Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Epigenetics: The transgenerational transmission of ancestral trauma, experiences, and behaviors— as seen in systemic family constellations
by Jelinek, Elizabeth Maureen, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015, 146; 3726301
Abstract (Summary)

A Systemic Family Constellation is a phenomenological systemic group process that promotes healing and transformation in individuals through the use of representatives who stand in for family members, so that entanglements with the ancestors can be revealed and brought to reconciliation. Family Constellations were created by German psychotherapist and former priest, Bert Hellinger, who spent 16 years as a missionary and educator with the Zulu peoples of South Africa. Hellinger suggests that individuals become entangled with the fate of the ancestors. This study proposes that epigenetics can explain the heritability of ancestral experiences.

This study explores the role of epigenetics in the transgenerational transmission of the effects of trauma, experiences, and behaviors of the ancestors as observed in Systemic Family Constellations. It employs a multiparadigmatic model of research and performs a systematic review of existing literature on epigenetics from the fields of biology, genetics, medicine and psychology, and demonstrates that some epigenetic changes can be inherited for as many as four generations—and possibly iv more, without any changes in the underlying DNA. A systematic review of existing literature has become a viable research method in the fields of medicine and the social sciences in recent years, and is used here to explore epigenetic changes in genomic expression that are transmitted transgenerationally. This study recommends that epigenetics be added as a scientific explanation to the existing metaphysical theories of how constellations work, that include: (a) the knowing field, (b) morphic fields and morphic resonance, and (c) indigenous ways of knowing.

Some of the examples of epigenetic inheritance presented in this study, include the epigenetic effects of major traumas, such as the bombing of the World Trade Center, the Holocaust, and the Dutch Hunger Winter, as well as the effects of mothering on the stress responses of their offspring, the effects of feast or famine in utero that can potentially result in schizophrenia, and the effects of child sex abuse on mental health in adulthood and on same sex orientation—as well as potential evolutionary changes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Peat, F. David, Combs, Allan Leslie
Commitee: Macy, D. Beth
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Transformative Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 77/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychobiology, Genetics, Environmental Health
Keywords: Behavioral epigenetics, Epigenetics, Epigenetics of same sex orientation, Systemic family constellations, Transgenerational transmission of trauma
Publication Number: 3726301
ISBN: 978-1-339-10973-2
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