For centuries mystics, philosophers and astrologers have pondered the existence of ‘family karma’ – memories and experiences handed down the family line from one generation to the next. Certainly, few of us on the mystical path would doubt that it exists as we see stories being replayed across generations. There is also much written about releasing family karma and healing the family line and that is undoubtedly the kind of soul work many people embark on.
Now new studies undertaken by a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital point to the fact that on a genetic level, trauma experienced by one generation is handed down to the next and subsequent ones. They discovered that the experiences of holocaust survivors resulted in dramatic changes to their DNA which resulted in them passing this on to their children. It used to be thought that only biological information was transmitted by our DNA but the study showed that children of people who had either been interred in a concentration camp, had had to hide or had seen or experienced torture, were more likely to experience stress disorders themselves than the children of Jewish parents who were outside of Europe during the war. This is known scientifically as ‘epigenetic inheritance’ which is the theory that other influences such as stress, trauma, environment, diet, smoking, drug use etc can be passed on genetically to subsequent generations.
The team identified one region of a gene that has been identified as linked to stress hormones. This determines the way we cope with our environment and challenges we may encounter. So, it follows if the gene is compromised we will be at a disadvantage ourselves if faced with stressful or traumatic situations. Other studies have also explored this link one of which showed that girls born to Dutch women who were pregnant during the extreme famine that occurred in Holland at the end of WWII were at an above-average risk of developing schizophrenia. The same links were not discovered in control groups in either study.
It seems family karma and wounds literally are passed on in our genes. We can therefore ask ourselves how much we are living that is our story and how much is our family’s? Marcus Pembrey, emeritus professor of paediatric genetics at University College London explains: ‘What we’re getting here is the very beginnings of a understanding of how one generation responds to the experiences of the previous generation. It’s fine-tuning the way your genes respond to the world.’
So, doing healing work on an inter-generational level can be an important step on our soul path. When we understand our family story, we come closer to understanding ourselves and not only that, we are then in a position to change our family karma – and what we hand down, for good.
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