Many of us have core thoughts or beliefs, often fuelled by past pain, losses, trauma or fear which run over and over like an ongoing monologue either at the level or just below the level of consciousness. We may not be fully aware of them. We may not be fully aware of where they come from. Not knowing our parents or grand parents or great grand parent’s history (about which they often remained silent) we may not realise that they actually relate back to something – a loss, trauma, illness or injury that happened in past generations. They may then fuel our lives in painful ways causing much havoc.
This blog is a continuation of earlier ones I wrote last week on the subject of ancestral healing Its something I became aware of in my own life through intuition as I learned more about past traumas on my mothers’s side of the family after I got sober in 1993. I was aware when I began to attend Al Anon after many years in AA that my addiction was a family inheritance, something passed down in some way. It wasn’t until I was given access by chance to information about my great great grandfather’s history of addiction, loss, grief and eventual abandonment that I began to join up some of the dots. That is why I was so excited to finally read Mark Wolynn’s book on ancestral pain and healing It Didn’t Start With You last week.
In an early chapter of his book, Mark tells the story of a young (19 year old man) called Jesse who at that age suddenly began to experience panic attacks which involved his body feeling covered with cold and shaking. On exploring the family history Mark found out that Jesse had an uncle who died at the age of 19 after falling down face first in the snow. Jesse at the same age of his uncle’s trauma was re-experiencing the symptoms and emotional as well as physical pain of his uncle. Once the connection to his ancestor’s pain was acknowledged and healing work was done to make a separation Jesse’s symptoms and panic attacks subsided.
The second story Mark tells of a woman who began to feel suicidal at a certain age. She would be overcome with the worst depression and say to herself “I just want to incinerate myself”. Turns out a host of her relatives had actually been gassed in the gas chambers by the Nazi’s during World War II. The family history was hidden and never spoken of but this woman carried the painful feelings of longing to die which hit around the age some of her relatives were killed.
There are too many other powerful stories of healing in Mark’s book to relate in this one post and I have a limit tonight on what I can transcribe. What I would like to address is that so often pain we carry may not only be ours. It may have roots in childhood but often the childhood relates in some way to the past of a parent or grandparent that was transferred. According to Mark if the there is a murder or other legacy of guilt in a family a later member may be urged to attone for that guilt or murder.
What is required to free ourselves from such unconscious repetition compulsions and carried ancestral trauma bonds is the ability to honour the ancestor’s pain and give the guilt or grief back to whom it belongs. To this end Mark suggests the following ways of handing back and releasing ourselves from ancestral pain so we no longer need to carry on the unhappiness, grief or guilt that didnt start with us.
Visualise the family member or members involved in the (traumatic) event. Tell them : “You are important. I will do something meaningful to honor you. I will make something good come out of this tragedy. I will live my life as fully as I can, knowing that this is what you want for me.”
Construct a personal language or healing sentences to counteract the destructive power of damaging ones. In this language acknowledge the unique connection you share with the person or people.
In addition you can use the following healing sentences :
“Instead of reliving what happened to you, I promise to live my life fully.”
“What happened to you won’t be in vain.”
“I will use what happened as a source of strength.”
“I will honor the life you gave me by doing something good with it.”
“I will do something meaningful and dedicate it to you.”
“I will not leave you out of my heart.”
“I’ll light a candle for you.”
“I’ll live my life in a loving way.”
“I will make something good come out of this tragedy.”
“Now I understand. It helps me to understand.”
Mark give additional practices in the next part of the book which involve keeping a photo and working to return guilt or pain to its original source. Lighting candles to honor the journey of our ancestors, Visualising and creating boundaries and distance between the ancestor’s or parent’s pain and keeping that boundary clear and clean while honoring their loss, pain or trauma.
Additional practices involve connecting with our own bodies to honour our integrity and self as we learn to achieve a psychic wholeness and deepening connection within. I shared one of these in an earlier post today. The involve putting a hand on our body, breathing deeply while saying the following :
“I’ve got you.”
“I’ll hold you.”
“I’ll breathe with you.”
“I’ll comfort you.”
“Whenever you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, I won’t leave you.”
“I’ll stay with you.”
“I’ll breathe with you until you are calm.”
When we place our hands on our body and direct our words and breath inside, we support the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable. In doing so, we have a chance to erase or release what we experience as intolerable. Long standing feelings of discomfort can give way to feelings of expansion and well-being. As the new feelings take root, we can experience ourselves being more supported in our body.
Such ways of being with our selves and supporting our bodies provide for us a holding environment and counter act dissociation or an attempt to move away and self reject or self abandon. We may never have learned this way of coping or self soothing before but now we can. We truly can be present for us and send our own body all the love, support, comfort and healing we need for our journey of separating from old pain we should not have to carry onward.