In my practice as a psychologist in West Hartford, CT, I work with many kinds of people. Everybody is different. Working with couples especially brings into contrast individuals and the dynamics that ensue therefrom.
Beyond the differences that mark the variety that personality types can take lie the question: What is it about a person in their infinite uniqueness makes them successful or not. Personality plays a role in determining success because we are social creatures. Without a strong sense of self, personality is weakened in deference to the needs and concerns of others. But a strong personality likewise can compromise success to the extent that it fails to empathize and act in a responsible way to the needs and concerns of others. When this imbalance between self and other is pronounced as manifest in one’s personality, problems can ensue in relationships and in life.
Game Theory In Social Science
A simple metaphor may be used to explain how difficulties associated with our personalities can impede endeavors to reach our goals in life or in relationships. The zero-sum game is taken from game theory in social science to identify a situation in which an encounter between two entities must result in one party benefiting at the expense of the other. There cannot be two winners. One must win and the other must lose.
Zero Sum Game - Explained
A person whose problems in life associated with one’s personality may be understood in this way, as following a zero-sum game. Conversely, a successful person is able to use the uniqueness of their personality, whether it be introverted, energetic, cautious, methodical, or impulsive, in such a way that benefits oneself with respect for the needs and concerns of others.
For example, a dependent personality defers their needs and concerns to others and sacrifices their freedom and unique identity in order to belong or to be taken care of. A narcissistic personality, on the other hand, is self-centered, compulsively competitive, and either repulsed by or at least insensitive to the needs and concerns of others. A schizoid personality, by contrast, eschews all opportunities to develop meaningful relationships in order to avoid the parasitic dimensions dysfunctional relationships can take.
The zero-sum game is a useful metaphor by which you may judge your actions in any given situation or in any given relationship. If you are inclined to think of others at your own expense start thinking about how acting in self-interest fosters not only self-esteem but generosity of spirit and thus may benefit others thereby. On the other hand, if you tend to be more self-centered begin thinking about how being thoughtful toward others enhances thoughtfulness and generosity that is paid in return. And if you tend to avoid relationships altogether remind yourself of the opportunities you are missing for the sake of avoiding relationships altogether. Awareness of how the zero-sum game may explain patterns in your life that are self-defeating and repetitive in nature. This can empower you to achieve your goals and improve your relationships.
If you are interested in pursuing counseling for personal growth, click here to request an appointment, or call (860) 236-2131.
Posted by Robert Hamm, Ph.D.
Robert Hamm Ph.D