#39 Breaking the trauma cycle as South Asian women with Aparna Sagaram

We can’t expect ourselves to do everything, and if we keep meeting that expectation, that expectation will never go away. In fact, it gets even more challenging. This idea of powering through, we need to get rid of that because it’s a recipe for burn out.

Trauma is a highly sensitive topic and the ability to discuss it is dependent on the individual or communities that have experienced a traumatic event and the nature of the trauma itself. Being an Indian myself, I have always been aware of the stigma around mental health, trauma and therapy within the South Asian community and how many South Asians refrain from openly discussing their experiences and seeking out healthy ways to heal from traumatic experiences. With the addition of restrictions that tend to be exclusive to women, this silence amplifies PTSD in many South Asian women and generates a trauma cycle within families where trauma of parents, particularly mothers, becomes transgenerational.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, in this episode I explore trauma within the South Asian community with Aparna Sagaram, an American Indian marriage and family therapist that has worked with many South Asians to help destigmatise trauma therapy in the community. Aparna discusses some of the toxic cultural patterns in South Asian households that result in traumatic events, the ways in which immigration exacerbates or triggers trauma and the ways in which South Asian women can try to break out of trauma cycles and unhealthy mindsets in order to prioritise their mental health alongside supporting their loved ones. With this episode, I hope that many more South Asian women like Aparna and I, along with South Asian families, begin to address their traumas and actively strive for safer environments for trauma survivors, especially women.

Episode Structure:

  • Aparna’s journey as a therapist
  • Issue of feminising vulnerability and transparency of emotions/experiences, especially within South Asian cultures
  • Immigration as a trauma and the negative psychological impact of immigration on families lacking adequate support
  • Importance of identifying generational trauma but also being empathetical to older generations and their traumas
  • Reasons that prevent older family members from breaking out of toxic cultures, despite moving away from their home countries
  • Aparna’s work with South Asian families and supporting parents that are initially sceptical about the benefits of therapy
  • Ways in which South Asian women can identify their traumas and heal from them in a healthy and long-lasting manner

Aparna’s Resources:

  • Visit Aparna’s website here.
  • Check out Aparna’s Instagram here.
  • Visit Aparna’s Psychology Today page here.

Additional Resources:


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