“The people we love and those who raised us live inside us; we experience their emotional pain, we dream their memories, we know what was not explicitly conveyed to us, and these things shape our lives in ways that we don’t always understand.”
It seems like everyone — from the scientists to the mystics — is talking about intergenerational trauma. Whether we perceive it be a result of epigenetics or an energetic fault line that runs through families, we are increasingly recognizing the effects of our ancestral experience on our lives.
Whether these effects are obvious or hidden, this terrain is full of riches for women writers. The question of what traumas our ancestors may have experienced over time can provoke some deep dives into the known and unknown. In instances where the facts are unapparent, our writing can be a place to connect with our bodies, imagination, intuition and the spirits of the women and men who have gone before.
Examining our own shadow can lead us into reflection around the genesis of our core beliefs, challenges and blindspots and the legacies we are carrying forward with us.
As with all trauma work, it’s vital to keep to a pace and depth that prioritizes safety.
As Dr. Galit Atlas writes in her book, Emotional Inheritance: A therapist, her patients, and the legacy of trauma:
“When it comes to talking about trauma, we always walk the delicate line between too much and not enough, between what is too explicit and what is secretive, what is traumatizing and what is repressed and thus remains in its raw, wordless form. We are usually caught in that binary between the two extremes because when it comes to trauma, regulation is always a challenge.”
At the same time, an understanding of the genesis of our emotional inheritance can offer emotional regulation and new pathways to healing. So navigating those tight alleyways can bring benefit, and not just to us, but to our readers and co-journeyers.