Clinical psychologists demarcate 10 personality types as personality disorders. These are long-standing patterns of relating that cause impairment in one’s relationship to oneself and others. Each consists of a set of features, and when someone has a certain number of features, then they are said to have the disorder.
To my knowledge, I’ve never been diagnosed with a personality disorder, although I can certainly see many of the features in myself. Some features I quite like most of the time: magical thinking, unusual perceptual experiences, a bit of OCD, intense emotional experiences, etc.
It’s easy to see the features in others as well. Easier, I might argue. But what you spot, you’ve also got!
What dawned on me during meditation this morning is that the personality, also referred to as the ego, is inherently disordered. It is an artificial construction meant to assist in three dimensional living (in a human body in a material world) that inadvertently obscures the true self. It shields the vulnerable, sparkling core of goodness basic to all beings. It distracts us from our true nature as basically good, kind, wise, and strong human beings.
The personality often keeps us stuck in sleepiness, blindly swallowing life’s programs and totally closed off to alternatives and possibilities.
And if all personalities are inherently disordered, then order is the key to restore our connection to what is true. What is eternal. What lies beneath the personality.
Order for me means structure. The most restorative structure I’ve experienced to date has been the way of life at Gampo Abbey, a Shambhala Buddhist monastery. A daily schedule together with a revolving delegation of daily chores, afternoon work, morning practice, surprisingly good communication given that we spend half our days in silence, a spiritual community grounded in its basic goodness, and a clear code of conduct (the 5 precepts) provides a structure conducive to sane, awake living.
Workable order may be achieved outside a monastery. Let me know if you figure it out!