Our toughest battles are with ourselves.
this book an owners manual for your brain.
us would feel cheated if we bought a car or a microwave and it came
without instructions. But our most important possessionsbody and
mindcome with no such guide, leaving us searching haphazardly
for satisfaction: a dollop of exercise, thirteen minutes of sex, a "Happy
Meal," a cocktail, and a sport-utility vehicle. Mean Genes
offers the missing information that can help us take better control
of our lives.
drive a car or operate a microwave, our orders are carried out exactly
as we command. The machine doesnt talk back or have an agenda
of its ownat least not yet. On the other hand, if we tell our
brain, as part of a New Years resolution, to cut down on fatty
foods, it most likely will let out a hearty laugh and continue to set
off bells and whistles of approval when the dessert cart rolls around.
for better or worse, is not an obedient servant. It has a mind of its
own. Imagine that you are actually two things: a personality who has
likes, dislikes, desires, and dreams. But inside your body there is
also a "machine," your brain, that processes commands and
acts on those likes, dislikes, desires, and dreams. It fights you all
the time. And it usually wins.
the two of you see eye to eye? Why do we have battles over controlling
our own behavior? And why are these battles so hard to win? Are
cats and dogs obsessed with fighting addictions, controlling their weight,
and remaining faithful to their mates? Do chimpanzees regularly resolve
to be less selfish?
In a creepy
campfire legend, a babysitter alone in a house receives increasingly
menacing phone calls. Terrified, she contacts the police, who put a
tap on her phone. After the boogeyman calls again, the cops frantically
phone her, screaming, "Weve traced the call. Its coming
from inside the house! Get out!"
the source of our self-control problems lies within us, in our genes.
But we cant get out or leave them behind. Manipulative media,
greedy businesses, and even our friends and family play roles in nurturing
our demons. Still, most of our self-control problems stem from our impulses
to do things that are bad for us or for those whom we love.
to any bookstore reveals the nature of our struggles. Glancing at the
bestsellers, we can see whats on peoples minds. There are
dozens of books on finding love, losing weight, and creating wealth.
Conspicuously absent are a host of other topics. Where are the books
entitled How to Build a Bigger Beer Gut, Ten Steps to Frivolous
Spending, or Nurturing the Infidel Within? Why do some behaviors
come so naturally while others require so much effort? Its because
our genes predispose us to certain failings.
or not, we are each engaged in a battle against our own set of mean
genes. They are wily opponents, too. Masters of the visceral, they control
through satisfaction, pain, and pleasure.
most successful people succumb. Look at Oprah Winfrey, for instance.
She runs a powerful media empire and is reportedly closing in on billionaire
status. Her long list of accomplishments includes seven Emmy awards,
an Oscar nomination, and a beauty queen crown. Rich and influential,
this exceptional person is also very ordinary in one respect. Along
with the rest of us, Oprah struggles for self-control.
she has been so honest about her weight and other personal issues, Oprah
has helped millions. Furthermore, because her journey has been so successful
in spite of powerful urges, she demonstrates an important point: we
are not lumbering robots doomed to carry out our genetic programming.
life, two paths beckon. One tempts us simply to live as our urges and
passions direct. This can be called the "pet path" since it
is followed by all animals, including the family dog. Eat when hungry.
Eat until the food is gone. Remain loyal and faithful only to the extent
that loyalty and faithfulness pay. If something feels good, do it again.
If something hurts, avoid it.
marked is the alternative, the path of most resistance. On this path
we take charge, calling our own shots. Along with passions, genes have
created willpower and the ability to control behavior consciously. With
these uniquely human abilities, we can rise above our animal instincts.
Genes is a guide to doing just that. Step 1 is to understand our
animal nature, particularly those desires that get us into trouble and
can lead to unhappiness. Step 2 is to harness this knowledge so that
we can tame our primal instincts. ...