The Definition of Personality

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 October 2016

The Definition of Personality

The fact that everyone has a personality is widely accepted. The definition of personality is not exactly “defined” in terms of being entirely concrete. There are different definitions of personality according to different theorists. Generally, personality is described as general characteristics that are found in individuals that affect behavior. Personality can be associated with several paradoxes, which are contradictory concepts that are inevitable and unable to be escaped. There are numerous paradoxes relative to psychology and personality. Of the six paradoxes given in the syllabus, I believe all of them are very closely related; however, I have turned my focus to two specific paradoxes: conscious versus unconscious determinants of behavior, determinism versus free choice, and their interactions with each other. Also, I learned to link both paradoxes to each other as well as the general topic of personality and individual identity.

Firstly, conscious and unconscious behaviors determinants of behavior are not entirely separate from each other. Each side of the dimension is not entirely balanced by each other; however, they affect each other indefinitely. Also, it is also very important to realize that the word “determinant” tends to be misleading. Neither side of the paradox necessarily determines the other. Conscious versus unconscious determinants of behavior are two sides of the same coin, where awareness and consciousness, or lack thereof, relate to and influence emotions and behaviors. Conscious awareness influences unconscious behaviors and unconscious behaviors influence conscious behaviors. I understand that conscious awareness affects unconscious behaviors by questioning things one does not really understand or even remember doing. Stress that accumulates inside people may manifest itself through their actions while sleeping, which seems to be a very commonly understood state of unconsciousness.

Such unconscious behaviors include teeth grinding, sleep-talking, sleep-walking and more. It is also not uncommon for people who are awake to perform actions they are not entirely aware of. Pacing, nail biting, and improper breathing are also possible stress-induced and unconscious behaviors, which are influenced by conscious awareness of events that trigger stress to the individual. A better understanding of conscious processes can help control some behaviors that normally affect unconscious behaviors. Unconscious behaviors affect conscious awareness by understanding some things that happen when a person may not fully understand why or how they act or react to particular events, but may influence a person to behave in a way they are aware of.

These can form habits that may be constructive or destructive to a person; however, habits are dangerous in the sense that they are difficult to break when cemented. For example, an event that affected a person in a negative way may influence conscious behavior, such as smoking, and that person may not be fully aware that an event has triggered a response that they may be able to control. On the other side, positive events may influence a person in a positive way. Finding joy and experiencing positive emotions can cause more constructive behavior.

Conscious and unconscious behaviors affect, and are affected by personality. Personality can generally influence our behavior by attitude or demeanor. One can also affect interpretations of events in a positive or negative way, and influence emotions to vary behavior. An example of changing emotions without being entirely aware of the shift in mood was given in class. This study involved putting a pen inside an individual’s mouth while watching cartoons, and a control group who did not have a pen in their mouth while watching those cartoons. The main idea of this study was forcing those individuals with a pen in their mouth to smile.

Those individuals rated those cartoons funnier. Smiling can change the interpretation of an event or stimulus, consciously or unconsciously. A person’s personality can be influenced by feelings, yet their moods are generally consistent. A person’s emotions are able to be read, yet feelings are able to be hidden and kept inside. Once feelings are kept inside, they may be stored in the unconscious mind and forgotten. Staying conscious of what may be happening is very important to understand unconscious behavior. Realizing how an event impacted oneself can protect them from their unconscious mind causing unpredictable effects.

Determinism versus free choice is another paradox that relates to events. Determinism is more or less given and determined. Also, if there is no known cause to an effect, using the scientific method would be able to determine an outcome. Free choice is the ability to have options and to be able to apply those choices to life. A hot topic for determinism versus free choice is homosexuality. Although scientific experimentation has concluded that homosexuality is more likely determined, many would argue that free choice is the real cause. These findings from experiments on the topic homosexuality are inconclusive; therefore it is impossible to determine whether genetics or history is an actual cause.

An obvious example of determinism is one used in class several times; one cannot suddenly become a pterodactyl through free choice. Also, fighting serious and fatal wounds and illnesses cannot be miraculously healed by wishing the issues away. Free choice is also very important, even if it cannot remove a bullet from one’s skull. Being able to choose feelings and events in life are crucial to changing outcomes. It is possible to apply effort to achieve goals and to prevent terrible things from happening as opposed to simply giving up due to believing in a “master plan”. Not everything happens for a reason; rather, every cause has an effect.

Relative to personality, determinism and free choice are very important to remember. Personality is affected by choices as well as predetermined outcomes. One can choose to interpret events in a number of ways. It is also possible to alter events by performing actions. Free choice is also responsible for certain determined outcomes, and some choices people make are determined as well. Personality influences interpretations positively and negatively. The way one can feel can determine their personality or change it. I believe that when it comes to personality, people are mostly responsible for how we act, aside from brain damage or personality disorders.

Even then, one is not entirely absolved of responsibility for one’s actions. Every person is responsible for something, which is shown through Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, most commonly modeled in pyramid form. Basic needs are shown at the bottom, and self-actualization shown at the top. Human needs are an individual’s responsibility to fulfill. Those needs are determined, yet the path to self-actualization is not defined. People vary from one another in terms of what makes one happy may not make another feel the same way.

Conscious versus unconscious determinants of behavior can be related in multiple ways to determinism versus free choice. Although the word “determine” may be the obvious relating factor, they do not necessarily determine behavior or personality. Events can lead to causes of emotions and behavior, and behavior may also lead to events. Interpretation is a very vital key in both paradoxes. One can interpret whether a choice was made or whether “fate” was the deciding factor. They can also interpret in the same manor whether one is consciously aware or unconsciously affected. We can affect our behavior by first deciding whether an event or stimulus altered mood or emotions consciously or unconsciously.

Unconscious behavior may lead to indeterminable and unpredictable outcomes. It is important to be consciously aware of unconscious behavior to better understand changes or choices we can make to better control behavior. The fact that all people have personalities is determined; what those personalities are and what controls them, either consciously or unconsciously can vary. Even those with personality disorders have at least one cardinal trait that may be used to interpret their personality. One can choose their own destiny, yet only to a certain extent. It is determined, at least as of this date that everyone alive will someday die.

In essence, personality is a very influential power that can result from events that shape it. Also, personality can shape events by emotions altering interpretation. Interpretation is said to be more important than the event itself. Therefore, if interpretation can shape events, and events can shape personality, interpretation of one’s personality can affect conscious and unconscious behaviors and can be chosen or determined accordingly. Each paradox affect and are affected by personality and identity. Determinism versus free choice and unconscious versus conscious determinants of behavior are related indefinitely and are both connected. Neither paradox are completely opposite in meaning. Personality, much like the above paradoxes is unavoidable.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 October 2016

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