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The "healthy" personality

So you know that you have a personality, right? And most people are aware that their personality comprises a number of different "traits" (such as 'openness'), many of which have been written abut and researched quite extensively over the years. A lot of people even know what their personality "type" is (for example, on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), and some may take pride in claiming to be "INTP". One thing we can be quite sure of is that personality, as a human construct, is quite varied among the population.

An article that recently featured in Forbes Magazine explored the notion that psychologically healthy individuals are defined by certain identifiable personality traits . . . and I guess this makes sense. Being confident, for example, would be more likely to lead to a psychologically healthy state than, say, self-doubt. So it's no surprise that a list of positively attributed personality traits would be ascribed to psychologically healthy individuals. The table below shows 30 traits ranked from highest to lowest in terms of their relationship to psychological health. (Clearly, depressiveness and hostility are not well-linked to a healthy mental state.)

  1. Openness to Feelings

  2. Warmth

  3. Positive Emotions

  4. Straightforwardness

  5. Competence

  6. Altruism

  7. Activity

  8. Openness to Values

  9. Tender-Mindedness

  10. Dutifulness

  11. Gregariousness

  12. Self-Discipline

  13. Order

  14. Achievement

  15. Deliberation

  16. Openness to Aesthetics

  17. Assertiveness

  18. Trust

  19. Compliance

  20. Openness to Ideas

  21. Modesty

  22. Openness to Fantasy

  23. Excitement-Seeking

  24. Openness to Actions

  25. Self-consciousness

  26. Impulsivity

  27. Anxiousness

  28. Vulnerability

  29. Depressiveness

  30. Hostility

So I'm not going to argue this point, or explore the degree to which it may be accurate or valid for any specific person. What I AM going to do is simply pose a question for the reader here: Is it possible (or perhaps likely) that if you don't possess sufficient quantities of the uppermost "healthy" traits, you might sometimes compensate . . . or overcompensate . . . with some other desirable traits. For example, if you find that you're not especially open to feelings (Item 1), could you perhaps make up for this by being overly focused on competence (Item 5)? If you're not particularly dutiful (Item 10) as a rule, might you compensate for that by being more gregarious (Item 11)?

I'm not claiming to have a theory on this, or to have an answer for anybody in particular. It's more of a question for self-reflection, for people to think about themselves, their strengths, the way they cover for their weaknesses, how it may impact on their job or their relationships, and what manner of "psychological health" they may be manifesting. For you, the reader, who may be thinking "I'm not especially healthy in terms of my *******", you might reflect on whether there's something you tend to do instead, and how well this works for you in a range of different situations. (I know it might be the case for me, where a deficit in one area of personality might require me to lean more heavily on another area of personality, and that this "shift" might not be ideally suited to all areas of life.)

Something to think about, the next time you're engaged in a discussion about personality types, traits, and psychological health. Have fun!

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