We not only carry the blood and spirit of our ancestors we also carry their suffering.
It’s stored in our bones and passed down through our DNA until someone in the lineage addresses and heals it.
If you want to learn more about the scientific side of this read the book What Happened to You by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry.
My mother, Vivian Marie, was Cherokee. She was married eight times and lost many of her children because she wasn’t taught how to parent—or how to fight for her right to keep them. She carried the trauma of her lineage throughout her life and died young of lung cancer. My father, Billy, who raised me, was only married once but he had many relationships and died when I was 11 of liver cancer.
They both died brokenhearted.
This topic is finally being talked about in the open. Brandi Neal wrote for I AM & CO about her father and her own inherited trauma:
“During his time in Vietnam, my dad was shot in the neck, caught an infection that almost cost him his leg, and narrowly escaped death when another soldier who took over his night-duty post on his 21st birthday was killed. He never got over the guilt that it should have been him. He told me about his paralyzing night terrors and the constant anxiety that assaulted him like a firestorm,” she wrote.
“The only way he knew how to stop the reel of horror that constantly played in his head was to drink until he passed out. He had chronic PTSD, but there wasn’t a word for it back then, and I absorbed his guilt, anxiety, and depression into my own body, which manifested as chronic migraines beginning when I was 6. I carried what he worked so hard to numb. He died at age 59 while I was holding his hand. And, when he left his body I continued to shoulder his trauma alone.”
In 2017, Lady Gaga released her “Joanne” album, named for an aunt she never knew but whose pain she feels deeply.
Joanne, her dad’s sister, died at age 19 from lupus. “I always wondered if I got to meet my real dad because he went through such a trauma in his life,” Gaga said on what would have been Joanne’s birthday during the Dec. 18, 2017 show in Los Angeles. “And, I started to wonder about myself and where my pain came from,” said Gaga who has the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia.
Watch Lady Gaga’s amazing tribute to Joanne here.
“Transgenerational trauma, like any type of trauma, is a very complicated thing,” Dr. Lindsay A. Henderson, PsyD., a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online, told I AM & CO. “It is difficult to separate who we are from who our parents are, and to identify what thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors we inherited from our parents versus what we have developed on our own.”
I wanted to change the narrative. I began breathing.
I did one-to-one yoga with a Bulgarian yogi at five a.m. three times a week for three years. The first time he asked me to breathe I let out this tiny little breath. And he said, “No, I said breathe!” I said I don’t know how to do that. So he came over to me and as a comfort, he placed his hand on my back—that’s the receiving door. He said, “Just take a breath in and exhale.”
And I took a breath, and these tears started dripping down my cheeks because I’d been wound so tight and I had held on so tight for so long that I just hadn’t really given myself permission to be with myself because my entire life up until that point had been about survival.
When I first started doing breathwork regularly more than 15 years ago, I was unable to breathe lying on my back because I had so much trauma from what had happened to me and from my lineage. I had to do a lot of breathing on my side and in child’s pose and I would sob every time.
The breathwork I do is a two-part breath that’s done lying down. The first breath is an inhale through the belly, the second breath is an inhale through the chest, and then you exhale out your mouth.
It’s an active breathing meditation that’s beneficial for everyone—but is particularly helpful for people who struggle with meditating. Because it requires your participation and doesn’t require you to sit still, it helps you get out of your head, into your body and allows you to access your spirit self.
Breathing can help heal trauma by getting you into a space where you can recognize what hasn’t been healed in your lineage and release any dark energy you’re holding onto that might not necessarily be yours.
When I had my daughter, I consciously did everything differently than my parents. I breathe every day to help heal the spirit of my ancestors.
The trauma stops with me.