What is Intergenerational Trauma?

Updated: 5 days ago

Intergenerational trauma is: biological, relational, systemic, and spiritually passed down.


On a BIOLOGICAL level, science is showing through epigenetics and DNA coding that trauma responses such as PTSD can be inherited.


Studies have shown symptoms of PTSD such as “hyper vigilance” were found in the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, Cambodian refugees fleeing war, and pregnant mothers in proximity to the World Trade Center attacks, even when none of the children or grandchildren experienced “trauma” in a life threatening experience.

On top of that, 50-70% of PTSD patients also meet criteria for major depression or anxiety disorder.

So if you have one parent who has experienced trauma, you’re three times more likely to experience PTSD symptoms.

Symptoms included depression, anxiety, numbness, insomnia, nightmares, frightening thoughts, and being “on edge.” If this is you, does it shed new light on how you show up in the world?


On a RELATIONAL level, Attachment Theory explains that we will do as we have been done by. A person who was abused, neglected, or not consistently helped by their parent will grow up and may become dysfunctional in their own relationships and as a parent themselves.


There are generally considered 4 attachment styles: the first one is secure and considered the "healthiest" style which we can all grow towards. The other three: avoidant, anxious, and disorganized come from having caregivers or parents who also had these attachment styles themselves, and likely had untreated trauma, mental illness, or substance abuse. (Check out my other blog posts for more details!)


CLICK FOR A FREE HANDOUT ON ATTACHMENT STYLES


On a FAMILY SYSTEMS level, we also will repeat the same types of relationship dynamics we've always seen. Sometimes it feels like you can’t fight the (family) system.

When we try to change, we’re met with resistance, coercion to not change, or straight up attacks when we come from unhealthy families.

Along with systems are the RULES of our family systems and the STORIES we have told. If we understand thought creates form, then we know our stories create our reality.

So what are your family stories? •Everyone in our family gets diabetes •The men in our family abandon their families •We’ve got 3 generations of addicts •We don’t have money, we will never be like “so and so” family

Can you think of any?


Finally, on a SPIRITUAL LEVEL, there are a few different belief systems here. Some may call it "karma" while I've learned and experienced directly that not all who pass along become well seated ancestors.


In his work, Daniel Floor taught me not only how to connect with my healthy and well seated ancestors in the spirit realm, but also that there were ones who were not well. In Christianity they may be thought of as "in hell." But in the practice I learned which was derived from dozens of native and ancient traditions, those who are not well can be healed by the healthy ancestors, and brought to a place of light.


I'm not an expert in this, and have worked with my ancestors only on my mother's lineage so far. What I did learn is that "unresolved" issues such as grief, terror, loss, guilt and shame can be passed along through our DNA (Back up to the first section!) and can also spontaneously be healed though our work here on this plane, and through healing beyond the veil as well.


I'll be diving deeper into each of these topics in future posts! Please comment and ask any questions!


With Compassion,

Cassandra Solano, LCSW




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