I started to observe my thoughts and beliefs, and began questioning whether they were actually mine. I looked at some of my deepest fears and could map many back to family members and stories that I’d heard or read. I started distinguishing between beliefs that were my own and beliefs that were planted deep inside of me. Sometimes this practice became overwhelming—but it was important to let go and release the beliefs and voices that were harming me and understand the root of where they came from.
I’d often hear this voice telling me I needed to try harder and to not trust people at face value; it took years to figure out that it was my grandmother’s voice buried deep inside of me with a long ancestral lineage of suffering and survival. While my grandparents escaped Vienna in the Second World War, their parents believed Austria to be a cultured country. Having lost a son in the First World War, my great grandparents believed they were safe staying in their home country and were untouchable.
When I was studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in my twenties, my Aunt Dita came to visit from New York. She asked me to take her to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, where we found records documenting her parents’ deaths in a Nazi concentration camp. My cousin, Stephen Fry, later documented our family history (on my father’s side) in a BBC show called Who Do You Think You Are? While doing research for the show, he not only found the address of our great grandparents’ house, but a young woman living there who had put up a poignant plaque on the house commemorating all who had lived there and had been killed in the Holocaust, including our great grandparents themselves—Berta and Samuel Braun.
I vividly remember walking up the stairs to her apartment and hearing the voices of all those who were taken to their deaths whispering in the hallways. I later became aware that these were voices I would often hear whispering to me in my day-to-day life and were ingrained in my psyche. What we aren’t taught is that many of us carry ancestral trauma within us and those unidentified voices run through our psyches, especially when they’re associated with deep fear or pain.
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