Lately, I have been thinking about the lives of my ancestors. I have always known that the dysfunction and madness that my life has been is a result of something that had, in fact, nothing to do with me. Yes. That’s right. You are born and then the first decades of your life are not in your hands. That’s a fact. One day you just open your eyes and you are in a body, in a family, in a place. None of your choosing. You are a baby, a child, a teenager. You know nothing about the world. You have no resources. You just soak in what’s around and try as hard as you can to survive.
Your life unfolds, really controlled by the forces and voices that have been instilled into you by your environment.
If you are lucky, at some point, you go through therapy, you start trying to heal. You realise that what you are is not really about you but to a very large extent a reflection of the environment that you grew up in. I have been thinking a lot about who would I have been if my family was just a little less dysfunctional, who would I have been if there was perhaps only one person who would really care about me, my needs, wants and feelings, my well-being. Who would I have been? I certainly would have been someone less driven by flight and fight, someone less nested in the survival mode, someone, who would see the world as a friendly place, a place of opportunities rather than hostility and lack. I would have self-worth. I would know that I have a right to be treated well and I would hopefully have a bit more skill in not letting toxic people fuck me up and gaslight me. I would have fewer triggers. I would feel I had more agency in the world.
But my family was the way it was and now I am the way I am. Have I chosen this experience? No unless you think about reincarnation. Do I feel like my entire life I am swimming against the flow? The flow being the momentum of dysfunction, toxicity, trauma and sabotage that has plagued my family for generations. Yes I do. I had two choices. Either stay with them and become another dysfunctional person in this massively dysfunctional organism or try to save myself and be alone. I did the latter. But, god, it’s hard. And there are many moments when I feel like one more bad thing happens in my life and I’m done. I don’t really expect good things. I only expect bad. Bad people, struggles, betrayals, failing health. Hopelessness. I know that I have learned to expect these things from my ancestors. I know that their dysfunction was a result of the process of life and life experience that was not happy and was not in their hands.
I am Eastern European. I was born behind the iron curtain. We are the niggers of Europe. Second class Europeans. Up until the early 20th century, we were the second class citizens in our own country. After a brief period of independence, we were nearly eaten up by the Germans and survived six years of Nazi occupation, the longest in Europe. Then came the communists. Life was about survival, not thriving and enjoyment for my ancestors. Alcohol became the escape. Many of the traumas they endured were too much for them to healthily process and so, they passed them on.
Emotions never go away unless you process them. But if emotions are too strong, like those caused by severe traumatic events, the victim might not have the capability to safely process those feelings. And as it is in the world, victims frequently don’t have support. Psychotherapy is for the rich kids. And so, the victims do the only thing that feels reasonable. They cut off the emotions, they cut off the trauma. They cut it off with defence mechanisms. Touching the defence mechanisms will become a trigger. They will become irrational and kind of crazy because they have cut off a part of themselves. They have children and somehow, the child becomes a tool of their emotional self-regulation. Sometimes, a partner becomes that tool tool. And so, the trauma is passed on. It never goes away until someone musters the courage the face those crazy trauma-induced emotions.
I see a lot of dysfunction in the generation of my parents and great parents in the Czech Republic. Sometimes, it feels to me that my generation is the first one that is sort of waking up. We were not traumatised by the Nazis, by the Austrians or by the communists. We were purely traumatised by our parents, our teachers, our grandparents.
I am extremely sensitive to people saying that the past has to stay in the past. That’s not how it works. In fact, I have tried to leave my past in the past for very many years. It ended in a traumatic relationship with a narcissistic man. When that ended, I had no more space in me to store those difficult emotions. I had a near breakdown. Since then, I’ve been excavating. It’s been years of tough emotional processing. Emotions do stay in your body. I have no doubt about that. I’ve had times when I was so flooded by the old trauma that I could do nothing for a week. It can be that bad.
I still don’t understand what’s the purpose of it all. It appears to me that since the beginning of humanity, there has been a group of people who were exploiting and traumatising others, and then there have been the victims. The trauma doesn’t travel down the generations only in the psychic way. It’s been proven by science that trauma changes the expression of genes, it shortens telomeres and these changes are passed down the generations. Overtime, the victims’ DNA is getting weaker, more fragile, more faulty. The oppressors? They are just getting better off with every privileged generation. We are now dealing with a massive inequality problem that doesn’t only have to do with who controls resources but also with the poorer default health of those lineages that had been victimised.
As the oppressive bloodlines keep winning, because of their resource and health advantage, we see less and less empathy in the world. Oppressors are not famous for empathy. I struggle to understand what’s the point of all of this. But it appears to me that every person on the traumatised side needs to make sure to do their part and deal with the unprocessed emotions so that we at least don’t pass the trauma and the ensuing dysfunction to to the next generations. Maybe that way, we can strengthen our children and in the future, they will be strong enough to fight for a better world against the exploitative sociopathic bloodlines. Don’t know. The more I think about the history of mankind, the less it makes sense to me. The less life makes sense to me…