Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Does trauma change our personality?

I've been wondering about this for awhile. Growing up I always enjoyed the personality quizzes in teen magazines. Even now, I still like to read the pop culture articles online and take personality inventories. They're just for fun. I know they're not scientifically based. But still...

When I was 23 and in my first year of teaching, we all did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as part of a professional development session. I was young, new, and enthusiastic. I dove head first into the questions and looked forward to learning my personality type. I was not surprised to learn I was an ESTP.

Fast forward fifteen years and we did the MBTI in graduate school...
Where I scored the exact opposite personality, INFJ. I found this so interesting!! 

I'd always identified as an extrovert (the "E" of ESTP), but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I was just a really, really extroverted introvert (the "I" of INFJ). I am not afraid of speaking in crowds. There have been so many times in my life when I presented in front of hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of people. Plus, I really like hanging out with people, something I've missed greatly over the last decade. (Thanks, infertility! Thanks, pandemic!)

But I need my downtime. People exhaust me. After a long day at work, I like to come home and sew (not go out with friends, assuming I didn't have a friend apocalypse due to infertility or assuming I would have been invited out with co-workers if there hadn't been a pandemic).

Everything I've read says your personality doesn't change. And again, it's not a scientifically-based assessment, but everything I've read about the MBTI says your type doesn't change. 

And yet mine did. Completely.

What do you think?

Does trauma change our personality?

9 comments:

  1. It seems trauma can alter your personality on the outside. I have been reading quite a lot on trauma lately. It won't change the core of how you are. That remains intact inside you. But while unresolved, the trauma can cause you to act differently than you would have otherwise due to coping mechanisms that you adopted at the time. These mechanisms made sense in the situation that caused the trauma. They may not be so useful anymore later on. That's what I have gathered so far. It's hard to explain in a foreign language. And I'm still learning ;-).

    Infertility and the pandemic both have the potential to be traumatic. So I'm not surprised...

    Much love!

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    1. Thank you, Elaine! This makes so much sense!! So maybe my personality hasn't changed, just the expression of it has. This is so interesting to think about.

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  2. Hmmm, interesting! I feel like all of your experiences mold your personality and it is ever-evolving. Based on absolutely no science at all, lol. :) But, I did read an article recently that was all about how the pandemic has made a lot more people identify as introverted, and I believe that. I think that when I think of who I was in my 20s is very different from who I am now (post-bad-marriage, post-divorce, post-infertility). Maybe not the core of me, but definitely my understanding of myself and my expression of myself has evolved. So maybe it's like what Elaine said, it's how you act on things that changes. It's how you express your core being. Fascinating stuff!

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    1. I agree with you. Our cumulative experiences contribute to our personality, and we aren't fixed entities. But also, I do feel like I've been who I am for my whole life--the good, the bad, and the ugly lol. Yet, how I've been able to manage myself and express myself has changed. So interesting to think about!

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  3. I always identified as an extrovert introvert but I found out awhile ago that there's a third type, called an ambivert which is somewhere in the middle!

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    1. Of course!! An ambivert! That makes sense. I think that's what I am. :)

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  4. Oh wow. This post has stayed with me (hence my post today), but I am shocked I never responded to you! First, I've always been sceptical of MBTI, as answers can change depending on how we view the question at the time. I know I certainly could answer two ways for most questions, which would give different results. But secondly, I do think trauma can change our personalities - or at least, our world view, our views of ourselves, our sense of security, etc. And that would affect our results, I would think.

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    1. That's true. It's not like the MBTI is an evidence-based outcome measure used extensively in scientific and scholarly writing.

      I think trauma changes our personalities too. Or, it changes our expression of our personalities at least. Trauma completely changed some core beliefs I had. Surely, those changes would trickle down to my personality...

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  5. Dear Phoenix,
    I just discovered your post thanks to Mali. I made exactly the same experience some years ago: in 2016 (during the infertility crisis), I was ISFJ ("protector"). Some years later, after I had started blogging and accepting my new life, I took the MBTI again and got INFJ ("counselor") as a result, just like you for your second test.
    Back then, I thought that my experience had changed the way I see things and behave in some situations (and thus some of my answers). But I agree with Elaine, I think the core of my personality hasn't changed much (and also, like Mali wrote, that the MBTI might not be very robust).

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