I was chatting to a friend recently, suggesting she didn’t seem to get upset by much (too wise and too mature); she suggested it was part of her West Country Heritage. Interesting point – but by the same token, I’ve heard people with red hair claim that their bad temper wasn’t anything they could control… “It’s in my gene’s; I’m a redhead”.
That struck me as no more sensible than the idea that blondes are dim.
And that in turn raised for me the old, old question of “nature vs nurture”. Now, I should add that with a PhD from a department of Geography and over 24 years research in universities, I’m pretty much committed to the idea that there’s an effect of space, but that doesn’t in itself exclude either of the options.
Now, I’m not saying there’s not a genetic issue here – you only have to look at the physical variation of humanity on a global scale to see how much people can vary physically and I’m sure there’s the possibility of psychological variations as well…
But what I am saying, is that there are two other things to consider as well.
Firstly, it’s very difficult to differentiate genetic character tendencies from culturally orientated character tendencies. (Don’t forget, we’re only taking tendencies here anyway!) Secondly, and for me more important at the moment is that people can often use a ‘condition’ or a ‘diagnosis’ as an excuse for not fighting the problem…
“My dad was a bully, so I’m bound to be.”
“All the women in our family are gobby.”
Sigh. Even if that’s true, it’s no excuse for not at least trying to not be a bully, not be gobby, not be whatever.
Medical diagnosis seem to be used the same way: “I’ve got social anxiety disorder”, meaning that the person involved didn’t feel the need to engage in the usual social order and had the ideal get-out to play. After all, we can’t make them be nice to people because they’re being rude, they’re just ill.
But to be honest, if you look at the definitions of many such ‘disorders’ they’re just labels to describe the symptoms… That’s a diagnosis in one sense, sure, but it’s not the same as saying that someone is hot, shivery and miserable because they’ve got a bacterial infection. With a cold we know the cause and we know what to do to help the person fight it.
Saying “I’ve got XYZ syndrome” is about as helpful as my GP, to whom I’d taken my daughter with a rash around the mouth saying “Ah yes… she’s got peri-oral dermatitis”… in other words, a rash around the mouth!