The Web address
of this article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/personality.htm
March 27, 2014
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Other links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting distracted and lost.
One evening an
old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside
people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret,
greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, worry, resentment, inferiority,
lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is
joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, humor, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
grandson thought for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you
This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in
this Web site - free your
true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and
This brief video previews what you'll read here: The video metions 8
self-improvement lessons in this site. I've simplified that to seven.
feel that all infants, adults and kids have a unique personality?
Think of someone important to you, and reflect on her or his personality. How
would you describe it? How would people who know you describe your
personality? How would you describe it?
Try saying out loud how you would define
"person" and "personality" to an average early teen.
Lesson 1 in this
non-profit Web site centers on assessing and
psychological wounds and harmonizing personalities,so clarity on this word and concept is key.
Web site, "Personality" means...
ever-changing mosaic of an infant's, child's, or adult's
that make that person unique from other persons."
"Traits" include the core values,
attitudes, priorities, preferences, talents, reflexes, beliefs, memories,
fears, hopes, spirit, Soul, and
self-perceptions (identity), that shape how a person (you) usually reacts to
your inner and outer environments.
See how you feel about each of these...
A normal human personality,
character, or psyche is not a single monolithic aspect of
an adult or child. It is a
group of interactive parts or
subselves which are probablydiscrete brain regions. These
regions are like an interconnected net of mini-computers, and have no
widely-accepted name yet. Historically, they've been called...
vices and virtues
character flaws or
modes of Being
sides - e.g. "musical"
streaks - e.g.
See John Rowan's helpful book
- the People Inside Us" (Routledge, 1989) for an interesting, well-researched perspective on this. Master therapist Virginia Satir's brief book
Many Faces" provides a metaphoric way of viewing our many
personality subselves evolve from
your unique mix of genetic +
+ environmental factors. Some
subselves are genetically predetermined, and others come from your
experience - specially between conception and your first four to six years of life.
Your inner family of talented
subselves evolves over time through a
series of interactive developmental stages, influenced by
aging and life experiences.
Each of our personality parts
or subselves has it's own unique talents, perceptions, goals, motives,
of communicating, priorities, limits, tolerances, developmental age, "moods" and sensitivities - just like physical persons.
Your talented subselves...
dynamic - i.e. they can communicate and ally with, ignore,
and oppose each other,
express and discuss themselves with other personalities (people), and
react unconsciously and consciously to others' opinions of them; And your
interactive with your bodily organs in ways we're (slowly) learning to
understand; and they...
seem to fall into
three or four functional categories:
transcendent / enlightened / at One).
And subselves ...
nor bad. The effects of our
behavior on our
wholistic health and other living things can be judged
as nurturing (promoting wholistic health, growth,
and full potential) to toxic or
harmful (inhibiting these
Personalities and True
and False selves
universalManager subself, our
true Self (capital "S"), is naturally skilled
at harmonizing and leading all other subselves,
and making wise wide-angle, long-range decisions if allowed to do so by other
subselves. The Self gains wisdom over time, as the host person
experiences and learns from life. Kids' true Selves haven't had a chance to
learn much, and therefore may be distrusted by other subselves as a
competent leader. Ideally, this is offset by the child being raised by adults
who are guided by their wise, mature true Selves. This seems to be
uncommon, so far.
When their true Self
other subselves, average people report some
mix of thesefeelings: alive, awake, alert, "light," calm, clear,
serene, energized, centered, grounded, purposeful, potent, strong, decisive, sure, aware,
serene, compassionate, resilient,
realistic, focused, "up," confident, and present.
They also automatically display common behaviors like
This gives you a reliable
way of answering "Who's running my life right now (or recently)?.
When one or more subselves distrust
disable our Self,
they are called (here) a
false self.When a false self rules, people display
common traits and behaviors. Here, self (small
"s") refers to all subselves together, as orchestra
describes all the players, conductor, business staff, and Board of directors together.
Following the work of Dr. Richard Schwartz, (Internal
Family Systems Therapy, Guilford Press, 1995)
your whole group of
active and inactive personality parts is called your
inner family in this Web site.
me, myself, I, and "mypersonality" all refer to a
group of interrelated
From this view, personality is like the words team,
troupe, corps, gang, community, congregation, and family.
Sothe words "I" and "you" can refer to...
the person's (mind + body +
spirit and/or soul), or...
inner family (personality), or...
their current ruling false self, or...
their ruling or
disabled resident true Self.
These semantic distinctions are vital in understanding and
negotiating human relationships and recovery from psychological
wounds (Lesson 1). The goal of
wound-recovery is to
free your true Self
to harmonize and coordinate your inner family of
subselves over time. My
guidebook and these articles explore the ideas above in detail. Many
other books focus
on personality subselves too - this is an ancient idea.
From this view,
"growing up" or
"maturing" is the multi-decade process of convincing your
Guardians and Inner Kids
to trust and heed the wisdom and judgment of your wise Self and other
Managers, rather than depend on each other and the subselves of other people as we did as children.
Regardless of education, most people are
and unaware of...
being ruled by
much of the time, and what that
what life would feel like if their true
Self were consistently trusted and free to guide them.
How does what you just read compare with your concept of
"personality"? If you (i.e. your dominant personality parts) feel
and/or alarmed about subselves controlling normal people like
you, read this letter and
experience a safe, interesting dialog with a
subself you admire. Then see how you feel..
For perspective, almost
of site visitors responding to a
poll say "Yes, personality
subselves are real, without question.".
Personalities and Gender
Do you feel that typical male
and female personalities have significant differences?
Traditional wisdom suggests that they do. People range
between indifferent to obsessive on judging their masculinity or
femininity. Does anyone you know come to mind as you read this?
Typical male and female minds and bodies are similar in some
respects, and differ in others. These differences are not good or bad,
any more than a rose is better than a poodle. Many people are taught to
see males or females as "superior." This is usually based on...
unawareness of dominant false selves,
personal, parental, and/or ancestral
(denied) feelings of inferiority (shame); and...
inherited and socially-amplified ethnic
stereotyping ("Blacks and Latinos are better lovers, and
Mediterranean men are more macho than Quakers or monks"); and/or...
unquestioned patriarchal biases from
inherited sacred texts like the Bible, Koran, or similar.
Some males are
genetically endowed with "female
brains" and vice versa. One implication is that some males
have "feminine personalities" - e.g. they are more sensitive, emotional,
reactive, relationship-oriented, social, and "softer" ("effeminate")
than typical males.
Conversely, some "masculine" females have "male brains and
personalities" - e.g. they're more focused on physical activity,
competition and winning, success, logic, things, power, and
achievements. See this interesting comparison of male and female
communication styles ("You
Just Don't Understand," by Deborah Tannen), and compare it with your
relationships and experience.
These normal gender differences may or may not include
same-gender sexual preferences. Evidence
is slowly increasing that against ancestral and religious bias,
homosexuality is partly (mostly?) based on inherited
genetic predispositions - i.e. normal. See Brain Sex, by geneticist Anne Moir and journalist David
personality subselves may be male, female, or neither,
regardless of the gender of their host person So they may
have "masculine" or "feminine" traits of their own, and mild to strong
gender-biases about other subselves and/or people.
To make things more interesting, subselves in a host person may have
different biases - e.g. one subself may see boys or men as inherently
superior to girls and women, and other subselves may be indifferent or strongly disagree.
Never a dull moment!
So what does this view of human
First, the definition
above implies that behavioral traits like sociability, reclusiveness,
boldness.and shyness don't describe a person - they're signs of
subselves. Thus to say "Nate is really lazy" (a personality trait)
labels the whole person, rather than saying "Nate has a Guardian
suhbself that wants to protect against painful disappointmens and
A corollary has to do with
personal identities("Who am I?")
Self-aware people can describe themselves with many traits "I'm a fe/male
person who likes shrimp / has a bulldog / hates conflict / over-sleeps
too often / collects harmonicas / loves banjo music / is impulsive / has
big ears and freckles / ...")
Inner-family therapy ("parts work") debunks the traditional idea that
you can't change your personality intentionally. You canby respectfully persuading key subselves to change their "jobs" and
The multi-subself view of personalities says "Yes, your
mix of subselves
give you certain psychological traits as an important part of
your identity - and each subself may shift its priorities, values,
and behavior if your true Self needs to negotiate a change for
the common good.
Second, the widespread
habit of stereotyping other people by their personality traits is
usually wrong, and may harm persons and relationships. Recall the range of
personality "types" you've encountered across your years.
Would you agree that all of us tend to characterize each other by a few
basic (personality and behavioral) traits - e.g. "Chris is impulsive,
sensitive, "fun," sexy, charming, cold, angry, depressed, driven,
childish, serious, analytic, bigoted, zealous,...: and so on? We tend to
simplistically characterize each other by (a) prominent traits and
behaviors, and (b) our (subselves') main stereotypes and biases.
Consider these examples of how dominant subselves promote simplistic
judgments and often-harmful biases:
has an addictive personality." What this really means is "___ is
often controlled by their protective
who seeks to guard vulnerable Inner Kids against major
is oversexed and promiscuous."Reality: "___ is dominated by
shamed and guilty
Inner Kids, who are guarded by a
Sexual/Lusty subself who
ceaselessly tries to deflect their pain by creating sexual
is a real cheapskate and miser."Reality: "___ is often ruled by
terrified Inner Child and a devoted Guardian subself who
tirelessly tries to reduce an Inner Child's terror of 'not having
enough' by distrusting the resident
Self and acquiring and hoarding key assets."
is a gossip and social butterfly."Reality: "___ is often unaware
of being controlled by a group of subselves (false self) who distrust
their true Self:
"___'s just a born loser."
___ was severely deprived and traumatized as a child, and has been
chronically ruled by Shamed, Scared, and Lost Inner Kids; and their
Fantasizer, Catastrophizer, Victim, Perfectionist,
Cynic Guardian parts who don't want to stress the Kids by allowing the
host person to trust the wise resident true Self and start living a
self-responsible adult life.
After you finish here: review this article
and its list of common subselves, Make an
initial inventory of
subselves from each group you feel may make up your unique personality.
Then pick one or several traits you "don't like" in yourself or another
important person - e.g. procrastinating, being "messy," forgetting
names and dates, interrupting others, or bouncing checks.
of labeling that as "a weakness" and/or "a character flaw," try
explaining the ("negative" ?) trait/s in terms of a well-meaning false
self like the examples above.
Third important implication
of this multi-subselfe idea is for parents and other child nurturers. Often,
wounded, frustrated, and exasperated caregivers critically name-call (label) their
kids (as their own caregivers did), without thinking how the label will
shape the child's long-term self-image and identity.
This can sound
innocent, like "Nita, you have a real selfish / mean / cowardly /
lazy / spacey streak, don't you?" A sarcastic voice tone, frowning,
avoiding eye contact and/or an eye-rolls, and/or a disapproving face send the
same shaming message.
Typical preteens are self-centered, and take
critical labels from key caregivers as literal cosmic truth that forever
defines who they are as a whole person. Alternatively, disrespectful
labels and inferences activate kids' antagonistic, stubborn Rebel
subself - even if that increases relationship discord and
frustration ("I don't care if you ground me!").
Consider how different a child might react to...
being taught an
age-appropriate version of personality subselves (e.g. with simple
cartoon faces or figures), and then...
hearing a caregiver say something
like "Wow, your Messy Girl subself is really taking you over recently,
huh? Why don't we try to learn what she needs, and would help her want
thoughts and feelings
This article proposes that
normal personalities of kids and adults are composed of a group
of interrelated, semi-independent "subselves" or "parts," like the
talented members of a sports team or orchestra. The composition and
behaviors of this group depends on...
genetic and biological factors,
how nurturing the child's home and other
environments are (very low to very high, and...
The article comments briefly on gender-related personality stereotypes,
and examines three major implications of this ancient multi-subself
Module 3 of Lesson 1 here shows you haw to identify and work with
your group of subselves to improve their harmony and your life
Pause and reflect - why did you read this article? If you got what you
needed, what do you want to do next? If you didn't, what do you
Who's answering these questions - your wise, resident
Learn something about yourself
somewhat helpful not