Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The key to a healthy personality is flexibility.


"If we were sailors navigating the world on the open seas, we would need to have a set of precisely tuned, highly sophisticated instruments in order to navigate effectively. Our navigational tools would need to be capable of swiftly adjusting to changing conditions (weather conditions, cargo weight, etc.). The same is true of our personalities. In other words, we must be able to adjust our reactions to the specific circumstances of each situation. This means our perceptions and interpretations of the world must not only be accurate, but also nuanced. This requires of our personalities a high degree of flexibility in order to take into account the special needs and circumstances of every unique situation we encounter. Each situation may need to be interpreted differently. Our reactions must be finely tuned and properly adjusted to precisely correspond with the unique demands of each individual situation. Unfortunately, people with personality disorders lack this essential flexibility, and respond to situations and events with a characteristically rigid constellation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This inflexibility, and difficulty forming nuanced responses, represents the primary difference between healthy and disordered personalities.

"The question remains, how do we account for this fundamental difference between healthy and unhealthy personalities? The answer seems to lie in the "navigational instruments." It appears that people with personality disorders are missing an important tool. Research by Fonagy and his colleagues (1996) found that people with personality disorders seem to lack a highly necessary skill called "mentalization." Mentalization refers to the ability to reflect upon the behaviors, internal states, and motivations of both ourselves and other people. The ability to mentalize may enable people with healthy personalities to adjust their behaviors to the differing demands of each unique situation. In other words, what permits this flexibility may be the capacity to reflect upon one's own behaviors and motivations, and to reflect upon the behaviors and motivations of others. Thus, the ability to mentalize permits an accurate assessment of each unique situation that renders an appropriate response for that situation."

Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., Corinne E. Zupanick, Psy.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

No comments:

Popular Posts