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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evidence that Traumas Get Passed Down

Some people look at the world as it is and say 'why'? and some people look at the world and say 'why not?' for the way they imagine life could be.

Imagine a world where there is no war between nations and between families, no PTSD, no cause for violence in any form, where people from all walks of life and from all cultures and traditions can be clear, truthful, transparent, authentic, real, honest, and loving towards each other and themselves.  John Lennon imagined this in his song, 'Imagine':

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Science and research are catching up and validating something we've known for centuries:  the Sins of the Father are visited upon the generations below.  Now, some people look at the world we're living in and really question why all this is happening and other people are looking at the world and what they want to create and say, 'why can't we make that happen?'  The way I see it happening is when you heal yourself, every generation moving forward heals.

"We are affected by the seven generations that come before us and affect the seven generations that will follow," prescient words of wisdom and warning from a great Shoshone Elder, Francesca M. Boring.  Think about that for a moment.  Everything our ancestors did, on both sides, seven generations back, affects us today.  And what we do today, how we live our lives, what we do with the events that happen during our lifetimes, will affect the seven generations after us.  A powerful message bearing a call to take responsibility for all of our lives, to heal the wounds inside so that we don't pass this down to others to heal for us; all the unconscious, undigested emotions, pains, sufferings, horrors, and secrets that we unknowingly, unintentionally pass down when we don't take the time to heal ourselves from our own pain, which includes individual, familial, and the collective pain of humanity.  I've got the evidence below to show you that traumas from your parents, and their parents, get passed down.  So, as you read this remember: what you're doing affects everyone on the planet, especially the generations below.

Epigentic Transmission of the Impact of Early Stress Across Generations

A 2010 study conducted by Dr. Isabel Mansuy, a neurobiologist from the University of Zurich, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, discovered that some impacts of traumas cross generations and cause genes to change which are then passed down to the offspring.  They raised male mice, and frequently separated them from their mothers inducing stress.  This was done for about 14 days, at which time, the mice  were cared for normally.  As the males became adults, they began to exhibit PTSD like symptoms -jumpiness, isolation, hyper-alertness.  They also noticed their genes functioned differently than other mice, most notably, the gene that helps regulate the stress hormone CRF and the gene that regulates the release of seratonin, and what they discovered was that these genes were either overreactive or underreactive.  These mice are equivalent to those who experience combat, or the Holocaust, or some intensely traumatic event.  Then, they bred these male mice with females to see what, if anything, occurred in their offspring.  Once they fathered pups, the males were removed, and the offspring were raised by their mothers with no trauma separation.  What they discovered was that as these males grew into adults, they exhibited the same anxious and jumpy behavior of their fathers and had the same gene changes! [2,1]

Here's what John H. Krystal, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and the editor of Biological Psychiatry had to say about these results:

"The idea that traumatic stress responses may alter the regulation of genes in the germline cells in males means that these stress effects may be passed across generations.  It is distressing to think that the negative consequences of exposure to horrible life events could cross generations," says Krystal. 
"However, one could imagine that these types of responses might prepare the offspring to cope with hostile environments.  Further, if environmental events can produce negative effects, one wonders whether the opposite pattern of DNA methylation emerges when offspring are reared in supportive environments." [1]

Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations.

The subject of this book by M. Gerard Fromm, published by Karnac Books (2012), is that all the traumas that are so overwhelming and too unbearable to even discuss are passed down to those who are closest and dearest to us.  Our loved ones end up carrying what we are unable to carry, and we do the same.  For time, I will print the synopsis of the book as it is written.

"A central thesis of this volume is that what human beings cannot contain of their experience - what has been traumatically overwhelming, unbearable, unthinkable - falls out of social discourse, but very often onto and into the next generation, as an affective sensitivity or a chaotic urgency.  What appears to be a person's symptom may turn out to be a symbol - in the context of this book, a symbol of an unconscious mission - to repair a parent or avenge a humiliation - assigned by the preceding generation.  These tasks may be more or less idiosyncratic to a given family, suffering its own personal trauma, or collective in response to societal trauma.
This book attempts to address the heritage of trauma - the way that the truly traumatic, that which cannot be contained by one generation, necessarily and largely unconsciously plays itself out through the next generation..." [3]

Here's what some leading psychologists and scholars are saying about this book:

"...The more "unmentalized" the trauma of parents, the greater the likelihood of its suppressed whispers finding their echoes in children's lives.  To render the unthinkable aspects of a trauma into a cogent, if fumbling, narrative, therefore, goes a long way to minimizing its long-term adverse effects..."
     -Salman Akhtar, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College; Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic of Philadelphia [3]

"'Lost in Transmission is not simply about how traumatic psychological injury is passed down to the children and grandchildren of those who originally experienced it.  Even more, the insightful and personal essays in this collection are about finding the shared humanity in families, in psychotherapy, in society, and in memories of the past that repairs the damage people do to one another.  A moving and inspiring book."
    -Thomas A. Kohut, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History, Williams College, USA [3]

"...Lost in Transmission teaches us how the unacknowledged terrors of one generation can lead to the neglect of the next...; how historical traumas can be used to mobilize hate and violence; how the shame of previous generations can be stealthily imprinted on children's psyches - leading them to avenge historical humiliations or assuage historical pain they may not even know of.  These wise healers unlock the code.  A critically important contribution to healing history's lasting wounds."
    -Jessica Stern, Former Erik Erikson Scholar; Advanced Academic Candidate, Mass. Inst. of Psychoanalysis;  author of Denial: A Memoir of Terror and Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill [3]

As Molly Castelloe, Ph.D. writes in her article in Psychology Today about Lost in Transmission:

"Transmission is the giving of a task.  The next generation must grapple with the trauma, find ways of representing it and spare transmitting the experience of hell back to one's parents.  A main task of transmission is to resist disassociating from the family heritage and "bring its full, tragic story into social discourse." (Fromm, xxi) 
She goes on to write: "How does one discharge this mission?  It is a precarious terrain of finding one's way through a web of family loyalties to which one has been intensely faithful.  The working through of transmission entails a painful, seemingly unbearable, process of separation.  It can become an identity crisis, the breaking of an emotional chain.  As Fromm puts it, "something life defining and deeply intimate is over."  The child speaks what their parent could not.  He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized, if unconsciously, to carry their parents' injury into the future.  In rising above the remnants of one's ancestors' trauma, one helps to heal future generations." [4]

That's just some of the supporting evidence of how traumas get passed down that I've compiled.  I haven't even mentioned all the studies they've done on the survivors of the Holocaust and the effects of the trauma experienced and passed down to the second and third generations.  This information is all very recent, too.  Now, before you start accusing and blaming others, specifically your parents for what happened to you or someone else in your family (I want to remind you it's important to take responsibility for all of your life - all your choices, decisions, and errors -being the author of the totality of your whole life), remember, they were doing the best they could under the conditions and circumstances of their lives.  And they were traumatized too.  These things, as I've pointed out above, get passed down.  We know it now, we have scientific evidence to support it, and for men, we need that, (I know I do), we need to see the evidence, the logic and science, before we take action to do something.  We are not as intuitive as women, at least not yet, we have to develop that ability.  Nonetheless, what I'm saying is there is no one to blame.  It doesn't serve you to be upset with someone when they didn't even know themselves the value of cleaning up their inner life.  It doesn't serve you to accuse, blame, or shame someone for what may have happened to you.  It also doesn't serve you to live in guilt, shame, or self-loathing.  That just keeps you stuck in the past, shackled to the events that traumatized you.  It keeps you there, and not in the present moment where life is happening.  To open up your present, you've got to clean up your past, even if it includes the past of your parents and ancestors.  What you don't clean up, you give to your future generations to clean up for you.  I really want the men out there who are reading this to get this.  We will pass it in our genes if we don't heal this within ourselves first.  Now that you know this, the next step is what do you do with this new information in your life.  Are you going to stop it from being passed down?  It's is your choice, and what you choose, has consequences.

I also want to point out that there's no "fixing" anything.  You're not broken and need to be fixed.  The idea is when you are already perfect and whole, you just have to remember your wholeness.  Transparency and truth equals healed.  Being able to share whatever has occurred, heals it.  It's different from fixing it.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one

What a beautiful and inspiring vision of what this life could be and will be, based on all of us doing our part.  
Do honor to your ancestors, do honor to your parents, do honor to your future generations and get this healed within yourself.  Be the one who stops the pain and heals it.  Be the one who finds the courage to speak the truth of your experience, without blame, guilt, anger or shame, and find the miraculous release that comes with transparency.  You're a beautiful child of God.  Every single one of you.  No exceptions.


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