In a recent breakfast conversation with a dear friend, we visited about the most constant messages we each received as kids. And how those messages still influence your thinking and behavior – even if you have reached a higher level of awareness. 

We know that social conditioning creates permanent grooves in our neuropathways. And the more intense the conditioning (such as trauma or violence), the deeper the grooves. Epigenetics shows these family-oriented social conditionings can be carried in the DNA to the next generation. 

While the above is more associated with experiences, messages are the words we hear – spoken or unspoken. They become the norms and framings for what I call the 5 Relationships:

  1. God/religion (belief, non-belief, agnostic)
  2. Money/career
  3. Health/well-being
  4. Education/knowledge
  5. Sex/intimacy

These five areas (and I’m certain there are more) become relationships that influence every area of our journey through the continuum of adulthood. They also frame our actual relationships – who we partner with, who we befriend, how we raise kids, etc. 

Phrased as a thought-provoking question (TPQ), it would be …

What messages did you most constantly receive as a child? 

For me, these are some of the messages I received:

  • “Get to work.” Work ethic, quality of work, ability to work were all a premium in my family. This still influences me today; causing work to be at the top of my attention hierarchy.

  • “Manage your emotions.” In my family, the message was women are expressive with their emotions and men are not. Further, there are emotions that are acceptable and unacceptable for men.

  • “Something is wrong with me.” This one is the closest to a trauma-based message because I received much of this message through experience. Over the years, it became a voice in my head, especially after failure and conflict. 

I texted my sons, Logan (27) and Caden (21) the same question. With their permission, I’m sharing their responses. 


Seek truth, question everything, love openly, whatever you do be the best at it, there’s humor in everything


Do what you love, don’t be an asshole, Stand up for what you believe, question everything 

After a good cry of both relief and gratitude, I realized their responses were the fruit of a very intentional early strategy their mother and I had to impart the best messages we received and consciously eliminate the negative ones. 

The messages we received, we received. Either positive or negative, our choice is how we let them direct our lives. Therapy and inner work don’t eliminate the negative ones – it just helps us frame them properly. And effort and ability don’t guarantee the positive ones will bear results.


If you’re feeling brave, I would love to hear your answer to the question by commenting below.

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