~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~
If the question came up once, it came up several times, this year. The question? Something about “personality.” “Is that the way some people just are?” “What about people who are X?” Sometimes the questions were about the behaviours or statements that a person favors, sometimes about a favorite representation system, sometimes about what to do with people who “are” X or Y?

“Just forget personality.’

It doesn’t exist, it is a construct that has been overly used, it is just not a useful way to think about things.” When some asked that I later explain that; Ordering and Disordering Personality with easily enhanced through NLP and Neuro-Semantics. We address the “personality disorders” in the DSM IV along with three co-authors. My intention was to show that the NLP and Neuro-Semantic models can and do adequately address personality disorders.
The comment I always make with regard to personality is this-

Personality is what we do, not what we are

You and I do personality- it is how we think, emote, speak (language), act, and relate. As we do these things-we establish in our minds and the minds of others what we call as our “personality.” It’s how people know us, recognize us, and think about us.
As a person, how do you function? How do you know yourself? How do others know you? Is it not in how you think and the way you think? Is it not in how you emotion, the particular emotions that you regularly access as you move through life? Is it not in the way you use language, the way you speak, the words you use? Is it not in your actions and how you relate to people? Well, yes, of course. You learn to be and express the person you are in these ways. And as you do, you are doing your “personality.”

Where did you learn to think, feel, speak, act, and relate that way?

From your early home life, from your culture, your religion, your school, your friends, your books, your movies, etc. You learned to do your personality from all of these influences. And often, you learned to do what you needed to do in those contexts in order to survive, to get along, to deal with the factors that you had to deal with. Obviously, the more dysfunctional your early home environment as well as the “world” that you grew up in, the more you would have adjusted your person (personality) and that may result in developing personality disorders.

Personality adjustments

Abraham Maslow spoke to this in Toward a Psychology of Being (1968). Maslow was answering the question about “personality problems.” What do you say when someone tells you that he or she has “a personality problem?” Do you say “I’m sorry!” or do you say, “Good!” He noted that it all depends upon the context in which the person has been surviving. He asked about the “personality” of someone trying to survive Hitler’s Nazi environment. If someone adjusted oneself to that, would he have a healthy and normal personality, or would there be some severe maladjustments? If well adjusted to a context of hate, prejudice, racism, etc., would we say “good?” Or would we say, “Sorry to hear that?” And would the so-called “personality disorder” in that situation not be a good thing?

Personality is context relative

You do your personality in some context in order to adjust or not to adjust and a healthy, strong, and vigorous sense of self can be deemed good in one context and a disorder in another. So Maslow asked, “Who is doing the calling, the labeling?” He recommended that we ask about the context, the criteria of the evaluation, the identity and motivation of the person doing the labeling if we want to fully understand what’s being discussed.


“The essential characteristic of holistic analysis of the personality in actual practice is that there be a preliminary study or understanding of the total organism, and that we then proceed to study the role that our part of the whole plays in the organization and dynamics of the total organism. …
The personality is not separate from its expressions, effects, or the stimuli impinging upon it (causes) and so at least for psychological data it must be replaced by another conception.” (1968, p. 297)
His “Self-actualizing People: a Study of Psychological Health” appeared in Personality Symposia: Symposium #1 on Values in 1950. There Maslow challenged the fundamental premise of modern psychology, namely that we can devise accurate theories about human nature by studying the mentally ill or the statistically average.

The distinctions for a better life

If we learn to do personality, and if personality arises in specific contexts and is relative to those contexts-this implies several really important things.

It important to create healthy contexts

Parents take note. School administrates take note, also leaders and managers, etc. The context that you create for people to live and operate within will inevitably have tremendous effects on the personalities that are developed in those contexts. Is it a healthy self-actualizing context? Is it an unhealthy context for human beings? Is it loving, joyful, learning, contributing, etc.?

Personality can be positively changed for the better

Personality is an ongoing process and so by improving one’s thinking, emoting, speaking, acting, and relating-one’s personality is improved, enhanced, and enriched. People are not stuck or victims of fate.

How you know and expressed yourself is under your control- if you so choose

“Personality” is not a mysterious force that is imposed upon you. You may be tendencies and you may be wired for certain talents, but you are not fated to “be” a certain way. You can choose what to think and value and believe.
To your highest and best personality!

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