How the past affects our health
Cells have memories. This is why vaccines work because memory is imprinted on the cell of a disease so that the next exposure is thwarted quickly.
If this is the case how could past events not also be remembered?
We are a whole being and the brain is made up of cells too.
So what does this mean for our health?
It means we need to support our mental health as well as our physical health. It means we need to be aware of our actions because most of what we do is a repeat of the past.
Trauma in the past can affect us today especially if it occurred as a child. I will be using the effects of domestic violence to illustrate how the past can affect our health.
I have spoken to many people who have had bad relationships in the past.
They sabotage new relationships because of the expectation that they will fail. “I always attract the wrong ones”, I hear them say or “all they do is take from me”.
How will they ever meet someone who will treat them well with these expectations?
They unconsciously repeat patterns that are imprinted. It takes conscious action to change those beliefs. The next partner they meet has never hurt them so they need to consciously put aside those fears and allow the possibility of love to enter their lives or be doomed to repeat the same patterns over and over or give up.
According to a paper, “The Impact of Intimate Male Partner Violence on Women’s Sexual Function” by Safieh Jamali and Shohreh Javadpour, victims of domestic violence are more likely to have depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, they have physical problems such as infertility, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and stillbirths.
(1) Survivors of domestic violence are statistically more likely to indulge in sexually risky behaviour, work as prostitutes and be unable to have a fulfilling sexual life.
Years ago I treated a young woman who as a child was an incest victim. When she became a mother of a son she was unable to raise him because he would, in her eyes, grow up to be an abuser. The past had affected her ability to bond with her child and her health. Her sister, who was also a victim, became morbidly obese so as to be unattractive to men. Children of domestic violence are also affected.
The U.S. Office of Women’s Health lists the short and long-term effects on children. Male offspring are 10 times more likely to become abusers and female offspring are more than 6 times more likely to be sexually abused.
(2) I once met the 18month old child of a domestic violence survivor. He curled into a ball at the sight of a man. That child has since been diagnosed with autism and ADHD. The trauma has impacted his health from a very young age.
This impact may be ameliorated over time by the influence of a loving and supportive mother and extended family.
Back to immunity and vaccines, when the body is exposed to an infection, like chicken pox, the cells involved in immunity create a protein to allow it to attach to the source of infection and destroy it. Once the body is well, the memory of that disease stays and is handed down to prevent re-infection.
Some vaccines use dead or weak versions of the disease to invoke that response.
(3) The body is then prepared to respond quickly if re-infected in the future. Therefore this is an example of how the past affects our future health in a positive way.
The past does not have to have a negative influence on our health.
Creating healthy habits in our children can assist them in adulthood.
Listening to their daily exploits encourages openness and assures them that what they have to say is important.
Allowing them appropriate choices can build independence and self-belief.
Playing sports is not only good for their health but encourages teamwork, self-confidence as well as how to win and lose with grace.
We can set up healthy boundaries and behaviours and encourage resilience.
As adults do we have to accept that this is who we are?
The short answer is no. We can see ourselves as a work in progress and rewrite what we want for ourselves. It depends on us. If we have beliefs in our lives that make us unhappy or block us from who we want to be, then we can actively change those thoughts.
Will it be easy?
That depends on many things, but it starts with the realisation that not all our self-beliefs are true.
Once we decide what is true and what is not we can choose new beliefs that are true to build on.
The past can affect our health. Events can leave a memory in our cells that become a part of us. However, we can change our present.
Remember the woman who could not raise her son?
She sought help, got counselling and eventually became a counsellor herself. She is an example that we can rise above our past and be who we want to be. Just like a vaccine we can change our cellular memory.
Good health is not just about healthy living, we also need a healthy mind. Sometimes our past lives prevent this from happening and send echoes down through time. We can get help and we can be more than our past.
(1) The Impact of Intimate Male Partner Violence on Women’s Sexual Function, ” by Safieh Jamali and Shohreh Javadpour, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
(2) Effects of Domestic Violence on Children, womenshealth.gov
(3) How does Immunisation Work? health.gov.au
The Cognitive Impact of Past Behaviour, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
History as a Determinant of Health, bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2017
Past Trauma may haunt your Future, health.harvard.edu
The Impact of Intimate Male Partner Violence on Women’s Sexual Function, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children, womenshealth.gov
How does Immunisation Work? health.gov.au