Type and Culture Model

Do you believe people can change? Or do we come into the world and go out the same?

I'm fascinated by how these paradoxes show up in everyday lives. While I love having one-on-one conversations, I also try to extrapolate patterns and apply meaning for larger groups.

For example, when I look at my friends and family, I see many of them how they have always been. They grew up to be who they were meant to be. When I look at myself, I think I have changed a LOT since I was a child, and yet those same friends and family tell me I'm just the same as always.

Who's right?

One way of reconciling the different selves is Linda Berens' model that I've adapted with her permission.

Nature and Nurture Model - Living Systems are integral wholes

Going counter-clockwise, the Contextual Self describes those skills and behaviors that you're using now. You're a person in the 21st Century, familiar with IT, sitting in front of a screen reading this article. If you were praying in church or drinking at a bar, your demeanors and behaviors would likely be different and adapt to those circumstances.

Your Developed Self is the totality of everything you have been and learned so far.

It's helpful if we see ourselves with a "yes, and" attitude. We're never just one or two traits alone, we're always a conglomeration and mixture of things. No need to be "in control" or "organized" or "the caretaker" exclusively all the time - when you're also feeling spontaneous, overwhelmed, or tired at the same time.

Our Core Self describes those personality type preferences and predispositions we come into the world with. In an ideal environment, we get to be who we are and live out our preferences, develop them to the fullest, become all that we were meant to be, realizing our potential.

At the same time, our cultural context also lays down some behavioral norms. Where we grow up matters: the actions and behaviors accepted and morally supported by our surroundings will shape the expression of our type preferences.

It's no wonder the question became "which came first: type or culture?" and more importantly, "which matters more?"

I believe type comes first, AND that culture has an equally important influence in the shaping of our character, our behaviors, our selves. If culture came first, we could probably expect most inhabitants of that culture to have the same type preferences. That is clearly not the case, as all preferences show up in all cultures.

So - when I look at my friends and family, I see my past experiences with them, filtered through my own preferences and what I think is right or weird. When they see me, it's the same deal: they see me through their various lenses.

Type and culture alone don't explain everything about us, but taken together they provide a more complete picture. And I don't know about you, but I think that's fascinating.