Bound Together: How Psychoanalysis Diminishes Inter-generational DNA Trauma

Abstract

The concept of intergenerational transmission of trauma plays a fundamental role in psychoanalysis. While it is known that intergenerational trauma can be transmitted through attachment relationships, a new branch of genetics (epigenetics) has emerged to study the interaction between human behavior and changes in DNA expression. Therefore, psychoanalysis, which has proven to reduce the intergenerational transmission of trauma from a behavioral perspective, can play a positive role in regulating DNA changes caused by environmental stress. The present paper focuses on recent research suggesting a direct correlation between psychological trauma and DNA modifications. In particular, DNA changes caused by psychological trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation, validating the psychoanalytic concept of intergenerational transmission of trauma. This evidence not only supports the essential role psychoanalysis has in influencing human behavior, but also suggests that it affects not only the individuals who undergo it but their offspring, as well, via the epigenetic passage of DNA.

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Correspondence to Roberto Colangeli.

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Roberto Colangeli, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rutgers University Medical School, Newark, New Jersey. He holds doctorates in microbiology and infectious diseases, and is a graduate of the psychoanalytic program at the Manhattan Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Address correspondence to Roberto Colangeli, Ph. D., Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis, 245 E 13 Street, New York, NY 10003, USA; e-mail: rcolan1965@aol.com.

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Colangeli, R. Bound Together: How Psychoanalysis Diminishes Inter-generational DNA Trauma. Am J Psychoanal 80, 196–218 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-020-09247-x

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Keywords

  • psychoanalysis
  • trauma
  • intergenerational transmission of trauma
  • epigenetics
  • DNA
  • brain research