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Writer's Block: Nature or nurture
benny5562
Do you think your moods are controlled by your brain chemistry or that your brain chemistry dictates your moods? Do you believe people are born with particular emotional temperaments or that they are primarily shaped by environmental factors?





I salute the person who submitted this question... It's the first good one I've seen in a while.

In short, my answers are yes, yes-to an extent, and yes.

Moods are often very much reliant on brain chemistry, and vice verse... The two things often work together in a saprophytic relationship.
When somebody is saddened at perhaps the loss of a loved one, the primary mental response is the cascade of thoughts that in turn push certain buttons in the mind to release tears, and some of our happy hormones such as seratonin are less likely to be produced in great quantities. A lengthened time of sadness without closure can result in depression which in terms of this context would be logically rooted to the action of a person's environment causing a negative mood.
Depression is actually a perfect example, because it is literally caused by an amassed intake of negative moods, and in turn produces more experiences of negative feelings that aren't necessarily rational. If not properly dealt with, it can lead to bouts with other mental ailments, many of which involve a loss of grasp on reality and rationality.

Now I don't think that most babies are born in any particular mood other than 'Holy shit, it's cold out here, and why are you slapping my ass?', but there's not really much of a way to tell for sure if they are in any mood. I'd consider it a sort of emotional purgatory or limbo.
As a healthcare worker, who works on the same floor as the maternity unit, I do see from the vicarious aspect that children are brought into the world with the utmost gentle care, in order to have a relaxed environment for the baby to come into... Now if they go to all of that effort to produce that relaxed environment, I would surmise that a baby's initial emotional state is very important to be as comforted and secure as possible, and from that one could presume that babies perhaps are born in some mood or another.

An emotional temperament is a different thing, though, and in short, I'd say that if any baby is born with one, it would be most definitely affected by the parents during the pregnancy. The mother, particularly is in a fragile emotional state, because she's essentially a hormone factory, producing all the extra ones to help the little one inside grow.

Also, another good reason to believe that a child's temperament is formed during pregnancy would be the common practice of playing mellow or classical music and putting headphones or speakers near the mother's belly, which studies have shown can be greatly effective in stimulating a creative response, resulting in smarter children.

To answer the final part of the question, I'd say it is definitely 100% true that children's temperaments are effected by the environment they are raised in as well. How their families treat them will directly be the main cause of growing with confidence or the lack thereof, abusive and addictive behaviors, minor mental conditions, and so on. The child is conditioned to believe that whatever situation they are raised in to be normal.

For instance, I'll use myself as an example, I was raised in a working-class family, the youngest of three boys. When we were younger, we all had our share of sibling rivalry, which led to a lot of violent behavior, and looking back on it now, I'd definitely say that I understand if my parents felt like referees, while we were growing up, often having to resort to physical discipline to get us in line. As the youngest brother, I often felt like the weakest of the three, and in answer to the natural fight or flight response, when my brothers were beating on me, was most of the time to run to safety... Sometimes, I'd fight back and even win with a cheap shot, but that usually meant just getting pounded harder the next time.
At school, which is the other side of things that directly affect a child's mental workings later in life, I was initially a really smart kid, often maintaining status close to the head of the class. After a few years, though, I became less interested in learning and more interested in daydreaming and drawing pictures. I always had good grades in art class, but my other grades faltered... I didn't want to do homework, and often lied to my parents about it, just because I didn't want to do what adults wanted me to. I was depressive, even as a kid, because others picked on me about my weight problem... Yup, I was the fat kid. I'd get beat up on the playground, even had my arm broken in a fight (which I started, though), and I started having a lot of disciplinary problems. My principal seemed to hate me quite a bit, firstly because I was in his office so much and secondly, because he had a huge grudge against my mom, who used to be a teacher at the same school. Later in life I found out just how much those two actually hated each other. He, often more than not, seemed to enjoy verbally abusing me, in a few words at a time, strewing it among the many lectures of discipline that I sat there and took, and I often left the office in tears. By my actions, I made myself an easy target.
In high school, I was often cornered, beaten and ridiculed, because my middle brother, who was two years ahead of me, had decided that 9th grade was appropriate a time as any to announce that he was more interested in the same sex than the opposite. That didn't make things any better for me. In a hick town school, that's like somebody just signed your death warrant. I think that I turned so fiercely against him in an effort to curb at least some of the bullying from other kids, and eventually, I learned to talk my way out of a few fights. But up until he graduated, my brother was my worst enemy. After he had been out of the house for a while, I made my amends with him, because I had time afterwards to reflect on how I had spent 4 years, trying to win over all the dumb redneck assholes that I would've been more happy to shoot straight between the eyes, instead of standing a member of my family, who ultimately deserved more of a chance to be treated normally.
All the time spent in school, with all that kind of bullying, created very low self-esteem for me, and I didn't realize at the time just how socially crippled I really was. I was very much drawn to myself, but often acted out to try to be the clown and make people laugh, but it never ended well... It mostly ended in ridicule.
If I had known a different way to draw the spotlight of attention, or if I could've just known a way to not care about it at all, I would've been better off, but I didn't know. I wish I had. Maybe I would've had more than just one or two friends at a time.
After my brother graduated, and I was the only son left home, I found myself breathing a little more freely. I got away with a lot more, because I played it smart and didn't make much trouble at home, essentially because I couldn't lie and blame it on anybody else. However, that is also the time that I was really introduced to pot. A guy who lived down the street, who I am still friends with now, introduced me to the feeling of being stoned... and I loved it. I wanted to feel like that all the time. It mellowed me out, and I didn't care about the things that once bothered me so much. I started acting a little closer to what I thought at the time a normal person acted like, and it seemed to work... People weren't picking on me so much. I had a string of 20-some girlfriends in less than a year (none of which I slept with). I seemed to be fitting in, so I figured it to be a successful formula.
By the last day of school on my senior year, I was more than ready for what I thought would be the greatest freedom... getting out of that shit hole school. I went on the last day of finals, before school, down to one of the popular spots of drug consumption with a friend, and neither of us realized that we were followed the whole way down by a cop. I got arrested, since I was holding the bowl, my friend didn't , because he ditched the bag of weed. But I was rather clean for the rest of the summer... Didn't have much choice. I didn't have a job, money, car... So I just stayed home and spent probably the most depressing summer of my life doing nothing but sitting in front of the computer, literally all day.
I was sick of that and myself after about a month... Then I started finally thinking about college... More like my parents thought about it for me. So they took me to go sign up at the local community college, which for a little bit, actually inspired me to straighten out and try to succeed at something. Boy was that a failure... I was psyched that when I took the placement test for math, that I qualified to take pre-calculus... After about 2 or 3 weeks of that, I was thoroughly convinced that I was wasting my time, because I didn't understand a goddamn thing about any of it. So I was depressed again. Just by chance, not long after I had come to that decision, I received my first offer in a long time to go get high with somebody, so 2 2=4, and I was a stoner again. Soon after that, I lost interest in all but one of my classes, which I went to straight to the end of the semester. The rest of the time was spent ignoring my class schedule and finding people to get high with. I had my own car, then, so people often came to me for the car to clam bake in. Eventually the party came to an end, when the semester ended, and I just didn't bother telling my parents that I'd ditched about 85% of my classes, and wiped my ass with the $2500 it cost for tuition and supplies. They found out by mail, when the college sent out notice that I'd failed everything but Music Theory, which I'd just barely passed.
Another month or so went by, and I finally decided that I should go out and look for a job. I didn't have to go all that far, because one of the first places I'd applied for called me back within a week. Must be the grocery store was hard up for a cart guy. I was happy to have a job, and the fear of the dreaded urine test didn't seem to last too long, since by the second month of working there, I was pushing carts in a purple haze just about every day. After about 3 months, the managers were actually impressed with my performance, and they decided to give me a shot in one of the departments, just to see if I could cut it. So I was hired back in the meat room. I took to it very fast, and enjoyed the better hours, which meant more money to feed my habit. I didn't really have much concern for anything.
I'll summarize the next few years, since they were actually the time that I truly matured and turned my life around for the better.
I worked at that store for 4 years, and had grown to completely hate it. I met my wife there, and I'm grateful for that to have happened, because she was the one to help steer me away from getting high all the time. It wasn't easy for her, and she really must've been patient as well as very in love with me to stay around at some points. When I quit my job, I had another lined up, at a competing store... Better pay, but non-union, so no part-time benefits. Didn't care for it. They opened a second store, closer to me, so I eventually moved to that one, but still worked at the other one as well. The second store closed, due to lack of business, because their grocery prices sucked in other words, and I got laid off. I got a job at the local hospital in the housekeeping department, and hated that even more than I'd grown to hate working in a grocery store.
After 7 months, I finally worked up the gumption to apply for the first job I could to get me out of housekeeping, and was told about a posting for a pharmacy technician. I applied for it, passed the required math test with the highest grade among 2 other people, and owned the interview. I've been working there for about a year and a half.

Now some readers may consider this biographical tangent to be totally irrelevant to the question, but I believe it to be a very appropriate example of a person's environment dictating their emotional temperment, as well as the lifestyle that is conditioned by that environment. I was a depressed, and when I finally had the chance, I found something that made me feel better about myself in doing drugs. I rationalized it to be an effective remedy, but then learned that it really only held me in a state of arrested development. I have a good job now, and the wife and I are living on our own and doing just fine. The reason for that is because there's also another question that could've been asked.

Is a person capable to remedy or change their emotional temperament?

...To which, my answer is most definitely YES. By changing your environment, you are capable of altering your emotional temperament.

I'm not a believer in prayer or any god, but I do believe in myself. Yourself is the most important thing that you can believe in, because when you leave things up to chance or just wait for them to happen, you are often disappointed. When you accomplish something on your own steam, it's more satisfying. There's honor in that.

Most people are capable of taking control over their emotional faculties, whether they are aware of it or not. Sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) push from somebody close to you, but you can do it. If you're sick of the world, sick of yourself, sick of your habits, sick of it all... Look to yourself, before you blame anybody else. Make up your mind to change and get off the couch.



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