The Ebb and Crest of Who You Are

When we speak of someone’s “personality” or “character” we tend to treat it as something more or less static. If we allow for change or growth, we think they are relatively extraordinary events that “transform” the personality into a new static thing.

But really, isn’t a personality more of a range? Maybe a wave, with an amplitude, period, and frequency?

Even the most gregarious person becomes withdrawn at some point (and in a sort of predictable – if highly complex – pattern). The most effervescent person has ebb time. The most cynical or confrontational person has high tides of warmth and kindness. It seems banal to note this, but what I’m asking is: do you ever notice there’s a rhythmic quality to this?

When we make a new friend, we form an impression. In time, we find discrepancies, surprises, maybe even a u-turn in their general disposition. We might think we had made a “mistake” in our original impression. We might think our friend has “changed,” or worse, we may think the “original” impression was a deception or a deliberate projection of a manufactured persona (assuming our discoveries about the friend are of an “unpleasant” sort).

Most often we are generous enough to think that we are getting to know our friend – and his/her complexities – more “fully” but do we ever really think that perhaps there is a temporal element to “who” our friend is? That what we are witnessing at various moments are simply snapshots of particular phases of a “personality cycle” (if you will)? Each snapshot may be rich and complex in its own right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a periodic feature of a more fluid system.

I suppose we come to internalize this if we’ve known someone for a very long time. Most people know, without thinking too much about it, the patterns of their parents’ personalities or those of very old friends. Maybe that’s why the longer we know people the less judgmental we are of them… unless of course their entire _cycle_ is annoying!

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