Epigenetics: Experience Creating Inheritance
May 31, 2016 08:05AM
What is epigenetics?
Epigenetics centers on the inheritable changes in gene expression, not encompassing changes to the underlying DNA sequence (phenotype), arising from environmental influences—i.e., a change in observable characteristics of an organism through environmental influences, without changing the geneticmakeup of the cell (genotype). Environment affects how cells react to the genes. Phenotype defines the specific characteristic of a cell, such as blood type, based both on genetic and its environmental influences. Genotype is that specific structure of the cell, as contained in the DNA, that determines specific characteristics of that cell/organism/individual, excluding all environmental influences.
Environmental influences that create change define the differences between the phenotype and the genotype. This is best exemplified by observable differences in sets of identical twins, triplets and the like.
Dismissing environmental issues, it is reasonable to assume that all identical twins would evolve throughout their lives in the exact same manner and exhibit the same behavioral characteristics and illnesses throughout their lives. Carrying this thought forward, all twins or triplets should die on the same day.
What causes differences between twins and triplets?
Environment does. But... what environmental factors create changes to the cells responsible for the differences in twins as they grow? And, in turn, what materializes during a lifetime causing each individual to change into a unique individual?
Cells contain “on” and “off” switches/triggers.
Studies demonstrate that early childhood trauma or PTSD may alter genes, which may be transmitted from one generation to the next.
These findings reveal that each and every experience in life may change that individual and succeeding generations. Imagine watching a movie creating fear. The effect of that fear over a prolonged period can become an inheritable trait. One event may not create a specific change affecting the child, but the continued revisiting of that experience just may do so. If cells are a product of the fixed DNA, prolonged exposure to a particular event would be incapable of creating change.
Like sediment repeatedly deposited on a finely tuned machine, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never erased, even if they have been forgotten on the surface or in the deep recesses of the mind. They are always a part of us. The DNA may remain the same, but the psychological and behavioral tendencies can be inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandfather’s weak back, but also his predisposition toward depression created by a lack of childhood love. Analogous is Carl Jung’s belief in the collective unconscious.
Consider a child feeling unloved and isolated, whether actually unloved or just perceiving it as such. As a result, the child begins to move inward and withdraws, but after years of therapy or moving past those childhood experiences, the individual comes out of the shell. The “on” switch has been effectively switched “off”. Now consider that individual, at a later time in life, observes or experiences an event revisiting childhood memories. The switch then turns “on”, causing the individual to re-experience the childhood withdrawal pattern.
The subsequent event, though many years later and long “forgotten”, switched “on” that trigger.
As switches come into play, our emotions become involved. Our emotions touch each of the five senses. Creating change in one or more of the senses alters the emotion/mood.
Consider when anger overpowers us. The anger creates changes in the senses of hearing, touch, smell, taste and/or sight. Each and every emotion, each and every conversation, each and every television show creates a unique combination of these senses within an individual. Alter one of these senses and the mood modifies. After doing this often enough, the response to the event creating the anger may extinguish.
A clear understanding of the client’s issue, its cause and remedy need be considered in the total context before a remedy can be obtained.
Art Gutkin is a certified NGH hypnotherapist, medical intuitive and professional member of the National Institute of Counselors and Therapists. For more information, call 215-740-0766, email [email protected] or visit MedIntuitive.com.