This is the first of a two part series on intergenerational trauma. This is a topic that is extremely important right now - although it has always been.
In light of current events (George Floyd's murder) I want to take a couple episodes to explain how oppressive systems work. How they are held up by unacknowledged trauma. And how the family and self systems mirror societal systems.
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ntergenerational Trauma and Oppressive Systems Part #1 - The Family & The Self
Wooph - hello people - hello hello hello - there’s a lot going on in the world right now.
Specifically - George Floyd’s murder by police officers in Minneapolis.
And there are so many emotions. And there is so much chaos. And so I wanted to do my part to help the world. And help you guys understand what’s happening in the world on a much deeper level and through a slightly different lens and that is the lens of trauma.
Intergenerational Trauma. Imprinting and Nervous system imprinting.
I believe times like these call for high-quality thinking. And high-quality thinking comes from regulation. Emotional regulation and deep healing. And emotion regulation and healing come from depth of awareness.
You know as a woman who is black - my dad’s side of the family is Jamaican my grandparents immigrated to London and then to Canada. And my mom’s side of the family is Chinese and Irish. But I’m aware that I am black you know my skin is black my hair is curly and that’s how I am perceived at first glance. I have always been aware of racism. And I have experienced it - albeit not to the extent that my father did and my grandfather did. But I have experienced it. This has brought up a lot of self-exploration in me and a lot of inquiry within me about what it means to have my voice and have the knowledge I have in the world. And the impact I can have on you my community and on the world at large because as I always say - when you heal yourself you heal the world. And so - I thought contributing this podcast to help people really understand the impact of trauma on human relationships - which affects all these relationships - you know race relations - class relations - gender relations…. And so much more… I want to talk about intergenerational trauma and what is happening today from that context and that lens. Because it’s very very important.
And before I start I want to say too - that this has really lead me to do some deep exploratory work on my own biases toward people of different sizes and colours and classes etc. And recognizing that within me - EVEN AS A BLACK PERSON - within ME - I still hold these blindspots within myself that emerge through the process of inquiry and emotional honesty - and this is shameful and embarrassing and gross but that’s hwo we heal is we learn to sit with the shameful and embarrassing and gross. We bring these shadows right up to the surface.
So I’m going to do this in two parts
Part 1 is Intergenerational trauma and oppressive systems within the family and the self.
Part 2 will be intergenerational trauma and oppressive systems within society and the global community. (prison, black people, people of colour, gay people, trans people)
So intergenerational trauma or transgenerational trauma is the idea that trauma that is not healed can be passed down through generations.
And we have the science to back us on this now thanks to the work of so many in this field - adverse childhood experiences, dr bruce perry, dr allan schore, dr steven porges, dr peter levine… and this was first recognized with holocaust survivors…
Intergenerational trauma was first recognized in the children of Holocaust survivors. In 1966, psychologists began to observe large numbers of children of Holocaust survivors seeking mental help in clinics in Canada. The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors were overrepresented by 300% among the referrals to a psychiatry clinic in comparison with their representation in the general population. Since then, transgenerational trauma has been documented in descendants of slaves, Native Americans, war survivors, refugees, survivors of interpersonal abuse, and many other groups.
And so - we know - we know now. This is real.
We know on an intuitive level - like it’s in the collective unconscious but we also know it on a scientific level now.
And so I want to talk about how intergenerational trauma causes oppressive family systems.
And I want to talk about how power dynamics and oppressive dynamics emerge in dysfunctional families.
And I want to draw some parallels between victims of abuse and trauma in dysfunctional families and what we are seeing in the world today in our institutions in our global community.
And I want to talk about how it is traumatic to inflict abuse on family members and it is traumatic to be the victim of abuse of family members in dysfunctional families.
And I want to talk about how the treatment of children in our families perpetuates the mistreatment of others in our communities who we perceive to be shameful, less-than, lower-than etc.
And I want to talk about how seeing the “OTHER” as less-than is traumatic for both parties the see-er and the one being seen.
So - let’s talk about how intergenerational trauma in families causes an oppressive family system. And - you know
Gaslighting - as a tool for the abuser to keep the trauma in the shadows and avoid pain
Denial - as a tool for the family to keep the trauma in the shadows and avoid pain
Silencing and Suppressing Authenticity- as a way for the abuser to avoid pain
Codependency - one parent enables the other parent - teaches the child they are not valuable.
Victim Blaming and Shaming - telling the victim to calm down.
Punishing the victims for speaking up.
Not SEEING the children as human beings.
RAGE and self-hatred
Disgust of the self.
Blatant disregard for the truth.
Only the abuser’s pain is seen and heard.
The pain that is being avoided is the pain of truly dismantling and uprooting and untangling trauma.
In order for the system to heal - the individuals in that system must heal and be willing to examine how they themselves have caused this pain.
It is messy.
So this imprinting and this patterning is in our physiology and it’s in our brains and we live life in survival mode. And in survival mode it is hard to think clearly. It is hard to work and to go to school and you are more susceptible to addiction - to more unsafe relationships.
Everything is harder when you do not have your foundations.