Thursday, December 14, 2006

Psychology 101: Missing the Point

OK so I did Psychology 101 last millenium. Maybe it has changed. But when I did it, the major/central/pivotal theme was: Nature vs Nurture.

The NATURE camp said that mental illness was caused by brain chemical factors, genetics, biology, get the drift. Hard core psychiatrist types.

The NUTURE crowd claimed it was environmental issues that led to mental illness. Dad spanking you when you were 3. Parents shouting and screaming your whole youth. Unrelenting stress. etc. etc. I.E. we are all born "blank slates" and our life experiences shape who we are and who lands up with mental issues. Therapist types.

Well you know what? As a BiPolar sufferer, this debate, at the end of the day, means squat to me. As far as my future is concerned both sides of this argument are in agreement: My mental health issues were predestined. Whether as a result of my chemical genetic inheritance, or as a result of the atrocious upbringing I had, it was inevitable that I would be BiPolar. Cool. So where does that get me?

No, the REAL issue concerning BiPolar, goes one step back. One step before the Nature/Nurture debate. It concerns the issue of Freewill. How much of my future as a BiPolar sufferer is pre-destined (whether due to nature OR nurture) and how much do I control through my own freewill?

is the question. And it has a lot of ramifications, especially concerning how much responsibility I take for my actions. If its all pre-destined, then I may as well just sit back and enjoy (not!) the ride. Hey, it's not me, it's my genes. Hey, it's not me its what my mother did to me when I was 3.

On the other hand, if it's freewill, shit, I better get my act together. No excuses man. That was MY choice to be an arrogant, obnoxious A-hole.

Likely, as always, it is a bit of both. Some inescapable pre-destiny, some freewill. The nature/nurture schism is also a bit of both. But, the important thing is that the nature/nurture dudes are backward looking. Kind of like putting the headlights of a car in its rear so that you can see where you are coming from.

Whether the freewill/predestined dichotomy is the MOST fundamental dichotomy is up for grabs. Could be something even before that. Look here to see what I mean.


  1. It looks like a family tree, the bi-valent logic. I have always been curious as to why the statistic for bipolar people prevalent in the population is 1 in 100. Why that figure? Why not 1 in 43?

    A question I like to pose the psychiatrists with is, "You are part of an ethics committee. The gene for bipolar has been identified and it is now possible to remove it through genetic engineering, what is your casting vote, Yes or No?"

    Not one of the many psychiatrists I have met has answered that question. The best answer I have received is, "The disruption caused by Bipolars is offset by the fact that the creative society would be flat." So maybe the gene is there for a purpose, to develop the human race. Part of a grand plan. Nature or God?

  2. I'm just getting acquainted with the idea of being bipolar, it's all very new to me, so I apologize in advance if I didn't understand what you wrote and if I'm completely off base about something.

    Personally, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of using my mental illness as an excuse to not try to be the best I can be under the circumstances.

    It was not always this way. The first time, I was confronted with the premise of responsibility, was the moment I looked at a stick and realized that I was pregnant.

    I never cared two bits about myself, but I always swore that no child of mine would go through what I had gone through as a kid. I had no idea what was wrong with me, but from that moment on I strived to be the best parent I could, and even though I'm not perfect by any stretch of imagination, I have kept my vow.

    As much as I hate the idea of being bipolar and hope that one day this illness will be extinct, I'm glad to at least have an incling about what is wrong with me, because I know it will help me in my struggle to become a better person.

    (Ooops, that came out really prissy didn't it. Oh well, I have plenty of experience in being a self-hating wacko, it won't hurt to act stuck-up for once... ;)

  3. ohh i have a big comment on that one. but i need to elaborate it:)

  4. just noticed the sidebar

    bipolar disorder for dummies !!!!

    like, *laughs*, WHAT THE...?
    somebody is making money off of this...esp the flavour of the month for dummies books? ( and i use the term book while holding nostrils shut with clothespin )
    oh dear...

    man i wish i could post normally!

  5. BPG,

    Like always, I love how your blog entries make me "think."

    I too have been thinking about this one a lot because even before I was diagnosed as Bipolar II, I saw many things that made me wonder if my son (13) is bipolar also. When I got the diagnosis it was one of those, "A HA" moments for me. Not only did I have a diagnosis for why I've felt so "off" for so long, but my son could also be experiencing a lot of what I have been. He has been through some counseling as well this past year and it has helped him immensely, however I still wonder.
    I too had an atrocious upbringing, however due to that for me, my children tend to be on the complete opposite spectrum, which is great, but maybe offers some insight into the whole nature vs. nurture debate.

    BTW, I can't seem to load your page with the last post you added... I'm sure its my crappy computer.

  6. hope i didn't offend anyone if they like the "------- for dummies" series.

    i'd be thinking mostly nature.
    can't fight nature, only work with it...nurture on the other hand can be wonderful ( i hear *laughs* ) or we can be fighting it for a good deal of our lives...i think a lot of people get bad stuff happen to them, the older i get the more i realize how resilient people are and how ubiquitous crap in people's lives actually is... i try to behave responsibly and be kind. kindness is underrated in our world. you know, do unto others as one wishes to be undone to...*laughs*WAIT! that is NOT it :) well, you get where i'm going with that...

    on another note can u post on my blog bpg, or are you just not feeling like it. either is fine. i was just curious.

    firefox. too hard for stupid me to change when i got ONE thing working pretty well :)

    oh my word is MBIASD
    that's funny too! :)


  7. had this to say on free will: There is no such thing as free will. Lawyers charge to draw up wills. All of them. You will be assimilated.

    also, douggie adams in his 'hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' spelled it out very clearly: among the innumerable species/civilizations chronicled within the guide (c)-megadodo publications, only humans spend time arguing about free will.

    anyway, yeah, take responsibility and all that bullshit about being a productive member of the society, beat yourself over the head daily coz that's for sure key to your emancipation.

    what the hell is it you learned sitting crosslegged in that thai monastery for a year?

  8. a year?

    -eric the undead


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