The past, the present and the future

A common problem for many of us, and a reason why some of us are drawn towards holistic approaches towards well-being is that the past colours the present and the future.  I have always felt that many of the things that shackle us have deep-seated roots.  This has long been recognised by some wise humans: for example, in The Metamorphic Technique: Principles and Practice (Paperback edition, 1991), Gaston St-Pierre and Debbie Boater’s book is summarised as follows: “during the nine months preceding birth all our physical, mental, emotional and behavioural structures are laid down. “

It has taken the modern science of epigenetics to bring the idea that how we are and who we are is shaped by forces that took hold long before our birth, into modern mainstream medicine.  Dr. Hannah Critchlow wrote a fascinating recent article in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/books/article/2024/jun/17/the-big-idea-can-you-inherit-memories-from-your-ancestors, may be behind a paywall for some users) describing experiments that exposed mice to cherry-line smells (which they love) followed immediately by a mild electric shock (which they hate). The studies found that even after these mice had children, and the children led happy lives with no shock therapy, the grandchildren of these mice still exhibited signs of associating cherry smells with pain.  In brief, the study found that the experimentation had rewired the neural circuitry of the grandparent mice and this rewiring had been transmitted through generations.  The study also found that if the same grandparent mice were retrained so that the association between cherry smells and shocks was removed, their circuitry gradually healed and returned to normal, and if they were to have descendants again, there would be no passed-on trauma.  Studies of traumatised humans, reported in the same article, find similar results for inherited trauma.  This idea of inherited trauma is similar to the idea of “cellular memory”—that the memory of events of the past is stored in cells outside our brain.

I have always had the feeling that some significant portion of peoples’ emotional pains (and physical manifestations of that pain) may well be hard-wired—part of their inherited genetic circuitry.  I offer no claim that any holistic approach can rewire an individual’s circuitry or completely release the feelings and traits that they have inherited from the past.  However, developments in modern epigenetics are opening our eyes to a fundamental truth that holistic practitioners have had for a long while:  the causes of our pain precede our own existence; trauma can be passed down several generations; and this trauma can express itself emotionally, physically and in patterns of behaviour down the generations.

On a more positive note, the release of trauma in our own lifetime can help heal our internal circuitry, also called “neurological pathways.”  The benefits of this healing of our neurological pathways can be felt in our own lifetimes and to our own benefit, but they can also have long-lasting consequences through the generations.  Some of the rewiring of our circuitry—as happened with the mice in Dr. Critchlow’s article—is a matter of bad association, and complementary healing techniques can assist with breaking this bad association.  Addressing and aiming to release the pain of the past can pave the way for a happier future, not just for us but also for our descendants.

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