I’m sharing a favorite passage from Adyashanti’s book Falling into Grace again. I think understanding this deeply at some point is key to the process of healing.
What he shares makes it clear why it makes no sense to blame parents for the ills of their children. It’s also why in becoming conscious, families can help heal one another. If the family does not become conscious, the individual still can.
We can really extend this idea to the whole human race (human family) and how we harm one another. And through understanding we can begin to heal not only ourselves but one another.
A passage from page 45 – 49 of Falling into Grace:
Now I want to introduce a different type of suffering, one that can be particularly difficult to unravel. Over my years of teaching, I’ve noticed that there’s a particular type of suffering that is sticky, pervasive, and often very hard to find your way out of. I’ve come to call this “generational suffering.” The notion of generational suffering is based on the fact that each of us comes from a generational line, which goes as far back in time as we can imagine, back even to the original human beings, our original ancestors themselves. We’re actually the outcome of a long chain of many, many generations. Each of our family systems is imbued with a tremendous amount of beauty and goodness, and also carried within these systems, as we all know, is what we might call “generational pain,” or “generational suffering.” This is an actual energy that is unconsciously passed down from one generation to the next.
If you look closely at a particular family system, you’ll see the pain that tends to be passed down through a family lineage. For example, parents who have a particular tendency to suffer with anger or depression tend to produce children who suffer from the same afflictions, and then these children produce children who suffer with the same, and so on. Generational suffering is very insidious. It becomes deeper and deeper ingrained in a family as time wears on, and it forms the core of much of the suffering that people experience.
One of the interesting things to note about generational suffering is that it’s not personal. In other words, it’s more like a virus that infects the people within a family. It’s a way of suffering that infects a family and then gets passed on, almost like the flu or a cold, through future generations. When you’re born, without even knowing it, you’re actually being handed this generational pain. In response, you will complain about it, think it’s terrible, or otherwise resist it. But by doing so, you will come to see that denial or complaints about this pain only makes it sink more deeply into your being.
When you start to identify how this generational suffering operates in your life, when you see how your particular way of suffering is similar to the way others in your family suffer, it can open your heart and mind. From this wider perspective, you can actually start to let go of blame and see that those who passed down suffering to you through this generational chain were themselves experiencing the pain and quite unconscious of what was happening. This pain just came to them, and they manifested it in whatever way they did, and then they unknowingly passed it down to the next generation…
…Eventually, this energy comes to you, and you become the forefront of this generational pain. It’s easy to get resentful and blame this pain on someone else, but when you really see the nature of it, you see that it’s not personal, even though the implications for you feel very personal, and maybe the way it was acted out was also very personal. But the pain itself, the suffering itself, is really not you. It was handed down unconsciously from one person to the next, from one generation to the next. Of course the way it gets handed down is often extraordinarily painful, sometimes violent, because it seems that you are the target of this suffering as it manifests in you and in the family members around you. But if you can avoid getting completely lost in the anger or the resentment – even though, from a relative perspective, it’s understandable – if you can withhold your judgment for just a moment, you will start to see that the pain that you feel was in large part suffering from others in your family-and it does not have to be your own.
When you feel and can identify this deep pain within you, see that blaming others in your family is not the solution. When you feel the urge to blame, keep in mind that your generational line has lived with the same pain, too. It is highly likely that they never even imagined that it was generational. They probably took it very personally, and therefore their only option was to act it out. When you start to see this in terms of a long chain of suffering handed down from generation to generation, and you realize that you’re the one, here and now, who can become conscious of how this works, then you have the opportunity to put an end to it.
If you’d like to read the ways Adyashanti talks about resolving generational pain you might enjoy his book Falling into Grace
More on Trauma and mental well-being here Also: Mental illness, addiction & most chronic illness is linked to childhood loss & trauma (Gabor Maté)
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