The self-sabotage of one's own success
Those who enjoy their profession are happy to work hard to achieve the desired success. Most beginners in a profession then face the questions: How do I achieve this success? Will my talents suffice? And - beyond that - do I have the necessary bit of luck?
However, one's own efforts are sometimes only one side of the coin. If you take a closer look at your colleagues, you will also discover contradictions. There is one person who, despite undisputed abilities, does not achieve the corresponding results. Something always goes wrong. Someone else is enormously committed - and yet at the same time blocks himself elsewhere. As if he had put on a secret handbrake. It brakes - the engine can howl loudly. Or one discovers reactions and behavior in oneself, which prevents rather than promotes the desired goals.
Where does that come from? Does a person have self-destructive tendencies? Or is there a lack of self-confidence after all? Perhaps the necessary commitment is simply lacking?
Those who only see and examine the surface are confused by the contradictions. In the underground, however, there are laws according to which such behavior suddenly makes sense.
The following examples show that such contradictory behavior has good reasons. There is no need to look for incomprehensible mental disorders. If the family background is taken into account, it becomes surprisingly visible. The understanding widens. The behavior follows inner rules. The knowledge of these rules used to be intuitively there. The vernacular created its proverbs accordingly. Classical Greek tragedies are based on them. Great poets have captured them in their novels. Today the time seems ripe to formulate them more clearly and unambiguously and to bring them to light.
Being in a career jam or about the children's loyalty to their parents
John, in his early 40s, is an executive in a chemical company. Even as a business administration student, his grades were outstanding. His professors predicted a great future for him.
However, these prognoses proved to be wrong. Although John found sponsors in his company early on, his career is stagnating. Why exactly is not clear to him. Sometimes, as he puts it, he feels paralyzed and stuck.
Where does this paralysis come from? Was John perhaps overestimated after all? Is his potential not sufficient for larger tasks after all? And because he sees this lack, he tries to save face by talking about paralysis and blockades. Or would he need practical support from a coach in order to be able to bring his energy purposefully into his work? Perhaps he lacks balance in his private life?
All these assumptions - and many more - provide plausible explanations. Such ideas appear in everyday life as a matter of course in order to understand such blockades.
At this point I would like to emphasize something fundamental! Problems and conflicts are complex. To limit them to a single dimension rarely does them justice! That is why John would have many opportunities to tackle his inner blockades. And one or the other would probably also help him a part.
On the other hand, sometimes there is something like the core of a problem. If this is not recognized, many efforts fizzle out. The lever is not applied at the right point. One turns in a circle. The problem remains persistent, may disappear for a short time, but always comes back - without knowing why.
In such a case - and this book deals with such cases - the view to the family background is often something like a revelation. Suddenly a blockade becomes understandable. Family has an enormous power and effect, even if many counsellors and therapists have not yet recognized this in its entirety.
When it comes to a career, the family history of professional life is important. "What was your father's and mother's career path like? “ And how was that with your grandparents? "What differences, what similarities with your career path do you notice?” If you look at the professional history of your family, you will often find surprising similarities in inclinations, choice and success.
Thus interesting parallels can be found in the family of John. His father was also very talented at school. However, his parents could not afford the grammar school at that time, so his son reluctantly started an apprenticeship as a carpenter after primary school. He married at an early age and had two children in quick succession. So he did everything to secure his family's livelihood and no longer dared to break out of his unloved job. At the same time he always remained dissatisfied with his work, indeed with his entire life. Still retired today, the father complains and tells what could have become of him.
To what extent can this background have an influence on his son's career and the longstanding blockade? For some time now, psychology has been focusing on the so-called family legacies. Her mother's most fervent wish had been to study medicine. But she could not do it because of the lack of money for grammar school and studies. The eldest daughter already knows as a child that she wants to become a doctor. As a doctor, however, she is unhappy and finds out at some point that she has actually chosen this profession for her mother, as if she could realize her dream for her.
There are other legacies in families in which the occupation or business is passed on. A family has been running a farm for many generations. In the past, it was a matter of course that the eldest son took over his father's farm and continued it. Or another family lives from their textile business. This is then passed on to the children and the professional path of life is determined.
After all, there are families who have been proud of a certain profession for generations, be it a doctor, a priest or a professional soldier. As a child, the individual then grows into a certain profession or career as a matter of course. He often feels and experiences this as a personal wish.
But with John, these insights make little sense, because he does not realize a family dream with his failure. His father's dream was exactly the kind of career path his son had chosen. In addition, parents usually wish their children the best. After that John would have to be successful.
However, there is another phenomenon in the relationship between children and parents that has only come to light in all its power in recent decades. In depth, family members are lovingly connected. This attachment is reflected in the children's great loyalty to their family. Out of this unconscious loyalty, a child cannot bear to be more successful or happier than its parents in the long run. It is as if a child would be unfaithful if it left the family framework. It then feels guilty like some kind of traitor.
Whoever is therefore more successful in the long run than father or mother loses an important connection. The secret desire to maintain the connection can sometimes be so great that someone blocks himself just not to be any different.
In the career of John, on the one hand, there are clear differences to the professional life of his father. John did not reluctantly become a craftsman and shoemaker. Instead, he has found a professional task that corresponds to his talents and abilities and that also brings social recognition - what his father had dreamed of. By external standards, he is successful despite his career backlog.
On the other hand, however, he experiences the same feelings that accompanied his father throughout his adult life. He is unhappy, feels thwarted and blocked - just like his father.
The movements of loyalty to the father therefore go in two different directions. On the one hand, there is the task of becoming as professionally successful as possible, also in order to fulfill the father's dream. John has gone some way in this direction. But then there is the hidden loyalty with which he does not want to have it better than his father. Therefore he paralyzes himself and blocks his further professional success. He himself does not consciously recognize this profound loyalty. That is why he does not understand his blockade.
In coaching this point of view does not make sense for John at first. He has no particularly intimate relationship with his father. He appreciates him today, even though he used to have difficulties with him again and again. In his childhood it was never really possible for him to meet his father warmly. "My father was always so frustrated that I couldn't get to him at all. During puberty there were the usual fights".
Then, after beginning his studies, he experienced how proud his father was of him. He had several good conversations with him and slowly felt reconciled. Today he has a somewhat distant, but otherwise friendly relationship with him. Since they live far apart, he rarely sees him and his mother and he doesn't miss them either. He has long since grown up, cut his cord from home, and has his own family.
Should he block himself as an adult today because he is loyal to his father? So he follows him into misery, so to speak? That sounds far-fetched to him.
He is right on the level of everyday perception. But this level is not the only one between parents and children. There is a deeper layer in which stronger, sometimes forgotten feelings live.
Imagine a newborn child who lies in the arms of the parents during the first weeks of life. The child is still completely open and resonates with every feeling of the other person. A newborn baby has not yet erected the protective walls with which the child will later distance himself. A baby is very loving, so he absorbs everything he feels from his parents and his environment. If it is alike to the people around it, then it has a feeling of belonging. If however, mother and father are unhappy, then the child feels the unhappiness and becomes unhappy himself.
Later, through the disappointments that life cannot fail to present, he develops a protective layer over the original unconditional affection he holds. The child closes himself off a bit. In the depths, however, the original feelings still live on.
When John begins to deal with these new thoughts, he slowly rediscovers the other side of himself. He remembers how he sometimes suffered as a child because his father was so unhappy and the child could not help him. He begins to discover similarities with his father, which he had not paid attention to until then. He had the same interest in handball, the same talent for music, and also the tendency to give up too quickly. There is a much greater connection with his father than he had known before.
And now what? John came to the coaching because he wanted to solve his blockades. Now he knows where they come from. Should he now go home satisfied with this knowledge and continue to be paralyzed? Can he now only give up fatalistically and settle down with his blocks?
Well, John has already taken a first essential step towards change. He now knows why he is blocking himself and has rediscovered the old love for his father. Whoever recognizes what binds him has already gained some distance from it through the recognition.
The following examples at the end of this chapter describe how the further steps are to transform this loyalty into a connection that makes professional success possible and promotes it.
The insecure businesswoman or why women have it harder
Clare is 50 years old and successfully runs a medium-sized supplier company which her father built up. Her father died surprisingly 20 years ago of a heart attack, whereupon she took over the business as the oldest child.
Despite her success, she does not find peace of mind. Again and again she has nightmares in which she fails and the company goes bankrupt. These fears have been increasing in recent times. And what she may find difficult to admit in front of herself is that she secretly feels inferior to men in similar positions.
It seems strange to the outside world that someone succeeds but cannot admit it to himself. Clare has managed and achieved an enormous number of things. Nevertheless, what she has achieved does not give her enough security and self-confidence.
Where do her fears come from? A few years ago, the subject of "fraud syndrome" was popular in the press. Someone has success, but at the same time the feeling that he doesn't deserve it and therefore fear of being seen through at some point and exposed as an impostor. But even if Clare's description were correct, where do these fears come from? And how can she cope with them?
Dealing with the parents and the family brings a new understanding. When asked who was successful in her family, she gushes out: "My father, of course! He is my great role model. He built up his business under the most difficult circumstances. And despite all the work, he has remained friendly and cordial and has always had time for my mother and me". She only touches briefly on the subject of mother. The mother stayed at home in the background and raised her daughter as eldest and two younger siblings.
In the case of this successful father, the loyal daughter should actually - according to the previous examples - achieve security and self-confidence as a matter of course. However, she is the daughter and not a son. This makes the succession more complicated.
A core of human identity is one's own gender, whether someone is male or female or in between. This is the starting point around which the further personality develops. So the son looks at the father, the daughter at the mother. The identity as a man and the identity as a woman are embodied there. This elementary first connection is with the representative of the same sex.
So when Clare looks for her identity as a woman, she looks at her mother. Here she finds her role model for being a woman. Was the mother satisfied? Clare replied hesitantly to this question: "She didn't seem very happy. But that was the way times were." So she has an active, professionally fulfilled and satisfied father and a withdrawn mother who endured her fate as a housewife and guardian of the children. There is a split between the parents and this split between father and mother Clare internally carries with her.
Even though she is enthusiastic about her father and has followed him as head of the company, there is still the invisible loyalty to her mother. Her nightmares are like a tribute to this connection. On the one hand, Clare remains loyal to her father as an entrepreneur due to her successes; on the other hand, she remains loyal to her mother due to the feeling of incompetence in the business area. Because children are always connected with both parents, father and mother.
Clare's example reveals a particular difficulty for female managers and entrepreneurs whose mothers were still housewives. The professional role model in the family is missing. Instead, there is the role of the pure housewife as a living example. The sons have it easier, they usually have a working father, but not all daughters have a working mother.
In such a case there is sometimes an unconscious dilemma inside the working woman. It seems to her as if there is only one either - or. Either she decides for the professional success as the male side and renounces the full femininity. Or she rejects the male side and thus professional success and decides to be a woman without a professional career.
The woman has a particularly hard time, whose mother herself would have liked to work and become successful and therefore felt unhappy as a mere housewife and mother of children. The unconscious loyalty wants to impose a similar fate on her and fail or be unhappy in professional life. That is why transitional periods like today place special demands on the individual. It is about recognizing one's own loyalty and at the same time finding the way to a new self-responsible way of life. Perhaps the idea that their daughters will have it easier again will help women if they themselves become good role models for professional success and being women.
So Clare's fears lead her to the question: How can she be a satisfied woman and at the same time a successful entrepreneur? She has to reconcile more with her mother. Until now, her great role model was her father, for whom she raved. She looked down on her mother rather contemptuously. She felt close and related to her father and not to her mother.
Only when she regains her affection and love for her mother does she come out of the inner conflict. Then as a child she can love both parents and receive the best from everyone.
Understanding and ending difficulties with authorities
Even the most innocent person will probably get tingly for a moment when the policeman asks him for his driver's license at the surprising traffic check. Just like the clerk gets nervous when the superior discovers a mistake and points it out. And the presentation to the board may also make the person in charge hectic.
In such situations, it's hard for most people to remain completely calm. The slight excitement is understandable under the circumstances, but - actually - not absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, it is a frequent companion in dealing with people who represent authorities.
It is difficult to meet authorities at eye level. A policeman hands out a ticket to the parking offender - that's his job. Here at the no-parking zone, two citizens meet in different roles. When the two sweat next to each other in a sports club, two normal people meet who are on an equal footing. When chief physician and nurse meet in hospital, the difference in rank plays a factual role. When they meet at an early age in kindergarten to hand over their child, they discover their similarities.
Someone may know this and see it rationally. And yet - in critical situations such as a violation of the stopping ban - the heart begins to beat faster.
Where do such reactions come from? From the multitude of possible descriptions and explanations I will limit myself here to those that have to do with the family background.
The incompetent boss or how father issues come in between
A few months ago, Charles took up a new position as a clerk. He began ambitiously and with great commitment. After just two weeks, he made a series of suggestions for improvement that he considered to be very useful. But his superior was not interested. This continued in a similar way in the following. In the meantime, Charles is deeply frustrated by his boss. Basically, he thinks, he is not up to his position anyway. Of the mistakes and shortcomings of his boss, he can already list a whole series.
However, this is not the first supervisor from whom Charles sees himself thwarted. Similar things also happened to him in his previous position. Again and again there were discrepancies with the superiors. Yes, even at school he often had conflicts with teachers.
He gradually became aware that his difficulties might also have something to do with himself. That is why he decided to approach this issue through coaching.
Certainly there are managers who are overburdened by their task. Perhaps Charles boss is one of them. As a natural reaction, ambitious and high-performing employees are frustrated.
With Charles, however, difficulties with authorities run like a red thread through his entire life. That is why it is unlikely - as he himself has already correctly recognized - that the incompetence of teachers and superiors alone is to blame for his problems. In some way, Charles seems to be contributing to these difficulties through his own behavior. Yes, perhaps he even provokes them in a certain way.
In coaching, Charles describes himself as an "unpleasant employee". He is really proud of how quickly he notices weak points and how stubbornly he then presents his suggestions for improvement. Many superiors, he says, are encrusted in their old thinking and refuse to let fresh air blow through their brains full of spider webs. He knows that he sometimes lets this opinion be seen through. This always leads to tensions, which are reflected in negative assessments of his abilities and achievements.
How can Charles deal with this situation? Perhaps communication seminars would help him if he worked on his behavior there. Or he could work on his way of dealing with the situation in coaching. In any case, a different tone would be helpful when dealing with superiors. He would have to learn to hold back more. More self-control would reduce the tensions around him.
All these are valuable approaches that might suffice to resolve his difficulties. Sometimes, however, such attempts are not enough if they change nothing or too little at the core of attitudes and attitudes.
Then there is still the danger that a sensitive superior feels the secret rejection and reacts to it. What someone radiates, he gets back regularly. As long as Charles fixes himself on the weak points of his superiors, they will also perceive his shortcomings particularly sharply.
It therefore makes sense to pay more attention to the basic attitudes. What are the main patterns that determine his difficulties?
Charles is extremely critical of authorities. He very quickly discovers their weaknesses and mistakes. Then he feels that authority is incapable. In return he experiences himself as superior inwardly. Actually, he would know better or could do better - if only he could. He also lets that be seen through.
He knows for himself that he is often considered arrogant and presumptuous. But that's the way he is, he thinks, and he's right too. Because his judgements are correct, he can prove that with facts.
Such attitudes are very early attitudes towards oneself and the environment. That is why it makes sense to look at childhood. The first authorities in the life of a child are those who raise him, usually the parents. The attitudes towards authorities usually reflect something of the attitude towards the parents. The feelings towards the father are most quickly awakened towards male authorities, and then the mother appears towards female authorities.
Those who often have difficulties with authorities only have to look towards their parents to discover the original feelings of affection, anger, disappointment and fear. This childlike side disturbs a mature relationship with one's superior. In a nutshell: every now and then everyone confuses their boss with their father. It is a basic theme that most people have. The attitude towards superiors with the magnifying glass shows unexplained topics that come from one's own childhood.
Charles describes his childhood as "normal". When he was 20, he moved from home to a distant city, a good decision, he says. "I always come for Christmas so that we can celebrate together. I can stand it there for one day. Then it gets too much for me and I like to go home again".
Only in a detailed conversation it becomes clear that under the normal surface there were great tensions in the family. The father is a good-natured man who had little business success. The mother had originally been quite ambitious. She had hoped for another life together with him and was frustrated by her husband with him. Basically, according to Charles, the mother despised the father. He still remembers ugly scenes from his childhood in which the mother reproached the father.
The only son was the star of her eyes. Already when he was little, she was enthusiastic about him, proud of him and bragging about him to the neighbors. She placed all her hopes in him.
Again, as a fundamental theme of this marriage, we have strong tensions between the parents, into which children are drawn. A child in such a marriage is torn between both parents. And, as a rule, both parents want to pull it by their side. The child loves both, but has the feeling that it has to decide.
This is basically an impossible choice for a child. (If someone has a hard time making decisions in his life, this original insoluble situation is sometimes the background to the difficulties. Every small decision reminds the person again of this topic of childhood.)
Mothers usually have a stronger position towards children than fathers. Children have grown in the mother's womb, then been born by her. This makes for a particularly strong bond. In conflict, the mother regularly finds it easier to pull children to her side, especially when they are still young. During puberty this sometimes turns over and daughters or sons suddenly take their father's side.
Charles shares his mother's views on his father. He sees him with her eyes, which focus on weaknesses and mistakes. At the same time he feels superior to his father. His mother keeps telling him that he is actually better than his father.
Basically, it is the same family dynamics that prevailed with Bill and the alcoholic father in the previous chapter. It is a dynamic that is not so rare at all, but often hidden.
Charles transfers his attitude towards his father to all his superiors. Today he sees his boss as he saw his father in the past: unable and incompetent. And of course his boss feels this assessment and rejection.
It makes sense to Charles. He starts to work on his mindsets and attitudes. The essential prerequisite for his improvement in dealing with superiors is the realization that the company is not his family and the boss is not his father.
Different rules apply in the workplace than in the family. The superior has a certain role and function which he fulfils as best he can. The employee also has a role and function. He must learn to fulfil his role and function better.
Does his tone of voice with the boss correspond to his function? Charles has to admit that sometimes he is not appropriate. He realizes he needs to change his tone. He no longer interferes constantly with a know-it-all attitude. When he makes suggestions for improvement, he waits for a good time. To his own surprise, they are sometimes actually accepted. The assessments he receives from his supervisor improve considerably.
Important facts of family history
In this book facts of the family history play a role again and again. Here is an overview of possible significant events
• General professional
Which professions have been chosen in recent generations?
Voluntarily and willingly or forced by circumstances or people?
Was there someone who had the same or similar profession?
What were the professional successes and failures?
Was there a loss of material existence?
Has anyone been cheated of their inheritance?
Did any complications occur during birth?
Did the mother become ill or suffer permanent damage during childbirth?
Was there a prolonged separation from the mother during the first three years of life? (e.g. hospital stay)
Were there any premature deaths or death births among the siblings?
• Fates in the family in the last three generations
Has anyone been excluded or forgotten? E.g. due to
Are there adoptions?
Was anyone a soldier in the war? In captivity?
Are there flight and expulsion?
Has anyone been guilty of anything? E.g. as murderer or war criminal
Was anyone a victim of crime?
Has anyone emigrated or immigrated?
Are there parents of two nationalities?
Professional Success and the Family Roots
Introduction: Success at work and family are interconnected
You'll succeed if you really want to?
Chapter 1 The self-sabotage of one's own success
About the children's loyalty to their parents
About entanglement with someone who is excluded
Why women have it harder
Solution: Get strength instead of paralysis by the parents!
Chapter 2 Understanding and ending difficulties with authorities
When father issues come in between
When infantile desires cloud the view
About a transgenerational fight against injustice
Solution: What it takes to meet authorities at eye level
Chapter 3 Finding the full power as a leader
Why leadership strength can be missing
About the positive attitude towards people
What the leadership role requires
Notes for Germans: Leadership in Germany and "the leader"
Solution: Accept your parents and find peace and strength in yourself!
Chapter 4 Preventing burn-out - not only in helping professions
On family causes of career choice
About the background of helping
Why helping may be such an effort
About the secret megalomania at work
Solution: Let go of the excessive responsibility at its root!
Chapter 5 What the profession can and cannot give you: About recognition, power and money
About the hunger for recognition
What power protects from
What can money be for
Solution: Give the job what it deserves - no more and no less!
Chapter 6 How to interrupt the tradition of failure or family extends far beyond parents
How “black sheep” are represented
About the born victim
Solution: Belong and yet be independent!
Chapter 7 Leave stress and inner high tension behind and find relaxation!
How childhood memories shape you
How death affects the family and you
How the war still casts its shadows today
About the consequences of early shocks and trauma
Chapter 8 Family businesses - when work and family are interwoven
How family and professional conflicts mix together
When father and company boss are one person
Why handovers are so difficult.
Chapter 9 Overview of the constellation method
Structural constellations or how to make a good decision
Constellations in coaching and individual consulting