“Mom, I am allergic to mayonnaise,” my 5-year-old recently informed me so he could avoid the creamy spread. Why did he loath it? Especially when my husband and perhaps his family considered a generous amount essential to a sandwich or burger?

My son didn’t know that my own family vehemently detested mayonnaise, so much that it was a family joke, like when we teased Dad he was eating mayonnaise ice cream to see him almost vomit. Was my boy’s aversion just an individual dislike or an inherited family memory? 

An aversion to mayonnaise may be a family tendency, but what about other shared traits? In your family tree is there a pattern of addiction, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, or depression? Do people in your family tree struggle with money? Is there stubbornness or rigid thinking? Is life a struggle? How has illness manifested in your genealogy? 

I began my doctoral work with a hunch: there was something troubling underneath the surface of Filipino cultural memory.  A kind of trauma, barely even classified as trauma, has been passed down generationally. I was researching the effects of six centuries of colonial history in the Philippines. I described it as an everyday angst, that somehow the American dream had slipped by us, as Filipino Americans, even though we might have accumulated the material trappings of American success. 

The legacy of colonial trauma among Filipinos is a form of generational memory. But unlike many scholars of trauma studies, I believe that generational memory is not simply a collective memory, or shared memory that forges a group identity, but an energetic memory that lingers in our DNA. 

You may ask, why should you care? For two reasons, 1) there are generational memories that you have inherited, that are not necessarily your own issues; and 2) generational memories do not have to define you. You can release the generational baggage! As an Energy Detox Coach, I have seen the results firsthand for my clients and my family. 

Life can be challenging enough without carrying around our ancestors’ energetic baggage. What generational tendencies do you see in yourself and your family? And what have you done to prune your family tree? I invite you to share your comments below.