Thursday, June 1, 2017

Recreating the Family of Origin

(This blog was originally posted on May 19, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

When I was a freshman at Occidental College, I noticed something very interesting: all of the students looked the same. Well, not exactly the same, as in identical; but our similarity in physical features and even social backgrounds struck me as uncanny. One of my favorite instructors reminded me of my mother, from her general physique and gentle demeanor to the curly, salt-and-pepper dark hair they wore in a similar style. Maybe that resemblance contributed to her being one of my favorite professors. I remember that my fourth-grade teacher reminded me of one of my grandmothers; Mrs. Payne also happened to be one of my favorite grammar-school teachers. I don’t think that was a coincidence. One of the first good friends I made at Goldsmiths College in London, during my junior year abroad reminded me of my sister; they both even shared the same major in English literature.

On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, KFI AM 640 radio host Gary Hoffman and his featured guest, Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., discussed people’s subconscious tendency to recreate the “home” or family environment/social schema where they work. Dr. Walsh’s description of this behavior sounded a lot like Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D.’s Theory of Mind. No matter where we are or who we are with, we subconsciously want to return to those early experiences where we felt comfortable (subconscious known)—even if we were experiencing pain in that situation. Both models made total sense.
Many people spend a majority of their waking day at work or at school/college. Whether it is a youngster’s first day in kindergarten or the first time newly minted CEO walks into the boardroom to facilitate a meeting, anxiety (pain) is usually the dominant emotion experienced. To alleviate this discomfort, we subconsciously look for any similarity between what he or she knows/knows how to do and other people with whom we have shared this previous environment or space. I remember the anxiety I experienced when the original owner of Black Belt magazine sold the company in 2001. All of the staff was anxious about our job security, even the senior editors and art directors. We all knew that the new line manager could easily decide this was a chance to “refresh” the current business model and get new writers and editors. Would our possible replacements actually be more skilled at our job or just a better social “fit” for the new boss? As it turned out, most of us kept our job and even got promotions when Black Belt magazine’s current owners bought and expanded the company a few years later. However, it was easy to see that new writers and editors that were hired were much more “like” and compatible with the new executive staff.
When I interviewed for college and, later, future jobs, I subconsciously looked for an environment where I already felt comfortable and shared interests/goals as the people with whom I would be sharing that environment. I have no doubt that Oxy’s college-acceptance board and my prospective employers had similar criteria when they considered how well I would fit in with them. The same could also be said of how I was originally recruited to join NRG—the business-network group to which I belong—and even, to some extent, how my clients “choose” to work with me as their hypnotherapist. What is similar? What is familiar? That is where we ultimately go—and stay.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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