By Toby Moore
For Capital Region Independent Media
What sparks the essence of our personalities?
Some people seemingly dance through life. Every event, however trivial, is met with infectious optimism. Their glass isn’t just half-full, it often seems to overflow, and invariably, they tend to see the silver lining even in the stormiest clouds.
Other people perpetually trudge beneath an overcast sky. No matter how insignificant, every event is met with deep-rooted pessimism. Their glass isn’t just half-empty; it appears constantly drained, and consistently, they find a shadow even when bathed in the brightest light.
Yet between these polar ends of perspective lies a vast spectrum of personalities — people who exhibit a kaleidoscope of emotions.
What causes people to be the way they are? That’s an age-old question where neuroscience is shedding some light.
Some unexpected moments — like losing a loved one, sudden unemployment or a health scare — profoundly influence a person’s personality. Trauma, abuse and neglect are significant factors as well. These pivotal experiences often forge our most defining traits.
I watched a lecture on YouTube recently by Dr. Joe Dispenza, and his perspective is: “Your personality is made up of how you think, act and feel.”
Life is a mosaic of emotionally charged moments. Think back to any poignant memory; the immediate aftermath is a whirlwind of emotions. These emotions can persist for months and even years.
The person suffering will continually focus on what happened and how it made them feel. Over time, if left unchecked, the emotions solidify.
Someone will say, “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” and you’ll reply, “I’m in a bad mood ‘cause of this thing that happened to me a few days ago.”
When a person continues to live out a particular emotion long enough, it becomes more than just a mood; it becomes a temperament.
That same person will come up to you again and say, “Hey, why are you so upset all the time?” and you’ll say, “I had this thing happen to me 11 months ago!”
Eventually, if you allow that same emotion to thrive, it becomes part of your personality.
Don’t get me wrong, mourning and grieving are essential processes for healing, and taking the time for them is natural and healthy.
However, lingering in that grief for too long can subconsciously train the body to relive those emotions consistently, akin to being “stuck in a moment that you can’t get out of.” And if you caught that U2 reference, kudos to you!
Dispenza says, “From a biological standpoint, what that means is they haven’t been able to change since that event. When those emotions influence certain thoughts, and when those thoughts create the same emotions… now the person’s entire state of being is in the past.”
Unknowingly, we’ve all allowed such feelings to become permanent facets of our personalities.
Bringing it full circle, why is the happy person happy and the angry person angry?
Let me oversimplify: An emotional event, or a series of emotional events, caused them to feel happy or angry long enough that that particular emotion became a massive part of their personality.
Is it possible to keep an adverse emotional event from becoming a permanent fixture in your personality? The key lies in shortening the longevity of our emotional reactions.
Dispenza says, “Learning how to shorten our emotional refractory periods is really where it starts.”
It’s easier said than done, and while that is true, let me oversimplify again:
All you have to do is change your mind.
Get out of bed on the opposite side. Take a cold shower instead of a hot shower. Eat something different. Watch something different, listen to something different, read something different.
Breaking up the routine changes the structure of your brain, and you’ll eventually notice you’re having new thoughts and emotions.
If you do the same things you did yesterday, you’ll think and feel how you did yesterday. By consciously altering our habits, actions and perspectives, we reshape our neural pathways and redefine our emotional landscapes.
Every new choice provides a unique experience, and with that comes new thoughts and feelings. Shake off the past and let your new thoughts and feelings propel you into the future.
Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.