Psychology, 2010, 1, 273-281
doi:10.4236/psych.2010.14036 Published Online October 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards
a Unified Model of Self
Jonathan Appel1, Dohee Kim-Appel2
1Tiffin University, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Tiffin, USA; 2Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, Tiffin,
Received May 21st, 2010; revised June 3rd, 2010; accepted August 30th, 2010.
Human beings exist in multiple substrates or dimensions. But we still need more comprehensive and integrative theories
of self-identity and personality. Most personality and developmental theories fail to adequately address the interaction
among the psychological, interpersonal, environmental, and biological aspects of self and personality development.
This paper presents a larger framework in which to examine prior models of personality as well as future integrative
models. A Multipath Approach to Personality (MAP) is proposed and consists of the following dimensions or levels of
analysis of self: 1) the Neuropersonal; 2) the Intrapersonal; 3) the Interpersonal; 4) the Exopersonal; 5) the Ecoper-
sonal; and 6) the Transpersonal. The MAP approach to personality also suggests a multi-modal practice in assessment
and research.
Keywords: personality Theory, Systems Theory, Interdisciplinary Approaches, Transpersonal Psychology
1. Introduction
According to Millon [1] most personality theories fail to
adequately address the interaction among the psycho-
logical, interpersonal, environmental, and biological as-
pects of personality development. Therefore, Millon [1,2]
together with a number of other critics—such as Church,
[3], Endler, [4], Schultz & Schultz, [5], and Laher, [6] all
argue that most current theories provide a less than com-
prehensive perception into an individual’s personality
and identity and suggest that a more holistic and inte-
grated approach to personality is still needed. The Mul-
tipath Model presented in this paper is an attempt at an
integrative and interacting model for viewing personality
and psychological development.
1.1. Towards an Interdisciplinary and Systemic
View of the Self
Human beings exist in multiple substrates. Scholars have
been and are currently working on more comprehensive
and integrative theories of self-identity and personality.
Humans are indeed at least bio-cultural beings. We are
neither biologically determined, nor tabula rasa, upon
which culture is imposed. Rather, identity and personal-
ity organization emerge out of a jointly active and dy-
namic process. Models with these views describe holistic
epistemologies which attempt to reflect this complex
ontology and thereby avoid reductionism.
Certainly the biopsychosocial model as articulated by
Engels [7] and Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems
theory [8] both seek to move beyond linear and reduc-
tionist views of health and development. Engels argues
that scientific and inclusive account of health and illness
should utilize the insights of general systems theory in
which there are levels of organization from lower to
higher. Systems models of organized hierarchies contain
lower levels of organization which are necessary for
higher ones to exist but would not be sufficient to de-
scribe or explain their nature. With each higher level of
organization emergent qualities appear which are not
present at lower levels. Thus to Engels, physical and
mental health are not merely a singular biological or an
emotional process but a spiral of physical, psychological,
and social ordering that is intertwined in a complex rela-
tionship. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory
also attempts a similar larger view of human develop-
ment within the context of systemic levels of relation-
ships (microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosys-
tem, and chronosystem) that form one’s environment.
Bronfenbrenner emphasizes that while a child’s own
biology is a force fueling his/her development—the in-
teraction between factors in the child’s maturing biology,
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
his/her immediate family/community environment, and
the societal landscape drives and steers his/her develop-
ment. While the Biopsychosocial and bioecological sys-
tems model has been given a fair amount of “lip-service”
in medicine, psychiatry and other mental health fields,
these models have failed to make a real transformative
impact. Pilgrim [9] contends that despite the professional,
scientific and ethical virtues of systemic models in men-
tal health, the promise of these models have not been
fully realized and have been kept in the shadows by a
return to medicine and the reascendancy of a biomedical
model or biology as the primary force underlying psy-
chological development.
But there are additional models in the mental health
literature that contend that psychological concepts cannot
be reduced to mere biological correlates. These models
suggest the psychological is reciprocally connected to the
biological processes but coalesce with different and
emergent interdependent properties. An example of this
is the multi-layered systemic consciousness-based model
of the psyche proposed by Douglas Hofstadter [10]. Hof-
stadter formulates a three-level model of the self. He
suggests the human psyche is based on a kind of strange
loop, an interaction between levels in which the top level
reaches back down towards the bottom level and influ-
ences it, while at the same time being itself determined
by the bottom level. Based on Gödel’s paradox, Hof-
stadter offers structures in which a new level of meaning
could “speak about” a lower level of meaning via a
higher-order, nested structure. The model suggest
“non-material’ thoughts and identity arising out of mate-
rial neurons and electrochemical reactions—creating the
symbolic “I” that is maintained and modified by the
feedback of the external world. The outcome is still
paradoxical and self-referential but it is offered as a more
accurate picture of how the mind works. Similarly,
Damasio [11] also suggests that we are made up of at
least three selves (proto-self, core-self, and autobio-
graphical self)—each corresponding to a layer of con-
sciousness whose characteristics and neural correlates
can be identified. More recently, Peck [12] also proposes
a multilevel systems theory applied to a person-in-con-
text approach. Functionally nested levels are used to dis-
tinguish personal identity from sense of symbolic belief
from iconic schema systems. Peck hypotheses a contex-
tualized identity model where levels of integration unfold
separately, but interdependently across levels of repre-
Indeed, there have been a few theorists/theories that
are moving toward a multidimensional view and the re-
cent advances in neuroscience research may spark a re-
newed interest in a multidimensional and interactional
view. In fact, whole new sub-fields that have been called
Interpersonal Neurobiology and/or Social Neuroscience
have emerged as a means to integrate and connect the
recent advances in neurological and brain data with so-
cial and behavioral correlates [13]. Sue, Sue, and Sue [14]
present a view that includes biological, psychological,
social and cultural dimension or multiple paths towards
mental disorder but their view only focuses on pathology.
While all these multilevel models have been more sys-
temic and attempt to account for an interaction of influ-
ences—they still often fail to adequately account for the
influence of processes at all possible levels or domains of
self. The assumption of the Multipath Approach to Per-
sonality (MAP) model includes the notion that personal-
ity and self are shaped by the combined forces of evolu-
tionary, biological, situational, mental, as well as a psy-
cho-spiritual processes—all embedded in a temporal,
socio-cultural, and developmental context see Figure 1.
It is assumed one can use various levels of analysis in the
description of psychological functioning, and no one
level would be the complete or accurate description. But
taken together all levels provide an additive view that
constructs a wider and clearer lens for viewing human
personality and psychological development of the self.
2. The Multipath Approach to Personality
The Multipath Approach to Personality (MAP) consists
of the following dimensions or levels of analysis of the
self: 1) the Neuropersonal; 2) the Intrapersonal; 3) the
Interpersonal; 4) the Exopersonal; 5) the Ecopersonal;
and 6) the Transpersonal.
2.1. The Neuropersonal Self
One level of analysis can be thought of as the “neurop-
ersonal” level of self. Through this lens human beingsare
viewed as biological and evolutionary organisms. This
level is focused on biological-genetic-material func-
Figure 1. Domains of influence in personality development.
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
tioning, and also represents the “pre-personal” field.
From this perspective the individual can be primary de-
scribed as driven by biological mechanisms. Mental
processes are seen objectively through a biological lens
within the organism, with genetic makeup playing an
important role in the development or maintenance of
personality and some abnormal conditions. Personality
can be seen as influenced by temperament—which are
biologically based characteristics apparent in early
childhood and establish the tempo and mood of an indi-
vidual’s behaviors. Autonomic nervous system reactivity
may be inherited. Differences in personality arise from
balance of neurotransmitters, but also can be shaped by
learning. Neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists
suggest that our “reptilian brain” influences personality
and basic drives of sex, aggression, hunger, thirst and
basic survival. It is the prerational world of Freud’s Id
and the lower survival (deficiency) needs mapped by
Maslow [15]. Its influence is often below ego awareness
and functions unconsciously or pre-consciously.
Our behavior as influenced by this domain is often
focused by individual and evolutionary life force—safety
and survival. This primal self seeks to hold off threat
against the forces of the world in service of the prime
objective of life, or Dawkins’ “selfish” gene directive of
survival and replication [16]. Our perceptual systems and
deep biological functioning have been organized around
two functions—1) determine which environmental stim-
uli pose a threat to our existence—who is ‘safe’ or “like
us” and who is “the different one” (in group vs. out
group) and 2) replicate our genetic material. These are
the realms of the lower and mid-brain regions with its
biological and emotional processes—programmed through
evolutionary and genetic forces to aid our physical sur-
vival and propagation. Our very biology and behavior
mapped from DNA carries the desire to stay alive and
protect the self-system. Our Neuropersonal level also
includes the evolution of our paleo-mammal brain (as the
origin of consciousness) and is built upon the unique
properties of the mammalian neocortex. But even in our
developed brain functions is the inherent tendency of
limbic and admygdala activation (fear and aggres-
sion)—which still often take precedence to the more re-
cent frontal cortical emergence in human evolution.
Of course Western science still often has the “bot-
tom-up” tendency to view human development merely as
biological determinism—in a linear way. But the reality
of human behavior is far more complex, and has multiple
reciprocal influences. Studies show environment affects
biochemical and brain activity, as well as structural neu-
rological circuitry [17]. Science increasingly rejects idea
of “one gene for one disease.” Gene-environment inter-
actions appear more complex than simply having a “pre-
disposition” [18]. Studies reveal different forms of same
genes interacting with critical development periods in
life of individual may determine when, how, and what
mental illness occurs [19]. Evolutionary shifts are always
occurring in all our systems—both personally and at
higher levels of organization of the self. Living systems
while rooted in the biological are also as increasingly
influenced by larger levels of organized development.
2.2. The Intrapersonal Self
The intrapersonal level of self is the psychological and
the mental field. This is the realm of self staked out by
ego and cognitive psychology and its intellectual de-
scendants. It is at this level we then began to give way to
an increasing sense of separation from the whole, with an
accompanying, growing sense of individual self-con-
sciousness and self-identity beginning to develop.
The intrapersonal level has its focus on the “information
stored about the self” and the cognitive perspective of
personality and the idea that people are who they are be-
cause of the way they think, including how information is
attended to, perceived, analyzed, interpreted, encoded and
retrieved. People tend to have habitual thinking patterns
which are characterized as concepts of self and personality.
One’s identity and personality, then, would be characteris-
tic of one’s cognitive patterns. This is suggestive that con-
siderable capacity for personality change and mental
health with an altering of thinking patterns.
From this perspective psychological function can also
be localized into the “Big Five” traits. The Five-Factor
Model (FFM) is an empirically supported personality
model that specifies that most stable individual differ-
ences in emotions, cognition, and behavior can be de-
scribed by five independent domains: Neuroticism, Ex-
traversion, and Openness to Experience, Agreeableness,
and Conscientiousness.
These ‘traits’ are seen through the intrapersonal lens
as residing within the personal (but may be expressed at
other levels) and are empirically related to individual
personality and overall global stability. Research shows
that the five-factor structure of personality in some sense
transcends language/culture and may indeed be universal
[20]. The Big Five structure does not imply that person-
ality differences can be reduced to only five traits. Rather,
these five dimensions represent personality at the broad-
est level of abstraction, and each dimension summarizes
a large number of distinct, more specific personality
characteristics [21]. The intrapersonal level is also re-
flected within Freud’s concept of ego, and Jung’s con-
cept of ego and persona. It is the most “visible” aspect of
individuals, and is reflected in cognition and in the de-
velopment (or lack) in an integration of rational and
emotional functions (similar to the concept of differen-
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
tiation of self—see Bowen [22]).
Cognitive styles as viewed from the intrapersonal level
can be seen as being organized around the before men-
tioned five traits. For example, a person develops a cog-
nitive “self schema” other “person schema” around one’s
own traits. Those individuals who score high in Neuroti-
cism develop cognitive structures that explain and rein-
force their emotional reactivity (e.g. people aren’t to be
trusted). Individuals with high conscientiousness would
operate by a very controlled rule based cognitive struc-
ture. Poorly individuated people would develop constant
threat-based cognitive schemas (and score low in the
openness trait). Personality and cognitive schemas are
also represented in the Jungian archetypes, by which one
either identifies or disowns archetypes as a reflection
related to their self system and traits. For example, the
degree in which we project our shadow content would be
related to our level of neurosis. Traits, like archetypes are
biologically grounded, and express themselves within the
context of the emergent conscious ego and cognitive
structures. But the content of the intrapersonal is driven
by the submerged or deep self and the simultaneous de-
sire and fear to come into true contact of all knowledge
about oneself. The ego can represent the wall or the
bridge to this inner deep self. Subsequent levels in this
model may be viewed as the expression of this deeper
with a more expansive sense of a self-system. Growth
and adaptation would be measured by the consistent at-
tainment of the ability to achieve and maintain a sense of
psychological safety, in which one is safe to expand the
self system. Once sufficient physical and psychological
safety needs have been at least partially satisfied, both
Rogers and Maslow identified that the individual actual-
izing tendency would be released, as people would be
motivated to meet not only biological needs, but also the
growth needs of the self [23]. Once this developmental
mechanism is enacted—one would seek to move towards
self-actualization, which is the inherent tendency to
strive toward realization of one’s full potential (an ex-
pansion of the self system). But trauma and unresolved
trauma can lead to lasting patterns of hyperarousal, dis-
sociation, negative cognitions, and can thwart expansive
2.3. The Interpersonal Self
The interpersonal level of self is the social and family
relationship field. Healthy Relationships are important
for human development and functioning, with personal
and family relationships providing many intangible
healthy benefits, and feedback and identity to the self-
system. When relationships are dysfunctional, individu-
als may be more prone to abnormal behavior and/or
mental disturbances. Personality disorders generally re-
flect a maladaptive (self-defeating) interpersonal pattern
(see [24-31]). At this level of analysis personality devel-
opment can also be viewed as being influenced by family
attributes and dynamics as well as attachment. Abnormal
behavior is a reciprocal reflection of unhealthy family
dynamics and poor communication. While this domain is
manifested at the social level—relationships and multi-
generational relational patterns can over time impact
biological adaptation or maladaptation., Studies do show
environment can influence biochemical and brain activ-
ity, as well as structural neurological circuitry [19], and
perhaps even genetic evolution over the long expanse of
a multi-generational repetition compulsion in how one
relates to others. Families serve as the formative envi-
ronment for relationship blueprints, that impact interper-
sonal dynamics which are reflected in other levels of
organization, including the work environment (see [32]).
Interpersonal patterns and the interpersonal self can pro-
vide an impetus to an expansive or a restrictive self, de-
pending on the health of these relationships.
2.4. The Exopersonal Self
The exopersonal level of self is the cultural-societal as-
pect of the self system. This level acknowledges that
human personality development arises from particular
socio-cultural contexts. This level suggests that some
sociocultural stressors reside within the social system—
not within the person (but are expressed at other levels,
including the interpersonal and intrapersonal level). This
level of analysis recognizes assumptions people make
vary widely across cultures—depending especially on
whether the culture emphasizes individualism or collec-
tivism. A particular sociocultural development is one
factor that would lead to different brain expression/de-
velopment and social learning particular to our culture
(cultural relativism), while we might be the same on
some traits and behaviors (cultural universality). It would
be at exopersonal level that Adler’s concept of social
interest [34] could be reflected and could be used as a
measure of development at this level. The exopersonal
represents a higher level of interaction with the other—in
that the interpersonal level represents actually immediate
relationships and represents our conceptual relationships
with people and groups not known personally and our
expression of altruism towards them. Health of the
exopersonal self has implications for the health of the
community and vice versus.
2.5. The Ecopersonal Self
This is the global-planetary field of self (Gaia), which is
“post-personal”. This level represents our “ecological
consciousness.” It is how we see ourselves, our egos, in
relationship to the planet and the natural world as a
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
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whole. Eco-psychology represents a new sub-discipline
that studies individuals within this context. Development
at this level would be marked by a sense and a more in-
terconnected whole of all living processes on the planet.
Our sensing and sense of self would be expanded at this
level. Larger organizational principles and meaningful
connections and patterns would be emerging as outlines
of something larger than the individual self. Both Sewall
[35] and Bernnan [36] see as humanity as progressing
through a stage of evolution where we have developed a
personal self that is separate from the natural world and
as a result of the self-conscious ego (with culture specific
difference needs on independence and achievement). The
ecopersonal level suggests the call to enter the next stage,
a transpersonal shift towards recognition of the possibil-
ity of development towards a “unity consciousness.”
Unity consciousness can be described as the ability to
transcend opposites, to recognize and integrate complex
relationships (going from parts to wholes), and to em-
brace all experience in the living world equally and un-
conditionally. The ecopersonal self marks the sense of
the increasing expanded sense of health and functioning.
2.6. The Transpersonal Self
At the transpersonal level is the emerging collective-
unity consciousness, as well as acknowledgement of the
nearly universal need for the spiritual dimension of the
human psyche. Religious and Spiritual traditions across
cultures and epochs have traditionally focused on the
transpersonal accepts of living, but as psychological sci-
ence evolves, there may be a recognition and the need to
study this transpersonal level of self. This domain repre-
sents the need for an “expansive” identity beyond the
personal ego and the desire to experience “transrational”
stages of consciousness (see [37]). The transpersonal
domain represents the integration of all forms and func-
tions of other MAP levels, but also transcends them.
Transpersonal psychology notes although identity and
personality exists on the plane of sense-con-scious-
ness—one can develop the conscious psychological ego
to where it becomes like a thin line—with just sufficient
individuality to retain contact with the everyday reality
of existence but also holding a larger connecting “spiri-
tual” or transpersonal view. This meta- perspective en-
ables one to see one own true self, but also as psycho-
logical understanding that all part of a whole unification
(or a “One”)—manifesting itself in different forms. The
psychological study of peak experiences (see [38]) and
flow (see [39]) examines some of this territory and its
relation to the psyche and human development, but much
of this domain remains under examined within the field
of psychology. Although transpersonal psychology has
produced relatively little quantitative research, the recent
empirical verification of mindfulness as an important
construct in mental health represents a feature of trans-
personal consciousness beyond the normal sense of indi-
vidual self experience. Recent empirical support for the
metapersonal self-construal in psychological functioning
also suggests that the transpersonal identity may be a
future untapped and potentially fertile area for psychol-
ogy and personality theory (see [40]).
Each level or domain in the MAP represents different
views of personality and development and each has sup-
porters who are influenced by their models. Greatest un-
derstanding comes from integrating approaches. It is all
embedded systems, in which the parts also influence the
whole isomorphically—see Figure 2.
3. Interaction of the MAP Levels:
With the implied interdisciplinary and multidimensional
approach of the MAP model let’s now examine an ex-
ample of aggressive behavior and an aggressive person-
ality pattern through each level.
3.1. Aggression at the Neuropersonal
At the neuropersonal level, brain region of the amygdala
is highly relevant and highly implicated in viewing ag-
gression (as well as malfunctioning of the limbic and
prefrontal cortex). Studies have consistently found that
deficits in certain neuropsychological functions correlate
with aggressive personality, impulsivity, and other forms
of persistent, serious misconduct. Prefrontal lobe damage
Figure 2. MAP model.
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
has been reported in 73% of subjects with a history of
violent crimes compared with 28% of those with no such
damage [41]. Studies that use neuroimaging assessment
(e.g., PET, fMRI) have found diminished brain activity
in the pre-frontal cortex in individuals with persistent
violent behavior [42]. Research in antisocial and aggres-
sive behavior; have also consistently reported low corti-
sol responses in psychopathic criminal offenders [43]
and in boys with aggression or at high risk for substance
abuse [44-46]. Such deficits are considered to reflect an
underarousal of neuro-circuitry in the emotional systems
that help regulate behavior. Sources of damage to neural
circuits that may disrupt ability to assess consequences
and regulate impulses include head injury, prenatal drug
exposure, neurotoxins, childhood deprivation, and chronic
drug use. Aggression in part, is often seeded in the neu-
ropersonal, but will take deep root if watered by other
3.2. Aggression at the Intrapersonal
It has long been recognized that cognitions as well as
individual constructions of reality play an influential role
in behavior and emotions, including anger and aggres-
sion. Many cognitive and Information-processing mod-
els of aggression have emerged in the literature (see
[47-49]). Although these models vary in terminology and
focus, the models all suggest similar premises about ag-
gression as being influenced by social-information and
problem solving structures and highlight the interaction
between cognition, emotional arousal, and rigid behav-
ioral and personality types—which are reflected in the
intrapersonal domain.
3.3. Aggression at the Interpersonal
The Interpersonal level recognizes we have developed
organized aggression at the level of the social band. We
can communicate aggression towards others with even an
abstraction over space and time. Although aggression
and anger has biological aspects, its expressions are
learned from social experiences. Maladaptive anger is
one of many coping strategies learned from families dur-
ing childhood experiences. Allen Schore [50] has out-
lined in exquisite detail the psychobiology of early
childhood development involving maturation of orbi-
tofrontal and limbic structures, but also suggests this is
mediated by reciprocal experiences with the caregiver,
which can have lasting impact. Research does recognize
that aggressive, antisocial, and impulsive acts are often
associated with abusive and neglectful childhoods as
well as from a social learning process, which seems to be
associated with some of the most extreme forms of be-
havior in the current discussion. Other theories held that
the drives instigating interpersonal aggression were situ-
ated in the environment and were stimulated by frustra-
tion. This theory is best known as the frustration-aggres-
sion hypothesis. These theories propose that people are
aggressive toward others when their goals are interfered
with, especially when the anticipated goals included an-
ticipated pleasure [51]. Modern research in aggression
and aggressive personality types continues to be influ-
enced by the interpersonal theories of aggression.
3.4. Aggression at the Exopersonal
Exopersonal level represents our conceptual relationships
with people and groups not know personally and our
expressions towards them. This is both the human con-
struction of social networks and culture as well as the
newer rapid expansion of the technology-centered social
systems. Some have observed that technology and soci-
ety have become completely interwoven. This can have a
profound impact on identity and personality. While ac-
cess to a larger and more diverse cultural and social
world has great potential for expanding knowledge of
self and the world, one may question whether this is al-
ways good. The incidence of Attention Deficit Disorder
(ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD), and Autism has been increasing and perhaps
this trend also represents an increasing dysfunction at the
societal-technological level. That is not to say that these
issues do not have a neurological basis—but perhaps
represent a neuropersonally vulnerable condition that is
shaped and expressed more readily in the current inter-
personal, social, and environmental conditions that tech-
nological societies are now experiencing. Localized hu-
man group connections and sustained interactions are
being replaced by superficial interaction and functioning
in simulated and expanding electronic social worlds with
increasingly rapid interaction and mental processing. The
breadth of self-other interaction is expanding greatly but
often in exchange for human depth. There is research
demonstrating that adolescents with internet addiction
had higher ADHD symptoms, but also increased associa-
tions with depression, hostility, and aggressive behaviors
[52]. In systems theory children are often viewed as
symptoms bearers for larger interpersonal and exoper-
sonal dysfunctions (and perhaps even ecopersonal and
transpersonal). The human organism has an innate and
instinctual drive towards growth, social connection, and
wholeness, particularly seeded by nurturing human rela-
tionships. But what happens if these relationships are
absent or disturbed or displaced in a new excopersonal
environment? Does an increase in social interaction and
information volume have a cost? Does this social and
technological overload get transmuted into symptoms
and even in the biology of our children? Is the rise of
child mental health problems a result of more sensitive
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
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diagnostic systems or a warning signal that our families
and communities and environments levels are also in dis-
tress? The exopersonal level is often overlooked or mini-
mized in the current etiological theories of aggression.
3.5. Aggression at the Ecopersonal
Being connected and feeling part of the natural world
also has implications for the health of a person. Evidence
has demonstrated that just by viewing nature many as-
pects of human health and development can be markedly
improved. In a review of the literature, Rohde and
Kendle [53] found that the psychological response to
nature involves feelings of pleasure, sustained attention
or interest, “relaxed wakefulness”, and reduction of
negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger.
The ecopersonally developed person recognizes the
escalating spread of pain and despair being felt by people
in response to nature’s continuing destruction. Violence
against the earth is perhaps a reflection of unresolved
fear and aggression in the human psyche. The idea is that
personal health and planetary health are connected and as
Anthony Stevens has remarked, “The unconscious is
nature, but we have to confront its contents if we are to
become conscious of them” (Stevens [54], p. 34). The
health of natural world is connected to the health of or-
ganisms that reside within in. Healing of the earth will
result in healing of the individual and vice versa. Sick-
ness in the health of the natural world will be expressed
in the most vulnerable of its inhabitants. Aggression in
the ecopersonal self could have implication both person-
ally and planetary.
3.6. Transpersonal Roots of Aggression
It is at the transpersonal sphere of influence one can be
driven towards aggressive acts. It is from this level one
can express what Grof [55] calls “malignant destructive-
ness”. Grof indicates the need to distinguish “defensive”
or “benign aggression” which is in service of the (per-
ceived) survival of the individual or the species. But
“Malignant destructiveness” is a form of aggression that
can be done with even without any biological or eco-
nomic reasons. “Malignant destructiveness” is born out a
lack of a transpersonal perspective (e.g. experiencing a
discontinuity among living organisms) as well as in a
striving for transcendence in the context of desiring
death-rebirth. This search can be worked through in a
constructive moral and ethical system or it can be aban-
doned in despair and/or existential crisis. This mystical
quest and innate desire for purpose, meaning, and tran-
scendence beyond a finite material life can also be per-
verted or hijacked by spiritual or religious systems that
advocate self or other destruction. This can be seen in the
mass suicide of the Jim Jones cult or in the acts of the
religious suicide bomber that is acting on promises of a
grander existence after death. Thus, the underdeveloped
or maladaptive transpersonal self can have dire implica-
tions in guidance of behavior.
3.7. Putting the Paths Together
It now appears likely the most aggressive personalities
are created by a malignant combination of the dysregu-
lated brainstem functions (e.g., anxiety, impulsivity, poor
affect regulation, motor hyperactivity) sensitized brain-
stem systems (e.g., serotonergic, noradrenergic and
dopaminergic systems) and experiences that include de-
velopmental neglect and traumatic stress during child-
hood. Urban and nature-deprived environments also pro-
vide a particularly fertile ground for incubation and ex-
pression of aggressive prone individuals. The interper-
sonal and the exopersonal can be seen as environmental
levels that provide both external triggers of aggression
and provide the stage for expression of the intrapersonal
and neuropersonal elements associated with aggression.
The most aggressive prone individuals are character-
ized by poorly organized limbic and cortical neurophysi-
ology and poorly modulated by intrapersonal psycho-
logical-cognitive functions (e.g., empathy, problem-
solving skills) which are the result of chaotic, under-
socialized development, resulting in continuing interper-
sonal functioning and a disconnection from natural world
(ecopersonal) around them as well as a void or hijacking
of higher moral and transpersonal development. This
experience-based imbalance and reciprocal neuroper-
sonal and cognitive functioning can result in a host of
mental health problems and aggressive/violent behavior
with a disconnection from the realms of the ecopersonal
and transpersonal. This is then reflected as a restrictive
sense of self—a person who risks little and is often ready
to attack others in a defensive posture based on symbolic
cognitive structures that perceive the world as a hostile
and isolated place.
The MAP levels offer an interactive and holistic dy-
namic for development and expression of human func-
tioning-but some behavior and identity formation may be
represented by a “factor-loading” at a certain level. That
is to say that some expressions of a behavior and a per-
sonality may be driven by a certain level(s). Certainly the
neuropersonal may provide a potent source for personal-
ity based on genetic and neurological breakdown which
can be reciprocally amplified by early interactions and
environmental experiences. Other personality and iden-
tity issues may be driven by intrapersonal aspects (e.g.
poor psychological development interacting with inter-
personal experiences) or excopersonal or transpersonal
maladaptation. All levels influence and interact with
each other in a kind of positive feedback loop and rein-
The Multipath Approach to Personality: Towards a Unified Model of Self
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
force each other. Changes or conflict in any one layer
will ripple throughout other layers. To study personality
development then, we must look not only at the person
and her immediate environment, but also at the interac-
tion of the larger domains as well.
Further research needs to be down to tease out the dif-
ferent domain interactions and how they express them-
selves idiosyncratically. The MAP approach also has
implications for assessment and treatment, suggesting
that a full multiple level view and targeted multiple level
interventions would be required.
4. Conclusions
This paper was a rough attempt to develop a larger
framework in which to examine prior models of person-
ality as well as future integrative models. The MAP ap-
proach to personality is also suggestive of a multi-modal
practice of personality assessment and research. As C.H.
Waddington [56] points out: “there is congruity between
our apparatus for acquiring knowledge and the nature of
the things known,” (p. 36). Typically, we have the ten-
dency to approach the challenge of understanding our
minds categorically through a narrow lens. Categorical
thinking while developmentally has helped our thinking
(e.g. helps understand and encode information in our
memory)—it also distorts our ability to see the differ-
ences and similarities between two different facts or
concepts. If you pay too much attention to the boundaries,
you have trouble seeing the big picture.
Whether in research or assessment of personality one
should be collecting “holistic” multi-method data. The
examination of this data should also take both the objec-
tive (empirical-behavioral-external) view-as well as the
“subjective” (internal-qualitative narrative) view in ac-
count. One dimensional assessment can be helpful, but
never should be used as the only piece of information.
Human beings and human personality exist on multiple
levels and thus should be assessed on those levels. In the
future, the most influential theories will be those that
adopt a multipath approach in which factors from differ-
ent approaches are coherently linked. Our theoretical,
research, and data collection models need to capture and
reflect this complexity.
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