Historical Trauma & Its Impact: Armenian Genocide

Soseh Esmaeli


From the horrors of the Armenian Genocide to the tragedies that occurred during the Holocaust and are currently taking place in Darfur, genocide continues to play role in human history. These acts of injustice not only cause death and destruction but also create generations of survivors who were traumatized and who passed down their legacies.

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is one example of what can occur after being exposed to a traumatic event such as the genocide. The symptoms for this disorder include nightmares, constant fear and worry, hyper-alertness to his/her surroundings, and even flashbacks of the trauma. After a traumatic event individuals can also experience depression and anxiety. They can even develop specific ways to deal with the painful memories like avoidance of the subject, increased attempt to maintain order and success within their lives, catastrophic views of the outside world, detachment of emotions, and increased closeness with family members or cultural groups.

The survivors of trauma such as the Armenian Genocide may have passed down memories of loss, struggle, horror, and strength through songs, story telling, and with commemorative ceremonies. The retelling and transferring of stories about the genocide from generation to generation is a way to help process and heal from the cruelty and injustice they had experienced. This can promote identity formation, close-knit familial groups, and a sense of unity within the culture. Behaviors and even symptoms of trauma can be passed down from generation to generation as parts of familial or cultural ways of living or seeing the world.

Denial of trauma can feel like a dismissal of the survivors’ experience, can perpetuate a feeling of helplessness, and even impact the process of mourning. Remembering, processing, and understanding traumatic events such as a genocide can play an important role in a collective processing of cultural groups who have experienced such events.

Until next time,

Soseh Esmaeili, PsyD, #PSB63123. James S. Graves, PhD, PsyD, # PSY18196, Clinical Supervisor, www.drjimgraves.com


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