This article by Haley Noble was originally published on Reality Sandwich, and appears here with permission.
South American indigenous cultures benefit from their ancient healing traditions surrounding plant medicines like ayahuasca. As more research explores ayahuasca as a tool to mitigate suffering, future generations may have the ability to harness ancestral psychedelic therapy to transform their cultural and familial wounds. Traditional Amazonian practices operate with an entirely different set of principles than westernized medicine. In the journey towards understanding the spectrum of ayahuasca benefits, highlighting indigenous teaching provides a perspective rich in generational and environmental wisdom. Let’s start out by looking at the current understanding of ancestral trauma and psychedelic therapy using ayahuasca.
WHAT IS ANCESTRAL TRAUMA?
Ancestral trauma — sometimes referred to as intergenerational or transgenerational trauma — addresses how chronic generational stressors alter genetic processing and can perpetuate cycles of suffering in families and individuals. Due to the history of systematic exploitation, discrimination and abuse of different groups, certain populations are particularly susceptible to ancestral trauma.
The study of generational suffering is relatively new. Built on the foundations of a 1988 study, researchers found that the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors were overrepresented by 300% in psychiatric care referrals. To date, Holocaust survivors and their descendants are the most widely studied group of people affected by the abuse inflicted upon their ancestors. By extension, any group suffering prolonged systemic stress can suffer from intergenerational trauma. Ancestral healing can help anyone, not just those in marginalized groups: domestic violence, sexual abuse and any drawn-out stress can all influence people’s likelihood for intergenerational suffering.
People living with the effects of ancestral trauma can experience hypervigilance, distrust, high anxiety, panic, and issues with self-esteem and relationships. Not only does this detract from their quality of life but it continues the overactivation of the neural pathways and further solidifies behavioral patterns. Let’s explore what’s going on neurologically.
TRAUMA AND THE BRAIN
When someone undergoes a traumatic event, the areas of the brain involved — the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex — are permanently altered. The physiological changes resulting from trauma affect the way the body responds to any future events that trigger the stress response. The overactivation of the body’s central nervous system can result in …