By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
Today I would like to tell you a little story about a family of mice. It isn't a pretty story, but I promise that it will be meaningful in your own life, or in the lives of people you know.
Once upon a time, there was a group of male mice living in a science laboratory that were exposed to a beautiful aroma.
It was a pleasing aroma, a smell like a combination of cherries and almonds, that made your eyes dreamy, your body happy and your brain swoon. Then the mice, under the influence of this beautiful aroma, were traumatized with electric shocks.
These mice eventually reproduced to birth the next generation of mice. And, as it happens, this second generation of mice birthed a third generation, which I’ll call the “grandchildren mice.”
Now these grandchildren mice were living happily in the laboratory, without a care in the world, when the scientist allowed them to sniff that lovely aroma of a scent like cherries and almonds.
And guess what happened?
Rather than feeling the pleasant swoon from the pleasant fragrance, the grandchildren mice suddenly became very anxious.
It appeared that the experience of the aroma became paired with the trauma and had imprinted this new generation of mice – although these did not have the experience themselves.
Take that in for a moment.
A past experience of trauma haunted the current generation, even though the current generation did not experience the trauma directly. With this information, we change way that we think about suffering and misery.
What if the problems that we have are not our own? What if they have been passed down from a previous generation?
This knowledge has brought me to the practice of Family and Systemic Constellations, a newly emerging healing and change process, which has radically altered the way that I work these days. It is the only tool for investigating and healing inter-generational suffering that I have found, and I've blended Family Constellations with psychodrama, mindfulness and other energy practices.
I wrote an article about how a woman’s unexplained panic about escalators was rooted in her paternal grandfather’s life here.
My friend and colleague Michael Reddy tells how his chronically painful foot was traced to a severe injury of his father’s foot during combat in World War II in his book Health, Happiness and Family Constellations: How Ancestors, Family Systems, and Hidden Loyalties Shape Your Life--And What YOU Can Do About It. If you want the brief version, you can read my article here.
Family Constellations is also proving to be helpful as an innovative treatment for addictions. My article on this topic is here.
Sit with me and I'll tell you a few more dozen stories of amazing shifts that people have experienced with this new process.
Also, for the science geeks
You can read the in-depth details about the actual mice story here, which was published in Nature magazine in 2013.
And the video that ties this information together
Mark Wolynn, one of country’s leading trainers about the healing of inherited trauma, tells how his severe vision loss was healed after he healed his broken bonds in his family in his new book It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle. Watch and listen here as he tells his story:
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Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.