When Families Pass It On

My grandparents, pictured here, had Clydesdales. Perhaps I have them to thank for my own love of heavy horses. Our family history plays a big role in shaping our identity – who we are and how we create relationship both within and beyond our family structure.

Family history is among the factors that influence our risk of developing a mental illness. The effects of trauma can also be passed down from one generation to the next. The impact of the traumatic experience of war or a childhood living in a violent home will ripple across not only one generation, but on to subsequent generations after the event. In my own family, for example, mental health issues like depression and addiction flow across the generations with their genesis taking shape after World War II.

Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations, edited by M. Gerrard Fromm (2012) is a collection of essays on traumatic transmission from one generation to the next. A traumatic experience may not be spoken of, for example, many veterans of World War II did not speak of their experiences with their families until late in life if at all. However what does get passed down is anxiety, unhealthy attitudes, values, hypervigilance or unconscious cues that the world is not a safe space.

Education is the first step in understanding the impact of intergenerational trauma. You can begin to move beyond the experience and the inherited response to threat by understanding the impacts and what physical, emotional and behavioural clues to look for that may suggest a need for support to break the unhealthy patterns and coping behaviours passed on from one generation to the next.

About the Author

Jennifer Garland is the founder of The Mane Intent Inc. offering individual and group equine-assisted psychotherapy, psychotherapy, and equine-assisted learning programs including Health and Wellness Workshops, Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching and Leadership Development. Jennifer provides coaching, counsel and support to individuals and groups  from all walks of life to create opportunities to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change.  Learn more about Jennifer’s professional experience, lectures, awards and publications here.

For more information or to book a private virtual session with Jennifer, please call 705-295-6618 or email jgarland@themaneintent.ca

The Mane Intent

May 19, 2022

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