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What is Personality - 2

Finding the roots of personality is not easy. Children from similar environments  have very different personalities  and may, in fact, have a similar personality  to a child who grew up in a totally different environment. Also, two children from very strict homes may develop in different ways - one may become cautious and correct and the other may rebel and go completely the other way. The  old nature versus nurture debate seems to have come to the conclusion that it is 50% due to inborn factors, and 50% to environmental ones.

Personality, then, comes from may area. There is a certain genetic factor, and being male or female has a powerful influence, both in terms of hormones and socially-expected behaviour  (probably the latter being more influential). Our parents influence us , and do siblings and our age relative ro them, the environment we grow in is important (whether that is Somalia, Sarajevo or Surrey), as are the people available for us to play or work with, Are we then just a mish-mash of influences, clay in rhe hands of circumstance? The answer to this is no. We are born individuals, and research also shows, and in a sense, it is our adult prerogative to recover our individuality and shake off those influences we no longer desire.

It is easy to feel like a piece of flotsam adrift on the sea of life, sent here and there by the ideas of time. Powerful eddies are created by other people imposing their ideas and behaviour patterns on us, and they are forces which are difficult to fight, especially when they are our nearest and dearest. We go around and around, wondering where we are, and where we will end up. And Powerful, dangerous tides are created by life circumstances such as illness, unemployment and bad relationships.

Meanwhile strong forces within us created by abuse, violence and fear  project us onto shores we do not really want to be. Yet in our mind's eye we probably all have an image of the ideal place where we would like to end up, the perfect person we would like to be. Among the qualifications we might aim for are thoughtfullness and sensitivity towards others, integrity, tolerance, trust and openness, professional creativity and a concern for justice, peace and freedom in the world.

 Psychologists agree that conformity is not necessarily good for us and being true to ourselves is. We need to develop control over our lives, deep personal relationships, time for reflection, the imagination to overcome problems and a zest for living. Then, we might be happy!

But who are 'we' The answer is ever elusive. Dr. Roger Woolger, a Jungian Psychologist writes about regression therapy: 'Each other life that comes to us , however brief or fragmentary, is another piece of self. The personality is not single, it is multiple - not in the psychiatric sense of multiple personality, but in that there are many levels of the self like many skins to an onion. We peel off these selves as we look into our past lives  or as we look into our own dreams'.
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is the other aspect of complexity, and extremely interesting from a mind over matter point of view  because it proves, if nothing else does, that there is still much to learn. People with MPD (known as 'multiples') switch from one personality to another and have been known to have different brain wave patterns depending on which personality they are 'in' at any given time.

They can even have different physical disorders, present or not present, depending on the personality they are expressing. There are many scientifically recorded incidences of this, with people having and then 'disappearing' symptoms when the well personality takes over. Not only can allergic reactions, scars, burn marks, swollen insect stings and cysts disappear immediately, even the eye colour can change! A multiple with diabetes can lose all their symptoms when in a non-diabetic  personality, and it has even been reported that a person with cancer can 'disappear' the tumor when 'in' the personality that doesn't have cancer. 

Although MPD is an extreme , we are all to some extent 'multiple personalities'. The little six-year old girl mentioned earlier is a differenrt personality depending on whether she plays with Celeste, Mandy or Peter. And we know that we ourselves can have different personalities depending on who we are with. We would not, for example, behave in the same way we do at the rugby club ball as we do when we're asking  the bank manager  for a business loan (unless your rugby club is extremely sedate!).

We are, in a sense, multi-faceted like a diamond, throwing out different reflections and colours in response to the light coming from outside. This phenomenon is well recognized in psychology, which considers Jung's theory of a total 'Self' comprimising many sub- or secondary personalities to be one of his most enduring contributions to the study of the human mind. The beauty of the human mind is that we have this complexity, fluidity and potential which need not merely be reactive but can be controlled to a certain extent. Let's just hope it's controlled to your advantage when you go for a personality test.

Reference: The Fragrant Mind: V.A.Worwood 


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