The “Sense of Self” Identity/ Personality Construct Overview
(Please refer to the diagram at the beginning of this post.)
The best place to start in this theory is the bottom with the Identity. In this theory Identity is defined in two parts: the first is Identity as it is defined by the individual and the second, as it is defined by society. In the first part, the individual definition, identity is based on what information they themselves see and understand about themselves. The second part of Identity is based on the social or external perceptions who a person is and what defines them (e.g. their occupation, marital status, or whether they have children). It is important to remember that the identity of a person is not always in the individual control, as the social influences will have an effect on what is important to communicate about a person and what they are.
Many of the stereotypes, explanations and generalizations of describing a person to another person is not describing the personality (personality being the root traits and innate parts of the person) but instead describing the Identity, and the focus of the flaws in the explanations of the personality are because it is in fact the Identity of the person that is what people are looking for. Starting with the end of the explanation is also starting at the beginning because when looking at a person and what that person is, there is a desire to understand the parts of the person that are in fact part of the identity. Overall statements of a person’s occupation, heritage, ethnic background, and even sexual orientation are parts of self-identity. The demographic information listed are the information that is easily defined and practiced, in addition to having the freedom of definition through all of the other parts of the self. When a person discusses who they are or wish to be, they are discussing their identity.
Personality Section: The Foundation and The Soul
The personality is the next step of the explanation and the first step in the development of the identity. It is important to note that the personality in this theory is the point of greatest stability in the identity of the person. It represents the aspects of the individual that do not change from one situation to another or are generally, consistent. Personality traits and by further extension behavior patterns, are part of a pattern of consistence that is representative of the personality. Personality traits and behavior patterns can be identified and represented in many different ways but are the same across the life span. Examples of these lists can be seen in personality tests such as Meyer-Briggs, and The Color Code.
Research has conclusively shown a relationship between the genetic, the biological and the personality and this holds true in this theory as well. There is little doubt that some traits are hereditary. Additionally, it cannot be ignored that personal concerns such as significant mental health issues are often passed genetically and ethno (family tree) studies are substantiating this claim. As a result, mental health consideration should be included in the definition of the personality, as the genetic, biological and mental health concerns are not gone from one environment to another, though some situations might trigger a larger reaction of the traits.
The personality is the part of the puzzle that is the least understood for many reasons. The first is that it is part of the person that is the most difficult to see. A person is born with all of the characteristic of personality and each of the items is buried by myrid external influences, memories, emotion and culture. There a hundreds of tests that seek to tweeze out the personality but have difficulty standing up to the critique and poking. The most prominent counter argument to the idea of the personality being the inborn part of the person (nature) is the nurture side and memory of the experiences of life.
Memory Section: The Influence of Life as it is Remembered
The information stored in a person’s memory is one of the most important parts of the person’s identity and in conversation, it stands out as the conveyer of identity information. Most people will use life stories to describe themselves to others and indicate personality traits that are the most prevalent about themselves. The memories that we focus on and repeat to the people in our lives are often the ones that are the prime example of traits, behavior patterns and other cognitive processes that are part of the core of the individual.
Memory is an active and partially stable part of the identity and often the means of communicating with other people. This is the part of the person that includes the memories of life events (episodic), the memories of the sensations (sensory) and the information that influences day to day thoughts (semantic). Additionally, this is the part of the person that includes learned behaviors, methods of learning and how those learned behaviors are used. It is the part of each of us that works to learn survival techniques and adapts to the world as it changes and grows. This the part of each of us that helps us to connect with other humans and have the relationships that are important. The strength of the memory of certain details will be an indication of elements that are important to another person. The use of one’s memory and responses of a person to those memories will say a great deal about the environments they grew up in and how they reacted to the different environments around them. An example of this is found in the phrase: “Tell me about your mother.”
This is the nurture part of the ‘nature verses nurture’ debate. While the “Personality” is the root or foundation of the individual. This is the part of the person that is built upon the foundation. There is little argument from parents that the personality of each child is different from birth (nature), all of the children are influenced in much the same environment and educational background. The shared memories and experience are the glue that bonds families together and are the reasons for many of the shared behavioral patterns between family members, even the one that have no shared genetic material.
Many of the phrases and terms that used for communicating identity are the result of the hierarchy and scaled methods of the memory. Examples of this are the priority of occupational statements and then followed with what a person sees as being the most important part of their identity (family, hobbies, volunteering, etc.). The grouping and organization systems help the individual to describe the identity in a way that is understandable. The memories of social norms, symbols and stereotypes helps to communicate the information to others as well as to ourselves. Clive Wearing (the man with no memory [see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Wearing%5D) proved that the personality is a part of the mind that is finite and deeply ingrained but he is not able to communicate the information without his memories and experiences to draw from. In other words without memory there is no Identity because the story or history in a person’s memory.
It is important to note that the memory is far from perfect and that the forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, and even pervasive memories are an insight into the individual’s experiences and foundation (Personality). What information that is remembered at one point in life might also be forgotten later in life and vise verse. As many scientists have proven time and again, the human memory is flawed and much like a file on a computer’s hardware, the more time that passes the more likely that the memory will become damaged or corrupted. In a small way, that corruption or damage is just as important to the memory as the original experience or information is to the person. It is possible that some of the great works that defined a person’s Identity at the end of their life could be from a simple error of memory.
Memory is the in center point between the stable structure of the personality and the instability of the emotions. Emotions will trigger memory and memory will trigger the personality and then the reverse order will work as well. Both personality and emotions will manipulate the focus and function of the memory. The memory is the force of communication for both of the abstracts of personality and emotion. Many will use storytelling and other information from the memory to communicate the needs of the personality and emotions, and to transfer the information of personality and emotions to the culture.
Emotional Section: How does that make you Feel?
The third point at the top of the Sense of Self diagram is the Emotions of the person and this the hardest to understand, easiest to explain and most volatile part of the individual no matter how their personality might influence the emotional centers. An individual could be any number of different traits but it is the emotional responses that will show a day to day picture of the person. No one in the world in not influenced by their emotions and every day the emotional relationships affect decisions made and commitments kept. The emotional status of a person will indicate if the person will use one set of memories and traits verses another set that might be stored in the back of a person’s memory. Archetypes and roles are remembered but it is the emotional state of the person that will influence the use of one role or another.
The emotional component of the Identity is composed of: Likes and Dislikes, Moods, Beliefs, Feelings, and Reactions. Like and Dislikes are just that and will also include items that a person might not have any feelings about one way or another. Moods are a temporary state of mind or feeling, and are likely to run in patterns and have behaviors that are indicative of the mood. Moods are often shown with the display of behaviors that are learned from other people in the environment. For example, describing someone as ‘just like [a parent]’.
Beliefs, feelings and reactions run in much of the same vein in that they have a higher likelihood of being more consistent over time and the behaviors are easier to track once they have been noted. Beliefs are the bias, prejudice and held thoughts with deep emotional attachments. Beliefs held in religion, about other people in general and even other situations will affect the person’s response and reinforce constant reactions from each experience. Feeling are likely to be constant like beliefs but unlike beliefs, the feelings are more targeted to objects, specific locations, or even specific individual people. Reactions (or affect) is the last element and are often sub-conscious and instantaneous. Reactions will frequently be constant for the person, the same reaction in similar and close events, but most people will not be aware of how they are reacting. The intensity of the reaction (affect) will vary from person to person but remain constant within the person until something causes a significant change. When people note a ‘personality change’ in another person after a traumatic event, it is in fact the reactions that have changed.
Emotions change often, rapidly and at times without any notice at all. Emotions are also the most like to determine what information you remember better than other information and emotional reactions are the most like to determine which personality traits a person will use in a specific situation. Emotions can be easy to see and understand for most people and the biggest clue on how a person will be from one moment to the next, even in situations in which the emotions are difficult to express with words.
Culture Section: Where you are from…
“Show me your family and I will know you”… this old adage has a ring of truth when it comes to the culture we are in and from, as well as how we interpret the world. Each culture has its own sets of rules, norms, and belief that are taught to the individual and internalized throughout the life of the person. This can result in certain stereotypes having a ring of truth to them and many cultures creating behavioral responses of the members. For example: students in American culture look others in the eyes as a sign of respect and in many Asian cultures it is considered disrespectful to look someone in the eyes if they have authority in the situation. These behaviors may have been considered to be part of the genetics of the ethnic background but recently it has become increasingly apparent that these are of many trained behaviors.
Smaller cultural environment will also have an influence on the development of the person’s identity, often indicated by regional behavior expectations. People in the southeastern United States have a social expectation of how to treat person visiting them (Southern Hospitality) verses how many of the people to the north will react in the same environments. There is a strong expectation of quiet after a certain time of night in the Rocky Mountain West States as compared to the West Coast, of whom are known for “partying all night long”. This can compress even further to cities and towns and then subsections of the cities and towns. There is a notable difference between a people from San Francisco verses Los Angeles though both cities are part of the larger culture of California.
Social groups and families will also influence the behaviors that a person will display in conjunction with the identity that the person displays. A person who grew up in a military household in America will have a different cultural experience as compared to another person that lives two doors down and has no family in the military. A person that is a member of social groups that spend time playing chess and other board games will have a different cultural experience from the person that grows up in social groups that ride horses or go backpacking.
Time periods affect the person’s culture and these is becoming an increasing truth in the last century. Each decade of the last 100 years has been different from the year prior and this has resulted in the time period cultural differences or “being a victim of one’s time”. Looking at the history of the recent decades there is a significant difference in the behaviors and perceptions of the people that were teenagers in the 1990s as compared to the teenagers of the 2000s or the 1980s. Cohort studies have proven time and again that certain behaviors that were accepted in one generation will not be seen or acknowledged in another generation. Examples of this differences can be seen in the observations of the interactions between Baby Boomers and Generation X.
The last factor of culture that further complicates the construct is the interpretation of culture, not only of the culture that one lives in but also the cultures that one encounters and responds to. Living in the state of Utah is a prime example of this. Many in the state are not of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) religion and will have an interpretation of the culture though they have been living within the influences of the culture. The interpretation will have an influence on the way that a person will manipulate their presentation of themselves in addition to the parts of the culture that are already manipulating the person’s behavior. In American culture the interpretation will go a step further due to the social focus on self-identification though ethnic background. A person of Irish background will manipulate their behavior based on the interpretation of what it is to be Irish, and the same goes for most other ethnic backgrounds. Some of the more memorable back grounds that are interrupted are Indian, American Indian, African American (not the same as African), Italian, etc.
While culture is one of the most difficult areas for the understanding of the individual, it is one of the most important parts to note and remember. All of the parts of the person: personality, memory, and emotion; are interpreted and reacted to through the filter of the culture. Culture, whether it is the larger culture of the country or the smaller culture of a group of friends, will influence the ways in which a person will project themselves out to others in addition to what parts of the person that they will choose to self-identify. In some social environments, a woman will self-identify as a mother because the culture of the environment requires it and in others she will self-identify by her career or occupation. While there is a large part of the culture that relies on the interpretation of the person, there is a lot of the person that is manipulated by the culture, and that is largely based on the beliefs of the person.