While ‘understanding yourself’ might not seem like a hot topic, it’s important.
With enough self-understanding, the weird shit you do will start to make sense. And from there, you can either accept it or improve what you can improve.
You will generally feel calmer and more in tune with who you are and what you are feeling. Your motives and beliefs and intentions will get clearer. And that’s good and healthy.
When it comes to your relationships, it can help you express yourself better and understand, to some extent, the weird shit people do or, at least, empathize with it.
In this article, I will share with you a few resources that will help you understand yourself.
To be exact, I will share with you resources that explain a few psychological concepts. Those concepts will help you gain new insights about who you are and why you do what you do.
Here’s exactly what I am talking about:
- The big five theory.
- The enneagram.
- Attachment theory.
- Locus of control.
If you are familiar with those concepts, then you are going to find the resources helpful. If it’s the first time you hear about them, don’t worry, I will be giving you a brief description before I offer the resources.
Do keep in mind, however, that those resources are beginner-friendly. I am not an expert and I don’t expect experts reading this article. I am just a regular guy who used and still uses those resources to make sense of his world and I am just here sharing them, for they might help someone the same way they helped me.
Note: I am not going to leave links to any of the books I recommend. You can get them easily from Amazon. I share affiliate links in some of my articles, but in this article I don’t intend to do that for personal reasons (I don’t want to profit from it).
Let’s dive in.
The big five theory
According to the big five, there are 5 measurements of personality. Those measurements are like traits. Those traits are global and play a huge role in shaping how you act.
Here are the five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Each of these traits has sub-traits known as facets. For instance, agreeableness has compassion and politeness as its facets.
If, for example, you scored high on extroversion, then you are an extrovert. And vice versa.
Understanding your own personality in the light of these ‘big five’ traits will help you understand why you act in certain ways or even predict how you will act in different situations.
For the big five, I recommend Dr. Jordan Peterson’s videos on YouTube. You can start by watching his lectures on personality. He talks about the big five among other things about personality.
I haven’t personally read any books about the big five, so I can’t recommend any.
I am still new to enneagram and I am trying to find reliable resources. It seems a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. So, I don’t claim I am an expert or that I have had a lot of time researching it.
According to the book The Everything Enneagram Book, the enneagram is:
A cohesive personality typing system that is based on what you experience in childhood and how it —in heritage— affects your development.
Basically, the enneagram can tell you your personality patterns and how you act. It dives deep into motives and fears and how they manifest themselves in your behavior and thus how they shape your personality.
There are 9 ‘enneatypes’. Each type has the name of a number from 1 to 9. 9 is not better than 1 and neither is 2 better than 5.
We typically possess traits and behaviors from all the 9 types. But we have one dominant type. The theory goes deeper than this by suggesting the existence of ‘a wing: another enneatype that influences your dominant type’.
Within each type, there are levels of development. This is what I love the most about this theory. It doesn’t suggest that one type is bad or the other is good and therefore you need to become more of that good type. It simply suggests that you should develop and evolve within your own personality type, and that’s just the healthiest thing you can do.
I recommend those two books:
- The Everything Enneagram Book.
- The Path Between Us.
Some YouTube channels talk about the enneagram. I came across a few, but I can’t really recommend one of them because while the videos I watched were interesting, they were more about entertainment rather than deeply explaining the concepts.
They are good, but I believe books can offer you more value. But to be honest, I discovered those books after I watched a few videos on YouTube. So, do what suits you.
Attachment theory basically explains the nature of the attachment between a child and their caregiver.
And because the relationships between a child and a caregiver are so important that it influences their future relationships (especially romantic ones), attachment theory plays a major role in helping people understand and navigate their love life.
According to attachment theory, people who had a secure bonding with their caregivers grow up to become secure in their relationships. This type usually finds relationships less exhausting and worthy of time and effort.
Those who didn’t have a secure bond with their caregivers will likely have an insecure attachment style. This insecure attachment style will manifest itself in feelings and behaviors that aim at protecting the person but they end up damaging or even sabotaging their relationships.
Those insecure types are usually: anxious and avoidants.
In brief, those anxiously attached are afraid of losing the connection. Those who are avoidants steer away from attachments and tirelessly seek independence, though they, too, deep down crave connection.
Although the bond we first have with our caregivers largely shape our attachment theory, it’s also believed that some genetic factors are involved in deciding our attachment style. However, as with many personality tendencies, we can develop and evolve to more secure versions of ourselves.
This is just a brief explanation and there is still a lot more, more to know about attachment theory. Here are a few books:
- Attached: it directly addresses the attachment theory and talks just about it.
- Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson: is based on EFT (emotionally focused therapy). However, many of the ideas it discusses are based on attachment theory. I personally liked it more than attached because I believe it explained attachment theory and used it to improve relationships on a deeper level that attached didn’t touch on.
Locus of control
This one is very simple.
Yet, it can give you powerful insights about the way you look at the world.
The locus of control is about how the individuals assess how much control they have over what’s going on in their reality, and therefore how much responsibility they ought to take.
So, to the extent you believe you have control will you take on any responsibility for what is going on around you.
People here are divided into 2 categories: internalizers and externalizers.
Internalizers, as the name suggests, focus on their inner world and what they can do to make things better. They look within themselves and look for what they can fix to improve the situations. They have the tendency to take responsibility for everything, sometime in demoralizing ways where they end up fixing what’s isn’t theirs to fix.
Externalizers believe it’s an ‘external factor’ fault and responsibility. Hardly do they look within themselves and decide it’s them who should improve and fix things.
We have a tendency to be either one of them. That can be because of how we choose to act or it can even be because it’s just our nature. Generally, none is better than the other and we need them both of them in different situations.
Sure, we can think of this as a scale with extreme externalizes and extreme internalizers on both ends. By the way, both extremes suck. Within this scale, you are likely to discover how you deal with problems and how you act in the world.
From there, you can start being aware of your natural tendencies and how you can act in better ways.
The best resource I found for this was a book on immature parents and how to overcome the toxic environment they create. It contains a few chapters talking about externalizers and internalizers. The author links the concept to the topics of emotional maturity and dysfunctional parenting, but it can give you a good understanding of it.
Here’s the name of the book: Adult Children of Immature Parents. The chapters that talk about this concept are chapter 6 and the last part of chapter 5 .
Self-understanding is a journey
And it can be an arduous one at times.
So, don’t think that you are going to reach a point where you have mastered self-understanding. Your ‘self’ will never cease to amaze and surprise you!
And that’s OK.
Make the goal not to reach full self-understanding, but to move away from being ignorant of yourself and oblivious to its nature. And whenever you are learning something new that can help you understand yourself, you are moving further away from ignorance. In other words, moving away from ignorance is more realistic and doable than reaching ultimate enlightenment and flawless understanding.