This post contains some of the best generational trauma quotes that will make you feel less alone.
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What Is Generational Trauma?
Generational or ancestral or intergenerational trauma is the psychological effects of a trauma that gets passed down from one generation to the next – within one family or a group of people.
Generational Trauma Quotes
1. “After a moment, he calmed enough to see how his anger was a separate thing inside him, a dingy, surprise gift from his father.” ― Maggie Stiefvater
2. “As the adage goes, history is written by the victors, penned by those who remain to tell it. No matter how skewed or one-sided the story, many of us rarely think to question what that story would look like if told by the other side.” ― Mark Wolynn
3. “By developing a relationship with the painful parts of ourselves—parts we have often inherited from our family—we have an opportunity to shift them. Qualities like cruelty can become the source of our kindness; our judgments can forge the foundation of our compassion.” ― Mark Wolynn
4. “Healing generational trauma takes courage and strength. It’s common for dysfunctional families to deny their abuse. They silence victims and dump toxic shame onto them. Complicit families keep abuse alive from generation to generation, until one brave survivor boldly ends the cycle of abuse.” ― Dana Arcuri
5. “If people have harmed us, that part is usually a protector whose need to cause injury comes from desperate attempts to not feel destroyed by the pain and fear they are carrying. Generally they are not conscious of this process, but it likely mirrors what has been passed down through the generations in the family.”― Bonnie Badenoch
6. “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. —Thich Nhat Hanh
7. “Ignoring the pain actually deepens it. What is hidden from sight often increases in intensity.” ― Mark Wolynn
8. “It’s important to restate: not all behaviors expressed by us actually originate from us. They can easily belong to family members who came before us. We can merely be carrying the feelings for them or sharing them. We call these “identification feelings.” ― Mark Wolynn
9. “Our Ancestors knew that healing comes in cycles and circles.
One generation carries the pain so that the next can live and heal.
One cannot live without the other, each is the other’s hope, meaning & strength.” ― Gemma B. Benton
10. “Paternal PTSD, she discovered, increases the likelihood that the child will feel “dissociated from [his or] her memories,” whereas maternal PTSD increases the likelihood that a child will have difficulty “calming down.” ― Mark Wolynn
11. “Perhaps your mother carried a wound from her mother and was unable to give you what she didn’t get. Her parenting skills would be limited by what she did not receive from her parents.” ― Mark Wolynn
12. “Poverty has long arms that reach through generations of people, leaving telltale bruise marks on its victims even after they are blessed enough to get out.” ― Julia K. Dinsmore
13. “Remaining silent about family pain is rarely an effective strategy for healing it. The suffering will surface again at a later time, often expressing in the fears or symptoms of a later generation.”― Mark Wolynn
14. “Sleeping inside each of them were fragments of traumas too great to be resolved in one generation.” ― Mark Wolynn
15. “The depth at which we take in the preceding generations astonishes me. There is likely an epigenetic component to this as well as transmission through the internalizations that get passed down through the generations. Whole cultures are carried forward that way, so it makes sense that family legacies might be transmitted that way as well.” ― Bonnie Badenoch
16. “The emotions, traits, and behaviors we reject in our parents will likely live on in us. It’s our unconscious way of loving them, a way to bring them back into our lives.” ― Mark Wolynn
17. “The most powerful ties are the ones to the people who gave us birth . . . it hardly seems to matter how many years have passed, how many betrayals there may have been, how much misery in the family: We remain connected, even against our wills.” —Anthony Brandt, “Bloodlines”
18. “The notion that we inherit and “relive” aspects of family trauma has been the subject of many books by the renowned German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger.” ― Mark Wolynn
19. “The worst part is that the very thing that holds us back is often invisible to us, keeping us frustrated and confused.” ― Mark Wolynn
20. “This toxic pattern within the broken family system will continue from one generation to the next, until one brave survivor finally ends the cycle of abuse. The dysfunction, bullying, and abuse didn’t start with you, but it most certainly can end with you.” ― Dana Arcuri
21. “Until we uncover the actual triggering event in our family history, we can relive fears and feelings that don’t belong to us—unconscious fragments of a trauma—and we will think they’re ours.” ― Mark Wolynn
22. “Viewed in this way, the traumas we inherit or experience firsthand can not only create a legacy of distress, but also forge a legacy of strength and resilience that can be felt for generations to come.” ― Mark Wolynn
23. “What I failed to realize at the time is that when we try to resist feeling something painful, we often protract the very pain we’re trying to avoid.” ― Mark Wolynn
24. “When entangled, you unconsciously carry the feelings, symptoms, behaviors, or hardships of an earlier member of your family system as if these were your own.” ― Mark Wolynn
25. “When suffering confounds us, we need to ask ourselves: whose feelings am I actually living?” ― Mark Wolynn
26. “When we cut ourselves off from our parents, the qualities we view as negative in them can express in us unconsciously.” ― Mark Wolynn4
27. “Where does the pain go when we die?
does it stay in the bed as it begins to stink—
does it racket through the home like a scream—
do the children inherit it like a sprawling estate—
And where does it go while we live?
Maybe the pain is like me, desperate to be seen in the lives of those around me. I will abandon others again and again until I can finally be free of my own abandonment.” ― Sondra Charbadze
28. “Younger children often, though not always, seem to do a bit better than first children, or only children, who seem to carry a bigger portion of unfinished business from the family history.” ― Mark Wolynn
29. “Your pain didn’t start with you, but it can end with you.” ― Stephanie M. Hutchins
30. “Native American youths, like the children of war veterans, like the children of Holocaust survivors, like the children of Cambodian genocide survivors, and like the children of the World Trade Center attack survivors, are among the modern world’s newest victims of transgenerational trauma.” ― Mark Wolynn
31. “What is essential to the translator’s task is an awareness of the gravitational pull that generational patterns and consequences may have in our lives.” – Michelle Van Loon
32. “The knowledge and firsthand experience of our parents and grandparents is buried when earlier generations die. This is amplified for those whose forbears survived genocide or war and lost many members of their extended families. Why bother searching for what is gone forever?” – Michelle Van Loon
33. “Just as a doctor will take a cursory family medical history on an intake visit with a new patient, so our own personal assessment of our family’s genetic history should include generational patterns of physical disease, mental health struggle, and addiction.” – Michelle Van Loon
34. “According to Wolynn, that pain may present itself in subsequent generations. He notes that in addition to trauma being passed from generation to generation, patterns of engaging or avoiding trauma’s pain can also be passed down. One generation’s unprocessed grief may become the next generation’s unexplainable tendency toward anger.” – Michelle Van Loon
35. “Every living organism turns on and off its own specific genes throughout its life span. Researchers have discovered that information hitchhikes atop our DNA, passing from one generation to the next. This information holds a record of, among other things, trauma, shock, and loss.” – Michelle Van Loon
36. “Experiences of trauma can cause epigenetic change as well. Trauma itself isn’t being replicated, but a measurable and heightened sensitivity to certain triggers can be passed on to future generations.” – Michelle Van Loon
37. “Scientists are discovering the connection between the constant vigilance Black people have reported as they’ve navigated life in American culture and adverse health outcomes in the next generation. The long and difficult history of racism in this country begets trauma that is carried to new generations. That trauma reveals itself in a pattern of lower birth weights and higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, present in the systems of a disproportionate number of Black newborns.” – Michelle Van Loon
38. “Not every physical and psychological effect found in children and grandchildren of those who survived a trauma like war can be tied to epigenetic changes, but emerging research is corroborating the wide-ranging ways in which the effects of these events can carry from one generation to the next. Grief, fear, and privation leave indelible marks in the stories of many families—whether the family talks about those experiences or chooses silence in the name of “moving on” and attempting to rebuild their lives. Both patterns of behavior and biochemical reactions leave their imprint in subsequent generations.” – Michelle Van Loon
Related: Best 7 Self Sabotage Books
39. “Jewish, Black, and Indigenous Americans have each been the focus of recent studies in epigenetics. All are populations that have experienced generations of ongoing trauma. But each one of us carries a measure of trauma within us.” – Michelle Van Loon
40. “Although at first glance it may seem as though epigenetic trauma steals potential from our lives because of the experiences of our forebears, researchers are discovering that just as epigenetic trauma is caused by an organism’s negative interaction with its environment, so can positive intervention change the biological script for subsequent generations.” – Michelle Van Loon
41. “Past, present, and future are communicating between generations in ways we can scarcely comprehend.” – Michelle Van Loon
42. “Translating the past includes reflecting on both the generational consequences of our forebears’ choices and the personal vows we may have made. As we do, it’s important to place those reflections in context of the other threads that go into creating our family story—especially trauma and the effect of larger cultural, subcultural, and historical pressures and trends at play during our ancestors’ lives.” – Michelle Van Loon
43. “One generation of family members no longer gathers for holiday gatherings, and sees each other only when facing each other in courtrooms and lawyers’ offices. The next generation doesn’t know each other at all. Or a person with a long-standing addiction or untreated mental illness may spend a lifetime estranged from family. The empty chair waiting for that person at the holiday table is eventually put away for good as the years turn into decades.” – Michelle Van Loon
44. “We can’t untie every knot in our family’s past, but we can gain insight that may untangle patterns and answer questions about our own lives while positioning us to offer hope and insight to those in the generations that follow us.” – Michelle Van Loon
45. “We cannot dictate how we’ll be remembered by our families and friends any more than the generations who came before us can tell us how they’d like to be remembered by us. But translating the past holds the promise of a more sure, solid sense of identity for us as we gain a more complete understanding of our story. The past may be prologue, but it is also a melody line that carries us into the future as we learn to sing the songs of our ancestors to our children.” – Michelle Van Loon
Breaking Generational Trauma Books
- What Is Intergenerational Trauma? (verywellmind.com)
- Transgenerational trauma – Wikipedia
- What Is Generational Trauma? Here’s How Experts Explain It (health.com)
- Intergenerational Trauma: What It Is and How to Heal (healthline.com)
- Inter-generational Trauma: 6 Ways It Affects Families | Office for Institutional Equity (duke.edu)
- GoodTherapy | Understanding Intergenerational Trauma: An Introduction for Clinicians
- Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations? – BBC Future
- Intergenerational Trauma: Epigenetics and Inherited Emotional Stress (verywellhealth.com)
- The legacy of trauma (apa.org)
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