Of course you have a personality. How would you describe it?

Let Me Share This  

Those of us who write fiction utilize a variety of tools. Some of them we have in common and some are unique to us. For me, personality issues among characters has been useful. Part of that is a reflection of me as a psychologist but I think writers in general may find some thoughts useful. Interactions among people often reflect their differences or similarities and those can help us construct and guide our story.

My attention to personality in creative endeavors began with my dissertation. When I was in graduate school at Duke University the psychologist/psychiatrist Carl Jung was a focus of attention. One thing he brought us was his understanding that we need not focus exclusively on psychopathology when helping people with personal problems. Often their personality may be at issue and that might reflect conflict with people of other personality types. In fact Jung developed a whole system of personality description. It is outlined in his book Psychological Types by C.G. Jung. It can be taken as a test. Simply Google The Myers & Briggs Foundation and you can take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and learn about your personality.

But I had to take it one step further. I wanted to find out, for example, if the work of the artist (painter) might reflect his or her personality. With the blessing of my major professor I did my dissertation research on it. It was a chancy effort for a dissertation but in fact I showed that their personality is revealed in their work.

It is equally clear that the personality of the writer is apparent in his or her fiction. And I have found that attention to the personality of the characters helps the story and writing process.

Multiple Realities But No Illness

It is important to understand that the description of a person’s personality has no connotation of mental illness at all. It may condition our behavior and reactions but primarily variations are normal and merely different. And, in describing a given person, their personality may have characteristics of certain groups and elements which are wholly idiosyncratic. It need not refer to intelligence because, more than anything, intelligence refers to management and processing of information, knowledge and abilities.

An Enduring Framework

Personality is an enduring framework and it seems that we are born with the fundamentals of it. Decades ago when I was first studying psychology it was assumed that for both intelligence and personality a stable level was achieved with adulthood. A few people, among them Carl Jung disagreed. We now view ourselves as moving through stages of adult development and that major crises can reshape us.

The Richness of Us

When we look at personality, it enhances our understanding of ourselves and others. And, for the writer, it can help bring the writing process to life as we recognize greater depth in our characters.

Life is not simple and we offer so much promise. And then there is the matter of waves of change  in the life of our species and the ever present possibility of transformation.

For me Carl Jung stood out.  Jung did not just sit in Switzerland doing an intellectual exercise leading to an organized system. He went far out into the world. Freud was focused on Western medicine and Jung on mythology and the substance of a rich and powerful world. He brought back the recognition of the existence of his typology which is found across the world and in all people.

When we look at personality as a rich resource of humanity we see ourselves, our neighbors, people we utterly dislike and people who are dear to you in distinct and special ways. When we view the richness of personality, we understand how people different from ourselves can be rewarding, how we can bond with people like or unlike ourselves. It is a precious world of diversity.

I’m sure you will enjoy this journey.

How would you describe your personality?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt