For some time, narratives and personal story telling have assisted leaders by helping them to tap into the passion and motivations that drive their vision. And, a key component of our curriculum for individual coaching sessions and retreats has emphasized the writing and sharing of these narratives. However, in 2015, following the emerging area of epigenetics, we began to incorporate the idea of multi-generational narratives into these exercises as we now know that our parents’ experiences, and our parents’ parents’ experiences may be a part of our genetic narrative.
What in the world does epigenetics mean? One of the most exciting areas that our team geeks out on is the study of epigenetics and its impact on psychology. The best way to describe it is the theory that “early life experiences exert a profound and long-lasting influence on physical and mental health throughout life. The efforts to identify the primary causes of this have significantly benefited from studies of the epigenome—a dynamic layer of information associated with DNA that differs between individuals and can be altered through various experiences and environments.” (emphasis added) Weaver, I. (2013). Epigenetics in Psychology. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI:nobaproject.com. The NOBA module has a really cool summary of some of the studies in this area.
A new puzzle piece in the nature vs. nuture debate? We have found that those inexplicable, funny behaviors that we feel are hard-wired, might just be. It adds more clarity to the whole nature vs. nurture debate by understanding that it is quite possible that how our parents were nurtured (or not) may actually become a part of our inherited hard-wiring.
What do we do with this information? Much of the work we do focuses on how we help our clients improve their ability to make the right kind of decisions. Knowing that the ability to make decisions may be impacted by the joys and traumas of our ancestors is pretty informative. The increased self-awareness that may come from this level of inquiry can be deeply educational and may help our clients better understand how they might work on specific leadership skills, such as conflict resolution and team development.
How does this information get applied to systems? The most intriguing applications of this work are in the studies of the children of holocaust survivors and the ancestors of African-American slaves. This work may also delve into the areas of gender politics and also help inform our understanding of truth and reconciliation work.
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