The idea of ​​personality in systemic and enactive approaches

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 which would be relatively stable over time. Let’s take a look at some basics of these first.

    The foundations of personality theories

    A first assumption of many of these theories is that the personality would be constituted by a central core composed of temperament and character. While the former would have to do with biological and genetic conditions, the latter would have more to do, in simple terms, with learning one’s ways of being throughout one’s life history.

    In line with the above, there is a series of traits (many of which are dichotomous) around which personalities are formed, such as the extraversion-introversion continuum, openness to experience, etc.

    From this point of view, he came to presuppose that there are personalities who could be classified as deranged. In the more widespread psychopathological diagnostic manuals, such as the CIE 10 or the DSM, they are grouped according to certain similarities in some of the characteristics of these disorders. According to these definitions, personalities are often considered to be disturbed by the type of suffering they generate, as well as by the degree of difficulty they may encounter in integrating into society and human relations in general. There are also other views that place more emphasis on the structural aspects of it.

      Its implications in psychotherapy

      Independently of theory, as we can see, an element that transcends most points of view, is positioned from the idea of a relative permanence and invariability of ways of being. Much of the psychotherapeutic work would then consist of relaxing certain aspects of these traits, lowering the levels of suffering according to their adaptation in society, and allowing more harmonious forms of existence.

      All of these perspectives have undoubtedly been a huge contribution in finding relief for many people and have served as the basis for how to approach mental health from the perspective of many professionals and consultants. But they also have certain risks or critical aspects that need to be taken care of. A few will be reviewed below.

      From the point of view of general systems theory, they are constituted from certain fundamental and universal principles, whatever their type. One of its main elements assumes 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 also applies to human groups or systems.

      The first critical element that emerges from this perspective on the idea of ​​personality is that each person’s way of being (or way of being), it is always in reference to its interaction and interdependence with others. From this approach, when one belongs to several systems at the same time and also at different times, it is even impossible to be the same person at all times or to have permanent central elements that define us as such.

        Critique of enactive theory

        From the point of view of the enactive theory of the Chilean author Francisco Varelawe are believed to emerge in constant and inevitable change of interaction, manipulation, co-creation and encounter with the world around us.

        Given 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. As much as we could make certain apparent distinctions about things that seem permanent or transcendent, but even so they could not be defined as equal.

        The impacts of these points of view and others which go in the same direction are radical if they are taken into account in the practice of psychotherapy, firstly because they suppose that any person can change and is inevitably constantly changing. And it is in this change that the relief or the search for meaning of the seekers could occur, more than in a flexibilization or an adaptation of its features to the concepts of normality or adaptation.

        It is important to mention, however, that each of the theoretical approaches mentioned, whether they are the closest to the idea of ​​the existence of personality or the systemic-interactional ones, is positioned from an ontological point of view (concept of human being) and epistemologically (point of view on the relationship we have with reality) different and none is more certain than the other. Probably, the usefulness and success of one or the other in a consultation process depends more on the specific needs of each consultant and the type of relationship or alliance that is established with the therapist than on their real value in itself.

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