DNA Breakthroughs:

Nature versus Nurture Issues

by John A. Speyrer

"Whether we manifest high blood pressure, asthma, or migraine headaches not only depends on genetics, but our early experience....(G)enetics is important,
but life experiences, even in the womb, can be equally, if not more important."

Arthur Janov, Ph.D., in, Primal Healing

"A genetic predisposition is far from the same as predetermination. Two children with similiar predispositions will not automatically develop in the same way - once more,
the environment is decisive."

Gabor Maté, M.D., in, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Both the scientific and popular press have of late been inudated with news releases screaming that recent human gene research breakthroughs are bringing us closer to curing all diseases. If only it were that simple to examine one's DNA to determine --"why some . . . get sick while others don't."

With 10 million variations in the human gene pool, it naturally results in a variation of individual humans. We're 99.9 % genetically identical to others who are not related to us. Just by examining our DNA it is possible to determine where we're "originally" from. (It's actually more complicated than that). It also enables us to focus in on genes involved in many diseases.

One article reported, "For most diseases the basic knowledge of where they come from, and the biological processes that set them in motion, is a complete mystery. Among them are heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes. . . " The article, Scientists closer to discovery of genes responsible for diseases, published during October, 2005, in the Chicago Tribune quotes geneticist Mark Daly as stating that genetics is the root causes of these diseases.

What these articles ignore is the role of emotional factors in the etiology of many of these maladies. The genes may serve as a foundation to perhaps establish a probability factor but, in many cases, the DNA ultimately only sets a higher or lower probability of whether a particular person will suffer from the disease. Even if an individual has a particular genetic susceptibility to become hypertensive or suffer from asthma, oftentimes it is the existence of repressed trauma, which will make the person more or less susceptible to the illness. Usually, current trauma keys into earlier trauma.

For example, a soldier after combat develops post traumatic stress disorder. The solider might have tapped into his near death during birth. Did his genes predispose him to be susceptible to PTSD or is he simply reacting appropriately to the trigger of the memory of trauma he endured in the birth canal?

Supposedly, the Russian novelist, F. Dostoevsky, had an epileptic seizure when at the last moment of his pending execution for treason, as he was standing in his underwear in freezing temperatures, his execution was commuted by the tzar. Did this mean that Dostoevsky had the genes for epilepsy? Leo Tolstoy, before his death, while delirious, cried out, "Mama, hold me, baby me!" - but that's a different article!

A high percentage of diseases have psychosomatic components. Those symptoms have to be formed in the genetic as well as early history of the person. It is mostly about vulnerability of the particular organ system involved in neurosis. One's DNA is only one element in the equation and is not necessarily what determines probability of disease.

If a person has a severe genetic susceptiility of having asthma, hypertension and insomnia, he may nonetheless never have those diseases if he has no or few early traumatic injuries (often severe birth trauma) which will predispose him up to have these illnesses. Likewise, overwhelming repressed birth trauma can predispose a person to illnesses to which, otherwise, he would be impervious with or without a "predisposition." Dr. Stan Grof believes that even severe second line pain does not account for psychosomatic diseases, although he doesn't express it like that. Rather, the words "second line" is a concept frequently used by Dr. Arthur Janov.

This is what Grof wrote,

". . . postnatal psychological traumas, in and of themselves, are not sufficient to account for the development of emotional disorders. This is also true, to a much greater extent, for psychosomatic symptoms and disorders. Psychological conflict, loss of an important relationship, excessive dependency, the child's observation of parental intercourse, and other similar factors, which psychoanalysts see as causal factors, simply cannot account for the nature and intensity of the physiological disturbances involved in psychosomatic diseases." Psychology of the Future, pps. 127-8.

One cannot be a good marriage partner while being blissfully but consciously or unconsciously unaware of the poor quality of early parenting one received. All the "how to be a good spouse" education will be useless if the existence of early repressed "relationship pain" is present. This is not only true for being an adequate marriage partner and parent but also true for whether we will have good or poor social personalities and ultimately be successful or unsuccessful in many aspects of ones life and work.

For example, You can't be a successful stock market investor no matter who much you study about the market and how to recognize and how to time the purchase of a particular stock, if after you are unable to sell the stock, to take your profit in the stock. If you "fall in love" with the company's stock you bought and feel unconsciously traitorous if you sell, you might be forever locked in with your losing investment for decades. You can also sell prematurely for unconscious reasons. You won't be able to take your profit for neurotic reasons and never know why you hang on to all of your losers. You might become like Hamlet, and just might not be able to make up your mind. Some can't save and some can't spend - both because of early childhood trauma.

Those are some of the practical reasons for undergoing what Grof calls an Adventure of Self Discovery and why Andy Berman wrote in Deep Feeling, Deep Healing, that an unexamined life was not worth living.

So it is not just genes; it's always about the interaction of heredity and environment; nature and nurture. Like a reference to love and marriage, a song of my youth insisted, "You can't have one without the other."

Other uncredited quotes are from the Chicago Tribune article by Ronald Kotulak

Afterword: Besides heredity and environment, another factor which complicates conclusions and adds much to the nurture side of the discussion is the relatively new discovery of the epigenetic factor. See three articles by Arthur Janov on epigenetics and trauma:

Also see Epigenetics (from Wilkipedia),

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