I’m an ENFP, 9w1, Relationship Domain, Scorpio, Moana, Neurotic
Of the many books I have read or encountered on the topic of personality or typology, Daniel Nettle’s book “Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are” is certainly one of them. Throughout his introduction, I realized the concept of the “big five” was familiar. I encountered it for the first time only a few days ago in a documentary series on Netflix called “Explained: The Mind”. This sub-series looks at all the ways the human mind, brain, and psyche work. One episode centered on personality, particularly the five factor personality traits of extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness, which spell out the acronym OCEAN. These five traits developed over time as sub-traits, and were grouped together again and again into larger clusters. In the end the personality theory suggests that all human beings exhibit these five traits to greater and lesser degrees within a spectrum. Nettle writes, “This book is about the psychology of personality. I aim to vindicate the idea that people have enduring personality dispositions which partly predict what they will do, and which stem from the way their nervous systems are wired up.” (8)
The five-factor model of personality, or the big five. It is widely accepted within psychology to be the most comprehensive, reliable and useful framework for examining human personality across culture and time. The five-factor framework arguably encapsulates all other frameworks. Proponents argue not that the OCEAN framework is superior, but that it encapsulates other frameworks, and even seems to span across cultural and historical divides. The central personality notion is the trait. The five-factor framework charts such traits on a continuum, rather than grouping personalities into types. This allows for a certain fluidity within personality theory, rather than a strict typology. Nettle writes, “[…] everyone has all five factors of personality, just as everyone has a height and weight. Where we differ is the magnitude of the height and the weight, of the score along each of the five dimensions.” (20)
Ultimately, I feel Nettle’s book offers images and metaphors to more palatably grasp the intricacies of personality psychology. However, I’m not convinced that the five factor framework is the ultimate framework for charting human personality, certainly across culture and time. I do think it is a very helpful way to understand rationality, behavior, and decision making. It also gives insight into the inward motivations for rational thought among individuals coming from differing points on each trait spectrum. The five factor framework seems incredibly rooted in Western rationalism, though I cannot quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it is the slightly higher focus on behavior, rather than motivation compared to how we approach the Enneagram typology.
Another significant contribution from Nettle comes in his evolutionary biological approach to personality psychology. He writes, “Throughout this book, I have argued that natural selection maintains a range of different genetic variants relevant to personality traits in the human population, and that it does this because there is no ‘best-for-all-places-and-times’ level of these traits” (210). I feel this explains much of the ebb and flow of higher concentrations of a trait from generation to generation. Typically, if generation A swings high in one trait, for example conscientiousness, their children, generation B, may swing higher in openness. Of course, there are many environmental factors at play, but the OCEAN model allows for a more social-psychological approach into personality theory.
Finally, I come back to Jung’s theory of dreams. For Jungians, dreams hold a compensatory function for the human psyche. So, if an individual is highly neurotic in their waking life, their dreams can be a portal for their unconscious opposite to be brought into consciousness. Likewise, an individual who exists as extremely agreeable in their waking life and relationships, may find themselves displaying fits of rage, stubbornness, and violence in their dreams. Of course Jung coined the terms introvert and extrovert, and wrote extensively on neuroticism, so I feel there is much to explore between the five factor framework of personality and Jungian psychology.
8 responses to “I’m an ENFP, 9w1, Relationship Domain, Scorpio, Moana, Neurotic”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Michael much thanks for your analysis of Nettle and how you link that with the Netflix documentary you watched. In your review you note that you’re “not convinced that the five factor framework is the ultimate framework for charting human personality, certainly across culture and time.” Which framework would you consider the most comprehensive for understanding human personality?
Michael, great post and very interesting. Is there a framework that better captures “personalities” across various cultures, or do you think such an assessment or framework even exists?
We need to chat about Jung in South Africa. While I did study Pyschology, I gravitated more toward my social work studies, so my well of understanding Jungian theory is not very deep, though your passion for it has intrigued me! Nightcaps and Jung in SA!
Hey Michael…thank you for your thought-provoking post. I especially appreciate you questioning the way in which the five factor theory may or may not connect with other cultures or across history. Western rationalism has impacted so much of our way of being in the world as Westerners and Protestants…that is for sure. I can still remember my Lebanese ecclesiology professor laughing at me as I asked a very protestant question of a Maronite hermit monk. She kindly shared with me that my question had no place to gain traction in his spiritual experience. A good eye-opener to the differences we face and the challenges this presents to communication, understanding of one another, and certainly to how our personality wirings develop. But, how much of the gap between me and this Maronite hermit monk is due to biology/neurology? And how much is due to nurture/environoment?
So, my question back to you–as you look at the five-factor model, it seems to me that Nettle bases most of his analysis on evolutionary biology and neuroscience and is pretty honest about the mysteries yet remaining on the nurture/environmental side of things. How do you see this tension at work in the question you’ve raised about its applicability across cultures or history?
And, related to this, to what degree did Jung factor-in biology/neurology to his typologies (and his understanding of shadow work) and to what degree is his work based on trying to understand nurture/environmental impacts on these factors?
I’m still learning more about the Enneagram, so my question here is to what degree is motivation influenced by biology/neurology? And to what degree is it influenced by nurture/environment?
I’d value your insights on these questions.
Michael: You are all those things and so much more! I like the connections Nettle made with the evolutionary biological parts of this subject. This book, along with, “The Molecule and More” by Lieberman both bring into the discussion that adds real insight into our behavior. In my mind these types of research only adds to God’s creativity and brilliance, never opposing my faith. I hope this book adds to your storehouse of knowledge as your continue your studies in psychology.
Too bad we can’t put emojis in our comments. I found myself searching for hands raised in praise GIF.
I love the generational divide connection. The previous generation fails to realize that their approach to life, work, education, and societal issues directly and genetically influence the generation that comes after them.
And yet, we wonder why congregations face an uphill climb on generational issues. Personality and the influences that shape our behaviors go deeper than beliefs.
Michael thank you for your reflection on our reading.
How might you compare and contrast Miller and Nettles on their subject of beliefs/behaviors/intentions? Do these comparisons/contrasts provide fodder for developing a theology of leadership for you?
Michael, I appreciate your concern to understand motivation as well as behavior as it pertains to personality. Piggy-backing on Henry’s question, is there something you have found helpful to discern motivation that results in behavior?
Michael, you do such a great job weaving in Jung and his theories. I almost remember my earlier psych studies 😉 I am curious if you have any insight into linking OCEAN with Alan Hirsch’s APEST?