To some extent, we are who we are when we’re born. We inherit a certain kind of intelligence and a certain emotional makeup, or personality, from our parents. Our interests and preferences, our tendencies and sensitivities, individual differences in how we think, learn, feel and behave, are apparent from very early on. At the same time, though, from the moment we are born and as development unfolds, our experiences modify this genetic programming. We learn, we change, we grow. And as we learn, the neural circuits in our brains get wired up, and rewired, and change the way we think and respond. Our positive experiences enhance our strengths, and our negative experiences can deepen our vulnerabilities. This is why it is so important to first understand and accept ourselves, or our child, or the person we love. We can help each other grow, or we can hold each other back. Understanding is the first step.
We all have different kinds of brains, designed to learn and do some things better than others. We have evolved this way on purpose, so that we can do all the different kinds of jobs that need to be done in our complex society. To expect everyone to learn the same way, to be interested in the same things, to function equally well in all situations, is to misunderstand human nature and the neurodiversity that underlies it.
You already know many things about yourself (or your child), but you need a framework for understanding what you know. For example, what do you do when you can do whatever you want? How did you play when you were little? Did you make friends easily? Do you tend to worry about upcoming events? Are you happiest when you are physically active? Are your feelings easily hurt?
We can think about a spectrum of emotionality – some of us naturally feel emotions very strongly, and others do not. We can think about a spectrum of sociability – some of us very much want to be connected to other people, others do not. We can think about a spectrum of novelty seeking – some of us seek things that are new or different, others like things that are familiar and don’t like surprises. These are all examples of differences in how our brains are wired from the start. Of course these tendencies can be modified by experience, but they are powerful elements of our ThinkPrint.
Our ThinkPrint, unlike our fingerprints, can evolve. We can learn and grow and change, more than we think would be possible. We can understand the very early source of our relationship patterns, and develop a healthier and more flexible and dynamic style. We can loosen our grip on our beliefs and contemplate alternative views. We can learn to love ourselves and those close to us as we are, right now, and stop focusing on the weeds instead of the flowers. We can change our minds.