Have you ever stopped to think about how the unresolved traumas of your great-grandparents, grandparents, or parents, whether they are still alive or not, might be impacting your mental well-being? This month, we read Mark Wolynn’s book, It Didn’t Start With You, where he describes how we can be born into feelings, fears, symptoms, and behaviors that don’t belong to us. When a trauma happens, it changes us, and the residues of traumatic memories cause a change in our DNA which changes how our genes function. These changes can be carried forward for three generations. Our children and grandchildren can be inheriting our stress response despite not experiencing the trauma first-hand and unknowingly can be connected to the pain and suffering of previous generations.
So, it’s not only what we inherit through these gene changes but also how we were parented and our deepest family secrets that can have a significant impact on our mental well-being. Wolynn goes on to explain that when we experience a traumatic event, we can lose our ability to explain the trauma in words due to how our brain’s frontal lobe and our nondeclarative memory operate. It’s as if the event disperses and becomes fragments of emotions, images, body sensations, language, and memory. We don’t retain a full recollection of what happened. We may even be clinging to trauma that is generations deep. Yet, the pieces aren’t lost. They’ve been rerouted and can resurface in our verbal and nonverbal trauma language. Our fears, phobias, and struggles can also surface when we reach certain milestones: leaving home, getting married, or having a baby, to name a few.
Wolynn gives many examples of how our family history has a tendency to weave itself into our lives and how, unconsciously, we carry on their behaviors, traits, and emotions.
Wolynn’s ground-breaking book, steeped with scientific studies, is a step-by-step guide that gives us a way to identify and acknowledge how each of our unique family histories impacts our well-being. His Core Language Approach helps us to connect our deepest fears and the issues we struggle with by putting together our own Core Language Map using these four tools:
- Core Complaint (the words we use to describe our worries and our struggles, which can also include our physical body language)
- Core Descriptors (adjectives and phrases we use to describe our mother and father, and can also include colleagues, bosses, or friends)
- Core Sentence (the sentence that expresses our greatest fear)
- Core Trauma (the unresolved trauma in childhood or in the family history)
For our pain to heal, it needs a path of resolution or expression. Making peace with our family history is a good start.
Intrigued? Contact us to learn more about our upcoming pilot project to explore the impacts of intergenerational trauma.