We know we inherit Emotional DNA in addition to our Physical DNA. This influences our personal and professional life’s profoundly.

Epigenetics and Systems Dynamics / Family Constellations – how do we tie this together?


We are the product of millions of years of evolution. Only just over a century ago did we begin to understand that humans, like all other species, passed on physical information, similarities and repetitions to subsequent generations through genes. What we know as DNA did not fully come together until after 1950. It would take close to 50 additional years of scientific research for a complete mapping of the human genome to be achieved. In the intervening years, our understanding of the ever-present role and influence of our DNA had grown exponentially.

That we inherit biological traits such as the color of our eyes, our height, and even predisposition to illnesses is a concept we take for granted nowadays. Scientists, media and the population are elated by the success in controlling and modifying our genetics to enhance or overcome its shortcomings. However, with few actual approved therapies only starting to reach the market in the last couple of years, it’s fair to say that as much as we have learned and discovered, far more remains to be researched and discovered.

In studying gene activity and how it changes, scientists observed that there are heritable changes that do not necessarily require a traditional mutation. The chemical change does not change the structure of the DNA, but does affect how cells read it. Epigenetics focuses on the study of such changes, which can occur naturally and regularly, (or unconsciously) but can also be influenced by age, environment, lifestyle, etc.

Leading research at the University of Zurich1 shows that traumatic experiences may be inherited through epigenetic changes, resulting in offspring with symptoms associated with the trauma experienced by the genitors, even though the offspring themselves were not directly exposed to it.

These symptoms ranged from depressive behaviors to disrupted metabolism. In essence, the research revealed that animals can create a molecular memory2 that can be passed on to subsequent generations, affecting their lives similarly. The chemical changes that are present on the genitor’s DNA can also be identified in the offspring. Further research, at the same University revealed that these changes could be epigenetically ‘reversed’ by the offspring3, freeing them from the expected symptoms, and halting further propagation in subsequent generations.

Systems Dynamics

In parallel to this research and the evolution of Epigenetics, Bert Hellinger’s work with Family Constellations (also known as Systems Dynamics) began to surface. With the knowledge that humans belong to family systems, and many other systems and share a conscience, he too began observing the shared ‘fates’ and patterns being handed down from generation to generation. He noted that patterns were being created and repeated throughout generations of family systems, influencing its members lives unconsciously and covertly. Over time details of the events and triggers become lost but the symptoms increase until they are addressed and a change in direction occurs. However unless people know where to look for such an approach most are burdened with the effects, unaware of the powerful catalysts and patterns and unsure of what to do to overcome apparent limitations or fates.

Much like Family Constellations’ systemic conscience, Epigenetics’ molecular multigenerational memory provides a plausible, and increasingly studied and documented, explanation for family and organizational dynamics that are repeated throughout generations. Many scientific journals and institutions are aware of the transmission of trauma from holocaust victims and survivors to their offspring. This is well studied.

The game changer rests in human potential. If this memory can perpetuate the effects of the information associated with negative events, is it too much of a stretch to postulate that it can do so for positive ones? Already systemic work and constellations is beginning to explore this potential. Looking at neural pathways and how they are laid down when a trauma occurs, what might we do when a victory occurs if we explore it mindfully? Might we consciously begin to lay down strong and positive patterns that we can pass on to subsequent generations? Currently we focus more often on why things aren’t working. What might start happening if we use our emotional inheritance as a springboard for exploring how to break the limiting patterns and then mindfully pass on what does work?

In the case of scientific experiments, where the original source of the trauma was well known, scientists were able to provide controlled conditions aimed at mitigating and countering the events experienced by the genitors, resulting in the reversal of the changes. Family Constellations provides the theoretical basis and practical applications to understand and work with the systemic conscience. Done well, the effects are noticeable and lasting. A platform for new neural pathways, new thoughts and actions and outcomes is provided. In essence, participants learn to create a new set of patterns and outcomes.

Individuals can gain the necessary knowledge that allows them to consciously frame cross-generational patterns at play in their lives, and create the necessary cognitive and kinesthetic realignments that pave the way for desired changes. While the focus of most Family Constellations literature focuses on the identification and remediation of trauma and, in parallel to the epigenetics experiments, cessation of the transmission to their offspring, the process is powerfully able to serve as a vehicle for identifying positive patterns and insuring their propagation to subsequent generations.

Curious? Interested? Take Action


  1. Epigenetic Inheritance of Disease and Disease Risk external link
  2. The Epigenome Learns From Its Experiences external link
  3. Potential of Environmental Enrichment to Prevent Transgenerational Effects of Paternal Trauma external link

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