Not everything about a person can be explained just by what is happening in their mind. Every day each of us interacts within many systems, some of which are invisible, that can have subtle influences on our neurobiology. We can think about the interplay between our environment and our genetics as a relationship between nature and nurture that is constantly developing over time, with both equally important in shaping who we are and who we grow to be.
Scientific research over the past several decades has supported the argument that human behavior is determined by both genetics (nature) AND the environment (nurture), and has often shown up in clinical mental health study and practice. In fact, it influenced Marsha Linehan’s model of the Biosocial Theory, which is used to explain how pervasive emotional dysregulation and similar issues develop over time.
There is no perfect recipe for development. We all respond to the world around us differently. Neuroplasticity is a neuroscience concept that describes how the brain can adapt and change by reorganizing its structure, function, or connections within the brain. What happens in our environment creates these changes in the brain, specifically the building blocks of our brain called neurons. While the billions of neurons in our brain shape our perception by making sense of what is happening in our world around us, we are experiencing society’s influence on our neurons through neuroplasticity. Sometimes it can feel like we have no control over these changes since they often happen without us directly noticing them. However, what we know through neuroscience research can help us understand ways to promote healthy neuroplastic changes by doing things like exercising several times a week, meditating, or even engaging in a treatment such as DBT. You might be doing some of these things already! So even though sometimes it feels like society is “brainwashing” us, both figuratively and literally, know that you have the power to reclaim how society shapes your personhood and instead build your own chosen life worth living.