Intergenerational Trauma

I’ve been thinking a lot about intergenerational trauma. Like how someone might be abusive because his father was abusive because HIS father had untreated PTSD from going to war as a teenager.

Then I think, as I often have, about how a privileged person might look at a population of indigenous people and wonder why they “haven’t got their act together” without taking into account what might happen to a people when they have, in recent history, the collective trauma of an entire stolen generation.

I think about how I am someone who has had a relatively stable, middle class upbringing, with access to books, family, love, a roof over their head… and how those things can give one a belief in their right to love, to education, to a voice that should be listened to. I think about someone who has been through a broken home, poverty and homelessness and how that might cause them to believe that they are unworthy of education, of security, of love.

I think about how our self-perceptions inform our decisions and how the outcomes of our decisions inform our self-perceptions. I think about poverty traps. I think about the ways in which we discuss the privileges of money, gender, race and so on… but what about the privilege of love? What about those who haven’t had love in their childhood? Isn’t love a privilege that not everyone is given?

Those who go unloved, or are badly abused or neglected when they are small, when their beautiful brains are still developing… what an incredible, long-lasting trauma that must be. What a tremendous setback at the very start of your life, like the race has begun and your legs are already tied together. How hard that must be, how brave and resilient such people are for pushing onward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about compassion and empathy. How undervalued it is. How desperately we need to cultivate more of it. How many more discussions we have to engage in about the way pain breeds more pain. How someone’s bad decisions might be the result of the only coping mechanisms they were capable of coming to when they were small and vulnerable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much healthier we’d all be if we funded better mental health care, if we listened to more stories of people who aren’t the same as us, if we simply sat with ourselves and practiced loving kindness directed both outwards and in.

When I see someone behaving in ways that seem stupid, baffling, or infuriating, I try to ask myself where that comes from. So often, the answer is pain. There is so much pain residing in the hearts of our species, I hope never to close to it but to remain open, to sit besides it with empathy and compassion.

Advertisements