Understanding a person is a long and tedious process that may run into years, if not decades. While one might presume that we humans tend to have a hundred different faces, a hundred different emotions, and a hundred different ways of dealing with the same situation at different points in time, I believe that this problem can be better understood by assuming that the personality of each and every human being is an amalgam of three layers, which I have decided to call the Framework, the Base, and the Core, for the purposes of this discussion.
The Framework is the outermost layer of a person, more commonly understood as “what the person does.” The Framework is the first part of a person exposed to the world, and it is the first thing a person will be identified by. Examples include, but are not limited to, working at a fast-food joint, studying in high school, wearing spectacles to aid in vision, and juggling while holding a spinning saucer on a stick with the mouth.
The Base is the middle layer, more commonly identified by “what the person believes in” or “associates themselves with.” People who love programming might identify themselves as software developers. People who consume alcoholic beverages as a part of their lifestyle may identify themselves as alcoholics. Body-conscious people who exercise as a part of their daily routine may identify themselves as athletes.
It is essential to note the distinct difference between “what a person does,” and “what a person believes in.” A person who consumes alcohol but does not associate the act with his identity has essentially included the act in his Framework layer. In contrast, a person who associates drinking with his identity, a part of who he is, has included the act in his Base layer. The same act may be associated differently by different people. One might see programming as nothing more than his occupation. In contrast, another may see programming as a part of who she is and her purpose and calling.
The Core represents the deepest and innermost layer of a person. Simply put, the Core layer is about “how a person thinks,” or “the steps a person takes to solve a given problem.” This personality layer defines how a person looks at the world and feels about his existence in the greater scheme of things. For example, one may vehemently believe in living life for himself. In contrast, another may believe in living her life to serving others. The Core layer is also about the most profound feelings we have, such as an irrational passion for the color Teal or a strong connection to nature and wildlife. Elements in the Core layer are often challenging to understand and describe, owing to their uniqueness and combination. Thoroughly understanding a person at this layer usually takes from years to decades.
Of the layers, the Framework layer frequently changes with time and the events that transpire throughout one’s life. The Base layer changes less frequently, often only due to significant events and occurrences in one’s life. The Core very rarely experiences any change and is responsible for how one identifies themselves in the world. It is given to each individual during childhood. It is taken away only at the time of death, changing only ever so slightly throughout one’s life. The Core layer is formed based on the nature and nurture of the individual.
One’s friendships may be defined based on the compatibility of the layers outlined herein. Two individuals may share a very similar personality layer. They will establish their interactions on the grounds of what they place within these layers. For example, let us suppose that two people became friends at their place of work. If assumed to originate from the Framework layer of the concerned individuals, this relationship will not be for deep and self-actualizing reasons, but rather, for cooperation and mutual growth within the organization.
Similarly, two individuals who identify themselves as athletes will have a closer connection at the Base layer, and will hence be able to have a deeper relationship with each other, being able to share their thoughts, opinions, dreams, and aspirations with one another. On infrequent occasions, two individuals may share a similar Core. The relationships formed on these grounds tend to be long-lasting, extremely deep and meaningful, and highly satisfying for both partners. The best friendships and the healthiest relationships derive their strength from the connection experienced at this level.
Of the three layers, I believe that the Base and Core form the definition of the term “identity,” while the Framework is what we refer to as the many “faces,” “interests,” or “sides” of a person. While most relationships are based on a connection at only one layer, a relationship may be simultaneously based on more than one level as well, and not necessarily in the order of depth of the layers. For example, one might share a strong bond with an alcoholic colleague while still choosing not to drink with the individual. The relationship in this example deals with a connection at the Framework and Core layers, but not at the Base layer.
Thinking of personality in terms of these layers helps put some perspective in our analysis of people. It helps not only in identifying our relationships with others but also in establishing a relationship with ourselves.