Saturday, 5 March 2011

Four Things Make Us Who We Are

For me, four things shape us in life - The genes you inherit at the moment of your conception, your upbringing, the environment in which you grow up in and the experiences in life which you undergo.

There is nothing you can do about that. Some people are very, very lucky in the gene pool. Some people are quite lucky. Others have average luck, and some are unfortunate. Certain individuals appear to have an inbuilt resistance to illness and disease. This is illustrated when a person smokes 40-cigarettes a day, is an heavy boozer, eats what they want, and lives to a ripe old age, ie, their late 80's or 90's or even more.

In contrast, some people have never smoked or drank and have died of Cancer in their 40's or 50's, or have been struck down with other illnesses, such as Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. Illnesses and disabilities can run in families and so can certain personality traits or skills and abilities, whether they are musical, artistic to draw, or write well, or spatial intelligence and ability, or driving skills. I have long maintained that Autism is genetic and caused by other factors. If it is caused by the MMR jab, then everybody should be Autistic. There was no MMR jab until October 1988. How can that theory account for people on the Autistic Spectrum, such as myself, and others before me? How can a single jab alter the structure and wiring of your brain?

I also believe that your upbringing can shape you, as can the environment in which a person grows up in. If a school pupil, regardless of their innate ability or intelligence, grows up in a solidly, staunchly, working-class estate, as I did, then s/he, more likely if he, to stand out if they have academic aspirations, such as doing A-levels or University, as the majority of people on the estate could have aims of learning a trade, or working in a factory, or just getting out to earn a wage and doing anything, even painting pylons or working in a condom factory. Well, ok, not in those jobs, but you get my drift don't you?

Tony Harrison, a poet from Leeds, wrote about this issue in his poem "Book Ends", concerning the language differences between himself, a Grammar School boy, and his father. If the parents haven't had much education themselves, they can't motivate or push a child in that direction, or help with homework, in for example, a subject in Mathematics such as Indices, or Algebra, or Calculus, or Geometry, or Trigonometry, if their education and versing in that sphere, pardon the pun, has been limited to fractions.

It will be more difficult for the parents to help in Chemistry or Physics, if they haven't been educated to this level. It is a proven fact, in life, that upper and middle-class pupils fare better in education than working-class and poor ones. Of course, not everybody has academic ability. Of course, some people are clever in different ways, like in a practical level or at other subjects, but there is a strong correlation between succeeding at school and social class. More affluent parents can afford to pay for private tuition for a child who is struggling or who just needs a little push, in one subject, or subjects. Middle and upper-class parents are more likely to be angry or disappointed with poor or mediocre school reports than working-class or poor parents.

If your parents were university educated, then the pressure will be more on you to go to University also. You might respond, "Yes, well, that might have been the case 50 years ago or more, but not as much now". However, it still can occur nowadays. Children are usually expected to fulfill their parents ambitions and expectations.

Of course, you can be shaped by your upbringing, in that if your parents have always gone on holiday abroad, you will grow up thinking that is the norm.

Your experiences in life can shape you. If someone has had a lot of bad luck in their life, whether in love or in employment or just generally, it can affect their outlook. If someone has been in a relationship which has ended, particularly one which was close and deep, they may be so hurt by it they might never try again. Someone might have bad experiences in the employment world, and it can damage or destroy their self-confidence and self-esteem. Likewise, if they have just had disasters or failures.

Alternatively, if someone, ie, a famous individual, is surrounded by yes-people or sycophants, then it can warp or shape their views and beliefs, and make them think that they are infallible in their judgement. Politicians can become isolated and suffer a bunker-mentality, and become detached from the real world. Thatcher did during her final 18 months in office and to an extent Blair did. Both were victims of their success.

Success in life can make a person confident, but it can also make them believe their own lies or bullshit. When that does happen, you are in serious trouble. If someone has been bullied at school or elsewhere, the outcome can be different. It can make someone emotionally psychologically tough, as they can say to themselves, "If I can survive that, I can survive anything" or "I came through that experience in life, what the f**k can you do?". It can even make the victim better equipped to survive various crisis in later life.

However, bullying is not a good or desirable experience or aspect of life. No, no, no. Bullies are evil and it is an experience no-one should ever have to endure. It can drain away the self-confidence and esteem of the victim. It can make them find it difficult to trust other people or to make friends, or to form relationships, because they are frightened of it happening again. Bullying can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Similarly, child abuse victims suffer similar experiences. Both can cause mental health problems in the victim or lead them to self-harm. It has also been known for some child-abuse victims to become the abuser when they become older, as they can take it into their minds that everybody behaves like that, particularly if it is all that they have ever known and experienced. Abuse can be a cycle in families, passed down by one generation to another, or at least, in years gone by, before awareness of child abuse became public and before it attained a higher profile. Nowadays, it is more likely that the cycle can be broken, but please never fall into the trap of believing that it never occurs and that cycles of child abuse in families don't occur.

So, various things shape us, and make us who and what we are, but I still maintain it is those four categories which are the primary builders of each and every one individual alive today.

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