Archive for the ‘personality’ Tag

How Families Clash over Worldviews   3 comments

The world we each inhabit is a menagerie of differing perspectives without a guide to help us sort through the issues. If one is a feeler and the other a fixer or if one is an optimist and the other a pessimist, conflicts arise. One may push for action while the other pushes for patience; one inclines to critique and the other to acceptance; one wants to plan and the other likes spontaneity.  Instead of welcoming and finding a place for alternative views, we often react out of fear or pride.  We lack the imagination or guidance to show us how to make room for ideas that don’t fit our outlook, yet how we respond to conflicting perspectives makes a huge difference in our personal development and relationships (as you can see in my previous post), and the family is most formative in this process.

Cholerics like my dad are the engines of the world.  Far less would be accomplished here without their initiative, decisiveness, can-do spirits, diligence and strong-willed personalities, and as with other temperaments, the various elements of their personality are mutually strengthening, consolidating their outlook.  Dad addresses a problem or issue by acting decisively to resolve it. This initiative is grounded in his confidence about his own diagnosis, solution, planning, and ability to control the outcome. His self-confidence not only motivates him to act, but also brings results because others, inspired by his confidence, buy into his plan (cholerics are natural leaders). If there is resistance, his confidence prompts him to vigorously argue his case, become more firm in his position, and inspire others to action.  And so his goals are met, which is especially validating of his outlook, not only pragmatically in seeing the results but especially emotionally because a choleric gets the most sense of satisfaction from a job well done.  These are all good, valuable traits, and rightly admired in our society with its can-do attitude.

Melancholics like myself do not receive the same accolades or appreciation by American society.  We often find ourselves overlooked and our contributions devalued.  We are “a voice in the wilderness.”  Interestingly enough, this also meshes with and validates our worldview.  We expect the world to be this way because we tend to be more aware of the dark side of life–the suffering, antagonism, fear, despair, and brokenness–and we need space to slowly find our equilibrium among these crashing cross-currents.  When a choleric is faced with brokenness, his first response is to fix it, while the melancholic’s first response is to sit with it, understand it, and grow by it. To the choleric, this response is wrong-headed or weak-willed, it looks like giving up and acquiescing to the dark.  Of course, there is a danger that we melancholics may slide into despair, but there is also beauty of soul that comes from listening to sadness and an ability to empathize with and comfort the broken-hearted.  Sitting with those who cannot be fixed but can only weep and sigh may demoralize a choleric but profoundly encourages the melancholic.  We feel that we are finally being real and truly connecting at a deep heart level, and that soul-bonding is what we value most in life.

So the choleric is good at fixing, the melancholic at comforting; the choleric is good at action, the melancholic at contemplating; the choleric has good solutions, the melancholic has good questions; the choleric sees neat and clean distinctions, simple blacks and whites, while the melancholic sees a vast spectrum of slightly differing detail, complex grey-scale; the choleric sees opportunities, the melancholic sees concerns.  In a hundred other ways my father and I fundamentally differ from one another and it has a very big impact on what we feel, how we act, what solutions work for us, what we identify as problems, how we approach relationships, and basically each thread that makes up our fabric of life.  We see and interact with the world in very different ways, even in how we relate to God himself, even in how we understand who God is.  So these differences go to the roots of who we are and what we believe and how we relate to each other.  How profoundly important, then, to ponder these things and seek for self and other understanding.

The Power and Pitfalls of Well-Integrated Personalities   4 comments

Personality is a major organizing force in the development of our worldview, our personal way of making sense of the world and shaping our approach to it.  Our natural outlook is not inherently right or wrong as though there is a perfect personality to attain. Rather, God has made us each with our own abilities, roles, emphases, and perspectives so as to offer unique contributions to each other. Every personality comes with its strengths and weaknesses—we offer our strengths as gifts and receive the strengths of others to help with our weaknesses.  Like the interlocking hollows and loops in jigsaw puzzle pieces, we come together as a whole.  In this way our differences can be a great  bond for relationship and a source of insight and growth when handled with mutual respect and validation.

But alternative views are often at odds with our own perspective and so appear meaningless, confusing, or threatening–not understanding how to inter-connect, we knock against each other.  I discovered this to be a huge part of the conflicts Kimberly and I had early in marriage. It is not simply that Berly and I disagreed about our boxes of morals, relational expectations, and the like… but that she had no boxes.  I was trying to discuss box dimensions and what fit where, and she said, “What boxes?”  Without boxes, even “outside the box” thinking doesn’t exist.  I am analytical and she is intuitive, I need categories and she needs space, I want clarity and she wants connection.  It was the tower of Babel in miniature and without a translator.  I didn’t disagree with her individual points, but with her whole system.

The more cohesive my worldview, the stronger and more stable it is, like the many separate strands a spider weaves into a web, and in a well-integrated system, when one strand is touched, everything is set jangling, so trying to incorporate a perspective at odds with one element threatens the whole.  For instance, Kimberly said she was hurt by my words, but was not blaming me.  That made no sense in my world where pain was proof of fault–either she was too sensitive or misunderstood me or I was too insensitive.  We had to establish responsibility so we could figure out how to fix it.  She wanted to share, I wanted to fix.

I can see the benefit of her view: sharing puts us both on the same side of the issue, blaming sets us up against each other.  But that one idea threatened my whole system.  Is no one responsible for anything?  That would be chaos.  Or do we let everyone determine their own standards?  That would be war.  Trying to integrate her one idea raised a hundred questions about good and evil, spirituality, relationships, God… the whole enchilada.  I was tempted to find a slot to squeeze her idea into, validate her perspective by twisting it to fit my worldview.  In this case, between my boxes of “hurt blamed on speaker” and “hurt blamed on listener” I could add a box of special cases, “no-fault pain.”  The threat is quelled and my system holds together, but at what price? I fail to truly understand my wife or to stretch and grow in any substantial way.  My system is fundamentally challenged, but I shunt the new idea onto a side-railing where I can occasionally access it for special use with my wife.  But getting savvy about word choice to avoid conflict is hardly the same as real understanding, acceptance, and validation.

To truly understand Berly, I had to understand her from within her own worldview, not as addenda to mine.  To validate her, I had to find a way to also appreciate her worldview.  To benefit from her view, I had to find a way to make her ideas meaningful and important, to make room in my system for who she is and how she sees the world… in other words to change my worldview by valuing and incorporating her perspective.  It took years and was not smooth sailing, but love finds a way, and it changed me for the better in a hundred ways.

Posted August 20, 2015 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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