Rear view of family holding hands walking in a field-generational-trauma

What is Generational Trauma?

Generational trauma is defined as trauma that gets passed down from family members while also influencing the way future generations cope with, view, and handle traumatic events. In other words, it can be thought of as learned behaviors, thought patterns, subtle nuances, and/or ways of being that have been passed down through generations within the same family lineage. These traumas vary in severity and can manifest in many diverse ways depending on each family dynamic and structure. Family history typically plays a significant role in how generational trauma is formed and then passed down.

Generational Trauma

Generational trauma never usually feels like “real” trauma because people typically are blind to it. Being born into lifestyles in which generational traumas exist makes it so that people become so used to experiencing those various forms of trauma that they consider it to be a completely normal part of life. This is why it is particularly difficult for people to understand how and why it can impact them in a real way.

That being said, generational trauma impacts more people than many of us realize. It is so common that it almost has become unrecognizable. For example, anxiety could be a form of generational trauma. If there is a situation in which a mother has a past history of enduring sexual abuse and therefore feels anxiety about being around men, her children may also develop these feelings of anxiety while being around men. Even though they may have never experienced the sexual abuse that their mother experienced, they could still develop anxiety while around men because they learned this behavior both directly and indirectly from their mother and her past traumas.

Have you ever heard someone say that their family has a history of anger issues? Statements like these could also be potential signs of generational trauma that are highly normalized today. Perhaps there is a scenario in which a current father was raised by a dad who was physically abusive to him and his family members when he was a child. This could be a learned behavior that the current father himself now uses with his own family members. In this case, his children may develop “anger problems” that may include yelling, throwing things, and/or hitting others. This is a cycle of abuse and is a prime example of generational trauma that is quite common today.

How is Generational Trauma Related to Addiction?

You may be wondering how and why this topic is related to addiction and recovery. Trauma in and of itself is directly related to substance use disorder (SUD). Generational trauma (also being a form of trauma) occurs when members of a family never fully process the grief that they experienced during that time in their lives. When children of parents and grandparents experience PSTD from experiences that they did not live through, this is known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). If not addressed, this can continue to get passed down from generation to generation.

Dealing with traumas is difficult enough to handle. However, since generational traumas are subtle and very normalized within family structures, they can put people at significant risk for developing SUD later in life. It is common for family members to rely on denying and suppressing their emotions and feelings within generational trauma dynamics, so often times later generations take on these hardships even more so than the originators. This leaves later generations very susceptible to developing an addiction in order to cope with all of this potential stress and turmoil. Life already throws difficulties to each of us as it is, but when we also have to carry the suppressed emotions and traumas of our family members, the stress becomes surmountable.

Can I Break the Cycle?

Yes, you can absolutely break the cycle of generational trauma, or reduce it significantly for future generations. This process is long and requires hard work every day. However, it is also so worth the hard work to free yourself and future family members from that cycle.

To begin this journey of freedom, you can begin by reaching out to your local mental health professionals as well as local therapy programs. These people are trained to help you learn more about generational trauma and help you work through your own traumas. They are able to give you a safe, open space to unpack these potentially uncomfortable topics. Professionals like these can also give you the knowledge and tools necessary to overcome and change these beliefs and behaviors while in treatment and after you leave treatment.

Generational trauma can be defined as complicated, highly nuanced patterns of behaviors and mindsets that are passed down from one generation to the other within a single, family structure. These typically negatively impact many people by forcing them to deal with the residual effects of the unprocessed traumas experienced by previous generations of family members. These subtle, yet burdensome traumas often leave many people way more susceptible to developing an addiction at some point in their lives. This is due to the added stress and hardships of living with generational trauma. Identifying and processing through generational trauma is a priority of ours at Rickard Elmore Treatment Strategies. We believe that in order for complete healing to occur successfully, addressing deeply rooted traumas is very necessary. We offer many treatment modalities (interventions, transformational recovery coaching, psychedelic support, and planning, etc) to best serve your needs during the process. Call us today at (877) 387-7197 to learn more about the ways in which we can help you work through your potential generational trauma.