In the field of mental health, there has long been a debate about nature versus nurture. What is more salient to the development of young people? Is it a person's genetic history or the environment of cultivation? Naturally, people find little ease in attempting to answer such questions. These types of queries have puzzled experts in the field of psychology for years.
Such lines of inquiry are attractive for many reasons. Who among us has not had questions about what makes you who you are? We can look to our parents for answers, and we can evaluate the environs of our upbringing. And yet, we can still come away with more questions than answers. This outcome can happen to just about anyone. However, it is especially the case for those who do not have a clear picture of their history, i.e., adopted people.
When probing for a deeper understanding of our existence, many are prone to concern themselves with why they do things a particular way. Others, those contending with mental illness, might try to make sense of their struggles with a sense of urgency. When doing so, the obvious starting point is one's mother and father. Studies frequently conclude that mental illness can run in the family. However, children do not always inherit their parents' mental diseases. Some mental health experts argue that other factors must be the catalyst of psychological struggle.
There are those too who present with mental health disorders, yet do not have a clear link to mental health disorders in their family tree. Making sense of all this is a difficult undertaking. Any attempts at understanding the origins of mental strife are roughly equivalent to disentangling a Gordian knot—unpacking an intractable problem.
Nature v. Nurture
Unraveling what makes you who you are is a trying task for anybody. Unfortunately, when a person hasn't any concrete knowledge about their genetic roots, it is an overwhelming endeavor. Potentially disheartening, too. Nobody perhaps understands this more than the adopted. People who are placed for adoption at birth have little to go on when attempting to get some clarity.
The desire to follow the bread crumbs of one's past is not uncommon for adopted men and women. Such pursuits can be eye-opening experiences. But, they can also reveal aspects of one's early history that are bound to induce pain. There is a fascinating example of adoption that drives this point home. It involves an unexpected discovery that irrevocably changes the lives of three young men living in New York in the 1980s.
This Sunday, CNN is presenting a new documentary shining a spotlight on how the pursuit of knowledge can have ineluctable consequences. We want to be careful here to not spoil or misrepresent the documentarians nor their subjects. So, in the following paragraphs, some basic facts will be put forth to pique your interest. Please prepare yourself for asking some tough questions about the age-old argument of nature vs. nurture.
The environment and our experiences influence who we become, right? Three young men had to face what that means in the wake of a monumental discovery. Robert Shafran, David Kellman, and Eddy Galland all grew up in separate households located within a hundred-mile radius. Then, at the nascent age of 19, they came to discover – by sheer luck – that they share a biological link. Directed by Tim Wardle, Three Identical Strangers shows what follows from a chance discovery. It is a story of joy and is cause for utter outrage.
Three Identical Strangers
By now, you may be asking why would an adoption agency separate the triplets? The answer, a study! A research project, cloaked in secrecy, to settle long-standing theories about the role genetic and environmental factors have on our lives.
Nothing, though, would prove easy or obvious about their stories, which grow darker and more disturbing as “Three Identical Strangers” develops into a shocker," writes Manohla Dargis, the co-chief film critic for The New York Times since 2004. "Puzzle piece by piece, interview by interview, Mr. Wardle fits together a grim story of hubristic doctors and their grotesquely unprincipled enablers who played with human lives in the name of science."
Three Identical Strangers is a lot to unpack, and at times hard to watch. People with experience in adoption and mental health disorders may begin asking themselves new types of questions about their past. The film will give you a first-hand look at the impact adoption can have on a person's life. It will show what can happen to individuals when they are separated, after spending the first six months of their lives by each other's side. It is highly likely that you will never contemplate the nature v. nurture question the same way again.
If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
Three Identical Strangers premieres on CNN Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 9 p.m. ET.
Adoption-Related Mental Health Treatment
At PACE Recovery Center, we give adopted men the tools to heal from mental health and adoption issues. Mental illness affects many people who are the product of adoption; even those who grow up in loving households face real challenges that can shape who they become.
Adopted individuals can struggle with a fear of rejection and connection; they are at high risk of developing insecure attachment styles which can precipitate anxiety and depression, emotional dysregulation, and substance abuse. Please contact us today to learn how treatment can transform your life and set you on a course toward long-term recovery.