Gosh, how easy it is for us to make judgements of others and I have been guilty of perceptions without knowing the back story. I am feeling this very heavily at the moment. I have recently begun to study, quite intensively, generational trauma and have just enrolled in a Master Class conducted by a hero of mine, Dr Gabor Mate´. The graphic here comes from one of my published books where I give a child’s perspective about believing and knowing. I know there are members of my family that feel that I expose too much – reveal the dirty linen so to speak, but I have found great healing in speaking openly about issues and am happy to say that there are some who have also benefitted.
So, more dirty linen to share. During my recent studies, I gained a deeper understanding of generational trauma and it has helped me understand so many things that have impacted on my life.
It used to be a punishment to be sent to my grandmother’s place for a ‘holiday’. I was not the only one who felt this way. I longed for the grandmother who sat you on a knee and read you stories – who baked apple pies with you and helped you plant a garden. I think I read too many books. I’m sure my grandmother disliked us every bit as much as we disliked her. Now I wish she was here so I could tell her I understand and how I long for a relationship with her that would go beyond the occasional stale biscuit.
My grandparents were dirt poor. I believe my grandmother even boiled up dock weeds to make soup. She must only have been at the most in her early forties when I first remember her, but she looked and dressed much older. Even looking at old photos I find very little attractiveness in her demeanour. It was only after she passed away that I found out some of her history.
It was always a puzzle to me that my very ordinary, very poor grandparents produced some highly intelligent, if somewhat troubled offspring. Well, now I’ve found out. A very special cousin gave me the gift of a large volume titled ‘The Withers – Whose forbears in ancient Britain walked’. It turned out to be the history of my mother’s side of the family.
Previously I had been told that my grandmother became pregnant to the Methodist Minister’s son at the age of fifteen and was punished by being confined to a room for the whole of her pregnancy. She was given meals pushed through the door and a slop bucket changed but no one was allowed to speak to her. Facetiously, I wonder what punishment the sperm donor had to endure. Her mother took on the care of the son that was born but when my grandmother married my grandfather, the child was given back into her care. Imagine a young husband who unwittingly was marrying someone who was already a mother. Not a good start to a marriage. They went on to produce eight children which was a huge burden for her.
Knowing this made a big difference to how I saw my grandmother, but with the further insights gleaned from the history book, I find that she came from a wealthy and highly respectable family. Committing the sin of becoming pregnant at fifteen caused her to be rejected from a family that could have sustained her. I also have to realise that the high intellect found in several of her children, including my mother, would have come from her side of the family and not my grandfather, yet there was no hint of this in the grandmother that we knew and it is no wonder. I cried when I saw a photo in the book of her as a young girl. She looks so stately and unlike the bowed down, nasty woman we knew. My heart aches for her and also for my mother who I know suffered badly from generational trauma, which in turn was passed down to us.
It is so easy to make judgements about others when we have no idea what lies behind some of the actions we find hard to fathom. I long for a world when we can accept each other. I have certainly been misrepresented at times and this is a lesson to me to gain more understanding. That is why I want to learn more about generational trauma so I can help my clients – as well as myself.