In attempting to use our newfound awareness to enable us to act in a more evolved manner, we immediately come face to face with the first obstacle: our personality. Every attempt to put new awareness to work, is met with this powerful force dragging us back to “old, familiar ways”. Yes, our personality is a major obstacle in transcending awareness into practice. What is one to do? How on earth do you move your personality out of the way?
This obstacle is significant enough to warrant a deeper exploration because it is omnipresent. What is “personality”? How does it form? And why do we need a personality, in the first place?
From my myriad years in the mental health profession, one theory stands out from the others, simply because it is NOT merely a theory but an experience. This experiential body of work is called Psychology of the Selves and was developed by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone back in the early 70s. According to this theory, our personality is composed of many parts or selves, each with its own unique pattern, residing in our psyche affecting our lives.
Basically, we are all multiple personalities but since we are aware of all the different selves in us, it is not pathological, it is not a disorder. For example, you are a CEO of a company. You lead with authority and dominance. On the weekend you visit your mother. Suddenly you witness yourself move into the young, timid, obedient girl or boy you used to be when, during the weekend visit, your mother slapped your hand when you attempted to “steal” some cookies before supper. But on Monday back to work, your impressive presence returns. The timid, obedient part of you is still there, alongside with the developed powerful CEO adult you became. So, part of your personality is the CEO while the young part remains and come out sometimes, but you remain fully aware of both parts or selves in you.
Out of the many parts forming our personality there are some that are more obvious, and primary than others. These parts which end up dominating our personality are conditioned, ALWAYS for very good reasons, in our childhood. By the time we reach adulthood, all the useful beliefs, values, and ways of acting and reacting we had to develop to survive our childhood, have now crystalized into automatic habit patterns the sum of which it is called our personality. Whatever mode of behavior helped us, brought us love and acceptance and was rewarded, developed into the dominant part of our personality. We then begin to identify ourselves with that part. We believe this is who we are. This dominant pattern runs our life, and we end up making ALL decisions through that part or self.
For example, if being responsible growing up in my family brought me the attention and reward I needed at that time, then I develop this part of my personality the most. It became the dominant part of my personality. I describe myself as a responsible individual, my family and friends view and describe me the same. I feel strong, righteous, and clear when I act responsibly, and people trust and depend on me. However, before I know it, I find myself surrounded by irresponsible people. I marry them, give birth to them, work for them or work for me, etc. Every dominant part when it crystalizes, it becomes a magnet for the opposite characteristic, without exception. Furthermore, every personality aspect always carries both, gifts, and limitations. Some of the gifts in being responsible are that I get things done, I am a reliable and trustworthy individual. One the other side, however, a couple of major limitations are that I end up always exhausted and without anyone willing to help me. Another characteristic of the dominant parts of personality is that each one carries its own specific energetic vibration, phraseology, body language. This is key. The energetic vibration is palpable in the body.
So, I enter psychotherapy and become aware of this pattern and how it does not help me any longer. My therapist and I decide it is time to shift this over responsible way of walking in the world. However, when we talk about a habit pattern such as being responsible, becoming dominant in the personality, we are talking about a pattern with deep, gripping roots just like red wood roots. This is true with every habit pattern which ends up taking primary role in the way we act and react to life. Just because we became aware of it, does not mean that now we will begin acting less responsible.
Thus, the deep-rooted dominant habit patterns governing our personality are not so “willing” to shift. They have been established there for years and brought us safety and success in life. So, what if now we are becoming aware that they are not serving us the same way. So, what if we became aware that due to these patterns, we are now tired and exhausted and ready for a different way of life. They refuse to budge.
As a last note, wanted to mention that we need our personality to protect our vulnerability. The personality is the armor attempting to secure emotional and physical safety, financial security, happiness, and love for us. Without personality, without these persistent strong habit patterns, we can become victims to the world. That is the reason that we do not want to get rid of these habit patterns, just to learn ways to control them instead of them controlling us.