Intergenerational trauma and the perpetuation of harm
“Mother is God in the eyes of a child”William Makepeace Tackery
The above quote, whilst pertinent to this discussion, is only half of the picture. Adults control most aspects of a child’s life, and whether or not we realise it, we do this by being the people they depend upon to survive. I often wonder if those who abused me stopped to realise quite how severely they failed me in constructing a child for whom a feeling of safety was a rarity.
Children, like all of us, are socially constructed. The Self is an amalgam of the relationships and experiences afforded to us by the environment. This proves particularly problematic for children in abusive situations. Extensive and prolonged abuse creates a rocky foundation for Self-actualisation and scaffolding of one’s identity.
Much as the child who grows up seeing nothing but shadows does not realise there is a person who casts them, the child who is consistently and extensively mistreated does not view their abuse as out of the ordinary. This is how trauma passes from generation to generation. The normalisation of inflicted pain allows for it to be passed on.
There is a greater complexity to this matter than simply the way our parents and other family members treat us. Services and professionals who are meant to support us often compound the pain we are experiencing. When one is more concerned with the law than with ethics, you are almost definitely contributing to pain.
So, now we have a world where harm comes from all directions. This harm is so consistent and resilient to change that we do not realise its lack of acceptability. We are constructed into adults who believe that things should remain the same because “we turned out fine”.
It’s not okay.
Our colonial society has taught us that normative violence is the pinnacle of love, and yet so few of us have actually known what real love feels like. We are hurt people who are hurting people. Not because we are fundamentally bad, but because the inflicting of pain in our world is taught to us as a second language.
We have become masters of our own torture.
It is necessary then to explore ways of moving away from this world of normative suffering. We must queer the expectations of human experience in order to build a new society where abuse of the Other is as unacceptable as any other crime against humanity.
We deserve a world where our fundamental human rights are not trampled daily, and more so, our children deserve the opportunity to construct themselves in love and not the crucible of pain.
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