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Recognizing the Signs of Generational Trauma – a Story in 3 Parts About the Path to Healing
Jun 9, 2022
Guest Contributor
guest writer
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Image source: Ryutaro Tsukata for Pexels
Guest Contributor
guest writer
Editor’s note: This column is part of a three-part summer series exploring generational trauma: what it is and the author’s journey to seek healing.
We’ve all had some experience with the genetic section in our high school or college biology class. We have a rough idea of how biological traits are passed on from generation to generation. Still, in addition to physical traits and genetic conditions, generational trauma can be passed down. Given that this is a relatively newer field of study for psychologists, they are still uncovering the nuances and subtitles of how GT manifests itself in subsequent generations.
A 1988 study completed by The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry conclusively showed that children of parents who experience extended periods of stress and anxiety were more likely to exhibit and experience anxiety despite any external stressors.
“Trauma affects genetic processes, leading to heightened traumatic reactivity in populations who experience a great deal of trauma,” child and adolescent psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD, tells
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Are you aware of difficulties, challenges or trauma the elders in your family may have faced? Sometimes we’re unaware of the trauma our parents or elders have endured, or our elders don’t even see their experiences as traumatic or problematic when they actually may have been. Are you and your family dealing with generational trauma? To answer this question, let’s look at some of the symptoms you may or may not experience on your way to an official diagnosis.
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hypervigilance
  • Panic Attacks
  • Insomnia or lighter sleeping cycles
  • Sensitive Fight or Flight responses to minimal external stimuli
  • Lower self-esteem or confidence
  • Physical illness can manifest itself as an auto-immune disorder because the continuous stress lowers your immune system.
If you have multiple symptoms on this list, it can impact every area of your life. This is why getting a diagnosis and working on an action plan will prevent this from going to another generation.
If any of the above makes your Spidey sense go off, you may probably be a victim of GT. Like one of my favorite cognitive experts, Dan Siegal says, “Name it to tame it.” Once you have the vocabulary to define (name) what is happening to you, you can combat (tame) it.
Image source: Pexels
So, if this applies to you, let’s get you started on that journey. Here are the top three things you need to do to stop the cycle of generational trauma.
1. Seek professional help: It has taken GENERATIONS to get you to this current state. Going into battle alone is not going to help you. Whether it is a therapist, an imam at your local masjid, or a trauma coach (like myself), creating a village of supporters around you is the number one thing I recommend to survivors.
2. Mustering up the strength to STOP the abuse if it is still going on: This is by far the most difficult thing for many people, especially if the abuse is still ongoing. Often, you are so entrenched in the trauma you don’t even realize it is happening; this includes physical, mental, emotional, and financial abuse. If taking a break or physically removing yourself from the situation is needed to stop the cycle while you are working on your recovery, then do that.
I know that it isn’t appreciated in our culture, for instance, to cut off your parents. But if doing that for some time allows you the space to work on your issues and stop the cycle, then do that.
3. Increase your faith and spirituality: This process takes an emotional and physical toll; it is also a lonely journey for many. Now is not the time to turn away from your faith but instead go deeper into its spiritual practice. Through prayer, meditation, and self-care, you allow your mind, body, and soul to recuperate and heal during this arduous process.
Whether you are aware of it or not, when you are experiencing symptoms of GT your body is physically in overdrive. The constant buzzing JUST under the surface takes a physical toll on the body. Being more prayerful and mindful and still counterintuitively helps aid in the healing process. So, give yourself permission to roll out your prayer rug or yoga mat and be one with the universe.
Zaiba Hasan
So, why am I writing about this, you ask? Having experienced debilitating generational trauma myself, I have made it my life’s mission to help other families combat the transference of trauma to the next generation. I have gone on the journey and have used all the techniques I have learned on myself. Let me tell you – I understand more than anyone how difficult and lonely the process is.
But like I always say, my story is still being written. I am moving on to the next chapter and attempting to heal some of the wounds that have been inflicted on myself and others due to this process – starting with my mother. She and I (along with my 16-year-old daughter) will be going on a spiritual retreat in the next few weeks to start the healing process, and I hope that I can take the readers along for the ride. I hope you’ll join me this summer as I share our story here.
Until next time,
Zaiba Hasan is part of the dynamic duo behind the award-winning podcast, Mommying While Muslim. She is the founder of and a spiritual parent coach at Emerge Consulting Solutions, an interfaith mediator and sports mama extraordinaire. Look for her on the baseball fields and basketball courts in the DMV (Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area cheering from the sidelines.
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