How Jean healed intergenerational family trauma

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How Jean healed intergenerational family trauma | Mary Shields Ph.D

Jean, a long-time client, told me how she tended to take out her anger or upset on her husband about whatever is happening with her sons or friends.  It was like clockwork. Something would happen, she would get angry or anxious or upset about it, and then she would yell at her husband.

In my last post I talked about intergenerational trauma (and wisdom) from an institutional perspective.  Thanks to many of you who reached out because it touched something deep in you.

How does intergenerational trauma affect family dynamics?

And thanks, too, to those of you who said:  I sort of get the institutional thing, but how does this apply to family or other group dynamics?  This post is an answer.

Coming back to Jean,  it was when we began to work with the issues with her father that the light bulb went on for Jean.  Her father had been unavailable, domineering, and very critical. He thought the sun rose and set on Jean’s younger brother, but never gave Jean any credit for any of her own accomplishments.  

The “aha” was that she had been taking out her anger at her dad on her husband, and also subconsciously wanting her husband to be the good dad she never had.

Of course, this kind of situation is classic, and often quite complex. Yet there was a huge turnaround when we did some web work around it.   

The Web Keeper is the person who navigates the system’s energy

Here is what happened. Human groups or systems have both a paternal and maternal web keeper.  As I’ve written before, the web keeper is the person who navigates the energy for the system.

In most families, the father and mother fill those paternal and maternal web keeper roles.  Jean’s family of origin was typical in that her father was the paternal web keeper and her mother the maternal web keeper.

Changing the Web Keeper

Sometimes, however, in dysfunctional systems, such as the one in which Jean grew up, the person holding that role is no longer suitable (or maybe had never been the best person to take on that role).  

What we did:  we disintegrated the paternal web keeper relationship and connected her with another family member in the extended family who could more appropriately fill that role energetically.

The results were tangible

Of course, we still had many layers to work through, but this one Mending Webs procedure made an instantaneous difference.  Jean was more able to get in touch with her real anger at her father and she was able to see the dynamics between them more clearly.

As we focused on the roots of her trauma (her relationship with her father), she first reduced and then stopped taking her anger or anxiety out on her husband, and dealt with it more directly.

 As in Jean’s situation, I often find that the presenting issue in the client’s current family is actually something from their family of origin.  With Mending Webs, we can work with both.

We also carry intergenerational wisdom

In a previous blog post, I talked about both intergenerational trauma and intergenerational wisdom. Kazu Hag, a Kingian nonviolence trainer and founder and coordinator of the Eastpoint Peace Academy says, “If we carry intergenerational trauma (and we do), then we carry intergenerational wisdom.  It’s in our genes and in our DNA.”

In Jean’s case, our web work was not only a big step in healing Jean’s family trauma, but it also connected her with her family’s intergenerational wisdom by linking her up with a functional family member.

How to connect with your intergenerational wisdom

Here is another practice you can use to connect with your intergenerational wisdom.  If you’re just starting, or haven’t connected with your intergenerational wisdom before, I suggest going back to this blog post and doing the exercise there first.  Then come back and try this:

  1. Take a few minutes to sit quietly or in meditation.
  2. Ask Spirit to connect you with your ancestors, and especially their wisdom.  Know that you are able to connect even to those ancestors from many generations ago.
  3. If you are visual, you can visualize those ancestors lined up behind you, supporting you now.  If you are auditory, you might imagine each one giving you a word of wisdom, or singing a song or giving a word of support.  If you are kinesthetic (you tend to feel rather than see or hear), you might just feel a sense of peace or connection.
  4. Imagine that connection in any way that feels appropriate.
  5. When you feel complete, thank Spirit for the connection.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything.  For this practice, I encourage you to focus only on your healthy ancestors.   Just the act of asking for that connection can make a huge difference in your feeling of being supported.

Please let me know how this goes for you!

With love and gratitude,


PS: If you have family trauma and want to heal your intergenerational trauma and access your intergenerational wisdom, I have some spots open for individual work.  Check it out here. or book a  Discovery Call so we can explore how I might serve you!

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Showing 4 comments
  • Juliet

    What inspiring work Mary. I love your approach.

    • Mary Shields

      Thank you, Juliet!

  • Grace

    Awesome post, and particularly useful the observation that just as trauma may be transmitted from generation to generation, so also wisdom.
    Thank you!

    • Mary Shields

      Thank you, Grace! The fact that intergenerational wisdom is not just transmitted, but that we can access it has been a life changer for me and my clients and students. I am excited to teach others how to connect with it and use it in healing work in my Mending Webs class.

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