What Makes Us Who We Are?

Annette AvatarBy Annette Francine

What makes us who we are? Is it the matter of nature versus nurture?

In considering ‘nurture’, we might focus on exceedingly devoted parents, overbearing parents, childhood physical or emotional abuse, emotional trauma (losing a parent or sibling), or even birth order and its influences: “A child’s position in the family impacts his personality, his behavior, his learning, and ultimately his earning power,” states Michael Grose, author of ‘Why First Born Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It.’ These all seem strong contenders for developing one’s personality. But, contrarily, much evidence exists to contradict this premise. Severely troubled kids do emerge from truly wonderful families, and stunningly ‘good’ and happy persons can spring from horrific family conditions. How, then, does ‘nurture’ play into the resultant personality?

Instances such as these force us to consider the alternate perspective of ‘nature’. But parents, in particular, will frequently attest how no two kids are ever alike in personality. Oddly, not even identical twins. If personality is, in fact, a consequence of nature, why don’t identical twins share identical behavioral and personality traits? Didn’t they share the same zygote? The same womb? The same mix of mother’s hormones, nutrition, physical stresses, etc. at the same time in their neurological development? Nonetheless, within days or weeks of birth, individual personalities emerge.

How? It’s not like their life experience —i.e. nurture—differed that dramatically within such a short amount of time, right? Does ‘birth order’ even apply when mere minutes separate their births? What prompts one newborn to seem so passive and ‘easy’ while the other is fussy and sensitive to the smallest environmental or schedule change? What causes one toddler to run pell-mell into the crashing waves on his introduction to the beach, and the other to scream in fear from mother’s hip over the prospect of his toes touching the water beneath him?

According to Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University: “We have no idea how our brains make us who we are. There is as yet no neuroscience of personality. We have little understanding of how art and history are experienced by the brain. The meltdown of mental life in psychosis is still a mystery. In short, we have yet to come up with a theory that can pull all this together.”6

What, then, does determine who we are?


Annette Francine writes romantic suspense with a Christian twist. Find her books and links at http://www.annettefrancine.com or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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