Genetics determines our eye color, hair color, height, and other physical traits that define our appearance. However, recent research has shed some light on something else that may be passed on from generation to generation: trauma.
The idea of trauma passed down through generations is based on the information that experiencing trauma can impact our genetic structure. For example, the trauma experienced by a grandparent could impact grandchildren generations and decades later.
There’s really no limit to how the past trauma of previous generations may impact your life. You could experience the symptoms and adopt the exact coping mechanisms as the afflicted grandparent or something completely different. Use this advice to determine if you are experiencing generational trauma and learn how to manage it.
What Does Generational Trauma Look Like?
Unhealthy coping mechanisms can develop due to trauma, whether you experience it firsthand or inherit it from an earlier generation of your family. Unfortunately, more extreme coping measures can develop because of generational trauma, which may manifest in a couple of ways.
- Downplaying traumas level of influence
- Denying it exists
There are usually familiar patterns that can be seen when generational trauma manifests, including:
Worried About Stigmatization
Older generations worried about appearances will often downplay or even deny symptoms to keep up appearances and avoid stigmatization. The result is usually more turmoil. Younger generations follow the example set by the older family members, and the cycle of not getting help from professional counselors continues.
The elders typically set the tone here as well, which is perfectly summed up by the phrase “Don’t air your dirty laundry.” This attitude leads to the belief that nobody needs to know about your problems right when getting help can do the most good. Trauma that goes untreated continues the cycle as it embeds itself into the gene pool and passes to subsequent generations.
The above two patterns indicate a secretive environment, which creates opportunities for the trauma and abuse to continue without fear of repercussion.
You can see a common thread. No one wants to be the one to change the pattern because they may be viewed as weak. It’s a terrifying position to be in, but the “dirty laundry” must be aired out in full view if changes are to happen.
How to Treat Generational Trauma
Mental health experts all agree that the most critical step towards effective trauma treatment is acknowledging that many children are experiencing it. Almost 50% of American children have had an adverse childhood experience (ACE).
An ACE is a disturbing experience that can have long-term consequences for the child. For example, we know that many children who have had an ACE can struggle academically. This is just one of the many reasons it’s critical to address this issue. Therapy with a counselor is just one avenue to explore, but there are steps you need to take yourself before that can happen.
Accept That You Need to Change
Accepting reality is the first step that will set the foundation for everything that follows. Of course, you love your family and want to spend time with them, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of you not acknowledging the trauma you experienced.
Reject the Notion That Getting Help is a Sign of Weakness
If the “stiff upper lip” mentality worked, why does the cycle keep repeating? Denying you are dealing with trauma is not a sign of strength. Admitting you have issues and accepting help to end decades of generational trauma is a true sign of courage and inner strength.
Create New Traits to Pass Down
Instead of subjecting your descendants to traumatic stress, wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could pass down more worthwhile traits like honesty, openness, and resiliency? If it’s possible for trauma to travel through the generations, surely these traits have just as much potential to become a part of the bloodline. All it takes to get the ball rolling is for one family member to speak up.
Are you here because you need help dealing with trauma? The first step in dealing with any issue like trauma is to stop burying it and accept that it is negatively impacting your life.
To learn more about how counseling can help you live a life free from trauma’s debilitating influence, visit this page: Trauma Treatment