What Makes You You?

Psychology today was all about the brain and the way it can influence who we are: our personality, our temperament, our ability to handle pressure, and more. Super fascinating stuff, though once again it made me wonder what makes me who I am. I’ve written about this before when I talked about how much someone’s parenting can account for who they turn out to be. (When you’re a parent, you like to think that much of the way your child behaves is due to you being a good (or bad?) parent. When you’re adult, how often do you think that the actions you take all stem back to how you were raised? I tend to think it’s both more and less often than we might like. (Basically, I think it’s better for me to take the attitude that the good choices I make can at least in part be attributed to good parenting I received growing up, while the mistakes I make are because I need to work on being a better person. In actuality, I’m sure it’s a combination, but better to be humble than to sit back and constantly blame.)

But today raised the question of how much what we do and who we are is due to potential problems in our system. I was reminded of Sidney Rigdon, one of the early leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was an ardent supporter of the church, but he suffered a severe attack one evening when he was tarred and feathered and dragged through the street by his heels, his head bumping along behind him. The next day, he was very different. Delirious. Wanting to kill himself or his wife. While he recovered and continued to lead the church, he never seemed (to me, at least) to be quite the same. He split off from the church when Brigham Young became president.

How much of what Sidney did was due to potential injuries he might have sustained during that attack? We know of many cases in the NFL where the repeated hits to the head cause traumatic brain injury. If you get hit on the head in just the wrong way, can that have some sort of an effect on your personality? What if you were hit on the head when you were a child?

The more I think about it, the more reasons I see to try and treat everyone as compassionately as possible, and to be extra careful deeming yourself to be superior than someone else due to your own ingenuity. The “I did it, so can they” mentality only really works if everyone’s on equal footing, and the more I learn, the more I see how that just isn’t the case.

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