The Science of Memories - Ancestral & Genetic Links

epigenetics.jpg If you think of your ancestors, who or what comes to mind? People far away removed in time?Long forgotten remnants of bygone   years? Mere shadows of what was?

 It turns out that their problems, their realities, are actually existing in some form with you now. There are positives and negatives   to all of this. And there’s much scientific evidence to be had on the subject of genetic memory, but to give one simple, if sad   example: In a scientific experiment, mice were exposed to the scent of cherry blossoms, at which time, they were electrically   shocked upon exposure, in a series of repetitions. In the next generation of mice, the ones not shocked upon exposure to the   scent of the blossoms, they had been born with a pre-existing phobia when exposed to the scent of cherry blossoms.

The truth is that all of our ancestors together, create a kind of collective consciousness that is a biological, historical and multi-cultural reality for us all. Not merely physical features, but hidden traits that may be alive or dormant, one’s health and predispositions-- all exist within our biological lineage and thus remains with us, existing as a continuity of consciousness extending through time as we know it.

Just like the example with the mice and other studies in epigenetics, accumulative trauma and pain can endure through generations, presenting, for example, as anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and nightmares.

The field of “Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma” studies these outcomes where an individual exists with an inherited biological marker in their chromosomes that predisposes them to any number of conditions ( negative attributes). However, other explorations, also exist where aptitudes and pre-existing knowledge (positive attributes) not necessarily trauma based, travel down through the “genetic pipe” to gift an individual with pre-installed talents. People like Alonzo Clemens, a savant with amazing talent. According to Wikipedia:

Clemens suffered a severe brain injury as a child that left him with a developmental disability (with an IQ in the 40-50 range) but able to create very accurate animal sculptures out of clay.

Amazingly, Alonzo is able to produce sculptures after only seeing an image for a few seconds. And it takes him very little time, about an hour.

Another savant, with such severe birth defects it’s difficult to hear, but according to the site, Neatorama, (I’ll post the link below), reporting on the ten most fascinating savants:

At 16 years of age, Leslie Lemke bloomed. In the middle of one night, May woke up to find Leslie playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Leslie, who has no classical music training, was playing the piece flawlessly after hearing it just once earlier on the television.

Cases of savant’s have been widely documented, even movies made based upon real people such as the case of the movie entitled, Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman who plays the real Rain Man by the name of Kim Peek. He can read two pages at once. The right eye reads the right page and the left eye reads the left page. Kim does this in about three seconds!

On The Scientific American Guest Blog, entitled, “How We Know Things We Never Learned” By Darold Treffert, Jan. 28, 2015, he writes,

I met my first savant 52 years ago and have been intrigued with that ever since. One of the most striking and consistent things in many savants I have seen is that they clearly know things they never learned.

Savants tend to give us a hopeful feeling in general, that goodness prevails, even in the sight of terrible conditions.

It might not be so with mass trauma. At least, more difficult to find the answers to what good could come from evils that exist within the human condition.

In the case where a collective trauma is suffered in a “pocket”, it is now increasingly recognized that the associated psychological “fall out” continues in the generations that follow.

Such is the case after the mass starvation of millions of Soviet Ukranians from 1932 to 1933 under Joseph Stalin’s regime. (Holodomor)

In a feature article for The American Psychological association, written by Tori DeAngelis in February 2019, he tells the story of a man by the name of Brent Bezo, living with his wife in the Ukraine in the 2000s and noticed that there was a general kind of social hostility and mistrust among the people.

Bezo, being a doctoral psychology student at Carleton University in Ottawa, took an interest in what he described as subtle. 

Wondering if and how this horrific event continued to resonate with the people, Bezo conducted a qualitative pilot study of 45 people from three generations of 15 Ukrainian families: those who had lived through the Holodomor, their children and their grandchildren. People spontaneously shared what they saw as transgenerational impacts from that time, including risky health behaviours, anxiety and shame, food hoarding, overeating, authoritarian parenting styles, high emotional neediness on the part of parents and low community trust and cohesiveness-- what many described as living in “survival genetic.jpgmode”.

It helps if one is a scientist to better understand fields of study such as epigenetics and transgenerational trauma, but I found one specific highlight from “What is” that is simple enough and intriguing:

Epigenetics is Everywhere. What you eat, where you live, who you interact with, when you sleep, how you exercise, even aging - all of these can eventually cause chemical modifications around the genes that will turn those genes on or off over time. Additionally, in certain diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, various genes will be switched into the opposite state, away from the normal/healthy state.

It stands to reason, just knowing that, puts a lot more power back into your hands. Small beneficial changes can make wonderful miracles. What’s more, we stand well in being thankful for whatever gifts we are imparted with. Maybe we can’t read two pages at once. But what “might” we do, with all we “have” been given?

If you have time, the following websites are a good start for anyone wanting to learn more.

What Is Epigenetics

Genetic Memory: How We Know Things We Never Learned

Fascinating Savants In The World

Sandra EL

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