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  • Writer's pictureAbi Sims

Intergenerational Trauma: Integrating Our Core Trauma

Updated: Oct 24

In the last three posts, we explored how intergenerational trauma passes through 3 generations, how the four unconscious themes show up in our words, behaviors, thoughts, health, relationships, and success are typically passed down through then generations, Core Language Mapping, Core Complaint, Core Descriptors, and our Core Sentence. You'll want to read the last three posts before reading this one:

  • Part 1

  • Part 2

  • Part 3

We're on to our final post in this series about intergenerational trauma! Thanks to the work of Mark Wolynn, the founder and director of The Family Constellation Institute and the author of It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (2016), he's created a roadmap, called Core Language Mapping/Approach, to help people uncover their intergenerational trauma and start healing it.

Today, we're going to end the the Core Language Roadmap by learning about our own core trauma and how to integrate that into our everyday lives in a way that brings us freedom and healing. Grab a piece of paper or your journal and a pen, and let's dive in!

Core Trauma

The four tools of the core language map are the core complaint, the core descriptors, the core sentence, and the core trauma. You can discover your core trauma in two ways:

  1. Through a bridging question

  2. Through a genogram

Because our core sentence can originate from a previous generation, figuring out who the rightful owner is of that sentence can help us find peace. Bridging questions can help us find the rightful owner. For example, if the core sentence is, "I could hurt a child", possible bridging questions could be:

  • What child in your family system was neglected, mistreated, given away, or abused?

  • Who in your family system harmed a child or blamed themselves for not keeping a child safe?

  • Who in your family system feels responsible for the death of a child?

Written Exercise:

My Core Sentence:

My Bridging Questions:

A genogram is a two-dimensional visual representation of a family tree, and the symbols look like this:

Written Exercise:

Looking back 3-4 generations, include your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts into your genogram. Next to each family memory, record the trauma specifically related to them. If someone if your family was murdered or harmed by someone outside the family, or if your family member harmed or murdered someone outside the family, include those people. At the tope of your genogram, write down your core sentence.

To find your core trauma, you can choose to use bridging questions or the genogram.

Putting it All Together

At this point, we've gathered the essential information for our Core Language Map. Now, let's bring all the puzzle pieces together! You'll need:

  • Core Complaint - the core language about your deepest struggle, worry, or complaint

  • Core Descriptors - the language you used to describe your parents

  • Core Sentence - the language you used to describe your worst fear

  • Core Trauma - the event(s) in your family you just uncovered

Written Exercise:

  1. Write down the core language that evokes the most emotion inside of you when said out loud.

  2. Write down the traumatic event(s) associated with this core language.

  3. List everyone who was affected by this event.

  4. Describe what happened, and take a minute to visualize what the person who was affected most by the event felt like. What's happening in your body?

  5. What family members are you feeling drawn to in this moment? Where in your body do you feel this?

  6. Place your hand wherever you feel it in your body, and breathe into that area.

  7. Visualize the family members or people involved in the event. Say to them, "You are important. I will do something meaningful to honor you. I will make something good come out of this tragedy. I will live my life as fully as I can, knowing that this is what you want for me."

  8. Create your own language that recognizes the special connection you share with the person or people affected by the event.



We're typically not aware of it on a conscious level, but our life is heavily influenced by the beliefs, expectations, inner images, assumptions, and opinions we hold. Healing sentences after integrating intergenerational trauma can sound like:

  • "Instead of reliving what happened to you, I promise to live my life fully."

  • "I'll live my life in a loving way."

  • "I will honor the life you gave me by doing something good with it."

  • "I'll light a candle for you."

  • "I'll use what happened as a source of strength." (p.149)

Healing sentences we can say to ourselves can sound like:

  • "I've got you."

  • "I'll stay with you."

  • "Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed or scared, I won't leave you."

  • "I'll hold you."

  • "I'll breathe with you."

  • "I'm here." (p.155)

There are a few other ways we can create an internal reference point of feeling whole, and this reference point can serve as a safe place we can come back to whenever old feelings or memories start to threaten our stability. Examples of rituals, practices, and healing images were provided by Mark Wolynn (2016):

  • Lighting a candle

  • Writing a letter

  • Placing a photo on a desk or above the bed

  • Creating boundaries

Final Thoughts

In this series, we've uncovered a significant amount of information surrounding the impact of intergenerational trauma on a personal level. My hope is that you've been able to gain a better understanding of how intergenerational trauma influences us in the present and how to release what we've been holding on to that actually might belong to someone else in order to gain the healing and freedom we ultimately deserve.

Remember, it might not have started with you, but it can end with you.


Wolynn, M. (2016). It didn't start with you: How inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle.


At Root Counseling, we help clients explore intergenerational trauma in a safe space, creating opportunities for them to bring to light what's been lost and heal what's been broken. To schedule an appointment, you can visit our therapists here.

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