Is Your Personality Type Predominantly Spontaneous, Controlling, or Logically Guided?
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
-- Charles Dickens
Let's Uncomplicate Human Behavior
In our everyday dealing with life situations we are generally displaying one of three distinct attitudes. They are seldom seen in their extreme forms like it's presented here for an easier recognizing, but rather with some overlapping between them.
Human nature is way too complex to be squeezed into some molds, even though that's exactly what psychology is trying to achieve. Mentioning psychology, let's make one thing clear -- in my view, it's not really a "science" at all, it's an interpretive and speculative art.
For something to qualify to be called a science, it would have to be repeatable under same circumstances, which is not the case with psychology, where practitioners have to do quite some improvising for the lack or reliability of data coming from someone's behavior.
I like the Latin maxime: "Si duo faciunt idem, non est idem" (If two are doing the same is not the same). Meaning that you and I may be displaying the same type of behavior which would be stemming from a different mental context.
I had to include this little "disclaimer" to prevent a possible impression of my trying to introduce some highly reliable system of interpreting our, and others' acting.
However, such a disclaimer doesn't suggest that we couldn't benefit from some quick, and often accurate typifying of the attitude behind a certain behavior.
Let's face it folks, we are all playing some mini-psychologists in our interactions with others, and someone who never read a single book on human behavior may have a keen eye for "where someone is coming from".
This article is only offering some additional "eyeglasses" for such a lay-analysis.
So, let's get to it, shall we.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
-- Winston Churchill
The Three Attitudes
Those three announced attitudes are dominated by either emotion, or by control, or by logical guidance. To those of you familiar with main tenets of Transactional Analysis, it will be all a familiar material, but you may still like the way I trimmed all unnecessary elaboration from it, while still keeping it usable in daily interactions -- recognizing our own and others' dominant attitude being displayed.
So, what is your own personal type -- is it characterized by a pronounced emotionality, or by a tendency to be normative, controlling, or by a cool, rational, and logical assessment and dealing with situations?
Since we all possess all three attitudes to a different degree, one may overlap with another, while still being the dominant one. Like, your logicalness may be heavily polluted by controlling impulse in matters of politics.
Or your spontaneous playfulness may be too restricted by that same controller in you. Or your dominant emotionality may overwhelm your sense of either logicalness or appropriateness, as you may be saying "Since it feels good, it must be right".
So, let's first see this spontaneity, which is oftentimes mistaken for a relaxed attitude. Namely, much has been written about benefits of being spontaneous, which is described as giving up control, and surrendering to the freedom of self-expression.
Sounds right, doesn't it? It's also associated with relaxation, letting go of any strife -- all in different contexts, some religious, others having to do with stress management, or as a preparation for meditation.
Now, in all that attempt to make spontaneity attractive to us, a mistake is made by seeing it somehow synonymous with relaxation. As we are about to see, these two concepts have nothing to do with each other, and in a sense they may even be viewed as opposite.
Relaxation is a state of mind and body characterized by a freedom of stress, whereas spontaneity is an attitude of immaturity, marked by impulsive, oftentimes irresponsible behavior that causes a lot of friction with others -- so not really a predisposition for relaxation.
Basically my wife was immature. I'd be at home in the bath, and she'd come in and sink my boats.
-- Woody Allen
Spontaneous Doesn't Equal Natural
"Mind is an obedient servant, but a cruel master" -- is a good saying that gives a proper introduction to my arguments against spontaneity. Namely, too often spontaneous has been associated with "sincere", "natural", even "innocent".
However, it merely means an insistence on staying switched to the mind's "automatic pilot" where every demon not exorcised by maturity has a freedom to play its drama on the stage of our life.
When we are spontaneous, we act at a spur of the moment, "spur" being provided by all those emotional programs in our childhood up to the age of seven -- and we are refraining from that most cultivated, and updated in us which gives maturity to our emotions
In other words, spontaneity is in favor of those past stages of our emotional development which are giving a green light for a free expression. I may like the memory of my teenage years, but I won't let that teenager contaminate my relationships with that craziness which was only justified by those hormones that were giving motorics to that behavior.
Every so often you may be unfortunate to run into such a spontaneous person. If not also start a losing relationship with them, as they might give a momentary voltage boost to your own emotionality.
Such personalities are usually prone to swearing, to lively hand gesticulation, loud talk and laughter, and easily shifting moods. On a darkest side, they may resort to arguments or even violence. With only some, or all of these characteristics, they are usually perfect candidates for one or another form of drug abuse and over-consumption of junk foods.
It's their spontaneous instinct to please themselves at all costs including a bad health. You may easily recognize them by their frequent saying ""I like...I don't like...I want...I don't want".
If we had no faults, we would not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.
-- Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Judges With No Robe
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between a marked emotional spontaneity and a rational, calm self-guidance -- but still within the range of undesirable -- are those folks who feel compelled to control.
Whether they are full blown control freaks or just insisting on having an upper hand in all interactions out of an insecurity, they are quite normative types, most likely to tell you what you "should", or "shouldn't" -- "always" or "never", often questioning your personal life choices, tastes, and priorities.
I like calling those "self-appointed judges", for they are bound to remind you of some kind of judges without robes, with all those principles, slogans, strategies, cynicism, critique, always making life look like one big battlefield.
Well, it goes without saying, they are not the kind of guests you would want at your home party. But if it's unavoidable to invite one, make sure to invite another one to keep them company, so that they don't disturb others who came to have fun.
They are likely to reserve a corner for themselves where they can resolve all global issues, stop all wars, injustices, and even elect a new president. With all that "expertise" at law, morality, economy, politics, they don't even need the whole night for it, so they can still throw in all their positions about prices, "the only" right nutrition, conspiracy theories, and alike crap.
Now, of course, any of those themes could be a part of anyone's conversation, but these controllers always lack an objective flexibility -- aside of the main point that they just can't be caught talking about music, tell jokes, talk about good foods, restaurants, holidays, fun...that stuff which gives a spice to life.
Even their faces are telling on them, with that pronounced furrow line, shifting, non-trusting eyes, stiff lips, something lifeless and stern reminding of a passport photo.
Your guidance surrounds you all day long, every day, all the time, never leaving you, not even for one moment.
-- Catherine Carrigan
The Voice of Reason
Our logical reasoning is providing that gentle, cool, and objective guidance, giving us a balance between our playful, happy, exploring, creative inner child, and rules to live by.
Not a self-control by a strong will, because that would have to involve a restrictive attitude and as such result with inner conflict. A guided child is a happy child, whereas a controlled child is forced into an adulthood of a sort where "children are to be seen, but not heard".
Now, doesn't guided mean phony?
That could be the big argument coming from a type of personality who likes calling themselves "spontaneous". Well, in my book, "phony" means hypocritical, someone badmouthing another person, pretending to be friendly while facing them.
Inner guidance is simply effective and healthy. In those days when we may feel "under weather", we may choose to share it with our spouse or a friend. But if they are also under the weather, then we may opt for guiding ourselves into acting funny to cheer them up a bit, instead of "spontaneously" dumping our dark mood on top of theirs. Or, which may be even worse, snapping at them with criticism of a controller: "Now, now, what's wrong with you today?!"
Even if that technically means "hiding our true feelings" the purpose justifies the means. Interaction with others, especially those close to us, involves a tactful and empathetic approach that nurtures that relationship.
Spontaneity, on the other hand, basically means only "relating to ourselves" and catering to one's own emotional whims -- which is much closer to being phony, since it defies our claimed closeness to others.
Going through life guided by our inner sensible intent, above all, gives us a sense of having a power over our reactivity to life. Especially when those close to us have not cultivated much of that ability, being pushed around by their excessive emotionality. To them we can give our non-intrusive support and guidance, similar to the one we are giving to ourselves.
Now, let's back off a little with our generalizing when the word is about spontaneity. When guided and refined by our sense of rationality and logic, it gives that valuable spice without which it would be an existence in emotional vacuum, equal to robotic.
So, beside allowing our inner child to express itself in healthy ways, from time to time we can go a little overboard -- "against our best judgement". It's O.K. to go silly, it's O.K. to overspend on that gorgeous dress, and it's O.K. to have a full bowl of that favorite ice cream topped up with an unforgivably sinful amount of whip cream.
For an example, sex is unthinkable without a total spontaneity, and so is artistic expression, dancing and playfulness.
Temporarily indulging just for the hell of it, we remind ourselves how lonely life would be in a pursuit of a perfection. And yet, the whole point is in this ability to "come back" from that crazy trip, not to stay there left at a mercy of emotions.
At this point it's worth repeating what was said before -- a guided child is a happy child. Not a controlled one, and not one left to an immature impulsiveness called spontaneity -- while that distinction alone makes the whole difference when it comes to cultivating our capacity for happiness.
© 2020 Vladimir Karas