May #InkRipples: The Power of Memories

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on May 4, 2016 in Family, Ink Ripples |


Memories are a powerful force not only in our minds but in the world. They influence who we are as people, how we perceive the world, and what we learn. Memories keep our loved ones alive long after they have left this mortal world. They are our past, they inform our present, and they shape our future.

I recently read that scientists have discovered that memories can be inherited, passed down from one generation to the next, particularly from those who have faced trauma (see “Study of Holocaust Survivors Finds Trauma Passed on to Children’s Genes”). That means memories can change our DNA and in turn alter our children’s genes. This seems like a crazy idea straight out of a sci-fi book, but it’s not; it’s real. (See “Science Is Proving Some Memories Are Passed Down From Our Ancestors” and “Memories Can Be Inherited, and Scientists May Have Just Figured out How”.)

I wonder if that’s why when I talk with the boys about my sister Kylene, who died long before either of them were born, I get this uncanny feeling that they know exactly who I’m talking about, like they knew her. There is a solemness during these conversations. It may be that they’re feeding off of my emotions, but even that doesn’t feel like an adequate explanation.

The first time I had this sense of impossible knowledge on behalf of the boys, I thought I was reading too much into the situation (as I tend to do). But after I read that memories can be inherited, I realized there might be some truth to my intuition about my children and the auntie they never met. That somehow through my own trauma my boys have memories of my sister. Or maybe I’m deluding myself into thinking the impossible is possible.

How have your memories (or perhaps those of your parents) influenced your life?

#InkRipples#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. Carroll, Mary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (May is all about memories), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. Be sure to check out Kai’s and Mary’s posts this month. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.

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  • Kai Strand says:

    Because I have such a poor memory I can’t say anything has impacted it, but I had a fantastic memory when I was young and remembered events quite clearly from when I was too young to remember them. It’s almost as if I wore out my memory early in life by using to much of it. Wore down the cogs I guess. It’s fascinating to think that memories can be inherited. Huh!

    • I’m sort of infamous for my memory, though it definitely suffered a bit from pregnancy and motherhood. That whole pregnancy/mother brain is no joke! I’ve heard it comes back eventually…I’ll let you know in another decade or so. 😉

  • Mirka Breen says:

    As child of a Holocaust survivor, I can’t dispute the finding that traumatic memories change generations to come. I’m not sure if it is DNA or being raised in the shadow of such horrible loss. But regardless, it is clear to me that the whole human race carries the traumas of many generations of strife and fear of loss.

    • Given these recent studies, I truly believe it is both a nurture and a nature situation. The human body and the human race are both terrible and beautiful.

  • This would actually explain so much. I’ve felt this way about people I never met but were in my mother’s memories. Very interesting.

    • It is endlessly fascinating. I wonder if it’s related to the concept of a collective consciousness, like our DNA includes it in traces of all human history and thoughts.

  • Vijaya says:

    How fascinating! I’ve not read the links yet but I am not surprised. There’s the physical and then there’s the metaphysical. I’ve always had a great closeness to the brother I never met because he died before I was born. I do believe he is watching and praying over us. So I don’t doubt that your dearly beloved sister has a connection to your children.

    • I’m a natural skeptic about things in general, but I’ve learned that my intuition is right, and it was comforting and scary, too, to have my intuition about my boys connection to my sister somewhat confirmed by science. I’m glad that you feel so connected to the brother you never met in this life.

  • Beverly says:

    How interesting. I hadn’t heard this but need to read the articles. Recently, I started remembering my son that died. Some things aren’t clear; he was only two days old, but I had the urge to write to him. So I did, and a few memories returned. I need to ask his brothers if they ever have any thoughts about him. They’re all younger. Mmm. Thanks for a great post.

    • So sorry to hear about your son, Beverly. It’s fascinating how and when memories return to us. I always wonder where they are when we’re not remembering them. I’m sure there is scientific research on this that I can look up…I’ll keep that in mind for another day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories.

  • Juneta says:

    That is rather fascinating. I will have to check out the links.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  • Mary Waibel says:

    What a thought provoking post. I never knew memories could be passed down through generations…what a fascinating discovery.

    And I love how you’re keeping your sister alive for your boys and others, like me, who never knew her. I really enjoy learning about Kyle be from you.

  • I never thought about memories being inherited, too. I know when my dad tells stories of his childhood, I conjure images in my head and sometimes they get stored as my memories -> my second-hand memories, I call them.

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