“Research suggests that unresolved PTSD can facilitate lasting physiological changes and that these modifications can be passed on to the next generation.” – Dr. Arielle Schwartz
We usually think of trauma as something caused by shocking or harmful experiences that affect us personally.
But did you know that you might be affected by trauma, and not even know it?
How? Well, over the past few decades, a growing body of research has shown that trauma can be passed on from generation to generation.
Indeed, even several generations down, we may be affected by something by a painful past tucked away in the annals of our family history, and which we may or may not even have heard of?
In this free download, renowned psychologist and author Dr. Arielle Schwartz talks about the burden of intergenerational trauma.
Most of us grow up in families which carry with us some history of past traumatic experiences, she notes.
These can be traumatic experiences caused by historic events, like wars or genocide like the Holocaust. Or, they can be the multigenerational racial and cultural oppression experienced by minorities like African Americans, Native American and Canadian Indians, and Australian Aborigines.
Intergenerational trauma can also show up in the lingering effects from growing up in a family where one – or both parents struggled with traumatic experiences in their own childhood – like a suicide or mental illness of a forebear.
But even when tucked away in the murky shrouds of the past, trauma remains an invisible force that shapes our lives, says Dr. Arielle.
Mothers affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for example, may be more likely to have fussy, colicky babies, affected by the lingering trauma their mother continues to carry. Newer research shows that intergenerational trauma can even have epigenetic effects, i.e., they can affect molecular processes that can turn genes on or off.
Behavioral disorders like addiction or issues like anxiety or depression can be triggered by the lingering effects of intergenerational trauma. And in many cases, we may not even be aware of the connection, explains Dr. Arielle.
She goes on to discuss how we can heal the effects of past trauma if we are living with a family history of trauma or if we are part of a community that has experienced collective trauma over multiple generations.
Trauma involves both our biology and our psychology, so dealing with trauma involves as much attending to your body as your mind, explains Dr. Arielle.
She explains how yoga can be a valuable vehicle for learning to deal with trauma. When we attend to the body, we recognize that the somatic experience provides us with feedback about the self and can give us insight into other people and our environment.
“Your family history provides insight into your predispositions but it does not need to define you,” notes Dr. Schwartz. “The outcome of healing from trauma is developing greater resilience and regaining a sense of choice about how you live your life.”
You may also be interested in Dr. Arielle’s course: Unlocking the Past: A Yogic Perspective on Healing Intergenerational Trauma.