Some authors suggest that hereditary conditions might not be caused entirely (or even mostly) by genetics, but reflect patterns of thought and behavior in families. When I came across this idea, it didn’t convince me. It seemed too far afield from the conventional wisdom, shading into woo-woo and unfairly blaming people for their own health issues. But, setting aside my skepticism, I gave it more thought recently.
When I was a child, my mom gave me milk with every meal because she was concerned about a family history of osteoporosis. She told me to eat my veggies and always kept plenty of fruit in the house for healthy snacks, but I’m not sure how much difference she thought it would make. She has said, on many occasions, that she believes almost everything is genetic.
Could there be any patterns of thought and behavior in the women of my mom’s family that might relate to weak bones? Not lack of exercise, as they always enjoyed activities such as gardening and tennis that got them outdoors and moving around.
Maybe there was something on a subconscious level going on, but what could that be? My mom’s family have been comfortably middle-class for many generations, well respected in their communities; they haven’t struggled to keep food on the table or a roof over their heads. Then a few words spontaneously came into my thoughts: “Brittle on the inside, keeping up appearances!”
My first reaction was along the lines of, wow, this is farfetched. Not the part about keeping up appearances—that really is important to my mom’s family; they don’t want anyone to see their vulnerabilities and mistakes because people might talk. When I was a child, my mom never really got angry (or at least, she didn’t show it) unless I misbehaved in some way that set the neighbors to talking. Then, in addition to getting punished, I would get sternly lectured about behavior that was a bad reflection on the family.
“Brittle” was not a word that I’d have used; on the contrary, I saw it as a strength and a quiet sort of confidence, just going about one’s business and calmly doing whatever might need to get done. It wasn’t until about two years ago (as I discussed in this post) that I began to understand there was a downside to bottling up feelings and acting tough.
I’m still not convinced that taking a more relaxed approach to life is enough to keep bones in good health regardless of genetics, but I have decided to reserve judgment. Much is still unknown about how the human body and the subconscious mind work. And in any event, letting go of old worries about keeping up appearances is likely to improve health and happiness generally, whether or not it does much for bones in particular. So, it’s all good, one way or another.