Michael Puett & Christine Gross-Loh's "The Path" & The Myth Of Fixed Personality

The Path emphasises the relevance of Chinese ancient teachings to our present world, imploring us to study and live them as best as we can.

There is a lot going for the theory of fixed personality. Without it, some of us believe we can't accurately analyse people or predict what they might do next. If I get £1 for every time someone said, "Don't you know that's how Yomi behaves? That's his personality!", I will be in my shorts, floating on a yacht somewhere in the Carribean waters with a book in my right hand and a glass of juice in my left.

Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, the authors of The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us about the Good Life, believe the myth of fixed personality - the notion that we are born a certain way, with fixed behavioural characteristics that cannot change at all - is a false philosophy peddled by today's modern self-help writers. They also opine that this is a result and a sign of our desire to be comfortable with our status quo, especially when that status quo comes with a degree of notoriety or benefits. The authors write:

What we in the West define as the true self is actually patterns of continuous responses to people and the world; patterns that have built up over time. For example, you might think, "I'm just the kind of person who gets annoyed easily." On the contrary, it's more likely that you have become the kind of person who does get irritated over minor things because of how you've interacted with people for years. But that's not because you are, in fact, such a person. By being loyal to a "true self" you ended up concretizing destructive emotional habits.

Unpaved Path through Wooded Area

The Path is an analytical yet easy to read book that breaks down complex areas of Chinese philosophy. It explains the difference between Confucianism, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, etc. It also reveals how the West misunderstands and misuses these philosophies, creating bastardised versions that violate the core principles of the originals. The Path emphasises the relevance of these ancient teachings to our present world, imploring us to study and live them as best as we can.

Many thanks to Simon & Shuster for review copy.


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