Healing Intergenerational Wounds in Therapy

GoodTherapy | Healing Intergenerational Wounds in TherapyNot to be dramatic, but some of us are the “chosen ones” in our family. We are the ones who have been chosen to take the challenging (and perhaps less traveled) path towards healthy mental and emotional wellbeing. If you find that you are experiencing emotional discomfort, that you are challenging some of your default thinking, that there is an increased awareness of wanting to do things differently, you just may be chosen.

When my son was about four years old, I called him from the other room. Instead of responding promptly, and running towards me to address my need at that moment, he took his time to stroll into the living room where I was sitting. The visceral reaction was immediate. I felt my body tense up as I held my breath. Immediately, the thoughts that flooded my brain were “How dare he not respond more quickly? How dare he be disrespectful to his mother!” As I wrestled with my thoughts and feelings sitting there on the couch, I recognized that I had inherited the same authoritarian lens that my parents had with me as a child. And as a child, I did not have permission to “lolligag” or to put my needs above others, especially not my parents.

It is in these moments that we recognize a need to heal, and a need to change. To be fair to our parents, and to our parents’ parents, they were doing the best that they could with the tools that they had at their disposal. However, there are many times in which the ways of thinking and behaving have been passed on, and it is up to us to make the necessary changes for a healthy generational future (whether or not you have children).

Keep in mind that as a part of the healing journey, we recognize that we only have control over our own behaviors and we do not have the ability to change others. We can only hope that through our own changes, we inspire others to join in starting their own healing journey. Here are a few ways in which your therapist can help you heal some intergenerational wounds.

1. Develop an Understanding of Your Family of Origin.

Your therapist will take a culturally sensitive approach to get a sense of your family’s history. They will aim to recognize the impact of historical and cultural factors on family dynamics.

2. Shed feelings of Shame that are rooted in Stigma

We recognize that some of what keeps generational issues cyclical is the reluctance to acknowledge and address issues that are rooted in shame. Your therapist will provide a safe space, allowing for the validation of your and your family’s experiences.

3. Celebrate Strengths & Resilience

Despite dysfunctions, traumas and wounds, you are a product of strengths and resilience that has emerged through generations. Your therapist will help you tap into and celebrate those strengths, recognizing that some of these skills may or may not serve you as you move forward.

4. Validate Experiences while fostering Forgiveness.

A key part of healing requires forgiveness – to our past selves who had to survive unhealthy environments, and to family members who may have caused harm. In therapy, your therapist will validate your emotions while letting go through forgiveness.

5. Develop Self-Compassion.

Healing is not a destination, but a journey. And in order for us to be successful, we must develop room for self-compassion. Your therapist will challenge some of the harmful thinking patterns and help you replace them with loving and compassionate self-talk.

Using online directories, you can find therapists who are equipped to address some of these intergenerational issues. Therapists who have had cultural competency training or with trauma backgrounds may be a good fit. Ultimately, it may be best to schedule a consultation call with a potential therapist so that you can assess if there is a good connection so that you feel comfortable diving into the sometimes challenging road to healing.

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