You Can't Change What You Don't See


The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice; and because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there’s little that we can do to change, until we notice how failing to notice changes our thoughts and deeds.” – R.D. Laing

An extreme example of those who fail to see are psychopaths.  For nearly 20 years, James Fallon a neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine has studied the brains of psychopaths.  Fallon noticed that the orbital cortex of psychopaths appears black under a PET scan.

“What’s left? What takes over?” he asks. “The area of the brain that drives your id-type behaviors, which is rage, violence, eating, sex, drinking.”

In addition to the inactivity of the orbital cortex as seen in PET scans, which is thought to govern ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control, there are two other markers that psychopaths have in common. Genotyping reveals genes related to aggression and violence; psychopaths have a shared sequence in common.

Lastly, they also share a specific MAO-A gene which is the main target of much research.  This “warrior gene” regulates serotonin in the brain which affects your mood.  A specific type of “warrior gene” is thought to block the calming effects of serotonin.  In a sense that person’s chemical response to stress will be the inability to calm down.

You don’t have to be a psychopath to know what that feels like.  Someone recently described that when I’m angry it’s right on the surface.  They are right.  I’m like a pressure cooker.  I take on a lot, deal with a lot, accept a lot, forgive a lot, let go of a lot, but some residue of all those ‘lots’ build up to some reactive anger on the surface.  Then it’s BOOM.

What’s interesting about Fallon’s work is that he has two of the three markers that predispose him to the very disorder he’s spent his lifetime researching.  This led him away from his science a bit to consider the other side of the equation; nurture vs nature.

Fallon had a loving childhood.  This affirms the belief that we can train our mind to do something other than what it’s predisposed toward.  He believes his loving childhood tipped the scales in his favor.

“We’ll never know, but the way these patterns are looking in general population, had I been abused, we might not be sitting here today,” he says.

I have never had a PET scan and have no idea what genotyping would reveal.  However, I have accepted I am a person who must consciously choose and be mindful of my state if I want to stay in joy.  That is my commitment, promise, agreement with myself and what I choose to live in.  I do not choose to blame it on brain chemicals, my childhood, my current life or my hormones.  However, I do choose to investigate how those factors contribute and what things I can do to manage the impact of those factors on my well being effectively.  Why do this?

How will I ever SEE if I put things in a box, check them off and refuse to investigate them further?   

The stories sound like this “I’m never going to change I’m broken.  It’s my genes.  My family has this gene, I have this gene so there is nothing I can do.”  How do these stories serve us? How do they empower us to move forward, to grow, to evolve and to create a joyful life?

What are your stories?  What do you hear yourself telling others about your state?  Do you hear the ‘story’ wherever you go?  What if you let go of that story? What if you decided to investigate further, things you had the power to manage? What is your commitment, promise, agreement with yourself and what do you choose to live in?

We can empower ourselves by asking questions.  We can hear the ‘story’ and decide to change our language.  Change takes time.  We can work on a change in ourselves and it could take months before spouses, children, family and coworkers start reacting differently.

Sometimes when we change our story, it generates fear for others, and they dig deeper into their story.  We can focus on that.  We can be frustrated.  We can ‘blow up’.  It will not change them.  Then we can go back to focusing on the one person we most often neglect – OURSELVES….  What do I need to change today? What is my story?  How am I showing up?  What can I do to take care of my own needs?

“Perhaps more than any other action we take or move we make, the way that we deal with promises (or commitment or agreements) has a profound impact on our relationships and our results, in our business and personal domains.  For those of us who are not hermits, promises  are pervasive and are found in virtually every aspect of our lives.  Promises, commitments, agreements… whichever term we use, the claim is this:  They are directly connected to our relationships, our public identity, our effectiveness, and our personal well-being.  They are directly connected to a great many of the results we produce for ourselves in the world” Chalmers Brothers.


Language and the pursuit of happiness by Chalmers Brothers

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Bill Green

    My world extends from ear to ear. Everything else is unknown territory.

    1. Larina Hintze

      It’s only what’s between our ears we can change 🙂

  2. Charlie

    Change stems from inspiration, necessity or uncontrollable outside sources, either positively or negatively. Predisposal is a little like ‘what came first the chicken or the egg?’ and not a reliable indicator of present or future behavior. I grew up believing the myth that ‘temper’ was a valued family trait and, therefore, a justifiable behavior. Actually, it was a sign of immaturity on the part of the individual. However, severe chemical imbalance checkmates any positive message ‘between our ears’. It is often a result of traumatic stress. Once balance is restored chemically, positivity is again possible. This is just my opinion, of course.

    1. Larina Hintze

      This inspired much talk of ‘ears’ :=) What helps you keep a calm state and why did you choose to break away from the ‘family temper’ identity?

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