Reflections on personality

 

The NEO PI test shows roughly where we are on the Big Five personality traits.

It is easy to think that being low on neuroticism and high on the other four is always and inherently good. After all, that is what our culture tells us. But it is fortunately not quite true.

It depends on our role. For instance, as an army officer, it may be good to be low on some of the facets of agreeableness (able to make tough decisions that harms certain individuals), and perhaps higher on some of the facets of neuroticism (more alert). A philosopher, psychologist, or artist may benefit from being higher on neuroticism as it allows more inner processing and insight. A nuclear plant operator, or anyone in a role where innovation is of little or no advantage, or where it may even be harmful, may benefit from being low on openness to experience.

It depends on how it is expressed and how we relate to it. Whether we are high or low on any factor or facet, we can find ways to use it in a constructive way, and find genuine appreciation for its benefits.

And as a society, we need all types. There are many roles that needs to be filled in a society, so it is good people come with different tendencies and orientations.

Michael Jackson

 

michael-jackson-london-concerts

Some people and situations are especially good projection objects. They express qualities we are not in touch with in ourselves, characteristics outside of our conscious identity. So when we see it in others, it fascinates us. We may even be caught up in blind attractions and aversions to just those qualities, expressed in these people and situations.

Michael Jackson is a good example. His genius for music, dance, image and marketing gave him attention, and in itself made him a good project. Add eccentricity and scandals that never were resolved, and you have an irresistible and explosive mix.

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All the world’s a stage

 

jaques_as_you_like_it

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
– Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (2/7)

This is true in the way Shakespeare points out. As a human being, we all play different roles throughout the day and throughout our lives.

And as usual, to the extent we identify with these roles, we get into struggle when life shifts the roles around. Some roles go, other roles come, and some needs to be played another way. (And we don’t always get a say.)

But we play more basic roles as well.

We have the roles of a human being, but there is also the basic role as a human itself. Two legs. A head. An animal with bodily needs and instincts. A cultured being living within a world of interpretations.

Then there is the role of a doer in its many flavors of a doer in the world, a decider, an observer.

And the even more basic role of an I with an Other. A separate I with a center and periphery, and an inside and outside.

All of these are roles, and as what we are – that which all form and experience happens within and as – we play these roles. Or we could say that the roles play themselves, whether there is a sense of a separate I there or not.

To the extent we identify with roles, there is drama. (Which is entertaining, although not always so comfortable.)

And to the extent they are recognized as roles – as temporary roles playing themselves out, with their own location in time and space, their own perspectives and views – it is all recognized as a play.

Even in the midst of whatever is happening, there is an enjoyment of the play. There is a recognition of an enjoyment that seems to always be there, inherent in experience itself.

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Not a teacher?

 

If our personality is so inclined, it is easy to not want to be in a teacher role. I know that one well for myself.

Yet, it is also good to acknowledge that we all go in and out of teacher roles in many different ways.

For instance, if someone writes spiritual books and holds retreats, that person obviously goes into a teacher role, whether they want to or not. Others will place them in a teacher role. Nothing wrong with that, just good to notice and acknowledge…

Even for me, when I write on this blog, I go into a teacher role – in the minds of some – whether I want to or not.

If someone approaches me for “consulting”, as happened recently, I say that I am not a teacher (not trained in any tradition, only scratch the surface of all of this in even a conventional sense, and there is not a stable Ground awakening here), and I am not a therapist (not trained), but I am happy to have a conversation as a fellow-traveler to fellow-traveler.

Still, I am mindful of going into a teacher role – in the minds of some – when I write this stuff. Again, nothing wrong with that, just good to notice and acknowledge.

Trigger: Bernadette Roberts resisting being seen as a teacher, even if she goes into a teacher role by writing books and holding retreats. She has turned out to be a great teacher for me, as reflected in some of the recent posts here.