Almost everyone wants to know more about who they are, to feel whole and completely at home within themselves. We want to be loving and to be loved. And it is the nature of the personality to strive to make the best of these deep yearnings, working mightily to lead us to the land of happiness, fulfillment, and well-being.
Those of us interested in personal growth and change have learned dozens of skills and techniques for making ourselves “better” in order to experience fulfillment. Whether we realize it or not, many of these strategies have focused primarily on how we “do something to” our personality-how we try to make it more acceptable, make it “shinier,” or perhaps, make it go away. In other words, we assume that if we could only use our personality to improve our lives, then we would be happy.
There’s a problem with putting the personality in charge of our fulfillment: the personality can’t grasp how the process of meaningful growth actually works. It doesn’t have the capacity or the power to create fulfillment on any sustainable, real basis. Why? Well, the personality isn’t what most of us think it is-it is a faux version of our true nature. I remember being stunned when I first realized that the personality is a substitute for what is real and enduring within each of us. It is only one very small aspect of Self, and too often we mistakenly equate it with Self.
This false assumption affects us on a very practical level, because the personality is also the part of us that creates the most tension and constriction in our lives.
In my last post, I revealed that I have recently started “playing” the cello. Just reading this sentence-that I’m playing the cello-fills my heart with joy! I am following an inner urge to explore playing this instrument. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I know that honoring this deep desire-my soul’s urging-is important.
In the daily act of practicing, I’ve become so aware of the dance between the moments of constriction and the moments of expansion. When I allow myself to enjoy practicing, being curious about the quality of sounds that are created when the bow meets the strings in ever new ways, I have a feeling of openness and spaciousness. Not fighting anything, including myself, my whole being is more relaxed.
But in those moments when a critical thought sneaks in that my progress is too slow or that I should have figured out by now the fingering system, I find that my breath has become shallow, my jaw has clenched, and other muscles have tightened. In this case, the part of the personality called the Inner Critic or Superego has taken over and tension has replaced flow. And with that, comes a sense of struggle. Do you recognize this dance in your own life?
So, what is personality? How does it work, how is it expressed, how do we (mis)interpret it, and where does it help or hinder the experience of deep inner peace? And just what is it substituting for? How do we access our truer nature on a more regular basis?
Our understanding of the personality is an important basis for exploring a more rewarding and kinder approach to experiencing fulfillment. I hope you’ll join me for my next post, which further explores this stunning perspective of the personality and why it matters for you.
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to Everything that Matters through the Enneagram