My Father's Legacy by Gamora
Family trauma: all of us have it, and yet none of us like to talk about it… unless we’re discussing it at the other end of a couch while wildly gesticulating and using colorful words in front of our overly patient therapists. In all seriousness, everyone deals with their own unique family issues, and it’s pretty much impossible to make it out of childhood without some scars — emotional or otherwise.
At the same time, all of us have a unique and distinct “role” to play within our families. Some of us are the mediators, and it’s our job to calm and bring together everyone after a big fight. Others of us are the fighters, and we make sure our parents or siblings don’t step on us while we pursue our own dreams and passions. And still others of us are more reserved, calm and collected… we’re the “reactionaries,” or the people who can reflect calmly and logically on the actions of our family members without getting sidetracked by emotions.
No matter what your family role is, today’s episode of Character Coaching is dedicated to you. Why? Because our main client — Gamora, daughter of one of the most powerful super-beings in the universe — is also dealing with her own unique family struggles.
Right now, Gamora is doing everything she can to separate herself from her family. She wants to disown her father because she vehemently disagrees with his mission to overthrow and control the entire universe. Makes sense, right? On a less inter-planetary scale, I’m sure a lot of you can relate: I’ll bet many of you have had major disagreements with a family member regarding your political views, religious affiliations, life choices or career decisions…
In situations like these, the question becomes: how do you step out and away from your family’s legacy? Is it possible to have a role in your family without standing in its shadow? Can you comfortably disown certain family members over major disagreements? And are there ways to redefine what family means to you if you don’t like the role you play in yours?
We asked Gamora these questions, and she’s just come back to us with some answers.
Gamora’s first journal entry: my father’s legacy
“Lots of things are inevitable, but one thing is clear. Me being like my father cannot be one of them. Ever since I met Peter, I have seen that there’s good in me, but wherever I go people don’t see me as my own entity, but rather the daughter of the all-powerful. He was in many ways my mentor and role model, but his vision of a better world is to take away so much of what makes it so good. In his pursuit to meet this vision, he causes harm at just the snap of his fingers. It’s evil and it’s not what I want. I am powerful without him: I am a great warrior, a true friend… I’m even starting to recognize myself as a hero…a guardian in this collective. I see conflict coming and I know what side I want to be on, but what can I do to separate myself from that legacy?” — Gamora
First impressions: contrast and compare
An interesting first journal entry from Gamora! My initial takeaway is that Gamora already understands the very valuable coaching concept of “contrast.” What is contrast, you ask? Simple: contrast is when we take something in our life that we don’t like, and we use it to discover and explore all the things we do like instead.
For instance, if you live in the city, and you hate how noisy, crowded and expensive it is, then you can use those factors to understand where you’d rather live. Do you want total silence, no neighbors and an extremely cheap cost of living? Then it’s time to move to the countryside. If you like parts of the city but other parts you dislike, then maybe suburban living is more fitting for you.
In Gamora’s case, she’s using her father to identify what she doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t want to be evil, nor does she want to conquer the universe. Instead she’d rather do the opposite by protecting others and working with a team of amazing colleagues to accomplish interstellar tasks.
You can try this with your own family, if you want. Give it a shot: what qualities or traits frustrate you about your parents or siblings? What irks you about who they are, and why do those things irk you? If those are things you DON’T want more of in your life, what sort of different things DO you want?
Okay. Now, back to our primary client. Despite knowing what she doesn’t want, Gamora still has apprehensions regarding her legacy. How can she put distance between her and her father? And how can she reject the legacy that’s been put out before her?
It’s crucial that we keep asking these questions, even if Gamora’s already answered parts of them. In fact, that’s part of the coaching process — I don’t want to overwhelm any of my clients with endless questions, so sometimes it can help to ask the same questions in multiple ways to get a clearer picture of what my clients are going through.
To get a better idea of what Gamora’s experiencing, I’d like to ask: was there ever a time when she saw eye to eye with her dad? If so, what moment made her step away? And what else can she tell me about her relationship with this Peter figure? How does he factor into the equation?
Let’s put these questions to Gamora and see what she has to say.
- Was there a time when you saw eye to eye with your father? What specific moment or realization made you want to break away from that?
- What’s your relationship like with Peter? Does he see you as “A warrior, a friend…a hero?”
Next: focusing on what grows
“He took me in as an orphan and raised me to join him in his conquest. As a child, impressionable, I worked alongside him…but I saw that I was becoming a part of the harm that he was doing. The hurt and the pain he left in his wake was covered in my fingerprints. I don’t think I ever realized what a waste of my potential that was until I met Peter, Rocket, Drax, Mantis and Groot. Becoming a ‘Guardian’ really changed my perspective on the mission that I want to be a part of. They see differently than anyone else in the galaxy. As someone that I want to be. My past with my father really only comes up when things go wrong, and his influence is something hard to ignore.”
With this second journal entry, we’re really starting to get a wider picture of what Gamora’s going through. We’re learning that her father’s legacy doesn’t necessarily define her; rather, it mostly only comes out when things are going poorly with her newfound friends.
That’s pretty relatable, isn’t it? A lot of us are good at taking steps toward being the people we want to be, but that doesn’t mean our past ever completely goes away. When stress and difficult situations start cropping up, it’s easy to resort to old coping methods in order to deal with them. Make no mistake: having new friends, a better job or a healthier romantic relationship can certainly make you more equipped to deal with the hardships of your life, but again, that doesn’t mean those hardships no longer exist.
For Gamora, it seems like despite her new circumstances, there’s still unresolved turmoil and pain surrounding her relationship with her father. She’s excited to be a Guardian, but she’s upset that part of her work involves undoing what her father does every day.
If you’re currently dealing with a similar situation, you might find that you’re “doing the work” to stay on a good path, but your past is still hard to contend with. Maybe you get depressed or resort to bad habits every time your family enters your life (during holidays, when they’re sick, drop-in visits, the list goes on…).
Or maybe you just end up in an extended “funk” every time your mom or dad calls, because it re-opens old wounds you thought you’d closed. It’s probably pretty frustrating — despite doing everything “right,” there’s still this part of you that’s never going to go away.
For these reasons, I don’t just want to give out hackneyed advice. Instead of recommending what Gamora (or you) should do, I’d rather get an even better understanding of all the tools she has at her disposal to help her reject her father’s legacy.
What are her friends like? What are the perks of being a Guardian? Can she talk to them about these things without feeling judged? And is there anything she can do to take care of her mental space when those dark times do inevitably come up?
We’ll put these questions to Gamora once more, and then we’ll wrap up with a final journal entry.
- There’s this concept called, “What you focus on grows,” which means that what you spend time ruminating on becomes a larger part of your experience. What are some things that you could do to take care of your mental space when your past comes up again? Could you talk with the guardians?
- What does being a Guardian mean to you?
The check-in: from rejection to evolution
“This journaling interface is using some pretty ancient technology. You earthlings have a long way to catch up on that front. But when it comes to getting through to people, I think those like you and Peter share a strange gift that could rival even Mantis’ empath skills.My friend Drax told me it would be helpful to share my thoughts here because it is a space that nurtures honesty. The idea of changing my ‘focus’ is hard but I can see your point. I don’t want to listen to the voices that only know me as my father’s daughter. I can be stronger, better than just that. I am a guardian. That means that I use my strength to help people who need it most…even when it proves to be an ever-growing list. But that is what makes me happy because it allows me to be who I want with the family that I chose. Thank you, human."
This is some big growth for Gamora! In this final journal entry, it seems like she’s come to the realization that while her family legacy will always be a part of who she is, it definitely doesn’t define her. Instead of being an identity to shed, her legacy is just an issue that occasionally needs addressing.
Gamora can’t stop her father from doing what he’s doing, but she also doesn’t have to take the blame for it. Instead of letting a bad legacy take up her entire identity, she’s choosing to focus on other things. Will her family’s bad traits still come up in the future? Of course! But her family also doesn’t have to take the main stage every time they do something bad.
More than that, Gamora knows what she DOES want to be going forward. Instead of putting her energy or attention on her dad, she’s going to put it on being a Guardian (which is… sort of like an interplanetary park ranger… or something?). Having a concrete goal to move toward is going to help Gamora feel far more directed when it comes to putting her energy into something productive.
So, if you’ve been reading between the lines here, here’s what I’ll tell you… if you’re coping with a difficult family member or annoying legacy, the truth is, you’re never going to completely shed that past. It’ll always be a part of you. But it also doesn’t have to be the ONLY part of you.
What you focus on grows, so focusing on all the tools, resources, friendships and connections you have to help you cope with a frustrating family dynamic is extremely crucial to your long-term mental health. Building toward new goals and seeing your family legacy as something to cope with, instead of something to lament, is going to do wonders for your own growth as a person.
Of course, I don’t actually know you… so I can’t give you blanket-style advice like this yet. ;-) If you want truly personalized advice, I’d recommend you sign up with me for an introductory coaching session — and while I’m no Guardian of the Galaxy, I think I’m a pretty decent coach.