The Human Magnet Syndrome - Excerpts - page 19

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CHAPTER 8: The Origins of Codependency: The “Chicken or the Egg” Dilemma
Back when I was in college studying to be a psychotherapist, the big nature versus nurture debate about
whether human behavior is determined by our environment or our DNA came to an end. They
eventually agreed on a détente, which conceded that both sides were equally correct, and neither were
more entitled to their claim than the other.
The nature versus nurture question could never have been solved, as the answer implies an illogical and
artificial developmental starting point that is mistakenly believed to be a primary process. In reality, the
“give and take” relationship of bio-genetics and environmental forces is what lays the psychological
foundation for a developing child. Simply put, the synergy of the two impacts a child’s mental health
future. The synergistic relationship of nature and nurture is clearly illustrated in the following way: Tom
Nature and Jerry Nurture were very good wrestlers, but not good enough. Only after Nature and
Nurture competed as a tag team did they win most of their fights, and rise to the top of their league. By
Tom and Jerry bringing their best into the ring, picking up the other’s slack, they easily defeated the
majority of their opponents. Hence, the “what came first, the chicken or the egg” question about nature
and nurture, should never have been asked.
Brain Development = Person Development
Early brain, or neurological, development and the factors that promote and inhibit it, are critically
important in understanding codependency. Consider that by age 4, a child’s brain will have reached 80
percent of its adult weight (Prabhakar, 2006). During this 4-year period, a child’s formative years, the
most rapid physical, cognitive and emotional growth occurs. Like sponges that do not differentiate
between good and bad, children soak up their environment without abandon. Anyone who has
parented a child will attest to how quickly a child absorbs and learns something new. These little
humans are virtual vacuum cleaners!
We are currently in the middle of an explosion of brain research, which has greatly enhanced our
understanding of child, adolescent and adult developmental psychology. More than ever, the puzzle
pieces are coming together so that we are can understand the synergistic relationship between the
environment, mind, and body. We now know that children’s physical and emotional atmosphere, aside
from their own internal feedback loop, dramatically impacts the development of their nervous system,
especially the brain, which then has profound implications on their adult psychological health. What
goes right or wrong during this delicately balanced and vulnerable stage of child development can have
profound, everlasting impact on the child’s life.
We have more than 200 years of examples of how the environment impacts a child’s physical
development. In the late 1700’s, the height of vagrant London boys declined from 1780 to 1800 and
then increased by three inches in just 30 years—a growth that paralleled the improving conditions for
the poor (Dougherty, 2017).
A more fundamental illustration of the interactional relationship between brain development and the
environment comes from the study of human evolution. Several millions of years ago, 15 or more
hominin species (ape-like animals with bigger brains, who walked erectly) lived side-by-side. Only our
species, homo sapiens, survived while the others perished. Paleontologists believe we survived because
of our ability to adapt to the changing conditions. The most crucial adaptation was the change in our
diets— from fruits and vegetables to meat. The added protein and fat gave us more energy, which
promoted the development of larger and more complex brains. In turn, bigger and more complicated
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