Generational trauma happens when psychological and emotional damage caused by experiences of traumatic events is passed from one generation to the next. If you’re researching generational trauma, you’re likely gripped in a painful family dynamic that feels inescapable. I’ve experienced this pain and I want you to know, you’re not alone.
Generational trauma is passed down by many generations, and the initial cause is often difficult to pinpoint. Trauma caused by war, genocide, slavery, forced displacement, and cultural oppression may manifest in various ways, and this can lead to toxic behavior within relationships.
Why does generational trauma go unresolved?
Generational trauma can go unresolved for several reasons. One reason is that it can be difficult for individuals and communities to acknowledge and address the trauma that they have experienced. This can be due to stigma, shame, and a lack of understanding or support.
Trauma can also become deeply ingrained in a community’s cultural and social fabric and may be passed down through intergenerational behavior and communication patterns. This can make it challenging to break the cycle of trauma and create positive change.
I grew up in a family where alcohol abuse and bullying were commonplace. As a matter of fact, in the close-knit community where I grew up, every family was just like ours.
When I began breaking the trauma cycle, it meant withdrawing from family and community, making the isolation painful. You may already notice that some patterns causing the most pain are deeply ingrained in your family and community.
How do I know if I’m experiencing generational trauma?
It can be challenging to recognize and acknowledge generational trauma. It can manifest in subtle and indirect ways.
Here are some signs that you may be experiencing generational trauma:
- You have persistent sadness, anxiety, or fear without a clear trigger, especially around family.
- You have difficulty trusting others, forming close relationships, or maintaining a sense of belonging.
- You feel disconnected from your cultural heritage or have a conflicted relationship with your family or community’s history.
- You experience unexplained physical symptoms, such as chronic pain or headaches.
- You have a history of substance abuse, self-harm, or other destructive behaviors.
What does it mean to break generational trauma?
Breaking generational trauma means stopping the perpetuation of harmful patterns of behavior or beliefs passed down through generations, whether it’s experiences of trauma, abuse, neglect, or other forms of adversity.
By recognizing toxic behavior patterns, you can reflect on your own experiences and those of your family members and consider how these experiences have impacted your behavior, relationships, and beliefs. Once you can identify patterns of generational trauma, you can make an effort to change them. This can involve a variety of approaches, including seeking professional help, engaging in self-care practices, and building new, healthier patterns of behavior and beliefs.
The first step in breaking generational trauma is recognizing its existence and how it manifests in your life.
How can I break generational trauma?
Breaking generational trauma is a complex and challenging process. While their is no one size fits all solution, here are some steps you can begin breaking generational trauma.
- Acknowledge the trauma: Often, we don’t want to accept that we’ve experienced trauma. The first step to healing is acknowledging that you’ve experienced great pain.
- Seek support: Connect with others who have experienced generational trauma, and seek support from mental health professionals, community groups, or cultural organizations. This can provide you with tools and resources to address the impact of trauma on your life.
- Have grace with yourself: Breaking generational trauma patterns can feel lonely, painful, and scary. There is no manual, and you will question yourself often. Have grace as you navigate the path to breaking patterns.
- Practice self-care: Take care of your physical and emotional health and participate in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. This can help you build resilience and develop a sense of empowerment.
- Find trauma-informed care: Unfortunately, trauma-informed care is challenging to find. Don’t assume your provider, therapist, or doctor is trauma-informed.
Building resiliency from trauma
While trauma isn’t something anyone wants to experience, it can create incredible resilience. You can feel happier and healthier by embracing a healing journey and learning to build better habits.
Here are a few potential ways trauma can build resilience:
- Building coping skills: Surviving a traumatic event can require developing new coping mechanisms and problem-solving strategies. These skills can be helpful in future challenges and adversities, making the individual more resilient.
- Developing a sense of purpose: Trauma can lead you to reevaluate your priorities and goals and to develop a greater sense of purpose or meaning in your life. This can contribute to resilience by providing motivation and a sense of direction.
- Strengthening relationships: Trauma can bring people together who have shared experiences and are working collectively to heal. This creates opportunities for social support and connection. Strong relationships and support networks can help you weather future challenges.
- Cultivating a sense of gratitude: Surviving trauma can lead you to develop a greater appreciation for life and a sense of gratitude for what you have. This can contribute to resilience by fostering a positive outlook and a more remarkable ability to find joy and meaning in difficult circumstances.
It is important to note that trauma is complex, and not all individuals who experience trauma will develop resilience in these ways. The impact of trauma can vary widely depending on individual circumstances, and the process of healing and recovery can take time and require support.