23 October 2014

Nature vs. Nurture

I do a lot of reading, and every once in a while, I come across something that I feel is very profound and needs to be shared. We've all heard about the debate over the past many years about whether a person is shaped more by his genetics or his environment. I feel safe in saying that this is not an "either/or" situation, that we are influenced by both. There are endless discussions as to which is more dominant, but I have to assume that both are so integrated as to be inseparable. 

From the May 2013 issue of Discover Magazine (http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.UbOksPmkruH), there is a fascinating article about how our behavior can actually alter our genes, which characteristics can then be passed on. There is a description of the studies that have been done which includes some of the scientific results that leads to that conclusion. 

Everyone usually has a least one branch in their family tree that has a lot of "black sheep" or chronic mental health conditions, an example being alcoholism. This problem seems to be passed from one generation to the next, and we've witnessed those who fell victim to it in spite of angry feelings toward another member of the family who suffered from the same condition. 

Does this mean that the family is forever doomed to battling these problems? This is where the excitement comes in, because the answer is, "no!" A person can actually reverse these genetic changes by refusing to follow in that path of self destruction. Knowing that many mental health problems are actually types of "short circuits" in the brain, other parameters come into play. Those people who commit themselves to a more positive way of thinking and living can reverse many of those negative tendencies for their future posterity. This goes back to the philosophy of "breaking the cycle" that we've heard about, and it can be done.

This can lead to an interesting discussion on how important your attitude is and how it can influence your posterity. Traumatic events can contribute to this situation which would explain why descendants can, in some cases, experience the feelings involved by knowing about the events. This makes our connection to our ancestors more than just biology. The more we know about our forebears, the better we will understand ourselves.

I encourage you to read the article for yourself, and I know you will be amazed by their conclusions.

Jan's Editing Service


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