Generational Trauma – History is Alive Within Us

History isn't just something
"Back then".
It's something right now,
Alive in our own cells,
Programmed and labeled 
As culture and personality.
The struggles of old,
The weight too heavy to carry,
Passed along through generations
In hopes that the next
Will be able to set them free.
And the trauma isn't just our own,
But a collective grief
Shared by all those who can feel it.
Your pain, is my pain
And their pain is our pain.
The Human experience knows no boundaries
Has no sense of time.
For we are but a continuation 
Of all the lives unlived.
Our bodies just the clay
That history has molded.

Gordon Caldwell, 2021

I’ve been feeling into the idea of generational trauma for a while now. The fact that we inherit certain beliefs and experiences through our parents, and their parents, etc… That “culture” is just a result of collective trauma which shapes how a certain group of people act and organize based on their ancestors’ past experiences. And once you start recognizing this trauma, you begin to see it everywhere.

Being Scottish, I’ve inherited a history that required a hardening up, a shutting down of emotion using humour and “I’m fine” to deflect pain. To push it down, be strong and to suffer in silence. But I also grew up Canadian, where we apologize for existing, feeling guilty for thinking about ourselves, putting the needs of others first, to the detriment of our own. We have no solid roots beneath us, no sense of individual “Self”, relying on others to define that for us instead. These are all trauma responses. And based on what is coming out now regarding the residential schools, it’s clear where some of this guilt, shame and lack of stability is coming from.

The healing process is a messy one. But until we’re willing to accept and feel our collective trauma, recognizing how it’s shaped our own culture and who we believe we ‘are’, we’ll just keep repeating the same patterns over again, carrying the same baggage into the future. This is a time of letting go, of grieving, so we can move forward lighter, more compassionately and gently. This is a time of deep healing, that is well overdue.


2 Comments on “Generational Trauma – History is Alive Within Us

  1. Very interesting topic, this is something I’d like to reflect on. I do see trends from my ancestors in my own life and family. Thanks for sharing.

    Also, I love your poem. The lines “The Human experience knows no boundaries
    Has no sense of time” jumped out to me. It’s as if we are of one body through time, even though we can forget that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: