“The most powerful ties are the ones to the people who gave us birth … it hardly seems to matter how many years have passed, how many betrayals there may have been, how much misery in the family: We remain connected, even against our wills.” — Anthony Brandt, "Bloodlines," as quoted in "It Didn’t Start With You"
A college-aged man stands in an elevator alongside his girlfriend. Just moments before, the couple calmly entered it, and now they are discussing their forthcoming dinner plans. Both are equally enthusiastic about trying a new restaurant.
Their conversation comes to an end when the elevator suddenly stops. Both try their respective cellphones, but the cellphones do not seem to work.
After several minutes of the elevator remaining idle, the man begins to feel his chest constrict, and his breathing begins to become shallow. He isn’t saying anything. His palms are moist, and there is sweat dripping from his upper lip and the sides of his forehead.
As the man lowers his body to sit down, his girlfriend thinks he is having some sort of panic attack. She begins to press every button in the elevator and shouts for assistance. Moments later, the elevator resumes normal function, and the couple exit onto the ground floor.
Outside of the elevator the man looks shaken, but is able to breathe. He no longer feels the tightening in his chest that he felt insider the elevator.
Was it a panic attack and why? He can't recall ever having this reaction to being in an elevator before. Is his physical reaction due to a family history of trauma that he is unaware of?
Although this is strictly a hypothetical situation, a new book called "It Didn't Start With You" by Mark Wolynn explores how a family history of trauma can influence your present day reactions to certain events.