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Character vs Temperament

There is a common opinion that character is some rigid metal structure that is given once and for all and cannot be changed. You’ve got what you’ve got. Character is often mixed up with temperament, and perhaps the above opinion was formed because of this confusion. In reality, this is not the case, and today we will figure out what is what.

Temperament is a combination of genetically determined mental qualities of a person, that depend on the characteristics of higher nervous activity. In other words, it is an innate property of the psyche that we cannot change at will.

The properties of the nervous system include its strength, balance, and flexibility. From the combination of these very properties, one or another type of temperament is obtained, the names of which are well known to us. But they do not yet define a character.

If temperament is innate in its origin, then the character is an acquired structure, which is formed and developed under the influence of the environment, acquired life experiences, and upbringing. The character is not static. Even though many features are quite stable, it is formed throughout the life and depends on who and how raised us, in what environment we were most of the time, what events took place in our lives.

Here is an apple tree. It grew from an apple seed and cannot become a cherry tree, no matter how much we want it. This is temperament. But there are many apple trees in the garden, and they are all different. There are straight and tall ones – they grow in an open space. And here is an apple tree – it is next to another tree that interferes with its growth, and it is bending around it. This is a character that is influenced by the environment.

Imagine two identical people (which, of course, is impossible, but let’s try, hypothetically). They have the same type of nervous system, but one of them will be brought up in an atmosphere of love and attention to their needs, and the second one – in an atmosphere of harsh criticism, rivalry, and ridicule. Then the character of these people will be completely different because people are formed by their environment. 

If you remember the way you were about 5-7 years ago, you will see that you are not the same person. So much has changed since then! Maybe you are more flexible now. Maybe naivety and simplicity have disappeared, but now you have ambition and self-confidence. Or maybe people around you used to see you like an open book, but now you seem to be closed and not a very sociable person.

Yes, the character is changing, because something happened to you during this life period and your habits, life priorities, and attitudes have changed. And all these are the facets of your character!

It is impossible to radically change only our deep default settings. For example, if you are an explosive and impulsive choleric, you may well learn to control yourself and not be led by your own emotions and reactions. But you will hardly become a calm and relaxed person – you do not have the right foundation for it. Or an anxious-suspicious personality type will never develop bold and reckless traits and will not become an adventurous risk-taker. But they may learn to control their feelings and keep anxiety in check.

There is a good ancient saying: “Sow an act – reap a habit, sow a habit – reap a character, sow a character – reap a destiny.” In these few words lies the key to character formation.

So, if you decide to change your character, pay attention to your habits, and think about what personality traits they support.

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