Definition of a genetic fatalist: If I have genetic markers for _____, then I will have _____ problem.
Maybe this doesn’t happen to you but I find that when I have conversations about a wide variety of counseling related issues, they end up hitting upon the genetic question? Whether we are discussing anxiety, depression, alcoholism, sexual identity or similar concerns, I can count on being asked,
“Do you think it is genetic?”
The questioner seems to think that if the answer is “Yes,” then the individual in question has no responsibility for the situation–or no control over what is taking place. “If my alcoholism is genetic then it wasn’t my fault.” “If my son’s sexual identity confusion is genetic then he can’t do anything about it.”
Here’s what I want to say to most of these questions:
1. Probably but we don’t really know. There are lots of researchers trying to discover genetic markers and how our genes express themselves. Some we understand really well (like eye and hair color) and others we understand less well.
But even if tomorrow we discover that your husband’s OCD is genetically based, what does that mean? Is he forever trapped in acting on his OCD?
2. Thinking about genes this way doesn’t really help us right now. We all have genetic markers for various cancers and diseases but not all of us contract the problems. Women may have markers for breast cancer but never have the disease. How can that be? It can be that way because disease states or mental health matters are multifactorial in their origination. There may be genetic markers as well as environmental insults as well as psychological stressors that all work together to either protect from the disease or cause it to get started.
So, are you a genetic fatalist? Do you give your deciding vote to genetic markers when considering responsibility and control regarding behavioral issues, mental health problems, personality?