My Solo

Discovering My Personality Type, 5. 

According to: John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris, Personality self-portrait: why you think, work, love, and act the way you do.  Bantam Books, c1990.  438p. 

Oldham is one of the members of the American Psychiatric Association who worked on revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev., 1987).  From the identification of those disorders, he and Morris identified thirteen normal personality-style categories from which disorders are the extreme aberration.  Although this method seems backwards, students of the human psyche have historically been interested in the ranges of behavior among personality types and the styles identified “are the common, utterly human, non-pathological versions of the extreme, disordered constellations identified in the DSM manual.

Between the optimum and disordered ends of a style, range various behaviors so that the dividing point between health and dysfunction fails exact definition.  Nevertheless, productive and satisfying lives exhibit flexibility over inflexibility, variety over repetition, and adaptability over the incapacity to cope.  Psychiatry focuses on the disorders.  This book focuses on the healthy styles so that individuals will know themselves and appreciate the ways that those of the other styles act and express themselves that are also healthy but different.

These thirteen styles are:

  1. Conscientious:  People of strong moral principal and absolute certainty who will not rest until the job is done right.
  2. Self-Confident:  People of a quality born of self-regard, self-respect, self-certainty, showing faith in oneself and a commitment to self-styled purpose.
  3. Dramatic:  People who are all heart, full of feeling and emotion which they can transform to a high art.
  4. Vigilant:  People of heightened awareness to their environment, looking for what is awry, to announce and denounce it.
  5. Mercurial:  People who want to experience life fully in whatever it brings.
  6. Devoted:  People who care about the identified team to whom they are loyal, considerate, and helpful.
  7. Solitary:  People who need no one but themselves, remarkably free from involvements and emotions that distract others, to discover on their own.
  8. Leisurely:  People who, apart from their responsibilities, seek to be themselves and do as they wish.
  9. Sensitive:  People who seek a world, small and familiar, where they find comfort, contentment and inspiration.
  10. Idiosyncratic:  People who, whether eccentrics or geniuses, live lives apart from the conventions that most others follow.
  11. Adventurous:  People who will take risks and long leaps where others are cautious or afraid.
  12. Self-Sacrificing:  People who put other’s needs first and live to serve them.
  13. Aggressive:  People who move instinctively by force of personality to command.

 These personality styles operate within six functioning domains.  Styles show their characteristics in the domains and various domains are key to each of the styles.  The domains are

  • Self:  How one sees, thinks, and feels about their own self, their place in the universe and among others.
  • Relationships:  How one regards other people as important to themselves.  This is a dominant factor in more than half of the styles.
  • Work:  How one regards what it is they do and how they about doing things, not just work but everything to which they give time.
  • Emotions:  Includes moods, feelings, and emotional states, the place people give to them in their lives and their intensity.
  • Self-Control:  How one governs themselves in meeting desires, temptations, and impulses before action.
  • Real World:  How one regards the world, its existence and nature, and what is real for them.

 Chapters define these terms and sizeable chapters on each style discuss the domains pertinent to each in turn along with characteristics, tips on dealing with others of the style in one’s own life, and exercises for making the most of the style.  Half the chapter treats the flip side of the normal style, the corresponding personality disorder.

A Personality Self-Portrait Questionnaire is the entry to identifying the styles operating in each life.  For 104 questions, one of three answers is possible: Yes, I agree; Maybe, I agree; No, I don’t agree.  The maybe responses are for questions where the individual agrees with one part but not another of the same question.  Through scoring, a self-portrait graph emerges.

For me, the Questionnaire produced the following results in order of importance.  Ranking for each style is the number out of the top possible number.


  •       Solitary:                 12 of 14                      
  •       Sensitive:               8 of 14
  •       Conscientious:    10 of 18
  •       Idiosyncratic:      8 of 18
  •       Self-Confidant      8 of 18


  •       Vigilant:                 4 of 14
  •       Aggresssive          2 of 16
  •       Self-Sacrificing    2 of 16
  •       Leisurely:              2 of 18
  •       Adventurous:     2 of 22
  •       Dramatic:             0 of 16
  •       Mercurial:           0 of 16

Resulting Personality Profile Functions in the Domains:

My dominant styles (as defined above) are I. Solitary (7), II. Sensitive (9), III. Conscientious (1), IV. Idiosyncratic (16), V. Self-Confident (2)I have noted those domains key to each style.  I also briefly quote characteristics of each style especially pertinent to me in each domain.

Sense of Self.

I. (Key) self contained; own best resource; psychological gain from self; prefers own company.

II. Know self when not exposed to others.

III. Self is work; sets high standards of responsibility; no desire for ease.

IV. (Key) Determines own world; willingly breaks with tradition.

V. (Key) Self-esteem; self as purposive, meaningful, source of enjoyment.

Emotional States.

I. (Key) Dispassionate; prefers to observe.

II. (Key) Security in world of own; life-long personal attachments.

III. Seeks calm and reserve.

IV. Intensity is aesthetic, intellectual joy of comprehension.

V. Optimistic.

Control Level.

I. Heightened self-control; desire to avoid pain, impulse or spontaneity.

II. Self-disciplined to shape behavior and keep to self.

III. Self-discipline through knowing and reasoning.

IV. Feelings are internalized.

V. Self-contol.

Relationships with Others.

I. Uninvolved; need distance and time alone.

II. (Key) A few people or one; knowing others well relieves anxiety.

III. Steadiness over intimacy and romance; loyal to those they value.

IV. Not defined by others; risks loneliness when cannot connect.

V. Work at.


I. Self-directed; desire for concentration; avoid conflict, politics, competition.

II. Work is the nest; work at home.

III. (Key) Where shines; extends to all hours, intense, focused, detailed; never retires.

IV. Does best in own niche; neither ambitious or competitive in traditional sense.

V. Cooperative; flexible, non-hierarchical; needs to be effective.


I. Privacy provides a pocket for endeavor.

II. Prefer home; look forward to return when away.

III. Choices are between right and wrong; grey areas mean unfinished thinking.

IV. (Key) Perceive differently from others; curious; speculative, original.

V. World in own image.

Necessarily, one should be wary of behaviors that each style might bring with it and how a more varied life might be possible or beneficial.  I, likely as others, appreciate those aspects of my life that comfort or please me the most in a self-reinforcing way.  For me the following bear watching.

As a Solitary (I) and Sensitive (II) where the danger is to cut oneself off from others, I like people in general but more so in the abstract and at a distance than face-to-face.  I crave friendship, but have high standards for it, and as a result have had few truly close and lasting friendships.  Close friends I have had in the past, who have died, still haunt my thoughts.  I work at keeping the friends I have but am not good at making new friends.  I have trouble expressing myself verbally because I have to be sure of the right words; therefore, I prefer writing to speaking.  Even though I know that social communication constitutes the bulk of conversation, I am no good at small talk.  Instead, I converse most easily with people I already know, especially when the connection enjoys long duration.  Often after an encounter with someone, I review what I said, and analyze all the things I could have said better.  The reading, thinking and writing life depends upon solitude and the desire to be productive in these endeavors further rev up the demand to be alone. 

Being Conscientious (III) risks also becoming obsessive-compulsive. I am far from that, except that I berate myself that I do not stick to one thing at a time until finished.  In other words, I am obsessive about not being obsessive.  When I cannot sleep, it is often because I review what I have said and done and mull over yet one more time how I could have done a better job of it in the first place.  I endeavor to narrow my focus, but find it difficult to give up long-standing interests or concerns over issues that were ever important to me in my lengthening past.  My long-term goal is to be free of all committees by the time I am seventy, but I still volunteer for new assignments that I regard to be of short duration.  I realize that I will never understand everything or anything, but keep on trying to figure things out and do my best.

I have always been Idiosyncratic (IV), I realize, having felt the difference of being different since I was a very young child.  Once at a birthday party for Dicky Connors – our mothers had been friends since being next-door neighbors as children – while the rest roistered in another room, I found refuge in a corner where I looked at his comic books.  I was about 5 years old.  Imagination became more vivid and preferable to actuality.  Then also, reading proved more expansive than experience, history demonstrated more pertinence than a transitory present, thinking arose precursory to doing.  Being so different bothered me for all my early years, but could not stop me from continuing on the same track.  At about age 16, I embraced my uniqueness.  Total alienation likely threatened.  At one point, I even thought about becoming a Trappist monk, thanks to the appeal of the reflective life.  Other people always rescued me, mostly at first caring relatives, games played with my siblings and in the neighborhood, classmates and other friends at school, Bible camp, Luther League, the prospect of college, and the widening circles of moving away from home.  Ultimately, I learned the prevalence of differences among people and the need to find one’s niche in association with others.  I could not participate, but astutely observe; I could not compete, but became a specialist in collaboration; I could not lead, except intellectually; I could not fight, except by argument (in the rhetorical or philosophical sense, that is not argumentative, but stating a position and defending it).

Fortunately, I learned to be Self-Confident (V), confident in the virtues of my own idiosyncrasies, without being schizotypal or narcissistic.  I do border on narcissism (self-absorption): I am reconciled with my identity to such an extent that I dearly prefer my roster of styles to other possibilities.  Clearly, I remain more in pursuit of understanding myself than of understanding and relating to others.  Even in creating fictional characters, try as I might to make the leads different, there is always too much of me in them that I cannot expunge.  In short, though other people interest me, especially those that provide models, I fascinate myself to a greater extent than others can command.  Perhaps what saves me from psychotic narcissism, is that I have become primarily a questioner of received ideas and beliefs, even those I have about myself.  I continuously ask myself, even about myself: Is this true and how do I know that?  I have learned to live with ambiguity at worst, provisional truth at best.

I wonder, also, about the styles on which I rank the lowest.  Does this mean these styles portend their own disorders.

Vigilant: Though very low in this ranking, I still exhibit this style’s characteristics, chiefly autonomy, caution in relationships, perceptiveness, self-defense in my own behalf, openness to criticism, and fidelity or loyalty.  I am far from being paranoid which I would consider a laughable state, were it not so pathetic.

Aggressive:  Since I am far from being feisty as Vigilants can be, I also long ago gave up any desire to be in charge or top dog.  (What a horrible expression!)  Though I have been the president or chair a few times of certain organizations, chiefly as Coordinator for nine years of the Minnesota Book Awards, basically as a facilitator.  I have more often been the secretary or administrative assistant where I saw the real power resides to get things clarified and on track.  I share no characteristics here, except the desire for order that to me is a matter of negotiated goals and standards, not rules.  As condescending as I can be, I do not enjoy power over others.

Yet, neither am I Self-Sacrificing.  Though I am willing to do a lot for the common good or the benefit of near and dear, I learned on the verge of adulthood that it is precisely the self, as the source of human worth, creativity and efficacy, that must not be sacrificed.  My sense of doing good for others as altruists do is tempered by thinking of it as doing good for all, including the self as part of the whole.  I share the characteristics Self-Sacrificing – generosity only to a certain extent, service as my arena of action, and consideration of others at least in being polite.  I accept others though I will always reach some level of judgment about them (the J in my INTJ typology).  I am humble as to my own lacks and willing to endure if the end is worth it, though I am not typically patient with the tedious, repetitious, or foolish.  Also with this style, I am naive in every individual encounter, however skeptical I may be about people collectively.

The Leisurely style is not all the word implies; they do their bit, but are not overzealous, and clearly want their own thing and their own time, as they deserve.  Though I share the right to be left alone, as a solitary requires, I recognize the obligations of being part of the whole.     But neither am I passive-aggressive, though I do have my explosions of resistance, mostly against what I see as stupidity.  I am willing to do my share.  And as I resign from all committees, I do so on the grounds that what I have left to do has benefit for others; besides at age 70, I have done my share of group work.

Neither am I Adventurous except about ideas.  Even then, I move from some hierarchy of thought to a sequential change in a specific principle, issue, or tactic.  I search for holism.  Although a nonconformist in some things, I am modest in most regards as to the conventions of everyday life.  My wardrobe alternates between black, gray, brown and blue as long is the blue is not too bright.  I have one red tie for Pentecost and other high holy days.  I fear being too wild or daring, a caution that has likely saved me from drugs and much other immorality.  I take risks in speaking out on unpopular issues, but believe that one of life’s objectives is to minimize risk.  Thus I am not anti-social, the extreme dysfunction of the Adventurous.  Rather than wallowing in the virtue of independence, I see humans as essentially inter-dependent.

The Dramatic are those that are “the life of the party.”  By now, you know that is not me.  I had a secretary for some years, who often accused me of being dull.  ‘I am,’ I said; ‘I am very boring.’  Whenever I showed up at work in a back suit and black topcoat, she would ask, ‘Where are you preaching today?’  I find the pursuit of fun a shallow one though remaining open to joy.  Yet, clearly I am as far from the Dramatic characteristics as I can be.  I do not repress my feelings, but I try to command them and allow them because of some originating and controlling reason.  I limit color, as I said, more for aesthetic reasons than personal ones.  I gave up on romance as traditionally understood, but see myself as a romantic as long as romanticism is the dramatization of ideas.  As to spontaneity, I have said that I can be spontaneous as long as I can plan ahead for it.  I flee from attention, except the attention to what I write, but then not too much. The idea of becoming famous and signing autographs would frighten me except that I think it highly unlikely.  Compliments are nice, but only in moderation; mostly I appreciate the awards I have received for long-time accomplishments even when those efforts have sunk into the duff of time.  I try to look presentable and am vain about body image, but with restraint.  I’d  rather be noted for what’s inside than outside.

Neither am I Mercurial.  I seek the even keel.  I can be intense about concentration, but live otherwise without passion, which I distrust.  ‘Are you having a good time?’ a friend once asked me at a party.  ‘Yes,’ I quietly answered; ‘Why do you ask?’  ‘Because,’ he said, ‘when you are having a good time or not having a good time, you act the same.’  I try to smile more, but am usually somber as I think things over.  It takes me awhile to assess exactly how I feel and then whether or not I should feel that way.  My heart is not on my sleeve, but in its chest cavity where it belongs.  You know already what I think of spontaneity and fun.  Though I sit at my computer at least six to eight hours a day, I remain active, but always after some end, trying to keep up a brisk pace.  I retain an open mind, especially about ideas, but cannot otherwise just experiment for the sake of discovery alone.

The study of personality remains a precarious endeavor.  I have looked for the scientific over the astrological, ennegramatic, personality tree or other speculations.  Still, I accept that we have a lot more to discover and learn and so it is necessary to keep searching.

My Solo is part 5 of a multi-part look at my personality based on various approaches.  See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2) My Learning (3), My Thinking (4).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog.  Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

Resulting Personality Profile Functions:

Domains I. Solitary II. Sensitive III. Conscientious IV. Idiosyncratic V. Self-Confident
Sense of Self Key: self-contained; own best resource; psychological gain from prefers own company know self when not exposed to others self is work; sets high standards of responsibility; no desire for ease Key:  determines own world; willingly breaks with tradition Key: self-esteem; self as purposive, meaningful, source of enjoyment
Emotional States Key: dispassionate; prefers to observe Key: security in world of own; life-long personal attachments seeks calm and reserve intensity is aesthetic, intellectual joy of comprehension optimistic
Control Level heightened self-control; desire to avoid pain, impulse or spontaneity self-disciplined to shape behavior and keep to self self-discipline through knowing and reasoning feelings are internalized self-control
Relationships with others uninvolved; need distance & time alone Key: a few people or one; knowing others well relieves anxiety steadiness over intimacy and romance; loyal to those they value not defined by others; risks loneliness when cannot connect work at
Work/Doing self-directed; desire for concentration; avoid conflict, politics, competition work is the nest; work at home Key: where shines; extends to all hours; intense, focused, detailed; never retires does best in own niche; neither  ambitious or competitive in traditional sense cooperative; flexible, non-hierarchical; needs to be effective
Real-World privacy provides a pocket for endeavor prefer home; look forward to return when away choices are between right and wrong; grey areas mean unfinished thinking Key: Perceive differently from others; curious; speculative; original world in own image

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