One thing about trauma that people do not understand and I want to make sure I make this point: Trauma is based solely on perception. And that is when it gets tricky because people want to judge based on their perception of their personal trauma and how they deal with it. There are those who react strongly to some event, while others stand by passively. Why is that?
So we know that you can be more receptive to the effects of trauma by the disposition of a gene. (See Trauma Part 1 post) Did you know that trauma resilience or more often, non-resiliency can be passed on from generation to generation?
Psychic legacies are often passed on through unconscious cues or affective messages that flow between child and adult. Sometimes anxiety falls from one generation to the next through stories told. – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-me-in-we/201205/how-trauma-is-carried-across-generations
In my family, there are five children and two parents. We will start with my father. His trauma was based on survivor’s guilt. His older brother of a year and half had been allowed to go with his father on some errand. The car stalled on the railroad tracks and both were killed. His mother was pregnant with my aunt. My father was raised in great affluence, but I am sure there was a ton of guilt and remorse heaped on him for surviving. My mother’s father died in an alcohol ward at a sanitarium after ditching my grandmother for his cousin. NO shame there. My mom was 15 when that happened and she died with the secret. I only found out about it from letters and clippings she had saved and her sister confirmed it. Both my parents were alcoholics and abusive. Violence exploded intermittently in our fine suburban house in the heart of a very plush little town. I am not going to go into all the gory details because it is not relevant.
My oldest brother is eleven years older than I am. I am the baby. My brother #1 pretty much raised me and my next oldest brother. He was never a hugger, never emotional. As he got older, he became bereft of emotion. He has pretty much shut down completely, much to his wife’s sadness. His whole life was spent in service as a fireman and ambulance volunteer. He has scraped more people off the road and out of ditches than I can imagine. His part time job was working in the local morgue and funeral home. He could do it because we all thought he had no feelings. He has feelings, but he has never felt safe enough to express them. So he has shut down. It is his way of coping with his trauma.
My next oldest brother was a cut up. We all have an incredible sense of humor as did my father. But this brother was always chastised for not being good enough. So first chance he had, he left. He escaped. As his own children got to the cusp of their teen age years, the same time this brother started to escape our childhood home, he left his own family. He escaped. He now wishes to reunite with his children and his grandchildren and cannot understand their anger towards him.
The next child is my sister, who is eight years older than I am and is the biggest mess. I do not even know where to start. She has ended up being disabled but had a horrible adult life. She has tried several times to commit suicide. She has been sickly and has learned to use her illnesses as a ploy to get people to fawn on her. I finally had to ostracize myself from her in order to not get sucked into her world. Her way of dealing with her frustrations mirrored my father. She would get violent. Several times I had the misfortune to be her target. She stopped when I got bigger than she at the age of eleven. But there were times she would corner me and beat the snot of out me. I think it strange now that no one heard her or me.
The next brother is only two years older than I am. Something happened between his birth and my sister. There are six years with no children. She had a succession of children every two years, accept for this period. I did not find out from my mother, but from notes in medical papers that l found after her death. There were some “issues”. I remember reading something years ago about a drug call Diethylstilboestrol or DES. It was given often for women in the 1950 to prevent miscarriages. There is a lot of information on this and the effects of it on the daughters. I never used birth control in my marriage and yet, I never had children and had many gynecological issues. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/DES_daughters
During this time, my parents really stepped up the drinking, which also had an impact on the maternity situation. Then in 1952, my brother was born. But this brother has issues all of his own. He was an addict for a long while. He has had some successes in life but some real tragedies. He struggles with successful relationships and much like my father, would become violent when drunk and/or high. He is doing much better since he became sober. But not so much in his adult relationships. He is a dreamer and schemer just like my dad. He is incredibly materialistic and will probably die closing a deal in his 90’s. But as children close in age, it was this brother I was closest to. We used to cling together when the world was exploding. He and I would hid or be banished to the basement together. His violent temper caused trouble in his adult relationships. But he is a devoted father and grandfather.
My reaction to all this childhood trauma is completely different than the siblings exposed to the same elements. Granted, as the youngest, I was left alone with my parents when I was 15. I was the only target for about three very intense years. My thing is I abhor violence. I am just recently learning to yell when I am angry. Not that it is a good thing, but it is better than stuffing it all down. I took on the victim role as it was what I was in many cases. I shut down and freeze. I used to hide as a child and continued as an adult to hide in a wine bottle. I stopped drinking a long time ago. None of us are better or worse, none of us should be judged for the personal reaction. It just is. That’s perception and that is also the theory of transgenerational trauma. “Previous research assumed that the trauma transmission was mainly caused by the parents’ child-rearing behavior, however, it may have been also epigenetically transferred.” Those damn genes again………………… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgenerational_trauma.
But Fear not, it is not all hopeless.