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Intergenerational Trauma vs. Historical Trauma. The Imminent Fight Of Our Generation!

Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits. Trauma in people looks like culture. ~ Resmaa Menakem

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I am driven by the topic of trauma. Initially because of my own complex trauma which has led me to dig deeper and learn more about the different types of trauma, their potential causes, and how they are healed. Recently, I have been studying Intergenerational Trauma and it’s effects on cultures, families as well as individual personalities. As I was digging up information and examples suddenly, something struck me so deeply that I stopped in my tracks. Here I was researching intergenerational trauma meanwhile, in this exact moment, we are living, creating, and forming trauma that will live on for generations on a global level. This is Historical Trauma.

What Is Intergenerational Trauma?

Intergenerational trauma is a result of untreated trauma that is passed down to children. The trauma is passed down through the parent-child attachment bond and the messaging that is passed on is absorbed by the child as a way of life, his/her personality develops based on it as well as life-long belief systems about the self, the world, safety, loss, and even danger.

Molly S. Castelloe, Ph.D. and author of “The Me in We” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-me-in-we wrote an article in Psychology Today that explains it quite well. She states: “The emotional ties between child and ancestors are essential to the development of our values. These bonds often determine the answers to myriad questions such as: “Who am I?” “Who am I to my family?” “Who can ‘we’ trust” and who are our enemies?” “What ties me to my family?” And, most importantly, “of these ties, which do I reject and which do I keep?” (Barri Belnap, 127)

Furthermore, she dives into how we can possibly even begin to heal from it. She goes on to say “How does one discharge this mission? It is a precarious terrain of finding one’s way through a web of familial loyalties to which one has been intensely faithful. The working through of transmission entails a painful, seemingly unbearable, process of separation. It can become an identity crisis, the breaking of an emotional chain. As Fromm puts it, “something life-defining and deeply intimate is over.” The child speaks what their parent could not. He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized if unconsciously, to carry their parents’ injury into the future. In rising above the remnants of one’s ancestors’ trauma, one helps to heal future generations.”

Historical Trauma Explained

If children already carry generational trauma passed down by their parents, grandparents, and so on, – much of which I am going to assume has gone untreated – how are they going to carry this enormous burden the pandemic has triggered? Adding historical trauma to generational trauma enhances the ability of the beast. Generation stress just added generation loss and generation fear to their portfolio. Historical trauma is certainly not new however, it has always been centered around a particular culture. To name a few, the historical trauma faced by Blacks as a result of slavery continues to be embedded within the community today. Another example is the Holocaust which inflicted deep wounds within the Jewish community and continues to serve as a constant reminder of the torture and acts of evil committed against their people very vividly. Furthermore, the trauma and unending despair faced by Natives in their communities continue to this very day. This is a type of historical trauma that has never been felt before. Yes, the Spanish flu of 1918 affected the entire world but, people of those days did not have the ability to see what was happening across the world. Yes, WWI and WWII affected the entire world but in very different ways depending on where you lived. This Pandemic has affected the entire planet earth in ways that six months ago would have been unfathomable to most of us.

How Do We Heal Before We Break Down

Healing can take many different forms. Through my own personal trauma healing process, I have taken part in several different styles of treatment. Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Talk Therapy. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and I’m sure there is more I have blocked out of my mind. I do not believe there is a cookie-cutter treatment that works for everyone and, I also strongly believe that the relationship between the patient and treating practitioner determines the success or failure of the treatment.

The issues being faced collectively need to be identified as soon as possible in order to ensure they do not become embedded in our genetic code. Think of the Fight, Flight, or Freeze mode. Among other things, this is something that has been embedded into our genetic code from our ancestors and we continue to use it today albeit, not in the way it was intended. Having a bigger issue on our hands, as parents, it is our job to identify the trauma caused by this pandemic both in ourselves and in our children and to work towards healing and diffusing it’s power now. As Castelloe states above, it requires understanding that the coping mechanisms we have had to acquire will no longer be needed when the pandemic is over. Which ties do we need and which ties do we reject. We must not carry the burden of these times with us, we must not allow this time to change our way of being forever. I’ve watched my children afraid to kiss and hug my mother. I myself have sat stiffly in line at the grocery store extra vigilant about each person around me. Suspicious of each person and their recent whereabouts. I’ve wiped down groceries until my fingers were dry from the alcohol in fear of catching something all the while my children watching me confused. We cannot allow this to continue. It’s time we act logically and put our mental health above anything else. For the remnants of the physical disease will soon die off but the residue of the emotional distress has the potential to carry on for eternity.

With All My Love….Eleni xoxoxo

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