#20. Nature or Nurture?

From our genetic blueprint (DNA) we inherit certain physical as well as psychological characteristics. Male or female, skin color, eye color, hair color, body type, and the propensity for certain diseases are among the physical traits. Psychologically we know now that we inherent fear patterns and fear responses that can reach back several generations. Many studies over the past few decades show even more startling data. One pair of twins, separated at 4 weeks of age, raised separately, and then reunited at the age of 39, found they both suffered from tension headaches, smoked Salem cigarettes, were prone to nail biting, drove the same type of car and even vacationed at the same beach in Florida! Even religiosity was identified as a genetic trait in another study. The scientific concensus now is that the nature versus nurture roles are about 50/50 in terms of influencing psychological development, although this research is still ongoing. That means we inherit 50% of our psychological makeup from our ancestors, their DNA, and the other 50% of our makeup is from environmental influences. These influences include our culture, family, friends, media, teachers and all the societal influences we have around us. And these influences, not being from our genetics, begin to condition and create new DNA information that is passed on. This begs the questions: Are we at the mercy of our DNA? Are we at the mercy of the environment that imposes conditioning upon us? Or can we alter our own DNA by becoming more spiritually conscious, identifying the non-useful tendencies, extinguish them and thereby change and eliminate the non-useful tendency’s. Can we actually eliminate the risk of passing on negative conditioning? It is possible…enlightenment teachings have been saying this for 100’s of years. When we work on our own conditioning we are changing our DNA, repairing as well as stopping the karmic cycles of conditioned responses.

Understanding how this information applies to the spiritual path can be useful and can help us identify our conditionings: how, what and why we think, feel, and behave – why we do the things we do.

In effect what we get from our ancestors (nature), and what we get from our environment (nurture) have equal weight. This explains our inherited, as well as environmentally created, individual conditioning. Just as software is programmed, literally the brain and body’s imprinting of electro-chemical information in the DNA determines our propensities, likes and dislikes in life. Because the negative conditioning is what we struggle against if our goal is to wake up, then learning how to navigate through this is crucial.

Stop now and ask yourself:

The three traits I most admire about my mother (or the person who raised me) are:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I admire about my father:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I do not admire about my mother:

1.

2.

3.

The three traits I do not like about my father:

1.

2.

3.

As you review your responses be completely honest with yourself. Remember there is a 50% probability you have inherited these same traits; both the negative and the positive. Many times as we mature and recognize the negative traits in our parents we learn to recognize the tendencies within our own makeup, we resolve many of the issues just by seeing them. If there is a negative trait you identified that is still present for you, this is something to be recognized and to work on. This is a conditioning that can be eradicated but to do this requires that you make it a practice to be present, recognize and be conscious in situations where this pattern emerges.

The brain’s auto-pilot is what we most have to struggle with because it keeps us in habitual ways of thinking and reacting, requiring little if any conscious presence.

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