Intergenerational trauma aka Ancestral trauma. In my style of understanding and working through trauma, I believe it’s important to also consider the multigenerational process of passed down pain, patterns, attachment, ways of resolving/avoiding conflict. It’s important to consider how complex trauma has been experienced throughout the generations.
Parents that have been abusive to their children were typically exposed to abuse as children themselves—and without proper healing and insight, have continued the cycle. Then we have adults that carry a heaviness in their hearts but haven’t necessarily experienced a moment they would define as traumatic—but feel themselves empty. In these situations, I think it might be helpful to explore family histories and reflect on any unresolved pain weaved into their genetic predisposition.
Ancestral trauma is passed down through- 1. Genetics, 2. Epigenetics, 3. Attachment Trauma. When genetics are considered, there’s a possible mutation, change in DNA. Epigenetics- considers that while we are in our parent’s womb, we are being affected by their life experiences. It is said that a child of a mother with PTSD has a higher chance to also develop PTSD, and a child of a father with PTSD has a higher chance of developing depression—due to epigenetics—a chemical interference in genomes that prevents certain genes from being expressed.
Then there’s attachment trauma. I witness this most often. Our first 9 years of life are our very formative years—first 3 years really set the tone for attachment. Feeling neglected, not chosen, abused or shamed by parents can create insecure attachment that is disorganized, anxious, avoidant. This then affects how we relate to others real time. We carry our inner wounding and hurt others sometimes, and we journey through life perceiving threats with a heightened SNS. We need to feel safe and securely attached to ONE person to help us build our sense of selves and how we relate to the world. If we trace our relatives 2 to 3 generations back, it can be helpful to explore how patterns of communication, anxiety, depression, dis-ease, parenting, violence, learned helplessness, are all passed down. Naturally, if our parents’ parents were abused or parented a certain way, the cycle, emotions, struggles will continue until there is recognition, conscious awareness of unhealthy patterns and a desire to actively shift. Healing ourselves heals our ancestors—and that is the absolute greatest gift to bring to ourselves and families.
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