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How Real Is Intergenerational Trauma?

how real is intergenerational trauma

However, when there is one thing, there also has to be its opposite, right? As I began to notice the underlying themes more and more, I realised these people also seem to carry a behavioural manifestation of “never being home”.

I have experienced this push and pull within my own life experiences, and I can say that it was traumatic until I turned around and acknowledged it. 


What does it take to get to the root of intergenerational trauma?

“Transmission” is the main mode of carry-over when it comes to intergenerational trauma. It may take place through stories and narratives rampant in your family of origin and may even be handed down non-verbally, in terms of what is appreciated and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, and what might seem like a “script” when you do get down to connecting the dots.

If this topic somehow rings a bell for you, it might just be that you’re wanting to go deeper into your own history and ancestry. Here are a few ways that I found helpful:

1. Keep yourself central to the theme

Let me deconstruct this in different words. It’s not that, that the trauma you may unconsciously carry, began with you or will end with you.

It’s just that you’re the one who is now choosing to look at it squarely and contemplating ways to work with it. The first step I took was to really find out how I feel being part of my own family, what are my fears and my apprehensions and what triggers an abnormal amount of anxiety in me. I continue to ask these questions and get some answers.

Read The Unmistakable Link Between Unhealed Trauma & Illness

2. Start connecting the dots

I remember the time when I first had the feeling that I am intrinsically connected with my family of origin and that some aspects that enrage me or confuse me, aren’t just my own, I took a notebook and sat down.

I got in touch with feelings in context of my family that I have always found convoluted and alongside wrote down things that I have repeatedly heard my mother, father and grandmother convey in passing conversation or even like they were the last word.I also looked at my own triggers and began to make connections with the ones I saw in them too.

Connecting the dots to get to your family’s specific inter-generational trauma is often slow and circuitous.

Curiosity and compassion towards the narratives you’ve been able to unearth.

Read 7 Behaviors Common Among Adults Who Went Through Trauma At A Young Age

3. Take help to acknowledge

The topic of intergenerational trauma is a tough one and tougher when you try to get to the bottom of, all by yourself.

Please don’t hesitate to work with a therapist if you can afford one, because this will allow you more opportunities for exploration while a dedicated person “holds space” for you. You may even want to look at therapies that have thematic resonances to this subject.

The one I can instantly think of is Family Constellation therapy, a form that takes you deeper into family narratives through embodiment, helping you to make connections and glean insights. 

4. Make conscious changes

If you think about it, there’s one clear reason (amongst others of course) why trauma is transmitted from one generation to another.

When people stay unconscious of inherited patterns and are unable to access how their own narratives are linked to those of their family, the chances of transmission become higher.

If you get to the point of realizing what didn’t work for them and what of that you inherited as well, you can look at shifting from those patterns and moving into healthier patterns.

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Sunanda Pati

Sunanda Pati is a certified expressive arts therapist and facilitator and a freelance creative writer. Having developed an early interest in psychology and later various forms of bodywork, she has actively worked in knowing her own inner world and processing various traumas. She believes every person is blessed with an endless reserve of inspiration, courage, and wisdom. Sunanda lives, writes, practices, and facilitates in Bangalore, India. More of her writings can be found at Gaia Comes to the City. She also runs an expressive arts initiative of the same name (Gaia Comes to the City), which can be found on Facebook.View Author posts