Even ‘good’ change can be disquieting
Juxtaposed against these awful events are 100 years of an array of positive, uplifting discoveries, inventions, and medical advances that have completely transformed our lives. Consider: electricity, clean water, women’s right to vote, automobiles, air and space travel, air conditioning, and highway systems; the momentous discoveries of penicillin, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers; television, the telephone (evolving from dumb to smart), vaccines, oral contraceptives, genetic discoveries, brain imaging technology, and home appliances (refrigerators, microwave ovens, dishwashers); and not at all least, personal computers and the Internet.
But even these advances can generate anxiety and solicitude: Fear of flying, anyone? Embarrassment about a selfie gone viral on the Web? Worry about being a carrier of a breast cancer gene? Claustrophobia inside an MRI scanner?
Hypothesizing about the transfer of anxiety
Could PTSD and solicitude in one generation be transmitted to the next via epigenetic mechanisms (that is, by over-expression or silencing of genes involved in brain development) and could this transmission result in unusual wide-scale stress reactivity? Might this be an example of the infamous Lamarckian “inheritance of acquired characteristics” at the molecular genetic level, in which the anxiety of traumatized parents is transmitted to their offspring? Or could transmission be mediated by being reared in the emotionally oppressive environment of a family still reeling from the effects of war, disaster, and mass murder?
Such questions might sound rhetorical, but they present a reasonable hypothesis that can be answered by research. Findings from animal studies suggest that such a phenomenon might occur in humans.2 If those findings are validated, opportunities for preventing societal solicitude might emerge.