I keep on hearing all sorts of things about a genetic predisposition for…well all sorts of things really. Things like diabetes type 2, dependence on alcohol, violent behaviour, being happy or putting on weight. And all this may be true and I am all for finding out what is happening physiologically and how we can respond medically. It may save our lives.
And yet I would like to throw in a thought or two:
1 My dad had pimples…so did I…I still do sometimes (and at my age it just ain’t fair)
2 My neighbours like me and talk to me. I like them and talk to them
3 People feel a whole lot better about themselves when they are in charge of their lives. Me too.
Okay, put a little glibly perhaps. But really I think it’s a bit like this
OR SAID DIFFERENTLY
1 Knowing what predisposes us can give us a caution about how to proceed.
So finding out about the genetic stuff does matter, and I really mean that. Yet put really simply it might just go like this. Hey, both of my parents seem to drink a lot…I wonder what that might mean for me and booze? I notice I have a couple of uncles and aunts who seem to be pretty down a lot of the time…and so am I…hmmm. Ya know what, lots of people in my family seem to be kind of stout…what does that mean for me and pizza? I can consider myself cautioned. And yes I know. Just being aware isn’t enough for anyone. We KNOW about skin cancer and the sun and yet check out any beach on a weekend in summer. We KNOW about smoking and yet just look around. But a genuine awareness is at least part of a change process.
2 The neighbours thing. We really do know that where we live and how we live makes a difference in terms of all sorts of behaviours. We know poverty and oppression create criminal actions. I like this quote:
(Wilkinson and Marmot, in WHO 2003, Introduction)
So I am pleased I get on well with and enjoy the company of those who live next door and around me.
3 The being-in-charge of ourselves is just huge. I constantly refer to Len Syme who has researched this extensively.
So what’s fixed and what can we choose? Well tricky ain’t it buuut…..maybe bearing in mind that we may well have certain tendencies…including towards good stuff…and we know that how we act is enormously influenced by social factors, and that people have more chance of flourishing when in charge of themselves, we can….
Possibly be a little more sensible about how we tackle things like obesity, violence and harmful use of alcohol and other drugs. We can focus on what drives or motivates behaviour rather than focusing exclusively on the behaviour. In our day-to-day lives, with a small picture perspective in our face-to-face stuff with people we can focus on their capabilities and the importance of them being in charge of themselves.
With the bigger picture stuff, because we do know for example that poverty and oppression create criminal actions, we can do whatever we can to help build societies, communities, streets and homes that are welcoming and inclusive. Make them downright neighbourly in fact.