Inherited emotions and trauma

February 14, 2015

Have you ever wondered why it may be so hard to be happy? Why it can be so difficult to have a fulfilling relationship? It may be that part of the answer lies in our family history. Could it be that feelings of shame, insecurity or rage are inherited from our ancestors?

There is growing evidence that not only are biological traits such as eye colour inherited, but other less concrete characteristics are too. A recent study by the University of Zurich (April 2014) showed that early trauma in mice is carried to the following generations. Other studies in Israel on the effects of trauma (from a people whose history often contains the intensity of the Holocaust) have reached the same conclusion.

What if it was not just trauma which was passed on but a pre-disposition to any emotional state? My clinical work with family systems regularly shows that women who believe, for example, that “you can’t rely on anyone else” and develop an overly-strong sense of independence which creates barriers to relationship, often come from a long line of women who held similar beliefs, representing an accumulated ancestral energy.

I believe that we are in a unique position within our lineage to discharge those beliefs. Consider this – life up until, say, 100 years ago was hard. Most people struggled to make a living and to feed themselves. Survival was more a consideration than the luxury of emotion. It has only been in the late twentieth century that a standard of living enabled us to have the space to reflect on our emotions. As my grandmother used to say “we managed perfectly well without emotions in my day”. Now, no longer challenged with threats to our daily survival, we can instead explore less concrete pursuits.

When we are concerned with survival we will suppress emotions to get through what is. Thousands of years of suppressed emotion may have been handed to us at our birth. Since we are blessed to live in a culture which allows emotion, we may be the generations who are blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it, to release the trauma of millennia.

I believe that releasing emotion is an evolutionary phase. Until now our ancestors did not have the time or capacity to allow this. Nor did they have the tools. It was only in the late 19th century that from Freud onwards we had an understanding, outside of spiritual communities, of the nature of the unconscious and the therapeutic mechanisms to release emotions.

Current developments in therapy are leaning towards a more integrated body-mind approach which recognises the importance of the nervous system and the body in holding and releasing emotion. I believe this is also an evolutionary step.

Once we have released our emotional inherent baggage, we may then be able to move into a less emotionally volatile and more energetically sensitive state of being, which I believe is the next evolutionary step of humankind.

Wherever humanity goes next, we, in the current living generations, have been given the luxury of the time, the space and the tools to release our inherited emotional blocks. Use them wisely. If we release these it may just allow us to improve our quality of life and how we have relationships.

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