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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Clancy

Transgenerational Trauma

What we know so far about trauma is that it is not just part of our experience, but also something that impacts us on a biological level. A memory of mind and of body - as discussed in Dr Bessel van der Kolk’s groundbreaking book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. If untreated, trauma can be lasting, it lives on in our biology, causing symptoms as if the experience was still taking place in the here-and-now. Trauma can impact our body at such an intrinsic level that our thoughts become interrupted to the point where learning and relating can become seriously impaired.

Furthermore, trauma can be passed on, through families. It can live through generations and cause pain to those far from where the trauma initially occurred. Our responses to trauma, if left untreated, impact those around us and we can unknowingly model this to our children. The unhealthy, maladaptive patterns of relating to ourselves and others due to past pain can be passed down through generations.

This cycle can be brought to a close, even if the trauma occurred much further back. It takes commitment in therapy to unpick transgenerational trauma, but by sorting out what belongs in the past, a new, brighter way of being can emerge. New ways of relating can be learnt, such as behaviours towards ourselves and others.

Children can soak up the atmosphere around them, as they learn and grow they observe and internalise models, including ways to think, feel and behave. However, the brain is malleable and research suggests that synapses can be strengthened in childhood and beyond. Psychotherapy can offer children opportunities to find new ways of relating and behaving so that they are in a better place to learn and meet their potential as trauma-free individuals.

To find out more about how psychotherapy can support children, please contact Victoria.

I am a child psychotherapist (UKCP Registered); a counsellor; arts and play therapist, covering Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. You can contact me here.

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