Personality Health

imgresWe often talk about physical, mental, social and even systemic health, but we don’t often think or talk about the health of our personalities. Our personalities are shaped by our self-esteem, our values, our truths, our needs, our struggles, our instincts and our gifts. They impact every part of our lives, relationships and interactions with the world at large and although we give some focus to understanding them through tools like Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram and Strengths-Finder, (perhaps to make us more successful), we give little thought to how healthy we are when it comes to this subject.

 

enneagramdisordersNow, what is particularly interesting to me as a doctor are 2 things related to this. Firstly, our personality type is hugely linked to the kind of mental health problems we might be more likely to develop. I wonder how often clinicians see the presentation of a mental illness and are able to talk with the person in front of them about which aspects of their personality might need therapy in order to help their mental health improve? As the whole area of positive psychology develops, it is vital that there are learning environments in which clinical teams can learn about innovative approaches in psychology that avoid the over prescribing of medication, especially in our younger population.

 

14516526_OPiwmgUE_c_large.jpgThe second area of interest is to do with how we can be more self-aware of how healthy we are or when we have reached a point at which we can no longer really help ourselves but need others who love us or care about to to intervene.  Below is a chart (of sorts) which I learned about during a weekend on the Enneagram. It helps to explain aspects of personality health. I recognise that at times I am functioning more healthily than at other times, due to a combination of internal and external factors. I think there are behaviours we can be aware of, or ways in which we are operating in relationships and situations which should serve as a WAKE UP CALL to us. When we notice more negative patterns, we need to take stock of where we are and work out our lines of responsibility to help us back into a more healthy state. However, if we don’t, things can continue to worsen until we reach a point at which we need others to intervene on our behalf and rescue us from our self-destructive and damaging sickness.

 

We can make a comparison with heart disease. For much of the time, our hearts MIfunction healthily. However, through a mixture of internal and external factors, our hearts can become less healthy. When this occurs, our body will fire some warning shots to us, giving us a chance to change before something more serious occurs. This might be signs and symptoms do do with our weight, nutrition, fitness, level of breathlessness, vague chest pains, markers in our blood tests – like high cholesterol and high sugar, rising blood pressure etc. However, if we ignore the opportunities to change and continue with our unhealthy choices, eventually we will reach the point at which we have a significant event, e.g.the start of angina, a heart attack, a stroke, the development of diabetes. At that point we need the help of someone else – we can no longer do it on our own. Of course, we still have choices and can reject the help on offer, but if we do, we risk our own demise and ultimate death.

 

images.jpgMy point is this. If we do not take the health of our own personalities seriously, there are serious and significant consequences, not only to ourselves but those around us and the world we live in. Many of us reach a point when we need help, but might not even face up to this, due to the poor health we are in. In those times, we need those who love and trust to be brave enough to reach in and offer us a life line. We may have even reached the place where we need resuscitation, when all our pride has gone. When we have ignored the red flag, we need those around us who will risk our total rejection of them to love us enough to offer us a way back to health. We need to take the health of our personalities seriously – it actually has a huge bearing on all the other aspects of our health. We also need

 

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HEALTHY

  • 1. Level of Liberation – Ego transcended – balance/freedom – i.e you become a gift
  • 2. Level of Psychological Capacity – Ego as particular mode of being – choice of how to be
  • 3. Level of Social Gift – Ego operating in constructive way – sublimating ego

 

Wake up Call – need to listen to internal warning bells

 

AVERAGE

  • 4. Level of fixation – Ego role assumed – falling asleep (not self-aware) – losing contact with presence
  • 5. Level of interpersonal conflict – Ego controlling environment to support self – manipulative/defended
  • 6. Level of overcompensation – Ego inflation, demanding others and reality support it – aggressive defence

 

Red Flag – need of help from others

 

UNHEALTHY

  • 7. Level of violation – Ego willing to violate self and others to maintain itself – abusive/desperate
  • 8. Level of Delusion and compulsion – Ego loses touch with reality – out of control – personality disorder
  • 9. Level of pathological destructiveness – Extreme pathology and/or death

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New Year’s Resolution

imagesI’ve been thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution. So, this year, taking my role as lead for health and well-being seriously, my resolution is simple. In 2016 I want to improve my well-being and encourage others to do the same.

 

The New Economics Foundation have done some amazing work on how we can improve our well-being. “NEF is the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Their aim is to imgrestransform the economy so that it works for people and the planet. The UK and most of the world’s economies are increasingly unsustainable, unfair and unstable. It is not even making us any happier – many of the richest countries in the world do not have the highest well-being.” Have a read about their incredible work (www.neweconomics.org).

 

NEF have come up with 5 simple ways to improve well-being and my New Year’s resolution is to use their 5 steps and blog about the effects I experience personally as a result. I hope that this will be replicated in my work as our team engages with communities. So, here are the steps:

 

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1) CONNECT – this year I am going to be more present. I have found that ridding myself of my

imagespersonal twitter account and spending less time on social media has already helped this. I am going to listen with attention and speak with intention. I am going to listen with attention to my wife, my children, my friends, my family and my patients (rather than assuming what they will say) and I am going to behold them, dig for the treasure in them and be grateful for them. I am also more well when I connect with God, who is love. For me, more than anything this means taking time to be still. Being part of a community, rather than moping around in self-isolation (a tendency of mine at times – surprising for an extreme extrovert!) is also key.

2) BE ACTIVE – This year we are launching a really exciting sports initiative in our local schools to imagesencourage our kids to have better health long into the future. I am going to continue running and swimming, but I will increase this to ensure I am being active on a daily basis.

imgres3) TAKE NOTICE – I have a painting on the wall in my consulting room (done by an amazing local artist) that has these words on it: “Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” I am going to feed my soul good things this year by noticing what is around me. I live in a world, surrounded by beauty – from tiny rare orchids to vast mountains, the sea and the night sky. I am going to notice this beauty more.

4) KEEP LEARNING – I already have some things booked in. I’m going on a refresher skiing course,images
before we take to the mountains in February. I am widening my culinary skills with some cooking lessons. I am re-learning how to arrange some pieces for our local choir. I am continuing to work with a life coach and the NHS leadership program. This will be a year in which I learn a lot! I love learning.

5) GIVE – At the beginning of every year, my wife and I review our finances and make sure that we are giving enough money away. We try to ensure that we give at least 15-20% of what we earn to various friends or charities. Money can have such a hold and I find as I earn more, it is easier to get sucked into an unhealthy imgresview of it. Money is just money. I am determined to have a relationship with it that is joyful and giving rather and anxious and hoarding. I love the phrase – “Live Generously”. I want to live in a way that gives of my time, skills, energy and resources without burning out in the process! My life coach has taught me well about boundaries – very empowering, as long as the motivation is to be able to give. It’s amazing how much a sense of giving/contributing to community and the world really improves our sense of well-being. It’s not an easy path. It’s all too easy to get one’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth by how much one gives, so I will try and remain honest about this.

So, if you want 2016 to be a year in which your well-being increases, why not try the 5 ways above? And if you fall over, get back up and keep walking!

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