“The most profound thing we can offer our children is our healing.” – Anne Lamott
Whether you have children of your own or simply have children in your life, doing your personal healing work is one of the best gifts you can offer yourself, your family, and your community.
I started Somatic Therapy Partners (STP) in February of 2020 because I wanted to create a flourishing group practice that serves folks struggling with the impacts of early trauma. Here at STP, our reason for existing, the vision we have for the world is:
To end the impacts of trauma from being passed on to the next generation.
In other words, Somatic Therapy Partners is in the business of ending inter-generational trauma. Working on yourself is one of the most vital legacies that you can pass on. This is especially true if you’re a parent or have kids in your life that you’re related to or work with.
Overcoming your inheritance
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” – L.R. Knost
For the readers that may have a sense of or directly know that your early childhood has impacted you negatively, overcoming the inheritance of having to survive really hard things requires bravery, persistence, attuned support, and dedication.
I’ve been open, in a very broad way, about my own history of early and on-going trauma (see blog posts). Specifically, living with parents who were physically abusive and emotionally neglectful. As a young child, interacting with my parents on the day-to-day often meant that I was repeatedly spoken to or treated with contempt. It also meant I was frequently ignored or made to feel that my experiences (especially my emotions) were unimportant, too much, or stupid.
From the physical or nervous system perspective:
- Being treated with contempt, which is like hate or disgust, forces a young child’s nervous system to go into survival or protection mode.
- This means that their little and still developing bodies start to brace against getting hurt (even if no physical abuse is present).
- Their heart rate goes up, their breathing becomes shallow, all their muscles start to constrict or brace and a whole bunch of stress hormones invade their body preparing them to survive.
- And, if their parents continue to do this over and over, without any emotional repair or invitation back into meaningful connection, their little bodies create somatic patterns of constriction and physiological patterns of higher stress hormones throughout their system.
- Over time, this pattern of too many stress hormones in their body, can result in lowered immune functioning (getting sick all the time), digestive issues such as chronic stomach aches or diarrhea, as well as decreased cognitive ability (struggles with school).
Psychologically, when a child is ignored or made to feel that their experiences are stupid or unimportant it has major negative impacts on the child’s self-worth and future interpersonal effectiveness.
Because what is true is that shame and trauma always go together when it happens early in a person’s life.
In essence, when a child grows up NOT FEELING SAFE in their own family, their brains and bodies get wired for protection instead of connection. “Survival physiology,” synonymous with toxic stress, becomes the dominant pattern in their nervous system which results in a whole host of maladaptive coping behaviors. Moreover, these children grow into adults who often have a very hard time feeling safe within themselves and in the world.
When my daughter was born, I vowed to end the legacy of abuse and neglect. I overcame my “inheritance” so that she doesn’t have to. This is the “deep why” undergirding Somatic Therapy Partners’ existence.
Are you a legacy breaker?
“Parenthood isn’t about raising children who make no mistakes. It’s about being the safe place your children can return to when hard times come.” – Lauren Fortenberry
Overcoming the legacy of abuse, neglect, maltreatment and other hard experiences is a journey! If you’ve read this far, you or someone you know probably falls into this category.
Here are some ways to know that you’re overcoming your inheritance and breaking the legacy of dysfunction from your family:
- You’re committed to mindful and attuned parenting because you don’t want your children to have to endure what you did.
- You practice self-care.
- You’re learning self-love through practicing self-compassion.
- You strive to treat others with dignity and care, including yourself.
- You can let yourself feel your feelings and hold your vulnerability with care.
- You actively practice self-regulation skills when you feel activated.
- You ask for help when you need it.
There are many more things to add to this list – what’s on your list? What have you been doing that tells you that you are breaking the cycle of dysfunction handed down to you from your family?
Also, I just need to say I’m so fucking proud of you! I see you and honor the effort, time, struggle and attention needed to be a legacy breaker! I encourage you to set aside some time to journal about the ways you have already done this. It’s important that we learn how to acknowledge ourselves for wanting a different future than our past and all the ways we are already accomplished in this regard.
Often, I’m asked for resources to support one’s healing journey. Here’s a list of my three favorite books related to overcoming early trauma and parenting if you have a traumatic history:
- Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel et. al
- It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn
- Trauma Proofing Your Kids by Peter Levine
Additionally, I’m thinking about starting a FREE book club in the beginning of November where we will read the last book on the list together and then talk about ways to implement the practices given throughout the book.
If you’re interested in joining this group and getting information about it, please email us at email@example.com with the subjecting line “Trauma proofing my kids” and we will send out the information asap.
Until then, there is so much love for you here! Thank you for reading!