What is personality? All You Need to Know for a Better Character Building

what is personality in pyschology

The elusive and ever-mysterious concept of personality has captured the imagination of many, leading to the questioning of its essence and significance. But why delve into the depths of personality? What makes comprehending it a crucial undertaking?

The roots of the word "personality" can be traced back to the Latin term "Persona," meaning a mask, embodying the notion that one's identity is often depicted through the perceptions of others. It's a reflection of how someone is described by others and also how one perceives themselves. For instance, when someone says, "he is a compassionate and empathetic person," it sheds light on their personality being kind and considerate.

Personality refers to the distinct blend of emotions, thoughts, and actions that persist over an extended period and across various circumstances, constituting an individual's unique identity. Personality traits are relatively consistent and are believed to stem from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. It is crucial to comprehend personality as it significantly impacts an individual's behavior and reactions to varying scenarios, influencing their relationships, career paths, and overall well-being. Five commonly acknowledged dimensions of personality include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

By comprehending your personality, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others, potentially enhancing your relationships, unlocking new interests and opportunities.

What is personality in Psychology?

The American Psychological Association defines personality as the result of various variables that comprise the characteristic that makes everyone unique. These variables include drive, major traits, emotional patterns, and several others.

Personality psychology is the branch that focuses on identifying and studying many personalities. They analyze what causes a specific characteristic to be more prominent and build the personality. Psychiatrists specializing in personality psychology will look into the common denominator that makes everyone unique. They will look into the past and how one's perceives themselves and others.

What are the traits in Personality?

Psychiatrists agree that traits are the base and constant part of someone. Traits are unique for each person but also have a stable value, meaning most people are unique in their way even though they share similar experiences.

This led to some psychiatrists building the traits theory to define personalities. It started with Gordon Allport documenting more than 4,000 adjectives that he later categorized into three levels. The Cardinal, central, and secondary traits. Allport theorizes that someone will develop their cardinal trait later in life. And their current personality uses the central trait as the base. As for the secondary trait will only show up at times. 

However, Allport received numerous criticism for his work because it's nearly impossible to track all 4,000 traits. This leads more scientists to develop other theories based on traits.

One of the most popular theories is the big five personality traits. Even though it's rather new, it's a combination of two previous theories that pick up from where Allport left off.

Concept of Personality Development

This is where most theories start to differ. The primary cause of the differences is how they see a personality develop. Most of them define this as Freudian and Post-Freudian theories, borrowing the name of Sigmund Freud who coined the psychoanalysis theory.

Freud theorizes there are three elements of a personality. The Id, or the drive for someone. The ego is how the person actualizes. And the superego is the standard or ideals they want to achieve. Freud emphasizes childhood experience as the main reason that builds the three elements. 

Some post-Freud psychiatrists criticize Freud's approach and see personality development from another angle. Type and socio-cognitive theories are some of the most prominent theories that sit on the opposite idea of Freud. These two theories believe that childhood matters, but the person's psychological development doesn't stop there.

The Type theory emphasizes the different traits that build the personality. Under this theory are the famous MBTI personality types and the Enneagram. But while the initial Typology is more on black and white on deciding the traits, the sub-theories are more lenient and include the whole spectrum in between. 

Let's Talk About Personality Disorders

Personality can twist and warp throughout one's lifetime. Any deviation is what people know as a disorder. When you wonder what is a personality disorder and whether you have it, you can look at some unique habits you have.

The umbrella term for a personality disorder is to include all kinds of deviation. While that may be true, some things can determine whether one has a personality disorder.

The only person who can determine a disorder is a licensed psychiatrist. Self-diagnosing will only cause further misuse of the personality disorder terms.

Many people describe Ted Bundy as agreeable and funny during his court trial. However, numerous psychiatrists diagnosed him with an antisocial personality disorder. Bundy is an example of how a personality is more about how people perceive others, amplified with a specific idea of how they want to be seen.

It's worth noting that personality disorder doesn't necessarily mean the person won't be able to function normally. The issue itself is a spectrum and hardly reflects their real personalities.

In the movie Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman is an autistic savant with an eidetic memory. He insists on having his strict routine as it is his comfort zone. Which correlates with him having an autistic personality disorder. He also has obsessive-compulsive that can be part of the autistic spectrum. But throughout the movie, everyone can see that Hoffman's character is a loving and loyal brother to Tom Cruise. 

Again, the only person who can diagnose a disorder is a licensed psychiatrist. They have complete tests and insights into the matter to classify their patient with a disorder.

Can a personality change?

While it's hard to say but a personality can change. However, do not expect the change to be very abrupt or significant. It's often very slight and happens over a long period. There are some cases where a traumatic experience can cause a personality change. For example, most war veterans do not have their old traits like the one before going on tour. 

All theories agree that it's possible to change one's personality. But they also separate which traits build the whole persona, thus almost impossible to change. They also show which traits one can alter through therapy. But keep in mind that personality change starts from within.

There are so many misunderstandings when it comes to personality and psychology. You hear people misusing the terms and self-diagnose for any personality disorder. But now you know better about what is personality. This could be a good starting point for you to learn more on the subject and be a better human being.