Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Chameleon Personality

   The world in which we live is sensual. It exists in its own realm, perfect and nondependent on Man to interpret it, nor recreate it. Nature is its own creation. But how does Mankind fit in; what role do we play within this cosmic reality, and do we ourselves really exist within the body of this natural reality, or do we exist only in our thoughts and minds? And is this reality the same interpretation for everyone?
   Science and technology has taken us far astray from our evolutionary paths, and has totally diminished whole species of natural beings and undomesticated animals. The natural world struggles like never before. Where once she was able to purge and replenish natural resources, Nature now is falling far behind, stripped, poisoned, overheated, and drained, impotent and defeated.
   For many thousands of years, Man has been provided for, and basic needs met. As it has always been a struggle, still the benefit was always available. A struggle also for the simple acorn that eventually breaks and pushes through the depths of its beginnings to evolve into a mighty oak, with heavy roots anchored into the depths of its own resting place.
   Man has always adapted, as has all species for the day-to-day struggle of survival. There is an innate need to survive, to procreate and carry on the empirical legacy of life. We are born to resist pain and discomfort and disease, and to embrace and replicate those things, which bring comfort and pleasure.
   “Evolution is central to the understanding of life, including human life”, writes Steven Pinker in his book, The Blank Slate. He continues, “Like all living things, we are outcomes of natural selection; we got here because we inherited traits that allowed our ancestors to survive, find mates, and reproduce”.
   That which brings Man pleasure, however doesn’t always lead to a healthy survival just as what brings pain and suffering does not always lead to death and destruction. We have the capability to manipulate the elements and create toxins that can enhance feelings of euphoria or produce mental chaos. Cure deadly diseases or poison and shut down our systems.
   Unlike our ancestors in the Animal Kingdom, human beings are inherently able to make choices and decisions through a free will and with a metacognitive ability, realizing our outcomes, whether they may be rewarding, or consequential. The ability to reason through our thoughts and rationalize our actions is the gap that separates us from the lower forms of animals.
   We then have the unique ability to lie, to knowingly cheat and manipulate our own species for personal gain or to reciprocate for what we consider an injustice done against us. Through the use of military strategies, we initiate wars and attacks on other nations for political and personal gain. We enslave and incarcerate peoples, kill, torture, and abuse both physically and emotionally.
    For instance, a question that is often asked is what motivates an individual to become a murderer. Theories include biological dispositions, sociological influences, and psychological factors. The early home life of a kind of murderer typed as a serial killer is often one in which a stable nurturing atmosphere is absent. Most serial killers tend to come from homes where they are physically or psychologically abused. Studies have shown that adults who were abused as children tend to exhibit violent outbursts.
    It has been theorized that emotional deprivation combined with other environmental factors or damage to the inhibitive centers of the brain can account for the development of psychopathy. Psychopaths are described as being purposeless, irrational, lack conscience, and are thrill – seekers and are literally fearless. The psychopath tends to not consciously feel anger and many killers seem to go into a trance during their predatory and killing phases. The psychopath sees the victim as a symbolic object. They are smooth talkers often well versed in psychology and skilled at manipulating evaluators. Serial killers who are psychopathic often blend into society.
   Many have developed what has come to be referred as having a chameleon -  like personality. This type of person has a distinct ability to adapt and to bring forth a persona, which matches a personality or situation within the very moment, needed to manipulate or control.
   For example, they can be very charming towards the opposite sex, using a deeper softer voice or adjusting their body language in able to get physically closer to that person. They may also take on and reproduce the same inflection of tone to mimic the way a person speaks, slow down or speed up their cadence, while keeping direct eye contact, drawing the other in as if hypnotizing. These are basic sales techniques actually taught to employees to close deals and generate optimum sales levels.
   The chameleon personality is usually developed and practiced as a defense mechanism used to counter pain or undeveloped emotional attachment. This person is highly introverted, although personifying an outgoing, extroverted personality. Politicians use this talent well, as do actors and as mentioned earlier, those who hold sales and public relations positions. And these individuals are everywhere around us in our daily lives. Probably someone you call friend or even family practices this form of relation. Some are so highly developed in their dealings with others, that it becomes natural, their true personality. Think of those labeled as natural born salesman, gifted with a golden tongue, quick on his feet, etc.
   In the workplace, these persons do well in positions where they deal with people. They are naturals for the social committee. Their uncanny ability to understand people and say just what needs to be said to make them happy makes them naturals for counseling.
   There is a personality trait titled the ENFJ – Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Judging, or Extraverted Feeling with Introverted Intuition. Popularly labeled, The Giver. As an ENFJ, the primary mode of living is focused externally, where things are dealt with according to how one feels about them, or how they fit into one’s value system. The secondary mode is internal, where one takes things in primarily through intuition.
   These are people focused individuals who live in the world of people possibilities. More so than any other type, they have excellent people skills. Because ENFJ’s people skills are so extraordinary, they have the ability to make people do exactly what they want them to do. They can get under people’s skins and get the reactions that they are seeking. Their motives are usually unselfish, but those who have developed less than ideally have been known to use their power over people to manipulate them. They are likely to interact with others on their own level, in a chameleon – like manner, rather than as individuals.
   The question that must then be asked is, are we born with this type of personality; is it a natural state of being? Paradoxically, the answer is yes and no. The chameleon personality is reactive. When an infant is discomforted, she quickly learns that a certain action will alleviate the discomfort, as the need is met. Crying is a natural sensory release and is the surest way to excite a response from the caregiver to diminish hunger or insecurity.
   As the child develops, more actions are displayed to attract needed attention. Take, for instance temper tantrums. If responded to quickly, and gratification is received, the child will use this same method over and over again. And, if over time she is ignored or punished for it, will resort to a new and different action to attain the attention needed. Or she will learn to ask and be patient for what she is seeking.
   Experience with many kinds of people in different situations provides the basis for how we interact toward one another. We are most times unaware if someone is manipulating or causing us to act or respond in certain ways, whether it be what we are buying, how we are reacting, speaking, or what our bodies are reflecting in posture and movement. All are signals the chameleon is picking up on and acting upon to gain from, control, or use for or against us.
   So it is in our nature to navigate our social world to our advantage, for the most pleasant, painless trip possible. We enter in imperfect however, carrying the weight of flawed relations inherently of those who have traveled before us. The alcoholic drinks himself into a pseudo sober state and no one is the wiser. The serial killer and psychopath silently moves among us, perhaps making contact, other times preparing for the next victim to fall along his path. The abusive father sits in church on Sunday morning with his family, revered for his faith and steadfastness.
   Ultimately, we make distinct choices in life. The drinker must decide to take his first drink. The killer must formulate the thought of killing before any action is taken. But it is exactly those thoughts and desires that dwell innate within us, genetically hard wired for the experience that is perhaps made permanent in and of our very being.

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