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Studies On Personality And Personality Problems

In the Philippines, where social and cultural changes are occurring rapidly, the need for culture studies to help equip the psychiatrist with tools to understand his patient becomes even more urgent. The Filipino psychiatrist, inescapably made aware by his patients of these cultural idiosyncrasies, acknowledges a debt to scholars in the behavioral sciences who have done most of the formal writing about Filipino values, practices, and social patterns of interaction. Within the past decade or two, valuable studies by Filipino and American psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, educators, and political scientists have brought to light varied aspects of the Filipino character and life styles. Indeed all these scholars have contributed in no small measure to the ever-increasing levels of psychological awareness among Filipinos.

A brief outline of some of their contributions which are especially relevant to personality and personality problems are given below. Roughly, I have tried to classify their findings and observations under three headings, although it is obvious that a trait or behavior pattern may belong in more than one category. The personality functions as a whole, which is considerably more than the mere sum of its parts. Objections to these classifications are expected, since psychiatrists and social scientists differ not only in their thresholds of perception of behavior phenomena, but also in the resulting interpretation of such phenomena.

A. DEPENDENCY OR DEPENDENCY EQUIVALENTS (Group Solidarity, Lack of Autonomy, Need for Authority)

When contrasted with the American, the Fiji mo is autonomous, more dependent. He prefers a stab e way of life where not demand a continual risk-taking oriented to authoritarian ways of thinking finds it easier to submit than to assert his own individuality small-group belonging. (Bulatao 1963)

To exact conformity from group members, and thus keep the group intact, social control is exerted through “first, techniques discernible in group interaction, like the commitment to pakikisama, the tendency to level an individual who is out of line, and gossip; and second, the curbing of anti-social attitudes by disallowing privacy or by ascribing undesirable statuses to deviants.” (Hollnsteiner 1963)

The Filipino concept of self-esteem is fundamentally social, being related to the centripetal and united character of the Filipino family and kinship group.” (Fox 1956)

There are three recurring themes in Tagalog literature— “the identification of love with loyalty, the need for human solidarity and the desire for progress or prosperity.” (Lumbera 1963)

Two outstanding values among Manilenos, elicited through TAT stories are

 (1) emotional closeness and security in family;

 (2) authority value, defined as approval by the authority figure and by society, which is authority’s surrogate. (Bulatao 1964)

He is greatly dependent—more dependent than an American, for the satisfaction of a variety of personal needs upon those at the end of each strand of his dyadic system. A reliable way of insuring a continuous supply of the desired response from others is by having power over them, or alternatively, becoming the dependent client of someone who will satisfy his needs. This is one of the reasons for the attractiveness of power holding and dependency of Filipinos.

“Filipinos find little difficulty in assuming roles of power holding on the one hand and dependency on the other. They switch from one role to the other with ease, often to the accompaniment of startling behavioral transformations.” (Lande 1966)

The most important values which the Philippines share with other peoples of South East Asia are (1) beliefs in primacy of extended family over individual; (2) legitimacy of the pragmatic approach to problems; (3) ‘face’, and “shame”; (4) low status of manual labor and commercial activities; (5) high regard towards interpersonal relations, generosity, social hierarchy, and paternalistic leadership. (Agpalo 1967)

In a study comparing Filipino and American childbearing attitudes, “the Philippine subjects placed more emphasis than American subjects upon a relationship in which children are controlled and protected, where they are encouraged to tell all of their thoughts to their parents and submit to their parent’s direction and advice.

The relationship may be characterized as controlling, loving and supportive.

“By American standards, the Philippine mother is very intrusive with her children and fosters their dependency on her. She wants them to tell her their secrets and look to her for help. The American educational emphasis is upon self-initiated activities. The child is encouraged to do things himself even if he is not too successful and nor to look to his family for help.” (Guthrie 1961)

The family system is strong and provides the distressed individual with extensive and important sources of emotional support, thus ameliorating many unpleasant circumstances.

The Filipino finds his identity in his family connections rather than as an individual in his own right. (Sechrest 1967a)

Attitudes of young people towards their elders indicate that on one level there is rebellion against dependency, on the other level, there is a deep dependency.” ( Bulatao 1966)

B. AGGRESSION, HOSTILITY AND ITS DERIVATIVES (Assertiveness, Ambition, Competitiveness, etc.)

Smoothness of interpersonal relations (or SIR) is considered relatively more important by Filipinos than by Americans.

“SIR may 1e defined as a facility at getting along with others in such a way as to avoid outward signs of conflict: glum or sour looks, harsh words, open disagreement, or physical violence. It connotes the smile, the friendly lift of the eyebrow, the pat on the back, the squeeze of the arm, the word of praise or friendly concern. It means being agreeable, even under difficult circumstances and of keeping quiet or out of sight when discretion passes the word. It means a sensitivity to what other people feel at any given moment and a willingness and ability to change tack (if not direction) to catch the lightest favoring breeze.

“SIR is acquired and preserved principally by three means; namely, pakikisama, euphemism, and the use of a go-between.” (Lynch 1964)

“The very emphasis in the Philippines on smoothness and care in interpersonal relations shows how difficult they are. “Filipinos (compared with Americans) are easily humiliated and they regard humiliation as an especially unpleasant experience. Thus, interpersonal relations are characterized by a superficial aura of good will and an underlying strain and lack of openness.

“It is clear from the writer’s data that homicides involving friends and acquaintances are more frequent in the Philippines than in U.S. and that they develop more frequently out of momentarily difficult interpersonal relations. Filipinos less often kill family members than do Americans, but they more often kill strangers, again in situations in which momentary difficulties in interpersonal relations develop.

“Expressions of hostile aggression are interdicted in the Philippines, but whether aggression is strongly punished once it occurs is another matter. There are no data available, but it is the writer’s belief that the Philippine culture is a culture that pleads for innocence but that is warm and forgiving of the sinner.” (Sechrest 1967a)

“Many aspects of a Filipino’s behavior are related to problems of handling hostility. His training involving authoritarian parental attitudes, severe physical punishment and much ridicule would generate a good deal of resentment. He cannot express this directly. He must be polite, deferent and humble when he might feel like attacking. Circuitous social approaches permit easy withdrawal when difficulty is encountered. Where a person is important because of his social influence and prestige rather than for what he has accomplished, the stage is set for a never-ending struggle for recognition.” (Guthrie 1961)

“Amior propio refers to a high degree of sensitivity so that one takes slight easily, is very intolerant of criticism and has easily wounded pride. One so slighted will retaliate, or refuse to cooperate, or if the slight seems serious, seek revenge.” (Batacan 1956)

Anger is never expressed directly to parents in both groups of children. Children from families of lower economic groups express anger indirectly or passively by walking away, keeping quiet or crying. Five- or seven-year-olds for example after a scolding go under the house and cry. Mothers themselves say they never quarrel or argue with their husbands in front of the children. Mothers learn to dissipate anger simply by denial or suppression. In middle class families, children are allowed to disagree and argue to some extent but anger is expressed in similar indirect patterns as in the lower class group. They go off, sulk, stomp feet, cry loudly or refuse to eat. Talking back to parents may happen once in a while in middle class families, but the parents always end up winning the battle. (Reyes and Lapuz 1965)

The Filipino male has a high concept of self-esteem (hiya in Tagalog), being sensitive to hard words and aggressive behavior a character trait which is not ideal for the cut and thrust necessary in bargaining with a stranger (Fox 1963)

Two other principal values of the Manileño, elicited through TAT stories are: (1) economic and social betterment. ft appears most often as a desire to raise the standard of living of one’s family, or of one’s hometown, often as repayment for one’s debt of gratitude to parents and relatives; (2) patience, suffering, endurance. This value appears in stories when the frustrating force whether poverty, injustice, sickness or anything else is conceived as too powerful to be overcome. (Bulatao 1964)

The emphasis on personal status in the Philippines is very strong. But at the same time, one of the paramount values in the Philippines is personal modesty. That is a dilemma for many Filipinos, for they sense that their accomplishments will expose them to the envy and hostility of their peers.” (Sechrest 1967a)

“Contrary to superficial appearance, life in the rural peasant Philippines is not tranquil and simple but highly competitive and uncertain with a continuing struggle for power, influence and even survival.

In a study of effects of social change among villagers, one of the outstanding findings was that “economic progress is crucial to feelings of contentment.” (Mckendry, Mckendry, Guthrie 1967)

From a description of attitudes and behavior of different groups engaged in community development projects: “In many cases there was jealousy and hostility among the entities engaged in these activities. There was a strong competition for credit and the race for national popularity was hectic.” (Villanueva 1957)

The Filipino girl, in particular, manifests the warmth of the domestic trait of nurturance and succorance, to love and be loved. And yet, in spite of all this warmth and retiringness, she also shows an Achievement drive and an Aggression which are more intense than those found in American girls. (Bulatao 1963)

C. Sexual Roles, Attitudes and Behavior

The relationships between men and women in Filipino society and the roles which they assume are remarkably equalitarian. The stereotype is that men dominate the society—sociologists have even called Filipino society ‘patriarchal”—but in reality women as well as men enjoy and assume social, economic and legal freedom. (Fox 1963)

“There is possibly no [other] country in the world where there is greater equality between sexes [than] in the Philippines [where] a womao’s place is in the home and at the office, too.” (Guthrie 1961)

“That many men have mistresses, ‘second wives’ or queridas is not only well known, it is joked about and accepted with the comment that ‘That is just the Philippine custom.’

“It is the contention here that there is relatively little conflict about sex in the Philippines. Given the proper circumstances, sexual relations will occur without guilt or anguish. All that is necessary is that sex be controlled until circumstances are proper.” (Sechresr 1967a)

“Erotic-tinged expressions of affection (apart from intercourse itself) are far more severely interdicted by Philippine culture than by American culture.

“On one level the girls are modern and ‘liberated’ but on the emotional level they are like their mothers.” (Bulatao 1963)

Tentative results from questionnaires, interviews, and stories told about pictures of social situations include the following: “Outstanding is the morality theme but this may not be surprising in this age group (Philippine women college students). The girl in a story may lose her honor; she is disgraced and her family is humiliated. Her sin appears to have been impulsive and not an expression of a basically bad person.” In the same group of subjects, “Crushes occur frequently among this group of students. The girl becomes extremely aroused about a boy or another girl. She feels very possessive toward the other person and very upset if the other person has other friends. She sends gifts or flowers if the object of her crush is another girl but she must be more secretive if it is a boy.” (Guthrie 1961)
“Conflict concerning homosexuality is less frequent in the Philippines than in U.S.

“Homosexuality is of such grave concern (in the U.S.) that it must be kept quite distinct from superficially similar behaviors, and it demands a non-overlapping term (i.e., to exclude transvestites, effeminate males, and boys who are simply less active than others in games and outdoor activity) for which the Filipino term for homosexual, bakla is not the object of hostility and fear. Rather he is thought funny, amusing and a good butt for fairly coarse humor. Moreover quite in contrast to the U.S., in the Pi1iiBes many persons appear to think bakla, even when it takes the form of overt homosexuality, to be a temporary phase in the individual’s life.” (Sechrest and Flores 1967b)

“The Philippine entrepreneural scene would not be complete, would, indeed, not be Filipino, if it did not include that ancient Philippine institution, the woman of business. Here it becomes difficult to pinpoint all the significant examples. It is easy enough to single out the women who take an active and open part in business activity. But there is another type—the woman who manages husband’s property while he dreams or dances his life away, or perhaps the woman who stands behind some prominent businessman continually making speeches and getting his picture published in the papers, but whose life is the real mind and moving spirit behind the business. Her motive, as much as anything else, is probably the projection of her husband’s image in the public mind as a business and civic lea1er and economic thinker on the strength of her talent; but this of course the public is not to know. These cases are never cited in print (being horrendously difficult to document), are sometimes known to the public by word of mouth, but frequently remain in the realm of ‘what every woman knows’.” (Legarda 1959)

The foregoing opinions of scholars reveal the many contradictory layers which comprise Filipino personality and behavior. Paradoxical though such antithetical findings may seem, their siaultaneous occurrence is understandable, if one considers that different investigators do their dissection on different planes. The psychologist may pursue underlying motivations, while the social scientist may concentrate on the overt patterns. A foreigner may be sensitive to certain types of behavior because it is different from what obtains in his cultural background, while a Filipino may have a different perception and explanation of phenomena of which he is an integral part.


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