07.07.2016 Holistic Health

Epigenetics and Healing

Psychologist Casey Terry sees great potential for the role of epigenetics in healing trauma passed down through generations

One of the perennial controversies that evokes a multitude of reactions among biomedical scientists is the role of Nature and Nurture in the unfolding of life.

In simple terms, genetically speaking, Nature takes the scientific approach that defines us by our hard coded DNA. On the other hand, Nurture takes into account the fact that our genetic expression is affected by our environment, which is now being validated by groundbreaking research into epigenetics.

Those who are polarised on the side of Nature agree that genetic determinism is the mechanism that controls the expression of an individual’s physical, behavioural and emotional traits, like a genetically coded computer program, and the story ends there. Not so good for you if you have a family history of illness or disease.

In the Nature camp, your genes are imparted during a differential selection process that is downloaded into you at conception. This then becomes your biological and behavioural destiny.

But it doesn’t have to be so finite and leave you feeling disempowered without any control over your body with perceptions such as, “If I can’t control my genes, I can’t be responsible for the consequences of my health and emotional wellbeing”. In the process, this minimises personal responsibility in the unfolding of one’s life.

Consideration should also be given to the fact that a totally genetic approach can encourage us to relinquish personal control and not engage with our whole being – in effect putting up barriers to healing and evolving our body, mind, spirit and destiny.

Consideration should also be given to the fact that a totally genetic approach can encourage us to relinquish personal control and not engage with our whole being – in effect putting up barriers to healing and evolving our body, mind, spirit and destiny.

Modern medical science can perceive an unwell, behaviourally challenged person or someone who is emotionally struggling, with anxiety for example, as possessing a defective gene ‘mechanism’ passed down through the family. Yet sometimes these conditions can be caused by their past trauma or environmental history. Sadly, these diagnoses are generally treated with drugs without looking any deeper.

Understanding both Nature and Nurture has huge potential to contribute enormously to our lives so, with that in mind, let’s look at Nurture in the expression of genes.

Epigenetics is a study of dynamic alterations in the potential of what the cell can express that may or may not be inheritable. Genetics, however, is based on changes to the underlying DNA sequence that are usually passed on.

The naked gene consists of DNA in the form of the famous double helix, but genes are rarely naked as they are clothed in a variety of other organic materials by chemical attachment. Why are these chemicals important? Simply because they can alter the behaviour of the genes to which they are attached. What else? Well, they can stay attached for long periods of time, sometimes a lifetime; gene regulating attachments as explored in epigenetics all work without including “the hard drive”, the nucleotide sequence DNA.

Some examples of what contributes to changes in the genome without altering the DNA sequence are called “DNA methylation” and “histone modification”. Each of these processes alters how genes are expressed, for example, when they modify the function of DNA by typically acting to repress gene repetition.This can be a lifesaving function and is essential for repressing unwanted elements like unbridled growth of cancer cells and ageing.

Okay, now we have a basic background in terminology; let’s look at the fascinating reasons for bringing the study of epigenetics to light.

The alternative epigenetic view is that the genes function more like cellular resources rather than absolute controllers.

Science has dictated that genes function as executives that direct the course of our development. The alternative epigenetic view is that the genes function more like cellular resources rather than absolute controllers.

Currently emerging at the cutting edge of cellular science is the recognition that the environment and, more specifically, our perception of the environment, powerfully controls our behaviour and some gene activity.

The sum of our instincts, traumas and learned perceptions collectively form the subconscious mind, which, in turn, is the source of the ‘collective’ voice, both negative and positive, that our cells ‘agree’ to follow.

As an analogy, we could say genes are molecular units of perception, which ‘control’ cell behaviour and, to some degree, regulate gene expression and have been implicated in the rewriting of the genetic code.This supports the concept that genes cannot actually turn themselves on or off; rather, they are under the regulatory control of environmental signals that act through epigenetic mechanisms.

If our genes are affected by our perceptions and can contribute to our emotional and physiological states, diseases and behaviours, then resolving the Nature versus Nurture controversy is profoundly important.

It is essential to define the role of parenting in human development, and the responsibility of the emotional vibration and experiences that we receive and perceive as children. This is especially so for the first six years while the subconscious is downloading extraordinary amounts of environmental information. And, of course, for the growing foetus in-utero (an area where there is current research into the effect of stress chemicals produced by an emotionally distraught mother and passed through the placental blood.)

At this point, the level of possible tension around this new field of research becomes clear. On one hand, the idea that our human condition can be so strongly manipulated by environmental influences can be very disturbing, while, on the other hand, the potential for a positive contribution to the co-creation of our wellness is enormous.

Previously, we had the notion that is one generation is suffering at least the next one will have it better. But today we must assume that if one generation is suffering hardship, violence, traumas or emotional struggles, unfortunately our genes will remember these experiences, carrying epigenetic traces to be passed on to the next generation or even further.

The good news is that once this is recognised through transgenerational healing methods, the healing can begin.

All positive experiences of healing and change will profoundly affect the consciousness of future generations and their children in a positive way, thus stopping the cycle and “turning off” the epigenetic effect in oneself and in future generations.

Transgenerational healing IOPT Identity oriented psycho trauma therapy(IOPT) is a powerful technique to access, shift and see what generational trauma exists by bringing to consciousness what has been previously experienced. This extraordinary technique developed by Professor Franz Rupert allows access to our unconscious field in order to gain information about generational, childhood and other traumas. It also allows us to encounter“our self” in inter-utero experiences epigenetically transmitted through multi-generational traumas in the family history that may have been generationally embedded or difficult to access.

It’s just the beginning of an extraordinary new level of both scientific and healing technologies.

Casey Terry

Casey Terry (BAPsych) specialises in trauma work and has integrated many modalities and 20 years' experience to create her innovative practice in Perth Western Australia www.totallyalive.com.au E: admin@totallyalive.com.au