The impact of intergenerational

THE IMPACT OF INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA WITH REFERENCE TO SOME BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

Prof Wentzel Coetzer

 

Our parental inheritance is much more than just genes. Every cell in the body is impregnated with consciousness that is laden with the thought forms and imprints passed down from generation to generation (Grisgam, 1988, as quoted by Nader, 1998). According to Danieli (1998), intergenerational transmission of trauma is a relatively recent focus within the field of traumatic stress. It was first observed in 1966 by clinicians who were alarmed by and concerned about the number of children of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust seeking treatment in clinics in Canada. In this regard, Fossion, Rejas, Servais, Pelc and Hirsch (1998) refer to the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors that were overrepresented by 300% among the referrals to a child psychiatry clinic in comparison with their representation in the general population. Not until 1980 did the termsurvivor syndrome find its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III, APA, 1980). The recognition of possible intergenerational transmission of victimization-related pathology still awaits inclusion in future editions (Danieli, 1998).

It is important to recall that prior to 1980 the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) did not exist. The view held by the clinical community was that persons should recover from experiences such as combat exposure within six months. Those who did not recover were presumed to have a premorbid condition (Ancharoff, Munroe & Fisher, 1998). Although the field has developed and revised the criteria for PTSD to evaluate the impact of primary trauma, secondary effects are not yet understood well. The phenomenon of children of traumatized parents being affected directly or indirectly by their parents’ post-trauma symptoms has been described by some authors as secondary traumatisation. Others have referred to this as transgenerational transmission of trauma. Although the terminology differs, common to these descriptions is the notion that children are affected by their parents’ post-trauma sequelae (Ancharoff et al., 1998).

According to Yehuda et al., (1998), the children of Holocaust survivors appear to display an increased incidence of psychological problems that were not resolved by classic psychoanalytic therapy. These observations appeared soon after the descriptions of the so-called concentration camp syndrome. A greater incidence of depression, anxiety and maladaptive behavior was observed among these children. These behaviors included conduct disorder, personality problems, inadequate maturity, excessive dependence, and poor coping skills. The offspring of Holocaust survivors were also reported to have more physical ailments and were described as having a general vulnerability to stress. These children thus showed symptoms that would be expected if they had actually lived through the Holocaust.

In this regard, Prager (2003) defines trauma as a wound that never heals. It succeeds in passing the experience from one generation to the next. The present is lived as if it were the past and the result is that the next generation is deprived of its sense of social location and its capacity to creatively define itself autonomously from the former.

 

THEORIES OF TRAUMA TRANSMISSION

The study of how trauma is transmitted is still in the early stage (Baranosky, Young, Johnson-Douglas, Williams-Keeler & MacCarrey, 1998). Baranowsky et al., (1998) explains the phenomenon of trauma transmission in Holocaust-survivor offspring as follows:

 

“These offspring, the ‘second generation’ from the trauma, may thus bear ‘the scar without the wound” (p.248).

 

Baranosky et al. (1998) consequently discuss the following possible theories of trauma transmission:

·       Empathic traumatisation. This term is used to describe the offspring’s attempts to understand their parents’ wartime experiences and pain as a means of establishing a connection with them. In doing so, the offspring imagines Holocaust scenes that they attempt to successfully escape or survive. The offspring literally maintains familial ties by integrating their parents’ experiences.

·       Children adopt their parents’ trauma through one of two types of parental communication, namely an obsessive retelling of Holocaust stories, and silence.

·       Intergenerational transmission of trauma occurs when the traumatized parent implants his or her own emotional instability into their children.

·       The female offspring of trauma victims are more likely to unknowingly adopt the trauma-related symptoms of their mothers.

·       Survivor parents attempt to teach their children how to survive in the event of further persecution; thus they inadvertently transmit their own traumatic experiences. These children then often act out the trauma-survival behavior adopted by their parents and become highly sensitive to trauma imagery during same-age anniversaries of their parents’ trauma.

 

Four working models

In their discussion of mechanisms of trauma transmission, Ancharoff et al., (1998) propose the following four working models:

 

Silence. 

Silence can often communicate traumatic messages as powerfully as words could. Silences in the family may develop in one of two ways. To avoid arousing further distress, family members may work hard to shun issues they believe might trigger discomfort and further symptomatology in the parent. Secondly, the parents’ behavior might inhibit discussions about sensitive issues.

 

Over-disclosure. 

It is distressing to hear traumatic details without a concomitant effect. Parents may make graphic disclosures of trauma-related information to prepare their children how to survive in a world in which they believe there is no trust and where danger is omnipresent.

 

Identification. 

Children who live with a traumatized parent may be continually exposed to post-trauma reactions, which can be unpredictable and frightening. These children tend to feel responsible for their parents’ distress and feel that if they could just be good enough, their parents would not be so sad or angry. Children of combat veterans for example, identify with their fathers’ experience in order to know him better. They attempt to feel what he feels, possibly leading to the development of parallel symptomatology.

 

Re-enactment. 

Trauma survivors tend to re-enact their trauma. People close to trauma survivors could find themselves thinking, feeling, and behaving as if they too had been traumatized or were perpetrators.

 

SECONDARY TRAUMA

People are traumatized either directly or indirectly. The DSM-IV (APA, 1994) includes the following phrase in its description of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder):

 

         "It implies inter alia to learn about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury  experienced by a family member or other close associates" (p.424).

 

People can thus be traumatized without actually being physically harmed or threatened with harm, simply by learning about the traumatic event. Thus, simply the knowledge that a loved one has been exposed to a traumatic event, could be traumatizing. Against this background, Yehuda et al., (1998) argue that we can consider the possibility that offspring might indeed develop PTSD symptoms in response to hearing about their parents' trauma, particularly if these children subjectively stated that such information elicited fear, helplessness or horror.

  

Compassion fatigue

The term compassion fatigue is also important with regard to the rest of this discussion. Figley (1995) defines this term as follows:

 

           “The natural behaviors and emotions that arise from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other – the stress from helping or wanting to help a traumatized person” (p.xiv).

 

According to Figley (1995), it appears as if secondary traumatic stress/compassion fatigue is the syndrome that puts most therapists at risk. Ironically, the most effective therapists are most vulnerable to this mirroring or contagion effect. Baranowsky et al., (1998) refer to Holocaust Memorial Museum staff exposed to personal artifacts, survivor histories and archival materials, who reported a range of stress reactions, including states of emotional numbing, social withdrawal, grief reactions, nightmares, and anger.

Against this background, one could appropriately pose the following question with Baranowsky et al., (1998):

 

“If trauma is so volatile as to leave its mark on a therapist who meets a client for a limited period of time, or museum staff who come in contact with historical material alone, we must ask what happens to the offspring of trauma victims who interact with these individuals on a daily basis” (p.249).

 

EXAMPLES OF TRAUMA TRANSMISSION

Aarts (1998) relates the following example. Previously a conscientious and timid student, Jonathan at the age of 15 had suddenly begun to cause serious problems at school. He disturbed his classes and refused to do his homework. After he had been expelled from one school, his father enrolled him at another. His misconduct persisted, however. Jonathan's parents responded with utter helplessness. His father explained in one session that he gave in to Jonathan's demands for money because he might otherwise steal it, which he eventually did. Both Jonathan's parents had been interned in Japanese concentration camps as young children. At the age of five, Jonathan's father Paul was caught stealing some sugar-cane by a female inmate of the camp. The woman severely battered and nearly suffocated Paul by forcing a wooden stick down his throat. He remembers his mother watching the scene from nearby without trying to interfere. After the Japanese capitulation, Paul's father, whom he could hardly remember, joined the family but was soon recruited by the Dutch army to fight the Indonesian Independence Movement. The family emigrated to The Netherlands when Paul was 15 years old. Paul's father, like many immigrants from the Dutch Indies, had to accept a job much below his former standards. Feeling humiliated, he loudly and frequently complained about his fate. For reasons Paul never quite understood, his father also felt disappointed with and betrayed by the Dutch military command. He left the care of Paul and his siblings entirely to his wife, completely yielding to her wishes. He showed no recognition of Paul's achievements at school. Instead, he sometimes seemed jealous of Paul's progress at school.

Nader (1998) refers to the fact that studies have pointed out that there is an increased vulnerability during exposure to a traumatic experience as a result of a parent’s previous trauma. In this regard, it was found that between one and three years after participation in the 1982 war in Lebanon, Israeli combat veterans whose parents were Holocaust survivors, showed higher rates of PTSD and greater numbers of PTSD symptoms than their combat-veteran counterparts whose parents were not survivors of the Holocaust. The decrease in PTSD symptoms over time was also greater for soldiers with non-survivor parents.

 

TYPICAL SYMPTOMS/BEHAVIOUR OF THE TRAUMATISED SURVIVOR PARENT

General characteristics

In studies done on World War II prisoners of war and their families, Bernstein (1998) and Op den Velde (1998) listed the following aspects as typical with regard to prisoners of war in their relationships to their families:

·       A lack of emotional involvement with others.

·       Compulsive work habits that lead to a lack of social interaction.

·       A fear of closeness, related to wartime loss of friends, thoughts, and nightmares of combat, deaths, beatings, starvation, and isolation.

·       Denial, suppression and repression as coping mechanisms.

·       Feelings of guilt and anger.

·       Hyper-arousal, leading to increased startle reactions, feelings of fear, stress and ever-present agitation.

·       A desire to keep silent about frightening and life-threatening experiences and putting up a brave front.

·       Sleep disturbance and recurrent dreams of traumatic events.

·       Feelings of detachment and diminished interest.

·       Emotional distance within marriage.

·       Difficulties in these persons’ response to the physical illness of friends and family.

·       Mood swings without appreciable precipitants.

·       Sudden anger outbursts.

·       Extended work hours prior to retirement.

·       A high prevalence of psychiatric morbidity.

·       Neurotic over-activity combined with tenseness and irritability, as well as psychosomatic syndromes such as hypertension, myocardial infarction, asthma, and gastric ulcers in high frequency.

·       Living in the past and present at the same time – trying to survive in the present, and struggling to separate themselves from the grief, guilt, anger and fear of the past.

·       In retirement, fears of illness and death of family members emerge, leading to feelings of abandonment. This could intensify behavior such as withdrawal, depression, alcoholism, and marital conflicts.

 

Children’s needs may reactivate traumatic history

Parents that are survivors often convey traumatic themes in non-verbal ways. Their children must then organize the stories of atrocities and massive trauma to which they have been exposed. Their parents’ stories of violence that are threatening and traumatizing per se, could become fused with their own aggression. It could also become screens onto which this aggression is projected, while these stories simultaneously shape and organize their fantasies and instinctive lives. The result of this process is then very often that these children’s normative development needs and conflicts may reactivate the parents’ traumatic histories (Auerhahn & Laub, 1998).

Consequently, the risk of intergenerational transmission of trauma during the adolescence phase is very high. This phase appears to be a most difficult time for both the traumatized parent and his/her children in terms of identity development in the child (Ancharoff et al., 1998). In this regard, Aarts (1998) points out that themes bound to become pivotal in each child’s development, such as aggression, shame, guilt, attachment and loss, intensify the parents’ post-traumatic struggles. In response, the parents are then often either too permissive or too strict, or even sadistic with their child.

 

Parents may reactivate their children’s trauma

Op den Velde (1998) states that traumatized parents could directly stimulate the continued existence of trauma in their children. Some of the children who were studied displayed re-experiencing symptoms that contained the psychotraumatic experiences of their parents. In all cases, these symptoms included nightmares and flashbacks with extraordinary clarity. The children’s avoidance symptoms were related to situations that are associated with the traumatic experiences of the parent. These children exhibited a complete clinical picture of PTSD, without having had war experiences themselves.

 

Symptoms could appear only years later

There is often a period of latency - a seemingly symptomless interval. In about half of the veterans in one study, PTSD manifested more than 20 years after the end of the war. In some cases, this latency period can be described as pathological adaptation to so-called normality and repression of traumatic war experiences (Op den Velde, 1998).

Aarts (1998) relates the case of a man who was incarcerated by the Japanese during World War II and who worked on the Burma railroad. After the war he repeatedly claimed to be totally unaffected by it. He was always strong and healthy and would never give in to any emotion. Then, shortly after his fiftieth birthday, he broke down.

 

Extreme parental over-protectiveness

Should their children experience trauma, some traumatized or previously traumatized parents tend to become over-protective of their children following the traumatic event. This is often in association with anxiety (Nader, 1998; Kupelian et al., 1998).

 

Impairment of parenting capacities

A study by Daud et al., (2005) indicated that children from families where at least one parent had experienced extreme trauma (such as torture) display psychopathological symptoms. There is also a relationship between children’s and parents’ symptoms in these families. The results of this study also support the view that psychiatric and psychological problems may indeed impair the parenting capacities of persons that have experienced grievous and prolonged trauma.

One study examined mothers with a history of abuse and found maternal hyperactivity to infant stimuli (Möhler et al., 2001). It was also found that abused mothers rarely identify their infants’ emotional signals correctly, while their empathic responsiveness and affective reactivity have been shown to be lowered.

 

The shattering of fundamental assumptions

The psychological sequelae of trauma stem from the shattering of three fundamental assumptions about the world and the self: the world is benevolent, the world is meaningful, and the self is worthy. After the traumatic experience, the world is no longer considered safe and secure; thus, a new worldview is constructed. It is this disrupted schema of the traumatized parent that is transmitted to the children, influencing their basic assumptions, worldviews and beliefs (Ancharoff et al., 1998).

 

Projection of split-off parts

The traumatized parent may attempt to release his or her consciousness from tortured memories and emotions by means of repression and somatization. Fear of the return of persecution, blocked aggression, feelings of guilt, shame, and a damaged self-image, split off: The person is not capable of personally experiencing these feelings and characteristics as an integral part of the self. When such a person becomes a parent, his or her child is inevitably confronted with these split-off memories and emotions. One of the hazards is that the split-off part of the parent is projected onto the child (Op den Velde, 1998).

Möhler, Resch, Cierpka & Cierpka (2001) support this view by stating that parents tend to project unconscious material of their own past onto their infant, especially during the first months of life, unconsciously shaping the formation of the infant’s self.

 

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES AND RELEVANT BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES

From the literature on the theme of intergenerational trauma as well as from relevant Biblical passages and pastoral perspectives, the following practical guidelines with regard to the support and counseling of traumatized persons can be deduced:

·       Children can help their traumatized parents by eliciting their testimonies or by writing down their histories (Auerhahn & Laub, 1998).

·       Children of the second generation have often become objects of their parents’ splitting and projective identification. As a cure, both groups depend on searching for objects of positive identification outside the family because the parents never worked through their own shame and guilt (Hardtmann, 1998). In this regard, small groups within a church environment could play an important supportive and caring role.

·       When the details surrounding the traumatic experiences can be discussed with the parents in the form of a meaningful and honest exchange of experiences and feelings, a noticeable improvement is usually observed (Op den Velde, 1998). Pastoral counsellors could play a meaningful role in facilitating such a process.

·       Crucial factors reported over and over by children of those who had acted wrongly in the past (collaborators), were the trustworthiness of helpers, not being blamed for their parents' past, unconditional acceptance, and unprejudiced listening (Lindt, 1998) In this regard, the passage in Colossians 4:6 applies: “Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

·       Insights that contribute to self-acceptance are important for children of parents who have acted wrongly in the past (for instance, collaborators). Among these, identifying unfounded guilt feelings and weakening them by reinforcing self-esteem and laying the foundation for the conviction that one has the right to be there, are paramount (Lindt, 1998). Something of this truth is portrayed in Psalm 139:13-14:

 

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous - and how well I know it” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

 

Isaiah 46:3 also confirms the fact that God is there every step of the way: “I will be your God throughout your lifetime - until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Bible: New Living Translation, 1996).

For some persons, one sentence that needs to be repeated many times is: “I am I, and they are they.”

-        Others need to learn that they have the right to be who they are, and that making mistakes and falling short are part of being human. Compare Romans 8:37: “But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us” (Bible: New Century Version, 1991).

-        After struggling over good and bad, one must discover that they are both present in every person, including our parents and ourselves. Then it will be easier to no longer judge our parents. This is part of the truth explained in Romans 7:21-23:

 

 “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Bible: New Revised Standard Version, 1990).

 

-        Validation of a traumatic experience is an essential step toward resolution and closure, because denial usually interferes with the ability of the survivors, their children and grandchildren to mourn, process, and integrate their deeply painful history (Kupelian, Kalayjian & Kassabian, 1998). In this regard Jeremiah 6:14 contains a very relevant truth: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

 

·       Recovery from trauma is enhanced when this trauma is viewed as a family problem rather than as an individual problem (Ancharoff et al., 1998). In this regard, one could refer to the so-called germ theory of trauma. Following Pasteur, the suggestion is made that just as bacterial agents external to an individual cause infection, a traumatic experience external to the survivor causes PTSD symptoms. Therefore, if trauma has an infectious aspect, we should not treat just the traumatized individual.

·       A worldview that is dominated by trauma restricts the ability to respond to changing world conditions. The objective of any intervention is an expanded worldview that allows all family members a greater range of responses (Ancharoff et al., 1998). Compare Romans 12:2:

 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is” (Bible: New Living Translation, 1996).

 

·       As counsellors, we must break through the silence because silence does not prevent the transmission of trauma. On the contrary, it acts as a mechanism of its transmission. The messages, however, are transmitted even if the content of the trauma is not. A portion of the raw effect of the original trauma may be transmitted without processing its meaning (Ancharoff et al., 1998). A very relevant Scriptural passage in this regard is Psalm 32:3-5:

 

“When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone – my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared” (Bible: The Message, 2002).

 

·       Fossion et al., (1998) indicate that for grandchildren, improved knowledge of their family history that helped them to clarify their own personality, together with their parents' and grandparents’ enhanced autonomy, resulted in a progressive improvement of their own symptoms. The silence established by grandparents many years ago must thus be broken. During this process, some sense of hope and optimism about the family is transmitted to the third generation. Compare Ephesians 5:13-14: “And when all things are brought out to the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed; for anything that is clearly revealed becomes light” (Bible: Today’s English Version, 1984).

·       Interventions that facilitate the opening of dialogue about secret trauma are often crucial to the treatment of current symptoms as well as to the prevention of future problems (Abrams, 1999). Such a dialogue, facilitated by a pastoral counselor, could result in emotional and spiritual freedom. In this regard Matthew 11:28-30 is very applicable:

 

“If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light” (Bible: Contemporary English Version, 1995).

 

·       The increased symptoms for children after a traumatic event could sometimes be linked to their parents’ unresolved trauma. The increase in symptoms may be related to the parents’ emotional unavailability, over-protectiveness, irritability or shortness of temper as a result of their own negative experiences. Compare Colossians 3:21: “Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits” (Bible: The Message, 2002). The observed behavior may also be related to the symptoms of a traumatized father (for instance a combat veteran). Therefore, there is a need to include a parent’s previous trauma among the list of risk factors for increased symptomatology following traumatic events (Nader, 1998). A thorough assessment should include a family history of exposure to traumatic events to identify potential contagionsas extrapolated from the germ theory (Ancharoff et al., 1998).

·       In some situations, group treatment does have advantages, such as bonding through the sharing of common traumatic experiences and mutual identification. Something of this truth is portrayed in the words of Galatians 5:13b: “Let love make you serve one another” (Bible: Today’s English Version, 1984). The transmission of psychopathology is inhibited by developing an awareness of the intergenerational transfer processes.

§  Education about historical trauma leads to increased awareness about trauma, its impact, and the grief-related effects.

§  The process of sharing these effects with others of a similar background leads to a cathartic sense of relief. Compare Galatians 6:2: “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

§  A healing and mourning process must sometimes be initiated. The importance of such a process is emphasized in Matthew 5:4: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (Bible: The Message, 2002).

·       By healing ourselves, we will also heal the wounds of our ancestors as well as the unborn generations (E. Duran, B. Duran, Yellow Horse Brave Heart & Yellow Horse-Davis, 1998). Compare Exodus 20:6: “But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations” (Bible: Contemporary English Version, 1995).

·       Reaching back to older generations and building open communication with younger generations, could provide greater understanding and relief to families. Compare Psalm 133:1: “It is truly wonderful when relatives live together in peace” (Bible: Contemporary English Version, 1995). In this regard, grandchildren could serve as catalysts of communication in a family where, because of unresolved trauma from the past, there is only silence. Matthew 5:9 speaks a true word in this regard: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Bible: King James Version, 1999). It usually takes a time span of two generations to stimulate the willingness and motivation to return to a traumatic past. Upon reaching retirement age, a time generally associated with the need to review life and deal with the crises of age and loss, grandparents are able to speak more easily about the past, because in later life the need to share with others becomes more urgent (Duran et al., 1998). In this regard the admonition in Deuteronomy 32:7 is quite applicable: “Think of the past, of the time long ago; ask your parents to tell you what happened, ask the old people to tell of the past” (Bible: Good News Bible, 1984).

·       In some cases, healing was facilitated with regard to grandchildren and grandparents through a process of reinforcing the relationships between these two groups. Grandparents were generally more prone to talk about the past towards their grandchildren than they were towards their children (Fossion et al., 1998). Compare Proverbs 24:3: “Homes are built on the foundation of wisdom and understanding” (Bible: Today’s English Version, 1984).

·       With regard to the proposed conversation between grandchildren and grandparents, Fossion et al., (1998) make an important distinction between a memory of life and a memory of death. A memory of life is defined as the grandparents’ narration of some facts regarding their lives before and after the traumatic phase (for instance, the Holocaust), as well as the narration of anecdotes of survival, that is anecdotes describing the coping strategies that allowed them to survive during the trauma (Holocaust). In this regard, the emphasis is on positive pre-trauma images that could sustain them as well as happy memories that could connect them to life before the trauma. A very relevant Scriptural passage in this regard is Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Bible: New Revised Standard Version, 1990). Compare also Psalm 143:5: “I remember the glorious miracles you did in days of long ago” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

·       Conversely, a memory of death includes all the unspeakable feelings and emotions related to trauma. Grandparents must consequently be encouraged to reveal to their grandchildren their memory of life. This interactive building of an open communication with grandparents usually provides a greater understanding and relief to such families. Grandchildren could create a healing effect by developing an independent dialogue with the ageing survivors, and the untold traumatic fear is reframed into a told story by grandparents. Something of the joy of such a healing process is portrayed by the words of  Psalm 126:5: “Those who sow tears shall reap joy. Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and return singing, carrying their sheaves” (Bible: The Living Bible, 1997).

·       If relevant, the mourning process with respect to the original trauma must be completed. The importance of this process is emphasized by Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Bible: The New Revised Standard version, 1990).

·       In family sessions where a traumatized mother told her children about her past, the experience of opening herself to the secrets of her own past and of beginning an open dialogue with her children have contributed to a vast improvement in family relationships (Abrams, 1999). Such an opening of a dialogue about feelings and history that had before either been secret or taboo topics for discussion has a profound effect on the family’s ability to move forward in reducing symptomatology and improving relationships. Compare John 1:5: “The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out” (Bible: Contemporary English Version, 1995).

·       In order to prevent problems in later generations, an approach that considers intergenerational transmission of trauma ought to involve the children of families at risk, even when there are no overt symptoms (Abrams, 1999).

 

CONCLUSION

The impact of secondary effects is a relatively recent focus in the field of traumatic stress. This study has revealed that children are affected by their parents’ post-trauma sequelae. Trauma is transferred from one generation to the following through different mechanisms. Counsellors must be aware of this process, as well as the fact that secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue puts most therapists at risk. A number of practical guidelines with regard to the counseling of the different generations involved in the process of intergenerational trauma were discussed. Pastoral counsellors that could also make use of Biblical passages and references in the therapeutic process of traumatized persons have proved to be able to provide a wider perspective to counselees regarding the process of healing and restoration.

 

REFERENCES

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