Intergenerational trauma; generational curse, and/or ancestral memory refers to the transmission of the impact of trauma from one generation to the next. When trauma experienced by individuals or communities in the past continues to impact subsequent generations through various systems. As well, ancestral strengths and wisdom can be passed on from one generation to the next, and we can have embodied ancestral wisdom.
Here are some key points about intergenerational trauma:
- Historical Trauma: Intergenerational trauma often has its roots in historical events or experiences, such as colonization, war, genocide, slavery, forced migration, or other forms of systemic oppression. These traumatic events can have profound effects on physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
- Transmission of Trauma: Trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation through different systems and distortion of culture. These include parents and culture modeling behaviours, attachment ruptures, conflicted family dynamics, and the transmission of unresolved emotions, beliefs, and narratives related to the traumatic events.
- Epigenetic Factors: Epigenetic research suggests that trauma can cause changes in gene expression, and altered genes can be passed on across generations. While there is much more research needed in this area, this implies that the impacts of trauma may be passed down biologically.
- Complex Trauma: Intergenerational trauma can lead to complex trauma, which refers to the accumulation of multiple traumatic experiences across generations. This can result in a range of difficulties, including mental health issues, substance abuse, interpersonal challenges, and family dysfunction.
- Healing and Embodied Wisdom: Recognizing and addressing intergenerational trauma is essential for healing and creating a new cycle. Processing trauma may involve therapeutic approaches that focus on trauma-informed practices, community healing, cultural movement, connection to spirit, and practicing elders teaching.
Understanding intergenerational trauma helps to bring to light the complex and interconnected nature of the impact of trauma. Understanding the patterns and history of trauma emphasizes the need for trauma-informed approaches which considers harm beyond the family structure and highlights the role of oppression on families’ nervous systems. Going to therapy is the first
step to healing, and there needs to be emphasis on creating safe, supportive environments that promote healing and safety across generations.
Break the cycle, and book your free 15 minute consultation with one of our therapists. If your organization would like an Intergenerational Trauma training session, contact