More Reasons to Be Hopeful About Generational Trauma

Profile of young African American over a neutral background.

In my last blog I shared some information about hope and ways to become more hopeful. In this blog I would like to add information from Trauma through a Child’s Eyes by Levine and Klein from a section they call “Undoing This Vicious Cycle.” The vicious cycle describes how trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation in what is called transgenerational or intergenerational societal trauma.

They state the following: With the new understanding that trauma resides, unresolved, in the nervous system of individuals and the collective nervous system of society comes new hope for future generations. As our generation awakens by coming home to the body, restoring our primordial rhythms that bring pleasure and flow, we can begin to change this generational ‘inheritance’ to one of victory over intergenerational trauma.”

Levine and Klein share what someone in one of their courses said: “I realize that until we find peace with ourselves, we will never be able to find peace with each other.” It is nearly impossible for someone with significant unresolved trauma to be at peace with themselves. Part of the outcome and goal of addressing unresolved trauma is to bring peace to the inner world of others and to our own inner world. The hope is that our intentional efforts to promote healing can lead to this kind of peace.

They go on to say: Individual trauma healing not only heals us, but our offspring as well. First, we heal at the level of the personal, then at the level of family, then at the level of community, next at the level of nations—and finally at the global level. 

African american man feeling sad and rejected.

Recognizing that trauma can be both inherited from previous generations and can be passed on to future generations adds a great deal more responsibility to all of us to address our trauma issues. We need to recognize that many of them may have been initiated by previous generations and, if we do not resolve them, can be passed on to future generations. Therefore, we have the responsibility of helping others work on healing and be compassionate to them because there is potential for anyone’s trauma to impact their family, community and nation. When we address trauma and promote healing, we can embrace the hope to heal someone’s trauma pain and possibly even some of our own. We also can help to break transgenerational cycles of trauma and interrupt processes where trauma could be passed forward to future generations.

It certainly is no easy task to explore the origins of our traumas, often having to relive some of the pain in order to resolve it. Becoming educated to the nature of trauma, what can cause it, its impact, and how one can work to resolve it, can equip each of us to do this work. Knowing it is possible for us to do all this is why we can be hopeful.

Closeup of two people holding hands heartily during therapy session in support group

The authors conclude this section with the following statement: “As more and more individuals experience profound transformation at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels by way of the vehicle of transforming trauma through sensations and feelings, and learn to adjust their actions appropriately, seeds of new possibilities for our vulnerable planet are sown. You, as educators, community leaders, medical workers, parents, and concerned neighbors, can make a difference in children’s lives, from infancy to adolescence. Whether you are a daycare director, classroom teacher, counselor, nurse, school psychologist, administrator, therapist, pediatric medical professional, or political leader, you are now equipped with the knowledge and skills to influence the future.”

For those of you who have a faith in God, the following are the final stances from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It may resonate with the messages in this blog:

And in despair bowed my head:

There is no peace on earth, I said,

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.

Invitation for Reflection:

  1.  How does the information on the transgenerational nature of trauma and the fact that we can be influencing future generations when we promote healing from trauma resonate with you?
  2. How does Klein and Levine’s message that have the potential to impact ultimately the entire world for future generations resonate with you?
  3. How does this information impact your sense of responsibility for addressing your own trauma and the trauma of others?
  4. Why do you think there can be so much hope in this information?

Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute