epigenetique-et-systemie_sc40Epigenetics and systemic

Or how modern science discovers that we also inherit environmental influences experienced by our ancestors…

Dr Clara Naudi

 

The practice of family constellations, so named under the leadership in the West of Bert Hellinger, is sometimes presented as an innovative practice. In fact, the harmonization of family field by specific methods dates back to ancient times.
Idris Lahore, from whom many of us train to family and systemic constellations, received his training from two traditional sources: first, the dervishes of Kafiristan Hakim, who passed the secret of their brotherhood they called the euphonic representations, and on the other hand, from the Chinese Taoist sages.
It is about the meeting of traditional knowledge and modern science that this article can  participate.Why do we practice family constellations ?
Because what happens to us in our lives, especially our problems, might happen because of us, or perhaps tied to our childhood, or perhaps also  related to the influence of one of the members of our family system, who can be a deceased ancestor that we have never known. This is called being entangled with a member of our family system.
The constellations show us that events in the lives of our ancestors, our ascendants, can impact our lives without our awareness. We may, therefore, have relationship problems with our parents, with our children, we can be depressed, have diseases, suffer recurring failures, and so on. The constellations show that, once the systemic knot is untied, very often our situation improves, our problems are solved, our diseases either regress or heal and the success smiles to our business.

Scientific backing
The intricacies, these links between generations are painful, and did not find so far any scientific explanation. Certainly, one will find in the DNA brands of inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis or hemophilia, which can be transmitted from generation to generation. But no trace of interaction in our genes. Furthermore, geneticists with real systemic culture do not seem to be very numerous, nor are constellators with specific genetic knowledge, which does not promote reconciliation between them.

Information fields, Darwin and genetics
The constellators speak of an information field, which some call “the field that knows” and  about who is present during the time of the constellation. This field, immaterial, contains all information related to the client’s family system. It contains the memory of all the events that marked the members of that system. The constellators say that we are connected by invisible threads to all members of our system, and that these threads become nodes that bind us paintully to those with whom we are entangled. They also say that the entanglements tend to be transmitted across generations and the systemic work has a  liberating action not only on the client, but also on his ancestors and descendants.
Geneticists at least until recent years, told us, that according to Darwin, it was impossible that changes related to the environment, emerged over a lifetime, could be transmitted to subsequent generations. For example, if you were obese by having eaten too mch, it could in no way have an influence on the weight of your children (unless you shared the same eating habits).

Epigenetics
It was then that a new branch of genetics appeared: epigenetics. “Epi” means “beside”. Epigenetics corresponds to genetic changes associated to the environment, which can turn on or off certain genes without affecting the structure of DNA, and passed from one generation to another. We will retain three examples of experimental studies on epigenetics, among many others.
Researchers fed mice with food supplemented with vitamin B12 and folic acid, substances rich in methyl groups, for which we will see later the importance of epigenetics in action. These mice, with a yellow coat, were predisposed to obesity, diabetes and cancer, characteristics associated with a specific gene, called Agouti Yellow gene. Hypermethylated by the regime, the expression of this gene is switched off, the mice become brown, have no more health problems, and these changes were perpetuated for two or three generations.
Other researchers exposed Drosophila embryos, the mascot fly of geneticists, for one hour at a temperature of 37 degrees, 20 degrees higher than the optimum temperature. The eyes of these flies, from yellow, became red. This change is transmitted to subsequent generations.
As part of a study of 320 individuals from a small village, a team of Swedish researchers found that if their ancestors had, at the time of adolescence, food in abundance, their descendants has a mortality diabetes four times higher than normal. By cons, the descendants of these who had experienced a period of famine, appeared protected from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

You might find the gap very large between the very limited results of the diversity of generational influences we contact in the constellations. However, it is extremely difficult to reconcile the rigor of the experimental criteria aiming for measurable results with the complexity of systemic nodes.

DNA: the double spiral of life
Within each cell of our body, in a nucleus of about one hundredth of a millimeter in diameter, Nature has managed to fit two meters of DNA, on which fall twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. This long molecule, deoxyribonucleic acid, in the form of coiled ladder, is the molecular carrier of our heritage (and matrimony) gene, which is passed from generation to generation. On this long molecure are encoded all information necessary for the production of proteins, which allow the development, operation, maintenance of the integrity and the reproduction of each cell and of the organism, this since its design. Information is written using a four-letter alphaber: A,T,C,G. These four bases, or nucleotides, Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine form the bars of this genetic scale. Their organisation – they are cut by two – conditions the manufacturing for all proteins necessary for life. Each instruction that encodes a protein is called a DNA fragment gene. The human owns 35000 genes split over three billion of base pairs. Surprisingly, the genetic code, that is to say all these instructions, occupies only 2% of our DNA!
The genes whose function is to regulate the expression of these genes, occupy, for their part, 10 to 15% of the DNA. This means that we have seven times more “regulators” genes , capable of altering gene expression, than “instructors” genes. This also means that the role of 1.85 meter of non-coding DNA in each of our cell is completely unknown… Some say it contains the memory of humanity. In their narrow nuclear cabin, DNA molecules perfom the miracle of living with 60 million of very specific proteins, histones, around which they are wound to form a kind of pearl necklace which is compacted on itself near 400’000 times, producing the chromatin that makes up the elegant structure of chromosomes.

From gene to protein
Each gene contains the instructions for making a protein. Protein synthesis is, for example, how certain cells in your pancreas produce, under the influence of genes in pancreatic cells, the insuline molecules that allow you to digest the delicious rasberry pie that accompnied your cup of tea. Since the discovery of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, it was established that the information flow was unidirectional, from DNA to protein. It was recognized that the environment stimulated the process (the pie, from your intestines, stimulates the activation of genes coding for insulin), but it was impossible that its influence may be part of the genetic code. So, if you eat too many pastries, it couldn’t, in any case, have an impact on the level of sugar in your grandchildren. The hypothesis was not even mentioned. Since the 1970s or so, geneticists have made discoveries that contradict the dogma and shows that environmental influences may, in certain circumstances, rewrite the genome, which is then transmitted to future generations in its latest version. Epigenetics was coming to the front of the stage.

Molecular supports of epigenetic influences
“Genetic” mutations are irreversible modifications of the genes due to a change in the nucleotide sequence. There exists, in the genome, “repairmen” genes who repair and heal in a way the genome, so that only a very small percentage of these mutations transmit themselves to the offspring. These spontaneous mutations of unknown cause, contribute to biodiversity and are an engine of evolution. The “epigenetic” changes are reversible changes in gene expression without altering the sequence of nucleotides which are transmitted from one generation to another. They are much more common than genetic mutations. Geneticists have identified many molecular substrates in gene expression, two in particular:
the DNA methylation. Attaching a methyl chemical group to DNA changes its spatial organization and thus prevents the expression of certain genes.
Chemical modification of the histones. Histones are like locks that can alter the chromatin structure. The chemical modification of histones will lead to a change in the arrangement of chromatin threads, that will expose some genes or conversely bury them and make them unavailable to transcription. The role of these proteins appears to be major in the phenomena of epigenetic footprint. The researchers even talk of a “histone code”, able to influence the “genetic code”.

Epigenetic effects of constellations
The person requesting a constellation brings with her the information of her family system contained in the intangible information field of her DNA and entered in  material form, epigenetics, in her genome. In a family constellation, we attend to the externalization, the materialization, through representatives, of the unconscious image of the client’s family system. This image is altered by the work of the constellator, then reinstated at a better level. In a way, the first placement could correspond to an externalization of  chromatin fragments holding information relevant to the problem. During the final moments of the constallation, the initial epigenetic imprint is replaced by a new, more favorable, and reintegrated into the genome. We can consider that the constellations exert a “restorative” epigenetic influence.

And tomorrow ?
Currently, the explosion of research in epigenetics reflects the reconciliation between a rigid, linear conception of heredity and a moving and multifactorial view of how the genome fonctions. There can be no opposition between the existence of an immaterial field and the existence of molecular processes. One precedes the other and the other manifests one. The world of family constellations cannot exclude the material, molecular, genomic aspect from transgenerational influences. The world of epigenetics research can not be closed to the knowledge and the systemic experience. If enough men and women manage to unite in themselves these two different ways of thinking,  harmonizing influences may be introduced in humanity and may favorably influence its future.