Generational shame is ancestral shame that is genetically inherited from a family member through epigenetic inheritance. It often centres on ‘scandalous’ events such as affairs and marital breakdowns in communities where these are considered deeply taboo. The sexual shame replicates from one generation to the next. Abandonment and repressed grief are other sources. The Christian church refers to it as ‘generational sin’. It is referred to on multiple occasions in the Bible (e.g. Exodus 20:4-6, Jeremiah 31:29 and John 9:1-3).

Another example of generational shame is a family that has recurring marriage breakdowns due to infidelity over multiple generations. Because of the invisible nature of the underlying conditioning it is difficult to identify and resolve.

Cannot process

Generational shame is created when a traumatic event occurs that the person on the receiving end of cannot process. I’ve written about this in more detail in The mechanics of emotional pain, Part I and Part II. The trauma is simply an accumulation or backlog of experience that was too painful to be processed and released when it happened. When animals are traumatised, they systematically shake their bodies to release the trauma. Humans go into shock, denial and emotional shutdown.

The unresolved trauma becomes embedded in their DNA and is then handed down in diluted form to their children. The children are then affected by the same event in a similar way to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This may take a relatively low-grade form or, as in my case, it can have a more significant impact.

Epigenetic inheritance has been demonstrated in the laboratory. Mice were given ample food and behaved normally. The food was then reduced to a minimum and the mice became aggressive and anxious. The food supply was then re-instated. The mice’s aggressive behaviour did not change. A new generation of mice was bred from these aggressive mice. The offspring were given unlimited food from birth, yet retained their parents’ aggressive conditioning.

Weird business

Dealing with generational shame is a difficult, painful, and—quite frankly—weird business. These distorted energies act as if they have a life of their own and do not want to be disturbed. When disrupted, I have experienced powerful emotional reactions that have a sense of the paranormal about them. However, when understood in the light of generational shame it is clear that these are simply very old energies being released from the unconscious.

For practical tips to deal with generational shame, please see 4 Tips for healing generational shame.

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash