When Liz Prager O’Brien grew up on Rhode Island, the trauma her mother endured during World War II sneaked into both at an unexpected moment.
Her mom was two years old when she and her parents fled their small Polish town. They lived a comfortable life, spent the next decade in dire poverty, and struggled to survive.
As a young refugee moving from one war-torn country to the next, Prager O’Brien’s mother had no opportunity to foster friendship.
So decades later, when Prager O’Brien, at the age of 9, asked for advice on how to deal with disagreements between friends, her mother blamed him violently.
“I didn’t have a childhood friend. Why are you asking me?”, Prager O’Brien, now 60, said her mom shouted at her.
Similar interactions scared and confused Prager O’Brien.
“I felt that my feelings weren’t a problem, and that it wasn’t a problem,” she said, adding that the harsh reaction laid the foundation for her lifelong anxiety and depression. “I really believed that I wasn’t the problem.”
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lasts for two months, the descendants of survivors of the previous conflict fear that the war there could leave permanent scars on the Ukrainians and subsequent generations living there. Say that.
This is a psychological phenomenon known as intergenerational trauma. The most widely studied intergenerational trauma among Holocaust survivors’ children, also known as intergenerational or intergenerational trauma, refers to the effects of trauma inherited by the family’s pedigree and those who have experienced traumatic events. Not only was it directly exposed to it, which would change the lives of subsequent generations.
As with previous generations, anxiety, major depression, problems connecting with others and coordinating emotions can adversely affect the way you raise your child.
War is not the only cause. Experts say that racism, domestic violence, sexual and other forms of abuse can also set the stage for intergenerational trauma.
Clinical psychologist Sandra Matter said: She is an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine.
“There is a style of attachment that these parents have when they are depressed, when they keep secrets and do not try to share the horrors they have experienced.”
Independent parenting styles can affect the ability to teach children how to adjust their emotions.
“These children may have a hard time calming themselves,” explained Matal, who directs training at the Immigration and Refugee Health Center at the Boston Medical Center.
The results can extend beyond mental health. People who are constantly under stress produce more cortisol, a hormone that suppresses the immune system, increasing the risk of colds, viral and autoimmune diseases.
Matal said treatment, spirituality and education on the physical and cognitive effects of trauma are key to helping refugees in her clinic.
For those who have generational trauma in their families, tackling it is the first step, she said.
“It’s important to talk about it, normalize it, and ask for help,” Matal said. “It will be this big monster in the dynamics of the family.”
Animation producer Jason Tammemagi, 47, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, escaped from Estonia in 1944 when the Soviet army invaded, but continued to behave so dynamically when his child was born. I decided not to.
His grandparents stayed in Estonia during the war with their two teenagers as long as they thought they could be safe. When they left, the 18-year-old daughter dreamed of marrying a soldier and she refused to go, Tamemagi said. Their other child, a son, about 14 years old, became ill and died while traveling in Europe. Eventually, they arrived in England with a picture of their son’s grave and almost nothing. Tamemagi’s father was born later.
“It’s like the wound he inherited.”
“They had to live their lives,” Tammemagi said.
What his grandparents experienced influenced his father. His father said he was suffering from his emotions while Tamegagi was growing up.
“It’s like the wound he inherited,” he said. “You can trace it back through the wounds of those generations.”
How intergenerational trauma is inherited
Conflicts and other severely painful experiences can lead to irreplaceable loss and serious harm, but experts say they can lead to intergenerational trauma or post-traumatic stress disorders. Says it’s not natural.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD National Center, trauma is common, but about 60% of men and 50% of women experience events that are considered traumatic, but only about 6% develop PTSD. Not too much. Mental health conditions are characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and other symptoms that interfere with daily activities, and avoidance of situations that remind a person of an event.
Intergenerational trauma increases not only the risk of PTSD, but also anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia, said Dr. Gayani Desilva, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Southern California.
This is “partially hereditary and partly a parenting style,” she said. Parents who are cloudy with depression or suspicious of the world around them may not be emotionally connected to their children, but controversial studies have shown that intergenerational trauma to offspring at a posterior level. It suggests that it may have an impact.
That is, there is no change in a person’s DNA as a result of trauma, but depending on the dynamics of the family, someone may inherit traits that are at high risk of developing traumatic-induced mental health problems.
But that can be prevented, De Silva said.
“In addition to parenting, social awareness and intervention to further reduce trauma can help,” she said.
“Breaking this traumatic chain”
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has already plagued many. According to the United Nations, more than 10 million Ukrainians, a quarter of the country’s population, have been displaced and are now either evacuated or one of more than 3 million refugees. ..
Jasmine Chan, 34, a communications director at a consulting firm in Los Angeles, worries that Ukrainian refugees may feel separated from their culture, in addition to the physical threat to safety. I am.
It happened to my maternal grandmother who left a Chinese village in her late teens. In Japan during World War II, her grandmother and grandmother’s brother fled to Hong Kong because there wasn’t enough food at home to feed a large family, where Chan’s grandmother met Chan’s grandfather.
In Hong Kong, her grandmother had financial opportunities not available in rural villages. But she never reconnected with her family she left behind.
“Looking at what my grandmother experienced, we don’t feel like we’ve completely lost our identity, but it’s a connection with our family and we know who they are. “Chan, the communication director of the consulting firm, said.
Her grandmother lost her relationship with her past, but she said she focused on traditions such as Sunday family gatherings when Chan was growing up.
Prager O’Brien, who still lives on Rhode Island in Wakefield, also performed a special ritual with his grandmother Tamara Sylman. “I was always able to count on unconditional love,” she said.
Sylman rarely talked about life in Poland where she and her family fled, but she did everything she could to express how much she cared for her granddaughter. Whenever her grandmother remembered how she sewed for her, or how she peeled the pomegranate and gave her juicy seeds, she always did a little kind act, Prager O’Brien. Said.
It was a bond that Prager O’Brien never had with his mother. When Prager O’Brien had her own child, she used her grandmother as a role model.
“To break this traumatic chain, I poured my heart and soul into my children,” said Prager O’Brien. “Every time I talk to them, I tell them I love them, even if it’s a text.”