It is well known that adverse experience such as neglect and abuse can negatively affect both mental and even physical health. However, some individuals bear the burden of traumatic experience that is not their own. It is increasingly well understood that the trauma carried by primary caregivers or even of more distant relatives can adversely impact our own health and well-being.
A therapist from Toronto Psychotherapy Group can address your concerns about the impact that intergenerational trauma may be having on your life and assist you in exploring and healing your sense of wholeness and health.
Defining Intergenerational Trauma
Intergenerational trauma describes the transgenerational transmission of parents’ traumatic experiences to their children and even grandchildren, and is a well-documented phenomenon, particularly in descendents of Holocaust survivors and Aboriginal/First Nations families, as well as children of refugees, migrants, and other groups. The devastating effects of traumatic experiences, including war, genocide, and ongoing oppression, can alter a person’s capacity for being attentive and present, and ability to love, form attachments, or parent well. Some individuals grow to adulthood in households with oppressive silences, where traumatic histories colour the mood of each inhabitant and subtly affect the atmosphere, yet are rarely or never directly acknowledged. In other households where intergenerational trauma is present, a sense of danger may be frequently declared, and peril or disaster anticipated around every corner. Children growing up in such an environment can feel something is always wrong but not understand why or what it might be.
Long-term effects of such experiences—the very essence of intergenerational trauma— include the development of symptoms such as:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours
- Other adverse outcomes
Treatment Approaches for Intergenerational Trauma
How Psychotherapists Work with Intergenerational Trauma
When a psychotherapist works with you to explore your experience of family trauma, the aim of the process for both of you will be to explore the mysteries of your personal history and context, spoken and unspoken, with gentleness and curiosity. The aim will be to illuminate the effects of the past and to better understand and contain the distress you may have experienced in yourself and in others around you.
Seeing a therapist to address transgenerational trauma will involve some or all of the following:
- Exploring the psychological dimensions and origins of family trauma
- Developing insight and understanding about your emotional triggers
- Building a greater mastery of overwhelming memories and emotions
- Learning about self-esteem and self-care
- Creating a renewed sense of harmony, wholeness, and personal well-being