Breaking the Generational Cycle of Trauma
The long-lived battle of nature versus nurture does not rest on the issue of trauma. Everyone deals with trauma differently and the actual magnitude of the event does not define trauma, but rather trauma is determined by how the event is stored within the nervous center. What classifies trauma is when the event (or series of events) get stuck in the nervous system in time, space, and developmental specific states, which allows old images, thoughts and beliefs, feelings, and body sensations to reemerge in a way that may feel like a reliving of the original experience when the memory is retrieved. From a biological perspective, we are learning that trauma is transformational all the way down to a cellular level. More recent research on epigenetics indicates that trauma directly affects our biological makeup, and can change and modify gene functions and expressions, which can then be passed down through generations, therefore affirming the notion of generational trauma.
Oftentimes we are not even aware that we may be holding on to and carrying the burdens and experiences of our lineage. Generational trauma may help explain many of our irrational fears and unexplainable behaviors. For example, say your grandparents faced a trauma of losing their home after their business went under and their finances were depleted. You may carry that around in present-day form through unrelenting feelings of financial insecurity, despite never having experienced financial loss or struggles in your own lifetime. In this case you are living out the trauma of your grandparents, seeing that there is no evidence or rationale for why you might have these fears. You may or may not have even ever known your grandparents. So, what's the good news??
1. As with all mental health issues, having a genetic predisposition never guarantees the expression of the condition, but rather it is some sort of stressor, loss, or trauma which triggers the expression. Just because you may have a predisposition to trauma, does not necessarily mean you are going to develop traumatic symptoms in the form of PTSD or other mental health concerns.
2. The brain is in and of itself a self-healing organism. Just as the body is created to heal itself physically, so is the brain wired to heal itself from psychological trauma and symptoms. As long as there are no obstacles in the way of healing, the entire body including the brain (which we sometimes forget is a part of the body) will spontaneously heal itself. Recognition and respect for the power of the brain to do the work for us is the first step to recovery.
3. Just as gene functions and expressions can be changed negatively through trauma, they can be changed positively through healing. Inheriting the genes of the previous generations does not only apply to cell changes in response to traumatic experiences, but also to good experiences which promote mental health, strength, and resiliency. Both types of cellular transformations are inheritable. Furthermore, even if there is a biological predisposition to pass down trauma to future generations, this is not something you are helpless to. You have a part in changing this pattern and choosing to break the cycle of generational trauma. It only takes one person in the line of a generation to become aware of this and change it for the rest of the generations to come! Why shouldn't that person be you?
With trauma a sense of helplessness, loss of control, or a distorted sense of safety and responsibility most often accompanies the experience. Even though it is completely valid to feel those things, know that there is help. Those obstacles that are preventing your brain to heal itself and keeping you stuck in the cycle of trauma can be removed with the help of a trained professional so the brain can begin its natural process to resolve it. You do not have to live out the rest of your life through the lens of trauma. Decide today to break the pattern of dysfunction not only for yourself, but for the many generations to come. Whether the result is changes at a cellular level that can be passed on biologically; behavioral changes that come as symptoms dissolve which can be observed by others; or environmental changes as clarity is gained once the traumatic glasses are taken off that can benefit those around you. No matter what form healing takes, it will be noticed. Change your life while you break the cycle for your lineage.