Reflection on the Power of Patterns

A sense of shame for having needs of our own can be a powerful intergenerational pattern inherited from our family of origin.  This gender-based story plays out differently for men and women in the workplace and at home.  Here are some observations of what can happen.



Women in the workplace

Generation after generation of women have learned from other women to marginalise their own needs in the domestic environment and in so doing have made themselves invisible and unequal in both their personal and professional relationships.  Where there is a history of female subservience, abnegation and sacrifice, some women find it difficult to identify their emotional and intellectual needs in adult relationships, with their adult-children and in the workplace.  


So, how does this play out in the workplace? In many ways:

  • Women can become dependent on “pleasing” others at work for recognition at the expense of asserting their own position and rights to sit at the table and be heard.  

  • Not being able to say “no” to more work is a common one – when you are already doing more than your fair share you smile and say “yes of course”.

  • There is the experience of not being given the high profile work to do and constantly being relegated to the assistant role and feeling like you deserve it.

  • Over time, some of us become workaholics because the work is not valued in the same way or given the recognition you deserve.

  • Not advocating for yourself by staying emotionally and intellectually mute. We overcompensate by doing more, being more at all times.

  • There is the fear of being seen as “soft” or “aggressive” if you show your feelings one way or another.


How does this play out for men?

Generation after generation of men has learnt through their father’s experience of wars and famine that they need to sacrifice all, even their lives, for others, that their value depends on their ability to protect others no matter what the price to themselves and be the provider. When they fail to live up the masculine expectation of physical strength, being in control of the resources, being able to take action, there are ramifications in the way they are treated by others and how they treat themselves:

  • Men can feel shame for not being the highest earner, for not “knowing” everything, for not being the “fix it man” at all times. 

  • Showing emotions or being capable of relational warmth can be seen as “weak”, unmasculine both in the workplace and at home.

  • Asking to get one’s needs met at work can often be associated with feelings of embarrassment, anger, shame and the request can be met with surprise, even contempt.

  • Putting on a brave face, not being a sissy is inculcated in men from an early age so they may not raise the issue of being bullied or emotionally abused at work.

  • Not getting their emotional needs met or not being given permission to say they are not coping is a factor in suicide in men.
  • Being loud and dominant is viewed as the best way to assert one’s needs without care for the impact on others.


In my work at StartAnew, we can visit the stories we tell ourselves based on intergenerational patterning and how they play out in your current situation.  If you are interested in joining me in mapping the pattern in your significant relationships with others, exploring the power dynamics that have shaped you and the way you think and feel, then book a Discovery call. We can use the exploration of past and present to step into the future with new awareness and new solutions to old problems and issues. 


See you on the other side!


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