Personality is understood as the consistent features we display in regards to our thinking, feeling, and behavior. It begins to emerge around the age of 3. Prior to that, we refer to the genetically primed aspects of who we are as temperament.
Personality is dynamically formed via multiple inputs from many others. It becomes consolidated in our late teens to early 20’s. Around age 30 or so it becomes relatively fixed.
According to Daniel Siegel personality is deeply rooted in the human mind by the flow of information in the brain and between brains, is created via neural/mental representations during this flow, and interpersonal exchanges shape its formation and maturation (1999).
Siegel further adds that these interpersonal interactions construct our personal interpretations of reality. And according to Siegel, maternal and paternal attachments are fundamental in creating the necessary foundation of intrapersonal and interpersonal development. And he indicates emotions are the primary linkage between our intrapersonal and interpersonal worlds. And I believe this early foundation sets for us a lifelong paradigm.
Our life trajectory involves a series of developmental opportunities to build a healthy sense of self and others. This constructs our self-concept in regards to how others see us and feel towards us. It impacts our sense of self-efficacy, confidence and competence, and how others perceive us as being prosocial, asocial, or antisocial; which I refer to as global personality orientation.
For example, Erik Erickson proposes a series of lifelong psychosocial stages. They consist of the following: Trust or Mistrust; Autonomy or Shame and Doubt; Initiative or Guilt; Industry or Inferiority; Identity or Role Confusion or based on my own clinical observations, Role Diffusion; Intimacy or Isolation; Generativity or Stagnation; Integrity or Despair (Plotnik, 2014). And I dare add an additional stage based on my clinical observations, Transcendence and Relief or Dread and Decay.
From the field of Sociology, I borrow the concept of Perceived Social Value (PSV). This applies to the various roles that all of us enact and the concepts of “front-stage and back-stage personas”. Some refer to this as our private and public selves. As a clinician, I am very interested in the extent of the concordance or disagreement between these selves. Those with disordered personalities tend to show a decided disconnect between the two!
Referring back to the notion of roles, over time, we enact multiple roles, sometimes simultaneously. For instance, I was a child, an adolescent, a male, a college student, an Air Force medic during the Vietnam Conflict. Now I am retired. I’m also a father, grandfather, brother, a former university faculty member and the like. Our personality shapes how well we do or do not in these various roles. Those with disordered personalities exhibit rigidity and dysfunction across the various roles.
So as you can readily see, personality has a heck of a lot to do with who we are, and how we interact with the many others we come in contact with!
Richard G Kensinger, MSW
Nevid, J., Rathus, S., & Greene, B. Abnormal psychology in a changing world.
Plotnik, R., & Kouyoumdjian, H. Introduction to psychology.
Siegel, D. (2001). The developing mind. New York: The Guilford Press.
Wolfe, D. Abnormal child psychology. (2010).