Writer: Sarah Kapesa
Editor: Proud Lertprasertkul
Graphic Designer: Janice Cheng, Pat Sevikul
Generational Trauma, also known as intergenerational or transgenerational trauma, is described as trauma experienced by one or more people in the older generations of a family. For instance, your parents, grandparents, etc., and this trauma later bleeds into the younger generations; if left unhealed. This means, even though trauma has been experienced decades before finally making an impact in your life, it could still significantly impact your lifestyle, behaviors, dreams, and unconscious habits. The impact of passed-down trauma can either be evident or underlying in your life, but no matter what, its effects will still be visible.
Generational trauma is typically a response to something or a leftover negative behavior formed after experiencing harsh situations like poverty, abuse, racism, and discrimination. It is then passed down through harmful behaviors and coping mechanisms. For example, suppose a family member raised you through reinforcing toxic gender roles and expected gender behaviors. In that case, that could later lead you to become extremely sensitive to attacks that are triggered at you.
Everyone is susceptible to experiencing or creating generational trauma. It is something that is easily constructed but extremely hard to get rid of. Claire Gillespie states that specific groups are more vulnerable to experiencing the manifestation of generational trauma. These three groups are those who went through poverty, refuge, experienced racial and gender discrimination, and survivors of all forms of abuse.
Generational trauma affects all family members. Not recognizing, reflecting, and healing from our hardships causes the manifestation of negative thoughts and behaviors and unresolved feelings. It can even lead to substance abuse situations and disassociation from our families or poor relationships. Many have had issues with self-esteem, extreme anxiety, nightmares, and sensitive fight or flight responses.
Depending on the hardships you experienced, your reaction to related conversations and actions may differ. For instance, those who grew up in poverty may experience varying anxiety levels in situations relating to money due to perhaps not having enough funds while they were growing up. Alternatively, perhaps, you were forced to grow up in a strict gender binary household and, due to you presenting as male, you were forced to be 'strong.'. Later on in life, you could become incapable of showing vulnerability, standing up for yourself, or maybe even continue spreading the ideals of toxic masculinity to your children, therefore aiding in the spread of intergenerational trauma.
Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility to end this cycle. Whether it is for ourselves, our younger cousins, or perhaps even our children, we should begin by working through our trauma. Reflect on yourself, how and why you react to uncomfortable situations, how you view the world, how you were raised. Then reach out for help when you feel comfortable enough to take that first step. Search for therapists and professional counselors who can help you begin breaking this cycle. Do not be afraid to release the shame, fear, guilt, and residing anger you hold within yourself; this is a difficult thing to overcome. Celebrate your success, and begin nurturing positive traits like self-love, understanding, courage, and confidence.
However, it can get tough to keep striving to end the cycle of your trauma for yourself and those you love. We all owe it to ourselves to heal from what hurt us so that we can grow, become happier in our lives, and help heal those around us.
"Not everything we inherit is worth passing to our children, especially not our trauma story" -Omar Reda.