Personality/Temperament, Situation and Mind

SPIEGEL: On the board, Mischel drew three circles. The first represented personality – your traits, your temperament. Then he drew a second circle.

MISCHEL: Here are the situations, OK?

SPIEGEL: But in between the two, Mischel drew a third circle. This, he said, poking the board, is your mind – that wonderful, curious thing that houses all kinds of invisible stuff.

MISCHEL: Like your expectations, your stable expectations about what happens if you do certain things. It has entered your way of construing or seeing or framing or depicting different situations. So when I’m in a large group, do I feel terrified because it’s a scary situation? Or when I’m in a large group, do I see it as a challenge because here’s an opportunity to really reach a lot of people?

SPIEGEL: All this stuff in your mind – these beliefs, assumptions, expectations that you’ve gotten from your friends, your family, your culture – those things, Mischel explained, are the filter through which you see the world. Your mind stands between who you are, your personality and whatever situation you’re in and profoundly influences how your brain interprets the world around it. Those beliefs, expectations, assumptions – they direct what your mind pays attention to quite literally – even what it physically sees in a situation and how it feels about what it sees.

And so when the stuff inside the mind changes, people change. They begin to interpret their situations differently or themselves differently, and so situations act on them differently.

MISCHEL: People can use their wonderful brains to think differently about situations, to reframe them, to reconstrue them, to even reconstrue themselves.

SPIEGEL: This is why Mischel sees people as fundamentally flexible. He tells me that is the single most important thing that he has stood for in his whole professional life.

MISCHEL: What my life has been about is in showing the potential for human beings to not be the victims of their biographies – not their biological biographies, not their social biographies – and to show, in great detail, the many ways in which people can change what they become and how they think.

The Personality Myth, Invisibilia

You Row, God Steers

I ask simply that throughout the day God place in me the best understanding of His will that I can have for that day, and that I be given the grace by which I may carry it out. As the day goes on, I can pause when facing situations that must be met and decisions that must be made, and renew the simple request: “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

I must always keep in mind that in every situation I am responsible for the effort and God is responsible for the outcome. I can “Let Go and Let God” by humbly repeating: “Thy will, not mine, be done.” Patience and persistence in seeking His will for me will free me from the pain of selfish expectations.

daily reflection

William James on Expectation

The permanent presence of the sense of futurity in the mind has been strangely ignored by most writers, but the fact is that our consciousness at a given moment is never free from the ingredient of expectancy. Every one knows how when a painful thing has to be undergone in the near future, the vague feeling that it is impending penetrates all our thought with uneasiness and subtly vitiates our mood even when it does not control our attention; it keeps us from being at rest, at home in the given present. The same is true when a great happiness awaits us. But when the future is neutral and perfectly certain, ‘we do not mind it,’ as we say, but give an undisturbed attention to the actual. Let now this haunting sense of futurity be thrown off its bearings or left without an object, and immediately uneasiness takes possession of the mind. But in every novel or unclassified experience this is just what occurs; we do not know what will come next ; and novelty per se becomes a mental irritant, while custom per se is a mental sedative, merely because the one baffles while the other settles our expectations.

Every reader must feel the truth of this. What is meant by coming ‘to feel at home’ in a new place, or with new people? It is simply that, at first, when we take up our quarters in a new room, we do not know what draughts may blow in upon our back, what doors may open, what forms may enter, what interesting objects may be found in cupboards and corners. When after a few days we have learned the range of all these possibilities, the feeling of strangeness disappears. And so it does with people, when we have got past the point of expecting any essentially new manifestations from their character.

THE SENTIMENT OF RATIONALITY, William James
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