Bruce Lipton PhD, author of the book ‘The Biology of Belief’ proposes that our perception of our environment affects how our genes express themselves and this proposal is backed up by experimental data.
For example, if we grow up in an environment which we perceive to be threatening and are chronically exposed to an atmosphere permeated by fear so that we are chronically and repeatedly frightened by our environment, our brain activity (in response to our feelings of fear) will, whenever we are in this state, instruct our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (a hormone that helps to prepare us for ‘fight or flight’).to circulate in the bloodstream.
This hormone, circulating around the body, Lipton explains, will then pass information to our biological cells via the cells’ membranes.
This, in turn, may then lead to alterations in how the DNA within the cells expresses itself.
It is important to stress that it is the individual’s PERCEPTION of his/her environment as frightening that is the crucial point here. In other words, if the same person grew up in exactly the same environment but (purely hypothetically) did not perceive it to be frightening, the effect upon his/her adrenal glands and, subsequently, upon his/her biological cells and DNA expression, would not be the same.
To reiterate then, it is the child’s perception of reality that is vital as s/he is growing up; his/her biological responses are directed by this perception and this is what Lipton refers to as the ‘biology of belief.’
In fact, even an embryo appears to be capable of perceiving its environment as dangerous. For example, research has been conducted showing that mothers subjected to chronic stress during pregnancy give birth to children who have a 50% increased risk of cranial malformation.
How does this happen?
Essentially, the pregnant mother suffering from stress produces stress-related hormones which, in turn, communicate a ‘sense of danger’ to the developing embryo. This results in the embryo’s hindbrain developing more than the forebrain.
We can infer from this that the mother’s perception of her environment (i.e. as stressful), via the activity the hormones that she produces in response to that stress, affects the cellular development of her embryo.
Lipton further argues that it is our belief system (which is often unconscious and developed mainly during our childhoods) that primarily affects how we perceive people, situations etc. in later life.
In other words, our belief system deriving from childhood experience affects our perceptions which, in turn, affects which parts of our genomes are expressed;.
To put it more simply still, it would seem that our beliefs affect our biology.
The good news is that, from the above, we can infer that we are not slaves dictated to by our genes, but that, by changing our beliefs, we can alter our own biology and change the behaviour of our cells, thus altering not only our physical health but our mental health (e.g. addictive tendencies) too.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website, childhoodtraumarecovery.com, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has written several books on topics related to childhood trauma.
He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed).
He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance.
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