We all have them.
For every rare individual, in the grip of dissociative identity disorder, there is the vast remainder of relatively normal society. And, society, whether or not we are ready to admit it as fact, seeks to shape our personalities.
The earth is populated by so many nations, within them so much distinct culture. And, what each civilized group of persons grows accustomed to is a set of mores, actions, and reactions which are profoundly influenced by the behavior of those who founded and perpetuated them.
Back in the 18th century, Scottish philosopher David Hume developed his theory of social behavior and led his fellow citizens to assimilate it. He believed that a people is profoundly marked by its public persona, and established a specific protocol for interaction. As such, the Scots as a society became characterized by Hume’s notions of what was both a healthy and proper comportment.
Centuries hence, the essence of who we are has come to be known as personality. Within that, there are potentially many subsets of behaviors, all influenced by those with whom we have had to do since birth.
(Enter DNA. We are still learning, and most of us not privy to, the exact nature of genetic expression. What we do know is that we inherit much which will shape how we choose, act, and react to the world around us.)
But, if we are encouraged, from infancy, to express a wide range of emotion — smiling, laughing, crying, giggling, as well as reactions including surprise, shock, and even dismay — we will develop habits which include these expressions. Moreover, if we are rarely taught to suppress emotion, we will become capable of spontaneity. If, conversely, we are taught to stifle, we will become characterized as stoic.
Now, what of emotional range? Could a correlation be made between the degree of emotional expression and the capacity for multiple aspects within personality?
Some scenarios seem to call for grace, latitude, and acceptance; yet others demand assertive action, such as those of sudden health emergency or public threat. The degree of importance one places upon each as they emerge might call up a wide variety of personality expressions. The Scots, in the 18th century, likely never had to endure either challenge or threat to their social securities.
And, what of intellectual expression? How do distinct personalities demonstrate the way they think? And, how is this valued in a society?
Perhaps we might reflect upon those who seem different from ourselves. What are the aspects which distinguish us? Which among these could be encouraged, deemed of value?
America is unique, in that we have been attempting to survive as a society within which innumerable social mores and personality expressions have coexisted. Proximity has proved a challenge, for many. Judgments have been made. Inherent bias has ruled outcomes of disagreement. Crime has become a hallmark, instead of a rare aberration.
Consider these points for contemplation, the next time you register the following thought: “I don’t like that person.” Perhaps add a Why? And, then, take that additional, sometimes painful but objective step. Find something worthy in that personality. Then, inspect yourself.
Each of us has so many glorious features. Even as we celebrate diversity, let us broaden that resolve to include the details of multi-faceted individuality. We would feel so much better about each other, and our collective personality would become something of a masterpiece.
© 12/15/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose personality you may not favor but whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.