I’ve recently become fascinated with the study of epigenetics, a theory that refers to how changes in chromosomes can affect active and inactive gene expression but does not change the underlying DNA sequence. Or to put it simply, there are inherited traits which become embedded in our genes and then are brought out by varying triggers throughout our lifetime. And studies show that these traits can be passed down through as many as seventeen generations.
Epigenetics goes further than the “nature vs nurture” debate because there is no controlling factor which would bring out the signs of trauma. In many cases people can go entire lifetimes without experiencing their inherited traumas but sometimes the scale tips and people revert to behaviors which seem uncharacteristic but make sense in the larger picture of their family’s history.
For example, my extended family has lived in the same village in Kenya for decades and for the most part everyone has married within the tribe or one in close proximity to ours. But regardless of all these controlling factors there is still so much history that has not been shared as a result of a lack in education, written documents, and the natural failings of the human mind as decades pass.
And since Kenya has been independent for only fifty some years then it is not unreasonable to assume that there is an entire world experience which was destroyed by colonization and will forever remain a mystery.
While I think about epigenetics and the role it has certainly played in the lives of my family then I am convinced that there is a correlation between our history and the trauma that is passed down from generation to generation. I am convinced that while me and my siblings were raised by the same parents that does not mean we will have anything in common. And each of us has taken different journeys, made different decisions, and met different people. So it would only stand to reason that we would be so vastly different.
It’s easy to want to blame them, or my parents, or our ancestors but then I am taking away from my own future. I am living in a past that is marred by pain, suffering, and loss. I am shouldering the weight of deceit, manipulation, and gut-wrenching lies.
I will always leave my door open for my family but not when they expect to use me as the doormat before they come crashing into my life.