Posted in In the Know

Blaming Our Parents for Our Health

Genetics labs all over the world are constantly on the lookout for what genetic factors cause illness.  This week the story is the genetic link tied to smoking and lung cancer.  The article says, “A smoker who inherits these genetic variations from both parents has an 80 percent greater chance of lung cancer than a smoker without the variants, the researchers reported.” (

As a psychotherapist the jokes are always about what did your parents do to you that someday will land you on the analyst’s couch.  Now in addition to our parents causing emotional damage, they can be responsible for our physical demise as well.  If that doesn’t land you on the analyst’s couch nothing will.  As someone who has lived with an autoimmune disease for over thirty years I’m well aware of living life as a genetic dumping ground.  Does it serve me to blame those who passed down the illness, only if living with anger and resentment boosts my immune system somehow, I can assure you that’s not the case.

What do you do with the information that your illness may be genetic?  As tests become more available we all have the choice and decision about whether we choose to know if we are carrying a genetic variant.  If you knew would it change how you live your life?  I know women who have had prophylactic mastectomies after finding they had the breast cancer gene. 

Is information power?  Are you more likely to make life choices that will improve your health if you know the results of the test?  Are you more likely to torture yourself and all those in your genetic lineage if you know the illness genetics of your family?  As we become more technologically advanced these findings and their fallout will only increase.  It may not be relevant in your lifetime but what about your kids?  The bottom line is that blame doesn’t serve any of us…so let’s find other ways of coping that will increase our quality of life and diminish the adverse effects of any illness.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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