At What Point In Your Life Did Your Personality Get "Set" (If Indeed, It Ever Did)

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This means I really have very little sense of how I come across to others

I think we all do really, and you're right about all the other stuff too (obv. we care more than anyone else does about ourselves).

vita susicivus (blueski), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:31 (7 years ago) Permalink

I think that we are all using the words in very subtly different senses. This may not even be a subtlety of language problem, but whether you are coming at such words from a philosophical, psychological or common-usage PoV (and even within psychological, you've got Freudians v. Behaviourists v. Cognitives who are all going to have slightly different models and therefore usages of these words.)

My take on it, is that behaviour *may* be an outward manifestation of personality, but it may also be influenced by external influences that are nothing to do with personality.

You see Behaviour as foremost, I see Personality as foremost. That's a difference of gestalt or worldview or whatever the word is.

Yeah, but not meaningful in this discussion, because they're based on the assumption of a relatively stable self rather than self-in-a-flux, and therefore are biased towards proving the former.

Well, I've been taking these tests on and off for twenty years, and they have stayed fairly stable in their results! I'm not sure what you want to read into that.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:31 (7 years ago) Permalink

Most parents I know are surprised to see how set their children's personalities appear to be almost straight out of the womb. On top of that I think the most powerful force in our lives is habit. Cognitive as well as behavioral. I suspect that very few of us have ever witnessed a fundamental personality change.

Fleischhutliebe! like a warm, furry meatloaf (Fluffy Bear Hearts Rainbows), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:32 (7 years ago) Permalink

Are actions always true to inward thoughts though? You can alter your behaviour to be contrary to your personality. (though maybe that tendency is a personality trait itself.)

Yeah, but there's always a reason (an inward thought, that is) for you behaving against what you/others perceive as your personality. One can't truly act against one's "inner self", only against some fixed idea of it.

Tuomas (Tuomas), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

Actually, more like 25 years. I'm older than I thought. :-(

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

Well, I've been taking these tests on and off for twenty years, and they have stayed fairly stable in their results! I'm not sure what you want to read into that.

I'm not saying some, or even most people don't stay stable throughout their lives. All I'm saying is that deliberate change is not impossible.

Tuomas (Tuomas), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:34 (7 years ago) Permalink

i see personality and behaviour as intrinsically linked. of course they can change but in practice/experience perhaps this is a rarity.

vita susicivus (blueski), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:35 (7 years ago) Permalink

This is a bit of a devils advocate post but anyway

how much is 'deliberate change' cheating on the tests?

Ed (dali), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:35 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure this is going to x-post again, but also, Tuomas, I am interested in how old you are. Because...

1) it would be funny if I'd been taking these psychological tests longer than you've been alive
2) I am curious to see if your fairly behaviourist view on personality as a thing in constant flux is due to your still being in the intense flux-period

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:35 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure that deliberate change is entirely possible ...... but is deliberate change a true, fundamental change or just a person acting to cover up whatever flaw it is they are trying to overcome, which yet persists underneath all the gloss they are deliberately applying?

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:37 (7 years ago) Permalink

I suspect that very few of us have ever witnessed a fundamental personality change.

When I have it's usually due to some outside force like drug abuse.

Ms Misery (MissMiseryTX), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:39 (7 years ago) Permalink

I think CJ is very much onto something.

Also, deliberate change is much easier in adolescence - even into your early to mid 20s. Even if semi-set, the personality then is still a lot more malleable then than it is at 30 or 40 or later.

But these life-changing personality-changing events - heartbreak, bereavement, etc. - is that the equivalent of a structural support being knocked out of the foundations of your house? Or is it the cracking of this lovely gloss and paint and plasterwork with which you've covered your perceived faults.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:40 (7 years ago) Permalink

xpost to CJ: or what if they keep perceiving the flaw even after it's long gone, and keep covering the place where it used to be with layer upon layer of unnecessary gloss?

Ed, it might not be cheating but... idealising, instead.

ampersand, spades, semicolon (cis), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:41 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure this is going to x-post again, but also, Tuomas, I am interested in how old you are. Because...
1) it would be funny if I'd been taking these psychological tests longer than you've been alive
2) I am curious to see if your fairly behaviourist view on personality as a thing in constant flux is due to your still being in the intense flux-period.


I'm 27, but I don't think that's important. My own personality has been pretty stable for several years now, but that hasn't made me think it is totally impossible for it to change (though I agree it's probably less likely as we get older). And I don't see myself as a behaviourist, I don't think people are automatons, but I don't think their personalities are totally separate from outside forces either. In fact, people who think everything is set in childhood or teenage seem to have a more deterministic view than I have.

Tuomas (Tuomas), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:41 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure that deliberate change is entirely possible ...... but is deliberate change a true, fundamental change or just a person acting to cover up whatever flaw it is they are trying to overcome, which yet persists underneath all the gloss they are deliberately applying?

If a flaw doens't come through, is never ever demonstrated, does it exist? Because we're very close to thought-crime here.

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:43 (7 years ago) Permalink

Also, on a personal level, it's entirely possible that I have been looking for stable elements of mine own personality *because* I suffer from a mental illness that whips my moods and my behaviour around fairly unpredictably on a regular basis - that I've *needed* to find some "core" me underneath the mental illness - and also all the external changes caused by constant upheaval of moving.

many of the questions on the Jung tests, I have to kind of think "well, this is different depending on the phase of mania or depression" and try to judge which answer is more relevant. Maybe that goes along with the idealising thing.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:46 (7 years ago) Permalink

xpost to CJ: or what if they keep perceiving the flaw even after it's long gone, and keep covering the place where it used to be with layer upon layer of unnecessary gloss?

I'd say that's a lack of self-awareness and/or self confidence which the person might need to address. I do think you can learn to be more self-aware, and I do think it's entirely possibly to become more self-confident and to be able to trust one's own judgement better. Outside influences play a huge part in this, i.e. learning to trust others, and having the good sense to keep away from people who hurt you or exacerbate your own personal insecurities withe the way they behave towards you.

I may be rambling now.

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:49 (7 years ago) Permalink

If a flaw doens't come through, is never ever demonstrated, does it exist?

Yes, of course it does. A person may appear breathtakingly confident (in the context of a relationship, say) but still suffer pangs of jealousy and insecurity. Just because they keep it under control and don't allow it to sabotage the relationship, it doesn't mean to say it's not still there inside them.

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:52 (7 years ago) Permalink

Should someone who's had p@edophilic thoughts but never acted upon them in any way consider themselves a p@edophile?

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:56 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'd say yes.

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:57 (7 years ago) Permalink

I found the girl in Malick's The New World attractive.

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:58 (7 years ago) Permalink

you're not a murderer until you've murdered somebody.

vita susicivus (blueski), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:59 (7 years ago) Permalink

Is someone who's had fleeting daydreams about murdering people (possibly righteous, possibly unwarranted) cosndier themselves someone with murderous impulses, even if it's just a daydream?

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 14:59 (7 years ago) Permalink

x-post.

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:00 (7 years ago) Permalink

is it also possible that someone might act themselves into a certain personality without it being a 'corrective' to perceived flaws: that they'd think 'i am the kind of person who [likes to read]' and then, when faced with a choice of actions, pick the one that seems most suitable for 'the kind of person who [likes to read]'. Not out of some active desire to invent themselves, but unconsciously, trying to be consistent with their self-image. And if you do it more and more often, you become more 'set in your ways' - you don't really need to ask yourself 'what do i really want to do now' because you already know that the answer is 'as a person who [likes to read], what i want is [to read a book]'. That you've constructed an outside layer of self which is quick and easy to refer to, a simpler and more understandable version of your personality - which could either protect you, cling like a second skin, or maybe someday start to chafe.

ampersand, spades, semicolon (cis), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:00 (7 years ago) Permalink

Those two guys were jailed in the UK this week for having planned to rape two underage girls they were talking to in an internet chat room. They never met them, never actually raped them. But the intent was there, and that was apparently enough to get them locked away for quite a considerable time (I can't remember exactly how long thweir sentence was, but it was something like 5 or 7 years).

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:01 (7 years ago) Permalink

Actively plotting in cahoots with other people (and having images etc as further evidence) is a step on from a completely unacted-upon thought.

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:04 (7 years ago) Permalink

(I typed this lot about two hours ago then got called out of the office so it's probably irrelevant or has already been said but I'm going to post it anyway, just because)

An overall personality can be considered set, but there are always changes taking place. As a species we learn from experience (or at least we should) and this in turn affects our behaviour in similar situations. I know behaviour doesn't necessarily always equate to personality but it plays a huge role in how others see us (which in turns affects how we see ourselves).

People (or most people) tend to want to be liked. This affects, if not their personality, then at least the persona they put across. Sometimes it's not even a conscious thing.

I can't define the "real" me, but I do know that me at work != me at home != me out with friends != me on the internets but there are big enough overlaps that I don't consider myself to have multiple personalities, just different modes, or something.

onimo (onimo), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:05 (7 years ago) Permalink

There's a differnce between an impulse and a desire, duh.

During certain parts of my cycle, I think about suicide an average of 3 or 4 times an hour. I don't actually go to the doctor until they start to become detailed plans and active desire, rather than flitting almost reflexive impulses.

But a thought never has to have expression in order to have effect, and to be part of a personality. That background of suicidal hum is part of my personality, though I do my best to suppress and ignore it.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:05 (7 years ago) Permalink

Also, on a personal level, it's entirely possible that I have been looking for stable elements of mine own personality *because* I suffer from a mental illness that whips my moods and my behaviour around fairly unpredictably on a regular basis - that I've *needed* to find some "core" me underneath the mental illness - and also all the external changes caused by constant upheaval of moving.

many of the questions on the Jung tests, I have to kind of think "well, this is different depending on the phase of mania or depression" and try to judge which answer is more relevant. Maybe that goes along with the idealising thing.

Having known multiple people with bipolar and other mood disorders, I can definitely say that the personality is still coherent to the outside observer. Yes, there are drastic changes, but the same person is still recognizable as such whether in a manic stage or depressive. That core is there.

Fleischhutliebe! like a warm, furry meatloaf (Fluffy Bear Hearts Rainbows), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:06 (7 years ago) Permalink

not touching the pedophilia question . .

i.e. learning to trust others, and having the good sense to keep away from people who hurt you or exacerbate your own personal insecurities withe the way they behave towards you.

These are huge. And life-changing once you get them straight.

Ms Misery (MissMiseryTX), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:07 (7 years ago) Permalink

bloody hell, i go away and clean the bathroom and have a shower and make some lunch and come back and this thread has happened! great thread. i'm going to think about it before replying, except to cj's q here:

but is deliberate change a true, fundamental change or just a person acting to cover up whatever flaw it is they are trying to overcome, which yet persists underneath all the gloss they are deliberately applying?

no, it actually can change it, i've done it. there was stuff i was *really* bitter about in my early 20s (ok perhaps i don't count and am still in flux and am a mere babe at 28) and it made me miserable to myself and horrible to certain other people. it wasn't just huge things either, but small things would *really* get to me and i was angry and hateful. i decided i did not want to be like that, to myself or to anyone else, and after a lot of internal wrangling i have taught myself to be able to let go, to not be someone who carries badnesses with them like that. and sure, for ages it was literally gritting my teeth and telling myself "it.does.NOT.MATTER.let.it.GO." and reacting "gggrrrnnnghhhbut-but-but-waaaaargh" and so on and so on. but now it's different; i have actually changed.

but then, have i only effected this change because i had a personality in the first place which would *want* to get rid of the badness?

i am currently trying to stop interrupting people so much.

xposts

Should someone who's had p@edophilic thoughts but never acted upon them in any way consider themselves a p@edophile?

-- Sick Mouthy (sickmouth...)

I'd say yes.

-- C J (CJ_The_Unrul...)


you're not a murderer until you've murdered somebody.

-- vita susicivus (n...)

paedophile is a state of being (err... you know what i mean); murderer is after an action you've taken.

emsk ( emsk), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:26 (7 years ago) Permalink

i am currently trying to stop interrupting people so much.

haha, me too. On my montiors I've put post it notes that say "talk" with a no sign on top and the other says "listen"

Ms Misery (MissMiseryTX), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:28 (7 years ago) Permalink

They never met them, never actually raped them. But the intent was there, and that was apparently enough to get them locked away for quite a considerable time

Isn't conspiracy to commit a crime usually punishable even if the actual crime is never committed?

M. White (Miguelito), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:31 (7 years ago) Permalink

guy fawkes to thread.

emsk ( emsk), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:32 (7 years ago) Permalink

Ha ha ha, my Elizabethan Secret Service book to thread.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

no, it actually can change it, i've done it. there was stuff i was *really* bitter about in my early 20s (ok perhaps i don't count and am still in flux and am a mere babe at 28) and it made me miserable to myself and horrible to certain other people.

Well, I'm not going to say anything about whether you're in flux or not, as from circumstances I know you are in a flux, but I don't think it's an age/maturity thing, but a circumstantial thing.

Maybe I'm going to change my mind due to this thread. Or qualify things more carefully. Malleableness of personality is easier when you are younger, but there are other things that come with age/maturity. This whole decision to be able to "let things go" - is something that gets easier with age and more likely experience about how horribly wrong things go when you don't.

Is that changing your personality, though, or changing your behaviour?

I don't know; this is the problem that Tuomas raises - is there a difference, and ifso, where? I'm repeating myself now. But that's another personality quirk of mine. ;-)

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:39 (7 years ago) Permalink

FWIW, Tuomas, I thought you were younger than you are, but that could be that us old folks lose track of the time, ha ha. ;-)

But one thing I've noticed from this thread is that things go more easily if you don't just react about something someone has said that you disagree with (and it's taken a few instances of self discipline to refrain from zings) but rather to ask questions and get the person to clarify and rephrase until you understand what they are saying, not just what you expect/think they are saying, due to your impression of what their personality is or isn't.

One's impression of *others'* personalities doesn't have to be a fixed thing, either.

(That's another thread, and the whole Oscar Wilde "I have never met anyone who hasn't turned out to be exactly what I thought they were in my first five minutes of meetings them" first impressions, how accurate thing - does that say more about the power of first impressions, or Wilde's unique perceptiveness in his author's eye.)

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:43 (7 years ago) Permalink

Whatever immutably hardwired aspects there are to our personality, we also undergo various stages in development and experience various things and have to make choices about them. I'd say my personality was basically set at around 22; several things happened that year that irrevocably changed the course of my life and I remember making actual conscious decisions about how to respond to them that very much made me who I am today.

M. White (Miguelito), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:44 (7 years ago) Permalink

It says more about his talent for epigrams, Kate.

M. White (Miguelito), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:44 (7 years ago) Permalink

from circumstances I know you are in a flux

MYSTERIOUS!

This whole decision to be able to "let things go" - is something that gets easier with age and more likely experience about how horribly wrong things go when you don't.

changing/evolving your personality, because before you weren't able to let things go?

emsk ( emsk), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:52 (7 years ago) Permalink

I've gone through a phase pretty much similar to Emsk's. Whether it was originally to cover a flaw doesn't matter, because the "flaw" doesn't exist any more and I myself am different now.

Is that changing your personality, though, or changing your behaviour?
I don't know; this is the problem that Tuomas raises - is there a difference, and ifso, where?

I'd say personality is those modes of behaviour which you and others perceive as more fixed than others. The reason personality seems (or is, usually) stable is because they are less easy to deprogram than others.

Tuomas (Tuomas), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:52 (7 years ago) Permalink

several x-posts again

Tuomas (Tuomas), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:53 (7 years ago) Permalink

http://www.gastropods.com/Shell_Images/T-z/Xenophora_conchyliophora_1.jpg

People who seem to "change" personalities might just have a core personality akin to the carrier shell, constantly cementing new decor to their shell. Thus, in their changeability, they are unchanging.
Somebody's probably said this. I don't have time to read the whole thing until later.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:55 (7 years ago) Permalink

changing/evolving your personality, because before you weren't able to let things go?

No, just the ageing process. It gets harder to keep track of who I'm feuding with, due to the senility, and easy to ignore obvious windups with the thought "is this worth having a coronary over?"

It is just significantly different in my late 30s than it was in my late 20s. And I hope that it will continue in my 40s and 50s and so on. As my mum would say, it gets easier to ignore idiots and suffer fools when you can just wave your hand and say "I'm old, I don't have to deal with this!"

When you're young, you think the world is your responsibility, and it seems imperative to right all the wrongs (perceived or otherwise). As you get older, you kinda care less.

But that said, maybe decisions get more irrevocable as you get older. (Yes, that has a double meaning I don't really care to explain.)

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 15:58 (7 years ago) Permalink

Personality v behaviour. I think my personality was set long ago and bar the odd subtle shift, has remained constant since I was in my mid/late teens. But I have become much more aware of what the limitations of that personality are, and also the strengths of being *that type of person* and can to some extent compensate for the limitations and draw on the strengths.

When life is simpler, i.e less commitments (financial, relationship, dependants) maybe there are less constraints from *outside* that make you need to adapt behaviour to fit in with other people and situations. To what extent does that behaviour become *the real* you? In my view you essentially haven't changed personality, because YOU CAN'T, but maybe you've modified its effects through some conscious changes in the way you act. I TOTALLY screwed my life up twice in the last 10 or so years, and my personality is the same now - given the same combination of circumstances it COULD happen again. But I think I have learned enough about myself & others to modify my behaviour and avoid the same. The relentlessly positive side of my nature is a real asset here. I actually believe that I CAN avoid disaster in the future! Older and wiser, or older and more deluded? Who knows?

Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 16:01 (7 years ago) Permalink

People who seem to "change" personalities might just have a core personality akin to the carrier shell, constantly cementing new decor to their shell. Thus, in their changeability, they are unchanging.
Somebody's probably said this. I don't have time to read the whole thing until later.

No, but that's a very interesting idea.

Was talking a while ago with a friend, complaining about someone who I saw as "false" or "two-faced" and she kind of re-explained it as being someone who was more concerned with not upsetting anyone and keeping everything smooth and nice-appearances-wise. While I see this as bald faced lying, by omission or otherwise, and terribly deceiptful, it had a reason, a use and/or a "good quality" to her.

Maybe the core personality in these cases that wind me up so much is an extreme example of someone whose desire is to please others. It seems like falseness to me, but they are being true to themselves, when what is most important to their personalities is pleasing others.

Fire and Worms (kate), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 16:04 (7 years ago) Permalink

To answer the question...19/20, I think? At least, that's when I finally felt comfortable with myself on a conscious level (though certainly not entirely, and there was and is still much to learn and appreciate). It's likely no surprise that the oldest friends I still have are from around that time period as well.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 16:05 (7 years ago) Permalink

Kate, hypocrisy is the soul of politesse and sometimes it's nice to see someone more interested in making sure that everyone has a good time than in expressing (sometimes narcissistically) their own 'authenticity'.

M. White (Miguelito), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 16:09 (7 years ago) Permalink

x-post to Dr C : Older and wiser, definitely. Modifying dangerous behaviour to avoid falling into the same pitfalls as before, and to consciously make an effort not to do something which you know would hurt yourself - and, perhaps more importantly, would hurt others - shows a really admirable strength of character.


Ned, I saw "19/20" and thought you were grading yourself there :)

C J (C J), Wednesday, 7 February 2007 16:09 (7 years ago) Permalink


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