Can trauma be borrowed from apocalyptic times?

Scientists say that the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic will be carried across generations through the memory stored in DNA. 

Published: 02nd May 2020 09:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd May 2020 09:22 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Scientists say that the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic will be carried across generations through the memory stored in DNA. Dr Gaurav Deka, trauma resolution expert and regression therapist, talks about the danger, healing methods, and more

The world has been wounded several times through pandemics, wars, and natural calamities. But each time the trauma is supposedly healed, it leaves behind its residue in human cells which carry it across generations searching for a resolution, a closure. A post-Covid-19 world will be an apocalyptic mess finding the trauma-pattern replaying itself again and again across history. In such a scenario, a deep-level of healing is required to dissolve the terror of ghastly times, Dr Gaurav Deka, trauma resolution expert and regression therapist talks about the interesting healing methods of family constellation, the need to address the pain transferred from ancestors and more. Excerpts:

In one of your online talks you said that the Covid-19 pandemic can turn into a trans-generational trauma. How?
Somehow trauma has the ability to repeat and re-enact itself across time and space. Whatever fear, anxiety, panic, depression, isolation we are going through will find a way to repeat itself and people from subsequent generations will experience it in ‘some form.’ The consequences and forms can be myriad and varied. The logical mind cannot grasp the various permutations and combinations — in what ways and in how many forms it will happen. 

There is a field of science called Epigenetics, which reveals how it is actually the environment that affects your gene expression. It is not only the plain DNA sequence of genes that is responsible for what we inherit from our parents, our grandparents, and ancestors but the environment, too. For example, it is a biological truth that a woman already carries all the eggs/ova that she’ll bear in her ovaries during her adult life (from where her child will be born), from the time she is in her mother’s womb.

So if her mother is going through a traumatic episode of losing her husband in a war or a pandemic, the eggs will be imprinted with an epigenetic marker — in connection to that trauma and will be expressed later in the life of the child. Rachel Yehuda, a noted psychiatrist of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, while working with the children of the survivors of the holocaust, found that they had lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone) subjecting them to relive the PTSD symptoms of the previous generation.

Why does trauma/pain choose to become memories stored deep within human cells?

Through brain imaging techniques we know that during trauma the speech centre shuts down, as well as the part of the brain responsible for keeping us in the present moment. The brain disconnects to survive. And it is in that moment of shock since the brain cannot process the episode (or experience), all the fragmented parts — images, sound, movement, colour, every single detail — is rerouted to the body to be preserved. So that it can warn the individual if at any moment a similar traumatic experience comes up. The body stores all the memory in a time-energy capsule because for the body the entire experience is still being processed and is not over yet. In this regard, Mark Wolynn’s book ‘It Didn’t Start With You’ explains much.

If the DNA carries imprints of past trauma(s) into future generations as memory, how can the same be resolved especially when the pandemic is over?
It was Carl Jung who first said: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” There are many ways to bring unresolved traumatic experiences of our ancestors and parents to the conscious level. Family Constellation is one of the therapeutic techniques used to make people aware of the traumas that they have carried in their inter-generational line.

Another way is that I help people make ‘trauma-grams’ — genograms of family and locating where the trauma is. After that, they are allowed to go through meditative processes to make peace with what happened to their ancestors. Even when metaphorically people are able to leave the burden they have carried on behalf of their ancestors, it brings a great amount of peace to them. Whatever technique one may use, one must strive to bring the unresolved unconscious into the light.

People must tell their subsequent generations and children the stories of their survival, their strength, pride, of how they found a new world, a new way of living, a life that they didn’t imagine was possible and proved to be a boon in disguise. This way the children learn that all was not spent in vain. They look back and realise that they carry a lot of strength from their ancestors. They can now have a transformed internal picture instead of carrying an unconscious sketch of trauma. It changes everything.

Can the healing of major trauma events like pandemic/war, which affect millions, be treated/resolved on a collective basis?

Yes, it can be resolved to ‘an extent’ if not fully through the methodology of Family Constellation — a method developed by German Psychoanalyst Bert Hellinger to resolve trans-generational trauma — which happens to be my main area of research and practice.

You are a trained medical doctor, what brought you to this field?
I myself went through a long spell of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks while I was studying in medical college. I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I didn’t know if there was any other solution apart from the medicines that my psychiatrist prescribed me. After a long time, my search led me to the field of systemic therapy and transpersonal sciences. I knew by then that I had found my calling.

Why do you think there’s not much awareness about this holistic approach of healing? How can the gap be bridged?
We’ve always had this concept of carrying the ‘burdens of ancestors’ in eastern philosophy, but until recently researches carried out in the field of ‘Inherited Family Trauma’, people couldn’t accept it in a therapeutic set-up. We have always been taught to treat problems at an individual level but not at a systemic one. This work is new — it teaches us to look at problems as portals to a larger system (family, region, culture, country). The gap can, of course, be met by building more conversations around it. I try to use Facebook and Instagram as a way of reaching out to people and educating them more on this. We can bring everything to light through the right engagements and conversations.

 saima@newindianexpress  @Sfreen


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