I've been reading and watching a series of lectures on mind-body medicine by Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, professor of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. One of his lectures covers personality types and how they affect health. In this lecture, he asked the question, “Can we change our personality type?” I thought it was an interesting question to consider, and I thought I'd share some of what I learned as well as some of my own thoughts on the topic for anyone who might be interested. To recap from the previous part of his lecture on personality, here are the four major personality types (I also wrote a longer post about personality types a couple days ago): Type A people are of a highly independent nature. They are self-driven and know the importance of goal-setting, positive thinking, and motivation. They are very competitive and time-conscious “workaholics.” They are impatient (standing in lines or waiting for someone to do something they need are torture to them), and this makes them prone to hostility and aggressiveness. Those with Type A personalities are prone to suffer from hypertension, stress, heart disease, and social isolation. One of my best friends fit this type and made life difficult for himself and his wife and kids. My publisher boss also is of this type and I have worked hard to comply with his work demands. Type B personalities are essentially the exact opposite of type A. They are hardly stressed, even in seemingly stressful situations. They are extremely relaxed in any situation and people often describe them as being happy-go-lucky. They are usually cheerful and carefree in most situations and people love hanging out with them because they are usually entertaining and fun to be around. People under this type are characterized by their lack of urgency―they are able to get work done in their own pace, without being driven by deadlines. They love to relax and take things as they come. One of my best friends is this type and everyone loves him including me. He’s like having a ray of sunshine around, and in fact I call him “Sunshine.” Type B personalities are less competitive, and while they give a project their all, they are not stressed about it―constantly worrying about the outcome and success. In fact, they are able to handle failures very well―taking them as obstacles and moving on to other projects. Another factor that sets them apart is that they are extremely patient and maintain the same patience in the most tense and stressful conditions. They never give in to pressure and aggression, and they never get frantic about anything. They are also very tolerant, flexible, and adaptable in situations, and they hardly ever complain about things. They lead a full social life, because they like connecting with people and forming strong emotional bonds with them. And being cheerful and entertaining by nature, they make friends easily. Type C personality type people usually comprises introverts interested in details, which separates them from the rest of the types. They could turn heaven and hell upside down or inside-out to find a fact they are interested in, before taking it to pieces in order to restart the process. They do not take things at face value and are interested in finding out exactly how things work. They think very systematically and analytically and make decisions based on research and information backing them up. Owing to this fact, they tend to be natural problem solvers because they focus on details and are able to notice and register things that other personality types may not as easily. Highly sensitive, they are also known for other character traits like being deep and thoughtful. These people tend to shirk from social or human interaction. Arranging facts in a logical order is what drives these people. You can find people of type C personified in accountants, computer programmers, etc. These people find it difficult to get out of their shell and communicate with other people, but are extremely competent when it comes to numbers and logic. A reserved nature is the mark of type C personalities, and they are cautious as well. Risk taking is not a very attractive option for these people who tend not to venture into something until they have gone over all the facts with a fine-toothed comb. Being sticklers of detail and knowledge, and priding in backing every decision with research, they do not do well with criticism. They are also over critical of the people around them. I have another friend with a lot of Type C in him. Type D people really believe in inertia which they have no shortage of. They prefer to stick to the trodden paths and established routines over the uncertainty of change. These are followers of the spent actions and executors of the direct commands. You will find them doing their best not to stretch their neck out when it comes to taking responsibility and risk. With the help of professionals in the field of personality development and through sheer power of self motivation or self-improvement, these people can overcome their handicap to some extent. These people, who make 21 percent of the population, are afflicted by negativity such as worry, irritability, gloom, etc., and hardly feel self-assured. To avoid rejection, they avoid opening up and sharing their negative emotions. This causes them to suffer from enormous amount of stress which makes them prone to heart-related diseases. The studies show that as many as 18 to 53 percent of cardiac patients have type D personality. I have neighbors with Type D personalities and try to avoid them. The opposite of “Sunshine” people, they live under dark clouds and share their gloom with everyone. Dr. Satterfield says, “In reality, an individual is a mixture of personality traits characterizing all the types described above. Won't you agree with me that this makes men more complex, women more mysterious to understand, and the world more colorful? This is why you have to work real hard and over a long period to know a person properly. However, one must keep in mind that these types are just broad classifications to follow in order to know anyone well, and even then, just. He suggests that to learn more about personality types, go to this web site: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/personality-types-a-b-c.html In closing his lecture, Dr. Satterfield asks the question, “Can we change our personality type?” He says, “The quick answer is definitely. Whether you are a type A, B, C, or D you can still change your personality or even change one single trait that is associated with one of those types. But before you can do that you must be aware of the following: Don't let a quiz fool you: Many people read online quiz results and consider them God-sent. Its very common that someone forms a limiting belief about his personality and becomes stuck doing a certain behavior just because a quiz result gave him false information about himself. In short, human personalities are too complex to be assessed by an online quiz. We don't inherit personality: We don't inherit our personalities, nor are we are stuck because of our genes. A type A personality can have three children who are Type B, Type, C and type D. So stop fooling yourself by believing that you can't change to the better as a result of your genes Treat the underlying causes: For example, Type D’s by nature fear to talk about their emotions and to approach people as a result of their fear of rejection. In order for a type D to change his personality he first needs to build self-esteem so that he stops fearing rejection, and once he deals with that root, cause his problem will disappear on its own. My own experience in personality is dealing with my boss, a book publisher I have talked about earlier in this essay who is a perfectionist’s perfectionist and also a compulsive exaggerator which I see as him being a liar. I understand these traits he has and although for a long time they bothered me and gave me headaches and pain, I’ve been able to cope with them since I now understand him better. He drives other people as he drives himself to be super-productive and super perfect. And I accept that he is a compulsive liar. I just don’t let it bother me anymore. This is called not changing but adjusting to our or others’ personality. In terms of the major personality types, job performance is predicted by high conscientiousness and low neuroticism. Interpersonal conflicts are predicated by low openness to experience and high neuroticism. Low agreeableness and low conscientiousness are correlated with juvenile delinquency. Conscientiousness predicts better medical adherence, so it is related to improved health. Alternatively, neuroticism is linked with depression and other psychiatric disorders, which may in turn contribute to cardiovascular and other diseases. Furthermore, low agreeableness is related to anger and hostility, which are linked to cardiovascular diseases. Personality traits are difficult to change, but if we can’t change ours that cause us or others problems, maybe we can learn some compensatory strategies. Does a trait or tendency change, or is it just how we interpret or experience it internally? It might actually be a little of both, says Dr. Satterfield. “We know that we have neiroplasticity until death, so we can do all sorts of different rewiring. We don’t know exactly where personality sits or if there’s a critical window when we might be able to change it, and if that window has passed or not.” I am not sure whether we can actually change our personality, but we can try to modify it, so our traits do not cause us mental or physical pain. The same is true, I believe, of how other people’s personality traits affect us. We can either let their bad traits give us emotional or physical pain, or we can adjust how we receive their personality. My boss, a book publisher, used to cause me great distress because of his perfectionist personality. I decided how I reacted to his extremism had to change. It wasn’t easy, and still isn’t, but I learned to not let it take such a toll on me. Neighbors who are both strong pessimists rained on my parade every time I met with them, so I did two things to change how their personalities affected me. One, I saw less of them, and two, when I did see them I let their pessimism go in one of my ears and out the other. An article in Psychology Today says we’ve all wished we could be someone else, whether it’s just polishing a few dull spots in our personality or fully rewriting the story of our lives, Jay Gatsby-style. If you're a procrastinator, you may have wished you could be more productive; if you're gloomy, you may have hoped you could be more optimistic; if you're shy, you may have longed to be the life of the party. Changing your core personality traits (e.g., introversion) is difficult. But what you can change is your behavior. It's never too late to do what you want to do, and with a little sweat and a little luck, you can break out of old patterns and be just who you want to be. A recent study of personality, reported in Psychology Today by Elizabeth Bernstein and Christopher Soto, Colby College psychology professor in Waterville, Maine, says many people become more agreeable, dependable, and emotionally stable and also more introverted naturally, as they age. From the ages of 20 to 65, people reported increases in positive personality traits such as conscientiousness, and decreases in negative traits, such as neuroticism. As personalities improve, psychologists call it “The Maturity Principle.” When researchers talk about “personality,” they mean a “characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that is consistent over time and across situations,” says Soto. He says personality is about 50 percent innate and 50 percent learned. Even small changes in a person’s personality can produce important effects on relationships, career, health, and happiness, says Soto. He adds that because personality characteristics are, by definition, relatively stable, change takes time. “You start by changing your behavior and then, if you can maintain that new behavior over time, it gets encoded in our mind,” says Dr. Soto. He suggests working with a therapist and you can see lasting changes in a matter of months, but you can learn to manage your personality traits on your own, too. It just takes longer. Richard Levak, a Del Mar, California psychologist, says, that to start to change our personality, “First we have to recognize which pieces of our personality affect us. If I am a grouchy, argumentative, slightly suspicious type, and I am always getting fired because I get into arguments with co-workers and always blame others, then I have to realize that I have to change something.” I notice that example when I watch the old television cop show, “Adam-12.” One of the squad car officers, Kent McCord, is always heckled by a fellow officer, Gary Crosby, real-life son of Bing Crosby. Gary plays an obnoxious cop always belittling and harassing easy-going McCord. Gary must have TMS, maybe from inferior feelings. Dr. Kevak suggests thinking about a bad habit such as overeating. To lose weight, you become aware of when and why you overeat. “If you have a tendency to be defensive and want to fight, you tell yourself, “Okay, when my boss comes to talk to me and I immediately feel I am being judged and want to protect myself, I am over-reacting.” The solution to modifying that personality trait? “Calm yourself down and don’t argue.” Dr. Soto says “Don’t set expectations too high in modifying the personality. It takes a long time for an intentional behavior to become second nature. Don’t worry too much about other people’s reactions because usually you are changing in a way that pleases them.” Warren Kennaugh, a behavioral strategist in Sydney, Australia, who helps individuals and teams develop successful behaviors, says it's important to start small. Identify a first step and then practice it, without worrying about the initial results. "It's like learning to kick a football," he says. "You focus on the steps, not whether it goes in the goal." He says you should let the people close to you know what you're doing. "Not only can they be supportive," he says, "but a change for you can also mean a change for them -- one they may not want or be ready for, if they aren't told prior." Many personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions of personality, often referred to as the "Big 5" personality traits. They are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and neuroticism (not to be confused with eroticism (ha-ha)). Neuroticism is characterized by anxiety, moodiness, worry, envy, and jealousy. Those with high degrees of neuroticism are more likely to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, envy, guilt, and a depressed mood. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as being hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification. Neuroticism is a risk factor for mental disorders such as phobia, depression, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders, all of which are traditionally called neuroses. Extraversion is a personality trait that includes characteristics such as excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. Agreeableness includes includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other pro-social behaviors. Conscientiousness includes high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high in conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details. Openness: characteristics include imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension. Researchers have also found that the big five traits are also remarkably universal. One study that looked at people from more than 50 different cultures found that the five dimensions could be accurately used to describe personality. Based on this research, many psychologists now believe that the five personality dimensions are not only universal; they also have biological origins. Psychologist David Buss has proposed an evolutionary explanation for these five core personality traits, suggesting that they represent the most important qualities that shape our social landscape. In trying to change or modify the personality, researchers suggest remembering that behavior involves an interaction between a person's underlying personality and situational variables. The situation that a person finds himself or herself in plays a major role in how the person reacts. However, in most cases, people offer responses that are consistent with their underlying personality traits. These dimensions represent broad areas of personality. Research has demonstrated that these groupings of characteristics tend to occur together in many people. For example, individuals who are sociable tend to be talkative. However, these traits do not always occur together. Personality is a complex and varied part of everyone and each person may display behaviors across several of these dimensions. Identifying our personality type and learning how to live with or change or modify it, is complex and the subject of many books. This essay is intended to get you thinking about your personality type and that of those in your life, such as your mate, siblings, parents, boss, co-workers, neighbors, friends. It would be great if you could post here about your personality type and how it either works for or against you with TMS. Also, it would be of great interest to know how you changed or modified your personality type to make life happier and healthier for you and maybe for others.