How Much Do Our Personalities Have to Do with Us?

Personality is understood as the consistent features we display in regards to our thinking, feeling, and behavior. It begins to emerge around the age of 3. Prior to that, we refer to the genetically primed aspects of who we are as temperament.

Personality is dynamically formed via multiple inputs from many others. It becomes consolidated in our late teens to early 20’s. Around age 30 or so it becomes relatively fixed.

According to Daniel Siegel, personality is deeply rooted in the human mind by the flow of information in the brain and between brains, is created via neural/mental representations during this flow, and interpersonal exchanges shape its formation and maturation (1999).

Siegel further adds that these interpersonal interactions construct our personal interpretations of reality. And according to Siegel, maternal and paternal attachments are fundamental in creating the necessary foundation of intrapersonal and interpersonal development. And he indicates emotions are the primary linkage between our intrapersonal and interpersonal worlds. And I believe this early foundation sets for us a lifelong paradigm.

Our life trajectory involves a series of developmental opportunities to build a healthy sense of self and others. This constructs our self-concept in regards to how others see us and feel towards us. It impacts our sense of self-efficacy, confidence and competence, and how others perceive us as being prosocial, asocial, or antisocial; which I refer to as global personality orientation.

For example, Erik Erickson proposes a series of lifelong psychosocial stages. They consist of the following: Trust or Mistrust; Autonomy or Shame and Doubt; Initiative or Guilt; Industry or Inferiority; Identity or Role Confusion or based on my own clinical observations, Role Diffusion; Intimacy or Isolation; Generativity or Stagnation; Integrity or Despair (Plotnik, 2014). And I dare add an additional stage based on my clinical observations, Transcendence and Relief or Dread and Decay.

From the field of Sociology, I borrow the concept of Perceived Social Value (PSV). This applies to the various roles that all of us enact and the concepts of “front-stage and back-stage personas”. Some refer to this as our private and public selves. As a clinician, I am very interested in the extent of the concordance or disagreement between these selves. Those with disordered personalities tend to show a decided disconnect between the two!

Referring back to the notion of roles, over time, we enact multiple roles, sometimes simultaneously. For instance, I was a child, an adolescent, a male, a college student, an Air Force medic during the Vietnam Conflict. Now I am retired. I’m also a father, grandfather, brother, a former university faculty member and the like. Our personality shapes how well we do or do not in these various roles. Those with disordered personalities exhibit rigidity and dysfunction across the various roles.

So as you can readily see, personality has a heck of a lot to do with who we are, and how we interact with the many others we come in contact with!

REFERENCES

Nevid, J., Rathus, S., & Greene, B. Abnormal psychology in a changing world.

Plotnik, R., & Kouyoumdjian, H. Introduction to psychology.

Siegel, D. (2001). The developing mind. New York: The Guilford Press.

Wolfe, D. Abnormal child psychology. (2010).

This guest article originally appeared on the award-winning health and science blog and brain-themed community, BrainBlogger: What’s Personality Got To Do With Us? A Lot.

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Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovered Radio Pulsars in 1974, But the Credit Went to Her Advisor; In 2018, She Gets Her Due, Winning a $3 Million Physics Prize

Say you made a Nobel-worthy scientific discovery and the prize went to your thesis supervisor instead. How would you take it? Probably not as well as Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discoverer of the first radio pulsars, to whom that very thing happened in 1974. ”Demarcation disputes between supervisor and student are always difficult, probably impossible to resolve,” […]

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5 Reasons to See a Therapist

There are many reasons why people seek out therapy — grief, anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction and relationships are among a few. Some problems in your life may feel tolerable whereas others feel overwhelming and unmanageable. Regardless of the intensity, severity and frequency of your problem, no issue is too small or too big to benefit from therapy.

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider speaking with a therapist:  

Reason #1: Friends and Family Can’t Be Your Only Outlet

Friends and family can be great sources of support. However, in some cases they can be quick to give advice and often dive right into “fix it mode.” You’ll often hear statements, “Well, that happened to me and I did X, Y and Z. You really should try that, it worked for me.” When this happens, the focus of the conversation is shifted away from you and your unique experience. Their advice is from their worldview which may not resonate with you or to your specific situation. When you disclose problems to friends and family a variety of negative reactions could surface, such as “the “I told you so” response if you don’t follow their advice, or simply feeling misunderstood after sharing.

Additionally, disclosing vulnerable information can often result in feeling judged by the listening party. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you’re judged for something you’re going through. People tend to remember the one negative thing you share in contrast to the ten positive things. You never know when someone may surface information from the past that you’ve longed moved on from.

Reason #2: Self Care

Just as you take cake of your physical health, it’s equally important to take care of your mental health. Prioritizing mental health promotes healthy self-care practices. Everyone needs an outlet, ideally a mental health professional, with whom they can unload all of the “heavy stuff.” Talking about your problems without censoring any of the sensitive details can be liberating and cathartic.

Reason #3: Realize Alternative Perspectives

When you experience difficult situations in your life, it’s often hard to see alternative solutions. Therapy can widen your perspective and provide distance between you and your problem, helping to approach and eventually overcome the stressor impacting your wellbeing.  

Reason #4: Finding Meaning

It’s natural to want to understand the meaning of why difficult things happen to you. Understanding the purpose of the hardship manifests through thoughts of, “why is this happening to me?” When you can contribute a sense of meaning to a difficult situation, the power of the problem is often diminished. Therapy is a process that can help you discover the lesson or silver lining the problem has presented to you.

Reason #5: Discover New Coping Strategies

Therapy can help you discover new coping strategies to manage current and future problems. Coping strategies are the intentional efforts you make to manage and minimize stress. A plethora of coping strategies exist to manage a myriad of problems. Some coping strategies will resonate more with you than others. Learning and implementing new coping strategies gives you confidence to believe you are in control of managing your problems.

Regardless of the problem, stressor or hardship you may be experiencing, everyone can benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapy can help you overcome current stressors and arm you with the skills to effectively manage in the future.

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