Sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to this. Genetic illnesses (specifically within the context of mental states) is a complex one. I’ve been thinking of the best way to present my views on this so that it makes sense, but I’m not quite getting there, so here goes nothing. 🙂
I believe that we have hereditary traits that we’re born with. Some are physically manifested whilst others are more subtle and only become fully evident later in life. From personal experiences, environment doesn’t always influence these, so I’m inclined to believe that it is in fact passed down through genes and not just something adopted because of being exposed to the ways of the adults that conceived us. In this context, my point about environment is relevant where the child is not necessarily raised in the same home by its biological parents, but still grows up to exhibit some common traits with its biological parents despite never having spent time with them.
However, I believe that all things being equal, we all progress to a point in our lives where we are able to make conscious decisions about whether or not we choose to maintain or nurture specific habits and traits that we have. Those who succumb to their state usually never even attempt to break bad habits that may have been inherited because they are so accepting of it. If this works for them, then so be it. But it doesn’t necessarily prove that we’re unable to change the cycle that our genetics may have started.
I’m obviously a big believer in the power of thought, but not in the corny cliched way that most like to generalise about everything being mind over matter. But more substantially in that through a concerted effort, we are able to resist bad habits to the point where it becomes second nature for us not to have those habits at all. The same, I believe, is true about mental states.
If we inherit a genetic make-up that comprises a chemical imbalance (within the context of mental illnesses), and we are raised in an environment provided and maintained by the very same adults that we inherited it from, we would be in a perfect situation to ensure the preservation of such a mental state because it’s in fact a vicious cycle. What I mean is, given my assertion that our thoughts and emotions define our physical state, then by the same logic, the chemical make-up that the adults spawn that is passed on to the unborn child is actually a result of the circumstances that the adults were in. When the child is born, it is raised in the very same environment that gave rise to the state of the adults’ mind-set and therefore nurtures the very same traits in the child.
Given that most of our behaviours are learned through observation rather than instruction, the impact of this learning process is easily under estimated. But to me, the saving grace for the child is when they reach an age of being self-aware, and they develop the faculties to observe, question and act independently, they become capable of choosing to change the pattern, or to nurture it. It is when this important decision is made at every point of pain or struggle that these changes are triggered within us. When we’re successful at breaking that cycle through conscious effort, our deeply ingrained defence mechanisms as well as memories of our previous state and what helped us to cope with stress can cause us to relapse. But it’s important to remember that such relapses are most probably from habit rather than an independently formed chemical imbalance.
This post is getting too long and probably tedious, so I’ll leave it at that. I’m not even sure if I managed to convey my thoughts in a lucid manner. Happy to hear alternate views or comments on this. So long as it’s presented rationally and not scornfully.