Trauma is used both to describe distressing events and the human reaction that occurs afterward. It is not simply one singular horrific event in time. It is a series of outcomes that affect every part of one’s being. Reasons for trauma can be large – Holocaust, wars, Residential Schools, internment camps. Trauma can also result from “smaller” experiences – the death of a loved one, a rejection from a friend, a breakup, a car accident. How someone reacts to such events are individual – and the physical, emotional, and spiritual reactions are not usually within our control.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a collection of symptoms that one may develop after a distressing event(s). These symptoms include: re-experiencing the event, avoiding reminders of the event, negative thoughts or feelings, and hyper-arousal. PTSD is a formal diagnosis for intense emotional pain. But what is it like to really live with the effects of trauma, big or small?

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.”  ― Susan Pease Banitt

I have heard the following from survivors, paraphrased in my own word:. living with trauma is like not living your own life, like not being in your own body; a sense of floating; a sense of complete numbness;  a feeling as though your body is always on alert, as if it will never truly relax. The body is constantly in flight or fight mode, something that one gets very used to living with. Life becomes sped up, or slowed right down, as if walking through sludge. It becomes an existence colored by the quickness and vulnerability of life, and the reality and permanence of death, sometimes leading to the question of “what’s the point?” asked over and over again. Guilt comes easily, trust becomes impossible. One turns to drugs or alcohol to try and numb it all out, or to try to feel outside of the numbness. A life is truly changed.

But what happens when you experience these symptoms, but you are not aware of any traumatic events that have happened to you? Because trauma gets inherited in more ways than one, you may look beyond your past, and to your parent’s pasts, and even to the lives of your grandparents.

The well-known form of passing trauma on is through the way we are parented. The way we are parented as children can form the basis for what we are like as adults. If our parents experienced trauma and are living with symptoms like those listed above, it may affect one’s ability to be fully present as a parent. Moreover, if our trauma is directly from our parents, then we are likely to use the same harsh parenting style on our own children.

But here is the fascinating part. We can also pass on our trauma through our genes, not only our behaviours. Relatively new discoveries in the world of genetics have created a new field of study called Epigenetics. This is the study of the mechanisms that switch our genes on or off, or even alter genes completely without changes being made to our underlying DNA sequence. There are triggers in our environment that will determine if that pesky allergy gene we inherited from Dad will actually be expressed, or if that ability to be social and outgoing that we inherited from mom will be turned off. Backing up a generation or two, the genes that may have been altered in Mom or Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, due to their trauma, can be passed on to a developing fetus. Studies examining children of trauma survivors show that PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares, will manifest under stress, which is linked to inherited trauma through epigenetics.

A very relevant example of how we see this affect our society is in Residential School survivors. Many children today who have not been in Residential Schools, but have parents or grandparents who have attended these schools, are suffering from PTSD-like symptoms that have been inherited.

The good news is that epigenetic changes do not have to permanent. Remember, what you are exposed to in life, and how you design your children’s environment will affect if these genes are expressed or not. Moreover, trauma is overcome, through hard work, perseverance, and allowing trusted human beings to help us undo the responses that have occurred as a result of other human beings. We can heal our relational hurts relationally – in fact, there is some evidence this might be the best way. Everyday cycles can be broken, PTSD can be healed, family legacies can be changed, and genes can be switched. Compassion for this process is paramount.


20181009_113447Erin Newman is a therapist by day, and a writer by night. She is also a parent, student, advocate, artist, and teacher.

It might not seem like the most important thing in a CEO’s daily purview of company operations but writing has a surprisingly important place in building an organization’s legitimacy, marketing prowess, teaching capabilities, and legacy and online presence. Time and time again, we have seen companies spending thousands and thousands of hard-earned dollars on beautiful website designs only to find that they are not hitting the first page of search engines.

Why is this the case? The online reality is that if your site lacks timely, diversified, precise content writing and images, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is: no one will find you. And that is a recipe for business disaster – not only for those of us who conduct our business online, but for everyone else too.

These days, if a company does not have a solid website with essential content in an organized, intuitive fashion, people either won’t know you exist or, if they do, won’t trust you. A website might not obviously turn into dollars walking through your business’ door but just because you can’t see how something is directly working, doesn’t mean it isn’t.

A website functions like a safety blanket for potential customers who are using search engines to find businesses in their communities. They might look for particular services you offer by googling keywords. If your site lacks the appropriate content, despite the fact that your business is offering those services or products, your competitors will appear in the search results long before you do.

If you are on your content game, and your potential client comes to a beautiful, branded, navigable site, your online legitimacy immediately starts to build a trust relationship with them by communicating your standards for quality and professionalism. It doesn’t matter if you run your business out of a home office or a professional building centre downtown, your website may be the first impression that clients have of your company and the principles on which you run your organization.

Sloppy websites with dated content can hurt you just as much as excellent websites with timely content can help you succeed. And it all starts with developing adequate, targeted content on your site. Content comes in many forms and can include:

  • Blog articles
  • Static Content
  • Advertising
  • Embedded Video
  • Slideshows
  • Images

Trust your content development to someone who is professionally trained to do appropriate research and create high-quality writing for you on a consistent basis. For some of the most basic reasons to hire a professional – such as those from The Drawing Board – check out our top five reasons here.