger question is, do you think the Mom would stop her habit of cutting the ham even after having realized she didn’t have a rational reason? Only that her mother had done it isn’t really a rational reason, is it? It’s an emotional one, one similar to tradition, right? We’ve all heard some of the same types of traditions, “We always put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving”, “We always have pizza on Christmas Eve”; I’m sure you all can think of many more.
We all have conscious traditions like the Christmas examples I just referenced. But, do you see how we can have traditions of which we aren’t even aware? In this example the cutting of the ham was an unconscious tradition, right? After all, the Mom hadn’t really ever considered the question until her daughter asked about it, she just did it out of habit, right? We can consider a habit to be an unconscious tradition when obtained from someone else or even previous generations.
If you get what I’m stating here, the real question is the following: Would Mom continue with this practice once discovering the origin was due to insufficient baking-ware?? I submit to you that she would never again cut off the end of the ham. In all likelihood the Mom would stop this practice because she’d become aware of the habit and would have no reason to continue, once discovering the origin was due to a lack of a larger pan; and since she had a larger pan she would most likely use it and all of the ham.
BUT let’s presume the daughter never made the query; that she never thought of asking her mother and therefore the Mom would never have facilitated the daughter getting the answer from the great-grandmother. What do you think the daughter would do as she grew up and baked her Easter ham? Unevaluated, she would continue the same habit of cutting off the end of the ham – because her mother did. She would continue the habit – or the unconscious tradition. This would occur with the likelihood of Pareto’s Law (80/20 rule). If her husband or partner became the chef in the family, she would also likely try to enforce this tradition upon them in order to carry on the unconscious tradition, simply because that’s how it’d done.
The elements that greatly contribute to this phenomenon are rooted in how we are as children. From the earliest of ages we innately rely on our parents – for everything, food, shelter and of course affection and safety. But what comes along with this is the unconscious belief that our parents are infallible – we have to have this belief. If we didn’t have this unconscious belief and reliance we would flounder because we didn’t have the tools to deal with the aspects of our life. Make sense?
As we grow, the belief our parents are infallible continues to become more and more entrenched into our existence and unless there is a conflict internally, the belief system goes unaddressed. We parent how our parents parented, we cook how our parents cooked and we unconsciously continue their belief systems – until there is an internal conflict. That internal conflict with their belief systems, practices or traditions usually result in some form of rebellion.
We all know some that rebelled, right? In the extreme, the rebels parent in a manner exactly opposite how their parents parented. With the “my parents did this, so I will never do the same” attitude, they arise at a perspective of parenting not of what’s best for the children necessarily, but rather by parenting in the opposite of how their parents did, usually believing nothing their parents did was correct, so the opposite must be better. Less extreme examples of rebelling result in lesser levels of rebellion in an attempt to gain their independence and with lesser internal conflict.
As an example of this, instead of rooting for the same team as the parents, the rebelling child roots for a different team. But guess what, they don’t express their independence by choosing another team based on what they like but they instead select and root for the enemy of the parents’ team.
I currently live in the South – North Carolina specifically, and like much of the South, it is big football country. Pro football to a large part takes second place to the college game. Well, Clemson University football program is somewhat of a perennial powerhouse in the area and if you grew up in a household that rooted for Clemson you are extremely likely to be a Clemson fan or fanatic, depending on how strongly your family rooted for football. However, if there is a rebelling child in the family the rebelling child won’t root for the University of Montana, they root for South Carolina – the sworn enemy of every Clemson household. Similarly, a child who rebels against their Washington Redskins upbringing won’t root for a team in another division or conference, they begin to root for the Dallas Cowboys – the Redskins’ sworn enemy.
This phenomenon occurs in every area that is emotionally charged and emotionally supported in the household whether it’s sports, religion, parenting, politics, etc.
As we grow into adults and our rational brain begins to develop fully, these belief systems are fully entrenched until true evaluation of whether they are consistent with whom we now see ourselves as or who we now claim ourselves to be; and this is where the problem begins.
As adults we have learned we are supposed to have a certain character; that we are supposed to have convictions. Furthermore, we have learned that our decisions and convictions are supposed to be based on our intellect and our belief systems but when pressed to provide support for them or to defend a position we unconsciously react just as the Mom did with the ham. Internally and usually unconsciously we realize there isn’t a real reason, only “that’s what my parents did”; internally and again usually automatically we realize there isn’t a rational reason – but yet, we’re adults and we should have a reasonable basis or defense.
So we make one up, we fabricate a legitimate sounding response to support our position. One that is based on what we can hear externally that may make sense but isn’t truly the real reason for our practice, belief or conviction.
If we apply this example to other situations you will likely think of other similar circumstances. You can ask someone why they do something in a certain fashion and if they know you well enough and don’t fear judgment from you on a conscious or unconscious level, they will tell you they really don’t know – just that they’ve always done it that way. But if they are insecure or a pecking order has yet to be established, they’ll often give you a reason that you know is fabricated, they do this out of an automatic defense of anticipated judgment. The anticipated judgment we try to avoid is because we are internally forced to confront the fact our method or belief isn’t based on evaluation but based on the unconscious tradition. Make sense? We’ve all done it at some point or another – I know I have.
I used to have such an incredible unconscious fear of being wrong that I would have to come up with a legitimate sounding reason, when in fact there were many ways to do the same task or even a better method. But due to the unconscious fear of anticipated judgment we create an unsubstantiated reason. We all have this fear at some level until we learn that being wrong isn’t tied to our self-perceived value. Of course, once we discover the ability to embrace being wrong we discover the strength that’s necessary to be able to be wrong.
But before discovering and utilizing the strength to be wrong or just the strength to truly evaluate a position, we are stuck in this phenomenon of trying to never be wrong and thus we continue to create supporting reasons for our position; and with very emotionally charged subjects, we will even cling to data or information that we internally know is suspect or even false in an effort to continue our support for the unconscious tradition. We’ve all heard people in our lives or on television state their positions and defend them by stating ludicrous propaganda that has been provided by the opposition.
Politics is an excellent arena to witness this example. People are so entrenched in belonging to a political party that they will quote ridiculous propaganda used to increase their fury, in support of their candidate. The rationale of those with CGAD isn’t always ludicrous – sometimes it might even sound logical and convincing, but until the evaluation occurs they are merely very good at convincing themselves. This phenomenon occurs in all of us, regardless of levels of intelligence. Education can sometimes help eradicate the effects of CGAD but there are now many institutions that are solely built to perpetuate these beliefs and thereby perpetuate the effects of CGAD. Intelligence is not a protection from or a defense of the damages of these unconscious traditions.
In an informal study I performed, Pareto’s Law really holds up. 80% of people maintain their parent’s points of view on sporting teams, parenting, religion, work and politics. The rebels who take the opposition of their parents’ beliefs or root for the enemy (sporting teams, parenting style, political party or other emotional arenas) account for about 15% of adults. Only the leftover 5% of people had already developed their own viewpoints without adopting or rejecting that which was taught. Some viewpoints match that of their caretakers, some are oppositional and some just different; but the viewpoints are their own.
So if you understand the phenomenon I’ve explained here and if I’ve done a good enough job in presenting it so that you understand my meaning. The real $100,000 question is: If, out of unconscious tradition, we either follow the belief systems presented by our caretakers OR reject them and take the exact opposite path…
Do we REALLY have free will? Or at the very least, do we REALLY exercise it?
I submit to you that until we allow ourselves to truly evaluate the practices, methods and belief systems of our caretakers we absolutely eliminate the concept of free will within our lives. Without evaluation we merely become a vessel that promotes the beliefs and practices of those before us. Well guess what? Those before us were merely promoting the beliefs and practices of those before them.
In my coaching and talks I refer to this phenomenon as Carried Generational Allegiance Deficiency.
Our technology surely has changed our lives and existence as a species but in my opinion, the greatest advancement we have had as a people and a society is the growing willingness to challenge the beliefs and practices of those before us; to seek happiness and fulfillment, something our ancestors never had the opportunity to even conceive.
Carried Generational Allegiance Deficiency (CGAD) truly prevents us (until acknowledged and addressed) from using our free will. It prevents us from using the growth and understanding of our current life because it is solely based on the beliefs and perceptions of our caretakers and theirs before them.
The unconscious and unintentional allegiance we can have toward the beliefs and systems of our caretakers can be so strong that people will take a stance that is against their evolved core beliefs by rationalizing. An example of this is the recent presidential election. I know some who strongly disagreed with essentially everything the Republican candidate claimed he stood for but voted for him anyway – because “they are Republican” or because “he wasn’t a woman”. The belief that anyone is the right choice simply because of their party or sex is the supreme example of lack of self-evaluation, due to Carried Generational Allegiance Deficiency. The internal conflict of going against one’s own core ethics in support of CGAD results in cognitive dissonance and is very disturbing internally to the individual.
CGAD is the number one cause of why Republicans raise Republicans and Democrats raise Democrats in in the percentages of Pareto’s Law – never truly addressing whether the party is the right party for them. For example, the platforms of these parties have changed drastically within the last 70 years but we still vote consistent with our caretakers, who followed their caretakers. We can continue to vote for the same party even when the party platform drastically changes but the name remains the same.
CGAD explains how racism continues among those who are considered to be Christian, even though the concept of bigotry goes against every word of the Holy Bible. Ask a sexist or a bigot, “Why do you feel these people are inferior to you?” Those with CGAD (not the haters who will always exist because they truly hate themselves) will first become defensive and then likely state, “because they are” or other such ridiculousness that seems logical to them or they will claim, “because the Bible says they are” – which of course is considered ridiculous to biblical scholars. These two answers account for 90% of the responses – both show there has never been any conscious evaluation, only the retelling of what they’ve been taught; but never providing an intellectually supported argument for their adopted beliefs. Fear passed along by CGAD is the basis of nearly all bigotry, whether of sexism, racial or religious.
It is how an individual or group can continue to oppress women, minorities and any group different from theirs. Though it is true that “haters are gonna hate”, it is not true that the victims of CGAD are lost. The unconscious fear of rejection of the memory of caretakers, an emotional betrayal if you will, or fear of those different is the power and damage created by CGAD.
But CGAD isn’t only responsible for the social dysfunction we now see in our society, it also impacts the lives of individuals at a much less inflammatory level. I once worked with a golf pro that needed to pass a playability test. He had taken the test and had failed already twice and had only one more chance to pass. I began working with him to help him meet his mental potential in the game. During our sessions I learned that his father felt very strongly that for a man to have value, he must work. My client perceived that according to his father a man must work and work isn’t fun.
The result was that my client had unconsciously adopted these lessons from his father and was applying the lessons in such a way that he internally needed to fail at being a golf pro – because it was fun for him. Unwittingly, my client had CGAD. My client had unconsciously adopted his father’s perspective. After working together I was able to get my client to realize that if his father had the skills and abilities my client had, that the father would likely have a different opinion. We must live by our own code and convictions regardless of the views of our caretakers but we can’t address the conflict until we know it exists.
Never before in the history of the world has the desire for personal growth allowed more people to seek personal fulfillment and self-awareness than now; it has resulted in people being able to truly seek happiness. It’s really only been within the last 60 years or so that happiness was even a concept people sought.
So, we must remove the effects of Carried Generational Allegiance Deficiency before we can ever consider ourselves truly independent or fully emotionally evolved. Only after evaluating what impact CGAD has had on our lives can we truly begin to live our own lives; until then we are really only living those of prior generations. We can eliminate the effects of CGAD on our lives if we:
- Are willing to confront the beliefs and systems of our caretakers
- Truly evaluate whether they fit within our ethical core while realizing adopting a different opinion or viewpoint does not have to change our respect or admiration for those before us
- Realize our caretakers would have had a different perspective (just like we could) IF they were aware of CGAD and empowered to choose their own beliefs and systems.
By realizing our parents would have felt differently, we allow ourselves to realize they weren’t wrong – they just didn’t have all of the information that we now do. Had they had the same information as we do, they would have the same conclusion of new beliefs and systems that we can now have. In this manner we free ourselves from the “emotional betrayal” we can sometimes feel we are perpetrating on their memory or against their beliefs.
CGAD is rooted in fear, the fear of things different – people, beliefs, religions, etc. But it also is the cause of so many of those “should”s. Nearly every personal development coaching client I have worked with finds major growth once understanding the concepts of CGAD and how what previous generations expect of them create the “should”s. We all know the impact, “We should do this” or “We should feel a certain way” – but by who’s assertion? When we truly feel that we “should”, it become “we need to”. “Should” is the attempted living by the expectation of others, it results in guilt, regret and shame – and nothing good internally comes from guilt, regret or shame.
Until we decide to take back our free will, we will on a personal level continue to be the vessel of ideas before us and as a society we will continue to live in the Dark Ages of the Human Condition. We will continue to live in societies that reject others and demean their value, simply out of fears of prior generations; those beliefs which cannot be defended.
Our ability to grow is directly correlated to our willingness to be wrong.
Captive Coaching and Empowerment