Behaviour and Personality.

we need to discuss the difference between behaviour and personality.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

Normally, I devote the majority of my time focused on helping others with mental illness. In fact, that’s the driving force behind The Road To Mental Wellness. It’s not that I don’t care about fixing the stigma that’s out there, I just want to help the sick feel better. That being said, we need to discuss the difference between behaviour and personality.

Although I choose to devote more of my time helping others get through mental health moments, there are a few things I wish people understood. Sometimes, seeing things from a different perspective is all one needs to break down barriers. I truly believe that most well minded individuals want to help ease the pain.

But how? It can be tough to try and empathize with someone whose experience differs from your own. This can create a void and ultimately, a miscommunication.

When I came to understand that the behaviours I was seeing was a result of their mental illnesses and thus an unfair representation of who they really were, I excelled in my job.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. I want to help those who are struggling to understand mental illness and why we behave the way we do. But how do we accomplish this? I want to share with you what I learnt working with people with mental illness.

Throughout the majority of my adult life, I have had the honour of working with people with severe mental disabilities; in addition, many of them presented with very aggressive behaviours. Notice I underlined the word “behaviours” – but why?

Well, in my extensive experience with this population, staff tended to integrate the behaviour they observed with the personality of the person producing them. Behaviours one produces and who they are as a person are two fundamentally very different things. If this is the case, than why do we have a tenancy to define people based on what we observe?

The Difference between behaviour and personality.

It’s a good question and one that is worth thinking about at length. Sometimes observations that are made are judgements to keep us safe. For example, if you witness aggression you are going to avoid the acting-out individual.

If we embrace the notion that behaviour and personality are two different things, we strengthen our empathy.

When I came to understand that the behaviours, I was seeing was a result of their mental illnesses and thus an unfair representation of who they really were, I excelled in my job.

This revelation helped me to cultivate my empathy and was essential to building a working relationship. This helped my clientele reduce their outbursts. In short, I recognised that when they were at baseline, they were in a state that allowed for typical interaction and daily living. Some were outgoing and kind, while others were naturally funny and helpful. I saw these personality traits for what they truly are, elements of the real person.

So, what does this mean for you, the everyday person? Well, what it means is this: if you have a loved one suffering from depression, please understand that their low mood and desire to stay in bedis in no way a good metric to define who they really are. It is behaviour being produced by their mental-health condition. No different than trauma to a leg, symptom of a limb.

If we embrace the notion that behaviour and personality are two different things, we strengthen our empathy. When we do so, our perspective shifts and we take on a more supportive role. For the sufferer, this can go a long way in making the chronic “sad” a little easier to take.

Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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