The Source of Your Stress Goes Back Generations—Here’s How to Break the Cycle

The following is adapted from Free for Life.

Every person on Earth carries around stress, tension, and distortion they’ve been accumulating since the moment of their conception. However, the source of our stress actually extends further back—before our own lives started.

Through transferable, imprinted traits called epigenetic markers, we inherit sources of discomfort and emotional and psychological stress that can be passed through families for generations, changing the very way in which our genes express themselves. When you consider how our day-to-day stress adds on to this pre-existing foundation of emotional burden, it’s easy to see why so many people wind up completely overwhelmed.

In this article, I’ll explain what epigenetic markers are and how you can examine your own history to find the source of your stress and take steps to reduce it.

Sources of Stress: Nature vs. Nurture

Most people agree that we are the products of both our genetics and the environments in which we’re raised. The study of epigenetics examines how those two spheres interact.

Every living creature has a genetic code, but the way those genes express themselves can change in the presence of stressful, traumatic, or other highly emotional events and environments. Our genes remain the same while manifesting differently, like how you can type the same sentence using different fonts.

Epigenetics is what’s passed down from generation to generation in terms of behaviors, mood, feelings, and function. These conditions are called “epigenetic markers,” and are often seen in the offspring of people who have experienced childhood abuse, for example. People who suffered childhood abuse are more likely to have children with neurodevelopmental and physical health disparities. These epigenetic markers can also manifest as a predisposition to stress and anxiety.

A person’s lifetime accumulated stress load is made up of their nature plus their nurture, plus their choices: the generational, the environmental, and the individual. By understanding the source of your generational stress, you can begin to separate it from your understanding of yourself and remove it from your life.

Finding the Source of Stress in Your Life

To understand the deep-rooted stress in your life, look at your family history. Did your parents experience any especially stressful or traumatic events in their lives? Your grandparents?

For example, part of my pain began in the womb when my mother was forced to hide my birth because my father was of mixed race. While not everything is caused by racial relations, everything does begin when your father and mother come together. They each bring their own pains and psychological discomforts to the co-creation of their child.

Their inner deficiencies become your inner deficiencies, and if there is not a pattern interrupt, your inner deficiencies will become your children’s inner deficiencies. You’ll pass your shortcomings from generation to generation to generation. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to do the deep inner work and give your children the life they deserve?

Start by examining your family history and identifying any epigenetic markers you may have inherited. This is the source of your stress.

How to Escape Your Epigenetic Fate

Now that you know you inherited generations of stress, how can you change or transform it?

The only way to change your markers and get out of the cycle of generational stress you’re stuck in is to get in touch with yourself. Take what’s internally distorted and being expressed in your physical, mental, emotional, and energetic bodies and rewire your system from the inside out. This requires being emotionally vulnerable and honest with yourself, but if you can release your stress now, you can break the generational cycle and be free to make choices that are in alignment with ethics, morals and values.

I went through this introspective process myself in my late twenties. As a Navy SEAL and someone who had always succeeded at everything I did, it came as a shock to me when I realized the body that I thought was a Porsche began to fall apart and look and feel and operate like a poorly kept Ford Pinto. Generational stress from my family, as well as the physical and emotional stress I experienced personally, took its toll.

Once you’ve identified the sources of your own stress, you have a choice to make: you can either take heartfelt action and choose to dismantle and dissolve through de-stressing, de-tensing, and de-distorting or you can ignore your disposition and retreat into distractions such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, recreational or pharmaceutical drugs, sex, work, or, the worst, exercise, which was the decision I made.

I used extreme exercise to run away from what was unknown to me within. I kept thinking that the things holding me back were external forces, instead of realizing that they were internal distortions. I ignored my epigenetics and genetic predisposition until I could no longer move.

The stiffness, discomfort, and pain kept attempting to bring my attention inward, and I only continued to focus my attention on outer goals and refused to take a look at my own limiting beliefs. If you choose to continue to ignore your body and all the signs and signals it’s giving you, you literally will grind yourself down to a halt.

Instead, understand that while epigenetic markers help shape your identity, they do not define you. Find healthy ways to de-stress like stretching, deep-breathing exercises, and meditation. By processing your generational stress now, you can reduce your overall stress load, live a healthier and happier life, and break the cycle so your children won’t need to do the same.

For more advice on de-stressing your life, you can find Free for Life here.


Christopher Lee Maher is a former Navy SEAL who endured intense amounts of physical, mental, and emotional stress as a child and during and after his military career. He has taught himself how to free his energy, body, mind and emotions from pain by developing the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of being. Christopher studied Traditional Chinese Medical Practices at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and at Yo San University, then continued his studies at The Universal Healing Tao System. He is a student of Grand Master Mantak Chia at the Universal Tao Master School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and is currently pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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