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Generational Trauma: Overcoming the Past

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generational trauma

It makes sense that we learn from our past, but what can we learn from our family history? We all have a family history, something that connects us to not only our immediate family unit but our larger family tree. This connection is the reason we have brown eyes or why we practice the traditions we do, but there are sometimes more troubling things that are passed down through families as well. 

Learning From the Past

Generational trauma is a psychological term that asserts that trauma can be transferred between generations. After the first generation of survivors experiences trauma, they are able to transfer their trauma to their children and further generations of offspring via complex post-traumatic stress disorder mechanisms. Each generation warns the next one of the dangers they have had to face and how to avoid them in the future, which means that even though the next generation has not personally faced those traumas, they may be stuck living in “survival mode”. Passing on these warnings comes from a place of wanting to educate the next generation and keep them safe. And while it may come from a place of protection and love, it can have negative consequences. Depending on what that passed down trauma may be, this could include behaviors such as risky health behaviors, anxiety, shame, food hoarding, overeating, authoritarian parenting styles, and distrust of community. 

Moving Toward the Future

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that feeling safe is one of our base needs. Without having that need for security met, we cannot address our psychological and self-fulfillment needs. Being brought up in a family that emphasizes past dangers or has trouble moving past the initial trauma can lead to families being emotionally volatile and overprotective, or on the other end of the spectrum, being numb or emotionally detached. When addressing inherited traumas, it can help to think of it as a problem we were born into instead of a problem we have created ourselves. Working with both individual and family therapy can help process generational trauma and address the underlying issues of feeling unsafe. Often families hide their trauma and a “code of silence” is instilled in both parents and children. Speaking about the trauma may make trauma survivors feel vulnerable, which in their minds, is a dangerous place to be. Talking with a therapist can help families move beyond the secrecy towards positive communication and connection. A therapist can also help you identify your triggers and symptoms connected to the trauma. These interventions can help to create a healthy foundation on which you can build.

Journey Home East Can Help

Journey Home East provides key supportive interventions in a home-like setting. We include various types of interventions including group, individual, and family support. As a transitional independent living program, we also help our residents work on independent living skills, develop positive peer and community relationships, help them with academic success, and provide exciting recreational activities.

Journey Home East helps provide the opportunity for greater freedoms and responsibilities entailed in pursuing further education or having a job. Residents are being supported in this process by our skilled staff. For more information please call (855) 290-9684.