Intergenerational invisibility

different voices visibility blocks Oct 28, 2022

Intergenerational invisibility includes circumstances where our ancestors couldn't use their voices or, for whatever reason, chose not to.

It includes ancestral experiences of invisibility, as well as experiences of being visible in a way that was dangerous eg; being forced to wear the Star of David under the Nazi regime in Germany (as well as at earlier points in history; unfortunately that wasn't the first time that Jewish people were legally compelled to wear badges or other distinguishing garments owing to anti-semitic prejudice).

Additionally, it may involve experiences where your ancestor(s) couldn't hide something about themselves that their society had a prejudice about, leading to experiences of shaming or ridicule eg; as a member of the LGBTIA community or the disabled community.

Trauma associated with such experiences can be passed down from one generation to the next, impacting our capacity to use our voices, take up space in the world, be visible, and/or use our influence. Here's a good introductory article about intergenerational trauma (intergenerational invisibility being a subset of the broader category of intergenerational trauma) should you like to learn more.

Inside Women Speaking Up we investigate intergenerational invisibility to see and clear its impact on our experiences of being visible in our families, industries, businesses, and communities. That process begins with this series of questions:

Thinking about your own lineage through the lens of visibility, who:

  • had a voice?
  • was silenced?
  • was visible in a positive way?
  • was visible in a negative way?
  • who was invisible?

Taking time to journal on these questions allows you to identify common themes or threads. Some of the themes I see when teaching this portion of the Women Speaking Up curriculum include not belonging, being ostracised, feeling targeted, being shamed, being controlled, not being understood, not being able to realise one's full potential, keeping secrets, not being allowed to express ideas or share stories or personal experiences, and not being able to grieve or feel or express a whole range of emotions.

It's so helpful to take even 10 minutes to journal on this. The patterns you identify in your lineage can be such a helpful mirror when you're trying to identify what's at the core of your own visibility experiences.

And if you want to go a step further, the next question to consider is; now that I see these patterns, what role am I here to play in transforming them for myself and for future generations?

As you ponder that, I shared a post about positive intergenerational visibility on our Instagram to inspire you in this regard. You can find it - and join the conversation - here.

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