I have often heard people say, “I can’t do anything about this because it is in my DNA—my so-and-so had it”. I acknowledge that our DNA and heritage deeply affect every aspect of our wellness. It is extremely important to research and understand our roots and to become familiar with the wellness challenges our parents and other ancestors struggled with. However, I refuse to believe there is nothing we can do about it.
Since it is summer, many of us will have more freedom to travel and spend time with family members. I had the great privilege—and fun—of spending several days with two of my granddaughters in the past couple of weeks. They asked a lot of very good, and sometimes difficult, questions about where they came from and what happened in their family tree. I tried to answer honestly and realized how challenging that can be. I understand a little better why learning about our families is so important and why it can be difficult.
The Aspects of Our Heritage
Today let’s take a look at these three aspects of our heritage.
How do our DNA and heritage affect us?
There is a reason why physical and mental health professionals begin their client interactions with questions about family. That is because it is critical information about what you may be experiencing or what you may struggle with in the future. What does your heritage give you physically, emotionally, and mentally? Are there connections between the challenges your parents/grandparents have experienced and the challenges you face? My teacher, Yamuna, is the creator of a marvelous body of work for foot fitness and foot care. However she struggles with hammer toes, passed down in her DNA.
Let me introduce an analogy. I often compare our bodies to used cars. I stress the importance of learning about your particular car’s difficulties and how to do their preventative maintenance. We know that cars built in the same factory, with the same fabrication imprint, may have the same problems and need to be recalled for certain repairs. I believe the same holds true for our well being. The “factory” in which we were “made” has a profound influence on our weaknesses and need for future repairs. Therefore, prevention is always easier than rehabilitation. We can prevent possible break downs merely by being aware of what needs to be given special attention.
How do we find out more about our family history?
Ask questions. A lot of them, to a lot of different people.
“Skeletons in the closet” is an incredibly accurate description for many family struggles and difficulties. I have pondered why this is. Was it the social pressure to “uphold the family name?” Was it the “Leave it to Beaver” mentality of the 50s? Is it just plain old pride? Whatever the cause, finding the truth about the problems in a family could take some deep detective work—especially if they are mental in nature. And we have to acknowledge that mental difficulties affect physical well-being in a very big way. There also may be diseases that were not socially acceptable so were not acknowledged to be what they were. Whatever the difficulty, I believe it is worth the time and effort to unearth whatever we can find out about those family skeletons in the closet.
The more people you can talk to in this endeavor, the better. Everybody has their own perspective of the situation, and it may take several different perspectives to piece together some semblance of what really happened. It can also be helpful to get information from outside observers who were not as close to the situation as family members may have been. Are there public or medical records available? With HIPPA it may be impossible to access some of these records, but it might be worth a try. Maybe there is someone still alive who could access them. Also, do not ignore the printed word. There may be newspaper articles and other printed information. Are there journals your relatives kept? If you enjoy a good treasure hunt, unearthing information on your heritage can be a thrilling adventure!
How do we facilitate healing and growth?
I always say that knowledge is power. How can this knowledge we dig up on our family help us pursue our own health and well being? Is there anything we can do about the package we have been given? I have to believe that the answer to this in most cases is a resounding, “Yes!”
Earlier I mentioned my teacher struggling with hammer toes, yet this problem does not define her. She created a way to help herself and thousands of others who may struggle with foot problems to overcome and work through these difficulties. We are learning more and more every day about the body and its inherent capacities for healing and growth. There are also some amazingly talented and creative people now developing methods of prevention and healing for the body, mind, and spirit. An easy search online connects us to these people and their creations.
When we know what we are battling by doing our family research, then we have a much better idea of what sort of solution we are looking for. “Shopping around” is probably more important in this area than in any other as some modalities and teachers work well with some problems and not with others. Most have experience with a specific difficulty. Finding meaningful help is critical. We can do a great deal with self care. Although, we cannot do everything.
I was made humbly and painfully aware of this recently. I have struggled for decades with the right side of my body. The biggest motivator in my search for relief was pain in my right foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, and neck. Over many years, I believe I have pinpointed the origin of the difficulty. I believe it is the scar tissue where my psoas muscle, diaphragm, and spine come together, deep inside my body. I asked my teacher how I can get to that area, and she said, “You probably can’t”. That was a blow—especially since I am such an advocate of self healing. I found a wonderful massage therapist and have begun working with him and making progress I simply could not have made on my own.
First of all, we need to figure out what help we need. Second, we need to find out if there is anything we can do ourselves. And third, we need to find professionals to help us do what we cannot. That is how we can work with the package our DNA and heritage presented to us.
One final word about this family package we have been given. Gratitude is a critical component of our healing. As we research and learn about what is coming at us from our roots, it is good to stop and let whatever feelings of gratitude may come. Certainly there may be things we wish were not part of the tree. However, it is important to find gratitude for some part of what we have been given. It is a helpful tool for our own growth and healing. I like to think that the effort we put into healing ourselves and the tree will produce healthier and happier branches.
What things have you struggled with from your own family tree? How did you learn about the roots of a problem that came from your heritage? What information or teachers have you found to help in your prevention and/or healing journey? How has the exercise of gratitude helped you in this journey? What benefits are you seeing for the next generation? I believe cleaning up and healing the generations can be an incredible struggle, but the struggle gives us strength, insight, knowledge, power, and compassion—for our ancestors, our progeny, and perhaps most importantly for ourselves.