The word personality originates from the Latin word “persona” which means mask. From the modern meaning of mask, it means a cover used for disguise. However from the ancient Latin-speaking world, the word is used not to conceal something but to typify or represent a character in theater plays. Thus, personality is what differentiates or distinguishes a person. It is a mask that sets an individual apart from others.
For a more detailed description of personality, it is defined as the sum total of the qualities and characteristics of a person as shown in her manner of walking, talking, dressing, and her attitudes, interests, and ways of reacting to other people. Consequently, to make things simpler and to quote from Glen Allsopp, a popular internet blogger, personality is a set of qualities that make a person distinct from another.
Psychoanalysis was pioneered by Sigmund Freud. This perspective believes that there are three levels of awareness or divisions of the mind namely conscious, preconscious and unconscious. Freud represented these levels of awareness through an iceberg. The part of the iceberg visible above the surface is the conscious mind. Just below the surface is the preconscious mind, anything that is not yet part of the conscious mind. Hidden deep below the surface is the unconscious mind, feelings, memories, thoughts, and urges that cannot be easily brought into consciousness. The unconscious can be revealed in dreams and Freudian slips (or slip of the tongue is a verbal or memory mistake believed to be linked with the unconscious mind).
In addition, according to Freud, there are three parts of personality called as id, ego and superego. The id works on the pleasure principle. Its goal is instant gratification and satisfaction from our primitive drives related to hunger, sex, aggression, and irrational impulses. The ego works on the reality principle. It protects the person against the immediate gratification of the id. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. The ego brings the person down to what is real.
As an example, when a person is hungry or is sexually driven, the desire can only be satisfied at the right place and at the right time. The ego controls the person’s actions and allows for higher level cognitive skills. The superego, on the other hand, is the moral center of personality, containing the ego ideal and the conscience, and is the source of moral anxiety.
The superego would create perfectionist and civilized individuals that are incapable of compromising what life requires. While the id would create pleasure-seeking individuals whose main goal is to satisfy every desire without delay. The ego balances the person as it compromises what the id desires in accordance to the superego.
Carl Gustav Jung believed that there was not only a personal unconscious, as described by Freud, but a collective unconscious as well. This collective unconscious served as a form of psychological inheritance. It contains all of the knowledge and experiences we share as a species.
The collective unconscious contains archetypes or models of people, behaviors, and personalities. These archetypes are innate, universal, and hereditary. These are unlearned and function to organize how we experience certain things.
The four major archetypes according to Jung are: the self, the shadow, the anima or animus, and the persona. The self is the unification of the consciousness and unconsciousness wherein various aspects of personality are integrated. T
he shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is described as the darker side of the psyche. It is composed of weaknesses, repressed ideas, desires, instincts, and short comings. The anima is the feminine image in the male psyche while the animus is the male image in the female psyche. It is represented as the “true self” rather than the image a person projects to others. Lastly, the persona is how we project ourselves to the world. It is like our social mask that we wear for different situations and groups. It shields the ego from negative images.
Archetypes are not limited to the four types previously mentioned nor are fixed. Other archetypes that Jung described are: the father (authority figure), the mother (nurturing and comforting), the child (longing for innocence), the hero (champion, defender), and the trickster (liar, deceiver) among others.
Psychiatrist Alfred Adler proposed feelings of inferiority as the driving force behind personality and developed the birth order theory. Firstborn children with younger siblings feel inferior once those younger siblings get all the attention and often overcompensate by becoming overachievers. Middle children feel superior over the dethroned older child while dominating younger siblings and they tend to be very competitive.
Younger children feel inferior because they are not allowed the freedom and responsibility like those of the older children.
Frank Sulloway, another theorist proposed that birth order has a profound effect on one’s personality. Firstborns are more dominant, less open to new ideas, and more conscientious than later-born children. Consequently, later-born children are more open and rebellious.