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Generational trauma including dictatorship/ war/ genocide

Ecdysis

MyPTSD Pro
Oof... I don't know if I feel up to thinking/ writing about this atm, but here goes:

There's lots of generational trauma in my family and some of it has to do with my grandparents living through a dictatorship, war and genocide and my parents growing up in the aftermath of it.

It's a weird thing, because a) everyone's families here went through it, b) most people's families have a mixture of perps and victims during the time of the dictatorship, war and genocide, c) everyone's families were damaged by it, d) because everyone went through it it's both "a thing" and something that gets denied, because everyone has to continue living and so they mostly pretend that everything's fine, as a survival response.

It's such a weird cognitive dissonance.

I've dealt with it a bit in therapy in the past... But I don't think I've really dealt with it properly.

As a kid, I couldn't really understand why the adults in my life were so weird. I could just tell that there was something wrong with them and that they seemed broken.

My father decided to move us overseas to another country (a country without this kind of history) when I was a child. I can understand how his trauma made him make those choices. On the one hand, I'm grateful I got to grow up in a country with a more positive past, but as a child, it was all very confusing because obviously I didn't know why things were different or how to understand them, or why the adults in my life were so deeply broken.

I still feel really ambivalent about how to process this aspect of my family.

I went no contact with my entire family of origin in my early 20s, except for my dad. He's the only one that feels safe for me to stay in touch with.

I still feel it was the right choice because my family of origin is so deeply toxic and it's unresolvable. These aren't issues that can be resolved by "talking about it" or "doing therapy". These people are deeply broken and treat others like dirt and always will. It's simply following basic safety protocol to steer clear of them.

But I'm wondering whether - for my own healing - it would be helpful to view them (from a distance!) through a somewhat more compassionate lens in terms of what dictatorship, war and genocide does to people?

As a child, I always felt like it had turned them into zombies. And that's what they still seem like to me, today.

Also, all of them "used" their children as a coping mechanism. They poured all their broken shit into their children. Their children were a kind of "therapy" for these broken shitheads. And they tried to force us kids to fulfil specific roles in their psychodrama - assuming that if we children fit into their crazy, broken expectation molds, then "everything would be okay" in some sick and broken way.

There's so much broken baggage that was passed on to us children (my generation - siblings and cousins). We're all f*cked up from it.

I suppose I'm meant to be greatful that we didn't live *through* the dictatorship, war and genocide like my grandparents did or through the direct aftermath like my parents, aunts and uncles did. We "only" lived with the fallout from it, as the generation that came after those two generations that were directly affected by it.

Can I have some kind of compassion for people that went through dictatorship, war and genocide and who were thoroughly broken because of it? In really different ways - some of them became violent, some of them were perps. Others were enablers. Others were in total denial, no matter how atrocious things got. Nearly all of them lost their humanity to some degree. They all became selfish and focussed on their own survival and f*ck everyone else, even their own children and spouses and relatives.

One of the things that was handed down to my generation was the requirement to pretend that everything was "fine" now. We were supposed to live in a charade and we weren't allowed to complain about anything because we had it "so much better" than our parents and grandparents had. At the same time, we were burdened with guilt and shame and the requirment of silence - none of it was ever to be spoken about.

I think I need to somehow process this part of my family history. Because it also explains why I went no contact and why I fought so hard for independence and why things have been such a mess.

It's difficult talking about this stuff in therapy, because everyone's families went through it, even the therapists' families. On the one hand, it makes it easy, because they know it themselves, and for many of them, those experiences are part of the reason why they became therapists. But at the same time, it makes it more difficult because it's so woven into the fabric of everyone's subconsciousnesses and families. I don't know if I can explain that right. I guess it's like being "stuck" in a particular system. If everyone's part of that system, including your therapist, it makes it so much harder to step outside of that box.

I guess since acceptance is something I struggle with so much, acceptance would be a good place to start with this.

Accepting that my family history is steeped in dictatorship, war and genocide. Accepting that many of my relatives basically stopped being human beings because of it and became perps. Accepting that many other relatives were broken in ways that made them utterly unable to look after children in a non-damaging ways. Accepting that my generation of children grew up in a toxic setting and that we've all walked away with some type of PTSD or similar effects. Accepting that we've all ended up fleeing and trying to stay safe and looking after ourselves and there are no bonds between us. Accepting that growing up like that was my start in life and I'll always carry around the effects of it with me and that it's my job to transform that so that there's good things in my life and I can overcome that legacy.

Edit to add: As a child, I felt like the adults in my family were clinging to us children like we were driftwood and they were trying not to drown. But they would end up pulling us under, so we'd be drowning too. I couldn't understand it as a child. And I'd beg them to stop, beg for help, because I didn't want to drown. But they'd go on with it regardless. And no matter which of the adults you tried turning to in my family, they'd all do it. It was so eerie. I thought they were all monsters.
 
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Accepting that growing up like that was my start in life and I'll always carry around the effects of it with me and that it's my job to transform that so that there's good things in my life and I can overcome that legacy.
i have no doubt of the generational aspect of cultural/personal of trauma/abuse cycles, but the vast majority of the details are unavailable to me. even siblings who shared the trauma will carry away different perspectives and details. the details grow less available as the relationships move through the generations. as a foster mother raising her second generation of children, i agonize far more over how my broken ass is perpetuating these cycles into future generations with my good intentions.

alas, the past is done and the future is unknowable.

radical acceptance of how i grew up and the fact that the i will always carry the effects with me is the only hope i have found of accomplishing that transformation. it's all i have to work with. it is plenty when i let it be.

healing hopes for all. no exceptions.
 
Would it be possible to find a therapist who has emigrated to your country/area? That way perhaps they won’t have quite the same shared history, though keep in mind there’s many places where atrocities did/are occur/ing and that does carry on.
 
Would it be possible to find a therapist who has emigrated to your country/area? That way perhaps they won’t have quite the same shared history, though keep in mind there’s many places where atrocities did/are occur/ing and that does carry on.
Maybe one day...? I've just spent soooo long finding a new therapist, since my old therapist retired 3 years ago and this new therapist is good, so I'm not going to look for another one at the moment. I'll be able to work on this topic with him, I guess. There's benefits to him "getting it" because he's affected by it too, as well as the drawbacks, so I'll just have to make the most of it.
 
I jumped continents every 6mo-2 years as a kid… so differences between cultures I was suddenly immersed in were WILDLY apparent. Also “normal” because all childhoods are normal to the kids who live them.

So I reeeeeally get what you’re saying in the jumping cultures, thing. And how the 10,000 little things people in them always, just don’t notice, are like ticker tape parades they’re so freaking obvious.

In psychobabble… that’s (cultural norms & expectations) called “environmental factors”. Because the environment(s) we’re raised in? Shape us.

* On a curious note? NOT just psychologically, mentally, & emotionally… but our physical features change depending on both the climate and culture. For example? Americans hold their eyebrows 1/5th of an inch higher than almost the entire rest of the world. That creates a look of joy/surprise/arrogance/cockiness. Europeans, meanwhile, hold their eyebrows 1/5th of an inch LOWER than everyone else (except Americans) which creates a serious/sultry look. But it goes far, far beyond such “minor” differences, to include water-fat (desert climates tend toward stringy/lithe/lean, wet climates chubby/rounded) and a few dozen other seriously changing variables. Anthropologists use a program called ForeDisc that extrapolates physical appearance based off skeletons, and you can have 8 different people off of ONE skeleton, PURELY by imputing different environmental factors. Psychological impact? Is FAR more varied. Adaptable as hell, our species.
 
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Oof... I don't know if I feel up to thinking/ writing about this atm, but here goes:

There's lots of generational trauma in my family and some of it has to do with my grandparents living through a dictatorship, war and genocide and my parents growing up in the aftermath of it.

It's a weird thing, because a) everyone's families here went through it, b) most people's families have a mixture of perps and victims during the time of the dictatorship, war and genocide, c) everyone's families were damaged by it, d) because everyone went through it it's both "a thing" and something that gets denied, because everyone has to continue living and so they mostly pretend that everything's fine, as a survival response.

It's such a weird cognitive dissonance.

I've dealt with it a bit in therapy in the past... But I don't think I've really dealt with it properly.

As a kid, I couldn't really understand why the adults in my life were so weird. I could just tell that there was something wrong with them and that they seemed broken.

My father decided to move us overseas to another country (a country without this kind of history) when I was a child. I can understand how his trauma made him make those choices. On the one hand, I'm grateful I got to grow up in a country with a more positive past, but as a child, it was all very confusing because obviously I didn't know why things were different or how to understand them, or why the adults in my life were so deeply broken.

I still feel really ambivalent about how to process this aspect of my family.

I went no contact with my entire family of origin in my early 20s, except for my dad. He's the only one that feels safe for me to stay in touch with.

I still feel it was the right choice because my family of origin is so deeply toxic and it's unresolvable. These aren't issues that can be resolved by "talking about it" or "doing therapy". These people are deeply broken and treat others like dirt and always will. It's simply following basic safety protocol to steer clear of them.

But I'm wondering whether - for my own healing - it would be helpful to view them (from a distance!) through a somewhat more compassionate lens in terms of what dictatorship, war and genocide does to people?

As a child, I always felt like it had turned them into zombies. And that's what they still seem like to me, today.

Also, all of them "used" their children as a coping mechanism. They poured all their broken shit into their children. Their children were a kind of "therapy" for these broken shitheads. And they tried to force us kids to fulfil specific roles in their psychodrama - assuming that if we children fit into their crazy, broken expectation molds, then "everything would be okay" in some sick and broken way.

There's so much broken baggage that was passed on to us children (my generation - siblings and cousins). We're all f*cked up from it.

I suppose I'm meant to be greatful that we didn't live *through* the dictatorship, war and genocide like my grandparents did or through the direct aftermath like my parents, aunts and uncles did. We "only" lived with the fallout from it, as the generation that came after those two generations that were directly affected by it.

Can I have some kind of compassion for people that went through dictatorship, war and genocide and who were thoroughly broken because of it? In really different ways - some of them became violent, some of them were perps. Others were enablers. Others were in total denial, no matter how atrocious things got. Nearly all of them lost their humanity to some degree. They all became selfish and focussed on their own survival and f*ck everyone else, even their own children and spouses and relatives.

One of the things that was handed down to my generation was the requirement to pretend that everything was "fine" now. We were supposed to live in a charade and we weren't allowed to complain about anything because we had it "so much better" than our parents and grandparents had. At the same time, we were burdened with guilt and shame and the requirment of silence - none of it was ever to be spoken about.

I think I need to somehow process this part of my family history. Because it also explains why I went no contact and why I fought so hard for independence and why things have been such a mess.

It's difficult talking about this stuff in therapy, because everyone's families went through it, even the therapists' families. On the one hand, it makes it easy, because they know it themselves, and for many of them, those experiences are part of the reason why they became therapists. But at the same time, it makes it more difficult because it's so woven into the fabric of everyone's subconsciousnesses and families. I don't know if I can explain that right. I guess it's like being "stuck" in a particular system. If everyone's part of that system, including your therapist, it makes it so much harder to step outside of that box.

I guess since acceptance is something I struggle with so much, acceptance would be a good place to start with this.

Accepting that my family history is steeped in dictatorship, war and genocide. Accepting that many of my relatives basically stopped being human beings because of it and became perps. Accepting that many other relatives were broken in ways that made them utterly unable to look after children in a non-damaging ways. Accepting that my generation of children grew up in a toxic setting and that we've all walked away with some type of PTSD or similar effects. Accepting that we've all ended up fleeing and trying to stay safe and looking after ourselves and there are no bonds between us. Accepting that growing up like that was my start in life and I'll always carry around the effects of it with me and that it's my job to transform that so that there's good things in my life and I can overcome that legacy.

Edit to add: As a child, I felt like the adults in my family were clinging to us children like we were driftwood and they were trying not to drown. But they would end up pulling us under, so we'd be drowning too. I couldn't understand it as a child. And I'd beg them to stop, beg for help, because I didn't want to drown. But they'd go on with it regardless. And no matter which of the adults you tried turning to in my family, they'd all do it. It was so eerie. I thought they were all monsters.
Your post resonates with me. My paternal grandfather had epilepsy from head trauma and became abusive. I have been seizure free since may 7 2014 after craniotomy. My mother's first cousin was molested by another family member. This was shoved under the rug. Many of my relatives were children during WW2. Transgenerational trauma is real.
 
i have no doubt of the generational aspect of cultural/personal of trauma/abuse cycles, but the vast majority of the details are unavailable to me. even siblings who shared the trauma will carry away different perspectives and details. the details grow less available as the relationships move through the generations. as a foster mother raising her second generation of children, i agonize far more over how my broken ass is perpetuating these cycles into future generations with my good intentions.

alas, the past is done and the future is unknowable.

radical acceptance of how i grew up and the fact that the i will always carry the effects with me is the only hope i have found of accomplishing that transformation. it's all i have to work with. it is plenty when i let it be.

healing hopes for all. no exceptions.
Thank you @arfie
alas, the past is done and the future is unknowable.

radical acceptance of how i grew up and the fact that the i will always carry the effects with me is the only hope i have found of accomplishing that transformation. it's all i have to work with. it is plenty when i let it be.

healing hopes for all. no exceptions
Thank you @arfie -Just amazed reading these few lines of yours . Very heartfelt and beautifully stated .Thank you for voicing this reflection and sharing it too- perhaps something some of us can use as a "take-away"into the new week.
The past is done and the future is unknowable.....radical acceptance.

Healing is possible.
Life is short.
Gratitude says thank you.
 
.

It's difficult talking about this stuff in therapy, because everyone's families went through it, even the therapists' families. On the one hand, it makes it easy, because they know it themselves, and for many of them, those experiences are part of the reason why they became therapists. But at the same time, it makes it more difficult because it's so woven into the fabric of everyone's subconsciousnesses and families. I don't know if I can explain that right. I guess it's like being "stuck" in a particular system. If everyone's part of that system, including your therapist, it makes it so much harder to step outside of that box.
Could you have this exact convo with your T? People often point out to me that the blocks we have with our Ts are in fact part of the work we should try to be addressing in the therapy room... Could you have this convo to see what response you get?
 
Holy crap... this research is 10 years old, but I just heard someone talking about it and it blows my mind in terms of generational trauma... It indicates that a trauma response could be passed down 2 generations via epigenetics...

 
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