Personality Traits and States

 "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" Socrates
Why study the self? Because, as Socrates states, it is how we come to wisdom concerning ourselves. Why is wisdom important? This is because focus and attention lead to understanding, wisdom, and transformation. We then may be able to respond to our world from wisdom rather than habitual reaction from past conditioning, as the roots of our ideas, beliefs, and opinions, are all too often buried in our subconscious from years past.

Then, when people or situations push our buttons and yank our chains and we normally respond with anger, resentment, or negativity, we can begin to rewire our minds to perhaps respond with kindness, compassion, and understanding. And not only towards others, but also very importantly, for ourselves as well. 

Meditation has been around for thousands of years to help us take a step back from our apparent selves to observe and contemplate the self from a deeper more thoughtful place. We then may find a peaceful and loving outlook for ourselves and others beyond the spontaneous reactions and habits we find so deeply ingrained. This method is subjective rather than scientific, but still may hold many benefits for us. 

Another subjective, but often enlightening method to "Know thyself" is to look at modern personality models to also see how we tend to think and behave. The key is to learn how we most often respond to others and life so we can find areas in need of attention and transformation. We don't advocate condemning or eliminating our "negative" qualities, but instead embracing and healing them as they have actually helped us survive difficulties through-out our lives.

There are many popular personality tests going around, and if you haven't tried one yet it can be very enlightening. These are not very scientific, for we may have a view of ourselves that is not entirely realistic. Others who know us intimately may give a quite different portrayal, yet anything that gets us started on the road to self knowledge can be helpful. 

Personally, while spending forty three years in corporate culture I was sent to many daylong workshops to determine my habitual personality type and identify other common types. This was actually very helpful over the years knowing how I commonly reacted and how the people I was dealing with saw the world and me. Here is one popular example to consider from Wikipedia:

The Big Five Personality Traits, also known as the five-factor model is a statistical analysis applied to personality survey data through language where aspects of personality become apparent. For example, someone described as conscientious is more likely to be described as "always prepared" rather than "messy". This theory uses descriptors of common language and suggests five broad dimensions commonly used to describe the human personality and psyche. The five factors are:
  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)
  • Honesty (sincere, honest, humble, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming vs. sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, pompous) (Sixth Dimension of Hexaco Model)
There are a number of correlated factors. For example, extraversion is said to include such related qualities as gregariousness, assertiveness, excitement seeking, warmth, activity, and positive emotions .
Family life and the way someone was raised will also affect these traits. Studies and research have shown that about half of the variation between individuals results from their genetics and half from their environments. Researchers have found conscientiousness, extraversion, openness to experience, and neuroticism to be relatively stable from childhood through adulthood.
Another study explored by Gerard Saucier and Fritz Ostendorf explored each domain's facet structure through word studies. Each facet is a specific and unique aspect of a broader personality trait. They found a total of 18 facets, or "subcomponents," of the Big Five.            These are:
  • Neuroticism: Irritability, Insecurity, Emotionality
  • Extraversion: Sociability, Unrestraint, Assertiveness, Activity-Adventurousness
  • Openness to Experience: Intellect, Imagination-Creativity, Perceptiveness
  • Agreeableness: Warmth-Affection, Gentleness, Generosity, Modesty-Humility
  • Conscientiousness: Orderliness, Decisiveness-Consistency, Reliability, Industriousness