Describing Personality

personalityPersonality is the overall system that controls our mental life. It contains our identity, our motives, our emotions and skills, and clues to our future.[1] It is our own individual edition of human nature.1

Psychologists define personality as a system, and organization of interrelated parts that are our areas of major psychological functions.1 The parts are: motives and emotions, thoughts and knowledge, action-planning, and a sense of self and self-control.1

Oftentimes, personality is misunderstood.1 Many believe that personality involves the study of individual differences and how one person differs from another.1 To a point, this is true, but much more complex.1 Psychologists look for universal features of human nature and look to see how people vary on those.1 Once they identify a feature, they examine how people differ in it and what it means to that person’s life.1

Personality molds together the major parts of our mental life into one functioning system.1 As none of us possess the same exact qualities, our personality organizes our particular psychological pieces in a way that is adaptive to our specific environment.1 Each piece of our psychological puzzle has both advantages and disadvantages for us.1

Evolutionary psychologist from Newcastle University in England, Daniel Nettle, has shown us how the two sides to a few of the key traits describe us.1 For example, if we are extraverted, we have an advantage in forming social allies, mating successfully, and exploring the environment around us.1 However, that same trait also presents disadvantages if our ease at social relationships threatens the stability of our family or if our exploration of our environment leads us to take physical risks.1 Another example is openness, which includes being imaginative, thinking independently, and entertaining unusual ideas.1 If we are open, we may engage in artful activities that can enhance our attractiveness to others.1 However, it can also lead us to develop unusual and maladaptive beliefs, such as coincidences, unsupported beliefs, and cults.1 Every personality plus has a minus.

An evolving, adaptive system, personality puts together the pieces of our selves into a functioning, surviving, and thriving person.1 Through trial and error, we discover that we do certain things more easily and better than others, rewarding and developing our talents.1 Over time, we nurture the skills we like to use and are good at, strengthening them.1 We also find the positive aspects of these skills, leading us to gravitate to situations and contexts that we prefer as they reveal our better selves to others.1 By continuing to do things we enjoy based on our abilities, we strengthen our capabilities that we express in the world.1

[1] Mayer, J. (2013, December 9). Personality Described. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-personality-analyst/201312/personality-described

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