I just finished reading The Emotional Life of Your Brain, and although I started losing interest towards the end, it presents an interesting view of personality that is worth sharing.
Based on brain research, Davidson identifies 6 dimensions of personality:
1) Resilience (fast or slow to recover from adversity)
2) Outlook (negative or positive)
3) Social Intuition (puzzled or intuitive; A.K.A. emotional intelligence)
4) Self-Awareness (opaque or aware)
5) Sensitivity to Context (tuned out or tuned in)
6) Attention (unfocused or focused)
If you are interested in where you fall on each of these dimensions, click on the link above and you will find a short survey. Here were my results, which probably won't surprise anyone who reads my blog:
1) Resilience: fast to recover
2) Outlook: positive
3) Social Intuition: very intuitive
4) Self-Awareness: very self-aware
5) Sensitivity to Context: very tuned in
6) Attention: focused
As with most personality dimensions, the goal is to move your set point closer to the middle. In practice, however, one end of the spectrum is usually more desirable than the other. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each extreme:
1) Resilience: Being too fast to recover may make you less compassionate and seem unfeeling and insensitive to others. Being slow to recover makes it difficult for you to function and you may focus more on your pain than on other people. But usually people try to learn how to be more resilient.
2) Outlook: A negative outlook puts you at risk for depression and annoys other people. An overly positive outlook makes it difficult for you to learn from your mistakes and postpone immediate gratification. But usually the goal is to develop a more positive outlook.
3) Intuition: Being too intuitive may make it difficult to function because you're constantly picking up other people's negativity. (Hmmm. That sounds familiar). People who are at the puzzled end may have problems in all aspects of their lives in which they have to interact with other people--which is essentially all aspects of life.
4) Self-Awareness: Being opaque makes you prone to missing signs of illness and make you unable to take care of yourself. Being too self-aware can make you a hypochondriac. But in general, it's better to be self-aware.
5) Sensitivity to Context: Being tuned out might make you feel and act in ways that aren't appropriate to the situation (e.g., anxiety disorders). Being too tuned in can make you prone to losing touch with your true self because you are constantly changing your behavior to fit the social situation. But usually people try to be more tuned in.
6) Attention: Being too focused annoys people because you don't pay attention to them when you're doing something. And you tend to "not see the forest for the trees." Being unfocused puts you at risk for ADHD. But usually people want to learn how to be more focused.
Guess what the best way is to move toward the resilient, positive, intuitive, self-aware, tuned in, attentive end? Meditation! My favorite meditation guru is Jack Korfield, and on his webpage he goes through the 5 basic meditations:
1) Meditation on Compassion
2) Walking Meditation
3) Forgiveness Meditation (which I really need to practice)
4) Sitting Meditation
5) Lovingkindness Meditation
Jon Kabat-Zinn also teaches meditation for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), but you have to pay for his stuff. You could also seek out a therapist who specializes in MBSR.
So there you have it--your cheat sheet for "The Emotional Life of Your Brain." It took several months for me to get through the book, so feel free to make a donation to the Federer Fund if you found this helpful. Tickets to Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 events are also acceptable.
This doodle sort of looks like a brain. And it has 6 different colors--one for each personality dimension.