When I was nine, I had an argument that left me feeling sad and shaky. Feeling like my nine-year-old world was crashing, I walked outside and saw my bicycle propped up against the wall. I hopped onto it, and in a few minutes, I was as happy as a clam.
That led to a huge insight for me. I suddenly realized that whether I was sad or happy, I was the one choosing to make those thoughts and feelings a reality in my mind and body. I stopped and declared to the world that I could choose to be happy every day if I wished. No matter what.
A lot has happened since then, and I’ve discovered that it’s not always easy to choose happiness- and yet it is. I really can be happy every day. Now, there have been days that have shaken me to the core. Yet I still go there, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I have made it a habit to find something to be happy about every single day. No matter what.
My mother and grandmother always told me that the world owed me nothing, but that I owed it a great big hug and a smile. That philosophy has become a core part of who I am and a key component of what I teach all over the world with systemic work and constellations.
We don’t just inherit our physical DNA; we also inherit our emotional DNA. Even more importantly, we can grow it! And yes, that includes our HQ (happiness quotient)!
Many of us come from difficult backgrounds or encounter difficult circumstances and react by creating limiting thoughts, feelings, and actions that form mindsets that then become our sad truth. Only it’s not the truth, it’s our truth and we can change it any time we want to.
So, how do we inherit our Emotional DNA’s HQ, and more importantly, how do we grow it?
Events in our lives or those of our ancestors generate reactions that create imprints on our family systems. Those imprints can then become the blueprint for generations of behaviors and patterns until someone notices how a pattern is living in them or their family and chooses to change it.
Rebecca had been unhappy for as long as she could remember. Finding her way to one of my public events, she asked to explore a different possibility. It soon became clear why she was so unhappy.
Going back four generations, the women in her family had all been unhappy. It began with her great-grandmother, who had lost twins in childbirth. She became sad, stoic, and quiet after her loss, and as we so often see in systemic work and constellations, the subsequent generations of women unconsciously took on her silence, hurt, and sadness. We call this unconscious loyalty.
We agreed to do a constellation. This is a term in systemic work that describes an approach using live representatives for each element of the issue being explored. We set the volunteer representatives up in spatial relationships to one another. This allows the client to literally see their system, speak to it, walk through it, test options, stand in the other’s shoes, and finally their own.
Engaging multiple senses, a constellation’s embodied experience leads to remarkable breakthroughs and insights that can instantly shift the story or point of view a person holds. Let me explain.
Using live representatives created a huge breakthrough for Rebecca. Seeing the pattern in 3-D, walking through it, and speaking and hearing the words and sentences she had been taught about the incident, she felt the loss deeply. And although she truly understood the sadness and silence that had echoed down through her family line, she could also clearly see the multi-generational pattern that had been holding her hostage. But she was stuck. How could she possibly have any happiness with this in her lineage? Wouldn’t that be disloyal?
The answer is profound. She is the change agent. Systems wait for someone like Rebecca to be sick and tired or motivated enough to change the emotional inheritance. This is the pivot point—the chapter that only you can write. Once you see what lives in your own system and begin choosing what you really want, the doors swing open.
In Rebecca’s case, the twins’ place in the system was never acknowledged because her great-grandmother hadn’t processed their loss. Systems don’t like exclusions, so that acknowledgment continued to be sought through multiple generations until Rebecca finally dared to look.
We set up representatives for the four generations and as we included the twins, Rebecca began to cry uncontrollably, which unsettled her because she was stoic and quiet by nature. When I explained that she was allowing feelings that had stopped four generations ago to flow again so they could finally be felt, she relaxed and started to smile.
Looking at the representative for her great-grandmother, she said, “I see why you were so sad. We’ve all been sad, but I can’t do this anymore. Life isn’t fun. It’s time fun and laughter came back to this family. Please watch me as I do it differently.” Her eyes widened as she looked at me, “I think I am seeing new possibilities already! I think my purpose is joy!” Her voice cracked, and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So how did Rebecca grow her HQ?
The minute Rebecca realized that she had been living a version of ancient history and that she could grow her own happiness, that became her focus. She also realized one very important thing. Happiness isn’t selfish. The happier she became, the more she shared it with others. She started searching for reasons to be happy, and because that was her focus the opportunities showed up. Even the smallest accomplishments or encounters brought an opportunity to be happy.
Rebecca began to notice changes in her life. She didn’t feel like something was missing anymore. It was full and rich. She even found herself wearing brighter-colored clothes and going on adventures. Recently, a colleague thanked her for making work a place that people love to come to.
Your happiness quotient depends on you, the genius behind its shape. You are the magic that makes it happen. Find a way to be happy every day. It’s there waiting to be noticed. Even if today you are simply happy to be alive or to have completed the day, acknowledge that. You are teaching your brain to grow its capacity for happiness. Once you start generating happiness, not only do you grow your happiness quotient, but you also grow your emotional DNA, which you will then pass onto subsequent generations. This is genealogy 2.0, and your happiness quotient is a part of that. Happy hunting!
Judy Wilkins-Smith, author of Decoding Your Emotional Blueprint: A Powerful Guide to Transformation Through Disentangling Multigenerational Patterns, is a highly-regarded, international organizational, individual, and family patterns expert, systemic coach, and motivational speaker. As the founder of System Dynamics for Individuals & Organizations Judy teaches people how to see the other side of their lives, the possibilities, the happiness, and the fulfillment. More info: https://judywilkins-smith.com.