Before jumping into generational trauma, let’s address the definition of “trauma”. Trauma is an experience that occurs in an individual’s life that causes mental, physical, and/or emotional harm. It can be a disturbance to the individual’s life and cause one to feel a lack of control over the situation. In the mental health setting, trauma can be considered a “big T” trauma or “little t” trauma. For instance, a death of a family member would be considered a “big T” trauma and something like emotional abuse would be considered a “little t” trauma. Some people may experience multiple “little t” traumas, others may experience one “big T” trauma, and some may experience a mixture of the two. Nonetheless, both forms of trauma are valid in the way they impact an individual’s emotions, mental state, and overall well-being. A few other causes of trauma can be severe illness or injury, sexual or physical abuse, natural disasters, loss of financial income, etc. “Big T” traumas are usually life-threatening and/or associated with PTSD. These cause serious distress to the individual; and while “little t” traumas are not required to meet PTSD criteria, evidence now shows that repeated exposure to “little t” traumas (e.g., emotional abuse) can cause similar or greater distress than one “Big T” traumatic experience. In result of trauma, emotional and physical reactions occur, such as anxiety, digestive issues, lack of confidence, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, etc. In children or young adults, trauma is apparent through reactions as well (e.g., anger, frequent tummy aches, attention-seeking behaviors, consistently misbehaving at school, avoiding school, etc.).
With all of this in mind, we can now consider the term generational trauma. From a scientific lens, generational trauma, or intergenerational trauma, is transferred in between generations. A child can hold core wounds from a biological parent off of unconscious loyalty, and that parent is holding the wounds of their parent, and so forth. Generational trauma will run down one’s lineage until someone breaks the pattern. For example, emotional wounds pertaining to grief, lack of self-worth, physical disease, financial struggle, amongst others can be passed down to the child. The child will experience similar life situations that trigger these core beliefs/wounds to be felt or re-lived since they have been embedded into their DNA. The wounds and core beliefs a family hold as a unit will in result, paint its own unique family dynamic. From a spiritual standpoint, it is said that whatever our parents or ancestors experienced (e.g., racism, emotional abuse, substance abuse, relationship attachments, illness, poverty, etc.), we may also experience similar events in this lifetime. Moreover, theories suggest that until the generational “curse” is broken, it will continue to be passed down. It is said that our ancestors in heaven are guiding us through the process of healing ourselves. As we heal ourselves, we also heal our ancestors and we prevent our children/future children from going through similar “passed-down” traumas.
How can we identify generational trauma within ourselves? The answer to this is to become aware of patterns in your family. Do you see a similarity in the way you handle your emotions and the way your mother/father or grandmother/grandfather handles theirs? Do you see a pattern in the way your emotions are validated by your significant other and the way your father or mother validates their own significant other’s emotions? Perhaps you have gone through poverty, and your grandmother, and grandmother’s father experienced similar situations. It is also said that irrational fears can be due to generational trauma. Moreover, we can identify generational trauma in many ways, such as, through shadow work and through uncovering core beliefs that are deeply engrained in our subconscious mind.
The possibilities in discovering the generational trauma we hold in our DNA are endless. Through inner work, dream analysis, and self-discovery we can unpack baggage and heal core beliefs that have been passed down to us for generations. We can break these patterns for not only ourselves, but for our children or future children as well. As we discover our roots on a spiritual and psychological level, we can heal not only ourselves, but we help heal our parents and our ancestors. As we heal these core beliefs, we break generational curses within our lineage and within the entire collective, since all is connected.
Sources- Blog: https://www.ensembletherapy.com/blog/what-is-generational-trauma Book: "It Didn't Start With You" by Mark Wolynn