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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Adalian MCH

The Impact of Collective Cultural Inheritance on Health

Updated: Jan 27, 2021


'What you don’t know can hurt you - but it can also lead to self-acceptance and healing' John Bradshaw Recently, I have been starting to consider the impact of the collective cultural inheritance on the health of the individual. This could be compounded by the inherited ancestral dynamic operating in any one family system at any one time. Working in a city like London, it occurred to me only this week that within that very short space of time, I had been consulted by three different Indian patients - one a Hindu, one a Muslim, and one a Sikh. Through their own individual stories, I could perceive how much their different cultural backgrounds dictated their individual health status. This required a fair degree of understanding on my part and experience of working in the field. My homeopathic practice is teaching me to become increasingly culturally aware in order for this accommodation to take place. For example, a young girl may be expected to live with her new husband's in-laws despite it being against her better will. Even if this custom is unhealthy for her long-term health, it is not possible to suggest its removal on the part of the practitioner, being so engrained in the background culture, which one may feel recommended to do in another case. This is known in homeopathic terms as a 'maintaining cause'. This means that there may need to be some palliation occurring in the treatment if this block to cure cannot be changed. At least, the attitude of the sufferer can be relieved and given a wider perspective through treatment. If certain diseases tend to assemble in specific cultures, then one may well ask if it is perhaps to do with the subjugation of that culture. How else can one explain the phenomenon? In my recently published book, 'Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across the Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective', I postulate that this could be due to the marked oppression in the history of that specific culture. Breaking out of that mould can put marked pressure on the psyche, especially if this message is repeatedly reinforced in the daily life of the patient. According to Cantor-Graae, E., and Selten, J.P., in their article 'Schizophrenia and Migration: a meta-analysis and review', it is documented that migration can predispose the sufferer to develop a disease state such as schizophrenia. Often, this disease strikes at puberty when the hormones are raging and, at the same time, it becomes critical for the individual to find a way of 'fitting in' to the new culture. This could reinforce the split in their psyche, which was already starting to show some 'chinks in the armour'. This is compounded by all the challenges they and their family have had to endure to escape their homeland, often under duress. '

Specific homeopathic remedies comply with this history of struggle and can act to reconcile trauma from the collective past of that particular culture. As the individual responds to treatment, the relatives can pick up on the vicarious effects, thus contributing to a collective healing of the whole dynamic. Charles Fernyhough, in his book 'Pieces of Light:The New Science of Memory', speaks of everyone needing a narrative for their life story. This means that, even though this history may be painful, it can be introduced to the child according to their understanding as they grow up. After all, secrets in families lurk like a toxin ready to contaminate the organism any time and can fester like a sore for years before they erupt. By then, the child may have become an adult and have started acting out the distress in an increasingly destructive manner. 'Children often struggle with being ‘between cultures’– balancing the ‘old’ and the ‘new’. They essentially belong to both, whereas their parents often belong predominantly to the ‘old’ culture.' in fact, they may cling on to this old model as a way of preserving their memories of their former lives, which creates an added burden to the child endeavouring to integrate into a new culture. This is where the roots of 'States on the Spectrum' lie dormant especially in the case of addiction where a great hiding takes place, as well as the sublimation of ritual and escape. Nobody can deny that addiction has become almost 'de rigueur' these days, whether it be the usual alcohol or drug 'fix' or something which presents in a more benign way such as video games, gratuitous pornography, or extensive use of social media. Anger and tears are each regarded as modes of healthy expression of emotions, especially after a curative homeopathic remedy has been given. However, those family members and friends around the patient may carry the cultural message that it is unacceptable for them to break down in either of these ways. This is due to the unwritten law of the operational cultural code. However, the therapist could easily see this 'breakdown' as a 'breakthrough' in the process of cure. In fact, even though this expression is necessary for healing, some sufferers would prefer to maintain their disease rather than break out in this way. They are just not prepared to 'rattle the cage'. Somatisation can easily take over as the body becomes 'concretised' in its expression of disease rather than allowing the flow of natural rhythm of emotional expression in order to conserve the equilibrium of the psyche. In certain cultures, the quest for individualism is very strong. This could be due to the long history of enforced communism they and their ancestors have endured over the course of generations. Conversely, in other cultures, the collectivism is so embedded that it is almost impossible for the individual to find a way of following their own path which could be essential for full recovery of health to ensue in their case. In conclusion, by overlooking the cultural history of the family, the individual is left without a point of reference during life's trials. If that history involved danger, then it figures that there may be an additional resonant tension which otherwise cannot be explained. Living in the West with the background described above can create an extra challenge as the individual may compare themselves to their contemporaries who have not had to face such obstacles .along the way. What others experience as the regular eventualities of day-to-day living may then represent a challenge of otherwise inexplicable suffering to the individual. Without this missing piece of the jigsaw, the patient may well remain unhealed and their pathology allowed to progress to a non-reversible stage. It is often through the unconscious that these messages are conveyed. References Adalian, Elizabeth, (2017), 'Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across the Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective', Writersworld. Adalian, Elizabeth, (June, 2017), 121 Homeopathy Insights For Trauma, CoreBrain Journal, Podcast - Bradshaw, John, (1996), 'Secrets in Families. The Path from Shame to Healing', Penguin Random House. Cantor-Graae, E., and Selten, J.P., (January, 2005), 'Schizophrenia and Migration: a meta-analysis and review', in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(1). Fernyhough, Charles, (2012), 'Pieces of Light:The New Science of Memory', Profile Books.

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