“Survival mode is supposed to be a phase that helps save your life. It is not meant to be how you live.”
- Michele Rosenthal, Author “Your Life After Trauma”
When we are chronically ill we continue to look inside ourselves for a solution. We take medications, supplements, engage in psychotherapy and other therapies to help heal the illness, but what if symptoms cannot be erased simply through therapy and other modalities? Why is it that individuals who have not experienced a traumatic event still have feelings of helplessness, terror, shock, grief, fear, panic, anxiety, rage, depression or confusion? What if the solution is deeper and would require us to look outside ourselves? Several studies have shown that trauma and stress can alter DNA1, and therefore can be passed on through generations. When someone experiences a stressful time, a chronic illness, or post-traumatic stress disorder the expression of genes can be modified with a combination of negative effects and positive effects, such as accommodations and adaptations, which might be transmitted from parents to their offspring2. If a parent is able to transmit an effect to offspring, the reason may not be to perpetuate a negative effect of trauma but to prepare the offspring and give them tools to better cope with the environment2.
When we have these gene expressions we often think we are stuck with them. We can do a multitude of therapies to support the pathways, yet we still have to manage them. While we cannot alter our DNA, we can alter how it is expressed. Family constellation looks into the hidden and silenced traumas of our parents, grandparents and ancestors. This is performed through assessment of the patients’ family tree, and evaluating family dynamics. This helps provide us with more understanding and allows us to be able to process the true causes of our symptoms so that they can be put to rest and transform into a healthier psychological state.
(1)Dias, B.J, Ressler, K.J. (2013, December 1). Parental Olfactory Experience Influences Behavior and Neural Structure in Subsequent Generations. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n1/abs/nn.3594.html
(2)Kranjac, D. (2016, May 26). Intergenerational Transmission of Stress Vulnerability and Resilience Following Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/ptsd-trauma-and-stressor-related/trauma-inheritance-across-generations/article/498964/