Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of people ranging across the spectrum from the bluest of blue-collar workers to the wheelers and dealers of the world, from the depressed and lonely, to the energetic and optimistic, from the sports enthusiast to the elite athlete, from the pious of pious to the incarcerated, and in so doing I have observed many things. The first, and probably most important, is that we judge people by their behavior.
Think about this, the man who strikes his wife, is he a bad man? Most would certainly say yes. But is it the man who’s bad or the behavior that’s bad?
Lately I have been investigating in much greater detail the influence of genetics on behavior. I have written and lectured in the past on subconscious motivations and inherited characteristics together with studies including those on identical twins separated at birth. With the identical twin studies, we discover that although they have never lived together, they nevertheless share behavioral patterns sometimes down to the color and make of the car they own, the name of their wives, their occupations, and more. But when you take a deep dive into behavioral genetics the data suggests that it’s not just behavior inherited by identical twins. Indeed, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been instrumental in uncovering genetic variants associated with various behavioral traits. For example, some strongly inheritable characteristics include smoking, alcohol consumption, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, personality traits, cognitive abilities, risk-taking behaviors, sleep disorders, aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders.
These examples demonstrate the wide range of behavioral traits that have been studied using GWAS, and how genetic variants play a role in shaping human behavior and susceptibility to various conditions and disorders. Keep in mind that the field of genetics is continually evolving, and ongoing research may uncover even more associations in the future.
Now, there are two reasons why it is important that everyone be aware of the influence of behavioral genetics. The first, to curb undesirable behavior. The second, to correct it early so we don’t pass that gene along to our children. It does one no good at age 50, epigenetically speaking, to discover a genetic predisposition aligned with aggressive behavior. But were it known during the teens or early twenties, one might have had a better handle on extinguishing the propensity before risking passing it on to their children.
Realizing the genetic component underly our inheritance, and therefor grasping the importance of understanding behavioral genetics and its propensity to hamper one’s self-actualization process, cannot be underestimated in my view if we are to truly understand ourselves and defeat those self-destructive and limiting patterns.
Self-actualization is a term coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow to describe the process of reaching one’s full potential. This is a lifelong journey that involves developing one’s talents, abilities, and values. There are several factors that can influence self-actualization, including one’s genetic makeup. Some people may be more genetically predisposed to certain behaviors, such as risk-taking or impulsivity. These behaviors can make it difficult to achieve one’s goals and live a fulfilling life.
For example, someone who is genetically predisposed to risk-taking behavior may be more likely to make impulsive decisions that could lead to negative consequences. This could include dropping out of school, starting a business without a plan, or engaging in risky sexual behavior. Someone who is genetically predisposed to impulsivity may have difficulty controlling their impulses, which could lead to problems such as substance abuse, gambling addiction, or eating disorders.
It is important to understand that behavioral genetics is not a deterministic field. Just because someone is genetically predisposed to a certain behavior does not mean that they will inevitably engage in that behavior. Environmental factors also play a role in influencing behavior. However, understanding one’s genetic makeup can be helpful in identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate those risks. For example, someone who knows that they are genetically predisposed to risk-taking behavior may want to avoid situations where they are likely to make impulsive decisions.
Free-Will and Determinism
There are more and more research papers published nearly every day discussing free-will and determinism. I have fleshed out much of this debate in my books and during my radio show, but if you’re new to the idea, let me provide the bottom line. Research has clearly demonstrated that almost all of our so-called conscious activities, including our behavior, decisions, choices, biases, etc. are made in the subconscious and then passed on to the conscious mind. As such, it may well be said that our decisions are unknown to us consciously and therefore determined out of awareness.
If we are to become aware we must journey inward and unpack the various elements that give rise to the behavior we may wish to change. This is part and parcel of waking up so that we may truly have the opportunity to grow, learn, and maximize our human potential.
That said, give yourself a break. Remember, self-actualization is a lifelong journey. It is important to be patient with yourself and to celebrate your successes along the way.
Those are my thoughts anyway.
Thanks for the read,
Eldon Taylor, PhD
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusion