Generational trauma is often noted as one of the most challenging types of trauma to overcome. This is not necessarily because it is “worse” than any other type of trauma, but simply because it is typically hard to recognize and heal from. The concept of generational trauma stems from the simple truth that traumatic events do not only affect the people directly experiencing them. When we experience trauma, we, as humans, typically alter our view of everything around us. This altered viewpoint can be passed down to our descendants and affect their lives as well.
More often than not, individuals who pass on generational trauma may not even notice they are doing it. This inherited trauma can affect many areas of our lives, including personal identity, relationship dynamics, parenting styles, communication methods, and overall mental health. So, what can you do if you notice signs of generational trauma in your family? How can you heal and reduce the chances of continuing the cycle with your own children? This is exactly what we’re going to talk about today.
How to Break the Cycle
The good news about generational trauma is that it can be stopped. While it will not simply disappear on its own, individuals from the family can create the change that is needed to recognize and end the cycle of trauma. When it is recognized and addressed, healing can begin. So, without further ado, here are some ways that you can put an end to your family’s generational trauma.
Acknowledge the Trauma
The first step in addressing any form of trauma is to recognize it. In all honesty, generational trauma can be incredibly challenging to spot because it is typically so ingrained in how we are raised. But you cannot make progress in ending it if you do not see it for what it is.
One of the largest challenges for families with generational trauma is that they do not want to discuss it. We know it is uncomfortable to talk about things that have hurt you or other members of your family, but unless you begin to consider the effects that the event, treatment, or other experience had on you and the other members of your family, you aren’t going to be able to break the cycle. Ending the cycle of generational trauma requires vulnerability and honesty.
Notice the Patterns
Finding the cause of generational trauma can be challenging — especially if you are a part of the younger generation of your family and you don’t know where the trauma even begins. But one thing that can help you find the catalyst and overcome the cycle is paying close attention to your family. When you do this, you can find the patterns and narratives that are continually appearing throughout your family.
Once you find these patterns, take a moment to notice what aspects of these patterns you continue to portray in your own life. These are the topics and behaviors you’ll want to talk about with the other members of your family to address the trauma as a whole.
Talk About It
If you are a parent looking to rectify unintentionally passing down traumas, you need to be open with your children. Whether they are fully grown adults with children of their own or still living at home and going to school, you need to tell them about what you have lived through. This helps to prevent generational trauma from being passed down further down the line as a big family secret.
The unfortunate truth is that we all live through uncomfortable and traumatizing experiences in our lives. The important thing we can do to prevent these traumas from affecting how we raise our children is to be open about them. We can tell them what happened and how we have coped with it. What have we done to heal from the event, and how are we trying to take back our lives and relationships. Even if we do not trust the world around us and resent what happened in the past, when we are straightforward about our experiences and why we feel the way we do, it allows our children to choose their own paths. It allows them to not internalize these views and decide to view the world in their own way.
While we are affected by the traumas that our parents, and their parents before them, faced, we did not face them exactly the same way in our lives. Everyone reacts differently to trauma, and it is not your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ fault that your family is struggling with generational trauma — it is an unfortunate byproduct of a trauma that shaped how those individuals viewed the world around them.
It is important to understand that our families have worked extremely hard to ensure that we, the younger generations, have a better opportunity and life than they did. We need to celebrate this and recognize that they endured hardship and struggled with trauma themselves, just as we will in our lives. So, when you work to end the cycle of trauma in your family, ensure you are not blaming your ancestors or belittling their experiences. Come from a place of understanding and acceptance and see what you can do to divert from the harmful cycle to offer a better (and generational-trauma-free) life for the next generation of your family.
Seek Professional Support
Sometimes, trying and stop years and years of generational trauma on your own can be overwhelming. This is where a mental health professional, like a therapist, can come into the picture. Whether you are working with your entire family to end the cycle of trauma or you are working to stop the cycle from continuing to your children with just a few other members of your family, a therapist can provide a safe space and techniques to help you do this.
Truthfully, many generational traumas can come less from an actual traumatic event and more from the perpetuated unhealthy coping mechanisms. Many types of therapies (like cognitive behavioral therapy or family systems therapy) can help you, and other family members embrace healthier coping mechanisms. Therapy is also a great way to process trauma and understand its impact on you and your loved ones.
So, if you are ready to break the cycle of trauma in your family but don’t know where to begin or want personal guidance on how to best unpack and cope with what you find, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.