Breaking the Cycle of Generational Trauma

Published On: July 15th, 2023

We resume Blanche G’s family’s journey toward healing, following the sexual assault of her daughter.  Once the brave sharing of survivorship is done, we must explore ways to heal the trauma the family experiences.

Although it can be as quick as a few minutes, a traumatic event, such as sexual abuse, has harmful ripples that extend out decades and even generations.
  • If the deeper struggles aren’t addressed, brought to light, and healed, each survivor will pass on the proclivity for poor choices and destructive relationships to the next generation.
  • Sadly, I know this firsthand as my family has suffered multiple generations of trauma and sexual assault.
  • Starting with my grandmother, and cascading down to my beloved daughter, the women in my lineage have been and are survivors.

It has been said the body never forgets.

  • This is especially true for women in a family due to the direct inheritance of mitochondrial DNA from mother to daughter.
  • During traumatic events, the structure of one’s DNA is permanently altered.
  • For instance, when a woman is raped, she passes genetic scars of the incident on to a future daughter.
  • In my family, poor choices in relationships and coping mechanisms, have become deeply ingrained.
  • Because my grandmother modeled certain behavior to her daughter (my mother), deeper struggles weren’t addressed, brought to light, and healed.
  • Thus, my mother modeled similar behavior, making it harder for me to identify and deal with my own struggles.

This pattern prevented me from learning how to break the toxic cycle with my daughter.

By not confronting their own demons and actively pursuing healing, my grandmother and mother perpetuated a cycle of limiting beliefs passed down to me by nature and nurture.

If they could have done their work, perhaps I could have modeled better behaviors and taught my daughter from childhood how to bring to light dark places.

Please explore some of the following exercises to help yourself begin to break the cycle of generational trauma starting today.

Exercise One:  Critical Reflection

Find a place where you can be alone with your thoughts and explore the following passages:

“All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and going down, but all going the same way.”  A Meittsu in the book, The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. 

  • Consider how we must help younger generations have a healthier, light-filled load by doing the hard work of healing ourselves.
  • Reflect on how you can use the wisdom of your experience with generational trauma to be an active supporter in facilitating the healing of other survivors.

“The way a daughter experiences the love of her mother will forever color the lens through which she gives and receives love of all kinds.” – Love Life Season 1 Episode 7

  • Consider the relationship you see between the mothers and daughters in your life.
  • Understand that daughters inherit the traumas of their mothers.
  • This shapes how she will send and receive love in all manner of relationships.
  • How can you take small actions today to help repair and strengthen the mother/daughter relationships in your life?
Exercise Two:  Forgiveness Visualization

Forgiveness is a powerful tool.

This exercise can help you forgive those who came before you for not having the strength, resources, or support necessary to conquer the inter-generational demons that they bequeathed to you.

Begin by gathering some pictures of relatives who may have passed on unhealthy gifts to you (addiction, trauma, substance abuse, woundedness, limiting beliefs, etc.).  Next, find a quiet place where you can be alone.

  • Get comfortable.
  • Breathe in for a count of 4 and then out for a count of 4.
  • Do this a few times before you then allow the images of these women to fill your mind’s eye.
  • Consider each woman’s life and experience.
  • Notice the traits or patterns that you might share.

Look at them nonjudgmentally, as each aspect has blessings and curses.

  • Tell them your feelings about these traits or patterns and listen to any response that stirs deep within you.
  • Honor all emotions and feelings that arise.
  • Speak forgiveness for them not taking active steps toward their healing.
  • Be willing to see the passive steps they might have taken to protect themselves and their family.
  • Finally, after having this pattern repeat with yourself, allow yourself to picture your daughter or daughter figure.
  • Be willing and able to listen to what she has to say to you about how to be a more supportive mother (figure).

End this exercise by praying for strength that passes all understanding to give you the bravery to confront your challenges and to take the steps you need for recovery, healing, and for hope.

You may also choose to do this exercise by writing a letter to the person (or persons) who passed on any unhealthy gifts to you.

  • Acknowledge their positive and negative influences on your life, including the gifts they passed down to you.
  • Express your forgiveness to them for their weakness, their inability, or their lack of initiative to heal and become healthier.
  • End this exercise in your letter by telling them how you purpose to move forward.

Note how you will change the patterns of negativity passed down through generational trauma by naming and claiming your voice in your own going forward story.

Sign your letter and either seal it or safely burn it.

  • Note any emotions or feelings that arise.
  • Pay attention to your body.
  • Are there any areas that feel lighter?
  • Does your spirit feel more hopeful? more joy-filled?

“It was the start of seeing what (her mother) had to give rather than what (her mother) didn’t, thus unlocking a special corner of her heart.” – Love Life Season 1 Episode 7

Exercise Three:  Releasing Your Baggage

Sometimes what we inherit from our parents and grandparents feels like a really heavy backpack.

What in your backpack feels particularly burdensome to you?

When you name something, you can claim it, and ultimately release it! 

Find a rock or a stone in your backyard and transform this pain into a thing of beauty by painting it.

  • Start by writing what you inherited on both sides of the stone.
  • Let one side represent any negative feelings you have about what you received.
  • On the other side, write/paint something that makes you smile, or brings you joy.
  • Knowing as you hold the rock and feel the weight of it, that you don’t have to carry it with you any longer.
  • Lay this intergenerational burden down and smile as you feel the collective pain of you, and of all the women that carried this trait before you.  Begin to relax, heal and thrive.

We all receive baggage from generations past.

We must choose carefully which items to keep and which to discard.

  • Lighten our load – unpack our heavy generational backpack – leave unhealthy choices behind – move ahead with eyes fixed on health, hope, healing, and joy.
  • Focus on the totality of the generations that came before us and accept that they did the best they could with the tools at their disposal.
  • For better or worse, their experiences made us who we are today.

In this present generation, it is up to us to heal the brokenness and squelch the harmful self-speak that negates our value and gifts.

  • Let us embrace our quirks and promote faith, joy, light, love, support, health, healing, wholeness, worth, security, and purpose.
  • Our children, especially our daughters, are depending on us to find the courage to break the cycle of generational trauma.
 Begin today to shine a light on darkness and pain, and nurture a culture of hope and empathy.

Talk To Tambry

I am glad you have taken the time to engage with this blog.  Sometimes it is helpful to process new insights that emerge.  If you would appreciate brief time with a someone who understands, our Talk to Tambry offering is for you.  For 30 minutes, you can receive support from Tambry who is a certified life coach, spiritual director and a survivor who has been on the journey as well.  This is offered at a reduced rate of $50.

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