For those of us who have experienced trauma, we know that the effects are far reaching and enduring. The way we think, how we manage stress, our reactions are all altered by being a survivor of trauma.

For emotional abuse survivors and codependents, often we experience multiple traumas through various sources over the course of the abusive relationship. This can include single incidents of actual physical violence, or threats to ourselves via violent displays of anger (eg. throwing things). It can also include the trauma of prolonged stress due to the verbal abuse and the unpredictability of an abuser or addict.(1)

What is especially fascinating, and unsurprising to survivors, is that trauma can actually alter your genes. This alteration can be passed down from parent to child. (2) I have termed this Echoing Trauma. My understanding of Echoing Trauma thus far has been behavioral- we behave differently as parents who are managing unresolved trauma. This causes us to traumatize our children, both through our own behaviors (anger, alcoholism etc.) and vicariously (recounting stories of trauma). This research however indicates that trauma symptoms are visible in offspring mice simply based on genetic factors passed from the traumatized father. (2)

The truly important result of this research is this:

We show that the negative consequences of this which are depressive behaviors, cognitive problems, antisocial behaviors, risk-taking … can be reversed if the father after being traumatized was exposed to a positive environment. (2)

This highlights why healing from our trauma is so incredibly important. It not only changes our own genetic disposition towards traumatic symptoms, but it also changes that disposition for our children. Echoing trauma is one of the biggest problems I see with respect to emotional abuse. Very often the emotional abuser suffered a severe trauma themselves, a trauma they failed to heal. This ultimately results in trauma of the next generation, both behaviorally and genetically. We can stop this cycle. We can end the echo of trauma with ourselves.

 

  • (1) https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm
  • (2) https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/traces-of-genetic-trauma-can-be-tweaked/

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