Odd quirks? Irrational fears? Chalk it up to your ancestors.

Courtesy of Routledge.

–by Michael Pierce

THE ANCESTOR SYNDROME: TRANSGENERATIONAL PSYCHOTHERAPY AND THE HIDDEN LINKS IN THE FAMILY TREE by Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger. Published November 12, 1998 by Routledge. Photos courtesy of the publisher.

I’ve heard this book discussed many times over the nearly 21 years since it was originally published. Newspapers, television, radio, online – author Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger discussed her research and this book hundreds of times.

I’ve been a researcher and student of history and genealogy for over 40 years. In that time I’ve discovered, or listened to, a variety of ‘you get that from [fill in the blank]. Usually ‘that’ is a good thing. Occasionally, it’s a not-so-good thing.

Courtesy of Routledge.

Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger put her skills as a trained psychologist and psychotherapist to good use in this book. Through her decades in analysis she encountered situations with some of her patients, when they discussed living or dead family members that seemed to be something more than coincidental.

Afraid of the water? Maybe it’s because your great-grandmother drowned. Afraid of heights? Maybe one of your ancestors died in a fall from a building. Scheduled your mastectomy on a certain date? Maybe it’s because a 4th cousin 5 times removed scheduled hers, on the same date and for the same reason, on the same date many decades ago.

What happened to our ancestors has somehow managed to imprint itself very deep in our subconscious, coming to the top only during extensive therapy and, sometimes, only with the help of hypnosis.

This leads to what we often call ‘irrational fears.’ I’ve often wondered, and I have yet to discover, why I have a fear of heights. According to the hypothesis posited by Schutzenberger, it’s most likely because one of my ancestors may have taken a fatal tumble from high atop some structure.

The modern phrase we’d most probably employ is that something has ‘imprinted itself on our DNA.’ For example, Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865 at 7:22 a.m., after being shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth. It’s been said that, if you’re ever with a group of people, talking and laughing, and the entire group suddenly goes quiet, check you watch. You’ll often see that it happens at 22 minutes past the hour. I’ve done this myself and it has happened many times. The collective shock of Lincoln’s assassination was so overwhelming to the American public that reaction to it still exists, buried in the deepest recesses of our mind.

Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger brought us this great hypothesis, and the case studies she describes to support her theory are fascinating. The first part of her book goes into exquisite detail as to how she conducted her research and developed her conclusions, while the rest of the book goes into greater detail about the patients she mentions earlier.

THE ANCESTOR SYNDROME is a very good read. It’s enough to make one wonder just how much the deeds and/or misdeeds of our forebears are reflected in who we are today.

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