October 14, 2002
The Power of Change
There is an ongoing argument in mainstream science, medicine, and psychology called "Nature versus Nurture." One view states that we are what we are because of our genetic coding (nature). The other view says that we are what we are because of our environment and upbringing (nurture). As is the case with every polarized conflict, the answer can be found on both sides. Our genetic make-up is certainly essential and determines that newborn humans have many common characteristics. If genetics was not essential, we would be born as physically amorphous blobs that only take on human shape after proper childrearing! On the other hand, environment is also necessary in fulfilling the needs of the growing child. If "nurture" was not essential, we could become healthy adults simply by sitting alone in a box for twenty years.
In modern science and psychology, the pendulum is now swinging toward the genetic absolutism of the "nature" argument. Following this concept, when children are agitated and easily distracted, little attention is given to the children's family life and environment. Instead, the condition is interpreted as a faulty genetic blueprint and the behaviour (symptom) modified with a commercially produced drug. This diagnosis implies that the problem is a physical reality that can never change. It also implies that environmental circumstances have no effect.
I don't know anyone who really believes this. Consider, for a minute, three things: a clawed footprint on a riverbank, a plant with withered leaves, and a chronically frightened dog. Most people would agree that the footprint was created by an animal, that the plant likely withered due to a lack of water, and that the dog was frightened because it had been mistreated as a puppy. In other words, each item did not suddenly appear - each was the result of its history. This is rudimentary common sense.
If everything has a history, then emotional problems have a history too. We don't need to fall for the cynical rhetoric of genetic fundamentalists who tell us that deep feeling therapy can't work because emotional ailments are "hardwired." If common sense informs us that things are strongly affected by their history and experience, then adjustments to experience can change things. The muddy footprint can be washed away by the rain, the plant can become lush when watered, the dog can become more relaxed with love and care - and we can become healthier and happier by expressing and attending to our unmet childhood needs.
It's all about a universal constant - change.
Change is the one thing that we can count on; the one thing that, strangely, the genetic proponents try to deny. Change never stops. Although we may carry genetic limitations and damage due to childhood neglect and abuse, we cannot deny that everything continues to change. This change often takes the form of profound healing.
In Primal Integration, I see again and again that if people are supported and accepted, the process of natural change continues to bring them into greater balance and health. Those who needed drugs to maintain a sense of equilibrium gradually do without. If all our ailments were hardwired, this could never happen, and yet it does - again and again, thousands and thousands of times.
Since all our sufferings have a cause, and change is constant, then what has become sick can become well again. Change is not a false hope, change is a fundamental reality.