All tagged Epigenetics

Writing to Heal Our Ancestors

I was reading Writing Begins with the Breath by Laraine Herring last month, when a particular section stopped me cold. Chapter 11, to be specific: "Ancestors as Source."

"When I was just beginning my teaching career, I attended a reading given by Joyce Carol Oates. In talking about her writing process, she mentioned the idea of writing to heal one's ancestors. I hadn't thought about writing for that purpose before, but once I heard the phrase, it was obvious to me how true it was. Writing is a way we can rewrite our stories. A way to understand the chaos of our lives and worlds."

Its truth immediately became obvious to me, too. My memoir isn't just about my family's history; it's my vehicle for making sense of their past. And if I can't offer my ancestors healing, I hope to at least learn from their past, and prevent the suffering they experienced--the mental illness, the sex abuse--from rippling through future generations. 

For writers on similar paths, Herring offers several questions: 

Are They Fears, or Memories Passed Down by Ancestors?

When you grow up with anxiety disorder, you spend a lot of time searching for something to blame. Nature or nurture? A mental illness inherited from family or the result of societal pressures? Cowardice or some other character flaw?

In any case, I found myself fascinated by new research from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, which suggests that phobias may in fact be memories of trauma passed down from our ancestors.