Generational trauma is the effect of stressful events that have been passed from one generation to the next, usually from parent to child. The stress of trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and behavioral problems in the children and can cause them to repeat the cycle of abuse with their own kids down the road.
Here’s how you can overcome generational trauma so you don’t pass it on to your own children.
To grasp how intergenerational trauma works, it helps to think about being in a room with lots of mirrors. As you look at yourself, you may feel good about what you see. In fact, your self-worth may hinge on your appearance—whether it’s about looking beautiful or feeling powerful or both. But if you turn around to look at all those mirrors again, what do you see?
You see a room full of people who don’t look like they feel as good as they should.
They’re not happy; they have problems; they have low self-esteem. Maybe even worse: maybe they have no idea that there is something wrong with them, because everyone else looks just like them! This is intergenerational trauma. It happens when one generation passes its suffering down to another generation, which then passes its suffering down to yet another generation...and so on and so forth until someone decides that enough is enough.
If you are part of an intergenerational cycle of trauma, then here’s some good news: you can break free from it. And guess what? Breaking free from generational trauma doesn’t require any special skills or abilities; anyone can learn how to overcome it. What follows are some basic steps for breaking free from generational trauma...
Why Do We Experience Intergenerational Trauma?
There are several reasons why one generation will experience pain that gets handed down to their children. Often, it’s because they don’t know how to handle their feelings, so they take them out on their children. We have worked with many people in therapy who have experienced things like verbal abuse or even physical abuse, only to turn around and pass that type of behavior along to their own children.
But generational trauma can also be caused by things such as neglect, abandonment, or even poverty. When we feel unsafe in our environment and don’t get what we need from our caregivers when we need it, there is a good chance that we won’t be able to develop healthy coping skills for dealing with stressors later on in life. As a result, some of us may find ourselves turning to unhealthy behaviors (like substance use) as adults when faced with difficult situations.
Identifying Traumatic Events
The first step to overcoming generational trauma is to identify whether you or someone in your family have experienced any traumatic events. These events could include war, famine, poverty, loss of a loved one or natural disasters. There are many different types of traumas that can impact how we view ourselves and others; it’s important to reflect on some of your experiences to determine whether they may be examples of these kinds of situations.
If you think you might be experiencing generational trauma, ask yourself: Have I ever been hungry? Do I feel like my life was threatened? Have I lost anyone close to me? If so, then these situations may have impacted how you see yourself as an individual.
However, if you answered no to all of these questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t affected by generational trauma—it just means that you haven’t had those particular experiences yet. Either way, if you believe there is a chance that your family has faced difficult circumstances in their past, then there is something for you to learn about yourself through exploring what happened.
There are ways to break it
Many people who suffer from generational trauma don't know that they have it, and may not even be aware of what it is. To break the cycle, one must first identify that a problem exists. One of the best ways to do this is by talking about your experiences with someone who knows what you're going through.
Talking about your experiences can help you feel validated and understood, which may lead you to feeling less alone in your struggle. It also helps others understand your unique situation and gives them an opportunity to offer helpful suggestions on how you might overcome the trauma or heal yourself.
It's important to find someone who is willing to listen without judgment or blame. These conversations should happen face-to-face whenever possible, as it's easier for both parties to see body language cues such as anger or frustration when speaking directly.
Generational trauma is not something that you can simply get over. You need to take time and work at it, like any other long-term goal.
Talk about your feelings and experiences with people who care about you. If you're not sure how, try meeting with a therapist or joining a support group. Practice different ways of managing stress, like meditation or yoga. Take care of your physical health by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.
Our choices are powerful. You can choose to let generational trauma be your fate, or you can choose to break the cycle. The choice is yours. It’s not easy and it’s not quick but there is hope for you. And for your children and grandchildren too!
If you struggle with this issue, it’s important to see a therapist. They will help you create an effective treatment plan to manage your symptoms. If you’re still not sold, we offer a Free Consultation to match you with the right therapist. Call us today!