Atheist Society of Nigeria

We seek a Nigeria where public policies are based on rational reasoning and critical thinking and not influenced by religious beliefs

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Friday, 17 November 2017

A Scientific Slant On Juju And Black Magic - Part 6

Multigenerational Transmission


Surely, you’ve immensely enjoyed reading the previous 5 blog posts on A Scientific Slant on Juju and Black Magic, rolled out by Atheist Society of Nigeria?  Then you’ll definitely enjoy reading the sixth post in this series with the same title.

This post refers to a curious phenomenon called generational curses

It’s likely you’ve heard of families touted to be afflicted by insanity, obesity, financial difficulties, substance abuse, kleptomania, violent deaths… any form of social malady dreaded by the Nigerian society is sometimes attributed to generational curses.

The grapevine has it that the ancestors of such families once took an ancestral oath that is negatively affecting the descendants.

 Sometimes, we hear they angered the gods with a dreadful abomination and a curse was placed on them by the gods.

A person brought up in a family afflicted by such inexplicable phenomenon will go through life convinced the sins of the father is being visited upon the third and fourth generation

This belief is enough to demotivate him, which will perpetuate the so-called generational curse.

Those who wish to grapple with their evil star sometimes turn to religion and prayers in a bid to break the yoke surrounding their destiny. 

Whether this leads to marked improvement in their destiny is yet to be documented.

But… There is another way of looking at this phenomenon

What is known as generational curses is called Multigenerational transmission process  in Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, commonly used by mental health practitioners in Family Therapy.

In layman terms, it refers to how differences in the development of the self (the individuality) among parents and their children span many generations in a family.

Generally, this happens via two methods:

  • Conscious teaching and learning of information from parents to their children
  • Automatic and unconscious programming of emotional reactions and behavior.

The complex interplay of these two methods combine to influence development of a person’s self, referred to as Self-differentiation, or the individual’s ability to separate feelings from thoughts.

It follows that different individuals have differing levels of self-differentiation, which is readily detected by how well a person can take information that requires thought without being flooded by feelings i.e. getting angry, hurt, anxious, sad, or disgusted.

A person’s self-differentiation will influence just how well he can process new logical information that challenges his beliefs without responding with anger, how well he can take criticism, how well he can express emotions in socially acceptable ways, how warm and affectionate he will be perceived by the immediate family members with whom he interacts…

Basically how well he can separate feelings from thoughts.

Self-differentiation is very important, so important that it influences an individual’s mental health, impulse control, educational achievements, career success, physical health (how willing he will be to take care of his health and not rely on magical powers to make him healthy), his marital stability…

In fact, it influences an individual’s entire life!

As parents and primary attachment figures of a child are responsible for the conscious information they pass on to a child, and how well they respond to their kids emotionally, parents play a huge role in how well-differentiated their children will be!

We all know there are certain beliefs, perspectives about life, attitude towards education, health conscientiousness, religious inclinations, and social expectations that tend to run in families from one ancestor who deemed it fit to adopt a unique interplay of these factors and instill in the children.

This complex interplay of thoughts influence feelings and emotions, as we know thoughts influence emotions. 

Thus, we have families that tend to be emotionally restrained, those who are emotionally expressive, histrionic, and anxiety-prone. 

These emotional states influence thoughts and it becomes a cycle, which can lead to certain behavior.

If we remember in the previous blog post where it was noted that human beings are inherently submissive by nature, we’ll find it easy to deduce that most human beings will feel a subconscious need to remain loyal to the teachings passed down to them by their immediate family!

Thus, it happens that different families have different levels of self-differentiation, which will more or less influence the members’ mental/physical health, educational success, interpersonal stability, financial achievements, and adaptability to change.

This is why it appears like some families have had wealth in them for several generations, while some remain on the lowest caste of society for several generations.

Why some families appear like the majority of its members have stable marriages, while others are plagued by divorce and single parenthood.

Why some families appear like they are adaptable to change, while others tend to have physical/mental health issues.

Why some families spawn geniuses and musical prodigies, while some others barely get passing grades in school.

Now, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is:

Is it possible for a person to raise his level of self-differentiation and break away from generational curse?

Yes, it is.

True, it takes concerted effort to raise the level of self-differentiation after the self has been formed by the age of 18, but it can be done.

Via means best known to the individual, or via family therapy, an individual can become well-differentiated.

This link is a good place to get started for anyone interested in raising his level of self-differentiation.

How will I know if I am well-differentiated?

In the word of Bowen Center, a well-differentiated person is one who:
  • Recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. 
  • Thoughtfully acquired principles help him guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. 
  • What he decides and what he says matches what he does. 
  • He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. 
  • Confident in his thinking, he can support others’ views without being a disciple or reject others’ views without polarizing the differences. 
  • He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.
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Written by Oge Igboegbunam

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