Personality Change Due to Environment

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Personality and Masks


Personality and Masks

Use in a Changing Environment

Justin Ribeiro

Seattle University

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for PSYC120

Dr. Erica Lilleleht

November 4, 2002

Personality and Masks
Screams. Widening eyes. Stares. Locked doors. Then suddenly silence. Dreary silence that causes a bit of panic in you. Your eyes dart left and right, looking at the people that were at one point screaming, but only stare in silence now. Some are looking at other people. Some are looking at you. Their stares are deafening; you only want to leave this place. You’re paralyzed with fear. Then you leave this locked place, a solitude of what looks like insanity. Your disposition changes, your fear is relieved, and suddenly you’re into another section of the building. You have just left the Sheltered Freedom unit, a place for aging people with dementia, at Bessie Burton Sullivan Skilled Nursing Residence. It’s unlike most nursing home environments; the doors are locked, people are wandering around talking to no one, and the residents at times burst into agitated screams. Yet one floor higher, you have what looks to be your normal nursing home. People in wheel chairs, some hard of hearing, others talking or watching television with their roommate. Each person, with a different personality, may be that way because of the surrounding environment they live in. Would one burst into agitated screams if placed into a room of seemly non-dementia residents? But the grander question is, is the personality of nurses and visitors greatly affected by the people and the environment they spend time around? Or is it simply a mask, used only in the situation of the nursing home? The environment causes one to use a mask that would otherwise go unused in outside social situations; it is not a change in personality, but a change in disposition that lasts not only for the time being spent in the given environment, but also makes itself available for use in other environments that may be like that of the original environment.

To say that our personality, our “self”, changes depending on our environment could in fact be true. Gergen points out that “the centered self begins to collapse under the demands of multiple audiences” (Gergen, 337). With the advent of just another audience (that being the nursing home residents and staff), it could be said that it is contributing to the loss of self, and the creation of a decentered persona. But by making that statement, I am implying that any new group or person that is encountered would be leading to the destruction of the self. That is quite a statement to make, without further exploring what is meant by “self.” Gergen points out that “modernist views of the self dominate the profession of psychology”

Personality and Masks
(Gergen, 336). The argument goes that we are nothing more then input/output machines. Of course, you have the Galen Strawson definition: “specifically, a mental presence; a mental someone; a single mental thing that is a conscious subject of experience, that has a certain character or personality, and that is in some sense distinct from all its particular experiences, thoughts, and so on, and indeed from all other things” (Strawson, 1997). Either of these definitions of the self, still lead me to believe that the self is being deconstructed by the environment it is in. Masks are being created or acquired, and the centered self that one might have once thought existed, may cease to exist, or become buried among the many masks and images that are now projected to the audiences encountered. But even with a modernists view and a philosophical materialists’ view of the self, it does not and can not give us a clear answer as to whether the self is being deconstructed or not. It only leads us to two contrasting views of what self may in fact be at a...
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