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Ancestral Trauma and Psychedelic Therapy

February 22, 2023

Ancestral trauma is a term that refers to the intergenerational trauma experienced by members of a particular cultural or ethnic group. This type of trauma is often rooted in historical injustices such as slavery, colonization, and systemic racism, and is passed down from generation to generation through cultural practices, behaviors, and beliefs. 

The Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community is one group that has experienced significant ancestral trauma due to centuries of slavery, segregation, and institutional racism. This suffering has had a profound impact on the mental health and well-being of black individuals and communities, contributing to issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. If you are still wondering how the past can have such a strong impact on the present in this context, it’s worth noting that science also has an answer.

Traumatic events experienced in your lineage have a profound impact on cellular level, potentially affecting the expression of genes and the functioning of cells. One of the ways in which ancestral trauma affects the body is through epigenetics. Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expressions that occur without changes to the underlying DNA sequence. These changes can be influenced by a variety of factors, notably environmental aspects like extreme stress. Studies have shown that traumatic experiences can lead to epigenetic changes that are passed down from one generation to the next. For example, a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience in 2014 found that mice exposed to a particular smell while receiving electric shocks could pass on the fear response to their offspring, even though their offspring had not themselves been exposed to the shocks. The researchers suggested that this could be due to epigenetic changes in the sperm cells of the male mice. Similarly, studies in humans have found that experiences of trauma and stress can lead to changes in the expression of genes related to stress response and inflammation. These changes can be passed down from one generation to the next, contributing to increased risk of mental and physical health issues. Ancestral trauma can also affect the body’s stress response, leading to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can have a wide range of effects on the body including suppressing the immune system and impairing the functioning of cells.

Ketamine-assisted therapy has shown promise in helping both individuals and communities heal from ancestral trauma. This treatment can help you access and process deeply ingrained emotions related to ancestral trauma, and uncovering the roots of these challenges could help you move through them. As we have covered in previous articles, ketamine works on the brain’s Default Mode Network, which is responsible for your perception of the way things are and how they are supposed to be. This can allow you to confront painful memories and emotions from a different mental vantage point, leading to a greater sense of emotional release and catharsis.

Secondly, ketamine therapy can help you reframe your relationship to your cultural history and identity. Through the work with psychedelic medicines, you can experience a profound sense of interconnectedness with all of humanity, leading to a greater sense of empathy and compassion for yourself and for others. This can help you embrace your identity with greater pride, as well as cultivate forgiveness for what may have happened to your ancestors. To forgive is to release and let go of anything that does not serve your mind, body, and spirit to the highest regard. 

Finally, ketamine can help you develop greater resilience and coping skills in the face of ongoing systemic oppression and racism. By processing and healing from deep-rooted trauma, you can cultivate a greater sense of inner strength and empowerment, allowing you to better navigate the ongoing challenges they face as members of marginalized communities. 

It is important to note that psychedelic-assisted therapy should not be viewed as a panacea for the complex and systemic issues facing the BIPOC communities. Rather, it should be seen as one tool among many that can help individuals and communities heal and move towards greater well-being.