You can’t achieve deep, ancestral exploration by simply flipping through an old family photo album. While it’s a great place to start, ancestral exploration happens when we let our bodies and minds become our ancestors’.
Cook cultural meals, learn a family trade, or sing in your family’s native language. Try anything that brings you joy! Let these moments connect you to your lineage or inspire an evening of family storytelling.
As you listen, live out your family’s history through your imagination. It can be painful, especially as you connect the dots between their trauma and your unhealthy learned behaviors. However, this process will expand your empathetic capabilities and create space for forgiveness and, ultimately, healing.
What is Ancestral Exploration?
Ancestral exploration—also known as ancestral healing—happens when you try connecting with your past and current ancestors (living family).
They don’t have to be related to you by blood. Anyone with whom you feel a deep, spiritual connection can help guide you down the path of self-understanding. (Think of artists, celebrities, or activists with whom you share certain identities.)
Children naturally look to their community to develop a sense of identity within it. When your community looks nothing like you or actively ostracizes you because of your differences, getting that human connection you need to feel whole becomes difficult.
This makes ancestral exploration especially important for marginalized communities.
Intergenerational trauma plagues many BIPOC families because of the ways oppression—in the form of colonialism, enslavement, displacement, or genocide—disconnected them from each other and forced them to rely on fight-or-flight thinking.
You can feel the effects of generational trauma by examining your reflexive responses to stress. Do you struggle with constant hypervigilance? Close yourself off from your emotions? Maybe even turn to violence?
While skills like these once kept your ancestors safe from danger, they are pretty unnecessary today. By healing yourself of these trauma responses, you have the chance to help heal your community and lineage, too.
Process The Many Feelings That Arise
Engage in meditative practices that help you inhabit the bodies of your past and future ancestors. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and consider what your ancestors may have been doing at this moment 50 or 100 years ago.
- How did their actions align with the threats happening at the time?
- How do those connect to the cultural norms you follow today?
- Are these survival tactics still relevant today?
Next, consider your future lineage.
- What patterns do you see your grandchildren breaking several generations from now?
- What will the world look like when they are adults?
Considering your cultural lineage from both the past and future perspective helps to establish an appreciation for your ancestors and a sense of hope for the future.
Ancestral art can be anything from music to home decor. Creating a safe, empowering space that embraces all parts of your identity is key to decolonizing your mind from the unhealthy habits you were taught by a system that wasn’t built for your success.
Consider studying the writings of revolutionaries whose perspectives brought you the freedoms you have today. Embrace their racial pride, grieve the fights they cannot be a part of today, and allow yourself the time and space to feel your authentic reactions to “being” with them.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
EMDR has a proven track record of helping those with PTSD manage and reframe the way they think about their trauma.
Through bilateral stimulation (following a move target back-and-forth with your eyes), you can trick your brain into pulling a memory out of its traumatic file cabinet and reorganizing it into a more appropriate or positive cabinet. (Like “threats that are no longer relevant” or “most impactful life lessons”.)
Together, we can decolonize your mind and fill it with all the love, support, and education your ancestors would’ve wanted you to have. Please read more about EMDR treatment and contact me for your first appointment with me today.