What is CHARACTER (Part 1)


my flaws or….

PREVIOUS:  Loneliness in Recovery – #2

SITE: Personality Types (scroll down)

ACoAs suffer unnecessarily for many reasons
– one of which is NOT believing we have any positive qualities. All we can see are the problems created by our False Self, which was developed in reaction to our upbringing, but which we assume is the real us. Because originally we had such distorted mirroring (seeing ourselves only thru the eyes of our dysfunctional caretakers) we deny our natural gifts.
• Yes, we have ‘character defects’, but these are extensions of our S-H & are how the WIC learned to function, rather than what our Healthy Child or ‘Unit’ are capable of. Even so, these gifts show up in many of our accomplishments throughout adulthood.

THEREFORE – the next several posts will list a number of Healthy Strengths (& variations) for us to ponder, identify & then own! They are essential for PMES maturity. These strengths are part of our inborn makeup, are developed OR suppressed by our environment, & get entangled with our damage.
EXP: Julie chased boys since she was 9 or 10, but she never caught any. In her 30s she felt defeated & full of S-H. She told a therapist: “I’m such a pathetic jerk – all this time I’ve doing the same stupid thing, with the same awful results!”  The therapist replied: “You’re not stupid, pathetic or a jerk – you’re persistent. Now you can focus that quality in a new direction – toward the goal of emotional & mental growth, as well as on fulfilling your dreams!”, which Julie eventually did.

C. refers to a specific combination of aspects which make a person unique, expressed in their habits, likes, values, dislikes, behaviors….character
• Dictionary: C. is “the stable & distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response, regardless of circumstances.”
• Similarly, academic Arthur S. Adams said: “Good character is the quality which makes one dependable, whether being watched or not.”
• Psychologist Lawrence Pervin says that moral character is “a disposition (strong tendency) to express behavior in consistent patterns of functions, across a range of situations.”

• C. is a composite of qualities making up the specific psychological mechanisms that express the presence or lack of virtues such as wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.  These are expressed in our T.E.As.  EXP, considering the trait of Curiosity:
Curiosity thoughts: That doctor sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. I wonder if she could help me with my specific problem & if she’s taking new patients?
Curiosity emotions: I wcharacterant to take this risk, but I’m afraid to try; I see new possibilities, & it excites me; I want to ask her a question about ____, but  I’m angry that she’s ignoring me
Curiosity behavior: I approached the boss; I stood quietly, waiting; I asked the teacher questions; I expressed my interest by my body language…..

PERSONALITY  – can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics that motivates us in various situation & uniquely influences the way we think, feel & act. The word “personality” originates from the Latin ‘persona’, which means mask.  Allport believed that personality develops as a function of learning to adapt to social situations, using our fundamental qualities, while trying to achieve our needs.  See one interesting list: “16 Personality Factors” by psychologist Raymond Cattell.

TRAITS  – In Science: Physical characteristics as an expression of a gene or many genes, such as height, eye color, and the ability to roll your tongue.
In Psychology: a consistent, long-lasting tendency in behavior, distinguishing qualities one’s personal nature, such as hostility, boldness, faith….
They  are aspects of our personality, background, or physique that make us better at some activities and worse at others.

TRAIT THEORY: In 1936, psychologist Gordon Allport (one of the first psychologists to traitsfocus on the study of the personality) identified almost 18,000 words in various dictionaries that described differing personality traits, 4,000 of them in just one. He noted that what people do is a great clue as to their personality traits. If people like to run, hike, & ride bikes we can infer they are Athletic (a trait).  He grouped these into three levels:

CARDINAL Traits:  A single characteristic that has one general focus motivating a person & guiding most of their activities. It dominates the life as their ruling passions/obsessions, such as a need for money, fame, security…. Someone can be so power-hungry that they are solely driven by that need for control.
• Some people are known specifically for such traits, so that their names become synonymous with the quality. Consider the ones that made these ‘names’ become household words, by their descriptive term: Freudian, Machiavellian, narcissism, Don Juan, Christ-like, etc. Cardinal traits are rare (not present in all of us) & tend to show up later in life

CENTRAL: these are 5 to 10 pervasive traits found to some degree in everyone & which govern traitspeople’s day to day interactions. They’re the basic building blocks of personality that shape most of our behavior, but not as strongly as the Cardinals. They are the obvious characteristics most often used to describe someone, such as: “Sammy is intelligent, honest, shy and anxious….”
SECONDARY: the traits that reflect more “situational or opportunistic expressions” and aren’t as incorporated within one’s personality as the others, particular likes or dislikes that only a very close friend may know. They’re expressions of attitudes or preferences, and often appear only in certain situations or under specific circumstances, & must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity. Exp:
— getting anxious when in a group, being impatient while waiting in line
— a preference for ice cream or chocolate, dislike of modern art or jazz

Common Traits – abstract ones used to measure one’s personality or some portion of it
Individual Traits – later renamed “dispositions” by Dr. Allport – unique traits which give us insight into how a person is organized – the “morphogenic study of the individual”.    (MORE…)

NEXT: What is Character, Part 2


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