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Nature or Nurture?

By Malka Burd, CHt.

It is a question that has confounded deep thinkers for ages: nature or nurture? Are we born with certain personality traits or does our environment shape us? How much are we influenced by those around us, and what exactly is the nature of the "free will", which we are taught we have? "M" is an intriguing example of this puzzle.

Her naturopath, who felt that her problems needed more than just a physical detoxification, referred "M" to me. In our initial consultation, "M" expressed her dissatisfaction with herself. She felt that she was a burden on her family, who would be better off without her around. She felt stupid, incapable of doing even simple tasks and felt that she was taking up space on earth, that she had no right to be here. Throughout our discussions, she would clutch her throat and gasp, finding it difficult to bring the words out through a throat that seemed to tighten up. Her self-loathing seemed to be an 11 on a scale of 1 - 10. There was nothing positive she could say about herself. As far as she was concerned, she should never have been born at all.

"M" was a very responsive subject, so responsive in fact, that a formal induction was completely unnecessary. Having her close her eyes and describe her situation was enough to induce a fairly deep level of trance.

In our first regression, she found herself at age 5 sitting on a swing. While most children would remember this with pleasure, "M" was aware of feeling extremely sad and alone. Her time on the swing was not part of her play, but her attempt to get away from the house where she felt unwanted and unloved. Both her parents were extremely busy people, who had neither the time nor the inclination to spend time with, or hug, a little girl. The little girl was aware of how hard her parents had to work to make ends meet, and felt responsible for the pressure they felt. If not for her, they wouldn't have to work so hard - she was a burden. She could do nothing to help the situation - she was useless.

I asked the little girl to imagine that her mother was there in front of her, and "mother" admitted, when talking to her, that she was not ready for children when she had them, but now that they were there, she felt she had to work to provide them with more than she had herself growing up. She was uncomfortable giving cuddles, as she had never had any herself growing up, but now that she saw how unhappy her little one felt, she was willing to give her a hug. Session one ended with this, and "M" felt a little lighter, as if some of the burden had been lifted from her shoulders.

The next time I saw "M", she said that her week had started off quite well, but that towards the end of the week, she was again feeling depressed, anxious and guilty about how burdensome she was to her family. In order to prove to me how unworthy she was, she told me, in a voice of deep loathing, that she was so stupid and useless, she was still in nappies at the age of 3, further adding to the load her mother had to carry by making her change her.

We quickly and easily regressed to the 3 year old who was feeling very anxious whenever mum had to change her, as she could feel mum's frustration and could see how much extra work she created for mum.

The intriguing aspect of the nature/nurture debate comes now. When I asked to speak directly to mum to find out what she thought about our 3 year old, she didn't, as expected, discuss her frustrations with a little girl who wasn't toilet trained. "Mum" started crying, wailing, flaying herself for being such a horrible mother. She had, in fact, been so overwhelmed with her life, and lack of support from her husband, that she had aborted other pregnancies, because she couldn't cope. "Mum" kept repeating "I am a murderer" over and over, crying out the guilt and the pain of having terminated those pregnancies.

I was a little confused at this point whether it was my client who had had the abortions, but it was in fact the 'mum' within my client. When 'mum' was finally able to forgive herself, and 3 year old was able to forgive 'mum' for depriving her of playmates, 3 year old expressed the truth about her toilet training. Rather than being slow, it was her way of gaining some very much needed private one on one time with mum. 'Mum' and 3 year old were able to finally express love for each other, and Adult client was able to recognise that some of these feelings of guilt and shame were not hers, but were 'borrowed' from mum and could now, finally, be let go.

The habits of a lifetime were slow to change, but the feelings now were very different for "M". She could see that she had taken on many negative self feelings which originated with mum, and that she had then spent much of her life proving to herself and others that these feelings were valid. The changes that she could see happening were very freeing and inspiring for her - so much so that she was beginning to ask herself how she could help others.

Nature or nurture, how much do we take on from those around us? "M" seemed to show, quite a lot.

Malka Burd, CHt., practices in Melbourne, Australia. She began her healing work in 1985 and has never looked back. Her website is:

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