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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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i am french, so my english could be aproximative... as i understood,

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i am french, so my english could be aproximative... as i understood, the concept of family secrets that was build uppon the freudienne theory, did not its way in modern psychology. Nevertheless, can faulty parents or grandparents ( i mean noticeable faults like killing innocents in war time, or not having fight to free your country against the Nazis, when you knew it was your mission, resulting in heavier human lost among the courageous ones) affect the next generation by their way of thinking they have build to deal with their inside tension of ab-morality, if they keep silent about the event (as most people use to do in the past ) Among the adaption mental processes, that i saw in my family are : secretly make a joke of everyone and any situation. This is the biggest, that was tatoued on my mind, that put me in serious troubles when i was 18. thanx per advance
Hello, I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question, I'm happy to help you today.

Let me know if I am incorrectly interpreting what you've said, but it sounds like you are talking about the collective guilt that a family or culture can experience due to traumatic events like the Holocaust or as you mentioned, not fighting for what they deep down may have known was right. And for whatever reason - most commonly fear, for example, they did not take action. So I believe that this can affect the next generation. You see it in Germany with the guilt over the Holocaust that many youth are dealing with today - for example.

So in terms of you specifically, it seems that it would be appropriate to say that it can affect the next generation due to guilt and feelings of shame about these issues that your parents and grandparents may have experienced. They may have buried their feelings of guilt and shame about certain things very deeply and the only way they knew how to deal with these feelings was to make a joke out of things or situations.

In general, any type of family secret can result in dysfunction (whether that's the serious troubles you refer to when you were 18 or other types of problems that affect the family in the broader context). And if you felt like they were joking about you or making fun of you or just not taking you seriously, then this could certainly have had a serious impact on you, your self-esteem, your own inherited feelings of guilt, your relationships, and so forth.

There's an article (in French) that I think you might find helpful regarding the impact of family secrets (although it is not specific to the issues you mentioned and focuses more on secrets like alcoholism and other things families tend to keep secret, I believe it is still applicable to what I've discussed above):

Talking about these feelings and issues with a therapist is often helpful and cathartic because you can work through and release the inherited feelings of shame and guilt that have had such an impact on you.

I hope this has answered your question, but if not, please let me know and we can continue to discuss this. Best wishes.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thanx for the article. To sumerize, and as the article says : we don't really know how it works, but the effect on the next generations is obvious ( not to speak about épigénétic...). Here is my humble theory on the topic, that hasen't been comfirm yet, by my readings. If someone make a big fault, and decide to keep it secret, there is no way to recycle the inside tension between the self and the ideal honest modele. Among others, one methode of lowering the tension, would be to psychologicaly weaken any one you meet, so the other will have much more difficulties to discover your hidden but real fault. Some do that by being agressive, or straight and sever, my father does it by making a game of everybody. I don't know how it was transfer from my grandfather to daddy, but from dad to me, by the same mecanism that make a child behave as his father: Education ! And you think every boddy is like that, but when you enter the real life, and you receive a severe lesson... you ask : " what is wrong in me ? " Now, i am 50, and after a lot of studying, listenening, questionning, i think i am close to truth and the root of the evil. And i see around me, people with much bigger "karma" to carry because of one of the recent french wars: WW2 with problematic german occupation; w of INDOCHINE ( recycled for americans as vietnam) and W of ALGERIA. In each family, there are members who were involved in some of this wars.
Back to my granddady: He was in Marseille, when The NAZIs invaded the north of France. Under the vichy governement, he reached 22, légal age to be trained as a soldier. The national service was replaced by "les chantiers de jeunesse "directed by GAL de la porte du Theil, who was arrested by the GESTAPO after a few month. In fact, they was just training how to survive and fight in the "maquis" where the resistance forces were hidding, and be ready to help during the liberation battles. My grandfather spent one year on this training. But when Americans, canadians, australians, etc... were risking their lives to beat the Nazis, my grandfather played dead, at home (like a lot of others). But because of his passivity, the allies ranks were diminished, and surelly this resulted in more inoccent deaths. He is responsable for that, and he knew it, as he had time to think about it, til he died at the age of 70. War was like it never exist for my grandfather, and father. I am shure they never spoke together about this "tabou". I ignore if my father was aware of all that before i told him. Was he knowing and hidding ? I remember one time i told him when i was working hard on the family complexe : " it would be better for you, that you told me before i discover it by myself " as usual he let things roll, hopping some miracle would solve that. Sorry but, problem that you know you will have to deal with, even if you wait 10, 1000, 100000000000 days... the problem is still waiting for you ! So, to clean this knot of bad vibrations, we must ask the family of the victimes to forgive us. But to deserve pardon, we must admit our faults, this is a minimum. So, i would like to ask all this men who were involved in bad wars, to stop desplaying their false moral honesty, to give up racisme or any superiority complexe, and have the courage to aknowledge their faults, so perhaps they could be forgiven, and we could live in peace. For my father, i would like him to be courageous, once, to aknowledge his father fault. I am aware that because of evolution of society, explosion of disponibility of knowledge, etc.. i am asking him to do what he could never have ask his own father.... this requires what we all need: courage !

Now, what would you advise me to do for our day to day relation. Because of his bad way of thinking, i took the hard decision to avoid any full interaction with him. I only communicate by email. But if i want to visit him in the futur, how can i be shure that he doesn't bring me back, by sentiments, on the same negative routines ? He has two close brothers who works on the same pattern. Thanx for your advice on the all, ofcourse
Hello again,

I understand what you are saying here, and it's certainly a very complex issue, because you're dealing with feelings of guilt that have been around for quite a number of years. And because your father has been dealing with these feelings for such a long time, he has probably suppressed them to such a point that he's not even aware of them any more - or at the very least, won't be able to admit them to himself or to anyone else. He is very much in denial - were he to admit his guilt and shame, he would probably be so overcome by these feelings that he might literally emotionally fall apart. So he keeps living the way he's always lived - and it's probably the only way he can live, at this point.
I think it's a difficult situation for you, because he's your father and you want to have a pleasant, amicable relationship. There's no way to ensure that he doesn't revert to his old behaviors, however - because it's an ingrained part of who he is. So in order to have a relationship with him in person, I think you need to accept this part of him, realize that he probably will not change and have compassion for him, because the feelings of guilt and shame are so strong that they overpower him. I don't think that means you can't have interactions with him, but you need to develop realistic expectations of what he can and cannot do - emotionally speaking. If he does try to revert back to his old ways, you could cut your visit short and simply inform him that while you care about him, you cannot be a witness to the way he is acting. You don't have to put up with these things. You can respect him and love him because he is your father, but you are also entitled to your own feelings and opinions. If he says something offensive or attempts to make fun of you, you can be honest with him and let him know that you are not willing to stand by while this occurs. Eventually - hopefully - he will get your message. It's difficult, especially since your contact has only been via email so far, but you have to take baby steps. See him on your own terms - and for short periods of time, see how it goes. Then gradually increase the length of your visits as you feel comfortable. Just remember that it takes work and patience to deal with something like this, and it sounds like you've done a very good job so far.
Please let me know if you need additional help. I have to go offline for a few hours, but I will be back in the morning if you have any more questions. Best of luck to you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thanx. i shall soon put a few coins in the machine to talk about something else, but to finish this first round, and with the aim to reassure myself thani am not crazy, let me give you a few details. What you already said, confirms the reality of such family perturbations, wich can lead to blocked situation such as the denial of my father. Here, what i am facing, is the denial of the all familiy, which has grow on faked autority. It is like every one tries to build is own home-house, but with bricks made of sugar... and every one trying to convince the others that we can manage to construct a solid, to whoever i speak and deal with the foundation of autority in the family, i just get silence as an answer. No one want to deal with this issue, and i can ear the not spoken message which is : " let him speak, he is a bit crazy, he is follish as a child..." They just don't want to deal with that, try to ignore it, to try to be as happy as possible in this well knowed old way. A few months ago, my father invited me for a family party. I replied : " why would i come to meet people who never reply to my message and question ? Do you need some joker for the family to make fun of ? I DON'T PLAY THIS GAME ANY MORE..." and he replied " Who knows who is joker ?" which sumerize well, the global atmosphere of this kind of family party: Hypocrisies, undermeaning, sarcasmes, irony, etc... nothing good for me. No one wants to listen to me seriously, and everyone tends to push me back in my irresponsable child role. So, i decided to have one to one interactions, but as you said, with in mind the ferm intention to stop if i feel it is slipping back on the same unhealthy slop. I appreciate any comment. That is all fox !.. for round 1. Next, i shall give you a probably good note for your advices, and then put a other coin in the box to start round 2.
Hello again,

What you are describing is "normal" for families who have been through circumstances like the ones you describe. It's not actually "normal", though - and you're not crazy. I'm sure you know the story of the Emperor's New Clothes (I think you have a similar version in French?'s_New_Clothes)
where the Emperor is walking around with no clothes on, and everyone in the town pretends he's wearing clothes except for a child, who points out that he's actually walking around naked. It's kind of like what you're describing here, you've been trying to point out this issue to everyone in your family, yet they turn a deaf ear, because it's easier to pretend that everything is normal than to admit that there's a problem - especially a problem like this that has been buried and ignored for so long.

So it makes sense, in a way, that they don't want to listen to you - because you are pointing out something that no one else wants to see. Even though, it seems that they realize this (of course) on some level, they can't handle it when you point it out, so they instead seem to gang up on you and make YOU feel like you're crazy or the "wrong" one, when in reality, it seems that you're not. So I think, while it's unfortunate, there's nothing you can say or do to make them "see" the way things are. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have any contact, unless you choose not to, but it does mean that you have to keep it limited and try not to let them affect you so much. And also, perhaps it would be worth it to try, for the time being, to stop trying to get them to see your point of view - because I don't think they are capable of seeing it, and you're just talking to deaf ears. I hope you understand what I am saying here. And just let me know if you want to talk some more about this. Best wishes.
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