Jacues Delille is once quoted as saying, “Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.”
What personality traits would you choose for your ideal brother or sister?
Someone who is patient, kind, loving, giving, flexible, fun, brave, tolerant, smart, and capable. Okay, this list is terrific! But since we don’t get to pick and choose our siblings’ personalities, maybe settling for someone who is easy-going and considerate would be a nice start for most of us.
In My Five Sisters I loved to see Hero and Kind appear because their traits were so positive—protective, responsible, loving. Normal was a relief because neutrality meant I could just be myself. Sad made my heart hurt. And Angry terrified me into hiding with her bizarre and often barbaric behaviors.
Actually, quite a bit of thought has gone into personality traits, otherwise known as Trait Theory. What started out as a list of over 4000 descriptive personality words has been fine-tuned into a set of 5 categories: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
If you are struggling to define a family member’s behavior, think about the words that actually do describe your brother or sister (or child, or spouse). Make a list, writing down every descriptive work you can think of. If you need a little help, go to 638 Primary Personality Traits as listed by MIT. Here you will find descriptive words listed as Positive, Neutral, or Negative.
You might make some surprising discoveries as you create your list. This exercise just might help you pinpoint traits in your family members that make it difficult for them to have loving relationships.
The Mayo clinic has a detailed list of the three primary classes of Personality Disorders. Perhaps by comparing the list of descriptions you have created with this list of personality disorders you may find a tendency that you haven’t been able to define before. While making lists won’t provide solutions, it can provide some enlightenment.
Once we think we know what we are dealing with we don’t get to swap for something different. And here is the crux of the problem: we don’t get to choose our family members. However, we do get to choose how we handle ourselves and manage our relationships. Perhaps knowing what problematic personality traits are present, we can develop strategies to remedy how they affect us.
Naturally we feel a particular kind of loyalty towards family members, born out of duty to those who have cared for us or who have shared histories. However, being family doesn’t mean we have to be at the mercy of someone with negative personality traits or worse yet, abused by someone with a personality disorder.
We do have choices and we can find solutions for ourselves and even our entire family. If we are parents, we can take steps to find help and protect those who need protecting. If we are spouses, we can take steps to liberate those who are being harmed. If we are siblings, most likely grown if you are reading this, we can understand that perhaps we are victims of something we would have never chosen. We can take steps to heal our wounded pasts and choose to live a healthy today. We do have choices.