DO GENES DETERMINE OUR ILLNESSES?
To this day, no one has found any single or a group of genes that determines any mental health condition. The fact is that genes are turned on and off by the environment, that’s what epigenetics is all about.
The question is what kind of environment is acting upon those genes to express themselves? This again comes back to the social context, our relationships with our parents, beginning in utero where the emotional state of the mother will already have an impact on the brain and physiology of the child, the birthing process, the childhood environment, all of these represent the conditions in which we develop healthy ways or we don’t.
The mind-body connection and our emotional lives play a crucial part in gene expressions and are one of the most important contributing factors in the causation of illness. It’s very important to address this not only because this is the important factor, but because it’s the factor we can change, just like we change our diet when needed.
What is the essential psychological factor that contributes to the onset of illness? Explained, it is a separation from ourselves, a disconnection from ourselves caused by the trauma. Because the impact of trauma is to disconnect us from ourselves. If conditions are such that a child is not been helped, the child is alone with the pain and suffering, it’s unbearable, so the child disconnects from the body, from the emotions, and that disconnection is the essence of trauma. That disconnection then has physiological and mental consequences.
Our brain develops under the interaction of the emotional environment. A Harvard paper that came out in 2012 points out that the human brain develops as a complex process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood, and the most significant factor in shaping the development of the brain is the quality of the adult-child relationship, particularly in the early years. In other words, the biology of the brain itself is significantly determined by the emotional environment acting on the genes.
How do you know if you are disconnected from yourself? Here’s a simple example that Dr. Gabor Mate often demonstrates with his audience. Have you ever had a feeling about something, you ignored it and felt sorry afterward? If yes, you’ve just proven that you are to some level, disconnected from your bodies, your feelings, and your authentic selves. You see, a baby when it’s born, is very connected with their bodies and its emotions. They express it very clearly and loudly when they have it. Rage, anger, joy, playfulness, grief, fear, all these are emotional circuits in our brain that need to be valued, seen, and expressed. They are to be accepted, supported, and channeled in a healthy way by adults. When they are not, as a result of it, we lose the connection to ourselves, we become less authentic, and we start behaving in ways that are not determined by our own needs, by our own inner sense of selves but by the expectations of the world.
Loss of authenticity is a significant cause of illness, distress, emotional and physical.
However, there’s also a part of us that can never be destroyed, and that’s the capacity for healing and for connecting all our disconnected parts.
Trauma, as much damaging as it can be, can also be healed. Because the trauma is not what happened to you, but what happened inside you as a result of what happened and that can be healed.