My partner and I were discussing the Big Five personality traits this morning and decided they didn’t work for us. The Big Five are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. We decided they don’t work for us because the definitions are slippery and based on poorly grounded assumptions.
One big aspect of FIML practice is partners are encouraged to create their own subcultures. So we wondered how would we define the basic personality traits that are important to us. In a fairly short time, we came up with the following:
- the ability to think independently and interdependently (or not)
- having ethical standards (or not)
- co-forming or conforming or non-conforming
- intelligence/sensitivity/awareness/aesthetics/curiosity/wonderment/etc. as directed toward wisdom/self-improvement/mutual transformation (or not)
We may want to add more or refine this short list, but for now it is good enough. Just above, I mentioned that we came up with this Big Four in a fairly short time–took ten minutes to outline followed by a more detailed discussion that lasted another 40 minutes or so. What I want to say about this is it is fairly easy to make your list of personality traits because lists like this are not necessarily based on all that much.
I even wonder if there is such a thing as personality, but that can be a subject for another post. Suffice it to say that all of us are raised by other people and from those people we learn Language, Semiotics, and Mirroring (LSM). We learn culture(s) and our “personalities” are the individual, functional aspects of that culture(s). The Big Five is very much based on a normal personality in a normal (probably Western) culture as assessed by a doctor of the mind in that culture.
The most glaring omission in the Big Five is ethics or ethical standards. That’s what got us started this morning. As mentioned all of us are born into our cultures and are taught LSM by other people. Some of us develop or learn ethics (or want to) and some do not. In the subculture my partner and I are creating, ethics is important. FIML has taught us that ethical integrity is pure gold, but even before FIML, we both wanted to live lives that were ethically sound.
Why don’t professional psychologists use ethics as a metric of personality? Are the many scandals in the psych professions due to their not including ethics (or the will to have ethics) in their standards? I don’t know. You might say that ethics have to be taught, but so do all of the Big Five. No feral children display the Big Five. Everything is taught/learned. Why leave out the one trait that makes us able to develop rational and rationally functioning personalities?
My partner and I probably would be classified by most psychologists as introverted. To us, within our own subculture, however, we assess ourselves as being very extroverted, open, agreeable, conscientious, and confident with each other. I am certain that we spend more time deeply socializing with each other than the classic extrovert spends socializing less deeply with a broad range of many people. Which kind of socializing is better? Why should we (or you) allow someone else to decide this for you? Culture and culturally defined traits (like the Big Five) can act as an aggressive tautology if you are not careful. Don’t become a victim of other people’s definitions. Decide for yourself.
My partner and I are interdependent; we can think for ourselves (together or separately); we have shared and mutually agreed upon ethical standards (Buddhist plus FIML); we co-form our own subculture and do not thoughtlessly conform to the larger cultures around us; we use our intelligence/awareness/etc. to mutually transform each other, to make ourselves better, wiser, etc. to the best of our understanding.
I am definitely not trying to toot our own horn here, but rather to show that FIML partners (all people, really) have the power and capacity to define themselves as they see fit. FIML provides the tools that help partners eliminate mistaken interpretations and unwholesome semiotics from their lives. With FIML tools, partners can create the kind of culture for themselves that they both want. And if you want to make some changes to that culture as you go along, do it.
FIML partners have the means and the practical tools to be truly open to the new experience of recreating their own personalities in their own ways according to the cultural standards they have chosen for themselves. They can use their reason, ethics, wisdom, feelings, perceptions, curiosity, and more to create lives for themselves that lead to greater understanding, contentment, and ethical efficacy with each other and the world. Now that’s what I call personality, damn it.