A Fear Factor Gene? Perhaps, But Other Factors Also Play A Role, Says Expert

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Discovery of a so-called “fear factor gene” reopens the nature vs. nurture debate. Can we control our fears?

The recent announcement that scientists have discovered a “fear factor gene” that influences whether we feel panic and anxiety reignites the classic nature versus nurture debate, asking how much of our behavior is predetermined by our genes.

“I think it’s wonderful news that scientists have made this genetic link, but I think there’s a risk in announcing it this way,” says Seymour Segnit, President of CTRN: Change That’s Right Now (http://www.changethatsrightnow.com), a company that helps people overcome phobias such as the fear of flying.

“The danger is that people will become fatalistic and say ‘I can’t help it, it’s in my genes,” says Segnit. “It’s much like an obese person saying that their weight problem is rooted in genetics, when in fact there is a pattern of personal behavior that aggravates their problem.”

Though science recognizes that our genes play a role in determining who we are, environment is also considered a key factor, and the interaction between genes and environment is complex.

Segnit, who has helped hundreds of people overcome chronic fears, strongly believes that a range of factors influence how people deal with fear. One factor is mental attitude.

“The first thing we teach people is to accept responsibility for their fear, to claim ownership of it,” says Segnit. “You can only beat your phobia if you do that. And the problem with blaming it all on genetics is that you are definitely not accepting responsibility. You accomplish nothing by saying ‘I can’t help it. Maybe they’ll develop a drug I can take.’”

Segnit says he is strongly anti-drug. “While I believe there are cases where drugs are appropriate, I feel we’ve become a society of pill-poppers. Too often we rely on medication to change our behavior for us.”

Instead of drugs, Segnit’s company uses an approach known as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to break negative thought patterns that people develop over time.

“With phobias, you’re dealing with very strong reactions to what are in some cases quite minor stimuli,” he says. Segnit has helped people who fear of such things as spiders, dark closets, or driving across a bridge. “We teach people to break the negative association they have to the stimulus, and perhaps even associate it with a positive thing.”

“People can change their lives,” Segnit says, “and often in rapid and dramatic fashion. Your genes aren’t your destiny.”

About CTRN

CTRN: Change That’s Right Now has helped hundreds of people overcome chronic fears and phobias using the processes of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Time Line Therapy™. The company offers confidential one-on-one coaching, as well as a home study CD kit.

For more information, please visit the CTRN web site at http://www.changethatsrightnow.com or contact Seymour Segnit at (212)582.8880 ext. 1110.


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