Parenting problems? How to heal intergenerational trauma

Oh the irony of parents blaming their children for their outbursts! Unresolved suffering gets passed down in intergenerational trauma and manifests itself in mental health issues, addiction and unhealthy behavioural patterns. This is done far beyond the conscious level: Mark Wolynn, author of It didn’t start with you: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to Break the Cycle explains how language patterns and disconnection to our own bodies and instincts leads to four subconscious themes:

  1. We have merged with a parent
  2. We have rejected a parent
  3. We have experienced a break in the early bond with our mother
  4. We have identified with a member of our family system other than our parents

These can limit our health, success and ultimately our ability to be healthy parents ourselves. The longer we are in denial about intergenerational trauma (such as abandonment, abuse, death or sickness), the more integrated our psyche has become with unhealthy coping mechanisms.

But where to start?

Wolynn champions analysing how we describe our parental relationship with the use of his core language map (involving complaints, descriptors, sentences and trauma). Often we’re too removed from ourselves to even start there. My previous post about somatic experiencing (pioneered by Peter Levine) helps navigate our fight and flight response to go near traumatic topics within our body.

‘We may get stressed because we have unresolved issues, but too often we focus on ‘fixing’ our kid and avoiding our own path‘ – Gabor Mate

In Gabor Mate & Gordon Neufelds’s Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Needs to Matter More Than Peers, the authors explain that when children are not emotionally validated by their parents, they turn to their peers. Too often parents feel their children shifting away, and they hang on tighter, exerting more control when they have not resolved their own trauma: hence fulfilling the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

Don’t take rejections personally. You hang in there. You are wooing the child back into the relationship’ – Gabor Mate

With unresolved pain still sitting in the parent, we project our own needs onto the child. Instead of being an unconditional source of belonging and security for the child, the parent now needs to feel validated by their offspring. These unhealthy patterns result in dual resentment, only uncovered when the child has left the home. Healing takes time, sometimes resulting in a complete breakdown of our previous reality or a dark night of the soul.

This articles gives a great breakdown on how to reattach to your children.
First and foremost, parents need to stop outsourcing their wellbeing to heal intergenerational trauma. Stop asking your children to heal the relationship, and become invested in your own recovery. Children learn by observing their caretakers, and learning that we are our own first priority is a great lesson for any growing soul.

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