Intergenerational Growth

The things that are worst to undergo are often the best to remember - David Brooks


While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma related afflictions are serious conditions that need remedy, empathy, and prevention we must also remember the inheritance as Homo sapiens of a sometimes unworldly ability to not only withstand but improve from some of the worst imaginable terrors that can be afflicted. While trauma can paralyze, there is also a response to trauma now being referred to as post-traumatic growth which for most of human history has been the rule rather than the exception.

Great study has also been made of how severe trauma can reverberate in multiple ways across generations. Intergenerational trauma is the how untreated trauma can pass on emotionally, behaviourally, and even biologically to one's descendants. Once again this a real and terrible problem that needs to be addressed and prevented but what of intergenerational strength or resilience?

World renowned trauma expert Dr. Bessell Van Der Kolk states that the "the central task for recovery from trauma is to learn to live with the memories of the past without being overwhelmed by them in the present." This task is one that humans have demonstrated throughout history that we are up to more times that not. How humans have persevered and grown out of trauma remains somewhat of a mystery but stories of such triumph make our most compelling myths. These myths, I believe, provide an intergenerational lifeline, an ancient reminder of the almost endless possibility to human strength and determination. On the shoulders of our ancestral giants of resiliency we can access our genetic strength.

Each culture bears its own set of superheroes who signal not only to their cultural kin but to greater humanity that what is most remarkable of their heroism is that fact that they are not 'super' at all, rather the manifestation or realization of a potential that exists in all of us. From survivors of war, oppression, or slavery, to famines and other natural disasters we have our Frankls and Solzhenitsyns, our Frederick Douglases and Malala Yousafzais that wave the flag of human antifragility.

In fact, if we take Victor Frankl specifically we learn not just from his triumph over suffering but from his wise philosophy in regards to the response to suffering which states, "that between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

Each of our lives is a story and while conflict and suffering is never and should never be sought after the noteworthiness of our story relies heavily on the resistances and trials that shape us. Rarely do we find stories worth consuming that lack conflict. I believe that we all at times search for meaning in our lives and it is through strain and conflict that the story of our lives becomes more noteworthy.

For that reason the above quote by writer David Brooks moves me so. While I'm in the thick of difficulty I can be reminded that not only have I inherited the ability to thrive in stress, the story of my life which is all I have to offer the future of humanity will gain more strength, interest, and mythological power that hopefully will resonate through a few generations of my posterity, giving them just a little bit of hope when they are struggling in 2121.


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