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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    Trauma's Intergenerational Impact On Families

    When traumatic experiences passed on down through the generations, they can profoundly impact the lives of successive families. In some cases, it is possible for a family to end up facing long-term issues that can trace back to a single bad event several generations prior. The sheer magnitude of the possible damage that can be done to a family's inheritance is often understated, however, and studying the full scope of how trauma's effects can last from one generation to the next is vital for understanding the full impact on families, both close and distant.

    Traumatic events will, of course, affect the people who experienced them first hand in the most direct way. In some cases, these events may impose certain traumas, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that manifest through a variety of forms, be it flashbacks, nightmares, or even physical ailments. Every individual's response and experience to trauma, however, will markedly differ, as will the severity of these reactions and the extent of their lasting impacts.

    What often goes unnoticed or unspoken is how these same experiences can be handed down to subsequent generations, in some cases without a clear connection between the two. Studies from such organizations as The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wexner Medical Center, for example, have demonstrated the potential for traumatic experiences to lead to physical illnesses – things such as cancer, heart diseases, and even psychological disorders being passed down through the generations.

    In addition to medical impacts that may be passed on through genetics, there is also the possibility for more psychological implications of inherited traumas. It is not uncommon, for instance, for events that occurred in previous generations to influence the behavior of succeeding ones, particularly in cases of abuse or neglect. In many cases, these experiences can further result in such conditions as social anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Intimate relationships, also, can be affected by these inherited traumas, ultimately leading to decreases in emotional intimacy.

    It is natural and normal to feel scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of confronting these deeply-rooted issues. Regardless, it is important to recognize when trauma is present and the potential for it to be present in everyday conversations, or even in the non-verbal cues of members within the family. Taking emotional responsibility, reaching out for help, and understanding the differences between how trauma affects each individual are essential steps towards understanding how each person processes and copes with these past experiences.

    Not only does recognizing the presence of trauma offer closure and peace-of-mind for individuals, but it also helps in acknowledging the importance of understanding people from different generations. Approaching difficult conversations with patience, kindness, and empathy can foster healing while also maintaining crucial familial ties. Activities such as setting boundaries, encouraging communication, and utilizing mindful practices can also be beneficial in curbing inherited issues when beginning to work through them.

    Through this, trauma within the family unit can be more easily spoken about, worked through, and finalized. But regardless of when or if such familial trauma is healed, it remains a poignant truth that it has the capability to affect generations to come in ways both obvious and subtle. When neglected or misunderstood, it can have a powerful, detrimental effect on our lives as well as those of our loved ones. Understanding its roots and learning how to effectively respond to it is, therefore, essential for anyone wanting to break the cycle of inherited traumas and restore their family to balance.

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