pleasure activism

intergenerational trauma and triumph (pleasure activism series)

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
adham-ayyat-naJczO8dCWg-unsplashphoto by @leloupblanc

Message from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.

You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, you will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.

Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.

Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”

I deeply appreciate the wisdom of these grandmother leaders. In these recent weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing sense of fear and collapse as well as resilience at times. When these felt sensations arise, they don’t feel like they’re just my own. They feel collective and intergenerational and like they can offer wisdom about how to take care and how to be with what is if I can allow them to be present and listen.

I notice myself inviting my ancestors in, knowing that they can be a source of support, knowing that they have loving wisdom to offer, and feeling significant solace in that and also acknowledging the conditioning and trauma passed through my ancestral lineage that I can offer up for healing right alongside my own wounds that need healing. I feel gratitude to be able to be with the multiplicities of experiences and medicines that are a part of my lineage.

About Integenerational Trauma

D48cl3qXoAMkqyZphoto by @ayan_mukherjee

The impact of abuse, genocide, slavery, oppression, white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and trauma don’t only appear in the person or community who experiences or witnesses them. They are transmitted in the generations that follow until they are addressed and processed. Intergenerational trauma impacts us all. Acknowledgment of the trauma(s) and their impact as well as space for collective healing have to occur in order to break the cycle.

For more information about Intergenerational trauma, please see the videos below.

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Impacts of intergenerational trauma by The Healing Foundation:

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Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence, and American chattel slavery:

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A talk based on the book It Didn’t Start With You, How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn:

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In Pleasure activism, adrienne maree brown writes that we are “descended from legacies of trauma and triumph” and “it is still a rare thing for most of us to sit with what we feel, how we feel, the reality that we carry memories and feelings from what our ancestors experienced, and that we carry out current continuous collective trauma together.”

We don’t acknowledge that often when we are meeting, it isn’t just us who are in the space together. It is all of that history, all of that unresolved and possibly unrecognized pain, shame and self-loathing, difficulty with connection, distrust, and/or hypervigilance from our lineage, which also joins us in our moments together. It makes our already fragile interactions with each other that much more complex and volatile.

The histories of trauma that we are holding in our bodies can block us from pleasure, self-worth, wellness, and connection. Illnesses in mind, body, and heart can manifest as a result of all that we are carrying in the body that doesn’t get released.

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How can we do our healing work?

*Normalizing trauma and community healing:

adrienne maree brown encourages a normalization of trauma since it is an experience that almost all of us know directly or indirectly:

“Trauma is the common experience of most humans on this planet… What we need is a culture where the common experience of trauma leads to a normalization of healing. Being able to say: I have good reasons to be scared of the dark, of raised voices, of being swallowed up by love, of being alone. And being able to offer each other: I know a healer for you. I’ll hold your hand in the dark. Let’s begin a meditation practice. Perhaps talk therapy is not enough. We should celebrate love in our community as a measure of healing. The expectation should be: I know we are all in need of healing, so how are we doing our healing work?” — adrienne maree brown

*Connection & Healing:

Reach out to those you trust for support in processing and being with this.

Consider connecting with your ancestors too if this would be of support to you. Lissa explores one example of this in a past post. Shirley Turcotte, a Métis knowledge keeper and registered clinical counsellor, explores the concept that our ancestors share messages and medicine for us in our felt sense experiences in this video. There are many other practices available as well. It may be helpful to connect with customs and traditions particularly meaningful to you and your people to help find what would be most supportive.

Here is a video by Turcotte demonstrating how to attend to intergenerational fatigue:

*Time for Reflection:

It can be important to allow for time for reflection on how intergenerational trauma has impacted you to support the healing process. This may be helpful to do alone, with loved ones, in nature, through creative outlets (drawing, writing, etc.)…

Reflect on your ancestry, country of origin and any other regions inhabited by your ancestors, customs, patterns, traditions, traumatic history and forms of resilience and triumphs that have been passed down. Do the best you can with the information you have access to. Stay connected with your body and its response to notice even the earliest signs of activation. Take care of yourself during this process with deep breaths, shaking, humming, breaks, and whatever else you find supportive.

*Support for unprocessed grief:

Find practices that are supportive to help heal unprocessed grief, which is often associated with intergenerational trauma. Check out Lissa’s post about Being with Grief for some resources for working with this.

*Trauma therapy, help for addiction, and resources:

The impact of intergenerational trauma and unprocessed grief can cause mental health symptoms, substance abuse and other forms of addiction that interfere with a person’s ability to function in life. 

If therapy is resonant for you, it’s important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, who can support your particular set of identities, who has a deep understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impact, and who has specialized training in dual diagnosis treatment and in modalities such as Seeking Safety, Indigenous Focusing-Oriented TherapySensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

For some individuals, it may be recommended to engage in psychotherapy in combination with psychotropic medications to help with symptom management. Meeting with a psychiatric provider who prescribes medications such as a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist can allow for one to explore if this would be a supportive option.

Please see these resources from Ayana which provides therapy for marginalized and intersectional communities.

*Self-acceptance:


“It gives me permission like nothing else to accept myself in all of my own wildness and growth. Nature puts the struggle in perspective, and I am filled with my own power.” — adrienne maree brown

*Gratitude Practice:

It can be helpful in this processing and healing work to spend time celebrating the strength, the wisdom, the resilience of your ancestors. Bask in their goodness. Take in their love. Although there are aspects of wounds and imperfections in any lineage, there are many qualities and experiences that can also be affirmed and appreciated. This Ancestral Medicine article by Daniel Foor offers ways to appreciate and honor ancestors.

*Being held by nature:


“So much of our healing will include sweetening on, rubbing on, and laying open in the expanses of nature and letting it wrap our bodies in remembering and pampering. The ancestors in our bodies, known and unknown, need these rituals of healing and softness, as do we.” — adrienne maree brown

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Please know that you are not alone. You can never be alone. The healing from the impact of intergenerational trauma is not something we can do alone because we are not only working with our own feelings, behaviors, or memories but those of generations before us and our healing allows them to heal  and allows for the healing of those who are to come to heal as well.

—lissa

This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.

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