If you’ve ever watched a show like Pawn Stars or Antique Roadshow, you’re familiar with this scene: Someone brings in what he thinks to be a priceless family heirloom, only to learn it’s a cheap trinket his grandfather bought at a gas station. Some people accept this new information and get on with their lives. Other people just can’t let go of their family story about some priceless object. They tell themselves the experts must be wrong rather than deal with the fact their family may be mistaken about the fundamental truth of the situation.
Every family indoctrinates its members. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s an important part of parenting. You learn, for example, to be wary of strangers when you’re a child. You learn this because trusted grownups remind you of “stranger danger” again and again. At the same time, you may also have deeply absorbed certain lessons that simply do not serve you.
A child will believe anything you tell him often enough. As an adult, however, it’s important to reassess the core beliefs and values you inherited from your family. How do you recognize which beliefs serve you, and which get in your way? One way to do this is to carefully consider the source of your earliest lessons learned. For example, if your mother is not currently in a fulfilling romantic relationship, you may want to re-evaluate her lifelong relationship advice. If your father is highly successful in his career, but also an unhappy workaholic, you may want to rethink his core teachings about work and money.