You know you got your hairline from your Dad’s side of the family and your eye color from your mom. You know diabetes runs in your family, as does heart disease and Parkinson’s.
But do you know that many families also pass down trauma-related issues to their loved ones? Some of what we inherit from our traumatized ancestors includies (but is not confined to) higher level baseline emotional arousal states; difficulties with ability to self-regulate emotions; greater than average predispositions to develop mental illness; problems with attaching in a secure way to others, etc. But the good news is that research into epigenetics (the field of study devoted to traumatology and how it is passed down in our genes as well as from our environments) shows that while we may inherit those problems (or a genetic predisposition to them), we also inherit the resiliency that is necessary to survive these things.
What is Transgenerational Trauma?
Before you were born you were in your mother’s womb and very susceptible to her emotions. As your mother felt joy, her body released hormones that made you feel joy.
When she felt sad, scared, or angry, her body released hormones that made her experience these same emotions.
Eventually, you were born and raised in a house that may not always be happy or harmonious. Your parents may have been emotionally distant or even abusive because they may have been brought up by parents who had their own reasons for being emotionally absent or abusive.
Many families have unresolved trauma that works its way through one generation to the next. Those families who have dealt with addiction, depression, anxiety, terror, racism, and the like, often continue to pass on negative emotions, poor behaviors, low self-esteem, and maladaptive coping strategies. These not only lead to a painful and hard life, but they can also lead to chronic health conditions.
It Can Stop With You!
If you have a history of family conflict or trauma, you can be the individual who puts an end to the cycle. You can be the one who begins a new cycle, one of passing down loving communication and positive self-images.
Of course, it will take work on your part to overcome the pain of your family history. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a mental health professional who can offer you the right tools and coping strategies that you can then pass down to your own children.
If you’re interested in exploring therapy, please get in touch with me! I’d love to help you end the cycle of trauma in your family.