• Zuzana Kučerová

Are Genes Our Destiny?

For years, genes had been thought of as the determinants of our entire being and our behaviour - until the discovery of epigenetics.

What is epigenetics? Let me briefly explain...

Although our DNA sequences do not change, we now know that genes get switched on and off on the basis of our environment (including our experiences, traumas, nutrition, exercise, pollutants, etc.). These are called epigenetic changes.

Epigenetics ('epi' meaning 'on top of' or 'in addition to') is essentially additional information layered on top of the sequence of letters (strings of molecules called A, C, G, and T) that make up DNA. Scientific studies now show that epigenetic effects occur throughout the lifespan, and that epigenetic changes can be reversed. For example, certain foods that we eat, or the amount of stress that we experience, will influence whether our genes make healthy proteins and chemicals, or proteins and chemicals that cause problems for us (whether, for example, genes for cancer or brain disorders will get switched on or not).

This clearly indicates that we are not victims of our genes and that we can influence our gene expression by choosing the right nutrition, proper sleep, how we manage stress, whether we meditate or not, whether we do yoga or not, how we manage personal relationships, whether we use others for social and emotional support, whether we connect with nature, whether we practise gratitude, etc. Thus ...

... epigenetics = hope

After the discovery of epigenetics, there was the well-known 'nature versus nurture' debate. And for some time, it was believed that the influences were fifty-fifty. Until another aspect came into light - perception! Yes, it is also our perception and our beliefs that make the difference. It is our perception that is converted into chemistry and the chemistry directly controls not just our behaviour, but our genetic expression as well. This partly explains why identical twins, who share almost 100% of their genes and their environment, end up being different individuals.

So, the way we perceive the world and ourselves truly matters.

And the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, others and the world truly matters too.

However, lots of us are sceptics about how much free will we actually have to change our perspective and our personal reality.

So, how much free will do we actually have?

It is true that we are largely influenced both on the micro and macro levels.

On the micro level - by our unconscious conditioning from the past, which is a very powerful driving force of our behaviour and emotional processing.

On the macro level - by our cultural, societal and media influences that brainwash us without our awareness.

However, despite conditioning, I have seen changes happening not only in my personal life but also in the lives of people with whom I have been working. Therefore, I believe, that we have more free will to create our own internal reality than some might claim, despite all the conditioning. What is vital, however, is knowing how to use both the top-down and bottom-up processing to create changes. If you would like to learn more about this, see my post termed 'Thoughts versus emotions & feelings'. What is also vital is to make changes in our lifestyle (e.g., nutrition, exercise) to make physical, mental and emotional changes. For more info, please go to my post 'What constitutes self-care and why can it be difficult to engage in self-care?'.