The Elements of Personality

Psyche is a Greek word meaning “soul,” and psychology is basically a theory or method of understanding the science of the soul — what comprises your soul, how your soul functions, and what changes your soul. Carl Jung was a disciple of Sigmund Freud who then branched off and formulated his own theories.

According to Jung, your psyche, or self, encompasses everything that is you — your genetic heritage including sensory, intuitive, cognitive, or emotional proclivities or tendencies; your physical or emotional components; your primary and secondary environments, that is, your family and your culture; and your dreams. Within your psyche, your unique qualities of, ego, shadow, persona, and complexes formulate a distinctive personality that arises out of all these various elements.

What Is My Self?

The basic concept is that self is your whole personality, including the conscious and unconscious aspects of a psyche. Jung believed that you were born with a true self, or essence, and that your unique ego, or personality, emerged as a result of your heredity traits and your early childhood development — your need to function in your primary environment and your culture — working in tandem with your hereditary, genetic, or unique inborn qualities.

He believed the self's one true purpose was to transcend — rise above or resolve — all of the opposites contained within your personality and create a balanced, whole psyche that is far closer to your true self, or essence. Because your ego arises out of the self, you cannot have a healthy ego without a healthy self. Jung defined the self as transcendent and transpersonal and regarded it as the most important aspect of the psyche.

According to Enneagram theory, you can liberate your true self by weakening and dissolving the rigid patterns that keep your ego state (personality) fixated to known perceptions, beliefs, or behaviors within the parameters of your Enneatype. When you gradually free yourself from these rigid patterns, you are finally capable of being fully present to the moment and responsive to the demands of the present in accordance with your essence or true self. Your Enneagram style is actually a distortion of your true personality and is only a small portion of your true self. The more fully actualized you are, the less obvious and influential your Enneagram style becomes.

What Is My Ego?

Jung believed that your ego is the center of consciousness that creates your identity. The ego's primary purpose is to help you function in society by organizing and balancing the conscious and unconscious aspects of your psyche to form an integrated, stable personality. A balanced, healthy ego achieves equilibrium between the conscious and unconscious aspects of a person's psyche that integrates all the various qualities of self and results in a fully self-actualized personality. An inflated, or exaggerated, ego creates an imbalance that often results in a narrowly defined, rigid, and intolerant personality.

At the far end of the spectrum, an overly inflated, deluded ego results in a psyche that feels godlike and can become increasingly dangerous to the self and to others (because a person with an overly inflated ego will project his or her negative unconscious onto others, such as Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and other radical fundamentalists). Jung defined the ego as the mediator and protector of the self whose purpose is to observe, receive, and interpret information about the self and others.

Like most crises, a midlife crisis results from an inflexible, entrenched ego or system of beliefs that has excluded large portions of a person's psyche. In a midlife crisis, people often make an abrupt turn, behave like a child, or simply change their beliefs and personality in an unconscious attempt to rebalance their ego. This crisis resolves itself when you break free of rigidity and redefine who and what you are and how you behave.

In regard to the Enneagram of Personality, your ego is a grouping of conscious and unconscious behaviors, opinions, truths, and thoughts that developed as a way for you to comprehend and live within your childhood environment. Your ego becomes a pattern of beliefs, habits, and behavior that you have, consciously or unconsciously, chosen to present to the world; it's the personality you use to navigate life's challenges.

Generally, a healthy ego not only functions well in society but allows for a relatively uncomplicated unveiling and blossoming of your essence. An unhealthy ego creates self-designed roadblocks or impediments that hinder your ability to grow or even begin to function anywhere near your peak potential within society.

Your Enneagram ego, or personality, is the way you have learned to express yourself in the world and the way you communicate who you are to others. These personality traits become your most enduring way of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the world and your place in it. A healthy person develops and sustains a flexible ego. An ego-driven personality functions, but it is often too reliant on reactionary impulses or behaviors or too restrictive to express your true self. An unhealthy ego may become pathological — rigid, inflated, or deflated — and definitely does not serve its owner well.

What Is My Essence?

Your essence is you, stripped of your ego. It's your authentic, fully integrated true self. Moving toward your essence doesn't eliminate your personality or ego, it merely frees you to make choices rather than succumb to fixated behavior. It expands your vision of yourself.

When you regress, you move farther away from your true essence; when you progress, you move closer to your true essence. Your essence is more than the sum of everything in your psyche, of which your core personality is only a part. It's the point at which the restrictions imposed upon your core personality are truly liberated, allowing the other elements of your unencumbered true self to emerge.

In other words, your core personality or Enneatype contains methods of coping or adaptive responses that allow you to function in the world. Your ego boundaries within your core personality determine the degree of compulsion or rote response that define your life. These behaviors are the fixations that shape your core personality. As you integrate, you free yourself from the fixations that have shaped your life and increasingly learn to live from your essence.

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