Each of us are born with our own genetic predispositions for, shall we say for sweetness or sourness, for bitterness or tartness, for openness or closeness…. There are physical dimensions to these propensities just as there are leanings in our spirit or soul as well.
There are those who say each soul incarnates by volition and in order for the opportunity to learn particular lessons. We do this they say, perhaps the way a deer is attracted to a salt-lick in the forest, or seeks out other minerals stored by particular plants but ached for in their deer flesh.
Thinking about personality and resilience in this moment: perhaps some personality configurations are attracted to particular ‘fields of experience’ the way a deer is attracted to the salt-lick. It is to be nurtured in a particular way or to be challenged by certain life circumstances and lessons, again and again and again sometimes; until we integrate and incorporate that which our own self-configuration hungers for… we resiliently seek it out in gutters and church pews, in forest glades and in corporate board rooms, in the cars we buy and the relationships we host.
Acknowledging such ‘patterns of personality,’ a model or scale of five dimensions is now often used in psychological research and practice. These are::
1. Extroversion: This trait includes characteristics such as excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.
2. Agreeableness: This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors.
3. Conscientiousness: Common features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high in conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.
4. Neuroticism: Individuals high in this trait tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness.
5. Openness: This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests.
Each of these traits exist on a continuum and most of us are capable of swings to their extremes given the right circumstance. Our own range of comfort however becomes what we perceive in others as their personality. I tend to think of this ‘personality’ or ‘self’ as ‘our domesticity,’ the corral of the familiar, our ‘home range.’
Our wild resiliency often lives asleep until life circumstances call us out of this corral, or provokes us in some fashion to a deeper embracing of Life itself, a surrender perhaps to the mystery within and the one without as the same. From this alignment of Oneness, not only change but also transformation becomes possible. Take happiness, for example.
Pull ‘happiness’ out of the above amalgam of personality dimensions, just because there is a lot of current research and interest in this area of our personalities and lives:
“…while the genetic influence is strong, about 50 percent of the differences in people’s happiness in life can still be chalked up to a variety of external factors, such as relationships, health and careers. Research…finds that the happiest people have strong friendships, for example.” — Happiness is Partly Inherited/ Live Science</a
The good news in this dynamic and individual balance of personality is that we are left with significant room to swing ourselves toward the leanings of our disciplined choice: to the degree consciousness of choice awakens within us, to the degree we learn the skills of self-regulation and ‘self-soothing,’ to the degree we follow the wild joy of our hearts…we increase our experience of purpose and meaning, of the flow of emergence in life, of happiness….
It was a reader’s recent request that I write something about Personality and resilience that led to the emergence of this post. I’m honored on the one hand that a reader would ask such, and the arena is sooooo large that… what can I write in a blog post that has significance?
My best contribution summation might be this: I’m learning to think of personality in much the same way as I think of ‘the self’ and of resiliency too. They are ‘field phenomena’ rather than objects, processes or ecosystems, landscapes, rather than rocks.
Rocks are in truth, however, processes as well; they will become soil again on their way to becoming rock again. Yet they have a kind of tangibility that we too often falsely ascribe to personality, which we also tend to perceive as our ‘self’. And when we think of our self, our personality or our resilience as an object… we make rock-like objects of them; we be-come how it is we think of our selves.
Rumi articulates this well: (acknowledgments to Angeles Arrien for this)
If I see you
I will laugh out loud (with delight)
or fall silent (because I have been so deeply touched)
or explode into a thousand pieces
( because I have been so inspired, and elated and empowered)
and if I don’t see you
I will be caught in the cement
and stone of my own prison
We transform ourselves and support the transformation of each other as we are willing to risk seeing the wonder and beauty and mystery of who we each truly are: the cosmos awakening into itself. Our personalities are but the characters or ramets through which this awakening yearns for its wholeness. They give our deep Self a field in which to play the games of stasis, change, adaptation, balance and transformation.
Part 2 will be a more personal look at this theme of Personality, Resiliency and Transformation.