The concept of personality is very firmly established in mental health circles and in academic psychology. It is also widely used in common speech, and is frequently offered as having explanatory value, when in fact it has none.
Consider the following conversation:
“Why is Mary so quiet and reserved?”
“Oh, that’s just her personality.”
“Why is Michael so aggressive and argumentative?”
“That’s his personality.”
In statements like this the term “personality” is presented as if it explained the behavior in question, when in fact it is merely descriptive. The responder to the question, “Why is Mary so quiet and reserved?” might just as well have said: “Because she is so quiet and reserved.” The so-called explanation adds nothing in terms of understanding how Mary got to be quiet and reserved.
As I have discussed elsewhere – the acid test for an explanation is to ask:
“How do you know she has this kind of personality?”
And, of course, the only possible answer is – because she is so quiet and reserved. In other words, the only evidence for the explanation is the very behavior it purports to explain. This kind of circular illogicality is rife in the mental health field.
Of particular note in this regards is Criterion B in the DSM:
“At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.” (p 529, DSM-IV-TR)
Here “personality” is being conceptualized as a sort of driver that gets into the pilot’s seat and causes the individual to behave in this way rather than that. And then – heaping nonsense on nonsense – that driver gets out and lets another one take the controls; etc., etc..
I realize, of course, that economic considerations can dull the critical faculties, but how professional people who have spent eight plus years in college can adapt themselves to, and even promote, this kind of gibberish is beyond me.