Generational Trauma: What is it?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Generational trauma is also known as intergenerational trauma and it is becoming a thing of conversations, and I am happy about it. That means we are thinking and talking about what trauma is and how it affects families. This is going to be a mini-series and will be broken up into several posts. This post will define generational trauma and two ways trauma is passed from one generation to the next. 

Generational trauma is trauma that is passed down from one generation to the next. Often in genetics and unrealized habits. In the USA, a lot of research has gone into Intergeratinal/generational trauma, but as it applies to holocaust survivors and their families. That makes me very sad and angry because America has done an excellent job of traumatizing both the black and Native American/indigenous communities. They should focus on their own demons (I am not saying research should not go into holocaust survivors and their families, I am just saying the same effort should be put into other groups). With that said, some research has been done on the black and Native American communities, I will and compile a list of videos and other resources to share. 

With that said, I want to focus on two ways generational trauma is passed: social memory and mental distress. 

What are Social Memories?

In its purest form, social memories are the stories we tell the younger generations to teach them how to respond to a situation. This does not have to be through words; it can be through actions. Choosing to cross the street because you do not want to cross paths with white women. This sends a message to the next generation. The flight or flight response of black Americans when a police officer is near is another social memory. Historically getting caught by the police meant getting killed. Now, at first thought, this does not seem like a negative thing. However, how this story is conveyed can cause the next generation to be traumatized. 

I want to take a moment and say that the fear that the black community has for the police is founded. It seems like every week we see a new story about someone being killed by police. I am trying to make clear that how the memory is passed on to the next generation can have psychological ramifications. The idea here is how do we tell the story in a way that does not cause continued trauma. Leading to long term mental distress. 

What is Mental Distress?

Mental distress is an area I could not overlook. As we pass memories down from one generation to the next, we install them with actions to match and ideals to hold. It is built into our communities to be fearful and/or distrusting of white people (and for a good reason), but along with these memories comes depression and anxiety that is seen as a part of life. I am here to say no to that. We should spend less time normalizing living in mental distress and more time learning to overcome the grief.

There is nothing that hurts my heart more than watching a cycle unfold in front of me. You have it in you to change the cycle if you know what to look for. My next post will show what generational trauma may look like.  Leave a comment and let me know how generational trauma has shown up in your life?

Remember, you have the control, power, and strength to heal from within.

Love Shakirah


  1. I'm still living generational trauma. What tools I needed to make healthier decisions I didn't receive in childhood, therefore, the decisions I make now are traumatic, unhealthy and repetitive. My mental health is devastated and reoccurring because of my inability to change my circumstances. Simply put, I don't know how.

    1. That is sad to hear but I am going to do a post with a few tips on how to over come and/or live with generational trauma.


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