Cultural peculiarities of the personality formation process
Nino Chavchavadze (22.04.1957)
Doctor of Psychology
Dimitri Uznadze Institute of Psychology
A human is a social being, and consequently, society is the setting for personality building, i.e. for the development of basic human properties. Humans have a double and complex relationship with the environment: on the one hand, they are subjected to the impact of environment, and on the other hand, in compliance with their creative nature, they themselves make up their cultural habitat. While studying the impact of social environment on a human being, psychologists distinguished between the following two forms: one-way social impact and social interaction, which differ in psychological nature and essence. To the one-way social impact belong the cases when human psychic activity is modified as a result of the influence caused by another person, while interaction refers to the form of impact produced in the consequence of interpersonal relationship. [Sh. Nadirashvili]
Human relationships are culture-ridden and are believed to be among the most important properties of the development of society.
Social environment moulds the system of human values and determines the peculiarities of perceiving various types of roles in a society. Diversity of sets and behaviors pertinent to various cultures point to the decisive role of cultural norms in personal development. From the psychological point of view, western culture is admitted as being individualistic, while eastern culture is described as collective. Western and Eastern cultural norms determine differences between individuals in many various aspects including personal space perception, daily habits and food, the experience of independence and collective unity, etc. Self-perception of individuals living in a particular community, the character of their social relations (relationship with one’s spouse, children, parents, neighbors, colleagues, at the state level – with organizations, officials, etc.) and rearing style is modified by the priorities of the corresponding culture – whether it is dominated by individualism or collectivism. [D.Myers, 1997, 2]. Modern lifestyle compels representatives of different civilizations to share mutual experience in various spheres. Open society requires of people to pay attention to the lifestyle rhythm of other people different form them, become aware of a different world outlook, convention, customs and practices, and sometimes even have to adopt the living norms dictated by the new environment.
Assimilation with various cultural norms is possible through considering, perceiving and assessing the relationship between culture and behavior. Since norms of behavior are the manifestations of a values system, admitted as the foundation of culture of a particular environment, close consideration of diverse human activities requires paying particular attention to values. Very often, agreeing on the system of common values is reckoned as an ultimate goal of collaboration. Due to objective causes, this is not an easy process as the objective cause itself is a subjective human understanding – a different outlook.
It would be fair to admit that weltanschauung is founded on morality, and consequently, what is acceptable for one, can be altogether intolerable for the other. Mutual respect necessarily implies that each other’s traditions and customs be not only admitted but continuously considered in every particular case and at various levels – whether at the level of state, culture or everyday life. In the circumstances of collaborating in modern open societies every particular step aimed at the establishment of norms differing from moral and ethical values of particular society, whether in the field of legislation or education, or whether in the shape of promoting religious literature or fiction, is perceived as aggression against the society, entailing public concern and hampering establishment of peace among people.
Remarkably, apart from many differences, all cultures and civilizations have in common a set of unquestionable eternal values, and the exchange of and a deeper insight into the religious and psychological essence of these very values will certainly contribute to the dialogue among civilizations and cultures. Human freedom is universally admitted as one of such unquestionable values.
People value their own independence and freedom [D.Myers.2000], and therefore, when social impact is so great as to encroach upon their sense of freedom, people can revolt. The psychological reactance theory is based on the fact that people tend to protect their freedom. It has been attested experimentally that very often, an attempt to infringe upon people’s personal freedom produces a ‘boomerang effect’. [D.Myers.2000). Psychologists have proved that people are glad when they find themselves unique and dislike when they look just like others. In every particular case, people are ready to do something to maintain individuality even when facts show that at that particular point they are not distinguished from others. For instance, in 1980, when the students taking part in the conformity experiment by Snyder learned that they all had the same set, they changed their stand after the experiment in an attempt to prove their uniqueness. [C.R. Snyder & Howard L. Fromkin, 1980].
Politicians and champions of human rights frequently discuss the limits of individual freedom, and nowadays no one questions the idea that freedom of one person ends where freedom of another individual begins. It was exactly for the protection of each individual freedom that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights and many other international legal documents were composed. However, what very often escapes scholarly attention is the fact that apart from outer space and limits, freedom of each individual has inner, ethical and moral boundaries as well, which in every particular case is expressed through one’s free will. Therefore, a person as well as whole society painfully responses at and resists against every activity which is directed at them and is inconsistent with their morality. Very often, it is exactly subjective interpretation of free will expressed through exceeding one’s rights that accounts for conflicts, antagonism, public concerns or personal troubles.
Christian-psychological essence of freedom and free will was closely analyzed by Bishop Gabriel (Kikodze). He stated his scholarly opinions enlightened with Christian spirit in his work published in Russian in 1858: Basics of Experimental Psychology. [Bishop Gabriel, 1993]
According to Father Gabriel, human soul is not an abstracted idea created by our mind and perceptible solely by the mind’s eye. Soul is a substance existing in actual terms. It is manifested through numerous events. Therefore, the author of The Basics of Experimental Psychology finds experimental methods especially relevant to the development of psychology and notes that like other substances, soul is also to be studied through experiments and observations. Soul is invisible, and consequently is impossible to be observed by outer senses like material objects; however, these very senses are manifestations of soul, and therefore, when we study these sense, we in fact study the soul. Bishop Gabriel reminds us that human soul is always capable of reaching higher degree of morality. This is possible through establishing goodness, through approaching the Creator with one’s thoughts and wishes, approaching the boundless ideal which seems ever more distant as we try to come closer to it.
In Bishop Gabriel’s opinion, the notion of freedom necessarily implies mind on the one hand, and energy or power for a particular activity on the other. Freedom is the lot of only an intellectual being and can only be regarded as the result of thinking. A being with no soul and intellect cannot be free as it acts instinctively, being unconscious of its own activities and is insentiently subjected to external forces. The indispensable connection of mind with freedom is explained by the fact that only mind is capable of choosing the good and directing will thereto. If an intellectual being was deprived of freedom, they would be capable of distinguishing between good and evil but would lack an ability to make a choice; i.e. they would be unable to act according to their understanding. Freedom means to do what one perceives as better, while without mind freedom would fail to direct an action.
Since human freedom is an opportunity to act, it entirely depends on the ways and tools of action which God the Creator has granted the human. This exactly is implied in the idea that human freedom is limited, while solely God is completely unlimited in freedom. [Bishop Gabriel, 1993]
Bishop Gabriel calls the will the determination of soul to start a particular action. This determination or will may have different motivations. If the will makes a choice, which is nevertheless conscious even if dictated by base lust, and if mind is a tool for feelings, i.e. helps to choose, then we should admit that the action is completely free, deliberate. When human will is prevailed by passion, we should bear in mind the following: Subordination of one’s will to a passion is a necessary precondition for the passion to develop into a habit. Many people succeed in defeating bad habits and sometimes even in overcoming a strong passion with the help of will power. Therefore, the like cases also imply a free choice.
When one deliberately observes the letter of law or something else, one is always free. It is clear that the motivations that determine the direction of one’s will cannot deprive one of one’s freedom.
Bishop Gabriel regards freedom and action as identical notions: Lack of freedom allows solely for inactivity and leaves no room for action. In an attempt to highlight freedom of human will, the Bishop stated that every person can observe inner divergence, the conflict of feelings and mind. It is an indisputable fact that even when a particular passion powerfully drives us into a particular direction, we can stop and blame ourselves for our actions. Our conscience censures us. On the other hand, inner satisfaction caused by our victory over passions clearly suggests that the will has struggled and has not given up its freedom, has not been enslaved.
Bishop Gabriel reminds us that the like inner struggle is necessary for every developed individual, irrespective of the stage of development they are at. Who is capable of willing everything without any inner or outer constraint, and of fulfilling their wills with delight and affection, and even with inner enjoyment can be called genuinely free, having the supreme freedom, unparalleled all over the world. The one who will choose the good and renounce the evil naturally, following one’s heart and strongly believing in the superiority of what one is inspired after can be called the true Christian. A person overwhelmed with passions also acts upon their inner urge, but when passion becomes prevalent over will, it provokes inner dissension, discontent and tedium. Each time a passion is satisfied, a person becomes wilder and more excited instead of being soothed, as immoral life dominated by passions is a subnormal state of soul. Kind intentions are never generated by aggressive motivations. Being a genuine Christian means inner inclination for goodness. He who is a true Christian finds satisfaction in virtue and acts upon his inner urge, because he finds pleasure in acting so. Bishop Gabriel notes that reaching this state requires a great deal of struggle and efforts, but those who reach it gain genuine Christian freedom.
Ideas of Bishop Gabriel during the analyses of the events, besides the scientific investigations, are the result of his spiritual vision. And the necessity of adapting his statement to the modern psychological knowledge naturally comes forth: Proceeding from his explanations we can say that the author regards freedom from two angles: as the value itself and as the activity of a person. This completely corresponds with the modern vision on the value-aim and value-means; His main discoveries are the outcome of self-scrutiny (being even today one of the methods of psychological study) and observation on the experiment results, which speaks about the progress of the professor, graduate of Petersburg Theological Academy of 1849. In spite of the fact, that after publishing the work in 1858 - philosophical, physiological and psychological ideas have progressively developed, the ideas of Gabriel Kikodze have never lost their topicality:
Expression of the free will and an opportunity of making a particular choice in different situations are possible because of the variety of the outer world. A person relating with the environment can be characterized according to the complexity of his psychic organization, as:
A) Individual, B) Subject and C) Personality (Nadirashvili 1975a:61-123).
An individual, as an alive organism is connected with the outer reality through the biological demands and one of his specificity is his performance of the necessary activities needed for satisfaction of his wants with the help of the appropriate attitude.
A person is a subject so far as he is able to interrupt his practical activities, be separated from and opposed to the reality and establishes cognitive, theoretical relations with it. Dimitri Uznadze called this specific activity the act of objectivation. According to the subject’s scheme, the adequate realization of the reality and successful solving of the cognitive tasks, enable performing of the action, working out of the attitude and performing of the expedient, adaptive behavior.
A person is called a personality, when he is able to perform an action not serving his direct needs. In this particular case a human being organizes and realizes his behavior by himself. The behavior performed on the will of the personality is often directed against the needs and objective impulses and is solely dependent on the personality strength, which in its turn means admitting of the values by the person and forming of the will according to the value system correspondent to the cultural norms.
Thus, Bishop Gabriel under the Christian-Philosophical essence of the free will means spiritual abilities of a personality and urges humans to form their personalities according to the high values.
Today, when many exciting events happen worldwide on behalf of freedom, those filled with love and respect for high values are capable of having a beneficial influence on others and defend themselves if necessary from one-way influence as well as from undesirable impact accompanying an interaction. Therefore, the teachings of the blessed Bishop Gabriel are no less relevant nowadays, deserving sincere gratitude of modern readers and researchers.
I believe that when the representatives of different civilizations start to collaborate, the necessary precondition for peaceful and efficient relations is to take into account the existence of various cultural norms and ethic and moral models, and to foster in the young generation respectfulness for one’s own as well as others’ values.
Humans have a double and complex relationship with the environment: on the one hand, they are subjected to the impact of environment, and on the other hand, in compliance with their creative nature, they themselves make up their cultural habitat.
Social environment moulds the system of human values and determines the peculiarities of perceiving various types of roles in a society.
Human relationships are culture-ridden and are believed to be among the most important properties of the development of society.
Modern lifestyle compels representatives of different civilizations to share mutual experience in various spheres. Open society requires of people to pay attention to the lifestyle rhythm of other people different form them, become aware of a different world outlook, convention, customs and practices, and sometimes even have to adopt the living norms dictated by the new environment.
Assimilation with various cultural norms is possible through considering, perceiving and assessing the relationship between culture and behavior.
Diversity of sets and behaviors pertinent to various cultures point to the decisive role of cultural norms in personal development.
1993. On the Act of Will ( Problem sof the Experimental Psychology. Tbilisi: Publishing Jouse of Tbilisi Theological Academy and Seminary:164-171)
David G. Myers
2000. Power of a Human Influence (Exploring Social Psychology. Secrets of Influience. Moscow:”Olma-Press”;270-277).
1997. Culture and Behavior ( Social Psychology. Sankt-Petersburg: “Piter”:247-267)
1975. Interaction of People ( Social Psychology of a Personality . Tbilisi: Piblishing House of Tbilisi Uiversity:124-200).
1975a. Environmrnt and the Organization of the Psychic Activity ( Social Phsychology of a Personality. Tbilisi: Publishing House of Tbilisi University:62-123).
Snyder C.R.&Fromkin H.L.
1980. Reactional Resisntence (The Human Pursuit of Difference. New-York: Plenum:267).
У человека сложное отношение с социальной средой. С одной стороны, он ощушает воздействие среды, с другой - он сам, в соответствии с собственной творческой натуры, создает личное культурно-жизненное пространство.
Социальная среда формирует нашу ценностную систему и определяет в обществе особенности восприятия разных ролей. Правила межличностных отношений определяется культурой и является одним из основных характеристик развития общества.
Современная жизнь обязывает представителей различных цивилизации обмениваться опытом в разных сферах жизнедеятельности. Существование открытого общества заставляет человека прислушаться к пульсу жизни других людей, ознакомиться с их мировозрением. нравами и традициями. Иногда на некоторое время люди вынуждены принять предложенные жизненные нормы.
Осмысление взаимосвязи культуры и поведения человека, восприятие и оценка этой зависимости, способствуют освоению разных культурных норм.
Многообразие установок и деятельности человека, характеризующие разновидность культур, доказывает решающую роль культурных норм в формировании личности.