You're listening to Voices of Your Village, and today we get to chat about how to break these intergenerational cycles. I got to hang out with Dr. Mariel Buqué. She is a Columbia University trained psychologist and an intergenerational trauma expert and the author of her new book, Break the Cycle. It's out right now. And y 'all, we were chatting about this so so much in this interview, but I can't stress enough how key building awareness of our intergenerational patterns and triggers and trends is for us doing this work with tiny humans and knowing that this impact of us doing this work goes far beyond us. I chat with her too in this interview about the messiness of doing this work alongside raising tiny humans. And sometimes it it feels like a race against the clock of like, oh, I open my mouth and my mom comes out and like, sometimes that's great. Sometimes I totally want to pass it on. And sometimes I've spent a lot of time and money in therapy trying to not pass that on, right, and it still comes out. And so looking at what does it look like to put these practices into place so that we can do this work? I love that her framework really embodies both the nervous system regulation alongside the emotion processing and really diving into what is coming up for us from our childhood, from our social programming, from our experiences, but that we can really only lean into that work when we have tools for nervous system regulation first. I am so jazzed to get to share this episode with you. Run, don't walk, to snag her book, Break the Cycle, out now. All right, folks, let's dive in.
Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.
Hello, hello, Dr. Mariel. How are you?
00:02:19 Dr. Mariel
I'm doing well, my friend. I'm so excited to be in conversation with you.
Likewise, likewise, you have written the book we all need. So I'm excited to get to dive into it. Breaking cycles is no joke.
00:02:36 Dr. Mariel
It's hard work.
It's hard work. And we talk so much about it in our community around like breaking cycles while parenting or while teaching while interacting with tiny humans who trigger a lot of those things that come up from our childhood.
00:02:53 Dr. Mariel
Mm hmm. I always say it's like, it's the process of healing that is double the work and double the reward because it's heavy. And especially if you have those dual roles, and you you have an impact on the next generation already, it can make the work feel like you're like working twice as hard. But when you see the ways in which it impacts their little souls, at the same time, it's impacting your soul and your little inner child that's still existing in you, it can be doubly rewarding as well.
Yeah. I think for me, sometimes it feels like a race against the clock, where I'm like, oh, I have these tiny little faces and ears listening and looking and I'm dropping the ball here, I'm dropping the ball there. And I think for a lot of us, as intergenerational healing and trauma has come more into the zeitgeist, which is rad that that this is being talked about in the way that it is now, I think for a lot of us that are in it and parenting or teaching or raising kids, it's like, oh shoot, what have I already messed up? How do I get back from that? And it has led to almost like this perfection, right? This like desire to be perfect. So I'm curious to hear your thoughts around, as we are breaking cycles and committing to like, okay, there are certain things from our childhood that we don't wanna repeat, that we do want to shift or change. What does that look like in the context of perfection?
00:04:31 Dr. Mariel
You know, perfection is a myth. So it isn't anything that any one parent in the entire humanity of parenthood has ever achieved because it is a false goal. So when we set that expectation for ourselves in orienting these little humans into the world, what it does is that it invites in the element of fear and worry that actually gets in the way of the attunement that can be taking place in that moment with your child. So what I always urge parents to do who are kind of focused on that looped thought of did I mess them up is-
Am I currently, actively messing them up
00:05:21 Dr. Mariel
--and really hyper focusing even on the one instance in which you did something that could have triggered an inner child wound and all of a sudden you feel like okay, that's it, they're not okay. It's a very deterministic way of looking at parenthood-- it's believing that one act or you know, a series of acts can actually like destroy this little human and not taking into account the incredible consequence of repair, of providing love and providing a foundation where emotions can be spoken about, even if the emotions that are coming up for this little human are the emotions that are the consequence of how you behave. So there is a very like deterministic quality to those kinds of thoughts that are not really real. Yes, you're the parenting style that you adopt and the parenting qualities that you enact will have some sort of an impact, but so will the repair. So will the moments in which you humbly approach your child regardless of their age, and offer an apology and offer a reflection of where your mental state was and help them to see your humanity in that moment so that they can also kind of mirror their own humanity with yours.
I love that so much. And I think personally, like, gosh, I'm so good at reflecting back and seeing all the ways that I repeated cycles that I know from my my childhood I'm not trying to repeat, but it's not as readily available in my brain at the end of the day of all the things I'm like, oh yeah, but I did this differently than I was raised. And that's rad. There are steps forward. I have to really consciously, actively work to remember and focus on those parts too. And then I think that goes along with the perfectionism myth, because I don't think there's a world in which, all right, I'm going to break some cycles and we're like, and I'm breaking all of them today. And that it is going to be like kind of chipping away. I feel like, all right, what's coming up here? And we don't have the capacity every day, all day to act with intention. You know what I mean?
00:07:44 Dr. Mariel
I always say, absolutely, I do. And I think that that's a part of just being human. And we also have to remember, you know, when we're breaking cycles, we are disrupting and chipping away, as you say, at decades, sometimes hundreds of years of parenting conditioning, like the ways that our parents, our grandparents, great -grandparents, great -great -grandparents have identified methods of parenting that have been translated forward and methods of communication even that have been forwarded. And when we're trying to disrupt, when we're now having a more open dialogue with our child versus how we were raised where children were seen but not heard like you knew that they were like playing somewhere and you saw them but they didn't have a voice, an active voice, and dialogue with you, then we have to like we we have to acknowledge the fact that just in having conversations about emotions with our children are already ways in which cycles can be broken that have these ginormous patterns. But even if you talk down to your child on any given day and forget that there is a bilateral communication process, that compassion needs to come in in those moments. And you have to allow yourself a moment of grace because you're literally disrupting decades and even hundreds of years of conditioned communication.
Yes. And I love this about your work where you talk about like intergenerational nervous system. Right? I was just having a conversation with a friend who has been doing a lot of work on cycle breaking and healing and intergenerational trauma, and then was living unexpectedly with her family. Her partner and kids were living with her parents for a chunk of time. And she was like, Like, oh my gosh, it's so much harder to do this work under this roof where it's just like, I can see it all day long and it's being repeated. And now I see it with my kids. And we were talking about this, the like intergenerational nervous system. And she was like, oh, I see things that my mom does. And I'm like, oh, that-- I have that. Like that is a reaction for my nervous system. Specifically, anxiety had come up like around certain safety things and whatever, and she's I've been diving into my own anxiety and then I just see it in front of my face. Aha, this is where this comes from. And that impact, can you speak to the intergenerational nervous system?
00:10:23 Dr. Mariel
Yeah, it's so enlightening when we can enter that moment of realization that nervous systems can have generational ties, right? The intergenerational nervous system, as I've identified it, is one in which there are both biological elements and psychological elements. So the biological elements are that I think a lot of people actually don't know that we were actually a tiny microscopic little cell developing inside of our grandmother's wombs. Not our mother's wombs.
00:10:58 Dr. Mariel
I know. No. And the insight that can come from that, from a biological perspective, from a genetic perspective, the understanding that when our grandmothers, both on the maternal and paternal side, were experiencing any stress in their environment while they were pregnant at five months and beyond, our parent was actually taking in a lot of those cues of, uh-oh, something doesn't feel safe, something's really stressful here, because there were hormones that were filtering into their bloodstream from the person that was pregnant, the grandmother, and that to make matters even more interesting because at five months gestation we were already developed into a tiny little microscopic cell a precursor sex cell it's called then we ourselves were also a part of that ingesting of stress hormones and the cues the social cues that something didn't feel safe.
It's so wild.
00:11:58 Dr. Mariel
I know and and the fact that we were in essence like three bodies existing in one is it's such an important finding in the understanding of emotions, and intergenerational transmissions of emotions. But then fast forward when we're born, now we have a nervous system that let's say, because it existed in chronic trauma or stress inside of our grandmother's womb, and and then also now our mother perhaps was also feeling chronic trauma and chronic stress for a period of her time and life, now we are born with these emotional vulnerabilities like these these tender points in our emotional makeup. And fast forward to we're 10 years old and we got some bad grades in math. Now our mother is yelling at us because she is feeling like her nervous system is in a state of alert. It's stressed. And so her default go -to is to yell because we have four defaults, right? Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. And you, your tender little underdeveloped nervous system is feeling so frightened and is fleeing. So you like run to your room, right? However, you're living in a multi -generational home much like your friend was and grandma opens the door and says please just no more just stop because she's people pleasing she's appeasing she is now in a fawn response. So at this moment you have three generations of overactive nervous system, one that is in a fawn response- grandma, one that is in a fight response- mom, one that is in a flee response- you, and all three are in essence like in this contagion effect of stress at the same moment. However, all three of you actually coexisted in one body at once, and have like this similar constellation of how your emotions have been formed in the similar tenderness, and now that you're all in external bodies all separate bodies, you're still feeding off of each other's threat and alert system in day -to -day life. And that's, in essence, what I see as the intergenerational nervous system. It's part biological because of our formation and part psychological because of all the interactions that we have with one another that, in essence, get collectively triggered.
Okay. First of all, I'm like listening and I'm like, gosh, why don't we support moms more? Just like systemically. Thinking like in utero, all that, like how much it matters and how much we just don't have supports and systems in place, which like, tabled for another conversation. But that came up for me immediately.
00:14:47 Dr. Mariel
And then this idea when we're looking at the nervous system, and the nervous system reactions right, those four- fight flight freeze and fawn- I think so often for us on the outside we don't necessarily connect that these are all stress responses, right? So when the child flees, and the mom is yelling and in fight mode, and the grandma comes in in that fawn mode, that everyone is dysregulated it's just a different expression of the same internal experience.
00:15:20 Dr. Mariel
Like internally, inside the nervous system, the nervous system is in essence on in all three generations reflecting that something doesn't feel safe.
00:15:33 Dr. Mariel
The nervous system is a bit more um simple right? Like there are external words external context like we're talking about now homework right like that's a a different context than if somebody is talking about having suffered in an accident. But the internal mechanism of the nervous system for each one of these people is simply saying something doesn't feel safe. I must do something to survive this moment.
Yes. Yeah. And I think some of them are more socially acceptable, right? Like freeze, for instance, I typically fall into like freeze or flee modes. And because I don't often go into fight mode, I think it can look on the surface as though I'm calm, as though I'm regulated. And it seems more socially acceptable than if I'm yelling at my child, but I can dissociate real fast. I can just like disconnect. And I think something that's so interesting about this is that we have in the parenting world and in education given a a lot of attention to fight mode. And I think it can be harder to A: identify these others, and also recognize that there's harm in all of them. And so if you grew up in a household, like I didn't grow up in a household with someone who yelled a whole lot. And so when I started to do this work and I'm looking back, I'm like, yeah, I mean, not super traumatic, whatever. And then as I started to break down, oh no, there were definitely a lot of stress responses. It just wasn't fight mode. But that took me a little while to realize the impact that it had had on me. Just because they weren't yelling, doesn't mean I felt safe.
00:17:25 Dr. Mariel
Wow. Absolutely. Because in essence, I'll give another scenario, like a child could feel a lack of safety based on what is not given, because we understand that one of the adverse childhood experiences is a point of neglect, right? And neglect can happen, in, you know, on multiple levels. It could literally be that a child is just not receiving enough of the attunement, care, and emotional orientation as their little tiny nervous system needs, right? It's not necessarily that a parent like completely went away, you know, and never came back. Like that's an extreme version of how neglect can take place, but it can look like many things. And for some of us, you know, some of our parents in older generations were also socialized to believe that you're supposed to engage with a child that's crying in certain ways, that could have led to that neglect wound. And it would have been that they basically wouldn't be present enough and they themselves were disconnected, detached, distanced, right? And would have, in essence, allowed for the surfacing of a wound to take place. But it isn't that they lashed out and yelled or that they resorted to corporal punishment. It wasn't any of those those externalized versions of how stress can manifest, but it was a more internalized attachment that also left to some sort of a wounding.
I think we still see a lot of this today. I would say, especially in our school systems of like, ignore the behavior we don't want to see more of, and praise or acknowledge the behaviors we do want to see more of. And I think in that, in the ignoring part, we know that behavior is a communication of a need, and so when kids, I think especially when the need is an emotional need-- we break down in our work the difference between sensory needs and emotional needs. Sensory being like, I'm hungry, I'm tired. If a kid was hungry or they were tired, I wouldn't be like, maybe if I don't feed them, that'll go away. That feels bonkers to say, but we do this with emotional needs. We do it with like, they're asking for attention, they're asking for connection or inclusion or belonging. And we're like, if I don't feed into that attention seeking behavior, it'll go away. They won't be asking for it in that way, that it feels needy or high maintenance. And I think we do this a lot still in our systems today of like ignoring behaviors from kids when they're saying, I have a need, I need to feel connected, I need to feel seen. And we systematically say don't pour into that.
00:20:02 Dr. Mariel
Yeah and it's a shame because we haven't had an intentional process for being able to be a container for children that sometimes don't have that container at home
00:20:17 Dr. Mariel
I also worked in the school system for some time, and I trained in the school system during my doctoral years, and I remember it went in my training itself I was actually positioned to go to different schools all the way from K through 12 and I would do some therapy groups, some assessments, some consultative work with teachers to help them with students that were identified as having some behavioral difficulties, and I would sit in a classroom and I would offer observation and then some recommendations. And kind of on the the other end of that I actually also realize that there are some students that sometimes feel like they're very much in the fawn response and are high appeasers and and are like little you know like maybe more tender than it's so tender that it kind of raised my spidey senses.
00:21:14 Dr. Mariel
It's like hmm... and and because they're like the good student and the good you know like they get it overlooked too.
00:21:22 Dr. Mariel
Because we're seeing the behaviors that we all love to see, but at such an extreme, because they are so afraid of not receiving that confirmation, affirmation, love, and it's their response. So I also try to make teachers aware of those kinds of behaviors and try and kind of like work with the students that fly under the radar because they're not not exhibiting the kinds of behaviors that are usually like flagged by the system as needing attention.
Totally not in that fight response. Or flee. And I feel like fight and flee get most of our attention and freeze and fawn often don't. We're like, oh, this kid's so easy. This is great. They've got it together. Yeah. I have so much compassion for those humans. Like a few of them just popped into my head from my own teaching. And I think it can show up down down the road is like these kids often have high anxiety because they're so afraid of making a mistake, of disappointing someone, of not feeling loved or worthy, or like they belong and it lives so inside of them for so long and then eventually comes out in those physical ways that we often see with anxiety when it's been living inside for so long.
00:22:37 Dr. Mariel
Yeah and they become the adults eventually that are in search of their emotions, are in search of healing, are now newly aware that they have inner child wounds and that some of those are situated in the fawn response and in people pleasing qualities. And that a lot of that had it been attended to, by both people at home and people in the school system, would have been something that could have been sorted through through before it got into a cemented way of being.
Absolutely. What's one skill that we could maybe have in our back pocket if we wanted to start breaking cycles today?
00:23:17 Dr. Mariel
You know, one of my favorite skills that I offer, even within my work with clients is the skill that I call STILL. And as you know, in therapy, we love acronyms. And so this one I have actually used with kids as well. And it's been incredibly effective through the generations of clients that I've had and still actually stands for Stop, Temperature, Inhale, Lay, Launch. And it is a skill that helps with emotion regulation, but also helps with stimulating the endorphins within the body to really kind of like help for a much easier nervous system restoration and rest, and an increase in the cortical brain region's capacities to then sort through problem solving and emotions in a way that feels more aligned with what the person desires could happen. Stop is basically just imagining a stop sign, and really identifying how a person needs to stop and freeze in place, and like not do anything else, not say anything else, just freeze. T is temperature, which is probably my favorite one and one that I would actually like when I would have either therapy or when I would be in the classroom, I would actually escort the child to the restroom and they would go into the bathroom and then splash cold water on their face. Sometimes we would actually have like those reusable like ice cube trays that have like the ice in them or the water inside of a plastic and it would be ice cold and we would have the children hold them. And these experiences would actually help with increasing those endorphins and also really kind of drive a person's thoughts from whatever was happening into the sensation that they're now experiencing. So it it's not only regulatory in that it also helps increase those endorphins but it actually redirects the mind. Inhale is in essence inhaling deep breaths and doing so if possible for a period of at least five minutes which is generally the time frame that the nervous system needs to really calm down especially if the tiny humans have big emotions and they need a little bit extra time. And even us big humans who need a little extra time, because we just have emotions that are also like very big and outpour into our world in in big ways. The first L is lay; so it's in essence like go sit down somewhere that's a little bit removed from the situation, or go lay down if you're at home and just give yourself an opportunity to feel a genuine pause and distance. And then Launch a re -engagement. It's coming back into the situation, it's coming back into the classroom, it's coming back into the a conversation, and saying what you need to say from a place of a more regulated nervous system, because we've already done both the biological and psychological work to help you come back to a place that's more steady.
Okay. Love this. It is so in alignment with our work and I think will like hit home for a lot of our village. We talk a lot about sensory regulation and emotion processing and how they're separate and combined, right? Like when we're looking at that sensory piece, like the cold water, like how do we get, how do I support my nervous system right now? And once I do, it doesn't mean that I stop having this feeling, but it allows me to be with the feeling without being consumed by the feeling. And when I'm looking at your work, I think this is such a huge part of it. One of my biggest triggers with kids is defiance: when they like stare me in the face and they do exactly what they know they're not supposed to do, and it feels in that moment like they are operating from self -control and it was definitely not allowed in my childhood. Right, like this was a big one in my household of like-- respect, which was often code for obedience, and when these moments happen for me it's an immediate like I go inside side, like I'm on fire, right? And when I can notice this in the moment and really focus on that nervous system regulation of like stopping and doing the temperature work and inhaling, really regulating my nervous system, it then allows me to even notice the trigger part of like, what's really coming up here. But if I don't walk through those first three parts of your STILL acronym, I can't access the like, oh, this is a defiance trigger. It's so hard to get to that part if we don't first do the nervous system work. But I think for a lot of us, we want to jump to that part, right? Like what's coming up for me and what is this? And really slowing down and focusing on our nervous system first is something I think that's often missed.
00:28:25 Dr. Mariel
I'm excited that, you know, to hear your feedback about it um is really wonderful because I was actually in part curious to hear how people would be receiving the work when the work had that nervous system element in it. So you know because the field of psychology especially has been so heady it's been so mind focused, and I've wondered for so long you know like how are people going to receive this when I'm asking them, hey, we also have to tune into your body. And the fact that, you know, the body also holds a lot of not just the memory of what's happening to us, but also the actual recipe for us to be able to heal. So I love to hear this.
Yeah, it's huge. And I think we hear the same thing where like, it was something I was nervous about, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. Our whole part one of the book is about the nervous system and about us as adults. And what people want is part two. They're like, tell me what to say to my kid in the moment. Tell me what to do to make this thing stop. And I'm like, totally, we're going to get there. And you won't be able to apply it. It won't be as effective. You won't actually connect with the child in front of you. You won't be authentically able to embody this without the nervous system part of it. And I think the challenge with it as like a sell to people is that it's not a quick fix. What we often want is like a script. You know, we're so used to like, I can Amazon Prime this thing to myself in two days, right? That like, the idea of five day shipping is bonkers. So for us looking at like, yeah, it takes practice, and that it is a practice to learn how to be in our bodies, observe what's happening in our bodies, regulate our nervous system in order to access the heady part of it.
00:30:27 Dr. Mariel
I always say that, you know, this work buys us time. Because when we're talking about being reactionary, we're talking about there is a trigger and then there's a trigger response that comes almost automatically. And it's a beautiful gift to be able to offer us two to three seconds to just say, oh, wait, still, let me just go back into what I what I need to do for myself, so that then I can come back into this and have that point of insight. Oh, it's my abandonment wound. Oh, it's the ways in which I was chronically suppressed as a child and my voice wasn't heard. And I'm feeling like my voice isn't being heard now because it's not being attended to. Oh my goodness. But those points of insight can't come from a survival mode because survival is just telling you there's a threat. You must survive the threat.
I think the hardest skill to hone is finding that pause between reaction and response.
00:31:30 Dr. Mariel
Yeah. And I think it's also one of the skills that when it's done with more frequency, because again, perfection is a myth, but when we can do it more often than not, it elicits so much pride.
Oh, it's the best. Yeah.
00:31:45 Dr. Mariel
00:31:46 Dr. Mariel
Because you're like, not only are you like, oh goodness, I did something that I know is going to impact this little soul in a way that aligns with what I desire for them. And simultaneously, wow, I did that. So it's like twofold. It's amazing.
A hundred percent. I did that and I modeled it. And like, then it just like keeps going, right? Like I was saying, it feels like sometimes a race against the clock where you've got these eyes and ears on you while you're healing and that can feel heavy. And then when you have these these little wins, I try to really let myself celebrate them of like, Alyssa you did that, right? Like you found that pause. And in the same way that when you lost your cool, you beat yourself up over it. Like in this instance, you get to celebrate this. Like you did this and he's watching and he's learning. And now I have a two and a half year old. And now he will ask like, mama, what you doing? And I'll let him know like, like, oh, I have to calm my body so that I can help you. And just even being able to like, have that conversation with someone at two, I'm like, gosh, little Alyssa would have killed for that. You know, like that was nowhere near my experience. And to see that as like already breaking some cycles and allowing myself to, I think, celebrate those wins is so huge.
00:33:14 Dr. Mariel
It is. And what parent doesn't deserve that? You know, like that moment, right? Because it's such an intergenerational moment. I always say that those moments when we're able to see the little human in front of us and almost see kind of the reflection of our own little human from way back then, that's a moment of intergenerational healing. That's a moment in which we see how we wish someone would have responded to us in moments like this. And we can reflect that forward. And kids will remember that. They will remember how you made them feel. They will remember what you modeled. And so there is a lot of gaining that can be had in moments like that.
I agree so, so much. And I'm so excited to have your book out into the world so that folks can have a place to turn to say like, how do I break these cycles? What does this look like? A question that I think so many of us ask all the time is like, I want to do this. And what does it look like in practice? Where can people find you, follow you, snag your book? Can you repeat the title for us.
00:34:28 Dr. Mariel
Yes. So the book is called Break the Cycle, A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma. And it is very explicitly that: it's a guide, it's a companion to help all of us through the process of just disrupting these cycles and building a legacy of abundance in our lives, in our children's lives, in their children's lives. And also, also you know maybe even pouring a little back to our parents and grandparents if they're still alive and the people that still you know could have used even a little microscopic tiny piece of that healing back. The book can be found anywhere books are sold it's literally everywhere and it can also be found at drmarielbuqué.com and my name is also my handle on social, LinkedIn, mostly at Dr. Mariel Buqué.
Awesome. And we'll link to all of that for all the parents and teachers out there who are like listening on the go or while they do dishes or all that jazz. If you head to voicesofyourvillage .com, you can find all that information there. Thank you so much for writing this book, for doing this work and for putting it out into the world for all of us.
00:35:44 Dr. Mariel
Yes. Thank you so much for giving space for us to talk about generational healing. I really hope that it reaches the hearts and homes of everyone that needs this work and that we can really create almost like a collective legacy that is different in the generations to come.
Agreed. I think your impact will go far beyond what you realize.
00:36:03 Dr. Mariel
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