What Is Generational Trauma And How Can Heal From It

Last Update on May 16, 2022 : Published on February 5, 2022
Generational trauma in Encanto

Have you watched Encanto, a movie by Disney? I did and I could stop thinking about how generational trauma has affected so many people’s lives. I decided to talk to my friends and family about generational trauma and realized that so many people aren’t even aware of generational trauma at all in spite of suffering from it.

Trauma, unfortunately, is a part of so many lives. We all have different thresholds to painful situations and something that’s just a tragic situation for you can be a traumatic incident for someone else. So, basically you never know what kind of trauma the other person is dealing with.

Encanto by Disney released in November 2021 is a movie that has depicted generational trauma so beautifully and I couldn’t stop myself from talking about it. But before we get to the details of this movie, let’s understand the concept of generational trauma.

Shall we begin?

What Is Generational Trauma?

Generational trauma is the trauma that is passed down to generation and the effects of the same can be seen in generations of that family till the cycle is not broken. Generational trauma can range from a huge traumatic incident to tiny rules of a community that hold us back.

Generational trauma is the trauma that has been experienced by consecutive generations. Either the same traumatic incident is encountered by each generation or the stories of the first traumatic incident scares the coming generations.

What happens in generational trauma is that the first generation experiences a traumatic incident, they then put all sorts of restrictions and almost start to dictate the second generation so that they do not end up experiencing the traumatic event.

How Is Generational Trauma Passed On?

How Is Generational Trauma Passed On

Generational trauma is passed on by the way the first generation chooses to raise their children. If they are terrorized by the consequence of trauma without any explanation of the trauma experienced by the first generation, the fear is transferred to the younger ones.

The second generation is traumatized by the first generation’s expression of trauma. They do the same to the third generation and the cycle continues until it is broken.

In fact Encanto, the movie starts on a similar note. It begins with a Pixar short where a raccoon parent who has a scar on his face is trying to protect his curious baby. The baby raccoon out of his curiosity starts to explore that place and is attacked by a coyote giving him a similar scar like his father.

When the baby grows up and has a child of his own he begins to scold his little one and tries to kill his curiosity to protect him from the attack. Upon seeing the terror in his young one’s eyes he decided to break the cycle. He explains to him the entire story about the coyote and asks him to be careful.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of generational trauma to understand it better…

Symptoms Of Generational Trauma

People who have been experiencing trauma which is generational trauma, you will host some signs and symptoms of the same. For example in Encanto Luisa’s character is in ‘denial’. Although she has willingly taken the burden of expectation on her shoulders, the stress of that responsibility is wearing her down.

Other than denial there are other signs and symptoms of generational trauma…

  • Emotional numbness
  • Depersonalization
  • Withdrawal/isolation
  • Angst, frustration, irritability
  • Forgetfulness, memory loss

Causes Of Generational Trauma

Causes Of Generational Trauma

Well, there are various causes of trauma that can haunt the members of a family through generations. Some traumatic incidents can continue to happen to each generation making the trauma transfer from one generation to the other.

Here are a few things that can be responsible for building a generational trauma cycle…

Mirabel’s character in the movie Encanto is the only one who has not been given any magical gift. She is also the one who realizes that their familial home is breaking down because the matriarch of the family, Abuela is putting the burden of unreasonable expectations on her children and grandchildren.

The cause of their generational trauma is that Abuela was a survivor of the Canadian civil war in which she lost her home and husband. In order to protect the family from similar fate she had set high standards and expected a lot from her children which eventually destroyed the casita.

How To Heal From Generational Trauma? How To Break The Cycle?

How To Heal From Generational Trauma

In the Movie, Abuela finally realises her mistake and confronts Mirabel. The first step to break the cycle is to  access and accept the pain, trauma, guilt, mistakes, etc. Later in Encanto the entire family starts to rebuild their home. This scene is symbolic of supporting each other in processing the trauma.

Finally the casita is finally built and it has a happy ending. In the end you are finally supposed to let the burden of the trauma go. So to break the cycle you have to access- process-release the trauma.

You can also take professional help to deal with generational trauma.

Other than that here are a few things that you can do to break the cycle of generational trauma:

  • Identify that there is generational trauma running in your family
  • Look for behaviors of attitude that are fostering generational trauma and correct them
  • Be compassionate towards yourself and other suffering from generational trauma
  • Have productive, solution-focused conversation with the members of your family
  • Learn more about your and others coping mechanisms

That’s all folks!

I hope you found this blog about generational trauma interesting and informative. Do share this information on generational trauma with your friends and family, you never know who is silently struggling with it.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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