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Understanding Intergenerational Trauma

The idea of trauma being passed from generation to generation — also known as intergenerational trauma — originated in 1966 when psychologists studied children and their grandparents who were Holocaust survivors. This phenomenon occurs when trauma symptoms experienced in the past are passed down to your children when they are in a similar situation.

Because racism has existed for hundreds of years, intergenerational trauma can play a role in how people respond to the protests over George Floyd’s death and other recent controversies. It is possible that trauma may physically alter your genes and those genetic variations can be passed on to the next generation, causing them to experience additional stress during traumatic situations.

Trauma can also be passed down based on a person’s behavior. If a child sees her mother crying all day whenever she goes through trauma, she may behave the same way in a similar situation.

The Impact of Race-Based Traumatic Stress

Many Black Americans are currently dealing with the psychological stress and social sources of trauma passed from one generation to the next because of today’s current events. Their parents or grandparents may have told stories about surviving during the Jim Crow era.

History and experience have caused many Black people to believe that the world is a threatening and terrifying place. It can be very traumatic when you are trying to find your place in the world only to receive negative messages from loved ones. This stress will continue to be passed down unless you do something about it now.

How to Heal from Intergenerational Trauma

You should first gain an understanding of your own triggers and symptoms, as they may be different from others. Try mindfulness methods to become more conscious of where the trauma lies in your body — a mental health professional can help with this process. Understanding what your trauma is like can be very empowering. You can also be a source of protection for others who do not feel safe in their environment.

Rely on those who are feeling the same as you and talk out your feelings. It is also important to be kind to others who may not know how to relate to how you are feeling. You have the chance to break the cycle of trauma right now by going into treatment to ensure that future generations keep their mental health in check.

Experiencing trauma that has been passed down for generations can be a confusing and scary experience. At The Guest House, we offer family therapy sessions to help families open up and connect with each other about their shared trauma, so they can grow stronger together. We are here to help your family heal. To learn more, call us today at (855) 483-7100.