The Human Personality

 

Of course you have a personality. How would you describe it?

What It Is

Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As such it is hardly pinpoint. And there is no system which clearly defines what makes up character.  But being open ended is part of its utility. Sometimes, though, it’s useful to have clear definitions about stable components of a person. When we turn to personality we find such a system is available. 

The American Psychological Association defines personality as “referring to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving”. Are you now perfectly clear? Probably not, because human beings are layers of characteristics, orientations, effects of history, biochemical interactions and on and on. But it is useful personally and in many environments to have an understanding of what is stable in how we are in our interactions and our approach to the world.

Multiple Realities But No Illness

It is important to understand that the description of a person’s personality has no connotation of mental illness at all. It may condition our behavior and reactions but primarily variations are normal and merely different. And, in describing a given person, their personality may have characteristics of certain groups and elements which are wholly idiosyncratic. It need not refer to intelligence because, more than anything, intelligence refers to management and processing of information, knowledge and abilities.

Distinct From Intelligence

We have been in a debate about intelligence for a very long time. Measurement initially was oriented toward having information about aptitude for school. But a man by the name of Wechsler divided it into Performance skills which are needed for hands on work and Verbal skills which are more closely related to education. I’ll leave it at that except to say that intelligence can relate only to being able to retain and regurgitate information but at other levels the person can be hopelessly “stupid”.

An Enduring Framework

Personality is another matter. Yes, it is enduring and it seems that we are born with the fundamentals of it. Decades ago when I was first studying psychology it was assumed that for both intelligence and personality a stable level was achieved with adulthood. A few people, among them Carl Jung disagreed. We now view ourselves as moving through stages of adult development and that major crises can reshape us.

A Lifelong Process

Part of Jung’s contribution was to see humans as continuing to develop through life and he put it in visual specifics. Later I will go into the details of his glorious personality typology but for now I will bring in the wheel. What he calls the four functions are paired in opposition and the pairs fall at right angles to each other. Picture a wheel with just two spokes across the diameter at right angle. Now place that wheel on edge in water and to begin with it floats halfway submerged. The part above the waterline is in consciousness and the balance in the unconscious. That means we have a full conscious command of some of it but the other parts play a role but not under our full understanding or control. 

Over our lifetime this wheel is said to rise and we gain more and more command of all facets of our personality. Our abilities broaden and we have a broader perception and experience of the world. It is a glorious process.

Coming to This Blog

In blogs that will follow I will present you with the information on the two attitudes and four functions that make up the parts of our personality as Jung defined it. The wonder of it is that Jung did not just sit in Switzerland doing an intellectual exercise leading to an organized system. He went far out into the world. Freud was focused on Western medicine and Jung on mythology and the substance of a rich and powerful world. He brought back the recognition of the existence of his typology which is found across the world and in all people.

As we proceed you will see yourself, your neighbors, people you utterly dislike and people who are dear to you. When we see our personality, we understand how people different from ourselves can be rewarding, how we can bond with people like or unlike ourselves and so on. 

I’m sure you will enjoy this journey.

How would you describe your personality?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Personality of the Artist (Painter)

 

Our Own Personal Style

While I did well in school it often did not hold my attention. Some things were fascinating and some things trivial. So frequently I “went out the window” which meant dreaming and exploring while the teacher went on his or her way. This process continued into graduate school. Some part of the subject matter was really interesting, other parts not so much.

As the time came closer for me to choose a doctoral dissertation topic I was working with a professor who held my interest. We were very different personality types but he engaged me and would challenge me in very useful ways. I liked that. He made me think.

Creativity Versus Intelligence

At the time he was studying creativity as it related to intelligence. Of course to some people that was a verboten area to explore. Creativity is simply supposed to be creative and that’s that. He didn’t view it that way. And his study came up with an interesting conclusion. Creativity and intelligence are orthogonal. Wow! Really?

Orthogonal is a rarely used word which means unrelated. The conclusion was that you could be really smart and not at all creative or really creative and not so smart in the ordinary sense. I liked that idea. It was what I would call unbinding. For one thing, we don’t have to put the creative types into scholarly straightjackets.

His studies led me to take a look at the literature about creativity in the psychological/psychiatric realm. What a hopeless morass. I did my major thesis (predoctoral) on the subject. I didn’t like what I found and neither did the professors who reviewed it. But it was what it was.

Eternal Gratitude to My Professor 

But It led me to discuss doing my dissertation on the personality of the artist (painter in this instance). My professor thought it worth doing. At the same time such a dissertation is risky. In psychology you are to demonstrate your grasp of the scientific method and it is usually safest to pick up on a line of study, tweak it and do a dissertation study. I decided to take the risk.

At the time the department was deep into the work of Carl Jung and that meant in part we were looking at his personality typology which had been translated into an actual test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Business people loved it, because once you know a person’s personality, it tells you a great deal about what jobs they will be best at.

Off To Hang Out With the Artists

The long and short of it was I set out for an art school in Richmond, Virginia. The faculty thought the study might be interesting so I went in and took photos of the paintings and paid the students the princely sum of $2 each to take the test. I had long and interesting discussions with the students and hanging out with them was great fun.

I took the data back to Duke and had the paintings rated on a variety of dimensions which then were compared statistically with the personality types. Most of the literature was floundering around in psychoanalytical thought. This time we had real evidence. And it worked.

Surprises and Validation

I’ll cut to the chase. Not surprisingly the majority of the students were primary intuitive types which fits because they were exploring visually and conceptually. There was a smaller subcategory of other types whose work was really, really different. If you ever see a dark painting of a bleak woods against an evening sky, the chances are you are looking at the work of a primary thinking type.

A couple of other things stood out. Contrary to expectations, the artists with thinking as an auxiliary had rich and deep color choices while the ones with feeling as an auxiliary had muted color choices. Some findings were consistent with hypotheses, some counterintuitive.

Validating Jung

And then my professor asked me to do a different analysis. He wanted to know if the primary determinant of the effect was the type or whether there was an influence from the degree of that type. The analysis validated Jung’s contention. Within type there was the matter of degree but there was little variation. It was the type far and away that determined the characteristics of the art. My dissertation was easily defended and accepted.

What did we learn other than what was stated above? We learned about the power of what Jung had put together. I validated my perception that the psychoanalytic floundering was trash. And again, we learned the power of personality among other things I won’t bore you with. The paper was actually picked up by a major psychological journal. I had many other thoughts about such research but have never found the time. It’s interesting what’s out there if you go exploring and again it validated by love of the “What if”.

I’m considering writing specific columns about the women in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I think you would find them fascinating.

Are you surprised by any of these findings?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Risk From an Unfamiliar Culture

Lessons in Life

Usually I stay away from the political arena but it’s often hard because the line between the political arena and the rest of our lives gets frayed. The roots of this commentary come from the book Red Notice by Bill Browder. I made mention of it previously and the deeper I got into it, the more I found what he wrote has broad implications.

Once again I have to say I am stunned by this book. In one sense it feels like it is a compellingly interesting novel, but it is really his story. There are times when I simply gulp at the import. I also find it is stirring memories and his experiences and conclusions mesh with so many components of our world.

The Focus

But let me focus on the central point of this post which relates to the reality of Russia. Our world is growing smaller and our interfaces more complex. Here in North America we have our differences but are functioning reasonably well. But in other parts of the world there is much more drama and issues that lead into deep conflict.

A Reprise of a Story

In two previous posts I wrote about a man by the name of Nicolai Kokhlov. I met Nicolai while I was working on my doctorate at Duke many years ago and the experience was unforgettable. He brought a bridge to another reality I have never forgotten.

Nicolai was the head of Russian intelligence in Eastern Europe and, to put it mildly, it was not a nice job. He didn’t just gather intelligence. He also had to have people killed. The fact of what he had done was startling because he was a mild mannered man of substantial grace. He seemed so gentle and humble. One evening we fed him vodka and heard the depth of his story.

On that evening he talked about some of his work in detail and there was an utter disconnect from his demeanor and what he had done. In the end he could not endure the life and he made arrangements with American intelligence to defect. He was to go on Radio Free Europe and announce his defection. At the same time our people were to take his wife and children and spirit them out of the country. He made his announcement, but we did not go for his family. They were taken by Russian intelligence. In the end they were not murdered but he never saw them again. At the time off our meeting he had remarried and had children with his second wife.

The Russians poisoned him with a radioactive substance and our German military hospital saved him. It was clear he had a morality very different from much of Russia.

The Point

On that evening we heard in detail about a very different culture and how we too often betray our promises. Now comes Bill Browder’s book. He is a brave and determined man who opened investing in Russia as the communist empire collapsed. But at one point his investment business was attacked. But it was attacked in a way that the attackers were going to take huge personal loses to their own investments. To us it seems curious but Browder quoted an old Russian proverb and summarized the import this way: “The moral is simple: when it comes to money, Russians will gladly—gleefully, even— sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbor.”

Now the Conclusion

We have a curious story unfolding about Trump and his family and their enmeshment with Russian oligarchs. What Browder spells out in Red Notice is the risk which there is not just to the Trump family but to our nation as well. We do not understand this component of the Russian culture but it comes down to the fact that they may seek serious damage to us even while damaging themselves. To that we need to give serious attention.Did this issue even occur to you?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

How Are You America – Part 4

 

What Is Intelligence?

First lets address the issue of intelligence which in some ways relates to job skills. I say in some ways because job skills also reflect personality and interest patterns. One definition of intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” – whatever that means. What it has often meant was the score received on an intelligence test.

The most commonly used tests when I was doing testing was the Wechsler which was available for adults and children. These tests had originally been developed because people wanted ways to assess scholastic ability. Up to a point it served its purpose. Over time we also used it to assess if there were learning disabilities. Again, up to a point it helped.

Another matter is what kind of intelligence a person has. Some people are highly analytical, some suppositories of information and some can regurgitate material fed to them without any true understanding of its meaning. The latter are sometimes found among people who graduate from respected institutions but, to be blunt, seem stupid.

I think you get the point. It is highly variable and discussion cannot be simplistic if the aim is to design a remedial system.

In What We Call the Real World

The point here is to not do an in-depth presentation about intelligence. In fact, the point relates to the changes needed in our society to prepare people for the employment future. And there is evidence of that future changing rapidly.

The Wechsler tests were designed with a Verbal and a Performance section. Verbal suggests what the word means and relates most closely to academic abilities. But they also included Performance which generally seemed to reflect abilities of “working class” people. A plumber needs different abilities from an accountant.

The conventional, professional wisdom was that if the Verbal I.Q. was 20 points below the Performance I.Q. meant there was a learning disability. Well, not quite. I tested people from all walks of life and often found that discrepancy. But gradually I came to see something. The people with higher Performance skills often came from working class households. In fact what I was seeing was a pattern of talent not disability. Such a perception was very useful when job issues were considered.

The point is that we cannot approach the future of our workforce in a limited fashion.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Change

Vocational rehabilitation is at issue for a variety of reasons. People get injured in a variety of ways and need to be retrained so they can be productively employed. But we had to play some games. The counselors often came to me saying they needed a disability to develop a retraining program which they could pay for. One of the things that meant was that I had to define a disability for women who were getting a divorce and had not worked outside the home previously.

Yikes! I knew exactly what they meant. Sometimes people suddenly have a change in their lives which needs to be addressed and they may not have the expertise or money to pay for it. So we went to work.

But, of course, there are other kinds of disabilities and needs for retraining as we are presently experiencing. Job categories disappear or shrink and we have to figure out what to do with the people who are no longer needed.

But something unfortunate happened. At one point when budgets were constricting. the rehab people had to work harder to justify what they were doing and they turned to the severely disabled. Sometimes that mean spending a lot of money on people who showed little if any promise for employment.

That is just one story. What we have to do is adapt to change in productive ways.

Designing for the Future

Our national dialogue in many matters is being shaped by partisan and idealogical conflict. What we really need in a society which is facing rapid change is an eyes wide open exploration of what the people in our society need.

One of the things I saw was that the people with Performance abilities had an interesting set of abilities which might not need to be applied in plumbing or electrical work. In fact, if we broaden our scan we see that their abilities can be applied in information technology work in an office. But what we need to do now is to evaluate our viewpoint and begin to study how we can approach the needs of people to be employed in the postcapitalism world. We need vision, flexibility and new thinking.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Human Personality

 

dreamstime_m_39372113

Of course you have a personality. How would you describe it?

What It Is
Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As such it is hardly pinpoint. And there is no system which clearly defines what makes up character. But being open ended is part of its utility. Sometimes, though, it’s useful to have clear definitions about stable components of a person. When we turn to personality we find such a system is available.

The American Psychological Association defines personality as “referring to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving”. Are you now perfectly clear? Probably not, because human beings are layers of characteristics, orientations, effects of history, biochemical interactions and on and on. But it is useful personally and in many environments to have an understanding of what is stable in how we are in our interactions and our approach to the world.

Multiple Realities But No Illness

It is important to understand that the description of a person’s personality has no connotation of mental illness at all. It may condition our behavior and reactions but primarily variations are normal and merely different. And, in describing a given person, their personality may have characteristics of certain groups and elements which are wholly idiosyncratic. It need not refer to intelligence because, more than anything, intelligence refers to management and processing of information, knowledge and abilities.

Distinct From Intelligence

We have been in a debate about intelligence for a very long time. Measurement initially was oriented toward having information about aptitude for school. But a man by the name of Wechsler divided it into Performance skills which are needed for hands on work and Verbal skills which are more closely related to education. I’ll leave it at that except to say that intelligence can relate only to being able to retain and regurgitate information but at other levels the person can be hopelessly “stupid”.

An Enduring Framework

Personality is another matter. Yes, it is enduring and it seems that we are born with the fundamentals of it. Decades ago when I was first studying psychology it was assumed that for both intelligence and personality a stable level was achieved with adulthood. A few people, among them Carl Jung disagreed. We now view ourselves as moving through stages of adult development and that major crises can reshape us.

A Lifelong Process

Part of Jung’s contribution was to see humans as continuing to develop through life and he put it in visual specifics. Later I will go into the details of his glorious personality typology but for now I will bring in the wheel. What he calls the four functions are paired in opposition and the pairs fall at right angles to each other. Picture a wheel with just two spokes across the diameter at right angle. Now place that wheel on edge in water and to begin with it floats halfway submerged. The part above the waterline is in consciousness and the balance in the unconscious. That means we have a full conscious command of some of it but the other parts play a role but not under our full understanding or control.

Over our lifetime this wheel is said to rise and we gain more and more command of all facets of our personality. Our abilities broaden and we have a broader perception and experience of the world. It is a glorious process.

Coming to This Blog

In blogs that will follow I will present you with the information on the two attitudes and four functions that make up the parts of our personality as Jung defined it. The wonder of it is that Jung did not just sit in Switzerland doing an intellectual exercise leading to an organized system. He went far out into the world. Freud was focused on Western medicine and Jung on mythology and the substance of a rich and powerful world. He brought back the recognition of the existence of his typology which is found across the world and in all people.

As we proceed you will see yourself, your neighbors, people you utterly dislike and people who are dear to you. When we see our personality, we understand how people different from ourselves can be rewarding, how we can bond with people like or unlike ourselves and so on.
I’m sure you will enjoy this journey.

How would you describe your personality?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page