Have you ever felt that you’re carrying pain that’s not your own?
The burgeoning field of epigenetics reveals: “Traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA….The genome has long been known as the blueprint of life, but the epigenome is life’s Etch A Sketch: Shake it hard enough, and you can wipe clean the family curse.”
Unhealed familial and social violence lives inside our bodies, handed down generation to generation, until acknowledgement and forgiveness wipes us clean.
We can heal these traumas for ourselves, our ancestors, our descendants, our world.
Carrying these burdens in our genetic structure can feel like walking through water, being held back by thick, invisible obstacles.
One day, in the 1930s, my great-grandfather came out of his bedroom and asked his son to give him some money. My great-uncle, a young man I imagine was just starting to speak up about his family’s pain, said, “No, I won’t give you money. You’ll just spend it on alcohol.”
My great-grandfather—in a rush of rage and shame—went into his bedroom, grabbed his shotgun, returned to the living room, and shot and killed his son.
This happened long before I was born, even before my dad was born, and yet we both epigenetically carried this horrific violence. Members of every subsequent generation in my family have struggled with intertwined poverty and addiction—a knot that simultaneously held us together and tore us apart.
It wasn’t until I began participating in constellations that I even realized these long-past events were impacting me.
Each time I served as a constellation representative—as a stern (traumatized) father, a grandmother separated from her daughter during the Holocaust, the Japanese maternal lineage, someone’s forsaken self, the essence of understanding, even racism—I learned something radical and essential about those qualities or human experiences, and my capacity for compassion expanded.
Last September, I was the seeker in a constellation for my family around that act of violence in the 1930s. It was powerful—for all my family, past, present, and future—to have this tragic violent event witnessed with compassionate eyes and forgiving hearts. At the end, the representatives of my family members began to migrate behind me, to literally “have my back.”
The young woman representing my great-grandfather—so vilified during his life for his tragic act of violence—did not move, but said, “I want to stand behind you, too, but I don’t know if you want me there, and I don’t want to be disrespectful.”
“I want you behind me,” I told him, “Please, support me.”
And so the constellation concluded with my entire paternal family, three generations back, standing behind me. I felt so strong and supported, particularly in my life path of living and teaching nonviolence. I felt their relief at finally being welcomed to support me as their way to contribute to that path.
With this work, we can begin to heal direct and indirect traumas, handed to us by earlier generations of our family, our tribe, our nation, our motherlands.
We can shift live conflicts with family, friends, colleagues, community members—living or deceased, whether or not they participate.
We can bring recognition and relief to entrenched social patterns of violence and oppression, as a way to move toward equality and justice.
Contact me and we can begin healing your own epigenetic trauma, lifting the unhealed burdens of the ancestors off of your body and heart.
With love and empathy,
P.P.S. What Are Family/Systems Constellations? From my mentor and colleague, Sarah Peyton, who combines constellations, empathy, and Interpersonal Neurobiology: “Constellations give us a way to harvest the body’s wisdom. Through constellation work we can unwind and unravel the frozen strands of trauma from our essential beings, so that we can flourish, live, and contribute our gifts with ease….The seeker brings a question or something that they would love to experience differently in their life. The seeker chooses people from the circle to represent different parts of their family or their life. These people speak about their physical experience of standing or moving in this constellation. Sometimes healing sentences of acknowledgment are spoken….We have the opportunity to recognize and resolve pain that has resulted from trauma at the individual, family and social levels.”