A friend of mine said he and his Chinese girlfriend were debating whether Chinese or Americans value freedom.  She argued America is oppressive because it meddles in the affairs of other countries, like their trade practices.

This reminded me of human development class they said Asians hold interdependence on others as a critical virtue, which could make some sense in her ideal that conduct of a nation is as important a measure of freedom as individual freedom. I wonder if it’s all culturally propogated by something like communism, though they seemed to imply it went beyond actual Chinese. Westerners, alternately, would have a relatively more common trait of seeing independence as a virtue. (Though I’m thinking there is a divide there between conservative and liberal ethos in the West.)

I find it particularly interesting as it was advanced in the Human Development text as a 6th spectra of personality (next to the Big 5 of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). The DSM5’s proposed model for personality disorders for uses these, but they are just frosting on a cake of personality “elements” of identity, self-direction, empathy and intimacy.

I think interdependence would be some compound of empathy and identity.  Another area where differences between cultures has been proposed is in Caroline Dweck’s self-theories of intelligence, where Asians are more inclined to have incremental self theory (the “grit” approach) while Westerners are more likely to have an entity self theory (the “gifted” approach).  I’d guess this combines identity and self-direction.

I dislike the use of “cultural construct” to imply something isn’t real.  But on the flip side it does give psychologists the opportunity to recognize where a certain cognitive behavior may not be pathological in the individual’s culture.

But two things to watch out for: the inflexible nature of personality disorders is part of what makes them pathological.  And I think this may stem from them being adopted artificially.  So can I really try to embrace incremental self-theory without faking it, and if I fake it, will I learn to apply it where appropriate?  I have to think that as with lifestyle change, personality development has to be possible, but may be prone to the same pitfalls of recidivism.  The question is whether it remains a defense mechanism or can be integrated into self care strategies.  Is it something that always requires me to care for it, or does it in times of stress sustain me?


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