Knowing that our dominant personality traits usually have two sides to them can help us cultivate their positive aspects and manage the negative ones. When things are not going well, this understanding can also help us reframe things so that we don’t get stuck in negative thoughts about ourselves and, instead, embrace the positive aspects of our personality. If you’re raising an adolescent or young adult, understanding this dual nature of personality can help you weather mercurial changes in mood—which is what tends to flip the coin of personality from positive to negative and back.
Low self-esteem and down moods can turn sensitivity into depression and passion into anger. Knowing the other side of whatever negative personality trait your adolescent is exhibiting can help you encourage the positive expression of those very same traits.
Even diagnosable emotional issues are often connected to personality traits that can manifest positively or negatively. Here are some examples:
Depression: Those prone to depression are often highly sensitive, able to tune into the deeper nuances of life and relationships. Many philosophers, writers and other creatives credit seasons of depression as a part of what informs their complex thinking and their compassion for others.
Anxiety: Anxiety is often correlated with high achievement. Sufferers of anxiety often possess high standards for themselves, high levels of mental energy and a desire to do things exceptionally well. Knowing this can help those suffering with anxiety to redirect their energy from counterproductive perfectionism to more productive and balanced effort.
Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is associated with higher than usual levels of creative genius. Many of the world’s great musicians, actors, sculptors and change makers have been diagnosed (while living or posthumously) with bipolar disorder. Understanding that bipolar disorder puts one in the company of some of the world’s greatest creators has provided comfort and a sense of direction for many sufferers.
Oppositional Defiance: When channeled in a constructive direction, the oppositional young adult’s fearless (and often gleeful) penchant for argument can actually be made productive rather than destructive. While many adolescents with oppositional tendencies simply create headaches for themselves and others, maturation can lead to more positive expressions of this personality trait. Many attorneys, politicians and military leaders who struggled with oppositional behaviors as adolescents have learned to polish and apply their rhetorical gifts (and appetite for a good fight) in a positive direction.
ADHD: Those who learn to harness their ADHD are often brilliant and creative multi-taskers, well suited for the dynamic work of an emergency room, an entrepreneurial setting, or the floor of the New York stock exchange. Many highly successful people in fast-paced fields carry a diagnosis of ADHD but have learned to leverage their learning different to great advantage.
Dyslexia: Many researchers have noted high levels of creativity and innovative thinking in those who have struggled successfully to manage their dyslexia. The theory is that dyslexia and many other learning differences may force sufferers to find new, unconventional ways to solve problems. This ability approach old tasks in new ways often leads to fresh, innovative thinking. In a creative environment, dyslexics often excel because of—rather than despite—their learning difference.