Having had a long week feeling ill I felt the need to read something comforting and comfortable – Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Basically it’s about working to achieve your dreams and potential: doing what you want in life rather than always what others want.
A few weeks ago someone, as a reason for not going out and doing what they really knew they needed to with their life, used the excuse, ‘well you can’t change your personality can you?’
Well actually, you can!
Have you ever thought that you might be more than one person? Have you ever wondered why you responded or behaved as you did? Have you done something impulsive and thought it was out of character? Do you behave differently at home from work, or behind a steering wheel, or with people you don’t know? Do you have a ‘telephone voice’? Do you feel that the ‘real you’ is inside looking out at the world through the shell that others see?
We often feel that in our work and daily lives we have a variety of jobs and roles and we need different parts of our personality to deal with each of those. Just sometimes one aspect of our personality is more dominant than others.
Freud described personality as an Id, a childlike, impulsive part of us, the Ego, more of an adult state and the Superego which acts as judgement and controls our behaviour. Imagine Ego with and angel and devil on each shoulder. In Transactional Analysis this is, in it’s simplest form, described as Child, Adult and Parent states.
Parent states dictate to us. They may give us a Controller which arises in us in childhood to try to fit in and please others, noticing what behaviour works and doesn’t work and learns to protect our vulnerabilities; a Critic which tells us when we’re wrong and makes us feel bad; a Pusher which makes us feel guilty about the things we have not yet done, but ignores what we have; and aPerfectionist which ensures whatever we have done is never good enough. This is opposed to our Nurturing Parent, our ‘Guardian Angel’ which gives care, attention, unconditional love and positive support and reinforcement for our behaviours.
Child states can be vulnerable, sensitive, playful, magical. They can be good or Adapted: the self who always tries to please perceived authority; the self who says ‘yes’ to everyone’s demands to keep them happy; who covers up anger; who overconforms and has no creativity of their own. They can be theProfessor who must always have an answer and know how everything works, but may jump to conclusions without having sufficient evidence. The opposition is the Natural Child who may be non conforming or rebellious, but is creative, spontaneous, playful and optimistic.
Between these sits the Ego, the Central Organising part of ourselves which can be healthy and balanced or pulled in one direction or another by our other selves.
In the background sits our Shadow self, initially described by Carl Jung: the self we would least like to be and perhaps wants power, is selfish, hates, bullies others, wants to punish, destroys; or is weak, ineffectual, nothing.
We may be able to recognise most of these aspects of ourselves. Being mentally and emotionally healthy keeps them in balance and makes use of the part of the personality we need in a particular situation. Some parts will work together and others will work in isolation, but understanding these parts of ourselves is what we can take control of and make use of to get what we want out of life.
So when you think you can’t achieve something, that you can’t change your personality, dig deep – identify your sub personalities, list them, name them, visualise them, and give power to those that can help you right now!