The Legacy of Historical Trauma


The Legacy of Historical Trauma

Grasping the Larger Story

By Anita Mandley

September/October 2020


My name is Anita Mathilda Abram Mandley. That’s me peeking out from the lower left-hand corner of the picture. I’m with my great grandfather, great-great aunts, a great aunt, an aunt, my grandmother, and my cousins at my grandmother’s house in New Orleans. This picture was taken about 65 years ago, but I can still remember the feeling of unconditional love and safe connection in that room.

I grew up in a large and loving extended family. My great grandfather and his sisters were part of a sibship of 13, born to parents who were enslaved. Their father, owned by nuns at The Convent of the Sacred Heart in Louisiana, fought in the Civil War in the Corps d’Afrique and the Spanish-American War. Their mother grew up on a plantation in Tensas, Louisiana, the daughter of the plantation master and one of his enslaved women.

I’m a psychotherapist specializing in complex and developmental trauma.

About 12 years ago, I was working with a Jewish woman in her late 40s who’d experienced a lot of invalidation in her life. Her parents and grandparents were hypercritical, especially of her appearance, and her parents’ high-conflict relationship had left her with deep emotional wounds. As she left a session one day, she turned to me and said, “It’s so good to be working with a therapist who’s also a trauma survivor.”

My…

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2 Comments

Sunday, September 6, 2020 10:43:32 AM | posted by Stephen Terrell
Anita, I have heard parts of this story before and I remember seeing the photograph when you were sharing the story with me. I am so honored to know you and now even more of your story. You are now and have always been a beacon in my life. I too remember when the four little girls were killed and couldn't make sense of it as a white male child, I can only imagine how that newsreel affected you. I so appreciate your strength.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020 7:39:34 AM | posted by Cathy Conway
Thank you Anita for sharing you and your families past historical background. What important work you are doing! Thank you for shedding light on the importance of the knowledge of transmission of trauma through our DNA lines, and even giving practical tools on how to bring about regulation into the person's present! Excellent article! Thank you!