Today’s blog post features a short excerpt from episode #6 of the What Drives You? podcast. In this episode, Tolly and I discussed several stories inspired by my years of experience as a therapist. These client stories, although all names and details have been changed, bring the “family car” metaphor to light in new ways. In this episode, we’ll see how our family of origin experiences impact our relationships and into adulthood and throughout our lives.
Who Am I Now?
Ellen: For me, the whole point of understanding the car is to help us understand why people do what they do as adults. I primarily work in my counseling practice with adults, and I often wonder how someone developed particular behaviors or ways of managing situations.
And that got me thinking about their “family car.” And so, the car metaphor has allowed me to help people understand that the ways they think, behave, and communicate and the ways that they experience life now are directly related to what they learned within the context of the many cars of their life. And I’m speaking primarily of the car they were in when they were 10 years of age or under.
Now, for some people, they felt like they didn’t really even have a car. They may have moved from place to place, having to develop their roles and their sense of themselves without the structure of a car. And so I like to help them understand that even “no car” is sort of a car experience. Then, life gives us a frame for which to decide who we are and then act.
Tolly: Today, you’re going to be sharing stories from your years of experience as a therapist—stories that bring the car metaphor to life. These stories are amalgamations of different experiences and characteristics of clients you’ve worked with and you have changed all of the names, right?
Ellen: Yes, and in these experiences, my role is to be the person that says, “Oh, I get it, and I bet that’s where you learned this way of thinking or relating.” And for adults that I work with who have created their own cars with children in them, I also speak in that same very compassionate way. I might say, “I wonder how your child might be making sense of what’s going on around them.”
We can approach it with curiosity. We can ask how this particular dynamic might have happened, knowing that bringing awareness and understanding to our past makes our experiences today so much easier to comprehend. And when we can comprehend it, we can simply be more aware and notice, “Oh, that’s there . . . I am reacting that way again.”
For all of the people that I’ve worked with and use the family car analogy, it’s always brought a sense of relief and understanding. It’s never been about having to carry the burden of something that they find to be negative about their past.
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Topics included in this podcast:
Family systems, Family therapy, only children, divorce, blended families, family of origin, sociology, psychotherapy, counseling, therapy, family healing, generational healing, family dynamics