Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Trauma

Traits passed down through your family may make you think of blonde hair, being good at sport or having a natural affinity for animals. But it is not always positive behaviour or traits passed down through the generations. Destructive and negative relationship patterns can be generational and we may not even see this.

For example, research shows children in families where the father faces involuntary long-term unemployment can place less importance on education. Children brought up in homes where there is alcohol addiction are four times more likely to become alcohol addicted. Domestic violence situations can result in children having mental health problems and displaying violent behaviours.

So why do these negative, dysfunctional behaviours become generational?

What are intergenerational legacies?

Intergenerational legacies are the thoughts, beliefs and behaviours we pass on to each other through our families. It is how you see the world based on what you learn from the people in your life. These come from your parents, grandparents and primary influencers while growing up. Culture, events and ethnicity are also keys influences. These are the things we pass on through our actions, words and attitudes. Whether it is conscious or unconscious, we pass on how we think, behave and believe is right. Intergenerational legacies continue even when we are not aware of what we are doing.

How often have you said, “I’m not going to do or say that” in response to your parents? Are there things about your parents you do not want to carry on in to your life? How often have you caught yourself behaving in a way you said you never would after experiencing it as a child? Maybe you want better control of your temper. Be more forgiving and open minded. You could not want to drink as much as your parents did. Or ensure you remain employed even through the tough times. But are you doing things differently to your parents?

How parents influence their child’s behaviour

Children soak up everything that goes on around them. They learn from watching and experiencing what people do and happens in their world. Kids are easily influenced by the good and bad. They can make no distinctions. And copy what they see and hear. So if a child is brought up in a violent environment, it is likely that is how they will deal with things when they are older.

Research shows that children brought up in positive households with parental involvement grew up to behave in a similar manner. But children with overly strict or permissive parents expressed more negative behaviour.

Breaking the cycle

But it does not have to be this way. It is likely you are not even aware you are walking through life emulating what you learned as a child. And living your life with these unconscious beliefs can harm you. It is not until you become aware of what you are doing that you can change.

So how do you change your beliefs and the way you behave?

Be aware of destructive patterns

First you need to become self-aware. Examine how you think and behave, and what you believe.

Become aware of the destructive patterns ingrained in your family that you have taken on in your life. Talk to your parents and grandparents to learn what the intergenerational legacies are. Discover where they came from and how your family passes them on.

You may discover all sorts of facts that support the perspectives and beliefs passed on through family generations.

Maybe you always worry about money and not having enough. You may discover there was long-term unemployment at some stage in your family. Your family may have been poor so they took a frugal attitude towards money. They believed in not spending money on unnecessary things and saving for a rainy day. While you may now have enough money, a home and savings, you still worry about not having enough money. This is irrational but it comes from intergenerational beliefs.

To break the cycle you need to identify these sorts of things from the past to become self-aware so you can work on changing them.

Own who you are

What you believe is how you interpret the world around you. These beliefs begin forming from the day you were born based on the people around you. And they continue to shape your life. While a number of factors shape what you believe, they also have an impact on your approach to life.

For example, maybe you have a fear of public speaking. This could stem from failing at public speaking at school so now you avoid speaking in public at all. And because you never give yourself the chance to speak publicly, you perpetuate the fear so it becomes a vicious cycle.  

Assess whether your beliefs help or hinder you. It is time to ask yourself why you react to situations in the way you do. What are you thinking at the time? Take ownership of who you are and how you see the world. Take responsibility for the dysfunctional parts of your life. Determine whether intergenerational legacies work for you in a positive way. By doing this you can remove the barriers.

Observe how others interact

Take time out to observe how others interact. Compare the contrast of how different people and families communicate with how you and your family deals with similar situations. What makes them different to you? Do you think the way they handle situations is weird? Have you noticed they do not overact to anything. Even though they speak their mind and are forthcoming, they seem to take things in their stride. They give everyone a chance to speak and actually listen to what each other has to say. Is this how you and your family interact? How does this make you feel? What is it they do that makes their family more stable and emotionally healthy than yours?

Be forgiving and move on

Be forgiving. It is an important part of breaking intergenerational cycles. Move on so you are no longer held back from fulfilling the dreams and goals in your life. This will also help to enrich your relationships.

Forgiveness is a process. It is not about forgetting. And it is not about condoning past negative, abusive or offensive behaviours. Instead you make the choice to accept and acknowledge what happened in the past so you can move your life forward.

Be courageous

Be courageous. Look at your past honestly. By doing this you may experience pain and it will be difficult. You may find there is deceit, abuse and manipulation from the people you loved and trusted. This takes exceptional energy and courage to face. It is emotionally exhausting to see the truth for what it truly is. You have to keep remembering to see the truth rather than what you want to see. Do not sugar coat it. As you do, consider:

  • How can I accurately see myself?
  • What do I truly believe?
  • How do I think? Where does it come from?
  • What makes a healthy relationship or friendship?
  • What assumptions do I make about the world around me?
  • How do I perceive the world that may be inaccurate?
  • How should I treat the opposite sex?

It is daunting trying to break intergenerational legacies. You may offend or alienate family members you love. But it is worthwhile to be the best you can be. To live your life in the way you want. And they may appreciate you for who you are and your courage.

You do not have to do everything the same old way. The way things have been done in your for family for generations. Breaking intergenerational legacies is certainly difficult. But you do not have to suffer the way generations of your family suffered in the past.

Have the courage to stay focused on the big picture and looking after yourself and your family.

Stay motivated

Remember why you are trying to break intergenerational legacies. For a better life. So stay motivated. Overcoming the pain of the past can free you so you become a positive force.

Understanding what makes you who you are today can motivate you. It will give you the direction you need to make the changes you need to live the best life you can in the future.

Not every change you make will be successful. But continually correcting your mistakes promotes healthier behaviour that helps your children. It shows them there is a better way. It demonstrates to them it is possible to break the bad habits of intergenerational legacies.

And it is not a race. You may spend the rest of your life overcoming intergenerational legacies such as unhealthy ways of coping, neglect, domination, abuse and hurt. It is healthy to keep trying no matter how hard it is or the mistakes you will make.

It takes patience

Making changes takes practice so have patience. There will always be trial and error which means there will be mistakes. And that is alright as long as you do not just give up. To bring about change takes practice, practice, practice and immeasurable amounts of patience.

Become a role model

Your past and the patterns you learned do not need to define who you are today or in the future. While intergenerational legacies may have been what caused your belief patterns and behaviours, you have the power to change. Become a role model for your family and others. Be a positive impact on the lives of the people you love and who surround you.

We are here to help

Intergenerational legacies can cause mental health issues that may be hard to overcome. Dealing with the challenges of mental health is tough. It can be difficult to find the motivation to overcome the intergenerational legacies that affect your life. Even when you have support, you may feel people do not really understand or it is not enough. And when you are taking medication, sometimes you may need something more or to clear your head.

If you are struggling, consider reaching out. When you are not coping, contact us to find out how we aim to help get your life back on track. But if you reach a crisis point, call us immediately. We are here to help support you through a crisis and may be able to help you quickly deal with things better.

We can work with you over the phone, via Skype or in our Spas. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $79 so you may start making changes in your life. We aim to support you to help you cope with any mental health challenges. Our help may alleviate the effects of mental health issues so you look forward to changing the way you do things so intergenerational legacies no longer affect your life.

Let me help alleviate the effects of mental health issues

My Emotional Empowerment Program has helped many people like you deal with all types of mental health challenges for more than a decade. We may help you move through and deal with depression, stress or anxiety which may be stopping you from living your life fully. My aim is to help you replace mental health symptoms with a new hope for the future filled with happiness, peace and contentment in weeks not years. Listen to what Jessica has to say about my program after only a few sessions.

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