OCEAN follow-up: disorganised and disagreeable

I did an online test for the Big 5 personality traits just now, and the results were interesting:

As expected, I’m both extremely Introverted and extremely Neurotic.

In my previous post I suggested that I might be high in Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, but I also noted that these qualities felt forced and unnatural.

I subsequently read the actual criteria for the two traits, and concluded that I’m practicing “pseudo-” Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, attempting to mimic traits I don’t actually possess.

In other words, I’m not naturally an organised, disciplined, tidy person, but I put pressure on myself to be organised and disciplined where it counts.

The results of the online test corroborate my suspicions.

Openness to new experiences was surprisingly high, but that could be because the trait is manifested differently between introverts and extroverts. An extrovert might be open to “new experiences”, but an introvert can be open to “new ideas”, ways of thinking and seeing the world.

So I think I’m on the right track: trying too hard to be conscientious and agreeable in certain circumstances is actually a manifestation of neuroticism, and exacerbates those negative emotions.

Being less agreeable and more disorganised might not change my other traits, but it would be more authentic, and, if I’m right, authenticity could be the key to ameliorating neuroticism.

19 thoughts on “OCEAN follow-up: disorganised and disagreeable

  1. Well, it is also simetimes said that Neuroticism would be caused by a lack of virtue, and virtue including being agreeable and conscientious. So in that case you should seek it in the opposite direction, by keep cultivating the traits you don’t naturally possess until they do feel natural.

    As a matter of fact, you won’t see me doing just that, AND if anyone can not be trusted with advice on how to get rid of neurotcism, it would be me. But I like the fact that you just present your results, which actually do not differ so much from mine, here online. In the past, I have sometimes had both the degree of obsession and the temporary nerves to put things like that about myself online, but I then remove them again especially when not within a few days anyone has commented anything reassuring about it. I also thought my interest in these things was kind of insane anyway. But now that I see someone else posting about these things, who even seems to be viewed as a valid philosopher, well, apparently my interest is immediatley re-awakened…like a dragon in early springtime!

    And, did it work for you in the meantime, becoming less neurotic by acting less agreeable and/ or conscientious, and/ or more authentic?

    • Hi Bianca,
      Yes, knowing that conscientiousness is a point of stress and anxiety has helped a lot. It means I can be more patient and relaxed with myself, rather than pushing myself to accomplish things that don’t come easily.

      I’m not so sure about agreeableness anymore. I think that might actually be a natural trait. Rather, I began to consider whether “extroversion” is the problem. I’m obviously very introverted, but I still talk a lot and make efforts to communicate my thoughts and be more expressive.

      There’s some overlap with agreeableness here, because it’s “agreeable” to communicate well. But I’ve experimented with talking less, sharing my thoughts less, and curiously enough it does seem to reduce anxiety as well.

      The underlying message is to accept your traits as they are. If you must exert yourself to act against your traits occasionally, at least you can do so with full knowledge of why it is difficult and what the cost may be.

      I think doing this work has freed me up to focus on my current interest, which is the use of “positive-thinking” material to become more optimistic, having witnessed that pessimism (sometimes depicted as “realism”) can become a self-fulfilling worldview.

      • Hi, (may I call you Zac?),

        Thanks, and interesting again. When I compare the situation to myself, I have also had similar thoughts on the question whether test personality results reflect my “real” personality or some adaptation of it, and what should I change and what should I accept, however the ideas I got of that were different than yours, which may be because my personality uinderlying the nearly same results is different, or because my thoughts just ended up in a different direction, undergoing different influences. Or both, of course.

        For example, I do not believe I am naturally introverted, but rather often behave that way and even to the utter extremes due to crippling social anxiety (and when I meet people and somehow feel more safe than usual, or when I am pissed off enough to overcome the anxiety, or so, I also naturally and effortlessly behave totally extroverted). Of course there can be some short-term relief of anxiety by avoidant behaviours, but that will get back at me with huge frustrations about the missed opportunities, and I don’t learn to socialize more smoothly when I don’t even try.

        Then there’s the agreeableness, which in my case is not so high because I think for myself, and often disagree with other people, not so much because I don’t want to adjust or even because I would be an egoist who lacks empathy. Although I have found myself turning down the empathy knob because of self-preservation, but I would say, how else could one survive in a world where so many people are suffering, and the media are there enabling to let you know about it all, and so little you can do about it?
        And I often prefer telling what I think is true, over sparing people’s short-term feelings by telling them what they like to hear. I also don’t do that for egoistic of unempathic reasons (okay, except when I am pissed off…), although sometimes I do misjudge other people’s feelings and their response to what I tell them, and I have to admit that even though my intentions were basically good, it does not help to confront people with something that only makes them more defensive. And their psychological defenses are usually more effective than mine…

        When it comes to conscientiousness, I think there’s roughly two sides on that. There’s the “boring disciplinary and impulse control” part of it, but also the “ambition, drive and effectiveness” part of it. I think it’s natural for me that the first part is somewhat low, however the second part “should” be high when I am well, and when I am passionate about something, that can also act as a replacement for the lack of “true” disciplin found in the first part. However the whole thing totally dropped down because I lost faith in nearly everything, including myself ofcourse…

        So a less pessimistic outlook would also benefit me from here I guess. And I temporary had that at a time where I had the idea of accepting the neuroticism as a natural trait that I therefore don’t have to change. Not having to be ashamed for that was already a great relief in the layers of shame that were over me…However, having entered society again, it of course did not take so long for me to realize that there is just no way I am going to have an acceptable carreer when I do not change a lot…And anyway, there is a limit to the amount of stress that can be experienced and still being able to do everything you want, and unless I down the neuroticism, that amount of stress is always reached waaaay earlier than by the time I have done everything I want…

        However, I am sorry to say, and it is not intended personally, and of course mainly a reflection of my own issues and all…: I despise “positive thinking”, and I am somewhat disappointed that a person who possesses a depth of thinking, after elaborate soul searching and analysis and all, ends up with that…But maybe it’s just the associations I have with “positive thinking” that I truely detest, and not that what you are actually focussing on right now. For instance, maybe you actually just mean “balanced thinking”, but when you’re melancholic, that involves a somewhat artificial extra emphasis on the positive side of all possible thoughts that you have?

        • Hi Bianca,
          you can call me Zac if you like.
          I can relate to a lot of what you are saying. I think it’s important to first work out your temperament. Personality is a combination of the temperament we are born with and the experiences we have while growing up and developing.
          When it comes to neuroticism, my understanding is that melancholics and cholerics are most prone to it. So my first guess is that you’re either melancholic or choleric.
          It’s possible for sanguines and phlegmatics to be neurotic too, but this implies more severe and damaging experiences in life to make otherwise quite stable temperaments be plagued by negative emotional states.

          If you haven’t already, I suggest Conrad Hock’s book on temperaments: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/catholicteaching/virtue/temperaments.htm
          It’s a religious text, but you can ignore the religious references if you need to and just see if you can work out your own temperament from the information he provides.

          I suspect you may be melancholic…for example you might think, or claim that you are disagreeable, but you’re actually doing so as a kind of self-conscious apologetic comment about yourself…so in practice it may be an expression of “agreeableness” to say “sorry, I’m a very disagreeable person”.

          You wrote: “So a less pessimistic outlook would also benefit me from here I guess. And I temporary had that at a time where I had the idea of accepting the neuroticism as a natural trait that I therefore don’t have to change. Not having to be ashamed for that was already a great relief in the layers of shame that were over me”

          This is very important, in my opinion. Accepting that you are different – whether you are melancholic or perhaps choleric – is an important step because those of us in a minority are flooded with exemplars and expectations that pertain to other temperaments.

          For example, as a melancholic I’ve grown up absorbing messages about the good qualities of other temperaments: ambitious, motivated cholerics, fun-loving sociable sanguines, and calm, easy-going, rule-abiding phlegmatics.

          So it was a big deal for me to realise that the “struggle” I experienced was a function of my own nature, not a fault or moral failing. Melancholics are motivated by ideals and meaning, not by ambitions, nice things, or avoiding conflict. A melancholic having a wonderful life will look different from the other temperaments.

          I took a long time to work out whether the neuroticism was natural as in “you will always be neurotic” or if it was more an outcome of conflicts between my temperament and my society, or my temperament and my internalised beliefs.

          That’s probably where the positive-thinking stuff comes in. I understand your antipathy. I even wrote some critical things about it a few years back.

          What changed for me was that I began to notice a couple of situations where my external experience in the world reflected my internal dynamic. It was a recurrent or “stuck” situation, and no matter what I did it wouldn’t change. But when I changed my own internal dynamic (beliefs and thinking) the external situation changed dramatically.

          Eventually I realised that this could apply to my entire life. I was still reluctant to investigate the most cringe-worthy positive-thinking material, but in the end I couldn’t justify not examining it.

          What I tell people now is that there’s an uncontroversial psychological basis for stating that our thoughts and beliefs filter our experience of life. Cognitive biases and emotional states can be traced back to beliefs about the world. For example, if you ever do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it’s all about changing your thoughts to reduce anxiety and depression. There’s a logical correlation between beliefs and feelings.

          So if you think your life is bleak, that you are a terrible person, that everything is limited and constrained, then you will feel corresponding feelings, and you will likely act in corresponding ways, and even if something miraculous and wonderful happened near you or to you, you would struggle to accept it.

          Going beyond the uncontroversial, I would proceed to observe that our beliefs and thoughts also colour our body-language, our word-choices, our perceptions and our behaviours in powerful ways, such that our experience of life is richly and deeply influenced by our thoughts.

          In other words, we give off “signals” to others; we also sabotage ourselves; there’s really no hiding the tone of our deeper thoughts and feelings. Unconscious choices, unconscious communication, it all adds up to create an immersive experience that we call “reality”.

          For example, you might think a person in your life is intractable, and they stand in the way of a more enjoyable experience no matter what you do or say to them. But approaching them with those underlying thoughts communicates your own resistance to them, and makes you focus on their resistance…so even if you change the words you are using, the underlying message stays the same.

          It’s only when you change your own thoughts about them that they cease to be an obstacle, and you may discover to your great surprise that this seemingly intractable person is a complex human being with a range of potential responses to you.

          The final level of it is where it actually gets “mysterious” or genuinely “miraculous”…something can seem like a miracle because we never considered it possible, or our thoughts blinded us to possibilities around us. But there are also things that happen – meaningful coincidences and sudden changes – that defy our limiting beliefs about reality.

          When I studied philosophy I was always interested in our perception of reality and how it could all change quite radically depending on our perspective. Much of what we consider a “realistic” view of the world is merely convention…There isn’t really any definitive reason to consider our current beliefs about the world to be more realistic than beliefs that would cause us to be much happier.

          The bottom line of the “positive thinking” material is that it’s easier to feel good if you focus on things that make you feel good…It’s quite obvious in hindsight. The trouble is that many of us believe there are important reasons for not feeling good. That’s hard to argue with too!

          • Thank you a lot for thinking and writing all this!

            Indeed I do believe there are important reasons to not feel good, and they do have to do with my conceptions of “reality”, and I do know they can be disproportionate or out of balance, in which case I may use something from the less cringeworthy part of positive thinking 😉

            Philosophy does interest me too, although it can sometimes make me despair and want to send it to hell and forget about it and indulge in superficial pleasures like all the others. Because I tink it’s really problematic to not actually be able to know what is beyond convention, or beyond my direct experience which is only some biased interpretation of something that no-one has any unbiased or uninterpreted version of, and even if someone had it, I could not possible understand it. However, I just cant handle nihilism either, and I don’t want to think like Shopenhauer or the Buddhists, I actually like Nietzsche more (however please don’t misunderstand me with that, I think his philosophy is very often misunderstood and also not completely within my understanding), and I am also attracted to exitstentialism, but I don’t really know and and I fail on a daily basis against my own judgement.

            And still, I am not going to hum the mantra that everything is okay as it is. In spite of all the realistic doubts against my perception of reality, at some point I need to believe in some of it. And I want to act at it, for as far as I can and seems reasonable within my limited understandig of reality.
            This has been in fact also a problem with CBT and similar approaches, that “they” just assume they know reality better than I do, because they feel better, and therefore I should think as they do in order to also feel better. One word I have for that, actually, although I have mostly been too agreeable to speak it: NO.

            However, I can also see that the doubt about perception of reality can make some space for re-evaluations that can actually be helpful for (hopefully/ perceived as) better insights and just more options for handling whatever I experience as reality, and thereby also by making it feel better as the result of seeing new possibilities (and not getting stuck in these damn self-fullfilling negative patterns indeed) or as the result of something I actually managed to make a positive change in.

            Thanks also for the text on temperaments, yes in spite of the religious part of it. I have not yet read it very well but have some impressions, and I think I will get back at it.
            As a matter of fact, from what I have known about the temperaments my best guess has been I am sort of at the borderline (…) between melancholic and choleric, which seems to match with the analysis of my temperament by my psychiatris, sort of based on the TCI by Cloninger, who uses the descriptors of temperament “harm avoidance” and “novelty seeking” (and one or two others). I am high at both, which seems to be relatively rare. And high harm avoidance seems very related to being melancholic, whereas high novelty seeking has sort of the same relatedness to being choleric, at least I have seen it represented that way.

            Agreeableness, by the way, in Cloninger’s system seems related to both “reward dependence” and a dimension of character “cooperativeness”. And now we are back with the idea of lack of virtue again, I was not doing that intentionally, but the whole idea is of course that you can’t live well when you have a temperament but no character. And of course this is not actually the end but I am ending my thinking and writing about this subject here, to be probably continued…

            • I like to think of it as….we’re getting what we ‘want’ out of life, even though we may not especially enjoy it.

              This is especially clear in protracted negative cycles and patterns.

              So, it’s good if we can recognise that we are ‘happy’ being unhappy…that it’s the logical outcome of our beliefs, and we won’t change until we decide we’ve had enough.

              I’ve had periods where I’ve thought I would do *anything* to feel better, but then I’ve run into a belief about the world that must change for me to feel better…and the resistance to it is surprising!

              For example, I understand what “cringiness” means, but at some point I had to ask myself whether I was really committed to feeling better, or more concerned about sounding like a new-age lunatic. It was suspicious to me that I could feel so terrible, yet then baulk at potential remedies.

              So even in my worst bouts of depression, it would be accurate to say that I was severely depressed, within the constraints of my beliefs. It probably took me twenty years of repeated depression to accept that it was time to feel better rather than continue on that course.

              You’re right that you do need beliefs about reality in order to function. But I don’t think that’s a problem. You can’t and won’t eradicate your beliefs, or cease to function. But you function better when you feel better.

              • Indeed, at least, some minimum amount of feeling good is needed in order to function. But I think in order to funtion optimally, the emotional state should generally reflect the current desirability of “reality”, although it is probably needed to now and then feel better than reality would justify. But it is possible to feel to good, and that may be more pleasant than feeling too bad, but not necissarily less dangerous. And when I take the time to reflect on it, I am usually aware of how well-adjusted my feeling is to reality. Which does not always immediately help when I notice my feeling is “below” reality, because the realisation that I am feeling “wrongly” is unpleasant on itself, and therefore does help to come down when I’m too high…
                otherwise, I do recognise a lot of what you’re saying here again.

                • For me the change came when I realised that my sense of reality was profoundly subjective in ways I couldn’t even recognise.
                  I would have agreed that feeling “too good” was dangerous or risky or delusional…but that perspective was entirely subjective too.
                  We construct our reality out of the things we pay attention to. We are skilled at ignoring stuff that doesn’t fit our story. Our sense of what is possible or impossible, likely or unlikely, it’s all very subjective.
                  So in the end, feeling good is actually more reliable and trustworthy than my assessment of what is “real”.
                  It’s true that some bursts of good feeling are unsustainable, but that’s only because of our broader perspective….feeling good is not unsustainable itself, but feeling anything too far from our usual emotional set-point is unlikely to be stable. In other words, some people who are generally happy would find it hard to feel down for an extended period. The same applies to people who are generally unhappy.

                • So there is still this problem with reality…because I really wasn’t talking about sustainibilty of feelings against some setpoint, but really about adjustment to reality.
                  What I mean is that I (need to) believe that my perceptions point to real reality, albeit in a subjective and often biased manner. And like reason and the senses, the emotions are part of this perception, so ideally they are lined up such that the emotions tells something meaningfull about reality, and about what good be an adequate reaction to reality, in cooperation with reason and the senses. So when in reality there is a situation that requires fighting, flighting or hiding, I consider it adequate to experience anger and/ of fear. When you are wounded, pain, when someones dies who you have loved, grief, and also environmental pollution, war, injustice, but also the still alive beauty of nature, meeting nice people with good music, and having succeeded a difficult climb and then have a great view, and so on, all are accompanied by their own emotions…subjective, indeed! But it seems nearly inhumane to me to uncouple these things, and for instance decide to no longer feel bad about bad things (i.e. the things we subjectively think and feel about as “bad”), even though it seems my favorite philosopher also encourages exactly that, and then calls it superhuman istead of inhumane, but well, we have seen some inhumane stuff done in the 20th century by persons also claiming that “superhuman” ideal (albeit a misunderstood version of it, but still…)

                  Of course within the human adjustment to “reality” there is still some freedom and variation about what is bad and what to feel bad about, but I would consider a general refusal to feel bad, bad in itself…

  2. P.S. the one above was one of the kinds of postings by myself on the internet that make me really nervous afterwards. Possibly inappropriately disagreeable, and way too elaborate, as if people actually want to read that much about my **** self. This probably happens because I have also been thinking and reading about the topic a lot in the past, but only rarely found the oppurtunity to really share that with others. If you have no problem with it (I am also not truely that disagreeable 😉 ) I may also comment on some of your other posts on related topics, some of which I have already been reading too, in hopes to have some further interaction about it. I also think the interest in these things is something I sometimes need to become “freed up” for further steps in my attempts to find my place in society and life. Only I understand this now may not be synchronous to your process, so that my drawing your attention back to this is maybe not so helpful at this time, or is it?

    • Don’t worry about what is helpful to me. I’m an independent human being and can decide for myself how I spend my time and whether I read or reply to your comments or not ; )

      This comment suggests more strongly that you are melancholic. Let me know what you think of Conrad Hock’s text. It’s a good idea to read all the different descriptions so you can see how the melancholic differs from the other types.

      You’re welcome to comment, I’ll try to reply where I can. I might end up doing a new post to address some of your comments or clarify things that might be of interest to others as well.

      • Thank you again, and I will not apologize then for my mistaken and unintended implicit assumption that you can’t decide for yourself 😉
        I have sort of commented on the temperament thing above, but I still have to futher read Conrad Hock’s text.
        And very nice to read that I am still welcome to comment and you might even do new posts addressing my comments and that might be of interest to others as well!

      • Oh and one thing on the question of temperament and what I have seen in the text by Hock, and the other thing about mistyping “Schopenhauer” among some other, less unforgivable typos. It seems like my internet connection knows you are at the other end of the world, and shows it with some very annoying delays now and then, although not sure if its really because of the distance, and then when I type or correct myself nothing happens and than suddenly it does respond…Not really that important of course, but sort of an excuse…

        The text by Hock says that it is more difficult to determine temperament when, among others:
        4. A person is very nervous. With such persons the signs of nervousness, as restlessness, irritability, inconstancy of humor and resolution, the inclination to melancholy and discouragement, manifest themselves so forcibly that the symptoms of temperament are more or less obscured.
        5. A person has a so-called mixed temperament.
        I think both could be applicable to me. And the one mentioned with 4. for sure! Although I am not “hysterical”. At least, I don’t think so, while not sure if Freud would not have categorized me as such…

        • Yes, it can take some time to work out what is really going on.
          In my case I recognised myself as melancholic, with phlegmatic as secondary. The phlegmatic side comes out stronger when I’m stressed…which has been frequent.
          This leads to conflicting desires…the melancholic desire to find meaning and higher purpose vs the phlegmatic desire to just follow the rules, do as I’m told and avoid conflict.

          Temperament can be obscured by mental health issues and also by “spiritual development”. But I think extremes of temperament can also mimic or contribute to mental health issues as well…

          For example, melancholics are prone to depression and anxiety. Our temperament makes it hard to function in a world that is heavily shaped by the other three.

          It can help to look at the temperament of your parents, since it’s supposed to be hereditary.

          • Yes, I also read that in the text you gave me, that I have been reading in the meantime and said I was going to get back at.
            And what you’re saying about extremes of temperament mimicking mental health issues, and contributing to them, is what the earlier mentioned psychiatrist said, too.

            The first thing about the text of Conrad Hock catching my attention is ouf course the charachter development/ virtue/ morality thing again that I was already somewhat obsessed with myself. from there, reading the descriptions, it looks like he dislikes all temperaments actually. Temperament in his view clearly is something to be overcome.

            By the descriptions given, I clearly mainly recognise myself in the primary description of the choleric: quick and strong responses and enduring impressions. Also some of the other descriptions of it are a perfect match to some of my ways earlier in life and even some of the current. Some items of the melancholic indeed are also a good match (even when producing contradictory combinations that way! exactly what you also recognise: conflicting desires!) , and increasingly became so later in life. Physical behaviors, like speed and posture of walking and expression in the eyes are usually strongly affected by current mood. I can even display the “see everything, hear everything, talk about everything” characteristic of the sanguine. My speech is usually fast unless I am severely depressed or can hardly speak at all with freezing anxiety, and people even say things like I exceed the speed of sound with it. Which unfortunately also means that they can’t keep up while listening.

            The expression of my temperament as a whole has both been subject to punishment that has felt quite humiliating, and the choleric “prefers death over humiliation”, which later in life became something my melancholic and choleric side could agree on: death was the only solution. On this way down, I also got to know, in multiple ways,while probably already inhibited in fully acting it out by my melancholic side, more of the shadow of the choleric: the violence, the heartlessness, and its consequences. Comparing to the text by Hock, I learned to already control this dark side of me. However this came at a price: the melancholic side got the overhand, knowing it was “right” to be empathic and sensitive to suffering, but unable to take positive action when experiencing a lot of negative feelings. Therefore, I often desire my fire back, and feel envious towards people who just uninhibitedly throw it out when the’re angry. But I can’t go down all that way anymore. I can only go on and now try to overcome the dark side of the melancholic temperament, too, in spite of it having the overhand in my behavior now making me hate myself and feeling weak and all such that the thought of “should I not have died before letting this happen to me” is never far away. But I now realise: when I hold humanity against these standards, an awfull lot of people would have to die. And in spite of the overpopulation and other things making that even sound like a good idea, I can feel that it’s a bad idea actually and I’m not going to act after it. But after what am I preferably going to act instead, that is what I am trying to find out, while luckily in the meantime not all of my actions (or thoughts) feel wrong…

            • It’s not that Hock dislikes all the temperaments, but since the text is aimed at personal development it helps to be clear about the shortcomings.

              Temperament is what we are born with…there have been attempts to explain it neurologically, but contemporary research isn’t fully up to speed with it yet. Nonetheless, current research shows that temperamental characteristics are observable from a very young age and consistent throughout life.

              I think Hock himself may have been Choleric, and “overcoming” in a self-disciplined or self-willed way is a very choleric perspective. Melancholics tend to have more of a mysterious yearning for the “right path”.

              We often end up thinking “if only I could change and be more (like the ideal) then everything would be alright”. Whereas a choleric will have a more clear grasp of what they want, how to get it, and the likelihood of success.

              Why are you obsessed with virtue? At one stage I was obsessed with it, because I equated it with the mysterious ideal…if I could work out how to obtain it then everything would be resolved. A choleric might be interested in virtue too, but more from a pragmatic sense that “this is what people esteem, or people say is worth developing, so maybe I’ll take a look and see if there’s anything to it?”

              On a very basic level, you can look at yourself and others and ask “what is it that motivates me/them?” For melancholics it’s meaning, for cholerics its ambition (or winning, or improving their station in life).

              Another key feature is that cholerics tend to have a strong sense of their own worth or skills in some area. Pride, essentially. Whereas a melancholic will usually be full of self-doubt and feel that they are too far from the ideal.

              Try this resource for a different perspective. It fills some of the gaps in Hock’s text:

              • I see, here the match with the melancholic seems larger, and the test there makes me end up as melancholic-choleric; even though I am a complete failure as an “alpha”, I recognise the drive to be one, and I have not even completely given up! Although it’s also not the case that I want to be the leader of the world or something, and when I want to lead something, it’s also not just for the leading for its own sake only. Essentially, I am driven by both meaning and success, and I want them to go hand in hand. If either one is missing, I’m not satisfied.

                When I was younger, I have strived for success and being the best for its own sake, although I was never unemotional, but I did my best do deny that I was emotional. When I was unsuccesfull at something and being told: “there are more important things in life than achievement”, I was increasingly displeased while thinking” of course, eveybody knows that, just nobody knows what it actually is that is really important, well, maybe love or something, but I don’t think I’m going to have that, so I’ll just try harder to achieve because it’s still the only sort of tractable thing.” Although I have also felt the “mysterious yearning for the right path”, I had little patience for it, so my choices did not have very much to do with that, although they were hardly rational either. Thus this is also something that I’ve only started to take somehwat more serious after my sense of failure in life hit in really hard, and then still often thinking: “I don’t hope that this is some sort of escapism that the loser uses to make herself think she’s not a loser, but is actually all nonsense.” But indeed, either way that thought is not going to help me…

                So the thing with virtue indeed also has to do with both drives: I picked up the suggestion that it might help to be more succesful, but also that it contributes to the “right path” ( and to “happiness” as well, but it is odd how I find it hard to consider that a motiavtition, even though it is pleasant of course and now positive psychology and the like are also pushing the idea that it would be even necissary to be the best you can be and all). And there is something to it that I even tend to believe, although I’m sceptical about the happiness thing: I do not have the impression that the most happy people in society are the ones with the most virtues, or even the other way around. That may also be because I have no clear idea about what virtue really essentially is. But reality does not seem to be “just” enough, that virtue would really be rewarded in all these ways. Still I think there may be sufficient reward in being more satisfied with my own actions when they are such that I consider them in line with “virtue” , (although it also seems circular: because I’m not satisfied with myself, I must lack virtue) and some of them I guess would truely be associated with better chances to be succesful at meaningful endeavours…

                • If I go with my gut feeling I’d say you must be primarily melancholic, because your writing comes across as…seeing lots of possibilities but not knowing which one is the right one, and coming back to the same problems. I could be “externalising”, but it does sound very much like my own approach.
                  That’s because the problems we face are “feeling” problems, but we’re looking for “thinking” solutions.
                  (I’m switching a bit into the Myers-Briggs terminology. Are you familiar with it?)

                  Actually, that’s a good summary…we’re trying to “think” our way to a “feeling” solution, and it doesn’t really satisfy!

                  I’ll have to think about the reality vs feeling issue from your other comment. I can’t “reply” on it because we’ve done so many already.

                  But there’s one aspect…I don’t think you should subtract emotion from genuine experience. However, it’s usually more complicated than that.

                  For example: fear. If we go for a walk in the bush, I might be afraid that my son will fall down or trip or get bitten by a snake…
                  But the fear/anxiety is a response to a thought. If I actually *see* a snake, then I won’t have time to feel anxious, I’ll just respond!

                  I think that’s the real issue. Not how we respond when there’s actual danger (or actual delight) but how we frame and shape our reality with thoughts.

                  Looking back, I couldn’t identify many instances that justified my anxiety. 20 or 25 years of anxiety…had it really “kept me safe”? How much objective danger could I really have experienced if I wasn’t anxious? It might even have been worth experiencing a few bad experiences if I could live without anxiety.

                  So…I think that’s where I’m coming from. I won’t say it’s *all* just about perception of reality, but there’s plenty of work we can do in that area. The novel part is recognising that it’s worth making “feeling good” the desired outcome, rather than letting our feelings be an uncontrolled by-product of focusing on other things.

                • As I can’t “reply” to you either, I’ll reply to myself instead, but I assume you will see that, too…
                  Although the most in this line of thought has suffiently been said now, I think.
                  I understand your ‘gut feeling’ when trying to extract my temperament from my replies here. However, temperament is not just my current behavior, which by my own gut feelings is much stronger influenced by melancholy than my original temperament is. But I’m not sure if the other aspects of my temperament are realy so well described by focusing so much on the choleric part as I did here. Maybe harm avoidance and novelty seeking as temperamnt traits are not so closely connected to melancholic and choleric temperaments as I suggested, and they are just a different system of describing. Maybe my original predisposition as it could be described within the humours system was even quite balanced between the temperaments, and the shift is really due to the “personality disorder”. On the other hand, when it really is about the strength, speed and duration of reactivity, I would still stick with saying I should be a mixture of mainly choleric and melancholic (slow and subtle processes running in parallel below the fast and strong, both having their significant and enduring influence on the whole). Because I really also do have the fast and strong, and not just becaue I want it but really, however I did also really learn to often pull the emergency brakes over those. (as a psychologist said after evaluating me: it is no wonder that you do not feel so well, with your personality it is a lot like engaging the brakes and the throttle at the same time and really hard …)

                  But all these systems describing personality and temperament have their limitations, and sometimes I just think they are all nonsense that people use to make sense of themselves where they can’t. Still, like all models that are wrong, and most models ARE wrong, really, they can sometimes be useful…And I do also know the myers-briggs system, and I saw before that you also have written about that, so when I want to continue these discussions I’ll do it with one of those posts of yours, using the post as new input and we will have some space again to respond to each other 😉

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