Human Nature – Good or Bad?

Are we born the way we are or do our surroundings shape the person we become?

Its the age old nature/nuture debate. John Locke’s Tabula Rasa vs. Evolutionary Psychology. Are we born as a blank slate which is influenced by those people and events around us or do we have certain abilities and behaviours already programmed into our nature which are present from birth?

From my experience as a counsellor, I would have to go with the Mr. Locke. I am constantly presented with clients whose past has defined their present and possible future. The way that we are brought up and what we experience as we come of age, make such a huge effect on the person we are today. We lose pertners so we learn not to trust, we are scared of getting hurt so we keep everyone at a distance, we are worried what people may think if they see the real us so we invent different aspects of self and show only that which is accepted, the list goes on.

This learning has been one of the most influential of my training, because it opens up the possibility of attaching behaviour and nature to certain events and people and we can separate what is our own and what is a result of others.

Working in schools, I have the privilege to see how free young children are, how they are not living by expectations or social norms and how they act out and be what they want, what is currently in their head – they are completely free. Unfortunately, I also get to see the constant moulding by teachers and adults – you must listen to me, you must do as I say, you should.. you ought to… etc. It is really disheartening to see this and I think provides an explanation for how many of us turn out.

I can certainly link most of my behaviours to my upbringing, I am honest because I was told it was the right thing to do, I am quite a safe person who takes little risk because I was told that way you won’t get hurt, I am a ‘nice’ person because that makes life easier and people prefer that, I hold back on saying some things I am thinking because it will hurt peoples feelings, Maybe I am writing this blog because I need something from it which I was missing from childhood.

However, on the other hand, I have worked through many of these things and find that actually a lot of me is naturally nice and is the person I am, I take more and more risks because it keeps life exciting, and I enjoying using this blog to put my thoughts out there for anyone to read!

Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centred counselling, believed that we all have an actualizing tendency. Basically a tendency to become and do good if we are giving the right conditions for these tendencies to grow and be expressed.

The tendency within all living beings to move toward completion or fulfillment of their potential. The source of psychological growth and maturity lies within each of us.

I agree with this but also think the same can be sad for a ‘bad’ actualizing tendency, if we are given the surroundings and experiences which help this bad side grow then we can equally become bad people.

Afterall, what is good and bad? Personally, I would put certain attributes of honesty, kindness, unselfishness, genuineness, caring, compassion under good and lying, cheating, stealing, dishonesty, selfishness, greed under bad. Im sure certain people would have further attributes to add or change.

What is your good and bad and where do you think human nature comes from?

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~ by justprose on November 11, 2009.

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