Psychology is often defined as “The science that deals with mental processes and behavior”.
In the modern day, there are basically two prevailing schools of thought. ‘Geneticists’ and ‘Behaviorists’… the old notion of “nature vs nurture.”
The Geneticists are inclined to think that human behavior is derived from heredity and instinct. Often on the news, reports detail how some study claims to find the ‘genetic predisposition’ ‘to being republican’ or ‘smoking cigarettes’. This supports the world view that we are ‘hardwired’ in some way and that even subtle nuances of behavior, such as an inclination for addiction, is genetic or “instinctual” in some way.
The Behaviorists, on the other hand, see the human being as a product of conditioning, as based on the environmental exposure of that person. Therefore, the actions of a person have a source that is derived from experience or a triggered train of thought, brought on by a learned understanding. The mechanism of action/belief therefore is sourced in learning, not heredity or instinct.
Which is more relevant? Obviously, both views are relevant in certain ways. Our interest in surviving and reproducing is imprinted/genetic in some way, as it is directly associated with fundamental survival. However, the means by which survival is obtained is entirely based on the social conditioning of that person. If a person grows up in a scarce, poverty stricken environment, with limited access to employment, they will have more of a propensity to engage in illegal activity to survive… more so, then say a middle class person who has basic needs met.
On the other side of the spectrum, if a person with great wealth has grown up in an elitist family and is thus conditioned into thinking that his or her wealth/class serves as a status symbol, they might often exploit those who work for them or perform illegal activities to conform to the identity and social arrogance they think is real.
The bottom line is that it is environmental conditioning that really affects 99% of our actions, and all diligent behavior studies have proven this time and time again.
People become alcoholics not because they have a genetic predisposition, but because of the influence of their parents or friends. If you abuse a child, very often they grow up to abuse other children. When the mass media promotes a certain idea in society, such as “terrorism”, the public is conditioned into believing this is true and a real threat, regardless of reality. The fact is, we are emergent, vulnerable organisms and always undergoing influence, conditioning and change to a certain degree.
That ‘degree’ is largely influenced by the social/ideological identifications which many have been conditioned to think are immutable. This particular state of awareness is where paralysis comes in, for there is nothing in nature to support the conclusion that anything we think about today will not be outdated in the future, for one of the few patterns we can stand behind with a certain degree of confidence(so far) is the reality that all elements of nature are emergent. The ‘identification’ with a set understandings for the sake of ones integrity is a serious distortion in our world, for it is considered a ‘weakness’ when a person is proven wrong. This is, of course, absurd, for to be proven wrong is how most learn and it should not be a feared circumstance.
Fritz Pearls once said that “The human species is the only species that has the ability to interfere with their own growth”. This is an important understanding, for our belief systems, which we think we must keep to support our identities, often stand in the way of new, changing understandings and personal growth.
The most dominant institutions which perpetuate this paralysis seem to be Theistic Religion and The Monetary System. Theistic religion promotes a fixed world view, with a “faith” based understanding that rejects logic and new information. The Monetary System ( in all countries) is based on Competition for Labor and thus Labor for Money. Very simply, the “competitive edge” can only be sustained through self-perpetuation, and self-perpetuation/self interest naturally leads to a static institution which prefers not to change, for it threatens the survival of that business, government or the like. This is unsustainable.