The question of what truly makes a person has been debated by philosophers for centuries. Some say it is our actions that define us, while others believe it is our thoughts and intentions that count the most. There are many different theories out there about what the essence of a person really is. In this article, we will explore some of these ideas to try to get a better understanding of this complex question.
What is the essence of a person?
Despite all the changes we are going through, we still have the conviction and the feeling that there is something that remains, that is always recognizable. Is it our essence? What is the essence of a person?
We live in a changing world, where we face new challenges every day. Although routine may make us believe that the days are the same, in reality each day is different from the previous one. Reality changes, and so do we. So why do we have less of a sense of change than actually exists?
It is precisely this perception of immutability and permanence that largely induces this feeling of permanence in us. What exactly is this essence? Are we born with it or do we build it? If we are born with it, are we determined to be as we are? If it is a construction, how do we build it?
What is Gasoline?
By “essence of a person” we mean the set of qualities, traits or characteristics that make a person who he is. The essence is invariable or practically invariable. Indeed, the person would be different from the way he recognizes himself and is recognized if he varied.
We can equate this concept with that of identity, which is understood as a set of beliefs, behaviors and ways of feeling that make us who we are and differentiate us from other people. This identity becomes like a construction that gives us a feeling of permanence and uniqueness.
But what sustains this sense of permanence? Our physical constitution or our psychological traits? Let’s see that. We started from the postulate that the essence is what is constant, what remains in the person. Is our morphology invariable? Empirical experience shows us every day that this is not the case. Over time, our bodies change and age. This feeling of permanence therefore does not come from our biology.
Are the characteristics of our psychological traits the basis of this feeling of permanence? That is. Our thoughts change, the ways of feeling and experiencing the world vary from moment to moment.
The essence of a person: what makes us who we are?
At no level, and even psychologically, are we identical to 5-year-olds and 20-year-olds. Cognitive and emotional development fluctuates from one stage of life to another. So, psychologically, we are not always the same. There are variations, albeit slight ones. Therefore, our perception of permanence does not come from the direct experience of our psychological traits.
So if everything changes: body and mind, where does this feeling of permanence come from? About the belief that we do not change and the confirmation bias that leads us to seek information confirming this conception. This belief is the one that seems to remain unchanged, but not because it essentially is, because we resist changing it and the change itself.
When everything changes and the person does not change, we can say that it is not that the person himself does not change, but rather that he resists doing so. This should not surprise us. Indeed, we all do it because the idea of immutability that we have associated with identity gives us the security of being someone. If I’m constantly changing, then who am I now? It is better to avoid the anguish of not knowing and to feel the security that I really am something.
Essence: innate or manufactured?
Do we come into the world predefined by an essence that determines who we are for the rest of our lives or do we construct this essence? From an existential and psychological point of view, we can say that all essence is constructed from existence. As Jean Paul Sartre said, existence precedes essence. First we exist, then we are. We don’t enter this world preconfigured, we configure ourselves to it.
So we exist first. That is to say, we emerge in the world, we appear and enter the scene in an established social structure, then we define ourselves: “I am a doctor”, “I am a father”, “I am a person charismatic”. Thus, we are not already born being what we are. We make ourselves by relating to the world and to others.
Now, we already know that the essential is done, is built. But how? To do this, we will focus on a biopsychosocial explanation, in which we will understand that the construction of the essence of a person is made from the interdependence or interrelationships of several factors: biological, psychological and social.
Biopsychosocial construction of a person’s essence
Our biology is an important part of who we are. Genes play an important role in our personality. Thus, part of our essence depends on the genetic heritage of our parents. But this influence should not be understood as determining, but as probabilistic. We have a predisposition that may or may not activate depending on the environment.
The psychological factor plays another important role in the construction of the essence. What we think, what we believe, how we feel and are aroused in the world configures a cognitive, behavioral and affective pattern of relating and being.
At the cognitive level, the stories we construct about what happens to us and about ourselves give rise to a consolidation of said essence. Through these stories, we maintain a cohesive story that reinforces who we are.
These two factors unfold in a particular context, within a social structure in which not only socio-economic or political variables intervene, but also family ones.
The education that our parents or loved ones give us is a key element of who we are and of the activation of our genetic predispositions. The environment establishes for us an ideal of being, reinforces it, shapes it, defines it according to its own expectations.
Essence and change
If we want to define the essence of a person or of the human being in general, we can venture to say that it is the change and the interaction of the biological, the social and the psychological. Although we feel like we are not changing or resisting to keep reaffirming what we think we are, that does not imply that we are not a continuous change, a constant becoming.
While it is true that certain elements of our human dimension are more stable than others, such as genetics or DNA, we must not take it for granted that we are immutable, because, remember, a single factor does not not the essence, but rather the interrelation between them.
What do you think is your essence as a person? What biological, psychological and social variables do you think have made you who you are?
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Vogue Health Team