A Sense of Home and A Sense of Self Goes Way Back
Your comment about the bats seemed to be missing the point; it's not the specific subject (i.e. bats), but long-held feelings about your childhood (both good and bad) that shape how you create your space. And, these memories may exist in the body or through emotions before language is developed (Siegel, 1999).
As a therapist and academic whose interests include emotional regulation and the brain, and helping clients find a sense of self and home (often in their bodies first), I think Israel's book is an interesting and fun twist on the well-validated idea that a sense of self forms early in development through the environment (Bowlby, 1969; Main &Solomon, 1986; Tronick, 1989).
In fact, current neuroscience research suggest that early experiences literally affect your
current biochemistry and neural pathways in the brain (Schore, 2003). These experiences also shape who you are and affect others in contact with you (Siegel, 1999).
Perhaps that comment from Martin Seligman was taken out of context; after all, that was in a local
newspaper article. Or, perhaps he's claiming it's possible to triumph over past experiences; which in fact, is also supported by recent neurological research. But, to say that early events do not shape one's personality is to ignore extensive neurological and attachment research on the formation of the brain in interpersonal relationships. For more info, check out Allan Schore's, Daniel Siegel's and Daniel Stern's books -- all on Amazon.com.
Bowlby, J.. Attachment and loss, Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books; & Hogarth Press. 1969
Main, M. and J. Solomon (1986). Discovery of an insecure-disorganized/ disoriented attachment pattern. In T. B. Brazelton and M. W. Yogman, Affective
development in infancy. Nowrood, NJ, Ablex Publishing.
Schore, Alan (2003). Affect regulation and the repair of the self. New York: W.W. Norton and Co,
Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.
Stern, Daniel (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. N.Y.: Basic Books.
Tronick, E. (1989). Emotions and emotional communication in infants. American Psychologist, 44, 112–119.