Most Human Behavior, Including Our Own Personalities, Is “Socially Constructed”

I do not believe that most human behavior has, how to put it, “functional” (?) effects. Functional would mean if X happens to you, then Y is always the traumatic result of X.

It simply doesn’t add up.

What’s abuse in one society is normal in another society. If your society tells you having X behavior happen to you is nothing, few if any get harmed.

If your society tells you that having X behavior happen to you fucks you up for life, you need decades of therapy, and you’re never right again, guess what happens? Lots of people get fucked up for a long time, some for life, many go into therapy forever, and many have lasting damage into adulthood and claim they will never be the same after what happened. For the same Goddamned behavior that caused zero harm in the other society.

If you keep telling a kid he’s a thief even though he’s never stolen a thing, he might just start stealing. In an important sense, sadly, we are what other people have told us we are. We all want to think we are masters of our own ships, but as long as we reside in this socially embedded world, it’s probably not true. We may well be doomed to be affected by other people’s treatment of us.

We live in society with other humans in a culture. Most human behavior is culturally embedded.

I hate to sound like an SJW, but most human behavior and reactions to it, traumatic or otherwise, are “socially constructed.”

In a way, the person either chooses to not be effected by it (in a society that says it’s harmless) or chooses to be traumatized by it (in a society that says it’s very harmful). Hell, our own personalities are socially constructed.

Not only that but new research says that your personality in part depends on the humans you are around, and in that sense your personality can change throughout your life. I keep telling my clients, “There is no real you. There’s no such thing. Quit trying to find the real you. It’s bullshit.” I tell them, “You create the real you every morning when you get up.” Indeed. Who am I? I am whoever the Hell I created myself to be on this particular day. Tomorrow may be different. Perhaps I may construct myself differently tomorrow.

I’m pretty dubious on the biology of psychological stuff. Sure, some psyche stuff is biological, but a lot is just not. The vast majority of it seems to be socially constructed or created and embedded deeply in the culture and social milieu that the person lives in.

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4 thoughts on “Most Human Behavior, Including Our Own Personalities, Is “Socially Constructed””

  1. ““There is no real you. There’s no such thing. Quit trying to find the real you. It’s bullshit.” I tell them, “You create the real you every morning when you get up.” Indeed. Who am I? I am whoever the Hell I created myself to be on this particular day. Tomorrow may be different. Perhaps I may construct myself differently tomorrow.”

    Good point! The Dharmic religions would agree with you. Reminds me of what Kierkegaard wrote once:

    “The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation that the relation relates itself to its own self; the self is not the relation but that the relation relates itself to its own self.”
    ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening

  2. But there has to be a strong genetic component as well. A person’s nature-their inner sensitivity, in personality disorders one often mentioned point is “exquisitely sensitive”, and this is probabaly hereditary. I think people overlook the biological aspects in favor of psychological and whilst this is fine, I think biological and the nature bit of it must be further researched as well.

    1. This is true. I believe that I have an “essential nature.” There is a consistency or basic trajectory to my personality throughout my life. I have been both extroverted and introverted, very emotional and stoic, very nervous and very calm, very ambitious and not ambitious at all, happy as a clam and suicidally depressed. Get it.

      I am afraid that I am mostly introverted. I just don’t click with those weird extroverts. Actually, to tell the truth, I hate them. So I guess I am not one of them. And a basic rather fearful, anxious, and cautious, sensitive to other people’s opinions and worried about how others see me. I am also a good person, sort of a Boy Scout for life if you will. I have an overactive, guilty conscience and I worry a lot that people might see me as a bad person or hate me. It’s been this way my whole life. I’m almost social phobic in that sense.

      We do have an “essential nature” that is quite apparent after you have been alive a while. But it’s right in front of you to see and we are quite ego-syntonic about it. It’s as obvious as looking in the mirror. The only people who can’t see it are living a lie or pretending to be something that they are not.

  3. A diehard materialist who is dissatisfied with the world we inhabit and is emotionally-resistant to biological determinist explanations will only see “social constructs” as obstructions to whatever fanciful ideal they might harbor on what a “better reality” might be.

    So yeah, this is going to be another “Dharmic Religion” comment here.

    From the perspective of Buddhism (and many schools of Hinduism as well and some schools of Classical Greek philosophy), pretty much everything we puny little humans understand to be reality is constructed. Or rather I should say conditioned. Sentient beings are conditioned by karma, which is really just an impersonal law of cause and effect that conditions the Mind.

    What people falsely identify as themselves is merely a rat’s nest of phenomenal barnacles that accumulate around the core of their own being, and this accumulates (and dissipates) over the course of many lifetimes/worldly incarnations.

    And one of the factors shaping the way those phenomenal accretions cling to you is indeed the external reality, which we could say consists of both psychological and physical/biological factors. What you chalk up as a “social construct” could better be explained as psychological phenomena, which really are just subtler substances not apparent to the mundane five senses.

    I keep telling my clients, “There is no real you. There’s no such thing. Quit trying to find the real you. It’s bullshit.” I tell them, “You create the real you every morning when you get up.” Indeed. Who am I? I am whoever the Hell I created myself to be on this particular day. Tomorrow may be different. Perhaps I may construct myself differently tomorrow.

    Probably good advice, as 99% of the time, whatever your client might imagine their “real” self to be is complete BS because its totally conditioned by what other people have told them their whole lives. I’d say telling them to simply be mindful of their moment-to-moment existence and how that’s constantly in flux and flip-flopping around from one state to another is a very accurate way of engaging in self-analysis.

    Now I do believe there to be a such thing is a Real or Ultimate Self, but such is the spiritual nature of it that it is far out of the grasp of most sentient beings because as mentioned above, there’s layer upon layer of phenomenal storm clouds between the real Self and the conditioned “Mere Self.” The whole point of most systems of spiritual practice is to unravel the False Self and get at the Real Self.

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