Family heirlooms, physical characteristics, legends, names, and even wealth are examples of what you may inherit from your ancestors. Unfortunately, you may also inherit something that you would prefer not to: your ancestors’ trauma. You risk bequeathing your ancestral traumas to your offspring if you do not address transgenerational trauma.
What is trauma? Trauma is a life-threatening or fear-inducing experience that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.
A person’s reaction to trauma may involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror. When someone experiences trauma, the memory of the event can be encoded in their brain as an overwhelming experience that they are unable to process at the time.
Traumatic events do not have to be dramatic or life-threatening experiences. The effects of trauma can range from mild and temporary stress reactions to severe and lasting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects of trauma are often more severe in these circumstances:
- The traumatic event is life-threatening or witnessed by the child.
- There is prolonged exposure to traumatic events.
- The child is isolated after the event.
- There is a lack of parental support and nurturing following the event.
- The child has no opportunity for recovery after traumatic events.
Children who experience these types of traumas are more likely than others to develop chronic health problems, including asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders, diabetes mellitus type II, and obesity.
In addition, children who experience trauma may develop learning difficulties or behavioral problems such as aggression towards other people, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder e.g., noncompliance with adults, anxiety disorders, and depression.
Community trauma is as real as individual trauma. In addition to assault, there are too many instances in which cultural and ethnic groups have suffered community trauma throughout history.
Even in the United States, you can probably recall the enslavement of human beings, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the genocide of indigenous peoples, and more.
Traumatic events may be passed down from one generation to the next as an unwanted legacy, according to experts. Memories and accounts of the incident itself may be part of this unwanted legacy, as well as the more subtle and insidious ramifications it had on the individual and his family.
Also note that, when a single individual rather than the entire family or community experiences a traumatic event, generational trauma may occur. For instance, if a woman is sexually assaulted, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren might continue to feel and live through the ordeal long after she is gone. Even if she doesn’t realize she’s passing down trauma to her descendants, generational trauma may manifest in unexpected ways.
You have the power to heal transgenerational trauma in your family. The first step in healing epigenetic trauma is to identify the traumas in your family. There are many questions you can ask yourself and your relatives about what has happened throughout your family history.
Once you have identified a trauma, you must grieve it. You can do this by writing a letter to that person or situation that caused the trauma as if you could talk to them today. This will allow you to explore your feelings about what happened and release any negative emotions associated with it.
Next, work on forgiving those who harmed you or caused the traumatic situation if they are still living. If they are dead, forgive them anyway. You can never change the past, but forgiving those who hurt you will help clear away anger and resentment so that you can move forward with your life.
Finally, seek therapy for the trauma. You shouldn’t have to internalize your feelings and face your pain alone. An experienced trauma therapist can help you on the road to recovery.
Generational trauma is painful, but the cycle can cease with you. Work on healing the trauma within your family to benefit your future familial generations.