I was talking to my friend about my need to be alone to recharge my emotional batteries. He burst out with “You are such a chaim!” Me: “I'm sorry. What?”
It turns out there is a Jewish personality profile (developed by Rabbi Noah Weinberg z”tl and written about by Lori Palatnik here) that comes as close to describing my personality traits as anything else I've seen. It is based on the personality traits bracha/blessing, tov/good and chaim/life. According to this system, everyone is a mixture of all three, but two are our defaults: one for our souls and one for our bodies.
Reading Lori's article, I can easily see that my friend was right. My soul most takes after Jacob, whose personality inspired chaim. Jacob stayed in his tent, and studied all day. Some of my main drivers are learning and understanding. I am deeply introverted and not very good at relationships or at dealing with arbitrary rules and regulations. (And I think all rules and regulations are arbitrary. What can I say?) I stay home alone as much as I do because I like staying home alone. And you will definitely find me off in a corner in social gatherings, possibly talking with one person when I can stretch myself; or contentedly and quietly watching everyone else interact when I can't.
I'd say my second, soul driver is tov, based on Issac who followed the rules and did what was right. Well, I skipped the part about following the rules and I'm pretty sure I don't always do what is right. But as a tov personality, when I am given a specific project I am highly organized. One of my talents is figuring out the most efficient way to get something done, or to make a system function. And I can put 110% of my concentration and energy into seeing a project through. On the down side, I have a tendency to say “yes” whenever someone offers me a project, whether I honestly care about it or not, just for the fun of the challenge. These words have gotten me into so much trouble: “I can do that. I can do that... better!” Often I can. Sometimes though, I take on so much the whole pile threatens to come tumbling down.
I think I have the least of the bracha type it is possible to have. A bracha soul (based on Abraham, the man of the heart) is all about being extroverted and loving to be surrounded by people. I hate being surrounded by people! (Though arguably I have a bit of an excuse having spent a week with half a million people once.) Still I am rarely bouncy and outgoing, although I can occasionally fake it with one or two people (certainly not more – horrors!) for short periods of time. And the weird thing is, I like people. Just not everyone and not all the time. But being around people, as I said above, sucks the energy, and eventually the sanity, right out of me. That's why I prefer to go visit my friends rather than have them visit me. When I run down, I can run home... to the comforting quiet.
My body, on the other hand, is about 50/50 chaim and bracha. The chaim part is intuitive and empathic. I am very aware of what other people are feeling and sometimes being surrounded by negative energy, or even too much of any kind of energy, can make me physically ill. On the other hand, much as I hate to admit it, I am, as Lori says in one of her videos, a “lazy, lazy person.” In the same way I can push myself when I am interested and involved in something, I can put just as much energy, in a manner of speaking, into doing nothing. And I love to sleep. I have just enough tov not to turn into a complete lump on the couch, but sometimes it seems a near thing.
I was surprised at how accurately this system described me. I've taken a couple of personality tests recently, all producing profiles more complicated than this. I can't say they were any better.
I have to remember to thank my friend for calling me a name. (j/k) Because I really am grateful to him. If he hadn't said what he did, I never would have learned all this.