Yale University

Sound Off !

Examining Inherited Beliefs

Joe Wishcamper

August 25, 2013

Category: Philosophy and Religion > Belief Systems

I agreed to write this piece about my "spiritual journey" without knowing for sure that I have been on one. Then, looking back at the significant waypoints in my life, I saw that I have traveled a considerable distance in terms of self-discovery, and self-discovery seems to me to be related to spirituality.

As I write this in August 2013, I am sitting at the bedside of my 96-year-old mother as she dies. She grew up in a destitute West Texas migrant family. Her life was hard and unstable.  My father, likewise, was raised on a hardscrabble West Texas farm during the dust bowl and depression. They both carried throughout their lives the self-limiting beliefs and foreboding outlook inherent in people who live in poverty.  Although their circumstances improved later in their lives, the beliefs they developed early in life remained fixed throughout their lives — that life is difficult and generally oppositional.

These were the beliefs I inherited, though I didn't realize it until I was entering my forties when the conflict between those beliefs and the external success I had achieved manifested in a long period of depression and self-doubt.  I went into psychoanalysis and over time did other kinds of therapies and alternative treatments, hoping that I would eventually stumble into a breakthrough.  Instead, what happened was a long process of learning about intergenerational beliefs and the power they have on people (and cultures).  I was fortunate to have the resources and determination to work through my inherited beliefs. As a result, I see myself today in a completely different and positive way, and am able to fully accept and enjoy the blessings of my life.

My story is not so different from that of many others who have overcome backgrounds characterized by some type of self-limiting beliefs.  As the owner of a portfolio of low-income rental-apartment complexes throughout the country, I am currently focusing a large amount of my effort on programs for children at my properties that raise self-esteem and aspirations.

My journey continues, propelled by vehicles that include work, philanthropy, a great marriage, a circle of awake and reflective friends, and a commitment to keep growing in every possible way (except in girth).

I send good wishes to all of you, my classmates, for many new discoveries in your journeys.