We Need Healing From Intergenerational Trauma Besides Golden Rules


How can we stop the intergenerational transmission of trauma?

Our Psychiatry & Society video series is taking a short break. For now, enjoy this rerun with additional new commentary.

Today, we are repeating a repeat of a video. The first one dates back to November 19, 2021 and was titled “What About Love, the Golden Rule, the Platinum Rule, and the Walrus Rule.” Because anti-Semitism was still rising, on February 2, 2022, we repeated it under the title “Remembering the Golden Rule.” Why repeat it again now? It seems like these rules, as idealistic as they are, aren’t helping enough.

Anti-Semitism continues to rise, and skirmishes continue between Israel and the Palestinians. The war from the invasion of Ukraine is promising new battles as it comes to its first anniversary. Gang violence produces everyday mass murders. Police from the Memphis special Scorpion unit brutally killed yet another arrested Black male for all to see on the released videos. And on and on.

What might we need in addition to these “rules"? Perhaps it is the intergenerational transmission of trauma that is the ongoing problem, as we discussed in our daily column from February 2, 2023. As the President of the World Social Psychiatric Association wrote me: “that may be the key to everything.” If we don’t interrupt the transmission of trauma to large groups of people, whether from anti-Semitism, slavery, war, or families, we may continue to be stuck. One way to get unstuck is for the other side to disappear from deaths or incarceration. That is what happened to the most famous family feud in United States history, the Hatfields and the McCoys from the Civil War until the 1890s. It started with just 1 murder, and one revenge followed another. Better yet is if we can interrupt the transmission by education, psychotherapy, and increasing community resilience, though to be comprehensive that may take national public mental health endeavors. That may be where psychiatry needs to come in.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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