97% of individuals with psychic abilities, scientifically documented or otherwise, report having experienced moderate to severe systematic abuse and trauma in their early childhood. This finding has caused researchers to suggest that trauma might be a key element in the acquisition of psychic abilities. But what if it is even more bizarre than that? What if these abilities are encoded in our DNA and inherited from our ancestors? And what if, due to evolutionary, cultural, societal, and religious pressures, over time, we learned to suppress this ability to the point of shutting it down at the molecular level?
In this article we will explore the possible relationship between trauma, genetics, perceived psychic abilities, and supernatural experiences in an effort to assess what the next steps are in terms of identifying the genesis of psychic abilities like ESP, Precognition, Clairvoyance, among others.
The Trauma Theory of Psychic Ability
A recent YouGov poll conducted in 2022 reports that over 67% or two-thirds of Americans believe that they have had at least one paranormal experience in their lifetime (Orth, 2022). This number has stayed relatively the same since the question was first asked back at the turn of the century. 37% of Americans say they’ve had a somatic experience (they felt a presence they could not explain), 33% claim they’ve had an unexplained auditory experience (heard things they cannot explain), and 30% claim to have had an olfactory experience (smelled things) of unexplained origins.
Despite the overwhelming number of reports of such events, mainstream scientists have been reluctant to devote their time and resources to researching psychic experiences. Whether out of fear of ridicule or due to the lack of methodology sufficient to properly measure such events, until very recently, research into the validity and cause of anomalous experiences has been lacking. Pioneering research in the fields of neuroscience and genetics has resurrected the topic of psychic abilities and anomalous experiences for a surprising reason; recent findings in trauma studies seems to show a connection between adverse childhood experiences and the onset and presence of psychic abilities.
In a study conducted in 1886 by members of the Society for Psychical Research, 17,000 individuals answered the question “Have you ever had a realistic impression of seeing, hearing, or being touched by a living being or an inanimate object that didn’t seem to have an external cause when you were completely awake”? One in ten provided an affirmative answer, a figure that is relatively the same today. That number becomes significantly higher when dealing with clinical populations. In fact, studies show that nearly all people who claim to have psychic abilities also have a trauma history, some studies report the occurrence as high as 97.5%.
These findings suggest that experiencing trauma at a young age might play a central role in the development of psychic abilities (Amaya, 2018). Until now, the prevailing theory put forth by researchers claimed that the need to understand environmental cues and to sense out potential danger was the driving force behind the development of such gifts. In essence, we developed them as they were a function of evolution, to ensure survival (Scimeca etal, 2015).
“Trauma is any encounter, acute or prolonged, that overwhelms the capacity of the psyche to process the experience. In these times, what confronts us is too intense to hold, integrate or comprehend. The emotional charge that arises saturates our capacity to make sense of the experience, and we become overwhelmed and alone” (Weller, 2021).
How might this bring about psychic ability? It seems that when we experience severe trauma, “aspects of the psyche may splinter off into the unconscious mind, opening or widening the veil between these worlds. This allows the essence/information to move or vibrate to a different aspect of the unconscious mind. As the portal between the conscious and unconscious mind is now more open, the trauma victim can perceive previously inaccessible aspects of the unconscious” (Dyer, 2018).
Cultural anthropologists who have studied indigenous tribes report that during the initiation process the initiate experiences a purposeful trauma that enables the initiate to be opened to and receive an understanding of the spiritual and ancestral realms. The initiate was chosen often very early in their life by the elders and had known this moment was coming, had planned for this, and gladly welcomes it as part of their life initiations”.
For those of us in the Western world, a select few will experience “rough initiations”. These, unlike their traditional counterparts, lack planning, guidance, community, and lack an adequate holding space that is capable of supporting the individual during this time. Rough initiations are always severely traumatic. Traditional initiation is a contained encounter with mortality. Rough Initiations can be described as an uncontained encounter with mortality, sometimes resulting in an enhanced connection to the spirit and ancestral realms.As different as these processes are, they both seem to have a major component in common: they both activate the psychic ability in the individual. This would suggest that the ability was already there, perhaps in a dormant state, but there, nonetheless.
The Genetic Theory of Psychic Ability
It is well documented that experiencing severe trauma in childhood has detrimental effects such as maladaptive behaviors, mental health disorders, anxiety, depression, learning and memory disorders and problems with interpersonal relationships in adulthood. Such aftereffects typically present as complex post-traumatic stress disorder in later life (Dyer, 2018). Despite this, studies on individuals with psychic powers show that “nearly every medium has undergone a series of personal crises in his childhood or youth, and most are well-adjusted, enthusiastic extroverts of at least average intelligence” (Pease Banitt, 2014).
New discoveries in the field of genetics, however, may point to another narrative entirely. A new study showed that an alteration of a gene related to the delivery of serotonin might factor into the equation and answer the question as to whether trauma can make us psychic or if the trauma prevents the gene activation that shuts off psychic ability.
In 2021, the Institute for Noetic Science conducted a pilot study, the first of its kind, on high performing psychics with family members who also claim to have abilities. The study was looking to see if psychic ability was an inherited trait. They compared the DNA of the psychics with a control group and found that the psychic group retained their original DNA signature, whereas the control had a gene alteration on chromosome 7 in the TNRC18 gene. This alteration mutated the trinucleotide non-coding gene from a homozygous GG to a heterozygous GA sequence. Individuals with the GA alteration did not possess any psychic ability. Those with the GG sequence were those with documented psychic ability. Their findings now brought into question why the alteration of the gene led to psychic suppression.
“Perhaps there is an evolutionary pressure to suppress strong psychic abilities, or perhaps they have atrophied. In the era of the hunter-gatherer, it was a matter of life or death to be able to accurately perceive where the next meal would be found. With the proliferation of restaurants and grocery stores, such heightened perceptual abilities are no longer necessary. The role of the early Catholic church may also have been a cultural factor in the suppression of psychic abilities. Many of the Catholic saints were said to have exhibited a wide range of paranormal abilities, but historically the Church also had a strong desire to limit religious expression to its own set of rituals and activities. Independent spiritual practices, which likely included psychic abilities, were discouraged (to put it mildly). Somewhere in the mix of factors that act to suppress psychic awareness is also the fear of unknown “powers,” which is a trope that is endlessly exploited in novels, movies, and television shows. Based on these pressures, it is not surprising that some parents may train their children to suppress their psychic experiences” (Wahbeh et al., 2021).
These groundbreaking discoveries suggest that experiencing trauma in childhood might actually be what preserves innate psychic ability in an individual. Furthermore, it may also suggest that many people are born with such abilities, though most will be suppressed at some point in childhood. Rather than trauma being the source of the psychic gifts, trauma might be the preserver of such. Could it be that the amount of energy expended to keep oneself safe in abusive environments, to dissociate when the trauma becomes too much to bear witness to, and to effectively mind-read to predict the mood and intentions of our caregivers is simply too high leaving no reserve to be used in this gene activation? At this stage in the research, it is unclear as to how this gene is activated or when gene activation occurs.
While this study is exciting and calls into question whether or not psychic ability is a trait we inherit or one that only some people have, many more studies need to be conducted to obtain more data to analyze before coming to any definitive theory. Academic researchers should take note of this study and begin to conduct further research into how trauma might impede the alteration of this gene. Such information could prove greatly beneficial as it would seemingly bring us closer to understanding the relationship between science and spirituality.
Anna Stone MS, MA
Anna Lee Stone is a psychology instructor at Beverly Hills Design Institute and The School for Young Performers. She holds a master of science in interdisciplinary studies with a dual focus on educational design and professional communications from Southern Utah University. Anna is currently working towards her second master’s degree in consciousness and transformative studies at JFKU while concurrently enrolled at the University of Sedona as a Ph.D. candidate in transpersonal psychology.
Anna’s own history of childhood trauma and her struggle with accepting her psychic gifts and her near-death event in 2016 are the driving forces behind her research into childhood trauma and its links to psychic abilities. Anna has two daughters, 26 and 8, and lives in Los Angeles CA. Visit her website here!