Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

How Generational Trauma Affects us in the Present

The perceptions and beliefs we learned early in life continue to influence us on a daily basis. But we often don’t realize this is happening, because it’s buried deep in our unconscious.  We are often not even aware of it in the moment it’s happening. And until we’ve really worked on our trauma, we won’t even realize it after the fact.

One example: If we see our mother drinking constantly during our childhood, we will perceive that Mom loves her alcohol more than she loves us.  It may not be factually accurate, but it’s what we will perceive.  Decades later, we realize that Mom has a disorder, and it has nothing to do with anything we did, and that Mom loves us as much as she is able.  But let’s say Mom does something that really upsets or disrespects us.  Many of us, in that example, might find ourselves getting explosively angry, way beyond what’s warranted by what Mom did.

What’s happening with our rage in that moment has nothing to do with what Mom did in that moment. Instead, our brain is triggered to an experience we had decades ago, as a small child. We felt unloved, like Mom was choosing her bottle over us. We couldn’t get angry then, because we’d lose attachment. So we pushed that anger down. Now that we’re an adult, that anger can slip out, because we know we no longer need the protection.  And the anger is the unresolved anger of the 2 or 3 or 5-year-old child.  So we find ourselves regressing and behaving with a 3-year-old’s brain, because that’s what got triggered.

Here’s the part that’s really annoying: Even once we understand that this is happening, we can’t just simply change the behavior. It’s coming from our unconscious, and can pop out before we’re even aware of it.  So we have to practice improving our self-awareness, and learn to look for situations that might trigger those behaviors, and learn to respond differently.

There are lots of other examples that might be happening, depending on our specific experiences. This is only a tiny number of examples:

  • In relationships, we push others away because we’re afraid we don’t deserve them, and they’ll leave, so we take control by leaving first.

  • We distrust everyone

  • We sabotage our own success because we don’t believe we can be successful.

  • We lash out at people because they triggered an old (unconscious) memory or feeling

  • We shy away from sex because it unconsciously reminds us of being hurt

  • Or the opposite: we’re promiscuous, because it’s the only way we knew to get attention

  • We eat very quickly, and more than we need, because food wasn’t plentiful growing up