we need to discuss the difference between behaviour and personality.Tweet
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?
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.