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.
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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

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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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Holding and Letting Go

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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I have a love to garden deep in my roots.
I breathe in flowers sacredly tended to by divine mothers
hoping they blossom throughout this lifetime.

I wake up unexpectedly sometimes
during that late-night, early morning space
where my dreams seem both near and far
and words that don’t speak flow within me
if I just stay awake a little longer
and press my senses gently
against my soul to hear them.

Tonight there was a melody of rain and crickets
just outside my window and I decided to stay
and listen. My hand reached outside the window
to both embrace and release the rain drops in my palm
interchangeably, and I wondered if this is what I should
be doing with each moment here:
both holding and letting go.

—lissa

(This poem originally appears on lissabliss.com)

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Being with Grief

everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself. this will pass.

I find so much peace in those simple words during challenging times. this will pass.

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Grief has been increasingly present for me. A collective grief for all the beings who it feels like are gone too soon, for the state of the world, the conditions of the earth, institutional racism and all the other -isms that just repeat seemingly without end.

Grief used to scare me. The way it inhabits. It feels like water — giant waves overwhelming my heart, my body, my spirit that cannot be ignored, have to be felt, and have to be expressed. Its water-like state transforming from ebbing and flowing waves into varying forms of floods and erosion when ignored and into a soft intermittent stream when heard, acknowledged, and held.

I hardly notice grief when it arises and passes like the soft stream. When it starts to linger with the large waves that may flood though, there can often be a worry about what if it never leaves and I fall into a permanent state of grieving. There can definitely be an underlying wanting to get rid of grief and a wonder of what it would mean to never have grief again.

Is it even possible to never grieve and to have a full experience of life? With the reciprocal nature of grief and love, grief and joy — can one exist without the other when life is so precious, so impermanent?

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photo by llbolek

Deeply nourishing practices I find helpful for being with grief:

-Comforting and releasing grief through my cycle of breath, knowing that although I may feel grief that I am not grief. Breathing in, I am aware of my breath flowing in. I follow its journey through my body and feel its life and energy. I can feel my breath encounter grief as I breathe in. I shine light into the grief with my breath: touching grief with my inhale, releasing it with my exhale.

– Self-soothing with my hand at my chest, belly, or another part of my body that resonates as a reminder that I am not alone and I will always be there for myself no matter what.

-Engaging in rituals and celebrations that honor what has been lost starting with a land acknowledgment to remember the indigenous people who stewarded the land and to name all the loss and traumas taken in and healed within the land.

-Seeking support from nature. I find certain lands particularly supportive for being with grief where I can lay down all that I am carrying even for a moment and allow myself to be held by the land, to rest my body against a tree trunk, to be fully present for the way the tall grass at this particular hillside I often frequent effortlessly dances with the wind.

– Being active. Yoga, qigong, dancing, going for a walk/run, etc.

– Cooking and eating balanced, supportive meals.

– Engaging in activities that draw a deep belly laugh. I invite my favorite books and comedies to help with this.

– Communal grieving. Being around loving, welcoming people. I allow myself alone time and it’s really important to be around others as well to avoid getting too caught up in my experience. And if there isn’t anyone in your circle for you to be with in this way, please consider utilizing one of these resources from the Grief Resource Network.

– Journaling. Writing. Singing. Humming. Being creative and allowing for expression and release.

– Accepting each moment for what it is and bringing a gentle curiosity to each moment. I have started to realize the incredible peace and freedom in befriending each moment  — not just the ones that take my breath away with their joy but the more difficult moments that arise where I feel lonely or overwhelmed. Adding a layer of compassion and acceptance to challenging feelings and experiences can make them so much easier to navigate through.

-Remembering that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. It’s really important for each person to find what works for them and to become aware of when they try to compare themselves to others or rush themselves through the grieving process.

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Writing a piece like this helps tremendously. It helps dissipate the grief, helps me to feel less isolated and more connected by sharing my experiences with others rather than keeping them a secret. We don’t have to grieve in secret. We can create space for us to grief together, allowing our collective grief and love to be held by each other.

—lissa