Well-Being

Personality Test Redux

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NOTE TO SELF: “In order to protect yourself from stress, to enhance your relationships…develop some flexibility. Make a list of things you would like to have happen.”  Finally, “to relax your mind, occasionally practice not thinking

Suggestions like these come from my results on the “New Personality Self-Portrait,” a personality assessment updated and made available to the public online for the first time in early 2018. The cost is $18, and in return you get many layers of results.

For each NPSP25 test-taker, a personalized graph is created to show the relative importance of how each of 14 personality styles affects personal behavior, relationships, etc.

“The high scores/peaks/dominant styles are determined by looking at the graph and noting the peaks. Some people may have two, many people more,” explains Lois Morris, co-author with psychiatrist John Oldham of “The New Personality Self-Portrait” (Bantam, 1995).

“Generally, what is the tallest of these, if there is one definitely so, it is the so-called dominant,” Morris wrote in an email after viewing my results.  “But as in your case (and many others), Serious, Self-sacrificing, Conscientious, Idiosyncratic, Devoted, Vigilant and Dramatic all have a major effect.  Nobody is just one personality style.  Everyone has a different Personality Self-Portrait.”

In addition, the NPSP25 provides a second “normative” assessment showing where each person’s results fall among those 12,000 or so people who have taken the test, previously given exclusively by professionals and usually in mental health and human resources settings.

The NPSP25 goes beyond most online tests by offering not just evaluations but also ideas for moving forward according to personality type.  Also compared to other personality assessments, more information is available online about the complexity of the results.

Taking the NPSP25 and becoming “aware of your style’s characteristic trouble spots, you may now be able to learn better habits…a big part of personality styles and, fortunately with sufficient motivation, habits can be changed,” Oldham and Morris write.

Those like me who score high on Devoted, for example, should “express your anger directly,” “practice decision-making,” “experience yourself as independent” and “try to resist throwing yourself into a new relationship when one ends.”  The encouragement to develop flexibility and relax comes from my highest-scoring Serious style.

Also directing attention to my lower scores, Morris wrote: “Low scores can give you a clue to traits that may need some bolstering. In your case, these are Self-Confident and Aggressive.  Read descriptions of the positive trait associated with these styles and see what might apply to you.”

In 1984, Oldham, specializing in personality disorders at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, had the idea of creating a system and test for normal personality styles based on categories of personality disorder listed in the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition), subsequently updated to the DSM-IV in 1994 and then to the DSM-V in 2013.

For the online version, Houston psychologist Alok Madan, contributed expertise in personality styles and disorders along with Internet savvy.

The NPSP25 reveals “normal” or healthy styles, defined as being able to cope with one’s environment in a flexible manner and typically having perceptions and behaviors that foster personal satisfaction, Oldham and Morris write. In their book they also describe extensions of each style into disorder: for example, Devoted at an extreme becomes Dependent, Serious becomes Depressive and Self-Confident becomes Narcissistic.

“Our approach is that styles range on a continuum and that disorders reflect ‘too much of a good thing,’” Morris wrote in an email.

Another layer of NPSP25 results involves six Domains, in which different personality styles dominate.  For Carolyn (the book’s example), scoring high on Conscientious makes Work her ruling Domain.  Work dominates her emotional life, and she is miserable if her work isn’t going well.

In contrast, for Jonathan who scored high on Leisurely, the Domain of Self rules, which makes his need for independence and pursuit of his own meaning in life not just essential but “more important than his relationships, should he be forced to choose.”

Before going online for the general public, the test was frequently used in couples counseling to “reveal predictable problems, which can be worked with or resolved,” Morris writes.  Sample couples’ personality profiles online include Self-Confident Henry with Devoted/Sensitive Sofia, and Dramatic Kirsten with Conscientious Jonah.

While my NPSP25 results were not surprising, their presentation and the in-depth discussion of styles gave me a different perspective and more resolve—in particular, to be more flexible.  They also provided greater justification for a regular mid-afternoon break—or not thinking, along with back-stretching and mindful breathing. Which sounds much like a nap.

—Mary Carpenter

Every Tuesday Mary Carpenter reports on well-being, answering questions about longevity, homeopathy and solutions for dry skin.



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