Genetic Trauma

 

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Recent psychological journal articles with great research findings by Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and wonderful books like, It Didn’t Start With You, by Mark Wolynn, have opened the door to the idea of how inherited family trauma can effect us; not just through repeated cycles in our family environment, but genetically.  This idea has been floating around in my head for a while now and I am excited to see it being discussed more in psychology.

If we are able to find genetic markers for red hair or blue eyes, then is it really so far fetched to believe that we may be genetically marked with unique trauma that could cause certain individuals to be more likely to suffer from PTSD?  In Wolynn’s book it explains, your grandmother became pregnant with your mother and at 5 months pregnant your mother was already forming the genetic make-up for her ovaries and the number of eggs available for fertilization.  From the time your grandmother was 5 months pregnant that egg in your fetal mother is YOU, being affected by every bit of information filtered through your grandmother and mother until the day you are born.  The stress, trauma, good and bad, happy and sad, along with all the nutritional choices going through pregnant grandma and then mother will have an impact on you.

Not to bring this back to a hardcore religious point of view, but some could say this is what the Bible means when it says we will suffer the sins of our father.  All those health choices you are making and the environmental situations you allow to continue in your life will inevitably affect your grandchildren and generations after them.  Fathers will produce many sperm throughout life, but that one sperm released at the point of conception that actually seals the deal with the egg will also contain some genetic influences that go beyond physical traits.  Scientist are still researching and exploring just to what extent, but the findings so far have been pretty amazing.

Some of the research I have read has covered the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and how such awful trauma in the family can reverberate throughout generations even though those generations never really suffered any actual trauma themselves.  The science goes further to research the rise in suicide rates and the possibility that many diagnosed with unexplained mental illness, depression and anxiety could be suffering from past family trauma showing up genetically.  This idea is controversial to some and still needs a lot more research, as I dig further the findings are pretty remarkable.  In the end the real question I ask is how it changes how we, as individuals, look at the world around us?  Maybe we think those nutritional choices, drugs, alcohol, smoking or lack of exercise, the abusive relationship we stay in or the stressful job we choose to return to day after day is really only effecting us.  The truth is, those choices could be affecting multiple generations after you in a much bigger way than we could have possibly imagined!  We already know stress is one of the number one causes of disease in the body.  If you knew your work stress would come back on your grandchildren would you continue to work the way you do now?  What changes can you make to live healthier and happier for you and the generations that come after you?

With health, happiness, love for you and future generations,

Stacy

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