Friday, August 14, 2009

The Behavior Paradox

“For many people, one of the most frustrating aspects of life is not being able to understand other people's behavior.”
-anonymous quote

The brain is the most complex and misunderstood organ in the body. Even to those who study it, the brain, much like the universe, is still a mystery. Yet, there is no shortage of self-help books; Dr. Phil's; and various other armchair psychoanalysts who feel that they can either philosophically fix the behavior of someone or, at least, condemn it in the name of "morality" or "personal responsibility" which all leads back to the brain - that organ of soft nervous tissue that is housed inside our skulls.

The brain is full of chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, that determine our personality. As much as we'd love to think that we are "the master of our fate and the captain of our soul," we're really not. There are too many of these neurotransmitters for me to list, so I will touch on a few of the more important ones:

seratonin - one of the chemicals which regulates moods and feelings of well-being. Because seratonin has the power to make us unhappy, we have antidepressants which targets seratonin.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid(GABA) - directly influences your personality and ability to handle stress.

dopamine - affects movement, cognition, pleasure, and motivation. Low levels of dopamine are often associated with those with addictive personalities.

oxytocin - associated with the ability to maintain healthy, interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.

I have my own personal shortcomings with happiness, stress, relationships, and addictions. It is the genetic cross that I, as well as many others, have to bear. I did not create these shortcomings and, therefore, am not responsible for them, nor do I blame anyone and by no means is it an attempt to sidestep accountability. We all must be held accountable for our actions. However, neither words of "wisdom" nor the lashings of guilt will fix a brain chemistry that people are born with. If you have a happy disposition, consider yourself lucky. You didn't create it. We are all the masters and captains of nothing.

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