I’ve learnt that 40-60% of our personality is linked to genes. That is, the way we relate to our environment is 40-60% innate.
Character is sometimes seen as synonymous with personality. But it’s also used in a wider context, often carrying with it a moral or ethical dimension. This is the aspect that fiction writers are interested in when creating “characters” in a novel or short story.
Perhaps the term “temperament” is more useful in reference to innate characteristics from a psychological perspective. One’s personality is more liable to change through social interaction and the environment.
I’ve recently started scanning old photos from childhood and early adulthood and downloading them for easier storage and access. And I’ve started to notice that something rather ethereal has remained constant across some photos of myself as a baby, as a young child, and later on as an adult. What I’m talking about here is an innate characteristic that is distinct from physical appearance and features that have changed greatly as I’ve aged. This has led me to think back to what I was like as a small child, and to wonder about what remains of this child today. A lot has been written about the “inner child” in recent decades, and how helpful psychologically it can be to access this part of oneself.
I’ve noticed, too, that it’s easier to recognise this elusive temperament, or personality, when one is serious in photographs. Perhaps this is why passport photos are to be non-smiling. In most of my photos I’m smiling, as well as posing, and this smile seems to conceal temperament or personality behind a sort of bravado that is often misleading.
I was a day-dreaming, tomboyish sort of child, and also a bit like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.
School was anathema to me and I was easily bullied as a young child. I didn’t like school because there were too many rules. I gazed outside the classroom window and fantasised about what was beyond its confines. Even in Infants’ School I hated discipline and feared it at the same time. I liked nothing better than to be out in the fields on our Shetland pony, Midge, and galloping helter-skelter down to the swampy far-reaches on Grandma’s farm. I learnt to ride and catch Midge when I was three years old. When I went to Teachers’ College and lived in a hostel in Armidale, I had to wear orthopaedic shoes for several months because my feet were unaccustomed to being confined in leather for long periods of time.
I was in touch with nature from early on. I remember rolling around in a soft clump of clover and crying out to the skies above: “I’m alive! I’m alive!” I was lonely and shy at times, too, and this, as well as my spiritual connection with nature, connected me to my father and to his temperament, rather than to my mother. Mum and I were polar opposites in many ways. Even when I was little, she seemed to me, superficial in her likes and dislikes. And she had very little idea about the sort of child I was; I became more and more secretive as I grew.
However, I had a very strong connection to my brother Donny, who was two years older than me. I know now, that he was a surrogate parent figure for me. He was warm and brave and loved the outside and riding horses just as I did. As we grew older, our relationship became troubled by social factors, and as a result of his accident from Midge when he was eight years old.
I’d like to hear from you about what you think it is that remains the same. And what is it that is more a result of conditioning and environment. Is a sense of humour innate? Is anger? Stubbornness? Artistic temperament? Spirituality? Sensitivity? Emotionality?