Healing Across Generations

Where's the Spirit?

The Science of Suffering

by Judith Shulevitz
New Republic

How is trauma passed on from one generation to the next? What does an intergenerational process of healing look like? This article delves into recent research on and personal narratives of different populations who have suffered historical traumas. By examining the parallels and differences between communities of Cambodian refugees, Jewish Holocaust survivors, and Native Americans, Shulevitz explores avenues to “untangle the web of relationships among biology, culture, and history. Do social forces transform our biology? Or does biology ‘permeate the social and cultural fiber’? How do you even begin to tease these things apart?” How might understanding these complexities offer a new framework for healing across age, time, and space? 

The French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes of “the lived body”—the body as a receptacle of past experiences, of a knowing that bypasses knowledge. Think of a culture as a collective lived body, the scars of its experiences accumulated over generations and fixed into rituals and mores.
— Judith Shulevitz