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Ask Eleanor
Ask Eleanor, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years
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If a person enjoys the challenges of life and responds to events

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If a person enjoys the challenges of life and responds to events of adversity as "challenges" what does this indicate about their personality?

Ask Eleanor :

Hello, I am here for you and am happy to respond. Are you asking about a particular person?


No. Just a general question. I am a USAir Force military reservist and find most military females (officer and enlisted) in the Air Force are very upbeat and positive persons who thrive on the "challenges" of their respective areas of work. There is no appearance of being "ego-centered" just very upbeat and positive and eager to engage the challenges. Whereas I have noticed that the more traditional female personality often is more passive and can actually see these females as "ego-centered" -which I find "odd".

Ask Eleanor :

Thank you for the clarification.

Ask Eleanor :

It is difficult to generalize and performance at work does not indicate ones total personality. But it general I would say that women who join the military are more in tough with their masculine side than women who do not. We all have masculine and femine sides to our personality and the ideal is to have balance. Women who do not have a healthy masculine side often project this quality onto men in their lives and expect their masculine need to be fulfilled in this way. Usually does not work. Does this make sense?

Ask Eleanor :

please excuse the typos


Absolutely. However, I think what I am driving at is perhaps the sense of "confidence" involved; in addition, most military folks are accustomed to working in teams to approach "challenges". These women are not fearful and there is a self-confidence I encounter that I seldom see in other women. So, I believe "there is more to it" than just being in touch with their male side (several of these ladies are actually very feminine in their personal appearance even when on duty). Does this further clarify the answer I am hoping for in response to the original question?

Ask Eleanor :

Yes. Let me clairfy that I am not suggesting that women who are in touch with their masculine side are not femine, quite the contrary.


Correct. Well understood. I am still wondering though what does it say about the personality "type" or what aspect of personality is present that underlies the upbeat confidence to readily take on everyday challenges?

Ask Eleanor :

Well it suggests that they are extroverts and decisive and confident enough in themselves to play a team role without feeling threatened.

Ask Eleanor :

I believe you would find taking a look at the Myers Briggs Personality types interesting. Are you familair with these?


OK, I understand your response. Can you take it a bit "deeper" in terms of what creates this aspect of personality? These are ladies from many diverse backgrounds


Super - yes indeed - I know the Myers Briggs Personality system very well! But, to clarify, is this "confidence" genetic or are there specific factors in upbringing or life experience that generate this "confidence"?

Ask Eleanor :

I would say both, but with more influence from nurture than nature.


Can you specify what those influences are? perhaps some examples? I am an epidemiologist and educator by training, so, I am trying to ask about those common factors in nuture that these ladies might have experienced. Is it specific to a certain age range of childhood or a certain type of nurturing? (Your responses are good, but, I am hoping for something a bit more specific.)


Eleanor, if it helps, only about 1% of the USA population volunteers for the military (all branches). The percentage of women is even lower than 1%.

Ask Eleanor :

Wow, I did not realize this, impressive!!


Yes (at least I think so) -so, I am wondering (back to the original question) about why these ladies have this "common attribute" or such confidence and upbeat/ "can-do" attitudes? (They arrive at the military with this aspect of their personalities by my observation. Military training only seems to enhance what is already present in a population that has "self-selected" into military affiliation.)

Ask Eleanor :

Read over this and chat back

Ask Eleanor :

Erickon's Psychosocial Stages of Development

1 Basic Trust vs. Mistrust 0-1 Hope Dependency or Paranoia

-when the parents present consistent, adequate, and nurturing care, the child develops basic trust and realizes that people are dependable and the world can be a safe place. The child develops a sense of hope and confidence; this is a belief that things will work out well in the end

-when the parents fail to provide these things, the child develops basic mistrust, resulting in depression, withdrawal, and maybe even paranoia


2 Autonomy vs Shame & Doubt 2-3 Will Obsessive/Impulsive or Avoidant

-if parents guide children gradually and firmly, praise and accept attempts to be independent, autonomy develops. The result will be a sense of will which helps us accomplish and build self-esteem as children and adults

-if parents are too permissive, harsh, or demanding, the child can feel defeated, and experience extreme shame and doubt, and grow up to engage in neurotic attempts to regain feelings of control, power, and competency. This may take the form of obsessive behavior; if you follow all rules exactly then you will never be ashamed again. If the child is given no limits or guidance, the child can fail to gain any shame or doubt and be impulsive. Some is good, as it causes us to question the outcomes of our actions, and consider others' well-being. This may also result in Avoidance; if you never allow yourself to be close to others, they can never make you feel ashamed


3 Initiative vs Guilt 4-5 Purpose Constricted or Antisocial/Narcissistic

-the child becomes curious about people and models adults. Erickson believed the child does attempt to possess the opposite sex parent and experience rivalry toward the same sex parent; however, a true Oedipal Complex only develops in very severe cases

-if parents are understanding and supportive of a child's efforts to show initiative, the child develops purpose, and sets goals and acts in ways to reach them

-if children are punished for attempts to show initiative, they are likely to develop a sense of guilt, which in excess can lead to inhibition. Too much purpose and no guilt can lead to ruthlessness; the person may achieve their goals without caring who they step on in the process


4 Industry vs Inferiority 6-12 Competency Helplessness or Shallowness

-occurs during Latency, but Erickson did not think this was a rest period; the child begins school and must tame imagination and impulses, and please others. If adults support the child's efforts, a sense of competence develops

-if caretakers do not support the child, feelings of inferiority are likely to develop. Too much inferiority, and inertia or helplessness occurs (underachievers). Too much competency and the child becomes an adult too fast, and develops either into a Histrionic or Shallow person

One way to divide Erikson's stages is into two groups of four -- the first four have to do with figuring out the world, the last four with figuring out yourself



5 Identity vs Role Confusion 13-19 Fidelity Identity Diffusion or Fanaticism

-young adults attempt to develop identity and ideas about strengths, weaknesses, goals, occupations, sexual identity, and gender roles. Teens "try on" different identities, going through an identity crisis, and use their friends to reflect back to them. Marcia offers four resolutions: Identity Achievement (crises and commitment), Moratorium (crises and commitment later), Foreclosure (commitment without crises), and Identity Diffusion (no crises, no commitment)

-if they resolve this crisis, they develop fidelity, "the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems" (can be friends with very different people)

-if they fail to resolve the crisis, they develop identity diffusion; their sense of self is unstable and threatened; too little identity and they may join cults or hate groups, too much identity and they may show fanaticism

6 Intimacy vs Isolation 20-24 Love Promiscuity or Exclusion

-intimacy is the ability to be close, loving, and vulnerable with romances and friends. It is based in part upon identity development, in that you have to know yourself to share it. The virtue gained here is love. Failure to develop intimacy can lead to promiscuity (getting too close too quick and not sustaining it), or exclusion (rejecting relationships and those who have them)

7 Generativity vs Stagnation 25-64 Care Stagnation or Overextension

-if you have a strong sense of creativity, success, and of having "made a mark" you develop generativity, and are concerned with the next generation; the virtue is called care, and represents connection to generations to come, and a love given without expectations of a specific return

-adults that do not feel this develop a sense of stagnation, are self-absorbed, feel little connection to others, and generally offer little to society; too much stagnation can lead to rejectivity and a failure to feel any sense of meaning (the unresolved mid-life crises), and too much generativity leads to overextension (someone who has no time for themselves because they are so busy)


8 Ego Integrity vs Despair 65-? Wisdom Presumption or Disdain

-this entails facing the ending of life, and accepting successes and failures, ageing, and loss. People develop ego integrity and accept their lives if they succeed, and develop a sense of wisdom a "detached concern with life itself in the face of death itself"

-those who do not feel a sense of despair and dread their death; it's too late to change their lives (Ebenezer Scrooge just managed to avoid it) Too much wisdom leads to presumption, too much despair to a disdain for life






Wow! Excellent. I think for $19.00 I have an excellent response to my inquiry. Thanks very much! (I assume I just select "accept" now and our chat is completed. yes?)


Thanks again. (I need to sign off now.)

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