Yesterday’s post about viewing people as trees, which helps to accept them as they are, got me thinking. What we think of as our personality or character is actually the consequence of many, and often unknowable, forces.
Research involving the gut biome of mice showed that when the gut biome of timid mice was replaced by the gut biome from bold mice, the timid mice became bolder, and vice versa. In addition to the old saying you are what you eat, this means you are who you hang around with, and which bacteria you allow to join you. It may change your appearance (yes, gut biome from skinny mice can transform fat mice) and, more importantly, it can change your personality.
Here are a couple of human examples. In the fall of 1994 my mother started getting angry at my dad. She would talk to him and he would not understand, which would make her furious. She believed him to be deliberately obtuse. Eventually it was discovered that she had a tumor, located in the language center of her brain, and she was, in fact, speaking gibberish. The second example comes from a friend, a man I knew as a gentle and soft spoken person. When I met him, last summer, I hadn’t seen him in many years and asked him how he had been. He was fine he replied, but had gone through quite an episode. Friends had been concerned because he was acting very mean, which seemed completely out of character. He had a health checkup and it was discovered that he had a tumor. The tumor was removed and he was back to his gentle self.
What we perceive as an “I”, a personality, a character, an individual, a self, is actually the sum of a huge amount of separate data points. Some of those lines we can control, others we are helpless about. Like a tree bending to catch light or bending from the wind.