Your body reveals your personality


Published on July 12, 2017

What if you could understand something about personality from a persons body and their demeanour. Such ability would be like having a form of x-ray vision for understanding more about the internal worlds of others. It could be a map for recognising the strengths and motivations of colleagues, while also increasing awareness of their challenges, hooks and triggers. A map of personality such as this would provide people with the capability to skilfully relate to anyone.

It turns out such a methodology does exist. American physician and psychotherapist Alexander Lowen developed Bioenergetics based on Wilhelm Reich's breakthrough work on embodied character. Bioenergetics (We have adapted it for business and called it The 5 Character Structures) is a body-mind map of personality that suggests the way we develop our adult bodies and minds, is informed by events both present and missing from our early childhood. We experience challenges in early life that have us develop strategies for safety and success. The repeating habits and patterns of these strategies shape both our body (muscular armouring), and mind (psychological armouring).

Most of us at some point are probably guilty of saying (even if only to ourselves), the world would just work better if everyone thought like me. In reality we all see the world very differently, and as wonderful as this is, it can be problematic. Navigating different perspective and behaviour is what we often refer to as organisation dynamics. Psychometric instruments such as Insights, DiSC and Myers-Briggs are effective at having us recognise and work with diversity across preferences and communication styles. These instruments provide a helpful and useable means of flexing our approach with colleagues for better outcomes. The 5 Character Structures (5CS) adds a powerful layer. Whereas most personality models deal with how people act, The 5CS deals with why they react.

5CS speaks to five personality patterns that most people already have an intuitive knowledge of at an unconscious level. With a little understanding and practice this "knowing" becomes conscious, leading to insight and empathy for the inner worlds of others, and the behaviours that play out from them. Perhaps even more powerfully it helps leaders make sense of why they take the approach they do (particularly under pressure), and how to better manage any negative impact they may be having on others.

Of course no person can adequately be explained as a colour, type or four-letter acronym and equally you are not your patterns. 5CS is not a typology, rather a map of personality that speaks to a variety of strategies that we all variously deploy. As curious as the 5 Character Structures might sound, it is the area of development that leaders I work with consistently say is making the biggest difference to their progress.

Consider what you could do if you had a deeper insight to both your own and others behaviour, and an enhanced capability for interacting more successfully.

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Photo by Hannah Lim on Unsplash