Mariel Buqué is a trauma psychologist and intergenerational trauma expert. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and is a former three-year fellow of a holistic mental health grant, held in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where she also served as a clinician within Columbia’s multidisciplinary hospital centers, including their primary care, gynecology, and cardiology clinics.
Below, Mariel shares 5 key insights from her new book, Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma. Listen to the audio version—read by Mariel herself—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. Trauma can be passed down within your family.
Intergenerational trauma is the only category of emotional trauma that flows from one generation of a family to the next. The emotions that don’t get resolved or attended to in one generation risk being passed down, over and over again.
Family trauma can become both a biological and a social inheritance that eventually makes its way to you. People with a history of intergenerational trauma have a parent (or two), grandparents, great-grandparents, and more distant ancestors who have experienced their own traumas. It’s a legacy that perpetuates because most people don’t know how to identify, claim, or resolve it.
Science tells us that biology and psychology are at play. Biologically, you inherit genes from each parent. If either of your parents experienced chronic stress or trauma, it could have altered them so fundamentally as to appear in their genetic code. You may have inherited those genes, making you more vulnerable to stress and trauma. Psychologically, if, as a baby, you suffered mis-attunement with caregivers, suffered extreme adversity, witnessed or were involved in harmful relationships, or suffered collective traumas, it’s likely that this could have ignited a trauma response in you, making you the new legacy bearer of intergenerational trauma in your family.
2. Cycle breakers desire collective peace.
Being a cycle breaker is one of the hardest emotional tasks we may encounter. Cycle breaking is a multitier, multitask, multigenerational quest toward peace. It’s peace for you, those who came before you, those who will come after you, your community, and the global culture. Shifting into someone who embodies this mindset is shifting into someone who possesses the inner knowing that this peace is worth fighting for, even if the fight feels heavy.
“Cycle breakers decide to shift their history and welcome opportunities for ease, happiness, and health into their lives.”
Many cycle breakers know in their spirit that things must be different. They think of their children’s lives and wish for a different experience for them than what they had themselves. They think of how much suffering their family has gone through and feel a duty to heal the trauma that plagues their lineage. They see ways in which their communities are unwell and feel motivated to make a change. They see the global impact of traumatic experiences and want to shift the way things are for us all.
Cycle breakers decide to shift their history and welcome opportunities for ease, happiness, and health into their lives. It is not an easy task, but cycle breakers have one definitive goal: to make sure that repeated generational patterns end with them. They see no other way for¬ward but the way of healing.
3. Holistic healing can help.
Intergenerational trauma is a wounding of the soul. It’s a multilevel emotional injury that impacts a person’s mind (their thoughts and emotions), body (the way they carry suffering physically), and spirit (a disruption in their inner knowing and connection with others). Healing must also be multidimensional.
Holistic healing offers a recipe that is as layered as the intergenerational pain itself. When I say holistic healing methods, I’m referring to a wide range of practices that help heal the whole person. Holistic therapy, which is the type of therapeutic approach I take in healing traumas, aligns all parts of the person. It understands that we are a sum of all our parts and that healing should help us feel whole.
When one aspect of our health is off, the others also suffer. If you let one part of a person carry the wound— attending to the mind but not the body, for example— you risk shifting the pain from one dimension to another, but you will not offer full healing. A well-integrated trauma protocol will teach you how to help your body dissolve stress. To focus on healing the whole of you rather than just one specific health condition, it is essential to integrate holistic wellness practices into the healing of layered trauma. Whenever you heal with this level of intention, a bit of intergenerational trauma leaves your body. This makes room for your body to welcome intergenerational health instead. Should you choose it, holistic wellness can be a new way of life.
4. You also carry generational resilience.
Trauma isn’t the only experience that can be passed down from generation to generation. Generational resilience is also passed down through families. Intergenerational resilience refers to the enduring strength, healing, and adaptation of the people we descend from and the ways in which, in our lifetime, we have inherited and built upon their strength to prevail within our own circumstances.
“Understanding how to approach your intergenerational healing requires connecting with the intergenerational wisdom you’ve acquired.”
For many of us, gentle words of love, power, or affirmation may have been shared with many generations and subsequently shared with us. Understanding how to approach your intergenerational healing requires connecting with the intergenerational wisdom you’ve acquired. A beautiful thing about generational resilience is that you can build on top of it. You can promote more resilience in your mind and body to increase the fortitude already there.
5. You can create a new legacy of abundance.
We can create different families than the ones we were raised in. We have an opportunity to take the beautiful parts of the families we come from, pass those qualities forward, and leave behind any qualities that don’t reflect the legacy we wish to establish. A legacy is an opportunity to live in alignment with a bigger purpose; that purpose here is one of breaking the cycle of trauma. It’s about living a less passive life that asserts only that you are the product of intergenerational trauma and living a more active life where you take steps toward creating a new story.
Your newly acquired knowledge, actions, and wisdom will be recycled, time and again, generation after generation. That’s the consequence of legacy building. It is the setup to generational impact that transcends your life. It is one of the most beautiful consequences of leaving behind what no longer feeds health into your life as you step into a legacy of abundance.
To listen to the audio version read by author Mariel Buqué, download the Next Big Idea App today: