My Self-Actualization and Nature Vs. Nurture
by Brian Krall
I grew up in the country, a very small town on the outskirts of the city of Rochester NY about 40 minutes away from downtown, and 20 minutes away from the nearest grocery store. It had a lot of nature and that was great for many reasons, but it was also very desolate. My mother was very sheltering and isolated me from most other kids I wanted to play with. She was also very oppressive and wanted to indoctrinate me in her own ways and prevent me from associating with anyone she didn’t approve of, and she didn’t approve of most people. This conditioned me with a lot of social anxiety and depression, and other social issues. In fact, as I would come to find out, my mother was a sociopath, and really enjoyed causing psychological issues in me that she could then despair about and blame on the divorce and my father and popular culture, and then force me into therapy that I did not want or need. For a while I was very unpopular in school, but I was not a stupid kid and was able to figure out what it took to become popular and get in with the popular crowd. However, even as a teenager she would not let me hang out with other kids outside of school without first talking to their parents as if I was a child and she needed to arrange “play dates”. Thus I had to become very rebellious and independent and learned to just do what I want and find my own way.
When I was 16 I moved in with my father in a nice, rich, predominantly Jewish suburb on the outskirts of downtown Rochester, just a few minutes away from it. There were a lot of preppy teens there, as well as an urban influence. My social conditioning changed. I got involved with a wide variety of people, including gangs, which I found wouldn’t judge me for the same things the people in the country did, and thus there was some comfort in associating with them. However I was subject to violence and other bad experiences, which socially conditioned me with more social anxiety in the long run.
Living with my father also caused a different type of nurturing. While I still had some of the nurturing (and nature) of my mother, my father was the opposite. He allowed me intellectual and creative freedom my oppressive mother hadn’t. He allowed me to have my own beliefs and be my own person. He nurtured my creativity and supported me in my pursuits. He allowed me to choose my own friends, and even though I made bad choices, I learned from them. This helped me to gain intelligence and grow intellectually and develop my personality. It was in his home where I became a man.
When I moved out I moved downtown. I assumed a normal adult lifestyle and tried to balance that with my own pursuits and recreational lifestyle. I maintained some of my asshole friends from high school who I liked to party with, but eventually I realized that that was not a sustainable lifestyle and that these people did not have my best interest in mind and weren’t good friends. So I cut them off and sought out new ones. I also started dating. I had some bad girlfriends who were very limiting, who I chose simply because they were the only ones who made advances on me. I felt my options were limited and that I was living in “social scarcity”. I learned over time how the people in your life have the most profound effect on you. And likewise, just how much you are a product of your environment.
There is of course our own inherent nature, that which we are born with…but how much of that is real and static? I seemed to develop different personalities in different environments, and took on different traits based on who I was interacting with and influenced by.
My city is mostly ghetto, with a certain upper class that was perhaps about 1% of the population (I’m sure you’ve heard this before). I like to refer to my city as “Gotham City”. It is quite an anomalous city. A small city of about 1 million people. And while it had its nice suburbs and upper class, it also had at any given time around the third worst crime rate, murder rate, poverty rate, and pollution rate in America. It was simply not a nice place to live. Unless of course you were part of this elite upper class, which most of us weren’t.
There are a lot of thugs and hustlers in this city because of the poverty and crime, and because of this it tends to be a very antisocial and closed off social environment. People here tend to stick to themselves or their immediate social circles and not be too keen on meeting new people, or forming new relationships. They are simply untrusting of others due to the social issues of the environment. The environment is also very conservative and sex negative, so it is difficult to form both new social and sexual relationships. As a social being this made it difficult for me to be happy here.
Being involved with gangs in this very high crime city I did experience gang violence on one occasion. In this occasion I was beaten in the head by 5 guys for over 3 minutes in an attempt to knock me out. I was intoxicated and a bodybuilder (fear had lead me to try to build my body to be as massive as possible), so as they kept knocking me down I was able to repeatedly get back up and fight back and knock a few of them out of the running in that time but the two biggest and most aggressive ones did end up succeeding in hitting me so hard that I could not get back up. This only occurred because I was betrayed by my friend who sold me out to a gang leader who was the same ethnicity as him, which I was not (Hispanic). I learned this the next day and it was disconcerting to me. I lost a large amount of resources in that robbery, and a certain feeling of well-being that it would be difficult to recover. It made it hard to trust people in this life, and I knew I had to get out if I was to not have to live in fear anymore.
Even getting out of the gang lifestyle I found I still had to live in fear of the threat of violence. I encountered even worse violence when trying to manage a national chain pizza shop in the city 5 years later. This time it was at the hands of just one man, and the effects were much worse. The man entered the shop and asked for the manager. I told him I was the manager and asked him to hold on a second and when I had my back turned he hit me in the temple as hard as he could. That one blow sent me flying and left me nearly unconscious. I tried to get up and do something which was a mixture of walking and flailing my arms a little, and he proceeded to beat me over the head and order me to give him the key (to the safe), which I forgot that I had due to my reduced level of consciousness. I again proceeded to try to get up and fight back or leave repeatedly, this time quite feebly, and was repeatedly knocked down and beaten in the head much harder, until my head struck the sharp metal edge of the safe and split open and I began bleeding. Then I stopped moving. The man continued yelling at me louder and eventually one of my employees who was working in the back heard and came to see me and screamed, when the man decided to run away. This incident caused a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, the company, instead of paying my medical bills, decided to lie about the incident and let me go. This made it hard for me to trust people in general, and my social anxiety reached an all time high.
I always wanted to leave this city to move somewhere nicer, like California. However, people in the self help community stressed that you shouldn’t look for outer solutions to inner problems, and that they must be solved from within. Even my girlfriend when I was trying to plan my move said “you can’t run from your problems, they will be there wherever you go.” So I decided not to leave my comfort zone and stay in Rochester, at least until I had self-actualized enough to merit a move. Little did I know this was not the right thing to do.
I stayed here for about a decade more, working on my self help and self actualization. In that time I worked on my post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety and other issues. It took me 3 years to recover from them and was an arduous and intensive process involving Holistic Health, Psychology, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Logotherapy, Spirituality, Social Science Social Networking, and Relationship Development Skills. I was able to self actualize at a certain level here, and after working on my self I started helping others and building my company here. But I found that no matter how much I did here there seemed to be a certain ceiling I would reach. I could practice social networking for instance, and meet a lot of people and generate a lot of leads. But people here were just very socially closed off and resistant to new relationships. I could work on my company but people here were resistant to new businesses, and personal development especially. I could work on my social anxiety and getting acclimated in a social lifestyle, but being in a very socially toxic and hostile environment, there would always be resistance and things that would cause my social anxiety to come back, or for me to just not be able to become socially happy with my social life here.
That was when I realized how much people are a product of their environment. I had always taught people through the law of attraction that their environment is a product of them as well, and that they can change the world around them to make it a better place. And while this is true, it is also quite circumstantial. There was no way for me to change a negative environment of 1 million people alone. And without many people working for that change with me, my environment would not be enough of a product of me for me to be able to succeed and self actualize in it. And even in working on my own success and self actualization independently I would always be a product of my environment as long as I continued to subject myself to it. In order to really change my life and do the things I wanted with it and make it what I wanted it to be, I needed to change my environment. For I realized that part of making my environment a product of me was choosing the right environment to thrive in. My problems would follow me to a new environment perhaps, but the problems caused by my old environment could find a permanent solution. And I had found that whenever I would travel to new cities many of my problems didn’t follow me there. In a new place I often felt like I wanted to feel, and could be the person I wanted to be. I felt freed.
I had experienced this liberation in a few different cities. And so I knew that it was not just me that was the problem, that is was also the environment. From evidence, I could expect to be the person I wanted to be and live the life I wanted to live in another city. Sometimes your problems come from within and you have to work on them from within in order to create real solutions rather than run from them or try to create external solutions. But sometimes they are not simply coming from within but are driven by your environment and social conditioning. In order to undergo the greatest personal transformation you must transform your environment as well what is inside the self. And you often cannot do that by working with the environment you have, but choosing a better one for yourself.
I chose Las Vegas, Nevada. I had never been there before, but it was renowned as being one of the most socially abundant and prosperous, as well as sex-positive cities in the world. And the entertainment capital of the world. A perfect place for me to work on my social networking and social life, my sex life, and building my business and putting on seminars, as well as launching my music career.
Leaving the city I had always known as home was hard. It was a very solid comfort zone…a prison that had kept me there for 31 years. I had had little opportunities to move before but had never taken them because of the risks I was warned about when making such a large leap. This time I was not going to let anything stop me. My one friend wanted to move there as well and we wanted to move in January. I agreed to that date and formulated a plan. I did not have the large sum of money it would cost for a large scale move, but formulated an idea of how much money it would take. And I set this all in stone in my mind and planned it all out. My decision was made definitively and I set all my energies on making that happen and the universe calibrated to that and I was able to make the money it would cost to move and make the move happen by January. My friend who did not formulate such a plan was not able to move by then and has remained trapped here as of yet. But this is of course what comfort zones do, they trap you.
I was very nervous about this move, and had to make serious sacrifices in order to make it happen. But this time I was going to let nothing stop me. There were certain meaningful material attachments that I had to either give up or put into storage or deal with the complications of moving to my new environment. This was not an easy process and it really showed me how much your possessions end up possessing you, and how your attachments are what will keep you stuck in the matrix of Samsara and in the limiting environment you have always stayed stuck in — tried to make a good life in – proof of that often shown in accumulated possessions. In order to make this move happen I had to break down my home and get rid of anything I didn’t absolutely need, and then put myself into a transitory “limbo” type of living situation for a while. My reality became very displaced, but I had to make sacrifices in order to do what I really wanted in life.
One of the greatest attachments I had to deal with was my son. This was one I could not sever. But I had to decide to spend longer periods of time away from him than I was used to, or would be at all comfortable with. I felt the separation was now justified because my unhappiness and lack of success in the old environment was not allowing me to be as good of a father as I needed to be. My son could tell I was not happy and it stressed him out. He was constantly worried about my emotional state, asking if I was happy, asking what was wrong, etc. By the law of state transference and mirror neurons my adverse feelings were getting transferred onto him. That was even more painful to see. I did not want him to inherit any of my negative feelings or psycho-social issues. In addition, my business success was limited here so I could not provide the lifestyle for him I wanted. I needed to create a better life not just for myself but for him. On a primal level I felt that since time immemorial it has been the male’s job to decide when the land that his family or tribe was living on was no longer fruitful and being the one to venture out of the family and tribe to seek better land. That was what I needed to do. The emotional complications of doing this were overwhelming to both me and my son. But I had to be strong and not allow myself to be held captive in this toxic environment anymore.
It was a very long journey to get from Upstate New York to Las Vegas, NV, and it was very interesting just how this move displaced my reality. Sitting in transit for so long made my body and brain feel weird, and being propelled at such great speeds and to such heights that were above the clouds themselves caused imbalance. Exciting as it was, it was also nerve wracking. It made me anxious, made my body cramped, and my mind entered a trance state where I became very tired and went in and out of consciousness.
I had to travel three hours back in time to get there, and the effects of time travel on the mind and body are very interesting. This misaligned my normal daily routine as well as my biological clock and I simply did not feel right. I also had to live without most possessions for a while, in a room with a bed that wasn’t comfortable and caused aches and pains. The room I had rented was strange, it was more engineered for a female guest than a male guest. And I was of course in a very strange environment, quite the polar opposite of where I used to be. The architecture and business environment was different, the layout and city planning was different, and the ecosystem was different. I felt really weird, like I had entered an entirely different dimension. And what’s more was that being away from my son made it feel like a piece of my soul was missing. I was also away from father, and my girlfriend and all my friends, who I knew I might never see again, and in an environment where I only knew (literally) a few people for social support (which is key to survival). And I did not know my way around or how to take care of my basic human necessities such as going to the grocery store to get food. And I was being bombarded and overwhelmed by strange new sensory stimuli. My first thoughts were partly of excitement…and partly of ‘I’m scared and I wanna go home’.
But there were too many positive aspects to this new environment for me to turn back. And I had passed the point of no return and invested myself in this lifestyle change, so I had to be committed to it and take responsibility for making my life what I wanted it to be here. And that would not be hard as long as I didn’t indulge myself in any of the fear based mental patterns I had learned from my old environment. So on my first night I got a good long nights rest, woke up early and opened my window to bask in the morning sunlight and cool desert breeze (which was much warmer than the 20 degree snowstorm I had left in Upstate New York), and then went outside to take in the sun and palm trees and all the new scenery of my environment and really allow the idea that I had finally escaped my prison to sink in. It was surreal, but when I finally wrapped my head around it I rejoiced and started jumping up and down with excitement. I then set out to explore my new surroundings and get oriented and do some shopping with a new friend, and then went out for a night on the town and do some clubbing with two other new friends. My negative self limiting thought patterns would continue to crop up, but I made a conscious choice to pay more attention to the positive thoughts than the fear based ones and I focused on creating more new positive-self-talk about my environment and really engage in all that it had to offer me.
I did have a lot of things to adapt to and problems to deal with in moving and calibrating to my new environment. My biological clock being off from the environment caused problems for the first couple weeks. As did being in a new ecosystem, which wreaked havoc on my allergies for the first couple weeks as well. But once I got oriented in my new environment and adapted to it I found that it was the environment I needed in order to feel the way I wanted and live the way I wanted. I found that I had more energy and a better state of mind than I ever had, and could finally live my life to the fullest here and do all the things I had always wanted to. Anything that stopped me from doing so was just an internal block I had taken with me from my old environment. I would sometimes feel out of place and not know what to do, or even get lost at times. But I would simply center myself, work with my thought processes, and find my way. And such is life. In doing so I was able to do the things I had always wanted to do with myself that I could never do in my old environment. It was very exciting to begin a new adventure and I could now really feel that a brand new chapter of my life had begun, and that I was finally going to live the life I wanted and be who I wanted to be. Something I had waited decades to do. The people there were friendly, outgoing and helpful, very good natured and positive. The guys were cool and fun to hang out with and the women were hot and sexual. I met my soul mate very soon after moving there, which goes to show that sometimes you just need to change your environment in order to have the things you need in your life come into it. I also met lots of cool guys to have the kinds of friendships I had always wanted to have and do the things I had wanted to do with people. I was finally able to have the social and sexual interactions and relations with people here that I wanted. It was also full of entrepreneurs and had a booming business scene, and a really great music scene too. I was able to finally start to live the life that I wanted to live. And most of all I was able to be the person I wanted to be and feel the way I wanted to feel. Because I am a product of my environment…and the environment I can thrive in can be the product of me as well.
So as for the Nature Vs Nurture debate. Well people do have inherent nature, but it is certainly not static. It is something that can be changed and molded. And it will be molded largely by your environment, your nurture. You can try to mold it yourself, but if you have an entire environment of adversity working against you, it is going to be very hard to do so past a certain point. You will always be limited. Human beings are social animals. We live in social environments because of that. These environments have been engineered for our self actualization. It is very important to choose one that is geared towards yours. If you are going to achieve that, you have to take your nurture into your own hands. Make sure your social conditioning isn’t working against you, as it quite often will. And make sure to try to recondition yourself. And while you cannot run from internal problems, most internal problems do not come from nature and genetics, they come from nurture and social conditioning. And even the genetic problems that one can have will be changed by social environment. Studies have shown this (you can read more about that in my other article “Genetics Don’t Cause Disorders” at my website listed below). So many internal problems can be fixed permanently by creating external environmental solutions, while also working on them internally as well. I am not advocating that people run from their problems and simply change their environment. I am saying that when you are trying to self actualize and create yourself as a product of who you want to be – take into consideration that you are also a product of your environment. And when you cannot create an environment that is a product of you within your immediate surroundings, sometimes you just have to create a new environment that can be a product of you…and more importantly who you want to be. This is what will lead to the greatest personal development and transformations. Some environments are just geared better to you for greater success and prosperity.
Life is a journey. I hope you can make it to the place where you feel you can best be your true self and live your true life as such. Just know that sometimes on our journey we need to move forward and upward in baby steps which slowly push the boundaries of our comfort zones in order to expand it, and thus expand our possibilities…and sometimes our comfort zones and their boundaries are simply too limiting and confining and we need to take giant leaps out of it which involves great risks. And while great leaps and risks are hard to take you simply are not going to get to a better place in your journey without taking them, as no journey will ever be without some great divide that needs to be crossed in order to get to where you want to be. So be sure to look for the time when it is right to start taking bigger steps and even great leaps of faith in order to do the bigger, better things with your life that you need to do to be the person you want to be! But do not let a limiting environment or beliefs and attitudes of a fear based mentality confine you and keep you stuck. Break free from your environmental limitations no matter what it takes so that you can design the lifestyle of your dreams! You can do it if you make the decision and commit yourself to it! Best of luck to you on your journey, I hope you can get to where you need to go.
Brian Krall runs True Life Development. His mission is to create as much positive socio-political change in the world as possible by helping people to help themselves and giving them the resources they need to better themselves.