Transgenerational and Intergenerational Trauma from Racism

Transgenerational and Intergenerational Trauma from Racism

In the early 2000s, Brent Bezo, a student in the doctoral psychology program at Carleton University in Ottawa, was living with his wife in Ukraine when they began picking up on subtle notes of resentment and skepticism from the native population. In his conversations with the locals, Bezo specifically remembers detecting references to the Holodomor, a historical event in the early 1930s that ended with millions of Ukrainians starving to death. Many considered it to be a deliberate act of genocide coordinated by Stalin’s regime.

Bezo began to wonder how much of an impact this horrific historical event would have on our current generation. He decided to conduct a qualitative investigation using 45 volunteers from three different generations; the survivors of this tragic event as well as their children and grandchildren. His findings, published in Social Science & Medicine in 2015, showed that each generation had inherited a lack of trust from the one before. Certain behaviors, including anxiety, embarrassment, food hoarding, and overeating, were passed on from one generation to the next.

This is just one study in a growing body of research that looks at how multiple generations have been affected by large-scale cultural and historical suffering. Researchers are now studying the effects of historically traumatic events, including the systematic mass murders of millions during the Holocaust, the involuntary enslavement of African-Americans, and the forced migration of Native Americans. They are finding that the transgenerational repercussions span far beyond the mental effects into familial, social, and cultural expressions as well.

Treatment for Transgenerational Trauma

While more research is needed, clinicians are developing effective interventions based on current findings.

For instance, family therapists working with Native American tribes in Canada and the United States help prevent early substance use by improving family communications and reducing family conflicts.

Other clinicians have good outcomes by using a “survival genogram,” which is like a pictorial version of a family tree that highlights family relationships, health, and psychological patterns. This helps children and grandchildren of survivors explore their ancestral life lessons to help them move forward in their current lives.

Many clinicians are still encouraging their clients to use self-care practices such as mindfulness and exercise to reduce potential triggers.

Without question addressing present-day traumas like racism related to original events is key to helping new generations heal and move on. Therapy can guide people in using coping tools and learning better communication to help them on their healing journey.

If you or someone you know is suffering from transgenerational trauma from racism and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.



Somatic Experiencing for Treatment of PTSD Symptoms

Traumatic events such as war, rape, and severe accidents can lead people to suffer from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What we have recently discovered is that any event that is experienced as threatening can generate PTSD-like symptoms and negatively affect a person’s quality of life.

Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) was developed by psychologist Peter A. Levine to address the effects of trauma. Levine developed this modality after noticing that prey animals, whose lives are constantly under threat in their natural habitat, are able to recover quickly by releasing stressful energy accumulated during the event.

Human beings don’t have this same capability of processing trauma. We tend to override this natural way of regulating our nervous system and instead feel emotions like fear and shame. Somatic Experiencing helps people move past the trauma.

What is Somatic Therapy Exactly?

Somatic therapy combines psychotherapy with physical therapies to bring about the holistic – or whole-person – healing. This modality focuses on the mind-body connection and uses talk therapy along with physical therapy techniques to release pent-up tension in the body that is negatively impacting a person’s health and well-being.

Somatic therapy can be very beneficial to people who have suffered trauma or abuse, as well as people who suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and addiction. This technique can be used in individual and group settings and may prove effective when other traditional forms of treatment have not delivered results.

What to Expect from Somatic Therapy

During a session, a therapist uses talk therapy to help their client revive past memories of traumatic experiences. The client then pays attention to any physical responses. Physical therapy techniques such as deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation are used to help relieve symptoms. Other adjunctive physical techniques that may be used with this therapy include yoga, dance, exercise, or other types of movement and massage.

How to Choose a Somatic Therapist

Somatic therapy can easily be integrated into other counseling practices. You’ll want to begin by looking for a somatic therapist that is licensed and experienced in somatic therapy techniques. In addition to looking for someone with the right skills and background, it’s also important that you find someone you feel comfortable with.

Somatic experiencing is an excellent way of getting rid of what is stuck and holding you back from experiencing joy and peace in your life. If you’d like to explore this treatment approach, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy discussing how I may be able to help.