From Psychology Today: “Maybe you’ve had this experience: You’re a child at the dinner table in your childhood home. One of your parents mentions the name of a relative—a father, a sister, a great aunt. The room goes silent, and the subject is quickly changed.

As Tolstoy famously wrote: ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ I would add: ‘All families have secrets, but each secret is unique to that family.’

Family secrets most often involve a person who has shamed kin or an event, like exile, deportation, abortion, or even murder. The silence surrounding the troubles can feel like safety, but the safety is illusory. What is hidden does not disappear. Through epigenetic research and a deeper psychological understanding of inherited trauma, we have come to understand that ‘the ghost or ghosts in the room’ make their presence felt by presenting within the family as symptoms.

Transgenerational trauma (sometimes called ‘intergenerational trauma’) is at the heart of my second novel, The Lie of Forgetting. At midlife, my narrator’s world collapses, and she must piece together her own difficulties as they relate to the hidden trauma of a death in the family that has been forgotten, physically split off, for generations. I have also blogged about this here before in ‘The Things We Carry: What Our Ancestors Didn’t Tell Us.‘

. . . Who we are in the present moment is knowingly and unknowingly affected by the energetic field of influence that flows through us from our family and ancestors. Their history lies coiled within us. The untold stories of our ancestors are in our blood.

Family and ancestral constellation is a therapeutic tool that allows the invisible influences from the present and past to be made visible, acknowledged, and whole. It allows us as individuals to uncover the hidden historical narrative that we are unconsciously holding. It creates a space for us to bear witness and give place to the trauma before fully and freely moving forward with our own life. It is the key to unlocking the missing parts of who we are.”

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