UNDERSTANDING THE PARTS OF OUR PERSONALITY

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Other parts and motives of our personality

 As you read more about personality theories, you will find other notions that give you insight into your self. For instance, Jung had a creative mind and besides describing the personality types above, suggested there are several parts of our personality beyond the id, ego, and superego. He believed that humans are innately prone to act certain ways and have certain beliefs, e.g. young children and animals are seen as "cute," almost every culture has created the notion of God and an after life, all societies have heroes and heroines, spiritual-mystical powers are thought to influence the weather, crops, health, etc., and the same children's stories are heard in all parts of the world (see Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth). These universal beliefs or themes were called archetypes by Jung. Instincts and archetypes make up our "collective unconscious," which is this tendency for all of us to view the world in common (not necessarily accurate) ways.

 In Jungian theory, there is a part of our personality called the persona which includes the masks we wear when relating to others--it isn't our real self. In contrast to the publicly acceptable masks (Jung looked for opposites), there is the shadow which, much like the Enneagram, is our dark and evil side--our sexual, greedy, aggressive, and power-hungry needs which are difficult to control. If a normally well controlled person suddenly had an angry outburst, the Jungian might assume it is the work of the devilish shadow. Yet, the shadow is always there; it compliments the conscious ego; a wise person will understand, accept, and consider (but not give in to) the shadow's needs.

 Jung also believed we all inherited both an archetype for being masculine, called animus, and an opposing one for being feminine, called anima. These masculine and feminine tendencies not only influence how we behave but also what we expect from and how we see others. The anima part within a young woman may cause her to "think like a woman" and see her new boyfriend, who might only be interested in sex, as being sensitive and caring. At another time, her animus part (thinking more like a male) may arouse her suspicions that a guy is "on the make" when he really wants love.

 For Jung, the self is that part of us that defines our highest potential. It is our unique, genuine, and best qualities. Self-realization is difficult to achieve, however, because there are so many conflicts to resolve inside us that we are, at best, middle-aged before we reach selfhood. As the self learns about the archetypes, the persona, the shadow, the anima and other parts of our unconscious, it provides more and more stability and balance among the opposing forces within our personality. If and when we do become more self-actualized, according to Jung, the self takes over control from the ego (Ryckman, 1978).

 Another use of personality "parts" or "traits" is made by Jean Bolen (1985), a Jungian analyst, in The Goddesses in Everywoman. Her idea is that the characteristics of Greek gods and goddesses are in all of us. Examples: women especially have the potential of drawing upon the strengths possessed by these goddesses:

 Women (and men) can learn to recognize, enhance, and utilize these strengths. These parts need to be developed before an crisis occurs, however. One must practice being independent and assertive long before the crisis of divorce. One must learn to think and reason long before deciding serious matters. One must practice caring for others long before having children. One must be sensual long before having sex with a lover. It takes work to be god-like or goddess-like; we don't become strong and smart automatically or mystically or by magic. You can't wait until trouble strikes.

 Alfred Adler (1951) had a very different view of where our basic motives come from: rather than being pushed by animalistic sexual-aggressive instincts, as Freud suggested, or by ancient archetypes, as Jung suggested, Adler believed we are pulled towards certain goals. This is a little like Jung's self. Example: as children we often feel inferior but we come to strive to overcome these feelings--to be superior. The healthy person tries to be optimally effective--maybe even perfect--in such a way that he/she contributes to the welfare of others. Each person sets his/her own goals and develops (by age 5 or 6) his/her own life-style for reaching those goals; in this way, we are responsible for our own destinies (see the discussion of life script later). Likewise, the existentialists (Fromm, 1941; May, 1953) suggested that humans are motivated to find meaning in their lives and are guided by the meaning they seek. The Humanists also believe we are motivated to achieve our highest potential. Adler was a strong advocate of respect, equality, cooperation, and love between people, including spouses or parents and children (see later section). He was also a pioneer in psychosocial education and in the development of Child Guidance Clinics.

 There are obviously many other ways to conceptualize the parts of our personality. Allport, for example, thought the uniqueness of each personality was one of the most important things to understand. Part of this uniqueness is due to the many, many parts of our personality. He and many other psychologists considered reflexes, habits, skills and special abilities or weaknesses, drives or needs, beliefs, our particular view of our environment, goals or intentions, values, attitudes, and traits as being the kind of factors that determine what we do. Thus, "personality" becomes very complex. Moreover, Allport did not see us as slavishly controlled by innate or external factors (like Freud and Skinner did) because humans have the ability to actively, creatively, and rationally make conscious choices about how to behave.

 There is an enormously rich literature about personality. It provides a map to the mental maze inside us. It not only describes the parts or structure of our personality, it also speculates about the development of certain traits, motives, and character types. The best overviews of this provocative and fertile material are in the textbooks for courses in theories of personality. Such summaries provide a guide for selecting additional books to read for more self-awareness. See the recommended additional reading at the end of this section.

Theories Of Development: Becoming a Person

 Many personality theories describe the stages we go through as our character develops. Understanding our own personality development should greatly improve our insight into our current drives, values, and views. With greater awareness perhaps we can be more in control or, at least, more accepting of ourselves and others. Indeed, Carl Rogers's and Abraham Maslow's basic notion was that we are all struggling to become our "real," true, unique selves. What stands in our way? For Rogers it was the tendency to deny our own needs and feelings, to pretend to be someone we aren't, to avoid facing our true self. For Maslow it was the necessity of satisfying our basic needs first--food, health, safety, love, self-esteem--before we have the luxury of carrying out the enjoyable and noble achievements that reflect our highest values and talents. According to both Rogers and Maslow, our true selves just naturally emerge if we are lucky enough to meet our basic needs and openly experience our basic emotions and motives. That's the rub: it is very hard to meet all our basic needs and become aware of all the feelings inside of us. Meeting those challenges is, as Rogers said, the process of becoming a person. Sadly, many of us never get to the point of carrying out the desires of our true self. If we knew more truth about human nature and coping, perhaps we would have more time to "actualize" our true and best selves.

 How long does it take for our basic personality to develop? How fixed or stable are personality traits over time? How changeable are personalities from one situation to another? Some parts of our personality are remarkably stable. Freud, Berne, and others believed our basic personality and "scripts" were established by age 6 or so. On the other hand, William James and many current researchers believe our personality changes substantially during childhood, adolescence, and perhaps early adulthood but becomes fixed after age 25 or so. The best current evidence is that certain personality characteristics are fairly stable over time: emotionality (neuroticism), introversion-extroversion, openness to new experiences, masculinity-femininity, agreeable-irritable, and conscientiousness (dependability, orderliness). Don't forget, the Minnesota twin study researchers have claimed that your genes have more influence on these traits than your parents' child rearing practices. These genetic characteristics may form some of your "basic personality."

 Nevertheless, other characteristics seem more likely to change from one stage of life to another: mood or morale, assertiveness, dominance, independence, alienation, and satisfaction with life. These traits, emotions, or behaviors may be more influenced by the person's life events, situation, or viewpoint (Goleman, 1987). For example, your level of alienation, happiness, and self-satisfaction when you are 20 has little to do with your adjustment on the same traits when you are 60.

 The researchers, who believe our personality is set in concrete at 25 or 30, discount the idea of life stages or crises producing changes in our character, as described in Table 9.1. Yet, some people's personal traits clearly change after marriage, having a baby, getting promoted or fired, a heart attack, a serious accident, a divorce, death of a loved one, etc., especially if the person previously had certain personality traits. The traits most likely to change are emotionality, impulsivity, and irritability. I suspect we humans are capable of changing at any time much more than we imagine or try to change.

 Beware of over-simplified personality theories. Besides there being hundreds of personality parts, many of our specific traits change from one situation to another. We may lie and cheat only in certain circumstances, not all the time. The introverted student, who won't talk to his/her teachers, may be the most talkative person in his/her peer group. The big grouch at home may be "Mr. Cool" or "Miss Sunshine" at work. Indeed, some people put on many different "faces" and play different social roles in many different situations, while other personalities remain about the same wherever they are (see chapter 8 and Snyder, 1987). You probably know people who are chameleon-like, eagerly changing themselves to meet their needs at the moment. The degree to which we change our personality to please others is probably another stable characteristic. Human personalities are fascinatingly complex.

Stages of life

 Personality theories also describe the development of our personal traits. This knowledge should help us understand the significance of our history and the possibilities of growth in the future.

 I have summarized some developmental theories about life stages in Table 9.1 and several references about personality development are given at the end of this section. Obviously, a thorough understanding of the normal process of growing up will require much more information than I have provided. Moreover, to understand where we went wrong, i.e. how our own personal problems arose, we need general knowledge of normal development as well as serious probing of our specifically unique history. Remember too, regardless of the effort expended, that any attempt to understand ourselves has to be tentative--an educated guess, at best. We can't be absolutely certain of why we behaved or felt the way we did. In the later section on Relationships Within The Family, Table 9.2 is provided. It shows some current theoretical speculation about the possible origins of several personality problems. Use it only as a rough guide to possible causes and as a stepping stone to further exploration (see the autobiography method in chapter 15).

 Table 9.1 provides an overview of personality development throughout life. Even though certain traits are fairly stable over the years, we all go through unavoidable stages of life. There is a time to go to school, to go through puberty, to fall in love and have sex, to marry and have children, to have an "empty nest," to be grandparents, and to die. In each stage, we have things to learn, opportunities to grab, and problems to handle.


Table 9.1: Stages of Development

Stage of LifeRelationsStage name (needs)Good vs. Bad Outcomes
Infancy
(Age=0-1)
Mother (caretaker)Oral stage (needs to to be held, loved)Trust vs Distrust; Decides others are OK or not OK.
Early Childhood
(Age=1-3)
Family Anal stage (needs physical contact, play)Confidence vs self-doubt; Decides I'm OK or not OK.
Play age
(Age=3-6)
Family, play groupPhallic stage (needs relationship with parents) Takes initiative vs guilt & self-doubt. Develops life "script.". Sees a purpose in life--or doesn't
School age
(Age=6-12)
Family, friendsLatency stage (needs to act like a boy/girl)Develops industry vs shame; Enjoys work or resists work (scared)
Adolescence
(Age=12-18)
Friends, opposite sex Genital stage (needs boy/girlfriend) Knows who he/she is vs feels confused; Relates well or poorly.
Leaving family
(Age=18-22)
Friends, lovers Identity vs lostness (needs career & lover) Defines who he/she is. Tests one's abilities.
Entering adult world
(Age=23-29)
Mate or Lover, friends.Love vs aloneness (needs to master world) Establishes "home" and own life-style or remains lost. Shifts dependency to partner. May find mentor at work.
Settling down
(Age=30-37)
Mate, children, peers Productivity vs self-centeredness.New questions and crises arise: Why can't things be better? Grows, advances or stays at low level. Is this all I can expect from life? Why am I oppressed?
Becoming your own person
(Age=38-45)
Family, co-workers, friends Generativity vs stagnation. Caring for others & passing on wisdom vs self-absorbed.By this age "the die is cast."
"I've got one last chance." May become a mentor and help family members or feel a failure. May relax and seek fun.
Mellow years
(Age=45-60)
Spouse, co-workers, friends. Children leaving home.Love of all people vs disgust and despair.Become closer to spouse or leave empty shell. Need friends. Fewer money worries, more health worries. More content with past and future or disappointed. Death of our parents reminds us of our destiny. Life's a routine.
Retirement
(Age=60-70)
Spouse, peers, grandchildrenFinishing work with zest vs hating the work.Planning retirement. Has time for self and spouse. Major changes stressful: no work, less money, excess time, missing productive work and co-workers.
Facing deathSpouse, children, care-takers, dying friendsAcceptance of death but interested in living vs obsessed with and dreading death and doing little living.Living vs complaining. Coping with a failing body. Much leisure time, so finding constructive ways to use time and talents or unhappy. Has a sense of completion.

 Table compiled from Erikson (1950), Levinson, et al (1978), Gould (1975), and April, 1975, Time.


 Several books discuss the human passage from youth to old age (see the bibliography at the end of this personality section). We all go through stages in critical areas of our lives--love, child rearing, work, friends, health, etc. Knowledge of others' lives can help us.

 The above discussion of character types and personality development helps us recognize how similar or how different we may be from one another. And, as we have just seen, it is important to understand the origin of the many different personality types. Others are different from us because they simply have a different background, different genes, and are in a different environment, i.e. a different developmental history. Besides the types discussed above, however, there are descriptions in hundreds of books of many types of mothers, fathers, children, lovers, wives, husbands, teachers, students, bosses, employees, poker players, etc. With experience, you will develop your own lists as well. That's fine, but don't prejudge people and falsely label them just because your first impression is a certain type. Each human is unique. Now, we will explore several other varieties of personality types which may help us understand others as well as ourselves.


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