I wrote this as a journal entry for my Psychology course. I am taking this course for my undergrad work toward my LCSW degree. I hope to work with those who are recovering from sexual abuse.
Is it nature or is it nurture? This is a loaded question to ask a manic-depressive alcoholic. Certainly, an individual is the product of a combination of both influences. Genetics, or “nature” is proven to have a weighty effect on personality even when siblings are raised without knowledge of each other, as evidenced in the twin studies referenced in our text. My sister and I are quite opposite in moral character, patience, religious beliefs and a range of other characteristics, but we look exactly alike. My half-brother, who lived in our household for only about seven years, looks nothing like me. Our tastes in clothing, music and food are quite dissimilar. He is a white supremacist with a defiant taste for violence. We do share, however, one common and pervasive trait: we are both addicts. My sister, however, is not and neither one of my siblings are bipolar. Studies have shown that manic-depression or some type of chemical imbalance is pervasively hereditary, and signs of depression and insanity (as well as alcoholism,) can be traced back as far as my family tree is rooted.
Proximity to those with whom we are raised, or “nurture”, has an unquestionable influence whether we are genetically linked to them or not. My sister and I share a love of shopping and grow weary of relationships as soon as the sexual chemistry has died. We speak infrequently, but when we do make contact we often find that we’ve been listening to the same new artist or have become “hooked” on identical television series. It is not uncommon for my brother and I to find the same things funny, whether they are movies, comedians or the same silly jokes.
I beat myself up for years about my brother’s addiction, thinking it was my fault because I introduced him to marijuana at an early age. I know now that addiction has not only proven to be genetic but it is a spiritual sickness. We would share this malady if we had never even met. In this way I find that I am bound to my nature in the much the same way that I am subject to the limits that manic-depression places on my life. My sister would no more have been a casualty of the influence of nurture where bipolar disease is concerned as she would have been if I had been born with a curvature of the spine. Admittedly, there was a time in my life when I suffered from a sense of victimization because of my illness. Why was I stricken with it and she wasn’t? Today I am in acceptance. It is the answer to all of my problems and the question of nature or nurture means little, really. What came before me and what looms ahead are of little consequence. Mindfulness of the here and now is the only thing that I currently have any concern with.
Post script: I think it interesting to add, as I view this post with the addition of my family snapshot (at least 5 years before the world was blessed with my Brother,) that I turned out very much like my Father, even though my Mother left him when I was three years old. I have his wit, his need to be liked and a laundry list of other shared personal personality traits. This I know from observations I have collected over the years from my Mother, who loved him as she loved no other. So yes; my money is on nurture as the deciding factor in the way we are, over the core person that we become. Perhaps nurture can lead us to water, but nature determines whether or not we will drink.