Are You A Cycle Breaking Mom?
Never underestimate a cycle breaker. Not only did they experience years of generational trauma, but they stood in the face of the trauma and fought to say ‘This ends with me.’ This is brave. This is powerful. This comes at a significant cost. Never underestimate a cycle breaker.Nate Postlethwait
Who or What are Cycle Breakers?
Before we dive all the way into this article, let’s first define what is a cycle breaker. In the context that we are talking about, a cycle breaker is a person who intentionally changes generational toxic and negative familial patterns of behavior. Being a cycle breaker requires a level of deep introspection and intentional behavioral change. And being a cycle breaker can go further than toxic patterns and behaviors in your family. Breaking toxic patterns and behaviors in our society is being a cycle breaker on a larger scale.
You will not find a definition of a cycle breaker in any official mental health literature, but many mental health professionals have been not only aware of cycle breaking behavior, but have also encouraged it in their clients. Being a cycle breaker is challenging, exhausting, isolating, and sometimes dangerous work. But it is the most important work you will ever do in your lifetime. So, if you identify with being a cycle breaker, I am here to support you.
Signs That You are A Cycle Breaker
- You are different from the rest of your family
- You don’t just accept your family’s rules and traditions, if they do not align with you
- You can see the generational trauma being passed down in your family
- You are taking steps to heal from generational trauma
- You make sure that the trauma cycle stops with you
- You create boundaries and hold true to them
- You call out toxic behaviors and patterns in your family of origin
- You cut ties with toxic family members, if you feel that no resolution or compromise can be made with them
- You prioritize your needs
- You begin to spiritually awaken and align with your higher self
I’m a Cycle Breaker – What Now?
While being a cycle breaker is important work, not everyone wants this challenge. And it’s because cycle breaking can be incredibly difficult, isolating, and dangerous. So, if you are just getting comfortable with the idea of being the cycle breaker in your family, you may find a lot of resistance in yourself or even denial to what you’re experiencing. After all, breaking cycles will require making some difficult choices with heavy consequences. And you may not feel up to the task.
It’s ok. Most, if not all, of us cycle breakers, felt this way at some point. Because it is scary to stand up and challenge the way your family has run for many generations. We humans, value connection and belonging above all else because we are social primates, and being an accepted part of the group means being protected and loved. But, as we all know, this belief doesn’t always hold true.
So, when we awaken and see the toxicity, secrets, shame, abuse, neglect, and other negative, yet accepted, behaviors in our family of origin, our first reaction may be to deny what we’re seeing. Because we often don’t just see one thing, we all of a sudden see it all, and it’s painful. It’s like going from a pitch dark cave into bright sunshine. It’s blinding and you need time to adjust.
What Happens When The Shock Wears Off
Eventually the shock of seeing all this does wear off and that’s when it can get even more painful. It is not uncommon to feel completely powerless in the face of the information you just learned. You may be asking yourself, “How can I heal my whole family all by myself?”. You may feel completely overwhelmed for the same reasons. This feeling of overwhelm can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. And in more severe cases it can lead to depression and anxiety. You may also feel guilty and ashamed for not noticing anything earlier and not doing anything about it.
All of those feelings are completely normal. And with the right help and support, you can work through all of this and come out healed and stronger on the other end.
Cycle Breaking Hits Differently For Moms
Let’s not forget that you are not just a cycle breaker. You are a cycle breaking mom! Which means that not only are you actively noticing all the intergenerational trauma, you are actively trying to reparent yourself, while simultaneously raising your children differently than the way you were raised.
That is a heavy load that you carry, mama! And I’m right her with you, doing the same for my family. And sometimes it feels like an impossible task because as much as we try to break the toxic cycles, we instead repeat them. And that makes us feel like we’re failing not only at breaking cycles, but also at parenting.
But I am here to tell you that it’s not true! Any work you put into breaking the cycles of toxicity, neglect, and abuse is meaningful and necessary. It’s always important to remember that each family is unique and the work of every cycle breaker is unique. Some families have so many negative and toxic behaviors, that it will take multiple generations before any real change is made. While other families have been chipping away at this for multiple generations and your job is to now bring it home.
What Is Your Work As A Cycle Breaking Mom
Again, I want to remind you, mama, that you are doing the most important work out there. Breaking toxic cycles, reparenting yourself, and parenting your children in a more empathic and connected way is the most important work that anyone can do. Because when we are able to raise healthier generations, those healthier generations can create more progress in life than we ever imagined.
So, let’s talk in more detail about what it is that you are actually doing.
Noticing The Dysfunctional Family Patterns
As I said before, the first part of breaking cycles is being able to see all that is broken. So, the first part of your work will be noticing what behaviors, traditions, and expectations in your family of origin, don’t align with you. One of the most prominent examples of this is spanking children for misbehaving. While there are still people trying to defend spanking, most of us have opened up our eyes and realized that it is a dysfunctional tradition, and we must not perpetuate it.
But some patterns might be much less obvious. Things like discussing people’s body size and appearance and placing values on them based on those, demanding perfection, not allowing children to have a voice in any important family matters, mean spirited pranks and jokes, never validating feelings, keeping to strict gender norms, etc. A lot of these may not even register as harmful, but when you look deeper and try them on for size, you may change your opinion.
Paying Attention To Which of These Dysfunctional Patterns We Still Cling On To
This is the part where you might start feeling as if you are failing at this whole cycle breaker thing. Because as much as we like to believe that we will be nothing like our parents and will do things completely different, when under a lot of stress, we will undoubtedly repeat some of these dysfunctional behaviors. And that’s ok.
The most important part here is to notice that we are doing this, and work on healing these parts of ourselves. As cycle breaking mothers, a lot of our work will consist of healing ourselves and reparenting ourselves. Because if we try to do the work of not perpetuating the cycles without first addressing our own pain, we will inevitably fail. Because when triggered and reacting we will revert to what we know best – how our parents treated us.
Allowing Us To Heal Ourselves First
As I said before, a lot of our work will be about healing ourselves. That is why my whole coaching practice is dedicated to healing mothers. We are the key to breaking these cycles. But we can only truly break them, when we are healed. So, focus in on yourself, and notice how that will simply pass on to your interactions with your children. Because when you do it the other way, you become irritated, agitated, angry, resentful, and feel like a total failure.
That is why I teach my moms self-compassion in my coaching program. When we allow our inner critic to take a break from protecting us and stop gaslighting ourselves, we can then access real compassion for ourselves. And when we access compassion for ourselves, we can access compassion for our children. So, that all those empathetic approaches you were struggling with before will start to come naturally.
Establishing Boundaries Without Guilt or Shame
This is the part that will get your family of origin mad. Sometimes, really mad. Because at the root of a lot of our family dysfunction are poor boundaries. So, when you start not only establishing but enforcing your boundaries, you will get a lot of pushback. And if you want to continue your cycle breaking work, you will have to get comfortable with that.
Be Open To The Fact That Your Work Will Be Ongoing
Breaking cycles takes time and effort. And don’t be surprised, if you are not going to be able to break them all. You were never meant to shoulder this responsibility alone. Your children will perpetuate your work and make it a better world for themselves and for their children. But because of all the work you put it, they will have a head start. Rejoice in that thought. And know that you have made a difference in the world.
Parting Words For All My Cycle Breaking Moms
You are amazing, mama! Keep strong and know that we (other cycle breaking moms) are always by your side! We are all doing our part in healing and making this world a better place to live in!