I got home relatively early tonight (“relatively early” meaning 11:45) so I was bored. I was digging through all my old crap from school and found my book from Psychology of Personality. This got me thinking, so I kind of wrote my own primitive little model of what I think personality essentially is.
Please note: I do not expect any of you to read this, so if you want to, do so at your own risk! I wrote it at about 2 in the morning; therefore, it may not be very good. And the whole five continua idea is not mine; it was the way the book was laid out. And here we go! Oh, and if it reads kind of like a research paper—then yeah. That’s how I write.
The first and primary force of the personality is the pre-formed part of the self, or the primal force. The primal force is similar to Freud’s concept of the id—it deals with the necessities of life and essentially acts as a survival force. Without it, needs such as the need to eat or the need to sleep would be ignored. Even the need of familial love comes from the primal force. We need this love factor starting at an early age in order to trust our mothers enough to allow them to fulfill needs that we as young beings cannot fulfill on our own. All of us essentially have the same primal force.
Along with the fulfillment of these “primal” needs (food, water, shelter, reproduction, etc.), the primal force, when left on its own, is responsible for the ignoring of others’ wishes (as well as exploiting and harming others) in order to get its own wishes and needs fulfilled as soon as possible. However, if one takes a closer look at this force, they can see that it is not functioning on an irrational level. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring. It is very rational for the primal force to be driven to ensure the survival of a person, especially when others are in danger of consuming needed resources. The irrationality only becomes an issue when we introduce the second force in the personality: the socio-adaptive force.
The socio-adaptive force comes into play the minute the person is introduced to a form of social interaction outside the family. Called “socio” because it is formed entirely from a societal basis and “adaptive” because it adapts a person’s existing personality to fit the needs and wants of a society, the socio-adaptive force is similar to both Freud’s ego and super ego. It essentially “regulates” and covers up the impulses and drives of the primal force. While the primal force is never entirely covered up, the socio-adaptive force allows the primal force to function in a socially acceptable way. It suppresses its urges while shaping the personality, causing it to conform to the society the person enters. The socio-adaptive force varies, sometimes greatly, from person to person and even more so from society to society.
The primal force is almost genetic; it resides in the part of the brain responsible for carrying out the signals that drive us to fulfill our basic needs. The socio-adaptive force is entirely environmentally based; it would not come into existence without social relationships and a social influence outside the family unit.
Both forces have some conscious form. We are aware of, for instance, such drives as hunger and thirst, and it is the primal force responsible for our wanting and seeking out the fulfillment of these needs. We are aware of wanting friendship and relationships, and it is the socio-adaptive force that is responsible for this conformity. Both forces also, though, have an unconscious form. Often we are unaware exactly why we feel the need to have companionship or have the more hidden feelings of putting ourselves first. We are also mostly unaware why we conform to social norms such as wearing clothing or allowing ourselves to share. On an unconscious level, our primal force urges us to have relationships in order to mate and carry on the species while still putting ourselves first so we can survive, and our socio-adaptive force pushes us to suppress these wishes and to conform to our society in order to fit in and blend with others.
The dichotomy in the personality—this split between our primal needs and their fulfillment versus our societal conforming and need to blend and work well with others—sets the stage for the discussion of the five separate continua of basic human nature and where on each continuum my theory lies. These continua help to further explain how my theory explains personality.
Free will Determinism
The first continuum involves free will versus determinism. Free will can be defined as the ability or discretion to choose while remaining unconstrained by circumstances or things such as fate. Determinism can be defined as the idea that all choices have causes, and that all choices are not choices at all but the consequences of prior situations or experiences (such as destiny or preset laws or rules).
In a way, one could say that we are determined to have free will—we must, no matter what, make a choice. In no way are we ever truly bound into one option. In a sense, we argue for our free will by knowing that we are determined to have it. The importance, though, lies in whether or not these choices are predetermined—whether or not they are decided for us by some external influence. I do not believe this is so and because of this it can be said that my personality theory lays almost entirely on the free will side of the continuum.
It can be argued that my theory advocates a more deterministic view of human nature simply because it states that we are shaped entirely by our socio-adaptive force—society’s influence—acting on our primal force, or our most basic instinctual drive to fulfill our needs. However, nowhere does my theory state that we are not able to overcome society’s influences and be able to decide on our own how we take into account what we are exposed to. We have the ability to choose how we take what we experience and form whatever we want from it.
The essential position on the next continuum, the nature versus nurture continuum, lies again in the idea of the primal and socio-adaptive forces. A strong position on the nature side of the continuum would argue that personality is shaped entirely by genetic factors—the way we think, feel, and act is entirely determined by our DNA. A strong proponent on the far nurture side of the continuum would argue the opposite—that we are entirely shaped by our environmental and social influences and that genetics plays no part in anything. My personality theory lies far over on the nurture side.
Without the socio-adaptive force—without the influence of society and other people on our personalities—we would all be reduced to consisting of only our primal force. That would lead us, basically, to be self-centered, greedy, needs-fulfilling beings that would have no regard for those around us. Without the nurturing factor—the environment and society—we would be left only with the nature factor—the “genetic” primal force, and with only this force functioning we would act in a completely different way than we do with the socio-adaptive force in place.
Humans are first formed by nature. Without any societal influences, we remain personality-wise with the simple primal force shaping how we think and act. But because the vast majority of us live in societies in groupings of other people, we can almost set aside the nature aspect of human personality and focus more on the nurture side, which allows for a much broader and a much more diverse array of personalities to develop.
Past experiences Present experiences
Social experiences are important throughout the lifespan of the individual in order for the socio-adaptive force to continuously adapt to the social norms of the time. However, one cannot have these present experiences without taking into account the experiences of their past, and when we are young and have yet to have the experience of many social interactions we are much more impacted by our experiences than we would be at an older age. This is why my theory leans further toward the past experiences side of the next continuum (the argument that past experiences affect a person’s current thoughts, behaviors, and feelings) than the present experiences side (which argues that past experiences are not as important as present experiences in shaping a person’s reactions).
The primal force is not affected by past or present experiences; rather, it is the socio-adaptive force that is affected and in turn changes how the primal force is expressed in the personality. When we are young, we are flooded with new social experiences and our socio-adaptive force grows and changes the personality (which had previously consisted of simply the primal force) rapidly. As we begin to grow older, these social experiences lose their novelty and, though the socio-adaptive force is still shaped and changed by them, it still retains the main structure that had been developed in childhood and early adolescence, up to approximately age fifteen, after the major event of puberty has occurred.
Present experiences must not be ignored; they help us remain consistently adapted to our social settings and environment and allow for continuous small adjustments to the personality. However, past experiences should not be overlooked as the initial forces that set the stage for the shaping of our socio-adaptive forces. An example of this phenomenon could be found in how a person adapts to their social standing later in life. If this person was exposed as a child to a socially difficult or traumatic experience, they would most likely attribute their social standing to a different reason than if they had had socially easy experiences as a child.
The adult personality, specifically the adult socio-adaptive force, is shaped and formed into its general form in the first fifteen or so years of life. While it is able to change and help us conform to the changing social atmosphere we experience throughout our lives, its basis—the way we interpret our environment—remains approximately the same.
In regards to the uniqueness (how individually different people are from one another) and universality (how we all share similar universal traits) continuum, my personality theory leans slightly to the uniqueness side. This again relates back to the primal and socio-adaptive forces and their individual relative uniqueness or universality.
We are all initially shaped by our primal forces, and this force is essentially of the same proportions and influence in every person. The differences in personality arise almost entirely from the influences of the socio-adaptive force, which is responsible not only for how much (or how little) of the primal force is allowed to be expressed in the outward personality but also for taking into account one’s entire social and environmental experience and shaping how one will react to and perform in it.
Basically, the primal force gives us the universal part of our personality—we all have a similar primal force. However, the socio-adaptive force, which takes into account both the concealing of the primal force and also the interpretation of social acts and behaviors, is unique in all of us. No two of us are able to perceive the same situation the same way due to all of our individual social training and experience. Also, no two of us have the same “coverage” of the primal force by the socio-adaptive force. Thus, uniqueness arises.
In order to delve into the continuum of equilibrium versus growth, we must first define what we mean by both, seeing as how both have rather broad definitions. For the purposes of my personality theory and in order to find a reasonable position on the continuum, the concept of “equilibrium” should be defined not as a state of rest but as a state of balance. The concept of “growth” therefore should imply not balance but a process of developing and a quest for an ultimate goal. In my personality theory, it is not the goal of either the primal force or the socio-adaptive force to develop and to reach an ultimate goal; rather, both strive to maintain equilibrium, or a balance. My theory lies closer to the equilibrium side of the continuum.
The primal force does not aim for a constant fulfilling of needs but instead strives for the elimination of the need to fill them. In other words, once the needs are filled, the primal force does not continue to press us to keep providing for those needs. It waits until the needs are no longer met to continue to assert its influence. It strives for balance, not for growth.
The same idea applies to the socio-adaptive force. It is not possible for it to strive for a complete and total conforming with the social environment due to the fact that the social environment is constantly changing. Instead, it strives for a continual equilibrium, or balance with the social situation. There is no ultimate goal to reach because the goal is continuously changing. Therefore, a social equilibrium or balance is much more reasonable to attain.