|Who Do You Think You Are? - Page 15|
What I leapt away from was not my own temperament—that was mine to keep—but from the self-castigating, life-sapping prison I'd constructed of it. Committing to making a life with Dan was only the first event in a long, intertwined process of struggle and letting go; it would take years, even decades, to learn to truly care about myself. But I had skated on paper and danced the Confidence Strut, and had laughed helplessly through each of them. It was a start.
"We are all," as Lord Byron put it, "differently organized." This is easy to see—a cursory glance at our own family members usually suffices—but daunting to fully grasp. The effort to do so is now in high gear, as hundreds of investigations by psychologists, behavioral molecular geneticists, and neuroscientists are bringing us closer to identifying just how temperament and life experience intermingle to shape a human being. Of course, these explorations will not tell us everything we want to know—not soon, and perhaps not ever. Temperament is an inherently messy business, rife with endlessly shifting and cross-cutting factors that defy crisp conclusions. As Nabokov said, "The greater the science, the deeper the sense of mystery."
Still, we know enough to get started. As individuals thrash about in their own temperamental thickets, therapists can serve as wilderness guides, following rough-cleared paths and pointing out elements of nature that are usually hidden from view. For clients who believe in the be-all of nurture—my parents screwed me up, end of story—it might energize the therapy process a bit to speak out loud about temperament. When my own therapist did so, it marked the beginning of my capacity to forgive myself. To understand that there are things about me that can't be undone or transformed by any amount of psychic digging or repair work—that a part of me is simply pre-psychological—has come as a profound relief.
It's possible, of course, to make too much of inborn proclivities, and to shortchange other realms of self that develop in the push and pull of growing up. The crucible of daily living may, in time, spur the extrovert to listen more deeply, the risk-taker to take better care of herself, and the shy person to pick up social skills—or even to discover an unforeseen pleasure in conviviality. In my own experience, once I've passed through the warm-up phase of friendship, I find it surprisingly easy to relax with others, share goofy stories, dance with abandon, and, on occasion, even get up and entertain. Suffice it to say that I know all the words to "Da Do Ron Ron."