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Personality and its types

Updated on August 18, 2013

Many different definitions of personality have been given. It can be defined as a particular combination of emotional, attitudinal and behavioral response patterns, which are specific to an individual. An individual personality is influenced by inherent, natural, genetic and environmental factors that contribute to its development. Our personality also colors our values, beliefs and expectations. The hereditary factors that contribute to its development come into play due to interactions with the particular social environment, in which we live.

According to Sigmund Freud, a personality is composed of three elements viz. id, ego and super ego.

  • The id component of the personality is present since birth. This component includes instinctive and primitive behaviors. It is ruled by the pleasure principle. It strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants and needs. If they are not satisfied immediately, it results in a state of stress and anxiety. The id is very important in early life. For example, if the infant is hungry or uncomfortable, it will cry until the demands of the id are met. Nonetheless, in adults immediately satisfying the needs of id is not always realistic or even possible.
  • The ego is the component responsible for dealing with the reality. The ego develops from the id. The ego functions in conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind. The ego operates on reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and appropriate way. The reality principle weighs the pros and cons of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon an impulse. The ego does not block the urge but instead it ensures that id’s needs are met in safe, realistic and appropriate ways. Freud himself compared these two components of personality to that of a horse and rider. The horse represents the id, which is ruled by the pleasure principle and seeks only to fulfill its needs. The horse also provides the energy needed to propel the two forward. The rider represents the ego, which is guided by the reality principle. It harnesses the energy of the id and guides it in the most appropriate direction.
  • The super ego is the component of the personality which upholds all the moral standards and ideals that we acquire from parents and society. It provides the guidelines for making judgments of right or wrong. According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five. The super ego also has two components as below.
  1. The ego ideal includes rules and regulations of good behaviors. Obeying these leads to feeling of pride and value.
  2. The conscience includes information about things, which is considered bad by parents and society. These behaviors are forbidden; they lead to bad consequences and punishments.

Conflicts arise easily amongst the id, ego and super ego. Freud has coined the term ego strength, which is the ability of the ego to effectively deal with the demands of the id, super ego and reality. Those with little ego strength may feel torn between the competing demands; those with too much ego strength can become too unyielding and rigid. Ego strength helps us maintain emotional stability and cope with internal and external stress.

Personality types—

The psychologists have divided the personalities into four types – A, B, C and D but it is rare to find a personality which fits into one type. A personality has some characteristics of other types also.

  • Type A—The individuals with type A personality are very competitive and self-critical. They are characterized by a high work involvement. They are easily wound up and that is why they tend to have high blood pressure. They experience a constant sense of urgency and, therefore, seem to be always struggling against the clock. They quickly become impatient with delays and unproductiveness. Type A individuals can easily be aroused to anger, hostility and aggression, which appear to be the main factor linked to heart disease, to which they are quite prone.
  • Type B—The individuals with type B personality are non-competitive, patient, easy-going and less driven. They don’t have outbursts of anger and hostile episodes. They are able to express their emotions properly. They have a pleasant demeanor and can cope with stress effectively. Although they are not over-ambitious and over-achievers, they are quite successful in life.
  • Type C— Such individuals are unfailingly pleasant and appeasing. They are unable to express their emotions especially anger. They are used to internalizing their anger or displeasure and thus suppress the emotions. They are lethargic and hopeless, even denying their own needs. A characteristic trait of this personality is a sense of hopelessness and despair caused by a loss of hope or a loved one. That is why they feel lonely; their loneliness starts at an early age. The behavior pattern of type C personality places them at risk for cancer, which they usually have.
  • Type D—People with type D personality suffer from a high degree of emotional distress. They consciously suppress their feelings. They don’t share their emotions with others because of fear of rejection or disapproval. The prevalence of type D personality in general population is about 21%. Such people are quite prone to heart diseases and the prevalence of heart disease in them ranges from 18 to 53% of heart patients. They are more susceptible to develop high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, inflammation and depression. In general, they are at greater risk of dying and have a poorer quality of life.

A personality includes attitudes, thoughts, feelings, impulses, actions and responses to opportunities. It also includes responses to stress and everyday modes of interacting with others. A personality style shows when these components of personality are expressed in a characteristic combination, which is repeated frequently.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      4 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your nice comments. I also like the books of J. Krishnamurti.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      4 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Again an interesting article. In my nursing days we had to study the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but I was more drawn to the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. I have read many books by Krishnamurti and am a fan using the Enneagram personality type system to create the characters of my novels.


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