Inherited Trauma

Yesterday, at the hospital in my neighborhood, a man left a package with the words, “Inherited trauma,” written on it. I had an appointment in one of the outer buildings on campus and was notified by phone to use an alternate route. The main hospital was on lock down and there was an substantial police presence in the area. A helicopter whirled overhead as I parked my car. There were ambulances in the area, on alert.

I went to my appointment. During this time, the bomb squad secured the package and determined it was empty. I could hear employees say that the man was apprehended in the main hospital complex. 

Inherited trauma. 

I had heard this term before but never really investigated it. After a quick Google search, a plethora of articles appeared. Can the legacy of trauma be passed down from generation to generation? Can trauma literally alter our genes?

My mind raced as I contemplated some historical events. Slavery in America, the Civil War, the decimation of the Native Americans, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. I even considered the reality of poverty and its stranglehold on those in its clutches.

The man may have left an empty box with the words “Inherited trauma” written on it but I hope he knows that the box really wasn’t empty. It was filled with questions. He did inspire at least one person to learn more about this concept. 

I then ask myself, “Why do we humans insist on hurting each other to the point of creating a legacy of trauma to others? Why do we have to be so cruel?”

I encourage you to do some research on your own. I plan to think about this more deeply over time and see what personal impacts I may have experienced with this phenomenon. 

Some key search words to consider:

  • Inherited trauma
  • Transgenerational trauma
  • Epigenetic marks of trauma
  • Inherited family trauma

“If we carry intergenerational trauma (which we do), then we also carry intergenerational wisdom. It’s in our genes and in our DNA.” – Kazu Haga