Intergenerational Trauma: The “Real Elephant” In The Room.
(Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)
Breaking from intergenerational trauma is never easy. How do we get traumatized by our parents who have been a victim of trauma?
Any psychological pressure which renders us feel unaccepted, less than, neglected, abused, deprived, manhandled, or victimized, will lead to psychological trauma, causing us to have stress, anxiety, and lack of self-esteem, thus affecting every aspect of our lives, including our ability to parent with a secure emotional bonding. If we have not processed our past traumas in a healthy manner, we can come across as anxious, worried, incapacitated, or even self-absorbed.
Until we don’t accept and realize the fact that our normal growth has been interrupted/ and that we need help, we may repeat the cycle and pass this trauma over to the future generation. Or unless miraculously we have some tremendous inner wisdom, inner capability, or some kind of godly gift, and we start to recognize that we need to be fully present for our children’s emotional needs. That we need to hear them out without judgment, give them choices; allow them to be their own independent beings, without forcing our views or opinions on them. We need to love them for who they are and not for who we want them to be.
That can be a rarity. Most of us parents, especially the ones coming from war-torn, conflict-ridden areas, poverty, famine, natural disaster, or being raised by parents with some chronic physical or emotional disability, or cultural trauma- will show some of the other forms of trauma bonding with our children.
Maybe we came from societies where there was a gender gap, misogyny, inequality, or even domestic abuse/violence.
How do we transmit this trauma to our children? Through our actions, gestures, and even the way we make eye contact. Through our words, through our opinions, our defenses that are reflective of trauma, like denial, rationalizing, projecting, dissociating, self-absorption, anxiety, and or emotional dysregulation, etc.
A classic example is when we force our children to pick jobs or professions, where we think they will be secure in terms of money, marriage, and other worldly items. Out of love and concern, we will tell our children why they should choose high-paying jobs, and marry high-achieving partners, and we make statements like, ‘ The reason I want you to get a such-and-such job is cause I care about you! I love you!”’
The reality is that we do truly care for our children, but our concept of love and care is distorted due to the effect of Trauma on our brains.
Our view of success, marriage, partnerships, and relationships has been contaminated or clouded with anxiety, anxiety that comes from a brain that has been hurt by psychological trauma.
When we have trauma, our brains are programmed to be in a constant state of fight and flight. We worry about the future, we worry about money; we worry about the future of our kids, and this worry takes away the joy of parenting and having meaningful relationships.
This worry and anxiety make us use control tactics to everything around us, our children, our homes, our handling of money, and in fact, all of our day-to-day interactions with friends, family, and even coworkers.
What could have been a beautiful journey, a calm and relaxing journey- a relationship, a marriage that we could have grown together in, a mistake that we could have learned from- it all becomes one big mess of worries, control, and paranoia,
There is another hallmark of trauma, which we will often make as our coping style, and that is -avoidance. We will avoid situations, people, crowds, places, and anything that triggers us, cause our trauma brain tells us “there is danger, don’t go there, you will get hurt again!”
Until we don’t have knowledge of that, and until we cannot use our conscious mind, we will continue to use avoidance to run away from anxiety or anxiety-provoking situations, of course, unless it is something which is unsafe, where again we have to rely on our judgment, what situations are safe, and which ones are not? That can be jeopardized too if we have witnessed trauma.
We can be in a state of confusion, about when to put our guard up, and when to explore.
Also, certain situations can trigger a person who has witnessed trauma, but as long as they are aware and consciously choose to either establish a boundary with those who have hurt them or stay away from situations that can be re-traumatizing – as they continue to heal from the past wounds. That then becomes a journey full of curiosity, growth, and mindfulness.
As we use avoidance, our world becomes smaller and smaller. We can displace all of that on our children. We can prevent them from exploring their environment. We feel scared of letting go of them. We want them close to us.
That can come across as control, and can suffocate, our children and young adults who are trying to carve their own identities, their own beliefs, and their value systems,
The result- this cycle goes on and on and becomes what we call “Intergenerational trauma”.
We can choose to put an end to it by showing courage to seek help in whatever form that is, self-help books, spirituality, counseling, therapy, coaching, etc., as we continue to heal ourselves.
We can grow empowered, self-aware, and self-confident.
As we strive to heal from this intergenerational trauma, we can leave a legacy that is based on authenticity, courage, and grace instead of fear, anxiety, and paranoia.
With care, concern, and hope for happy healing!