Personality Types and Levels of Personal Development


Personality Types and Levels of Personal Development

This is the first article based on the book “Psychoanalytic Diagnostics” by Nancy McWilliams, which describes the primary psychological defenses, different personality types, how these personalities apply these defenses, and what can be done about it in therapy.

Before we start looking for all the diseases in ourselves and diagnose others by avatars, it is important to understand personality development and the type of character organization.

Personality development levels

The level of personality development is of 3 types:

1) neurotic level (conditionally – the most “healthy”)
2) borderline level (already more severe)
3) psychotic level (most serious)

In a neurotic, the connection with reality is not broken; in a psychotic, the relationship with reality is broken (a person may have delusions and hallucinations). A neurotic can be aware that he has a problem and a problem in himself; a psychotic cannot be mindful of this and believes that the problem is not in him but the world or other people. The borderline person is on the border between these two levels. His condition is not as severe as that of a psychotic, but also not as careless as a neurotic.

What does it mean when a person has a particular personality type? 

This means that he has his unique way of interacting with the world: his reactions to anxiety, his patterns of defense mechanisms, and his type of relationship with people. Under suitable conditions, this is nothing more than the “character” of a person. However, in the case of trauma or retraumatization, all these reactions can become very strong and rigid, and then we are already talking about a personality disorder that needs correction.

In the book, Nancy McWilliams quotes the words of her friend, who intelligently says: “There are only two categories of people: the first is crazy, the second is not crazy,” and she jokingly answers him, they say, everything is correct, therefore, if we are talking about “crazy,” it is essential to understand: 1) “How crazy?” and 2) “What exactly are psychos?”

The question “How crazy are you?” – about the level of personality development.
And the question “What exactly are psychos?” – about the type of organization of character.

Which personality at which level?

The question arises: is each personality type tied to a certain level of personality development? Partly, but not quite. 

And although a tendency can be observed that personality types with more primitive and rigid defenses (schizoids, manic, antisocial, paranoid, narcissistic, dissociative personalities) are more inclined to fall on the borderline and psychotic level, not all and not always. Therefore, the statement that, for example, a narcissistic or paranoid person can be both on a neurotic and on a borderline, as well as on a psychotic level, will also be true.

Can levels change, and how? 

They can with the help of psychotherapy. Some psychologists have a talent for pulling borderline and even psychotic clients into the neurotic level of organization. It is generally believed that during therapy, the client becomes more and more unstable, where “neurotic” is not name-calling but rather bragging and achievement.

Does your personality type change? Psychoanalysts believe that personality, as “the deepest core of a person,” does not change.

And finally: is it possible to accommodate the best of different personality types? Can you be both paranoid and schizoid at the same time? And depressive and masochist?

Answer: you can. Then it will be, respectively, paranoid-schizoid and depressive-masochistic personality.


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