The Atlantic

Inherited Trauma Shapes Your Health

A new study on Civil War prisoners adds to the evidence suggesting that our parents’—and even grandparents’—experiences might affect our DNA.
Source: Gary Cameron / Reuters

Often when I complain to my therapist about how stressed out I am by a problem I’m having, she says a variation on the same thing:

“Well, like all Ashkenazi Jews, you have a lot of intergenerational trauma. You know, because of everything that’s ... happened.”

Of course you’re anxious, she seems to say; you’re Jewish! I think it’s meant to help me feel more at peace with my emotions, but I must admit I find this response deeply unsatisfying.

I am, of course, grateful that my life is easier than the lives of my relatives—Jewish and otherwise—who survived World War II. At the same time, I can’t do anything about the fact that the Holocaust happened, so I don’t want to spend time thinking about its effects on my cortisol

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