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The Key To True Career Fulfillment Is Healing That Trauma, Sis.
Career & Money

The Key To True Career Fulfillment Is Healing That Trauma, Sis.

As Black women, we're no strangers to trauma, especially when it comes to our professional lives. And as empowered as many of us are, there are still lingering triggers that are a direct result of trauma. So, this makes taking on a healing journey vital for us, especially when we're ambitious and making big moves in our careers.


"We deserve ease and the mental clarity that comes with resolving the wounds within us–that continue to exist within our families and our communities," said Dr. Mariel Buqué, a trained psychologist and author of Break the Cycle: A Guide To Healing Intergenerational Trauma. "Our addressing the remnants of trauma means that we give ourselves the opportunity to have healthier connections and healthier outcomes in every area of our lives."

I caught up with Dr. Buqué to talk more, in this exclusive interview with xoNecole, about what exactly intergenerational trauma is, how its effects can manifest in the workplace, and how Black women can tap into our higher selves for healing.

Dr. Mariel Buqué

Photo via DrMarielBuqué.com

xoNecole: Your book talks about intergenerational trauma, and I’d love to get more context on how it affects the way we show up at work. What is intergenerational trauma, and how can the effects be reflected in the workplace?

Dr. Mariel Buqué: Intergenerational trauma is the only type of trauma that’s actually handed down the family line. It happens at the intersection of our biology and psychology. … It’s a very comprehensive and complex process by which we are to acquire any kind of genetic imprints from our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, [and] ancestors who have suffered.

Typically, when we’re conceived, we inherit gene markers that actually are reflective of the emotional pain that the people that came before us have suffered.

​xoN: Whoa! That's deep!

MB: I always get that. [Laughs] What that means, in essence, is that it creates a biological vulnerability for us in reference to stress and trauma, so we become more tender and vulnerable to stress, and our emotions become more heightened. Intergenerational trauma shows up at work in multiple ways. We can talk about how it shows up from an individual standpoint. Many Black and Brown women might have already been socialized to self-soothe or take care of themselves, and that leads to the kind of behaviors that reflect hyper-independence and an inability to show any signs of perceived weakness.

In a workplace environment, they might be susceptible to being overburdened with work or having more work put on them because of their hyper-independent behavior. They may engage with folks in a way that may be perceived [as] distant or cold, but in reality, we’re just socialized to be very sturdy, and even when things are happening around us that might unnerve other people, there’s a sturdiness in us that’s there because we’ve had to hold so much—socialized to hold a lot of the burdens that surround us.

"Intergenerational trauma shows up at work in multiple ways. Many Black and Brown women might have already been socialized to self-soothe or take care of themselves, and that leads to the kind of behaviors that reflect hyper-independence and an inability to show any signs of perceived weakness."

xoN: ​You also detail grounding methods as tools for healing intergenerational trauma. How can we use these methods at work in cases where we’re in situations where we feel triggered due to trauma or where trauma shows up manifested in our workplace interactions?

MB: The sound bath meditations are one of the [tools] I use in my practice because sound bowls emit frequencies that make us feel more calm. They actually create micro-vibrations that help heal both the mind and body.

Sound medicine is not just constricted to sound bowls. We have so many instruments.

xoN: How can we practice grounding while at work? What methods can we use that are office- or work-friendly?

MB: There are three skills that I usually gravitate toward [in helping] people who are really busy, including professionals, to integrate grounding into their day in a way that doesn’t feel like an added task.

There’s a lot that’s happening when we’re doing any one of these practices. I’m very specific about the deep breathing. I think we’ve popularized, ‘Oh girl, go take a breath,’ and people take one or three breaths and think that it’s done. They forget that we’re fighting against the imprints that have been decades—sometimes hundreds of years long—living in our family line. Those imprints are really deeply embedded into our cellular memories. So we need to take at least five minutes to really let our nervous system register, ‘Oh we’re relaxed. We’re trying to relax.’

Usually, people who are very busy say, ‘Who has five minutes?’ and I say, ‘Well, you have 1,440 minutes in the day. If you take five of those minutes, let’s say, at the top of your day, in case you can’t bake it in any time else, you’re already doing so much of the work to help you relieve some of that stored-up tension.’

Humming is a ventral vagal nerve stimulator. In particular, when we hum very low, like a Barry White low, or the ‘Ohm’ sound, derived from Sangsritch. We can sing any song we love—just hum it in a low tone—that already creates that stimulation process.

The third is rocking. When we move slowly to a rhythm and sway back and forth, we’re actually creating that relaxation response. I always like to remind folks, take it back to when you were a baby or toddler and a caregiver—grandma or somebody—was rocking you to sleep. Why did you go to sleep? Because it’s actually stimulated a relaxation response and your mind and body and you felt like you were safe.

There are tangible, acceptable tools that anybody can use at any point and time in their day, and just bake it in. You can do it without anyone noticing.

book-cover-for-Break-the-Cycle-A-Guide-to-Healing-Intergenerational-Trauma-by-Dr-Mariel-Buque

​xoN: You get into the concept of the “intergenerational higher self” in your book as well. What is it, and how can we pursue this or find our higher self in the context of work?

MB: It’s the version of ourselves that’s not deep in trauma but has a higher consciousness and has an elevated mindset. They want to really draw from innate wisdom, but also ancestral wisdom—whatever it is that has made it so that the people who came before us actually made it to overcome. All of that lives in us—both from a biological and a psychological end. We have biological preparedness that helps us to overcome things our ancestors went through. There’s so much in our bodies and minds that holds a lot of true and innate strength.

When we’re presented with circumstances in our work environment that might be triggering or could be challenging, we have an opportunity to tap into that innate wisdom within us and engage in choices that can align with our values, rather than make choices that are coming out of places of trauma. We [need to] tap into our higher self, with greater frequency, on any given day—not when we’re the most stressed out. We need it when we’re the most stressed out, but it’s essential for us to practice just tapping into it every day.

Any one of us will need to actually do some of the work to help soothe ourselves on a regular basis in order to be able to easily tap into that wiser part of ourselves.

When we do the humming, the rocking, and all those things—anything that’s grounding—on a consistent basis, it buys us time. It gives us a 2- to 3-second window between when someone says something out of pocket… to be able to sit with the information, hold it in a way that doesn’t create toxic stress within us, and think about how we’re going to respond. And those 2-3 seconds are gold because it allows that innate wisdom to come in. When we’re settling our nervous system, with greater frequency, on a daily basis, it allows us to buy that time.

Take five minutes of each and every one of those days, and you deposit those five minutes into regenerating your nervous system and the way in which your emotions are structured. Within a year’s time, you’d be able to sit with the emotions you hold much differently than you have in the last four decades.

"When we’re presented with circumstances in our work environment that might be triggering or could be challenging, we have an opportunity to tap into that innate wisdom within us and engage in choices that can align with our values, rather than make choices that are coming out of places of trauma."

xoN: ​But how do we know or recognize that person? How can those of us who are stuck in patterns or whose interactions are often driven or triggered by trauma even recognize and pursue the “intergenerational higher self”?

MB: It’s really helpful to actually imagine. A lot of us, Black and Brown women, are doing a lot of imaginative work. And that’s the thing, sometimes we have to imagine who these people are because they are a version of ourselves in a future sense. A version of ourselves that has done the healing work, that can walk upright and step into a room with our heads held high and knows what to say and how to settle themselves and all these things. It’s a version of ourselves we have to imagine.

For example, when I first imagined my intergenerational higher self, I knew she had short hair, had glasses. She was surrounded by books. She was independent in her work—meaning she worked with other people but didn’t belong to one particular organization, which I don’t.

She was writing. She also held this wisdom and ability to use her voice. I’m a very introverted person—I’ve always been very shy–but it was a lot of the trauma. I needed to imagine [that version of me] to be able to now be somebody who speaks to crowds, who does the healing work, who writes, has glasses, and has short hair. She’s also the living embody of her grandmother’s wisdom and kindness. All of that is who I’m stepping into, but we have to imagine her first.

To find out more about Dr. Mariel Buqué, and her book, Break the Cycle: A Guide To Healing Intergenerational Trauma, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

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Featured image by StockRocket/Getty Images

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