Can Generational Trauma be Passed Down?

Apr 24, 2024


I spent most of my childhood growing up in northern Alabama surrounded by cousins & family. I remember those summer days as kids, picking berries and smushing them into some homemade “soup” we would pretend was food only to then have this make believe “house” situation turn into a game of tag as you tried to smear the smushed berries onto an unsuspecting cousin. It was a great time although chances are high the berries may possibly have been somewhat toxic…


I also grew up under the shadow of my family’s trauma. The story of an uncle’s death a heavy cloak we were all asked to wear and was only spoken about when my grandparents randomly mentioned it once in a blue moon.


There was also the constant chaos & fear of an aunt who had schizophrenia & was unpredictably committed in and out of hospitals every few months because meds never seemed to work and she could become harmful to herself and others.


Then there’s the thousand little trauma we carried around as a family out of honor & commitment to one another. Silent badges of pain we carried with pride because we were told that's what love was. Love meant carrying the pain & never questioning who it's original owner was or why they didn't carry it themselves. 


We didn’t talk about them and we sure didn’t talk about how these 2 big traumas impacted us because at the end of the day you weren’t the one who had died and you definitely weren’t the one who was committed to a mental institution.


And you definitely didn’t talk about your own mental health because that line between mental illness and feeling sad was non-existent in my family. You were either mentally ill or you were “fine.” Period.


So I watched the adults bury their pain and feel ashamed for not being "grateful" that they weren't the ones it had "happened" to…. even though it had happened to them. They had lost 2 siblings and while one they could lay to rest, the other was lost day by day until her own passing. It was a grieving process delayed by decades.


And what came before this generation above me? More of the same. Traumas that were unable to find safe places to be understood and healed. Traumas that were never supposed to be spoken of and buried in the lineage for another generation to address.


And there’s me, but there’s also you & your story. There’s the people before you and the life they lived along with the things they survived and it gets passed down.


It’s passed down in the emotional baggage they didn’t heal that then becomes parts of our actual DNA, like a little “trauma switch” waiting to be flipped on any given day by the experiences that make up our own life. Except it isn't our trauma... but it doesn't matter because it gets heaped on with the rest of what we're carrying.


It’s passed down in the stories we’re told about our families and the way that shapes our view of them, ourselves and the world.


It’s passed down in the repressed trauma our parents and grandparents didn’t heal and how they parent and care for us.


It’s passed down in the behaviors and outlooks that are modeled to us.


It’s passed down in the ways we are abandoned as children, the things that are neglected and never given to us.  It shows up in the lack of safe connection to those we should be most connected to.


We take all of this info in as kids and we create a life built on the unhealed trauma of our ancestors. Then we combined it with our own childhood traumas and try to live our lives in a way that avoids all of this pain that we don't really understand.


Healing these ancestral traumas isn’t about fighting the older generation, it’s about finding clarity on what you’ve inherited and how it’s shaped you and then CHOOSING AGAIN. It's allowing ourselves to do the work of grieving & feeling so we don't have to carry it... and we don't pass it down.


So how do you do this? There’s truly a ton of different ways and you may choose different methods at different times. Here are some of my favorite:


1. Choose Differently

It doesn't have to be anything major (although it can be)

In fact, your part in healing the generational trauma can be choosing to care for your physical health, it can be finding your own truth or maybe it actually is stopping cycles of abuse. 

Scale doesn't always matter. What matters is that you recognize what has been avoided in your family line that is causing dis-ease or unhealthy behavior and you make a change so you don't repeat it.


2. Look at the Shadow-y Stuff

Trauma gets buried in families because they don't have the resources, tools or emotional maturity to deal with it. It might get buried because of Shame, unresolved Grief or the period time they grew up in didn't afford the opportunity to heal. 

Your task in healing generational trauma is to look at the stuff you're afraid of and uncover what is needed to heal it. You have to be brave. 


3. Grieve all the Loss

Grieve the things that happened, grieve the things that didn't & grieve for the hurt you feel around your own losses & childhood.

Don't be afraid to feel everything that wants to be felt and also don't take up residence there. Feel it, hear it & then make space for moving forward.


4.  Release the Inherited Emotions & Trauma

This can be done in a number ways. In sessions we use the Emotion Code Modality to clear the Inherited Emotions and Somatic Practices to heal the nervous system.

This way we can name exactly what that trauma is, who it came from & let it go. 


If you're interested in learning more check out the Ancestral Trauma Session below.


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