SOMATOTYPE BASED PERSONALITY DESCRIPTIONS
There are plenty of words that describe personality. The problem is finding the right words. After answering questions on a personality test, people have the expectation of more than a report on their scores for the various traits. People want a description of their personality and generally prefer a long and complimentary report. You may have noticed the similarity between horoscopes and personality type descriptions. You might just as well call these reports “persona-scopes”. If this were just a pastime or party game there would be no damage. The problem is that these instruments are used in selecting personnel to hire and promote.
The purpose of this section is to present a limited typology based on just a few words. The words used to describe the purpose and activity of each system ought to be based on the function the system performs for the organism. The objective is to choose a few simple words that come as close as possible to expressing the various functions and at the same time carry very little residue suggesting some other function. This is not easy. Words have a life (etymology) of their own and they have associated meanings to each individual person. So this is an ongoing project. To achieve improved clarity there may be changes in the words that are used. Let’s now examine these words to see if the choices are adequate. First we will go through this process for each of the four essential organismic systems. Next, we will try to build a robust system for describing the interaction of these systems depending on their rank order.
The visceral system is a set of organs that contact the environment and absorb chemicals that can be incorporated into the organism. It is something like a marine sponge. A sponge is an example of an animal that is primarily a gut undulating with the motion of the water. Although compact, a sponge has an enormous surface capable of absorbing nutrients from its environment. Compare this to the intestines. If you were to completely flatten the villi and folds of the intestines you would have an absorbing surface slightly larger than a tennis court. How’s that for an absorbing surface! Aren’t you glad it’s folded up discretely in your abdominal area? Assimilation means to make something part of a whole, that is, to form a UNITY. This is mostly a passive process that should not be confused with the aggressive or muscular activity of biting and chewing that gets the food into the digestive tract. Once the food is masticated and passed into the gullet the process becomes a slow squeezing of the slurry through the digestive tube. Time takes over the process. You can’t force digestion. You have to wait. In fact, too much activity interferes with digestion.
We should now have a pretty good idea of the main activity or function of the visceral system. The gut imposes a patient waiting period on the organism as a whole while absorption takes place. There are several words that could be used to describe the process that results in UNITY. The most obvious is UNITING. Unity is achieved by UNITING. Other possible descriptors could be; passive, slow, calm, bonding, receptive, tolerance, affection, relaxation, harmony, stability, surrender, dependence, order, desire, craving, yearning, gradual, hands-off, indifferent, long-suffering, resigned, submissive and yielding. The list could be much longer. All of these words suggest a somewhat passive type of activity. We might picture an activity level that is only slightly more active than “standing still” which obviously does little to alter or intrude on the environment.
Now let’s consider the function of our muscular system. Muscles move by contracting and relaxing. Their purpose is to move things. Muscles can shove, grasp, hold and position things whether it’s the animal itself or something that an animal grasps in its environment. Muscles like all engines convert energy into motion. Moving an object is the basic definition of work. In physics the definition of work is moving a mass, a certain distance. If you could have a conversation with muscles and ask them what they are doing they would most likely say WORKING. Words associated with the activity of the muscular system; dominance, active, action, fast, aggression, success, results, practical, power, and work.
One celled animals have a membrane that serves as a boundary between what is inside and what is outside. It’s a fence separating the organism from its environment. And like a fence it is built by the party that wants to defend its territory. The boundary is not part of the world outside but is an essential function of the organism. The membrane that surrounds the cytoplasm is formed by the cytoplasm. The membrane defines the organism/self. It protects the cell by keeping noxious chemicals outside and allowing essential chemicals entry into the cytoplasmic soup. Boundaries that are sensitive to harmful objects and chemicals bestow the best chance of survival. Since the nervous system grows out of the ectoderm or outermost layer of the developing organism, it isn’t a stretch to compare the function of the nervous system to the function of a cell membrane. The nervous system’s purpose is to maintain the IDENTITY of the whole organism. By storing previously successful reactions it can decide quickly which actions are safest. The brain and nervous system can chain these reactions into the future by the activity we call PLANNING. Here are some words that describe the activity of the nervous system: thinking, conceptualizing, defensive, selective, flight, status, competitive, pride, rank, directional, precision, cautious, critical, and fearful.
Sensory receptors respond to physical and chemical CHANGE in the organism and the environment. Change introduces something new that the organism has to evaluate. The organism is continuously searching for something that is different and that may have an impact on its plans. Change, information, novelty, alternatives, opportunity, hope, possibilities, options, exploration, and orientation are all related to sensory activities.
INTERPRETING THE TWENTY-FOUR COMBINATIONS
Equipped with these few words we can approach the subject of the description of the various combinations. Since we have verbs and nouns we can combine them to arrive at a simple description. Using various prepositions to conduct the action we have the following possibilities. In each case the dominant system is on the left.
Visceral + Muscular = WORKING IN UNITY. WORKING FOR ACCEPTANCE.
Muscular + Visceral = UNITING WITH ONE’S WORK. EMBRACING OF ONE’S WORK. LOVE OF WORK.
Muscular + Nervous = PLANNING FOR RESULTS.
Nervous + Muscular = WORKING FOR IDENTITY.
COMPETING FOR STATUS.
Nervous + Visceral = SURRENDER TO PERFECTIONISM.
Visceral + Nervous = PLANNING FOR UNITY.
Nervous + Orientational = SEARCHING FOR STATUS.
Orientational + Nervous = CONCEPTUALIZING FOR CHANGE.
Muscular + Orientational = SEARCHING FOR QUICK RESULTS.
Orientational + Muscular = WORKING FOR CHANGE.
Visceral + Orientational = SEARCHING FOR UNITY.
Orientational + Visceral = EMBRACING OF CHANGE.
The remaining twelve combinations center on which system is rejected. There are two possibilities for each of the twelve listed above depending on which system ends up in the fourth position. For example:
Visceral Muscular Nervous ORIENTATIONAL
Visceral Muscular Orientational NERVOUS
Interpretation is simply a matter of adding the word AVOIDS to the word that describes the desired state of the system but with an emphasis on the negative aspect that is intrinsic to the function. Visceral Unity is desirable but it requires surrender of control in the form of compromise. Muscular Work also means having to take responsibility and blame. Nervous System Safety means excluding others, building walls that keep out enemies but lock you inside a prison of your own making. Orientational Openness provides novelty but exposes a person to the unknown and ambiguous.
Rejected Visceral = AVOIDS surrender and compromise usually associated with intimacy.
Rejected Muscular = AVOIDS unnecessary work and exhausting tasks.
Rejected Nervous = AVOIDS competition and struggle for hierarchical position usually defined by society as success.
Rejected Orientational = AVOIDS ambiguity, risk and change.
ENLARGING THE DESCRIPTIONS
It must be admitted that these descriptions are necessarily short. But realize that even though they are brief they describe significant differences between people. Don’t underestimate their power. As stated before, people want an exhaustive guide to their personalities. In effect people want to be handed a biography for a life they have ignored. Nobody can do that for you. These short descriptions are most useful in self examination. They can be used as mantras for those who are practicing mindfulness. If you prefer to write your autobiography using a daily journal format you will find your description will give you invaluable insights and provide an integrative theme to what may seem like random and disparate entries. Finally, it could be a valuable addition to psychological counseling sessions.
In the future, as larger populations of specific somatotypes become available for research there will be an expansion of the personality descriptions. In addition to somatotype there might be a better understanding of the influence of such things as intelligence, masculinity/femininity and other factors. The body systems expressed in the somatotype are so basic that eventually genetic science will discover the switches that control the way the fertilized egg differentiates into a specific body type.
In the meantime there is room for cautiously describing the way various somatotypes deal with life stages. Also, different occupations seem to appeal to specific personalities that are rooted in the four essential organismic systems. Choice of a life partner is another area that always seems to pop up when considering personality differences. There is nothing wrong with attempting to find applications in those areas. But, any statement about a type ought to be explainable as a function of the essential body systems or abandoned. One of the values of the five factor model is the cataloging of personality terms. These words are a rich source of synonyms that can broaden the spectrum of personality description.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?
Are you going to keep up the guessing game? Or are you going to take the time to discover your true “self”.
Are you going to pay thousands of dollars attending various seminars promising to help you recover your identity? Or are you going to find out what your body is waiting to tell you?
Do you want to visit a Gestalt therapist so he can put you in the hot seat and get you to discover the “holes” in your constitution, drag you through your therapeutic impasse and confront your “sick point”? Or are you going to get somatotyped and find out which of your four systems is strongest and which is weakest?
Or maybe you want to analyze your dreams with a Jungian analyst with the aim of discovering your “shadow” thereby furthering your individuation process. Then again you can simply find out your body-type and immediately discover your weakest system which is your shadow function.
If you want to find out your somatotype please go to the section How Can I Discover My Somatotype. That will link you to a website that will teach you how to determine somatotype.
Address: 4104 N. Woodburn St. Shorewood WI 53211