top of page

Transgenerational and Intergenerational Trauma

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

In this article you will identify what Transgenerational and Intergenerational trauma is, how it affects you, your health, life skills, relationships and communities, as well as the eight behavioral signs that will tell you if you are experiencing this type of trauma.

The notion of Intergenerational and Transgenerational Trauma is a process that affects us all. We all come from societies that have been traumatized and we as a species are a traumatized species. Intergenerational trauma is trauma we have experienced yet not resolved. Transgenerational trauma is trauma that was experienced by a parent, grandparent or other ancestor that went unresolved. What we do not resolve in ourselves we pass down to our children unknowingly through our beliefs, values, behaviors and coping and parenting strategies.

Transgenerational trauma is inherited through our DNA.

We inherit the mental and physical traits of the traumatized ancestor. Some things we inherit make us stronger, faster, smarter and better. Other traits however can negatively impact who we are and make life harder for us. These negative effects are what we are talking about here today.

What are the negative effects and how do we experience them? We experience these effects through how we view ourselves, others, the world and how we fit into it. They include the beliefs, values , behavioral traits and truths we agree to believe about ourselves and others. Through science we know trauma deposits fear, hate, resentment, lack of trust, guilt, shame, unworthiness and even illness and disease. When we live through the lens of these indicators it negatively impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. When we allow these indicators to take priority they limit our ability to communicate, to succeed, to access our true feelings, to connect with others and to feel true joy, love,trust, inner peace and belonging. As traumatized people, we often feel threatened. Our bodies and minds react to this threat in different ways. When in a traumatized state our Physiology changes. This means trauma changes the way the brain works and the signaling the brain gives to the body.

This state affects how we respond to the world, to each other and how we feel about ourselves. It is important to note that when we feel threatened we become defensive, less accessible and less compassionate.

With both Transgenerational and Intergenerational Trauma , we must acknowledge the power and importance of parenting and education systems as they are the systems that shape the cues or triggers of threat in the world.

Transgenerational and Intergenerational Trauma is historically defined as Trauma that happens to a person as a result of a civil or other mass war, genocide, pandemic, parental mental illness, or other sustained trauma where we have had exposure to an event , extremely horrifying or threatening in nature, commonly but not always prolonged or repetitive, from which escape is impossible and no rescue is available. From this definition it is clear to see we are all experiencing or have experienced this style of trauma.

In many of these situations we are left feeling threatened for unlimited amounts of days, months or years. When we are reacting to this threat, we switch to thinking and acting from the part of our brain that is responsible for survival and, if the trauma is sustained, we learn to live in it for extended periods of time. Our minds can become engulfed in the terror, fear and drama of the event and succumb, consciously or unconsciously, to the belief we are imprisoned by it with no escape or rescue in sight. Some may even feel doomed.

Staying in survival mode for extended periods of time damages our nervous system and ability to self-regulate and think creatively, undermines our belief system and sense of safety, retards cognitive abilities, causes us to dissociate from our own feelings, intuition and people we love and now we know causes disease.

Often in these states we become familiar with the unfair and dysfunctional way we are being treated and having to live with it, it becomes common place for us where some begin to blur the line of what's ok and what is not ok. This leads to the acceptance of dysfunctional ways of being and some may even come to a point of not recognizing abuse for what it is at all.

What we no longer recognize as wrong, we adapt to thus changing the thought and behavior pattern of the abused and the abusers. As we witness these dysfunctional patterns, often without us wanting to, we transfer and display the same dysfunctional behavior to ourselves and our children as our support systems and communities have displayed to us. We don't know anything different so we become what we do not want to be.

These patterns of thought and behavior are then passed down to future generations over time causing generations of people to experience the ramifications of the person or people originally traumatized . So, we unintentionally and without malice traumatize ourselves in our adult lives and our children as a result of the coping and survival styles we are taught in our childhoods by our support systems and communities. .

These coping and survival styles cause damage to our self worth, cognitive development, self esteem, boundary setting, ability to self regulate, ability to respond, confidence, sense of safety and our ability to use our voice in the world to advocate for ourselves. We then become co-dependent on others to insure our safety, security and survival.

What we don't change we allow.

What we allow we perpetuate.

What we allow and perpetuate we pass on to our children.

We pass on to our children the coping styles, thought process styles, thinking strategies, behaviors , beliefs, parenting strategies, anxieties and fears that were developed by the original trauma survivor. .

When we do this, we perpetuate for ourselves and teach our children how to perceive the world and deal with the world through fear based eyes.

This keeps them stuck living within the confines of the behaviors and strategies trauma provides instead of introducing new strategies for resolving and evolving out of the trauma cycle.

Up until recently, we did not know how to do better. But now, through the science of epigenetics, we have identified the eight primary signs of being affected by these Familial Trauma Chains and with acknowledging or noticing these signs within ourselves, we can optimize our ways of thought and behavior so we create systems of living, loving and parenting that will optimize the quality of our lives and help our children learn more efficient ways of living, resolving conflict and parenting which will give them the best opportunity to meet complex challenges of life today head on and create a system of living and being that offers them the ability to create the best outcomes in their lives.

Here are the eight signs or red flags you can look for that will tell you if you are suffering from unresolved Intergenerational or transgenerational trauma:

  1. Passive aggressive , or aggressive communication- Are you passive aggressive or aggressive in the way you communicate?

Aggressive behavior is yelling, demanding, controlling and using punishing language in order to teach a lesson or get your point across so that you achieve compliance.

Passive aggressive behavior is Shaming, blaming, manipulating,minimizing, dismissing or playing the victim in order to get compliance.

2. Denial- Denying your traumatic imprint experiences perpetuates these experiences onto your children.

In order to understand what your NOW is, You need to understand what your past was. If you deny the impact of your past you are denying yourself the opportunity of a better future. Example: accepting capitol punishment and being proud you took it in stride. Anyone who can't take it is just a wimp! With this attitude, you will perpetuate this behavior and scar your children by it.

3. Minimization- Minimizing the severity of a situation or long term disturbance to something you can agree to live with.. This may look like becoming hardened emotionally to being treated unfairly and disrespectfully to the point you no longer realize there is anything wrong. It has become common place and acceptable to you. You don't do anything to change it. When this happens you pass the abuse and acceptance of it down to your children.

4. Transference- Do you have a person in your support system whose emotional or Psychological disability was not fixed? In this situation the parent will transfer this disability on to their children.

5. Resignation- Accepting this is my life and learning to be ok with it. Allowing it to become common place where we no longer recognize the damaging effects of what we are experiencing or what our children are experiencing. Here we teach our children how to live with abuse instead of giving them the skills to create safety and evolve beyond abuse.

6. Transferring stormy relationships between parents and children- If your mom had a stormy violent relationship with her dad for instance, she will create a stormy violent relationship with one of her children.

7. Feeling low self esteem or low self efficacy- If a parent believes they have low self esteem or cannot be self sufficient they transfer this belief onto their children.

Unresolved psychiatric problems-including:


Borderline Personality Disorder

Bi-polar disorder

Social Phobias

Rage Behavior Coping Skills

Panic disorder


When a parent chooses not to be accountable and heal these disorders they put their children at risk for :

Self medication,

Self punishment,

Drug and alcohol abuse,



and Non-resiliency.

8. Borderline behaviors- Living with behaviors that are invalidating. In a family this looks and feels like living without encouragement, empathy, recognition of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, aspirations or successes.

Here you may see in your parent and in yourself light switch behavior, or red light green light behavior where they or you are:

1. Nice one minute and mean the next .

2. On one minute and off the next.

3. Present one minute and emotionally unavailable the next .

We do this because we are afraid and we are trying to protect ourselves.

Children who live in these environments may grow up with these challenges:

  1. Low self esteem/ low self worth

  2. challenges in effective conflict resolution

  3. Inability to think creatively and compromise

  4. Inability to understand and hold safe boundaries

  5. Inability to trust others

  6. Dissociation

  7. A sense they are isolated, invisible and alone

  8. People pleasing behaviors where we recognize others needs and invalidate our own.

  9. Martyrdom

  10. Poor self care habits

  11. Fear of using our voice

  12. Perpetuated Victimization

  13. Sabotaging and punishing behaviors

  14. A false sense of who they are and their place in the world

If this is you, The cards are stacked against you.

When you don't understand what a safe boundary is you accept doing unsafe things.

If you carry resentment you will act out in ways that hurt yourself or your standing in your family or community.

If you have identified any of these traits or behaviors in yourself, this is not a sad moment, it's a happy one...congratulations! This is your first step in the right direction. Having awareness is your first step towards positive change. The next step is to learn more so you can look deeply within yourself to diagnose and treat any areas where you would like to shift.

The good news is I can help you. I have been where you are and connect with what you are feeling. All of the thoughts you have that you don't dare say out loud; I have had them too. I get you.

I can promise you this….I can show you a way out, a happier way to exist and healthier ways to communicate that will bring you harmony where you now have conflict, togetherness where you now feel separate, and love, compassion and understanding where you now feel resentment, indifference, and disapproval.

Are you ready to create a more harmonious and loving existence ?

Please schedule a Free Find Your Clarity Call with me today:

Want to be a part of the conversation?

Please join me in my private free Facebook group,

10 views0 comments


bottom of page