I am finally finished with the book-o-the-month, “Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave the Way We Do.”
It only took me more than a month to read 243 pages.
In my defense, the material was difficult at times (challenging, disturbing). Plus, sometimes I just couldn’t compute what the author was trying to say (because it was new information not because he wrote it poorly).
But ultimately, it took me more than a month to read the full text because I chose to take that long to finish it.
It wasn’t because of any other reason than I would pick it up, read a bit, then put it down again. Then comfortably forget about it. Then remember and pick it up again, read a bit more, then put it down. Then forget about it. Then remember and pick it up again….
In other words, it was my fault it took me so long.
Which is relevant here because around page 235 I started to regret ever picking the book up at all.
As I was reading and reading and reading about neurological wiring and all the problems it can cause, I started to think, “Hey, well if our brains are so mis-wired biologically, it can’t possibly be our fault we have all these mental problems. We were born this way – we the depressed, the serial killers, the abusers, the abused.”
This was not a happy thought…in fact, it was a thought that pretty much negated the work I have been doing for the last several years with mentoring and eating disorders, as well as approximately 42 and a half years of near non-stop efforts towards self-improvement.
Luckily, right at that moment I turned to page 236 and began to read the final chapter, titled “The Blame Game and Taking Personality Responsibility.”
What a relief!
See, I have always believed that human beings (and non-human beings for that matter) have a great deal to say about how we get to where we want to go and what shape we are in when we get there. It is not simply a matter of whether our brain or body does this or that – we get to have a say about the quality of our life and the part we play in that.
Whether viewed through the lens of Darwin, faith or simple survival instinct, it’s hard for me to get around nearly 43 years’ worth of experiences that have solidified my perspective on this matter.
So when I began to read the final chapter of Dr. George’s book, I breathed a bit easier. No, it wasn’t my fault – on one level at least. I probably was neurologically wired towards some level of depression, perhaps a propensity towards eating disorders, definitely a more-anxious rather than less-anxious nature.
But then yes, it was my fault – on an entirely different level – because I could choose to blame my wiring or do something about it.
And I chose to do something about it. I did many things about it, actually. Some were catastrophic failures (for instance, drinking vodka to calm anxiety – not my finest moment). Others were median successes (after more than a year of neurofeedback I was finally calm enough to begin to synthesize some of my other calming, mood-lifting practices).
Still others turned into medal-worth triumphs (finally opting for medication, my 20+ year meditation practice, a decade-long relationship with my mentor – aka “the woman who saved my life”).
But the point is, it was and is up to me how my life turns out. While hearing “it is your fault” may not have been the motivational gem I was dreaming of, it got me off my butt and awakened me to the opportunity hidden within that statement.
If it was my fault I was miserable, once I began to feel better I could also enjoy the credit for turning things around for myself!
And I haven’t yet met a person who doesn’t enjoy a bit of well-earned credit.
Today’s Takeaway: What are your thoughts about “fault” versus “no fault” when it comes to brain-based mental health issues? How much is pure biology versus self-determination? Why do some people triumph over trauma and others never seem to bounce back? It is an interesting question….I would love to hear your thoughts!
Gold medal image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 5 Sep 2013