Genetically Speaking

The current and continuing research suggests that our individual genetic composition plays a role, not only in our proclivity towards various diseases, but also in our actual behavioral choices. Violence, depression, sexual expression and a person’s sense of geographical direction (or lack thereof) are only a few of the behaviors that have been linked to a person’s genetic makeup. These links are not guarantees but statistical probabilities. There will always the internal and the external factors which blend to produce a unique individual. (The black and white argument between nature vs. nurture  has widely been debunked).

I’ve been wondering lately if there isn’t a genetic deficiency in some people that creates an uncontrollable and irresistible impulse to ‘take charge’ of whatever situation they’re in?

Allow me to explain.

It’s been my experience that most people are naturally inclined to give other people some space, room to breathe, in which to learn from missteps and mistakes. It may seem somewhat passive but it is actually caring at a deeper level…caring about the good of the person more than about the achievement of a given result. There may be inefficiencies and delays along the way but healthy relationships only develop through respect and trust. I suggest that this gene might be called the ’empathy’ gene or the ‘good Samaritan’ gene.

There are some, however, who have little interest in the interests of others and of their well being. They perceive inefficiencies and mistakes as weakness rather than an essential element of the human process. And while most people will be glad to help someone who is struggling or, at least, take a half-step back to allow the person to learn for themselves what’s not working well, those who lack the ’empathy’ gene feel compelled to step in, to ‘take charge’, to admonish and correct, to dismiss and disrespect the less than perfect person in front of them.

This genetic deficiency manifests itself with clear and identifiable ‘symptoms’ in a percentage of the population. There is a predisposition to find fault and lay blame. There is an irresistible impulse to step in and to correct whatever it is that they perceive is going wrong. And then, with certitude, bluster and righteousness, they demand to be heard, to take over and to lead the way.

Most of us, out of decency and respect, will extend some latitude in their direction with the hope that they might self-correct soon enough. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes and most of us do truly want to learn from our missteps how to do better the next time.

This is not true for those who lack the ’empathy’ gene. The patience that they’re extended is perceived as permission. The silence of others is interpreted as agreement.

Most people wait and are silent in the face of the ‘take charge’ person because of a profound belief that another person couldn’t possibly be that misguided and not see it for themselves. Because they have the ’empathy’ gene, there is no point of reference in most of us for that sort of distortion and disregard. Much like the sugar effects in the diabetic who is insulin deficient, or the effects of alcohol in the genetically inclined alcoholic, or the impact of peanut butter upon those with that genetically based allergy, those who do have the ’empathy’ gene find it nearly impossible to understand what life would feel like without it.

Conversely, the people who lack this gene cannot imagine people who aren’t interested in running things. There presumption is that everyone feels the way that they do, that everyone wants to be ‘in charge’ and that they just happen to be better at it than everyone else in the room.

In their own minds, they are, in Darwinian fashion, the ‘winners’, the apex individuals, the leaders of whatever organization to which they belong. (Coathangers of America, anyone?)

No matter what the costs in terms of their health and peace of mind (what’s that you say?), their relationships with family and friends (or lack of), the stress, the loneliness of constantly competing for everything and with everyone, the emptiness of arrogance, the endless battle to ‘stay on top’ and the constant sense of impending doom…they are compelled to be in an arena in which they are eventually faced with only people like themselves.

Consider this for a bit, if you so care to.

There’s more on this to come in my next blog.

 

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