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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

Can Trauma Be Passed Down?

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Doing Legacy Work to Break Intergenerational Abuse Cycles

To love & form bonds is instinctual.

But loving & forming bonds in a healthy way is a taught & learned behavior. If you were raised by a caregiver who doesn't know how to love in a healthy way, you wont learn how to either. This creates a toxic love legacy passed down from parents to children. This is the cycle of intergenerational abuse.

Unless we break the cycle - we suffer it, then just pass it on.

When we learn to reach beyond our damage, back through our legacy, we can find compassion. Our pain and suffering can cause us to be very short sighted. We see & feel the injustices done to us so intensely, that we are often blocked from understanding the roots. It can be very hard to realize our abuser has been a victim first.

When we let go of blame, recovery can come so much faster.

That is where Legacy Work comes in....

I feel like I've told this story so many times - on Instagram, Facebook, to clients & new friends who have asked, "How did you do it? When did you decide to recover?"

I've read the story to myself over & over while editing my first book. It's not new for me. But it will be new & valuable to the next person hunting for healing, salvation, growth & freedom.

There was a moment - a memory - I well never forget. Standing in my living room, I looked at my 3 month old daughter while my mother screamed at me through the phone & I shifted from a small, earthly human to a 40 foot dragon ready to breathe fire & scorch anything that threatened my daughter's survival.

My mother was screaming at me because I planned to take her to a Pediatric Chiropractor. My mother thought this was a terrible idea & the difference of opinion escalated to her screaming at me. And of course, I was screaming back. But that moment was a key. After years of Machiavellian puppeteering, gaslighting & narcissistic psychological warfare from my mother, the veil rippled and I couldn’t unsee it.

"I never want to have the relationship with my daughter that I have with my mum."

The thought could not be unthought. I could finally SEE where my low self esteem, anger, anxiety, sadness, the empty feeling in my chest, the poor life skills - all of it - had come from.

This was the origin story of my Legacy Work.

To create a positive legacy, we need to heal or shift away from the one that is already being forged. When infants form attachments to their main caregiver for protection & survival - a blueprint or framework is learned.

This framework is acted out by the caregiver, therefore modeled for the infant. The infant experiences & responds to the attachment & bonding style of the caregiver. This is how the 'cycle' is created. Then we carry it with us into adulthood.

'Legacy workshops' list making photo albums, recipe books, writing cards, collages, letters to loved ones & video messages when a loved one is nearing the end of their life. This is what you will find if you type it into a google search. Multiple sites list summaries that read “it’s not just about death - it’s also about life.” It's a way to honor a family member by making sure to collect & store their contribution to the legacy of your family.

But what if someone's contribution to the family legacy has been toxic or harmful?

What if you're trying to 'undo' their contribution? These types of contributions cannot be stored in photos & recipe books. And they don't need to be recorded...they need to be erased? This type of Legacy Work requires a different kind of project. This is where deep Legacy Work needs to be done - within us.

Deep Legacy Work is about becoming a Transitional Character in your family tree.

What is a Transitional Character?

“A transitional character is one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The changes might be for good or ill, but the most noteworthy examples are those individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. [...] Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.”

-Dr. Carlfred Broderick, Ph.D

Incredibly powerful words.

Each & every one of us has the power to change our legacy & the trajectory of our family's path. We can break abuse cycles. We can learn, we can grow & we can change.

If you want the cliff notes on 'Transitional Character' watch this 3 minute section of Mastin Kipp’s Ted talk:

If you would like to start doing Legacy Work contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.

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