Generational Pain – Breaking the Cycle

As I research all things connected to my life journey, such as adoption, PTSD, rape, self-worth, loss..well you know where it’s all going.  The list is long, very long for all of us.  One thing we never think our thinking of our own pain is that we carry generational pain.

When I wrote the last post “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” I wanted to continue in posting how much our thoughts affect all aspects of self, physical, emotional, day-to-day function and more.

We are easily carried away by some overwhelming feeling in any given moment I just want to remind you to see that as an alarm clock of awakening to the idea, that you hooked.  Picture the fishing hook and know you are hooked into believing the thought.  It’s not real.  You are living in a story that doesn’t belong to you if you feel depressed, fearful, unworthy, unlovable.

Before you had that particular thought…were you suffering?  You have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really true.  If you were to hold your hand over a candle…do you wait for a thought to tell you to move it?  No, of course not.  It’s automatic.  The same thing will happen if you ask each time you are suffering because of some thought.  Practice and soon it becomes automatic.


Ok, so they are my adoptive family but when I think how much pressure i felt as a child to live up to my namesake I shudder.  She was the first female principal of a High School.  Huge for Women’s Rights back in the day.  While I was not genetically related I experienced generational pain just from being subjected to the daily brainwashing.

When we can think past our own ego and momentary thoughts and reflect on  Generational Pain it creates a gap between ego and others.  Eckhart Tolle explains it in a concrete way in A New Earth when he speaks about “our Pain Body”.  I would encourage anyone suffering with pain to read his description of how we accumulate generations of pain in our body’s and with the least little trigger we explode, experiencing what we think is our pain but is in fact, negative, painful experiences handed down for generations.

Our minds and our bodies contain the blueprint of our heritage.  In Buddhism, the belief is, that seven generations of our ancestors unfinished business is still alive in our cells.  Can you imagine?  Seven generations!  That’s a lot of pain considering the earlier generations weren’t so “into” healing and self work.

This pain is cellular, alive, jumping at the chance to be triggered and allowed to  take over and inhabit our souls, while we sit there, thinking it ours to bear.  If we don’t acknowledge it objectively, it may lead us to fates that do not belong to us.  For years we suffer confusion, anxiety, depression and pass it on unknowingly to the next generation.

For those of us who are dealing with Adoption Trauma, PTSD from rapes, abuse, violence, loss,  the impact is monumental.

It’s not just in Buddhism that this belief stands strong but in Native American, First Nations, African traditions and general psychology beliefs, so it’s time we gave this some serious thought and start breaking the cycles of our past.

 When things are not going right in our immediate life, we need to look deeply at the unmet needs of the past generations and it’s only when we are able to find and shine a light on the pain legacies we’ve been hauling around that we can become free and break the cycle.  Can you think for a moment on the burden you’ve been carrying deep in your bones, in your cells of your nervous system that has survived generations…until you uncover the truths.

When I gave birth to my daughter was the moment I experienced full on, the pain my Birth Mother must have felt as “they” disappeared with her first-born.  Her never having seen me, held me, named me.  Her pain was mine now to carry in that instant.  It was so profoundly clear it rattled me for days.  I couldn’t bear to not have my daughter in my sight and back then, babies were kept in the nursery.  She had to undergo light treatment for jaundice and I parked a chair outside the window and refused to move, much to the nurses angst.  When she cried, I cried.  It broke my heart wide open every time they took her from my arms to return her to the room full of babies.  I thought a great deal about the woman who gave birth to me.  I cried for her a million tears and a piece of my heart became hers because I now understood.

Later, I learned that her father had died when she was a child.  More pain, not just for her but for her mother as well.  The pain, the shame, the raw emotion of everything negative was now mine to carry.  I vowed to break the cycle so my daughter won’t have to carry this burden of suffering.  It’s not easy, as you know because  it’s at a cellular level and needs deep insight and work to unravel the threads of suffering and heal them.

The amazing thing is..

If we do the work.  If we can step outside of ourselves long enough to really see our suffering for what it is.  If we can challenge the beliefs behind our thoughts…If we can honour the unresolved pain legacies of our ancestors instead of viewing with anger..

We can put to rest what is already behind us.  We can break free from the strong arms of the loyalty to suffering and become free.

 Our bodies, our minds will be free, powerful, creative.

 The cycle will be broken.

14 thoughts on “Generational Pain – Breaking the Cycle

  1. Claire, I am rifling through a tidal wave of chaos as my mind reminisces my own traumas (rape, abuse, addiction, loss of my children, PTSD, mental illness, and I am sure there are more that are just escaping me as I sit here overwhelmed)…I am native American and know that my great grandpa was herded savagely for many miles over what is better known as the Trail of Tears. So, I guess what I am getting at is, “How does one achieve cessation from all the past experiences of generations? Obviously, I have PTSD and with that in mind suffer from my own stuff let alone having to face theirs as well. I want desperately to overcome all the negative energy and move into a better content ‘ME’…how did you overcome these obstacles?”

    • My Dear Celeste,
      I’m sorry I took so long to respond…I have mastocytosis and ended up in the ER and it takes awhile to recoup..during those times, i don’t write much at all.
      First, let me say how sorry I am that you have had to go through those horrific traumas. Non of it was because of you…do you hear that? Nothing about these acts of abuse are your fault.
      I’m familiar with the Trail of Tears unfortunately. Such a travesty in what we call a civilized nation. Have you gone back in my posts at all.
      You have already taken the first step and that is recognizing that there is generational pain. That’s huge! To want to break the cycle is important but I’m here to tell you it’s a long, tough, journey and we each have a part in it by just looking at our own “stuff”. That’s where we begin. Our ‘stuff’..
      Are you a reader? As I read your list of traumas I feel them in my heart having gone through many of the same..I will make a list and put it on the blog of resources/books.
      Any work we do on ourselves is helping to resolve pieces of the past traumas of our ancestors. Please don’t feel you have to “fix” anything. All you have to do is be kind and gentle with yourself as you heal..learn to love that little girl who was so badly mistreated, give her the compassion, care you would any small child who suffered so.
      You, my friend, are already moving into a different place, a positive place, a compassionate place of understanding. Put that on paper and stick it on your mirror to remind already are moving forward which is changing the cycle.
      Overcome? I’m not sure I can say I’ve overcome. I have better understanding, more compassion for the ancestral history and I’m still working on finding that for myself, like you. I have acceptance of what was..and what I can do now, in this moment..nothing more.
      We are all walking this journey together. Know that Celeste. Know that you are not alone.

  2. Another way to look at the intergenerational trauma pattern is to see that for example, for European peoples, war has been a constant for over 2000 years, and the way people talk about WWI and WWII even to this day reveals that the trauma of it has not been resolved…. they way Kings are glorified in school texts and battles called ‘great’…. this is evidence of unresolved trauma because it is a mask, it is not the truth. Only the truth can set one free, as Alice Miller wrote.

    If 10 people endure a trauma, and are unable to resolve the feelings and experiences of that trauma, and remain in the coping state or PTSD, then if they build a social structure, that structure will have that coping psychology, that PTSD built into it… This is what Christianity is, which has the crucifixion (torture to death) as it’s central theme. This is what the Tory Party is, or the Labour Party…. all were born out of unresolved trauma rather than healthy functional adults.

    If a village endures a trauma, and is unable to resolve the feelings and experiences of that trauma, and remain in the coping state or PTSD, then the children of that village will grow into that psychology and it will become their ‘norm’, and the trauma behaviour patterns are passed down,…. Likewise any parent….

    What is also true is that not EVERY child is equally or adversely affected and some do come through with elements of their natural spirit, insight, wisdom and kindness intact. This speaks to the potency of human spirit. This is what troubles Power more than anything else, that their condition is not perfect,that many people do escape…

    Likewise the origins of the Power structures which were already in place before we were born, and how they afflicted peoples lives and imposed Power Relationships on everyone, replacing the natural empathic, connected relationships our biology mandates as the standard of optimum health.

    Those power structures came from people who were once children,yet who became murderers, manipulators, power addicts and who would do anything to retain their power, their status, their image and for whom wealth is primarily a means to that end. For the powerful, their great wealth is also an addiction and a security blanket.

    And we, the people of the grass roots, have been bullied, threatened, castigated, abused and used by those Power structures…

    We, the Survivors, who are bringing our experiences forward, who are by this single action confronting the Power structures, exposing the false assumptions about Society and about people in distress, are doing a huge work, a great gifting and it’s important to keep this in mind, even as we struggle with our own unresolved behaviour patterns, our pain, internalised shame and angers, our insecurities, our woundedness.

    The internet has help our struggle massively, as more and more Survivors share stories, gain insights, find strength and take action, be it in just our own lives and our own recovery or in the life of the community and society….

    We Survivors and our fellow advocates are the greatest gift to Civilisation, if only they could see this…

  3. ” When things are not going right in our immediate life, we need to look deeply at the unmet needs of the past generations and it’s only when we are able to find and shine a light on the pain legacies we’ve been hauling around that we can become free and break the cycle. Can you think for a moment on the burden you’ve been carrying deep in your bones, in your cells of your nervous system that has survived generations…until you uncover the truths.”

    Very powerful! This is exactly what I am working on in therapy. Breaking generations of negative patterns.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Thanks for the links Diana.
      I’ll spend some time going over them. Interesting, for sure. I read Love’s Hidden Symmetry by Bert Hellinger and became interested in Generational/family constellations in connection with adoption. It made so much sense. I look forward to hearing your links.

  4. As usual, you have written some pretty profound stuff here, Clair. Seven generations I must be responsible for? That’s a head full of thoughts! Of course my question is, how do you honor their pain, experiences, if it’s anger at them that is finally helping you resolve your own? Having spent a lifetime “honoring” them by keeping secrets,because I thought they did what they did to me because of what was done to them . . .like I said, you’ve dished up another plate of food for thought! 😉 P.S. Am I just a slow learner?

    • When you say you are “honouring” them by keeping the secrets what are you really doing? Dishonouring yourself.
      You are in no way a slow learner Mandy!
      Anger can be used in a positive manner..the energy fuels for a time but then it becomes toxic and you will find you come to a place of plain ol’ acceptance, understanding of them, of you, of what it takes to move forward. It’s a process. You are right where you are supposed to be and so am I ..((hugs))

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