Generational trauma can take many forms and impact all cultures. When most people think of the impact of generational trauma, they focus on marginalized communities and those who experienced severe war or conflict, like the Aboriginal tribes in Australia, the Indigenous tribes in North America, African Americans, or Japanese Americans during the second world war.
However, generational trauma can impact anyone, especially those who experienced extreme hardships, war, or were marginalized and in a lower socioeconomic class.
When a specific form of trauma has been inflicted on several generations or even held by an older generation and discussed and passed on emotionally to the subsequent generations, it can lead to PTSD and other symptoms of mental health disorders and addiction.
The impact of generational trauma can cause several generations to:
- Develop anxiety
- Feel profound guilt or shame
- An inability to express emotions
- Poor coping mechanisms
- Intrusive thoughts
- Heightened helplessness
- Turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate
- Struggle with low self-esteem
But what is it?
Generational trauma refers to the generational challenges that a single family faces. It’s something that can be passed down to younger generations.
- A great-grandmother may have been forced into an internment camp in the United States during the second world war and learned to cope by remaining emotionless. As a result, that same grandmother could have emotionally distant interactions and even abusive interactions with her children. This could lead to her children and grandchildren struggling with denial, defensive behaviors, and failure to express emotions.
- A mother might learn that her daughter was sexually abused. This could cause the mother problems because she might have also been sexually abused. The perpetrator might have been a male family member who was sexually abused.
The Importance of Recognizing the Impact of Generational Trauma
The impact of generational trauma can be extremely severe, especially if multiple generations have suffered from severe forms of trauma. Many families turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with this trauma instead of getting professional help. The two most common forms of unhealthy coping are:
- Denial: where families refuse to acknowledge the source of their trauma
- Minimization: where families minimize the impact of their trauma, which makes it seem less severe or detrimental than it might have been
Unfortunately, you will find you in all cases no matter how hard you try to run. Worse still is that choosing denial or minimalism can result in being unexpectedly triggered, which can cause a ripple effect of mental health disorders or substance abuse.
If you consider the example above of the great-grandmother, her example of refusing to acknowledge the time in the internment camp, talk about it, or ever acknowledge her emotions could, perhaps unintentionally, teach her children and grandchildren to also ignore it and to not talk about things that upset them.
This is harmful because:
- It can teach multiple generations to hide their emotions and pretend things aren’t happening
- It can lead to detachment, impaired self-esteem, and estrangement
- it can result in individuals choosing to minimize their personal experiences because of how they compare to the trauma of parents or grandparents
- It can cause individuals to bond with abusers over the trauma
- It can teach multiple generations to internalize their emotions and not deal with them until they get triggered and are forced to cope
- It can teach family members to rely on drugs or alcohol to cope with struggles, handle pain, or avoid expressing themselves
Why Get Help for Generational Trauma
If you are a woman struggling with generational trauma, your older generations might have set you up for how to cope with traumatic events. Unfortunately, this generally means teaching bad coping mechanisms that can cause additional harm.
Trauma can continue throughout generations because the people who need help most never get it, perpetuating a harmful cycle of individuals failing to get help when they need it too.
Moreover, traumatized family members can transfer negative emotions, especially to those closest to them, including their partners and children.
If you are struggling with generational trauma, you can find safety and comfort by receiving professional therapy and counseling from a women’s-only treatment center. Casa Serena can help you even if you didn’t live through war or weren’t abused growing up, but you still have to contend with generational trauma’s mental and physical impact.
Our facility specializes in a range of holistic treatments, including family therapy, group therapy, and individual psychotherapy. During your stay with us, we will help you replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy coping mechanisms to facilitate improved emotional expression, communication, and acknowledgment that your experiences matter. Turn to Casa Serena for safety, sobriety, and new skills you can apply to your intergenerational trauma. Call Casa Serena today to learn more about our premier women’s drug and alcohol rehab center.