Legacy Burdens: Are You Holding On To Something That Does Not Belong To You?

What are legacy burdens?

They are intergenerational transmissions of extreme feelings, emotions, energies, and beliefs. They can be traced back several generations and transmitted overtly and covertly.

These burdens reject anything deemed unacceptable or shameful at any level in past generations. Some examples are:

  • Showing warmth and affection
  • Being vulnerable
  • Having imperfections
  • Speaking up for yourself
  • Deviating from the “norm,” in regards to sexuality and gender identification

How are they passed down?

Shame forces families to remain silent and engage in secret-keeping, which perpetuates these legacy burdens. The environment and dominant culture use force to ensure that our family does not deviate from the norm. In turn, our family is socialised to criticise and reject anything that is deemed unacceptable and different. In order words, our family takes on the role of the oppressor and forces us to cooperate. We experience an internal war because we want to speak up for ourselves, but we are forced to retreat and remain silent.

Legacy burdens are passed down because of fear.

Once we have realised that these extreme beliefs, emotions, energies, feelings are inherited and does not belong in our life experience, we might find it challenging to let them go because:

  • We are afraid we will lose our connection.
  • We are afraid of losing our identity.
  • We are afraid of being disloyal.

How are we affected?

Shame, rage, anxiety, fear, perfectionism, and hopelessness are some examples of what we are experience internally. It is important to note that although the context and stories of why the experience were first developed died with previous generations, the residual effects (legacy burdens) have been passed down.


I would like to invite you to take some time to reflect.

  • Are there any parts of you that are holding on to something that does not belong to you?
  • Who else in your family carry parts that hold these symptoms (i.e., anxiety, shame, fear, grief, anger, perfectionism)?
  • Does your symptoms make sense to your given life experiences?
  • Does this energy belong to you and you only?


Reflection questions from Ann Sinko, LMFT

Leave a Comment