Through inner work, exploration, and meditation, we can come to understand the traumas we’ve experienced, the coping mechanisms we’ve developed to deal with such traumas, and how well those coping mechanisms are serving us.
But what happens when those traumas aren’t our own, but passed down from our ancestors?
That’s generational trauma.
As a life coach for manifestation in Toronto, I spend a lot of time talking about how to manifest the life of your dreams.
And in many ways, it’s a beautiful process to watch unfold.
I love to watch my clients go from hurt, lonely, and isolated to people who’ve manifested the relationship of their dreams.
Or from self deprecating, self defeating, and anxiety ridden to people with a powerful, confident mindset – life coaching can do that too.
But the process of understanding what your dream life actually looks like and then manifesting it isn’t always as neat and tidy as it may seem on the surface.
Sometimes, it’s necessary to dig into things we’ve tried to ignore for many years – based in guilt, shame, grief, anxiety, fear, and other low vibrational emotions.
This process isn’t always easy, but the good news is that when you come out the other end, you’ll find yourself stronger, healthier, more confident, and better able to handle the inherent uncertainty life throws your way.
This article will be heavier than the usual material you find on this blog, so consider this your content warning – we’re dealing with some messier stuff this time.
It’s not a bad thing to address such themes – quite the opposite! – but it’s important to make sure you’re in an emotional state where you’re prepared to read about such things.
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at intergenerational trauma – what it is, how it happens, and how you can work through it.
What Is Intergenerational Trauma?
Intergenerational trauma, sometimes called transgenerational trauma, is a type of trauma that gets passed down from generation to generation, like a family heirloom.
The concept was originally coined to describe the type of trauma descendants of historical atrocities contend with – like Native American genocide, African American slavery, or the Holocaust.
However, there’s more to it beyond those more extreme examples, and nobody is truly immune to it.
A parent who experienced trauma may, for example, cope with said traumas through substance abuse.
This can leave their child more prone to poverty, abuse, neglect, and other traumas – that’s intergenerational trauma.
Or they may cope through dissociation, withdrawing emotionally and socially, which leaves their child starved for affection and attention, as well as a fear of abandonment.
This too is intergenerational trauma.
These traumas can be passed down in many different ways – physiologically, socially, and environmentally.
A couple months back, we talked about the difference between scarcity mindset and abundance mindset.
In that article, we took a look at a 2019 study that explored how poverty affects the decisions people make.
The study found that people who experienced scarcity as children were more likely to make impulsive decisions to their later detriment.
We’re talking things like eating more junk food, having irresponsible spending habits, or taking out high interest loans.
This is an example of how intergenerational trauma can be passed down environmentally.
Regardless of how it’s passed down, however, it can manifest itself in many different ways.
How To Recognize If You Have Intergenerational Trauma
In some cases, it’s difficult to know if you have intergenerational trauma.
This is partially because we sometimes don’t recognize what we experienced as traumatic.
This can sometimes come from the media portraying trauma in very specific ways – physical violence or verbal abuse – but it can also be a coping mechanism to help us deal with our experiences.
However, if you do have intergenerational trauma, it may be at the root of many different symptoms, including:
- Trust issues
- Anger issues
- Intimacy issues
- Issues with poor communication
- Social isolation
- Memory loss
- Substance abuse
- Persistent feelings of grief
- Persistent fearfulness
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty at work or school
What To Do About Intergenerational Trauma
All that said, there is hope.
Breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma is possible.
You don’t have to pass that trauma on to your own children.
Here are a few ways to explore, process, and work through your intergenerational trauma.
1. First, Recognize That It’s Not Your Fault
Your wound is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility – Denice Frohman
We often make the connection between fault and responsibility in our lives.
This is instilled in us from a young age – my parents used to tell me “you made the mess, so you clean it up”.
If you’re in a traffic accident and it’s your fault, you (and your insurance) are the one who’s going to foot the bill for it.
This even happens in the simplest of daily human interactions – if you bump someone while walking by, it’s your responsibility to say sorry, and if you knock their coffee out of their hands, it’s expected from you to buy them a new cup.
In most cases, this is a good thing – when you hurt someone, it’s good and right to do what you can to rectify that.
But it can become a problem when you take this idea and extend it to intergenerational trauma.
The traumas that your parents, that your grandparents, that your ancestors even further back faced, and passed on to you, aren’t your fault.
But it’s still your responsibility.
We all have the power to take control of our lives.
We all have the power to embrace healing.
We all have the ability to manifest the life of our dreams.
That idea is often wrapped up in ideas of what we want our life to look like – manifest that car, manifest that house, manifest that healthy lifestyle, those clothes, those vacations, that partner.
But it’s just as important to recognize that manifesting the life of your dreams is about the inner peace, emotional satisfaction and joy.
And while it’s not your fault that you’ve inherited such traumas, it’s still your responsibility to heal them for you so you can manifest the life of your dreams.
Moreover, when you heal yourself, you heal generations before and after you.
Acknowledging this can free you from the guilt, shame, and stress that comes with wondering why you respond the way you do to things.
There’s nothing wrong with you – you’ve just built coping mechanisms around your intergenerational trauma.
Working through those coping mechanisms to understand where they come from and whether they’re still serving your best interest will help you move past your intergenerational trauma and toward the life of your dreams.
2. Recognize That It’s Not Your Parents’ Fault Either
Just as it wasn’t your fault, it’s not your parents’ fault either.
The trauma they experienced wasn’t, for sure, but neither was the way they passed it on to you.
With very, very few exceptions, all parents do the best they can with the knowledge and the abilities they have.
Your parents didn’t mean to pass their trauma on to you.
Like anybody, they’re deeply imperfect, traumatized themselves, and doing their best to make it through this wild journey called life.
If so, it may be related to the trauma of poverty they experienced as children – they wanted better for you than what they had.
If so, they may have had guilt used on them, and haven’t processed the feelings that come along with it.
Taking the time – and the space – to learn how to forgive your parents for the intergenerational trauma you inherited from them is an important step in healing from it.
3. Talk To Your Parents If You Can
If you’re fortunate enough to still have your parents around, and you’re on good terms with them, consider talking to them about what they experienced and how they dealt with it.
Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Asking someone to relive their trauma can be a tall order, especially considering that your parents may have been raised in a cultural environment that discouraged discussing such things.
But gaining a better understanding of what your parents experienced, and how they managed to work through it, can help give you greater insight into how to understand your own trauma.
Even better, it can help you understand the roots of your own trauma – since it’s not always a one to one transfer of trauma from one generation to another.
In some cases, it is – a 2013 study shows that being abused as a child makes abusing one’s own children more likely.
But in other cases, the connection can be a little messier.
For example, perhaps your parent turned to alcohol to deal with what happened to them.
For you, that may manifest itself in an environment where you felt neglected, or that you needed to grow up very quickly in order to provide the care for yourself your parent wasn’t able to provide.
This may be significantly different from the traumatic event that affected your parent, but it’s intergenerational trauma all the same.
Recognizing their trauma, and how it has influenced your own, can help you to recognize all the myriad ways in which your trauma affects you – perhaps without even realizing it.
Connect With Evelina To Book Your Appointment Today
The traumas we carry with us from the past can weigh us down, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Part of the process of getting clear on what the life of your dreams actually looks like is to get clear on where you currently are, and where you want to be.
The universe has great things in store for you, for me, for all of us, and it’s within our grasp.
But without a clear idea of what we want our life to look like – and what we want it to NOT look like – our traumas and life’s various circumstances can take over.
Are you struggling to manifest the life of your dreams?
Do you feel like you’re stuck in the past, stuck in your current circumstances?
If so, I’m Evelina Hovich, and I can help.
Book your appointment with me today, and let’s take the first step toward the life you’ve always dreamed of.
You deserve it, you’re worthy of it, and it’s there for you, waiting.