Patricia’s Blog
Learn To Track Your Family's Unresolved Ancestral Emotional Trauma & Wounds

The year 2015 is drawing to a close and with closure comes the potential for new doors of opportunity to open. I wish you all greater emotional depth in your lives in 2016 and enlightening adventures into your own family systems.

Recently, in my doctoral program, I was asked to reflect on my position on the following two questions:

To what extent do you believe that we as humans are determined by our environment? (Determinism)


To what extent do you believe that we have ‘free will’ and can therefore shape our own world and our future? (Voluntarism or Agency)

Each of us will have a different perspective on determinism and free will and its relation to agency.  They are interesting concepts for each of us to ponder. In the past I have written on the topics of agency, living in agency, and stop living in agency. Agency is a complex concept that carries a negative connotation for some and a more positive one for others.  It can be used in a number of ways. In my work with clients, living in agency with others is frequently felt in the body as energy deadening. When we are in agency with others we consciously or unconsciously make the interests, needs, and wants of others a priority in our life at the expense of our own wellbeing. Sometimes we feel underlying obligation, duty, or guilt that drives this behaviour. Many frontline workers who go to work every day to help others need to be aware of whether they are in agency with those they help, or not, in order to maintain wellbeing. Learning to have a healthy energy boundary with others is an important part of stepping out of agency. Choosing to step out of agency with others tends to be important in stepping out of client or patient entanglement, co-dependency, or family energetic emotional entanglements, shifting unhealthy relationships into healthy relationships.

In the question on determinism above, I feel it is important to clarify the meaning of “our environment.” For me, the environment includes anything that I have filtered and interpreted from anywhere in the universe and brought into my world, consciously or unconsciously.

Definition of free will


  1. the apparent human ability to make choices that are not externally determined
  2. the doctrine that such human freedom of choice is not illusory
  3. (as modifier): a free-will decision
  4. the ability to make a choice without coercion: he left of his own free will: I did not influence him

Reference: Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged© HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.

Impact of Birth

I am impacted by the circumstances of my birth, my parents, siblings, and ancestral family system. This suggests determination. I am impacted by the fact of being born into the country of Canada along a provincial border, with a particular set of ancestral origins that trail from five European nations, and also born into a particular religious faith, which fortunately was very open and inclusive in comparison to some other faith groups. I am impacted by the fact of being born into the body I occupy and the conditions it has show up over time. I acknowledge that I am impacted by my genetic and epigenetic inheritances. I am impacted by the unresolved transgenerational trauma that flows through my family system setting up emotional response patterns and strategies that seem to return in cycles until I intentionally take the time to shift something in my way of being. Over a lifetime I have filled my unconscious with information that has been scooped up from my environment and I know this information that is stored deep within me does routinely impact my life in many ways. I have no idea when other pieces of the puzzle will arise from the depths of my unconscious wishing to be addressed. This does not support the idea of free will as many think about it.

Impact of Natural World

I am impacted by the natural world that surrounds me. I am impacted by the weather and climate change and make decisions on what I am going to wear in relation to the weather and I decide whether I’m going out or staying home. I consider how I am impacting others on the other side of the world with my environmental behaviour and footprint. I decide whether I participate in environmental protective behaviours in my life such as recycling, composting, or reusing.

Impact of Greater Systems

I am impacted by all the greater systems within which I live such as my community and what happens around me. For example, last year my community decided to replace all the underground pipes in my neighbourhood and the roadway in front of my house was blocked from use because it was dug up for three months and I had to drive down a series of back lanes during that time if I wanted to reach my home or go anywhere. My life is continually impacted by city events, rules, laws, and regulations. I am not free to be as noisy as I like in my backyard. I am not free to let the weeds in my yard grow long. I am required to shovel snow off my sidewalks in the winter. I am impacted by other city situations such as rush hour and I do my best to make other choices to avoid the busiest times of rush hour, however, sometimes the choice is to stay home or face the traffic. I live within a large body of laws and regulations that govern my life nationally, provincially, and municipally. These circumstances do not support the concept of free will.

Definition of determinism:

  1. (Philosophy) Also called: necessitarianism – the philosophical doctrine that all events including human actions and choices are fully determined by preceding events and states of affairs, and so that freedom of choice is illusory
  2. (Philosophy) the scientific doctrine that all occurrences in nature take place in accordance with natural laws

Reference: Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged© HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.


Along with determination, pre-determination needs to be considered. I believe that I came into this world with some greater goal I wish to achieve before I journey to the other side. Something has to account for all the deep inner needs, drives, and fears that I discovered inside me that kept me resilient and surviving, holding me back from living life fully and really thriving. I am quite certain that many of the key individuals that crossed my path in this life were not by choice but rather by pre-determination. I can also consider the major events that have happened in my life and I am quite certain that many of them were pre-determined in some way – perhaps not in exact terms, however, they arrived so that learning could occur to advance my spiritual and emotional development and growth. I believe we are connected to a greater collective soul if you will, a greater body of knowledge and a greater body of energy that guides us in this lifetime and supports us whether we are open to it or not. Pre-determination does not support the belief in free will.

Determinism & Choice

Having said all that, with much determined in our lives, I do believe we always have a choice as to how we respond to the events, situations, people, circumstances, and the natural world that comes determined. I can select Plan A and go in one direction or Plan B and go in another direction. Either path will take me where I need to be, however, one might take a little longer than the other to get to where I am going. I believe that going off on tangents is all part of our journey. Detours should not be considered mistakes but rather opportunities to learn.

I also have the ability to intentionally shift things in my world if I am not happy or content with them. That is the work I co-create with my clients, intentionally opening space for a shift to occur in their world through new insight or a new inner image, and then they can radiate their inner light more fully out into the world. A great amount of that intention means addressing the emotional issues that were created unconsciously in the womb, at birth, and/or in early childhood when we lived pre-verbal and within the emotional world of our mother and others, influenced by their wellbeing or lack thereof.

I intentionally had to shift the emotional fallout of adult trauma that came my way, consciously and unconsciously, and much of that was passed down as transgenerational emotional inheritance. The level of individuation that an individual achieves by the end of childhood, that healthy sense of self when separate from others, will carry into adulthood, and it will impact our ability to exercise agency in relationship with others. I don’t believe that agency comes with age but rather with the extent to which one has intentionally turned inward and taken action to address the many layers of emotional issues that are suppressed within the unconscious that drive thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, actions, and decision-making, and generally keeping one from having “free will” or exercising agency.  I believe free will is an illusion that we tell ourselves to appease our ego and to feel safe and in control of life. I believe that choice and free will are different. I believe that choice tends to be underpinned by determinism and all that impacts our world, however, I do believe I have the ability to change or transform my world so that I can live fully and connect to that aspect of existence that I came to experience through life on this planet.

Determinism in relation with free will and agency is a fascinating concept for all of us to contemplate. Sometimes we have a very definite feeling about this topic, and for others, there is a sense of the unknown. Is it an either/or answer or is it a combination of both? I sense that there is a relationship between determinism and agency/free will that is different for each of us.

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