Center for Integrative Psychiatry

Ancestral Trauma: What It Is & How to Heal

Ancestral trauma is trauma that is passed down from previous generations to the present. It can affect our mental health, our relationships, our behaviors, and our sense of identity. In this article, we will explore what is ancestral trauma, what causes it, how it manifests, and how to heal ancestral trauma with the help of healing experts.

What Is Ancestral Trauma?

Ancestral trauma, also known as intergenerational, transgenerational or multigenerational trauma, is trauma that is passed from a trauma survivor to their descendants. It can also be transmitted through epigenetic mechanisms, which are changes in gene expression that do not alter the DNA sequence but affect how the body reads the DNA.

Ancestral trauma can originate from experiences such as war, persecution, displacement, slavery, or other forms of collective suffering that affected our ancestors. These traumas can leave emotional and psychological scars that are inherited by their children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Ancestral trauma can also be influenced by cultural factors, such as beliefs, values, norms, and traditions that shape how we perceive ourselves and the world. For example, some cultures may have a history of oppression, discrimination, or violence that affects how they cope with stress, express emotions, or relate to others.

How Does Ancestral Trauma Affect Us?

Ancestral trauma can affect us in various ways, depending on the type, intensity, and duration of the trauma experienced by our ancestors, as well as our own personal and environmental factors. Some of the common effects of ancestral trauma are:

  • Mental health issues: Ancestral trauma can increase the risk of developing mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. These disorders can impair our functioning, well-being, and quality of life.
  • Relationship problems: Ancestral trauma can affect how we bond, communicate, and trust others. It can also lead to dysfunctional patterns such as codependency, unhealthy attachment styles, or parental dissociation. These patterns can cause conflict, resentment, or isolation in our relationships.
  • Behavioral issues: Ancestral trauma can influence how we act, react, and cope with stress. It can also trigger survival responses such as fight, flight, or freeze which are helpful in the short-term but harmful in the long term. These responses can result in impulsive, aggressive, or avoidant behaviors that can harm ourselves or others.
  • Identity issues: Ancestral trauma can impact how we see ourselves and our place in the world. It can also affect our sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning. We may feel disconnected from our roots, culture, or heritage, or struggle with low self-esteem, guilt, or shame.

How to Heal Ancestral Trauma

Healing ancestral trauma is not an easy or quick process. It requires awareness, courage, and commitment to face the pain and heal the wounds of the past. However, it is possible and rewarding to heal ancestral trauma and break the cycle of suffering for ourselves and our descendants. Here are some steps to heal ancestral trauma:

  • Seek professional help: The first step to heal ancestral trauma is to seek professional help from a qualified therapist who specializes in ancestral trauma healing. A therapist can provide a safe and supportive space to explore your family history, identify the sources of your ancestral trauma and guide you through the healing process.
  • Learn about your ancestors: The second step to heal ancestral trauma is to learn about your ancestors and their stories. You can do this by researching your genealogy, reading historical records or documents, visiting ancestral lands or sites or talking to your relatives or elders. Learning about your ancestors can help you understand their experiences, challenges and strengths and how they shaped your identity.
  • Acknowledge and express your emotions: The third step to heal ancestral trauma is to acknowledge and express your emotions related to your ancestral trauma. You may feel anger, sadness, fear, or grief for what your ancestors went through or what they did to others. You may also feel gratitude, pride, or love for what they achieved or how they survived. Expressing your emotions can help you release them from your mind-body and heal your emotional wounds.
  • Forgive yourself and your ancestors: The fourth step to heal ancestral trauma is to forgive yourself and your ancestors for any mistakes, regrets, or harms that may have occurred in the past. Forgiveness does not mean condoning or forgetting what happened, but rather letting go of the resentment, blame or guilt that may be holding you back. Forgiving yourself and your ancestors can help you heal your relationship with them and yourself and free yourself from the burden of the past.
  • Honor and celebrate your ancestors: The fifth step to heal ancestral trauma is to honor and celebrate your ancestors for their contributions, gifts, and legacy. You can do this by creating an altar, offering prayers, performing rituals, telling stories, or engaging in activities that connect you to your ancestral culture or heritage. Honoring and celebrating your ancestors can help you appreciate their wisdom, guidance, and support and embrace your identity.

Medical Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor before starting any new treatment or making any changes to your health care regimen.


Ancestral trauma is trauma that is passed down from previous generations to the present. It can affect our mental health, our relationships, our behaviors, and our sense of identity. However, it is possible to heal ancestral trauma and break the cycle of suffering for ourselves and our descendants. By seeking professional help, learning about our ancestors, acknowledging and expressing our emotions, forgiving ourselves and our ancestors and honoring and celebrating our ancestors, we can heal our ancestral wounds and reclaim our power.

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about how to clear ancestral trauma or heal for life, please contact us at the Center for Integrative Psychiatry. We are a team of healing experts who offer a holistic approach to mental health and wellness. We provide heal therapy that combines evidence-based practices with alternative modalities to help you heal your mind, body, and spirit. To schedule an appointment or request more information, please visit our website or call us 1-877-283-5336 today.

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