Generational trauma is something every survivor of abuse should understand. If you don’t know what it is and how it affects your life, you’re setting yourself up for repeating toxic cycles.
But—if you know what generational trauma is and you own up to facing its impact, to being the change in the cycle, you’re going to do amazing things. You’re setting yourself up for joy, prosperity, and peace.
So what really is generational trauma?
Abuse tends to be passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes it’s quite direct. Someone who was abused now abuses their child. Other times, it’s more subtle, where a parent was abused and then a child ends up abused too, even though it’s from no one in the family.
Generational trauma is often hidden like this. You might not even know someone in your ancestry was abused too—but my bets are that you’re likely not alone. (Statistically speaking, this is probably true.)
It’s never on us survivors to prevent abuse (abuse is always and only the abuser’s fault), but there are key skills that can help protect us.
When we fail to inherit those skills, because a parental figure never learned them, we’re more helpless than someone who did learn those as a child.
Abusers notice this. They see us as easy targets.
Again, I want to reiterate it’s not our fault. Because of our situations, we simply were more vulnerable than some other children.
This is the foundation of generational trauma. Patterns are passed down that lead to abuse, like a lack of boundary setting skills, emotional intelligence, or toxic ways of processing distress. We lack the same skills our parents or mentors did, making us an easier target for other abusers.
Generational trauma isn’t hereditary. It isn’t passed down through our DNA. It’s inherited through behavior.
You’re strong enough to stop the cycle of generational trauma
There is no one in a better position to stop this dangerous cycle than you. You are perfect for this task.
And it’s not just to protect those who come after you (meaning children, people you mentor, or anyone else who you impact). Breaking this cycle will stop your own suffering.
Right now, you are still a victim of generational trauma. Maybe you only notice it when you visit home or reflect on past abusers, but there are patterns that linger within you. Things that still hold you back.
There is no shame in this, though! None at all.
You were a child who, to survive this world, took after the best role models you could find. Those people just didn’t have the skills to fully protect and empower you in the face of adversity and harm from others.
So now it’s all about empowering yourself. Reclaiming that power. You get to change this cycle, ending the abuse that has been passed down for far too long. And you’ll save yourself from years of more pain along the way.
Accepting your past will help you heal
It’s natural to think that we empower ourselves by saying, “Well, I don’t have to be like those who came before me. I’m different and my life will be different.”
That’s empowering to think, but it’s missing one critical addition. You also need to acknowledge the impact your past did have on you.
As a developing child, you weren’t in control of the behaviors you learned. You modeled yourself after the world around you, most often your parents or other mentors, and they sometimes taught you unhealthy things.
It probably wasn’t even their fault for teaching those behaviors—they were likely a victim of generational trauma too. (If they abused you, though, they are 100% responsible for those actions and for consciously choosing to keep this cycle going.)
So, to truly heal, you need to acknowledge that you do have patterns shaped by generational trauma.
The people before you refused to acknowledge where they came from. By doing that, they instantly disempowered themselves. They limited their ability to make change and break this cycle.
But when you say, “I came from this past and I’m choosing to rewrite it”—that’s giving yourself power. You’re stepping into your light and redefining your origins.
Generational trauma stops here with you
Tell yourself it ends here. You’re capable of acknowledging the roots you grew from and blossoming in new directions. You can own the patterns that are unhealthy and, one by one, work on changing them.
Each time you do this, you’ll be empowering those around you too.
You’ll show them they are not defined by their pasts. They can also rise above them and shape new dreams and behaviors with courage.
You are not defined by the people before you, you were influenced by them. You were given the burden of generational trauma, but you can choose to have it stop with you.
Influence does not define your future. It’s ultimately your choice to do this healing work or not.
I’m not here to force you, by any means. If you do want to make a change, I’ve got your back. I believe in you. You have every bit of power you need. And a bunch of resources to help you out right here (membership opt in) and here (blog archive), too.
You’ll light up your own life with this new freedom from generational trauma. You’ll become the change the world needs.
Your next step: Comment below with one unhealthy behavior you inherited from your parents and what steps you’ll take, starting today, to change it.