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Epigenetics: The Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma--As Seen in Constellations



Abstract This study explores epigenetics as a factor in the transgenerational heritability of environmental stressors or traumas experienced by the ancestors and observed in the form of disease, pathology, unhappiness, or other mal-adaptive behaviors, in Systemic Family Constellations. It employs a multiparadigmatic model of research and performs a meta-analysis of extant literature on epigenetics from biology, genetics, medicine and psychology. It explores epigenetic changes in genome expression that are transmitted transgenerationally and proposes that epigenetics may be a factor to explain how environmental stressors or traumas experienced by the ancestors are transferred to individuals in the present and observed in Systemic Family Constellations. It presents the extant theories that explain “how constellations work” and introduces epigenetics as an additional biologic, scientific explanation. A narrative history of Bert Hellinger includes his tenure as a missionary and educator with the Zulus of South Africa, and demonstrates how Hellinger’s personal history and his immersion in Zulu culture led to the creation of Family Constellations. It explores Hellinger’s studies of the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the systems approaches to therapy, family therapies, and brief therapy, neurolinguistic programming, transactional analysis and life scripts, transgenerational therapy, and psychodrama, and ties all of these to Hellinger’s experience with the ancestor reverence shown by the Zulus of South Africa that culminated in Hellinger’s creation of Systemic Family Constellations. Key words: Bert Hellinger, Zulus, phenomenology, Husserl, systems therapies, family therapy, brief therapy, Systemic Family Constellations, Knowing Field, indigenous knowing, Sheldrake, morphic field, morphic resonance, epigenetics, DNA, genetics, genome, biology, transgenerational, heritability, transmission, trauma
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