I have a very close friend (we will call her Samantha) who has had an irrational fear of being poisoned ever since we were children. Every time we went to dinner together, she would sit in the car for half an hour afterwards and fret over whether she’d been poisoned or not. Not only would she be mentally worrying, but she would begin to physically get sick. She would begin to get nauseas, sweat profusely, and shake.
I would always have to talk her down and explain that a random cook at a restaurant would have no reason to poison her. It drove me nuts, to be quite honest, and sometimes I wanted to give her a good punch in the arm and say, “What is WRONG WITH YOU?” Her fear of being poisoned didn’t just come from restaurants, though. Samantha didn’t like to let people cook for her. She didn’t like for other people to fix her plate. She wouldn’t leave her food and return to it later. It was a bizarre fear, but a fear that was very real to her for some reason.
Samantha and I were recently talking on the phone and she dropped a bombshell on me (which had just recently been dropped on her). Her great grandmother, who we will refer to as Angela, had been murdered. More specifically, Angela had been poisoned. It’s a strange story, to be honest, and I made Samantha repeat it more than once because it was just so unbelievable and so horrible.
Samantha’s grandmother, Denise, had recently passed on. Angela had been Denise’s mother. So, we have Angela (great grandmother), Denise (grandmother) and Samantha (granddaughter). It’s a lot of names to follow, but please bear with me.
Samantha explained that throughout her life, Denise also had a fear of poisoning, but there was never an explanation given. Upon her death, Samantha inherited several of Denise’s personal items, including journals dating all the way back to her childhood. These journals documented a crime so horrendous that Denise literally never spoke of it out loud.
The journals spelled out a real life crime novel. You see, Denise had witnessed the murder of her own mother. More specifically, Denise had witnessed her father hold down Angela and pour rat poisoning down her throat. Angela had been laying on the kitchen floor with her husband pinning down her legs and forcing her jaw open as he emptied the rat poison, made mostly of arsenic, into her mouth.
Denise and her younger sisters witnessed the entire ordeal from the other side of the room, huddle in a corner. Angela’s death was ruled an accident…or more specifically, a fatal seizure. Angela did shake, foam at the mouth, and suffer from seizure like symptoms after being poisoned. Denise and her sisters were afraid that if they ever spoke of what really happened to Angela, they would also be murdered.
I wish the journals ended there. Angela’s husband remarried only a few short weeks later. The woman he married was a widow. Coincidentally, her husband had also died from a fatal seizure around the same time frame as Angela. Angela’s name was never mentioned in the house again, and Denise and her siblings moved out as soon as they were in their teens and able to find other family members that would take them in.
Denise spent the rest of her life with a fear of her being poisoned, specifically by her father and step-father, and even potentially a spouse. She kept her fears to herself, and poured them into the journal. The story was never brought to light within the family until Denise’s death and the distribution of the contents in her will. Samantha was left with a box of journals and a sudden realization that maybe her fear of being poisoned had something to do with her family’s murderous past.
Samantha’s mind was blown. My mind was blown. It was like an eruption of brain matter inside of our skulls. How were we even supposed to piece together this information? We started to throw around some theories about how this related to her own fear of being poisoned. We tossed around reincarnation, the idea that maybe Denise had let the story slip without realizing it and as a young child Samantha had overheard it, and finally we discussed a relatively new idea: the transference of trauma through a person’s DNA, from generation to generation.
Epigenetic inheritance is a big word, but to break it down it means trauma effects your genes/DNA, and that these changes can be passed down from generation to generation. It’s almost as if our DNA has a memory, and when replicated, it maintains a part of that original memory as it is passed down the blood line.
Now I don’t know about you, but this is one theory that really astounds me. Honestly, when researching it, I feel like Michael Kelso eating a Popsicle and trying to understand a deeper meaning of life.
Epigenetic inheritance has recently been researched in the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. A study conducted by a research team at Mt. Sinai hospital examined over thirty Jewish men and women who had experienced the Holocaust, been interred at a camp, or had to hide from the Nazis during World War II. The children of these survivors were also examined. The findings were remarkable.
The likelihood of stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders were significantly higher in children whose Jewish parents survived the Holocaust versus children whose Jewish parents lived outside of Europe during World War II.
Epigenetic inheritance is not just limited to Holocaust survivors, either. It can hold true of any traumatic event in a person’s life that significantly impacts the way that they view and cope with the world. It’s honestly evolution at it’s finest.
While you tell yourself that the whole idea is hard to believe, ask yourself about families who have passed alcoholism down through each generation. Some may say it’s environment. But there is evidence that alcohol can effect the DNA of the father and that the “thirst” or “hunger” for alcohol may be passed down to children (males are especially susceptible) in their very genetic makeup. This gives a whole new meaning to alcoholism as a disease.
One study has found that trauma can literally scar the molecules in our DNA. Read that sentence again: LITERALLY SCAR. What kind of magic is this that scientists now speak of? It’s mind-blowing. While I’m putting a lot of credence into the epigenetic inheritance theory, I’m not ruling out that Denise was so affected by watching the murder of her own mother (by her father) that it caused serious psychological trauma and manifested in the ways she chose to raise her own children.
However, there’s something to be said of the fact that Samantha has feared poisoning for almost the entirety of her life. Were her genetics altered? In some evolutionary miracle, did her grandmother pass fear of poisoning down to her to help Samantha survive?
It’s not that crazy an idea when you consider that most things that are poison to us are bitter, and therefore not something we want to eat. Maybe, just maybe, Samantha was given the fear of being poisoned by someone she loved and trusted so that Samantha would be a little more aware than Angela had.
I know this seems like some kind of strange sci-fi story. Maybe in about ten years, a new explanation will rear its head. Or maybe epigenetic inheritance will be in our own children’s textbooks at school. Maybe those memories of past lives are memories that have tacked themselves on (or scarred) our DNA for reasons unknown to us, but known to our ancestors.
Strange, but entirely possible.