Fully revised and updated, Genealogy, Psychology and Therapy highlights the importance of genealogy in the development of identity, and the therapeutic potential of family history in cultivating wellbeing.
The popularity of amateur genealogy and family history has soared in recent times. We will never know any of the people we discover from our histories in person, but for several reasons, we recognize that their lives shaped ours. Key approaches to identity and relationships lend clues to our own lives but also to what psychosocial factors run across generations. Attachment and abandonment, trusting, being let down, becoming independent, migration, health and money, all resonate with the psychological experiences that define the outlooks, personalities and the ways that those who came before us related to others. This new edition builds on the original book, Genealogy, Psychology, and Identity, by highlighting the work of Erik Erikson along with studies of the quality of attachment, historical social conditions especially war, forced migration, health inequalities and financial uncertainty, to enable a more detailed understanding of trauma and its long shadow, and to focus on how genealogy informs our identities and emotional health status, exploring the transmission of trauma across generations. The intergenerational transmission of trauma is examined using analysis of real-life family examples, alongside an assessment of a narrative therapy approach to healing. The book expands on how psychological practices together with genealogical evidence may impart resilience and emotional repair, and develops the discussion of the psychological methods by which we interconnect in a reflective way with material from archival databases, family stories and photographs and other sources including DNA.
Showing how people can connect with archival material, using documents and texts to expand their knowledge and understanding of the psychosocial experiences of their ancestors, this book will be of interest to those researching their own family tree, genealogists and counsellors, as well as students and researchers in social psychology and social history.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION 1.FORMAL, PRACTICAL AND SERENDIPITOUS ROUTES TO OUR PASTS 2. MY FAMILY NETWORKS AND SYSTEMS 3. UNCOVERING TRAUMA IN FAMILY HISTORIES: PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES AND PRACTICES 4. WOMEN, FAMILY AND CLASS ACROSS GENERATIONS 5. TRAUMA THROUGH DEATH: PAST AND PRESENT 6. THE LOSS OF A PARENT AND THE MURDER OF A SON 7. SUICIDE AND SELF-DESTRUCTION 8. LOST ROOTS AND EMOTIONAL GEOGRAPHIES 9. WEALTH, POVERTY AND HEALTH 10. SETTLEMENT OF THE NARRATIVE EPILOGUE: WHAT DO I TELL MY GRANDCHILDREN?
Paula Nicolson retired from her post as professor and former department head at Royal Holloway, the University of London in 2011. She is a Fellow and Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society, the Academy of Social Sciences and the author of many academic papers, press articles and books. She now divides her time between writing academic books, novels and plays.
"A must-read for genealogists asking, ‘Who Do I Think You Were?’. Psychologist Paula Nicolson shows us the power of family history, especially when we combine it with psychology to understand the intergenerational effect of trauma. Every family has members traumatized by war, violence, migration, poverty, loss, or addiction. Do you know that intergenerational trauma unwittingly causes emotional issues, disruption, and dysfunction within families and incurs personal trauma? If you want to recognize and understand the effect of traumatic events on your ancestors, yourself and living family, this book is for you."
- Helen Parker-Drabble is a former therapist, a family historian and author of ‘Who Do I Think You Were?®’A Victorian’s Inheritance.
"I enjoyed reading this book very much! It’s both intriguing and compelling but more so it is informative – not only about Paula Nicolson’s own family history. Its insights apply to most of us. This book directs us towards an empathic understanding of our family’s past accompanied by a sense of healing and forgiveness."
- Dr. Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein, author of Delivery and other novels
"This book opens a whole new perspective on understanding trauma. Using an exploration of her own and others’ genealogy Nicolson convincingly explains how trauma is intergenerational. Like a detective story, she investigates, contextualises and analyses the ‘knowledge’ we have about our family, forensically uncovering the pathways and the place trauma has had in shaping our identities and place. Family systems are described as porous, leaching and determining the historical material that flows through our familial networks and across time. Using the frameworks of Freud, Klein, Erikson, Bion and Bowlby, Nicolson explains the psychological mechanisms of how the trauma of loss, migration, kinship, persecution and ill-health flows through and influences the psychology of future generations. It is impossible to read this book and not engage in your own project of ‘self in history’, examining the folklore of your own family in new ways and sparking a new curiosity. Professionally, I now see ‘taking a family history’ in a totally new light."
- Prof Jan Burns, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University.