There are three types of traumas: acute, complex, and chronic. Each of these affects our brain development differently. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event (2022). This emotional response can alter our DNA and even be passed down to future generations, which is known as inter-generational trauma.
I introduced the topic of inter-generational trauma in last week’s blog, Depression and Social Sabotage, so I wanted to cover that this week. Our family structure impacts our social development the same way society impacts us. Although family structure can more influential due to how much time is spent developing within it. Things that our parents may believe or feel can become our own beliefs and feelings. An example of this would be if our parents didn’t like a particular vegetable, so they don’t cook with it and frequently mention how gross it is. A child might develop the idea that that vegetable is gross and refuses to eat it. This idea that that vegetable is gross has now been passed down to the child without them ever experiencing it. Trauma can be inherited in a similar way.
Passing down trauma
Time and time again, studies have shown the damaging effects “spanking” can have on children. So, why do some societies deem this as an acceptable response to correcting unwanted behavior in a child? It is because individuals have passed this idea of parenting down to their children over many generations. In an article written by Franco Rubio titled “Overcoming Generational Trauma in the Latinx Community,” Rubio addresses how Latinx families generally suppress emotion due to things such as lack of adequate healthcare and low income. Rubio goes on to describe her battle with expressing her emotions and dealing with her mental health. She continues to address how social issues affected her and her community, and I definitely advise reading the rest of her article. The trauma that she and generations before her endured from oppressive systems was passed down in the form of ignoring their own mental health issues.
The Trauma Tree
There is a graph anyone can do where you start off with what looks like a genealogical tracker. In that, you start with yourself and put your parents than their parents. You can go as far back as you’d like, then you branch off to things like mental health problems, addiction, or abuse. This can give you a visual of how trauma was passed down through your own family system. I know this technique has a name, but I can’t ever remember, so if someone does, please feel free to comment below. Otherwise, I like to call it the Trauma Tree. I will share my own trauma tree and a pdf I created so that you can fill it out if you’d like.
As you can see, I share similar traumas as my parents and grandparents. Now not all of these must be passed down in a direct form. The abuse my father endured wasn’t transferred directly from him; it came from a different source. This means there are more complex systems at work here. For example, a parent can become absent in a child’s life because their parent was absent, so the child endures abuse from a foster placement they were in. It is not necessarily a specific type of trauma that is passed down; it is that trauma is passed in any form.
How to end trauma
So, the question is, really, how do we stop the transfer of trauma? How can we end inter-generational trauma?
- Well, the first step to any of the advice I give in my blogs is to reach out for professional help. You need to heal from trauma.
- Realize what role society played in your trauma. Did you suffer from poverty, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia? These social issues are a huge part of the trauma that generations before us, and we still endure.
- Challenging inherited beliefs can also help us in changing our view of our trauma. Such as the child who doesn’t eat a certain vegetable because their parents don’t. our views can change when we challenge beliefs and form our own opinions.
- Be honest and open with yourself and others. You must set boundaries even with family. Hurt people hurt people.
To my resilient readers
I really appreciate all my resilient readers and your support. I love watching my page views grow because I know somebody somewhere needed this. So, to help me help all of you, please like and share this blog as much as you can so it reaches larger audiences.
**This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Serotonin Soup website! **
American Psychological Association. (2022). Trauma. https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma
Rubio, I. F. (2021, July 29). Overcoming generational trauma in the Latinx Community. Healthline. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/latinx-mental-health-stigma#Change-your-environment,-change-yourself