No single gene underlies temper, or impulsiveness, or irritability. It’s an intricate dance among many genes and circumstances. There’s a universal characteristic called free will that makes the picture even more unpredictable.
Therefore, one’s genetics do not offer a biochemical excuse, as in “My body made me do it.” No husband will win affection from his wife by hiding behind, “Honey, I’ve had a temper long before I met you. You’d better learn to live with it, because it’s just a part of me and I can’t change it now.”
No parent of a volcanic Serena would—I hope—in resignation surrender, “She’s so strong-willed. There’s not much I can do but accept it. It’s going to be a long fifteen years.”
No, what he would accept—I hope—is that he needs five times the perseverance to teach Serena some self-control as he needs for her even-tempered brother. Success may come slowly, but for Serena’s sake, as well as that of everyone near ground zero, it must be pursued.
Grown-up Serenas tell me of a lifelong battle to douse their fiery emotions. Genuinely distressed by their proclivity to overreact, their efforts are exhausting, with a two-steps-forward, one-step-back element. Still, they show an admirable will to keep advancing. They mean to conquer, or at least quiet, some of their inborn inclinations.
Science is a long way from knowing (if it ever will) how much a lack of self-control is nature and how much is nurture. And in the end it doesn’t matter all that much. We have to alter for the better what we can. If not our temperament, then our temper. If not our bodies, then our minds.
…The good news, as we shall see, is that we possess the mental resources to overcome even our bodies’ strongest inclinations.
Fighting Mad — Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger Pages 14-15
Copyright © 2013, Dr. Ray Guarendi