The idea of personality in systemic and enactive approaches
Aug 12, 2022
Personality theories have strongly permeated the knowledge of psychology, psychiatry and mental health throughout history.
Among other elements, from these points of view It is assumed that people articulate their way of being around a series of traits that constitute it., and that they would be relatively stable over time. Let's see in principle some basic elements of them.
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The Foundations of Personality Theories
A first assumption of many of these theories is that personality would be constituted by a central nucleus composed of temperament and character. While the first would have to do with the biological conditions and genetics, the second would have more to do, in simple terms, with the learning of the ways of being of each person throughout their life history.
In line with the above, there are a series of features (many of them dichotomous) around which personalities are constituted, such as the extroversion-introversion continuum, openness to experience, etc.
From this point of view, It has been assumed that there are personalities that could be categorized as disturbed. In the most widespread psychopathological diagnostic manuals, such as the ICD 10 or the DSM, they were grouped according to certain similarities in some of the characteristics of said disorders. According to these definitions, personalities are often considered disturbed by the type of suffering they experience. generated, as well as by the degree of difficulty that they can have in the insertion in the society and the human relations in general. There are also other points of view with more focus on the structural aspects of it.
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Its implications in psychotherapy
Independent of the theory, as can be seen, an element that transcends most points of view, is positioned from the idea of a relative permanence and invariability in the ways of being. Psychotherapeutic work would then largely be about making certain aspects of these traits, lower the levels of suffering in terms of their adaptation in society and allow ways of existing more harmonics
All these points of view have undoubtedly been a contribution of enormous proportions in the search for relief for many people and have been a basis for how to approach mental health from the point of view of many professionals and consultants. But they also have certain risks or critical aspects that need to be taken care of. Some will be reviewed below.
From the point of view of the general theory of systems, they are constituted based on certain basic and universal principles, regardless of their type. One of its main elements presupposes that they are synergistic, that is, its whole is different from the sum of its parts. This synergy emerges in the interaction of its components or subsystems, which are interdependent and differentiated from each other. This applies to human groups or systems as well.
The first critical element that emerges from this perspective to the idea of personality is that the way of being (or the way of being) of each person, is always in reference to their interaction and interdependence with others. From this approach, being belonging to several systems at the same time and also at different times, it is impossible not even being the same person at all times or having permanent central elements that define us as such.
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Critique from the Enactive Theory
From the point of view of the Enactive Theory of the Chilean author Francisco Varela, it is thought that we are emerging in a constant and inevitable change in the interaction, manipulation, co-creation and encounter with the world around us.
Considering this innovative perspective, it is assumed that it is impossible to find elements of permanence that transcend time and the different historical moments and spaces in which we develop as human beings humans. At best, we could make some apparent distinctions about things that seem permanent or transcendent to us, but even then they could not be defined as equal.
The impacts of these points of view and others that follow the same line are radical if they are considered in the exercise of psychotherapy, first of all, because they assume that everyone can change and is inevitably changing permanent. And it is in that change where the relief or search for meaning of the consultants could occur, more than in a flexibility or adaptation of its features to concepts of normality or adaptation.
It is important to mention in any case that each of the theoretical approaches mentioned, are the closest to the idea of the existence of the personality or the systemic-interactional ones, is positioned from different ontological (concept of being human) and epistemological (point of view on the relationship we have with reality) points of view and none is more true than other. Probably, the usefulness and success of one or the other in a consultation process has more to do with the needs characteristics of each consultant and the type of relationship or alliance that is established with the therapist than with its truth value in itself.