By Dayle Malen, LCSW, M.Ed.

In 2003, the Genome Project was completed, and it allowed us to be able to read our genetic blueprint.

Like any blueprint, however, the final outcome can be modified. The blueprint of our genes can not only be altered from within, but more importantly, from other sources – our thoughts, our interpretation of our experiences, our actions and the environment. The study of those forces is called epigenetics. “Epigenetics is the study of how variation in inherited traits can originate through means other than variation in the genes in our DNA” (Habashi J, and Whitlock K. “Genetics and epigenetics in the Psychology Classroom: How to Teach What your Textbook Doesn’t”. Psychology Teacher Network, February 2013.) These modifications affect how the cells “read” the genes.

Many of us have heard that cells have memory. Basically, this is the core of epigenetics. Conrad Waddington proposed the idea of epigenetics in the early 1940s. It was rediscovered and the intense research began around 30 years ago, even more recently research has proven that trauma has a profound impact on the generational genetic profile. A study of trauma on Confederate prisoners of war and their children and grandchildren showed that sons of Confederate PoWs had an 11% higher mortality rate than sons of Confederate non-PoW veterans. (Henriques, Martha. “Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations?”)

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