Updated: Sep 22
In a world constantly evolving with scientific discoveries, mental health has begun to take center stage. But what if the key to unlocking the secrets of your mental health lies not just in your own experiences but in your ancestors' as well? While it's common to say we're "breaking the chain" of generational patterns, we often overlook that this chain isn't merely metaphorical—it's rooted in our DNA. Enter the revolutionary field of Epigenetics, a study that delves into how environmental factors can influence not only you but future generations. This understanding can profoundly inform your therapeutic process.
What is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function that do not involve alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. Instead, it's about how your genes are "expressed," or activated. Various factors, including environmental aspects and traumas, can impact this gene expression. According to a paper published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, stressful events can trigger a change in how your genes function, leading to enduring changes in brain function and behavior (Turecki and Meaney, 2016).
How Does Generational Trauma Fit Into This?
Imagine your grandparents endured significant trauma—a war, perhaps, or extreme poverty. This trauma could have had an epigenetic effect, altering the way genes are expressed. These epigenetic changes can be passed down to your parents and then to you. The idea of "inherited trauma" is not just anecdotal; it is supported by scientific research. A study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry indicates that generational trauma has observable epigenetic effects that can be inherited (Yehuda et al., 2014).
Why Is This Important for Therapy?
Understanding the role of epigenetics and generational trauma in your life is akin to digging deep into the roots of a tree to find the source of its ailment. Therapy can help you identify these patterns, unpack the trauma, and effectively "rewrite" your genetic "code." You're not just healing for yourself but setting the stage for the well-being of future generations.
Practical Tips for Addressing Epigenetics and Generational Trauma in Therapy
1. Talk About Family History: Openly discuss any known family traumas with your therapist. This can be crucial in identifying patterns and triggers.
2. Mindfulness and Awareness:
Being aware of your reactions and feelings can help you trace them back to their origin, whether it's a past personal trauma or a generational one.
3. Focused Therapies: Techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) have shown promise in treating traumas that might have an epigenetic basis (Shapiro, 2014).
4. Lifestyle Changes: Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your life. Stress can trigger epigenetic changes, and lowering stress can potentially help to reverse them.
5. Genetic Counseling: For those who want to delve deeper, specialized counseling can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how generational trauma and epigenetics affect you.
By being aware of generational trauma and the field of epigenetics, you're not just talking about healing; you’re talking about reclaiming your future. As you work to rewrite your own genetic code through therapy, you're setting a new foundation for generations to come. This is more than personal growth; it's a legacy of well-being that will ripple through your family tree.
So, are you ready to break the chain? 🧬🔗 If so, take a leap of faith and get started with therapy at Boundless in New York.
Services offered at Boundless
Turecki, G., & Meaney, M. J. (2016). Effects of the Social Environment and Stress on Glucocorticoid Receptor Gene Methylation: A Systematic Review. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, 41(1), 56–69.
Yehuda, R., Daskalakis, N. P., Bierer, L. M., Bader, H. N., Klengel, T., Holsboer, F., & Binder, E. B. (2014). Holocaust Exposure Induced Intergenerational Effects on FKBP5 Methylation. Biological Psychiatry, 80(5), 372–380.
Shapiro, F. (2014). The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences. The Permanente Journal, 18(1), 71–77.