Those who are engaged in deep healing work find themselves going on a journey back through their lives, undoing psychological damage and healing emotional wounds right back to childhood.
This unwittingly creates an assumption that we’re done once the healing process reaches our birth. In reality this isn’t true. Instead we start dealing with what I term ‘ancestral traumas’. These are traumas that occurred thousands of years ago yet remain embedded as genetic memories in the collective unconscious.
These ancestral traumas can be experienced concurrently with personal issues rising to the surface for healing, or independently of them. They have a curious quality of relating to our own lives while simultaneously being unmistakably ancient in origin.
How far back do they go? As far as I can tell, to the Biblical Fall: the expulsion from the Garden of Eden into the desert.
The story in Genesis with the ultimate all-star cast—Adam, Eve, a snake, an apple and an irate god—appears to be a fictionalised version of a core traumatic event affecting humanity whose occurrence is supported by anthropological evidence.
In Saharasia, geographer James DeMeo documents how desertification in the Sahara, Arabia and Central Asia around 6000-4000 BCE transformed peaceful hunter-gatherer and early agricultural societies into warring dynasties bent on conquest in the competition for increasingly scarce food sources.
In The Fall, university lecturer Steve Taylor documents the accompanying “ego explosion.” This profound psychological shift paved the way for modern, individuated humanity—yet it came at significant cost.
The Fall seems to have inflicted three key psychological traumas:
- A fundamental separation from both nature and the mother figure. I link these because they’re macro- and micro-level versions of the same thing. Nature ceased to be a bountiful provider. So did mothers as children were separated at birth to encourage violence, which conferred an evolutionary advantage by improving the odds of survival.
- A fundamental sexual trauma stemming from separation from the mother and denial of sexually pleasurable breast-feeding. This led to circumcision of men, and the sexual subjugation and sexual enslavement of women.
- The embedding of core victim (women) or victimiser (men) energies in the human psyche, stemming from traumas 1 and 2. This programming, in highly watered-down form, still resides in the collective unconscious.
These traumas happened pretty much in the sequence listed above, no doubt with some overlap over a long timespan. Each one damaged us in specific ways which, when understood, can be plainly seem in contemporary human behaviour at both the macro (global) and micro (personal) levels.
In combination, these ancestral traumas not only impelled Steve Taylor’s “ego explosion” but also laid the bedrock for the patriarchal civilizations that ensued. These civilizations have all been inherently anti-female, anti-child and anti-sex. We’ve been dealing with the emotional and sexual damage ever since.
In the rest of this series I’ll look at each of these traumas in turn, exploring both its origins and its contemporary manifestations. Here are the links:
- Ancestral trauma, Part II – separation from nature/nurture
- Ancestral trauma, Part III – core sexual wound
- Ancestral trauma, Part IV – victimizer/victim dynamic
Image: Leni Riefenstahl, The Last of the Nuba (1974)