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Intergenerational Trauma in the South Asian Diaspora, Part 4

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

How might we start to address these traumas, both individually and collectively?

As part of Mental Health Week, Dr Rima Lamba has written a series of guest articles for us on intergenerational trauma within the South Asian community in the U.K. We hope you find this final piece helpful in taking action and next steps. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

This is an important but complex question. Whilst trauma research and practice has grown considerably over the years, there are no national guidelines which lean towards a single “treatment” model for historical or intergenerational trauma. In addition, when considering treatment endorsements from national organisations, the struggle we are part of is that such wider systems of power can often fall short of culturally sensitive, culturally-informed, and historically-mindful advice.

Historical and intergenerational trauma’s power can be invasive, diverse, and multi-layered, so it makes sense that how we address its impact may also be multidimensional. Collectively, building safe spaces in which historical trauma conversations can be brought in is important so there can be social recognition of what has happened to our communities. Perhaps then we can start forming links between the past and present, and create narratives which help with, what Judith Herman (one of the landmark thinkers in trauma) called, remembrance and mourning.

The challenging part is that not all spaces in our personal or social world can or will be safe. Because we are a community with trauma, it means there may well be multiple people around us, whose attachment systems have suffered injuries. This may be through the kind of parenting they endured, in which their own traumatised parents struggled to meet their needs, or it could be through carrying the injuries of past ancestors.

This means people in our lives may have been pushed out of their window of tolerance and living like that for a long time, creating long-standing complex relational patterns, which of course, were formed in the first place to help them survive something tragic. But all this combined can make storying and connecting painful histories difficult when attempting it in groups.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

There are no easy answers, but perhaps the place to start is to work on our own journey of healing and individual psychological therapy, which is culturally-informed, attachment-focussed, as well as trauma-informed. It can allow us space to explore, build safety, gain insight, and grow by connecting the fragmented stories of our life as well as intergenerational lives while developing resilience. This can then allow us the skills to go out in the world and hopefully feel empowered enough to create and be part of safe spaces where these conversations about historical trauma within our heritage can happen. This can be a way for us to break the cycles of intergenerational trauma and work on healing.

Please remember that historical and intergenerational trauma is deeply sensitive and complex work. Whilst organisations can provide wonderful collective spaces, it is important to note that deep psychological work with a psychologist or psychotherapist may also need a one-to-one therapy space. This is part of transformative healing; this is how you break the chain of historical and intergenerational trauma. When we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestral heritage.

Recommended resources to learn more about intergenerational trauma and healing:

Dr. Rima Lamba is a UK based, Chartered Counselling Psychologist. She has set up a private practice specialising in women and mother's mental health and well-being, called Blue River Psychology. She has a keen interest in how intergenerational, patriarchal and racial traumas or stories intersect and influence the diverse lives and identity of women, including those who embark on motherhood. Instagram: @blueriverpsychology

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