Sitting down to write a story about generational trauma brought up a lot of difficult emotions. As I sifted through them, I realized I haven’t broken my generational trauma. I don’t think it’s a destination I can reach or a book I can close and put back on the shelf. But in a society where we’re conditioned to want instant gratification, we forget that not all things have a permanent fix or cure. Human emotions are nuanced and healing is a constant journey, so I actively try to break generational trauma daily.
Healing is a constant journey, so I actively try to break generational trauma daily.
Trauma is something that always stays with you, so as we walk through life it can trigger reactions and negatively impact the way we behave. Our ability to navigate these emotions is dependent on learning healthy coping mechanisms and working on ourselves so we don’t continue the cycle of trauma. This isn’t an easy task by any means. It took me a long time to realize how generational trauma was affecting me and to figure out how to work through it so it wasn’t constantly bubbling up in my relationships and skewing how I viewed life. I’ve compiled some tips that really helped me start the journey of breaking my own generational trauma.
1. Therapy! Therapy! Therapy!
I cannot stress enough how important therapy is for everyone, especially if you have trauma of any kind. You can’t work through what you don’t address, and keeping it bottled up will have it popping up in your interactions. My therapist has opened my eyes to the many ways my past impacts the way I see and approach situations. I remember one time when I was so angry about something trivial, and she explained how I was associating the feeling with memories from my past that I haven’t let go of. Therapy has helped me tremendously with breaking generational trauma; if you don’t know better, how can you do better?
2. Journaling at the End of Each Day
Journaling has become a nonnegotiable part of my nighttime routine, even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it. To make it easier, I stick to a similar format each night. I write down:
- How I feel
- One great thing that happened during my day
- One non-great thing that happened during my day
- One thing I’m excited for tomorrow
It’s a way to release your feelings from the day and let them go. At the end of every journaling session, I write, “Every day is a chance to begin again.”
3. I Reach Out to My Support System
If I’m struggling, I tell the people in my life that I’m struggling. As simple as that sounds, we don’t always reach out to people who can help us when we need it. Don’t be ashamed of your struggles. If something triggers me, I call someone who knows me and loves me to help me through it. Isolating yourself is the worst thing you can do. Our minds tell us we’re alone or that no one will understand, but that isn’t the case. You’re never alone. When you tell people how you feel, you’ll be surprised by how many people say they’ve been where you are. They can offer understanding, a listening ear, and even advice (if that’s what you’re seeking) because they’ve dealt with similar things.
4. I Set Boundaries
This may be the hardest and most beneficial tip: Be firm in the boundaries you set with people in your life. Learn how to say “no.” Learn how to tell people when you don’t have the bandwidth for certain things. If someone in your life triggers feelings in you that stem from generational trauma, tell them. If they break your boundaries, reiterate them, and if they continue to break them, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate if they should be in your life. Setting boundaries also shows you what types of things bring up feelings that stem from past trauma and that you may need work through within yourself and/or with your therapist.
5. I Give Myself Grace
This is the most important of all: giving myself grace to be human, make mistakes, and not always get it right. Dealing with and healing from generational trauma is hard. Some days I don’t get it right, some days my anxiety gets the best of me, and some days I’m more irritable and let things trigger negative reactions more easily. I’m not perfect, but I don’t let that deter me from continuing to do the work, and I commit to being better tomorrow.