Last updated August 2021
We inherit many things from our parents, from their parents, and from generations going back to time immemorial. Often, when we consider the things we inherited from our relatives, we think about physical traits. “She has her mother’s eyes. He has his father’s smile. They have their grandparent’s hands.” But the truth is that we inherit so much more than physical aspects. We inherit thoughts, perspectives, beliefs, and traditions.
From the day each of us comes into this world, we begin to learn about our culture through observing those caring for us. Our teachers, parents, and other family members begin passing information on to us through their words, actions, and attitudes. Some of this is intentionally taught to us, through for example, instructions about our dances, stories, or even the alphabet. Some of this is taught to us unintentionally, for example through seeing how those around us act when they are happy, how they process feelings of sadness, or even what they do when they’re angry. Ways of responding to trauma, how to heal from trauma, and how to be resilient in the face of challenges can also be passed down from one generation to the next.
What are negative family cycles and why do they exist?
Family cycles are patterns of behavior that are passed down from one generation to the next. For Indigenous people, some family cycles have been impacted by historical and intergenerational trauma. For example, in response to historical trauma, some of our relatives learned to cope in ways that were not always healthy or useful. Some coped with challenges by misusing substances, like alcohol and drugs. Others may have closed off from loved ones and their culture or used violence or lateral violence to process difficult feelings. These coping mechanisms unintentionally led to the creation of negative family cycles, or patterns of trauma, that we can still see happening today.
How do we break negative family cycles?
Always remember that in spite of everything our ancestors went through, they were able to endure and preserve our culture for future generations to experience. You are everything your ancestors had ever dreamed of, and more. Here are some things to consider if you want to break unhealthy family cycles:
- Learn about trauma and healing from trauma here
- Get tips for building resilience at reachout.org
- Reach out for help when you need it
This page was informed with information from Survivors to Thrivers and Jody Michelle’s article on Your Generational Legacy: How to Break Destructive Patterns.