Trauma and our DNA:
Recent research suggests that the way that transgenerational trauma is inherited, is not only behaviour, but also epigenetic. The science of epigenetics is proving that who we are is the culmination of the experiences in our life - and even those of our ancestors - which cause changes in how our genes operate. This does not mean that our DNA is changed, but that modifications happen and genes can switch on and off depending on the environment. In other words, the events of our life determine which parts of our DNA become expressed and which don't.
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"Being traumatised means continuing organising your life, as if trauma was still going on unchanged and immutable - as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past" Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Trauma is a unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions that are disturbing or non-nurturing, in which a person's ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed, or they experience a threat to life, bodily integrity or sanity. A traumatic event or experience can have a long lasting psychological impact on the individual, resulting in the loss of functions, such as maintaining a job or relationships.
Traumatic events include:
Relational or developmental trauma:
Relational or developmental trauma occurs when there is disruption of a child's sense of being safe or loved within the family. This may include physical, emotional, sexual and/or psychological abuse or neglect. Such experiences may not make sense for some people to think of as traumatic or abusive, because they may not involve an obvious "abuser". Relational and developmental trauma can be the result of a parent's or primary carer's inability or failure to provide a secure attachment, safety and care to a child.This type of trauma can remain undiagnosed or it can be hard to make sense of for years, as there is not an apparent link between the past and the difficulties that one experiences in adulthood. However, there is now a considerable body of research in the field of trauma that shows that relational and developmental trauma result in complex post-traumatic stress and other mental health difficulties, such as addictions, eating disorders, compulsive sexual behaviours, self-harm, depression.
Relational trauma in adulthood includes: domestic violence, sexual violence, being involved in an emotionally abusive relationship, being the partner of a sex addict, or experiencing relationship or sexual betrayal, when a spouse has an affair or sexual acts outside of the committed relationship.
Transgenerational trauma refers to trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations of offspring of the survivors. Transgenerational trauma may include emotional, sexual or physical abuse that causes a cycle of abuse and anxiety in further generations. Other types of transgenerational trauma may iclude extreme poverty, torture of a family member, a crime against a family, family stigma, a family member that was affected by or fought in a war.
Another form of transgenerational trauma is called historical or collective trauma. This refers to trauma that affects a group of people or entire generations. Examples of historical trauma include the Holocaust, slavery, famine, war, natural disaster, displacement.
In transgenerational trauma, the symptoms of trauma can be passed to the next generation through learnt behaviour, as trauma affects the way someone parents a child. Parents who struggle with unexplored transgenerational trauma, can pass the trauma to their children via sharing stories about the traumatic event(s), or teaching the child personal values and core beliefs that they have internalised from the traumatic event(s), or finding it hard to provide adequate attachment.
It is important to recognise that the mind's inability to integrate traumatic experiences when there was not enough emotional and other support available to a child is a natural and necessary response, a coping mechanism, to a situation that could not be changed and/or avoided. Trying to survive those experiences and not knowing consciously just how traumatising they were is therefore an appropriate response at the time, as it enables the child to survive.
However once we reach adulthood the coping mechanism that was developed in response to trauma, becomes a problem in living a functioning, wholehearted life, as the feelings, thoughts and bodily responses to the trauma are still needing the attention and healing that wasn't possible or available at the time. Treating trauma involves becoming more concious of the traumatic experiences, and being able to accurately name and make sense of how they affected the trauma survivor at the time and continue to impact on their life now. Therapy helps the trauma survivor change the beliefs that they internalised from the traumatic experience(s), learn to self-regulate and discover new coping mechanisms.
Our approach is holistic and it combines conventional therapies, creative and body based approaches, as well as neuroscience. Our approach is consistent with the three phase model of The International Society for the Study of Trauma (ISSTD):
1. Symptom reduction and regulation
2. Processing traumatic memories
3. Consolidation and integration
Our programme includes individual, couples, group and family therapy, and a bespoke combination of:
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If you would like to discuss your therapy options with a member of our staff, give us a call on 08001934551 today or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Symptoms of trauma
Trauma survivors can have the following emotional and physical responses to the traumatic event(s):
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
A trauma survivor may re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation or chronic hyperarousal of the nervous system. Trauma survivors may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, guilt, shame, frightening thoughts, sweating, shaking, the inability to remember, numbness, difficulty concentrating or sleeping.