Drawing on her own life experience, her patient’s stories, and her expertise as a psychoanalyist in private practice in New York City specializing in relational psychology, Dr. Galit Atlas’s Emotional Inheritance; A Therapist, Her Patients, and the Legacy of Trauma, is about how secrets can hobble people from living up to their full potential.
“Everything we don’t consciously know about ourselves has the power to control and run our lives, in the same way that the riptides below the surface of the ocean are its most powerful forces.”
She acknowledges that family secrets are often well intentioned – parents wish to protect their children from any experience that would traumatize them.
There are two forces at work. One in which children experience their parents’ fears and learn to perceive the world the way their parents did, defending themselves in similar ways. The second is genetics, research shows that stress hormones alter brain chemistry and development and can be passed on to future generations through altered DNA. Nature and nurture intermingle, Atlas writes, and genes have a memory that can be passed from one generation to the next.
The book is divided into three parts: our grandparents, our parents, and ourselves. Atlas gives examples in each section from her life and the lives of her patients. It’s far from a dry read. As each of her patients learns to create a future from the puzzles of their past, theories take on a human form.
“Not remembering allows us to keep things ‘far from home’ and to avoid wading into territory that might otherwise be too dangerous,” Atlas writes.
Galit’s empathic and compassionate book ends with this encouragement:
“We realize that trauma can be transmitted to the next generation but also that psychological work can alter and modify the biological effects of trauma.”
I highly recommend EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE for readers interested in epigenetics, psychology, and family trauma. For anyone who has experienced trauma or felt the pain of family secrets long buried, Atlas’s book will give you hope that there is a path forward.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on Superior Reads on WTIP Radio the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm and the following Saturday at 6:00 am or stream them at http://www.wtip.org.