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Person and Personality: Understanding Personality and Individual Differences

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In our previous article on Personality, we introduced a major concept in counselling psychology and in life, personality growth and development. We also highlighted several personalities and stated that though different people have their uniqueness, we aim at personality growth and development. Personality is a word that is used on a day-to-day basis since people will always want to say something about themselves and others. Admittedly, an individual has a personality. Thus, personality is the sum total of all our characteristics. The personality features or traits may be explicit; that is, stated clearly in detail, or implicit; that is, implied or contained in our nature, thought process or culture. In all, the content (traits) and context (situation) enable us to understand something about an individual.

In our previous article, we introduced a major concept in counselling psychology and in life, personality growth and development. We also highlighted several personalities and stated that though different people have their uniqueness, we aim at personality growth and development. Personality is a word that is used on a day-to-day basis since people will always want to say something about themselves and others. Admittedly, an individual has a personality. Thus, personality is the sum total of all our characteristics. The personality features or traits may be explicit; that is, stated clearly in detail, or implicit; that is, implied or contained in our nature, thought process or culture. In all, the content (traits) and context (situation) enable us to understand something about an individual.

Personality is therefore, a pattern of unique characteristics in a person. This includes their thoughts (cognition), feelings (emotions) and actions (behaviour). In that case, there are different aspects of personality, hence individual differences.

Individual Differences and Health and Wellness

A major conceptualisation in psychology is health, illness and wellness, and the causes and effects of diseases. This is directly linked to counselling psychology and activities of daily living (ADL), a major preoccupation in The Counselling Magazine. There is a relationship between personality and health, as well as direct links between our health and who we are as individuals. Similarly, there is an established relationship between our health and the behaviours that we carry out as a result of the persons that we are. Overall, our personality relates to how we react even to an illness, including aspects such as stress and anxiety.

Health refers to our overall well-being. This includes our physical (physiological), psychological (emotional), mental, social and spiritual well-being. Health can be seen as a scale of being very healthy on one end and being very ill on the other. In that case, a person can fix self on this scale in two ways; based on certain scales (results of a test); or how one perceives those around him or her and how they perceive themselves. For example, a person may be distressed, while another is stressed, anxious or depressed. Even when it comes to illness, a person may consider himself or herself to be much better (healthier) than another with the same illness or in a similar condition.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not the absence of disease or infirmity is highly significant in personality studies. This is because it goes beyond physiological (physical symptoms) to also include other aspects of our overall well-being such as mental, spiritual and social well-being.

Subsequently, personality embraces our health and takes several factors into consideration. It is therefore important to understand the relationship between physical, mental and social well-being.

Dimensions of Health/Wellness

The relationship between personality and illness is significant because psychological factors may affect a physical condition. This is illustrated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) that has been reviewed at the end in this edition.

A mental disorder is defined as a health condition that is characterised by significant dysfunction in an individual’s cognitions, emotions, or behaviours. This in turn reflects a disturbance in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. In that case, some disorders may not be diagnosed until they have caused significant or considerable distress or impairment in performance. This is connected to personality since our health is part of our thoughts, feelings and actions. However, a mental disorder is not merely an expected or culturally sanctioned response to a specific event. In the same way, it is now possible to explore personality in diverse cultures since mental health is not just about deviant or unacceptable behaviour, nor is it necessarily a conflict between individual and community. In this way, personality has been developed to include clinical aspects such as personality and mental disorders, individual and public health. These aspects are further incorporated in research.

The relationship between personality and illness goes further in that there are several potential psychological outcomes from having an illness, which implies that psychological disturbance is not equivalent to a need for treatment. Furthering the relationship between personality and illness beyond daily aspects such as loss and grief to aspects such as coronary heart disease, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders provides a summary of several psychological factors, which may affect a physical condition. This, in turn, emphasises the need for us to wrap up our lives engulfed in the five dimensions as follows:Spiritual, Social, Emotional-mental, Intellectual, Physical.

This integrated health and wellness dimension become a greater part of personality growth and development with its emphasis on an optimal health development model.

Optimal Health Model

The optimal health development model encompasses positive psychology in that the individual regulates their life in order to improve on it. Aspects incorporated in positive living and a constructive attitude to life such as optimism, resilience, self-medicalisation, dealing with stress and life challenges become part of healthy living and thus personality development. This is because one of the major ways in which someone reacts to illness is increased stress reaction that in turn affects their physiology. Stress and depression will be included in our subsequent editions.

This article demonstrates the development of personality, including individual differences to incorporate our everyday lives, including improved healthy living that takes in support services, prayer and meditation and of course, self-care. One of the major areas of personality study is intelligence, which will be featured in subsequent editions. Overall, there are identified biological and scientific reasons for illness, such as cell formation and certain deficiencies that also affect our personality. Personality also examines social reasons why some people appear uncomfortable as defined by society. Therefore, analysis and an in-depth exploration of our personality development are essential. This is a major overriding theme of The Counsel-ling Magazine.

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