If we think of our childhood as a big block of wood, there are many factors that determine how that wood is worked to become the person we are today. There are predispositions of personality (like the nature of the grain and knots in the wood). There is also the environment that may be conducive or non-conducive for carving. Our parents are our artisans for the few six years are so and then more and more people (family, peers, teachers) start to have their influence. Eventually, we are old enough to carve and polish ourselves.

But each experience builds on the other. The more intense the experience the more sincere the development and memories that will form to aid us in making decisions on who we are as an individual. When experiences are very intense, our emotions imprint their own memory. Emotions are tricky things. They are sub-routines that short cut our responses. A person with no emotional response to a man throwing a punch at our face must cognize the experience and formulates a plan; however, someone who has had an experience of being punched may recognize the patterns of behavior. He does not need to think because the rapid response of the amygdala triggers our flight or fight response and we will run away, block the punch or punch back without much thought needed.

Those sorts of automatic response are also found in our automatic thinking. We will form opinions and ideas about the world from our experiences that sometime be based on emotional responses that may have little or no conscious evaluation. We don’t know why we feel the way we do about something—we just do. Thus our emotional selves create and influence our identity in very significant ways. Negative emotions have more influence than our positive because our evolutionary need to survive. As we get older we can work on making wiser and more conducive choices but emotions and childhood experiences are difficult to change because they are so deeply set inside our brains. Often, people opt to believe that “that is just how I am” rather than “those are really difficult habits and thoughts to change.”

We understand a lot about the human condition, but we are each bound by the experiences that have made us who we are today and work to refine ourself towards the person we hope to be. It is always about the journey and not the destination: making progress not achieving perfection. Understanding how and why we become what we become gives us this gift valuable insight.

Peace and Love, Jim

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