May 282013

My grandparents, Tadeusz & Irena Konbrat

One of the most powerful dreams I was ever given was a visitation from my maternal Grandfather who came to me as an adult, twenty years after he died.

Like many ancestral dreams, it was singularly vivid and more lucid than everyday dreams.

I looked into the bright clarity of his eyes, felt the warmth and weight of his hand on my shoulder, and recognized the melody of his thick accent even though I was 7 years old when last I heard it.

A great stillness stretched around us as he looked at me tenderly and said, “I’m sorry for having given you my eyesight.”

Towards the end of her life, my Granny told my brother and I many stories she’d kept secret for a lifetime. She spoke of many unfathomable atrocities, and the near-death miracles that kept my Grandparents alive.

But there’s one story in particular which haunts me, of a long walk they took together to escape Poland at the end of the war. My Granny always told it with pride for the man my Grandfather was, how he covered her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see the piles of corpses strewn by the roadside.

“Nothing influences children more,” Jung says, “than the silent facts in the background.” Survivors of the Holocaust mostly take one of two ways to cope with the horror they lived through: One is to speak at length about their experiences, and the other is to never speak of it at all. My Grandpa was a never-speaker. In fact, it wasn’t until my mother was in her fifties that we found out he was Jewish.

“The child is so much a part of the psychological atmosphere of the parents,” Jung writes, “that secret and unsolved problems between them can influence its health profoundly. The participation mystique … causes the child to feel the conflicts of the parents and to suffer from them as if they were its own. It is hardly ever the open conflict or the manifest difficulty that has such a poisonous effect, but almost always parental problems that have been kept hidden or allowed to become unconscious.” (1924/1981, p. 124 [CW17, par 217a])

Illustration by Ericka Lugo

What Jung calls “participation mystique,” is the deep enmeshment that can happen in intimate relationships when an individual doesn’t do the inner-work to heal their unconscious pain. The wounds get passed through the generations, metastasizing through our relationships, shaping our children’s lives. The sickness will stay in the family tree until someone in the outer branches has enough support and awareness to face and move through that ancient grief.

Perhaps my Grandpa had to bury his pain in order to survive his lifetime. Indeed, it was too much for one generation to bear. He came to me in the dream to apologize for having passed on what he denied, and while I recognize the echoes of inherited shame, anxiety and despair in my own psyche, I also understand that it is the privilege and responsibility of my lifetime to heal the trauma, past and future, personal and collective alike.

As Paul Levy so beautifully puts it, “we have the precious opportunity to liberate these ancestral, rhizomic strands of trauma which extend far back in time and equally far into the future, but which also converge and are spread throughout the present in the form of the society and culture in which we live. We can be the ones to break the link in the chain and dissolve these insidious, mycelium-like threads, which are literally the warp and woof upon which the tapestry of the past, present, and future history of our species is woven.”

To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here:

You might also enjoy:


A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

    Connect with Toko-pa
  • facebook
  • googleplus
  • pinterest
  • twitter
  • youtube

  60 Responses to “Dreamspeak: Ancestral Healing”

  1. I find you so inspiring. Thank you for keeping open your beautiful, brave heart to see and be seen.

  2. oh, Toko-pa, once again you have worded forth such tender beauty and commitment for change. Thank you.

  3. What a powerful post and dream! Thanks for sharing it. As an astrologer I was impressed by Liz Greene’s book ‘The Astrology of Fate’ in which she talks of these ancestral issues being passed from generation to generation. They show up in the birth chart as similar aspects between planets through the family, until someone does the healing work. I believe that it may not be possible for one person to tackle the issue entirely but that it gets passed on in a diluted form until that configuration of planets ceases to appear in subsequent charts.

  4. When I click on your Website page, its a tentitive move for I know I’m opening a lid to a Treasure Chest with jewels of wisdom and beauty. It leaves me feeling suspended in aaahh. Thank you Toko-pa.

  5. How? I have carried this weight for 50 years, and it’s getting heavier as my parents face certain crises of aging. In all sincerity, can you provide any insight or resources for HOW to break this cycle?
    Desperately yours–

    • I hear you Rebecca – there is certainly no miracle pill (and some growth periods are harder than others), but hopefully whatever healing path you are on, you can see overall improvements in your relationship with that grief/anger. There are as many healing paths as there are people and, as you might have guessed, my own is to work with dreams. They are always showing me to the brave edge of my capacity and inviting me to climb over it.

      • I’m right there at that edge– Thank you for caring, and I’m sure I’ll make it through. xo

  6. This is such profound work you do, Toko=pa, and this post explains so much. Even as a very small child I ‘felt’ sad… and I never knew why. It was as if sadness lived in my bones. As an adult, I now know that I am highly intuitive and empathic. The unspoken sorrows of my grandmothers (Cherokee) were known on an invisible level within my being – only there was no validation for what I felt and ‘knew’. I have been working on the healing of my family (past) for 2 decades. Your words aid in my journey.
    Thank you.

    • Thank you dear Leesa! Yes, it is such a revelation to be acknowledged in this way – that the ‘invisible’ is real – that grief is shared – that children are powerful empaths. Keep going, beautiful heart!

  7. Yes, it is an evolution through generations, and we each have opportunities to play our part. But I feel it’s important that we don’t feel the burden of believing we can cure these ancestral wounds on our own or within one generation – consciousness continues to unfold, and even in old age people can still be astonished by what has been hidden from them within their own psyche, so the task inevitably continues after we are gone. Another beautifully written and thought-provoking post – thank you, Toko-pa 🙂

    • I agree Jenny – I think there’s an important distinction between the word ‘cure’ and the word ‘heal.’ In contemporary language, cure means to eradicate an illness or wound. But heal comes from the root ‘to make whole.’ While I don’t believe this kind of grief can be cured, I know it can learned to live with, which is to say – acknowledged and allowed – included in one’s way of being in the world. And, of course, there will always be more left to the next generation to chew on 🙂

  8. Yes, we carry the thread of Life within us, and with that comes the totality of our humanity and divinity. At some point, each one of us chose to incarnate as a human being, and with that choice we willingly accepted the responsibility of unveiling and unwinding our ancestral wounds to collectively transform the healing of our species and planet.

    • I really do totally agree with that also, Maria. Sometimes, though, don’t you wish you could go back, put a hand on your Spirit Self’s shoulder and ask, “Now are you SURE you really want to take this one on?” 🙂

  9. I’m inspired and encouraged by all of you work and I have worked most of my adult life using this premise regarding generational healing. Though not discouraged, having reached my late 60’s, I now feel that it’s been tough, tough work and one lifetime is not enough to make a significant dent. Please comment.

    • Thank you dear Sandra! As I mentioned to Jenny (above) I think there’s an important distinction between the word ‘cure’ and the word ‘heal.’ In contemporary language, cure means to eradicate an illness or wound. But heal comes from the root ‘to make whole.’ While I don’t believe this kind of grief can be cured, I know it can learned to live with, which is to say – acknowledged and allowed – included in one’s way of being in the world. And, of course, there will always be more left to the next generation to chew on 🙂 That being said, sometimes it’s time to stop all the ‘tough work’ and start on a radical practice of self-love.

  10. Your article very much spoke to me. Thank you so much! It is consistent with Family Constellations work , which is all about healing the ancestral past, up to 7 generations. Embracing my family soul and doing the healing work is part of my destiny I believe.

  11. What we pass on to our children is so important because they in turn pass it on to theirs. I love how you give insight into the unspoken being just as powerful as the spoken. There is great truth in that.

  12. Thanks for this beautiful sharing Tokopa. I am moved to share dreaming synchronicity, ancestral dreaming with my maternal grandmother, who I last saw on the physical plane when I was 8 years old. When she appears, which hasn’t happened for a long time now, everything in my dream is misty and hallowed. It is a great privilege to see her and I always know this in the dream too. In one such dream long ago now, she looked deeply into my eyes and said, ‘We have the same eyes’. Yes, they see through us and we see through them. On the prosaic level, we actually do have the same eyes, great grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter, the same soul mirrors passing on down through the maternal line. On the level of physical health there is also a resonance. For me to read of your precious dream of your grandfather is a welcome reminder of this truth and connection, an eternal and unbroken echo, dreaming mirroring dreaming. Thankyou

  13. I myself am on a similar journey. I never knew my ancestry was Jewish until I went to Dachau. Upon exiting the concentration camp, there is a wall of family names of people who died there, listed by the country in which they came from. I found three such family names from my father’s side. As I began conducting genealogy searches, while receiving photos of my family ancestors, I asked my father, “How could you not know that your family was Jewish?” I have found that most family members do not know, you do not want to know about their heritage. But the children of my generation do…and we are continuing to search and share with each other our findings.

  14. I have been told by a dear friend that I have prescience – I also know that I am the one that bears all the grief and depression. The grandparents spoke nothing of the past – I am 78, so their arrival on earth was in the latter 19th century – they came to the US before or during WW I….. Even the relatives in Lithuania speak nothing of what they endured during WW II…..but there are these feelings I have, this sadness that comes again and again……

  15. When I read this, I am again and again filled with gratitude for the love , compassion and work that my grandfather did in his own life. I remember throwing away a rotten peach that has a worm in it, and his screaming at me not to waste food and I also remember him sobbing behind closed door. He took me back to the peach tree and picked me a peach and said ” I am sorry, You must certainly not eat a bad peach. I was yelling not at you, but maybe at God, for the days that I was so hungry I would have eaten that peach, worm and all. I was screaming at fear and despair, but never you Leyd”
    So grateful for your sharing…

  16. Yes, this has been my journey too. We grow up immersed in our parents energy field. Midlife and the settling back into my body has been a major time of for continuing to separate out what is mine and what isn’t. I have watched and released pictures that were not even my pain pictures.

  17. Lovely post and journey. I have Muscogee (Creek) ancestry and read everything I could find on the European Holocaust when I was in my 20’s (since there wasn’t much recorded about the Native American Holocaust). Now, people are recognising the Native American Holocaust of the indigenous people who have inhabited the Americas for millennia. It’s deep, honouring and important work you are doing. Namaste

  18. Not smart enough for a sensible comment here… so here is my smile :))))))

  19. Irena Konbrat Córka Gertrudy i Franciszka Formankiewicz z Poznania Polska Siostra Edwarda Formankiewicza.
    Gertruda Formankiewicz siostra mojej babci Katarzyny Kaźmierczak (zd. Modlińska)
    Ja jestem wnukiem Katarzyny. Ojciec mój Brunon Kaźmierczak znał bardzo dobrze Gertrudę i Franciszka Formankiewiczów.
    Czyli jesteśmy rodziną
    Waldemar Kaźmierczak

  20. Thank you for sharing this story. This is such important work.

  21. All I can add right now is acknowledging what is true for me as i have read it here. I grieve for the unhealed generations I see in my son, yet just now feel more hopeful for both of us. Perhaps the work I continue to do can lessen for him the legacy of shame, feelings of defeat, spiritual exhaustion. It is, after many, many years giving me greater clarity, greater joy and sense of wonder. Thank you for how very generous you are with your insight and for the accessible way you communicate it.

  22. Im delving into this deep ancestral well of experience , listening to those subtle fleeting intuitions .Im ready to work my way thro years of suppression from my jewish ancestors.The secrets , the unspoken.Mother told me I was jewish when I was sixteen, and then told me on no account to tell a living soul.
    Feeling your heartfelt words gives me a warmth of shared awareness , my ancestors are in my very blood.I no longer feel so isolated in my growth.Im so glad I found your site.Blessings and Love to you.

  23. Love it. There is a belief that genetically entire families carry generational curses. I can see how that makes sense..and love your narrative.

  24. I loved what you wrote….My grandparents never spoke of those things and I was too young to be asking.
    ..what you said rings so true in my body and consciousness…The unspoken truths affected my body and emotions but no one in my family would affirm that…Maybe they just didn’t realize these things…

  25. […] From:  Dreamspeak: Ancestral Healing […]

  26. Hi Toko-pa. Saw this on Monica Cassani’s Beyond Meds blog. I find what you say lovely and interesting, so I put the link and a few comments on our blog too. Thank you.

    Lindsey Talbott, Palace Gate Counselling Service

  27. i remember now i dream i had where my parents and their friends were all sitting laughing/chatting/without a care – yet behind them were two buckets – one per couple and each had bubbling in it all the stuff to do with world war 2 – only i seemed aware of the buckets in the dream! now it makes sense thankyou x

  28. Thank you Toko-pa, this is a gorgeous expression of what happens in family. My grandma was one to speak at length about her experiences, as if to get it out of her and put it into me, I do feel it is a privilege to have enough capacity – a strong enough container – to do the work for my lineage. Thank you for speaking to this so beautifully!!

  29. About 8 out of 10 of your posts speak to exactly what I’m thinking about and/or working on that day/week. It really is uncanny!! As if you read my journal every day.
    Many times in my sessions I feel I’m grieving for my ancestors who couldn’t, and the young-uns who can’t now. Amazing to witness the impact, even if temporary, it can have on those in my life.
    I was in my late 20s when I discovered my heritage. As Native Americans they had to suppress this and blend in, in order to survive. The pattern of not speaking of it carried for 3 generations. When asked they spoke freely. Family patterns began to make sense with that piece.
    I found something Braden suggested to be interesting and accurate; that our relationship with our primary caregiver(s) are typically a direct mirror of our relationship with a higher power. With an absent, alcoholic father and an emotionally unavailable violent mother; and force fed fundamentalist religion; no big surprise I spent the next few decades flipping between agnostic & atheist. Agnostic mostly because magic and synchronicities happened, so I kept the door cracked. It took a recent (lengthy) mystical/ spiritual/ paranormal experience with my very own highly-skilled ‘Plutarch’; who was so persistent 24/7 against my pattern that I was finally convinced that yes, OK! I can’t NOT believe. But what!! LOL None of the religious stories/myths work for me- have to pick chopsticks on that one; but I really resonated with William Henderson’s thinking in, ‘The Science of Soulmates’, which magically came to me.
    Thanks for sharing your thinking and your heart. I always look forward to the next offering.

  30. Thank you…until now I felt unheard/alone. I was adopted in post WWII Frankfurt, my parents, Americans who adopted me, both worked for the CIC and CIA, my father was the Chief of the unit in Frankfurt after the Central Command moved its headquarters to Heidelberg….my birth mother was the only child of a mother who was a Nazi/spy and a Jewish father. My mother was imprisoned the day after my birth, because my grandmother who was now a spy for my adoptive father (USA versus KGB) was giving her grandchild to him. My birth mother stayed in jail and fought for me for 11 months until she finally signed the papers, not understanding why she was there or that it was her mother that set it up or who had taken me. My birth father was a special ops sharpshooter who was part Cherokee and part Scottish…he was undercover when my mother met him and fell in love. My biological parents were married in 1961 and tried to get me back, I was 7….the headquarters for the CIA in Frankfurt were in our home/villa. This request blew my adoptive parents cover and brought shame and guilt as we quickly moved to the United States and they lost everything. Both my adoptive parents died early taking these secrets to their grave. Through my Nazi/spy grandmother and a series of mysterious phone calls I reunited with my mother who died 6 months later, my father had already died and my Grandmother, who set up the adoption mysteriously disappeared right after that. I am a shamanic practitioner who has been working on this..but I feel so alone and sad. The story is much more than this, but your post touched a chord that made me feel you get “it”….I look forward to learning more…Dreams have always been very vivid….and I am working hard to heal them and myself and all the secrets they all held..the sadness and grief is the hard part of this process…any thoughts on that would be appreciated. Blessings, Laural

  31. I had a dream of my grandfather when I was 50. I had injured my back whilst backpacking in a snowstorm on the east sea of korea. lower back which i read-signifies ancestral roots. he apologized to me. said he was sorry that we never met. I know my life would have been different had I known him and I am often sad that he died before I was born.

  32. Since I was a little girl, my G-Grandmother has come within my dreams. I’d never met her, but I knew she was family. Once my Grandmother became aware of my dreams, and her asking questions, she surmised that this angel was her Mother.

    Last night I woke from a dream of my younger brother, passed over now for over 10 years. I don’t recall all of the details, but we were both very young in the dream. During those times, I was his protector. We both needed that. But the dream involved 8 puppies, (2 sets of 4, for some reason?) black & white and new born with no mother, no milk. We had to hide them from our Mom. And while I left my little brother in charge of them to go out and find milk, I worried sorely of his ability to keep them hid & out of trouble. My last thought when I woke around 2:30 am was that my Mom was going to find out & I was so worried…

    sigh. Puppy dreams are supposed to be about childhood. yes, it was.

  33. I have dreams of my little brother who died at 17. 32 yrs ago. he came into my dream just before the revolution broke out in egypt. curious. he was my protector in the world.

  34. Wonderful insightful post .. thank you xx

  35. Powerful. I’ve been aware of needing to heal a lot of damaged strands in my family line but without a clue how to do it. Thank you.

  36. […] Dreamspeak: Ancestral Healing from […]

  37. Beautifully put… thank you so much for your courage to share. It has touched me deeply. Namaste’

  38. I feel what you mean!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>