Potential, provocation, and response


Given that the dimension perspective is concerned with measurement, the question arises of how these measurements are operationalized. I have already mentioned the interaction between the individual, with his or her array of strengths and vulnerabilities, and the demands of the situation. This is the matrix for operationalizing the dimension perspective. The constructs of individual potential, environmental provocation, and behavioral response comprise the operational triad of the dimension perspective.

An individual with a specific constitutional array of character strengths and vulnerabilities enters a situation in which the environment demands a behavioral response. The response will range from poor and problematic, through adequate, to highly successful, depending on which traits the individual is exercising. Those traits that are well developed will be adaptive and responsive to the situation; those traits that are poorly developed will prove to be sources of problematic responses. A clinical case may help here. 

George and Millie had been happily married for forty-three years when Millie was diagnosed with cancer. She was ill both with the cancer and with the effects of the chemotherapy for the next two years. During the last two months of her life, Millie was bed-bound, and George, having retired from his position as sales manager with a large industrial firm, was available to care for her twenty-four hours a day. Their love was a great support to them both, although they did not express it sexually during the last year because of the effects of the illness.
One year after Millie’s death, George began to date. Six months later he began a relationship with Grace, a woman who was widowed and, with her husband, had been social friends with George and Millie. When they first began to express themselves sexually.
George had erectile dysfunction – order viagra new zealand. George sought therapy immediately, because he did not want anything to interfere with the new relationship with Grace. At the initial evaluation, he completed the NEO-PI-R, a personality in- ventory. The NEO-PI-R profile indicated, among other traits, that George was high in Extraversion, Agreeableness (very high Altruism subscale), and Conscientiousness. In therapy, he professed no guilt about “being unfaithful” to his deceased wife, and spoke gently about his relationship with Grace. Within two months, George was no longer experiencing erectile problems. The curative factor appeared largely to have been the opportunity to talk about the new relationship in an accepting, nonjudgmental environment. At last contact, George and Grace were planning marriage.

For George, the individual potential was the composite of Agreeableness and Extraversion, character traits he had used in caring for his sick and dying wife, in mourning and recovering from her loss, in initiating a social life with women, and in beginning a romantic relationship with one woman. George’s high Conscientiousness probably caused his subjective ambivalence about being sexual with a woman other than his deceased wife, and with a woman his wife knew. But his high Conscientiousness also led him to therapy to overcome erectile dysfunction and, finally, to take steps to develop a second committed relationship with a woman. The environmental provocation was the illness and death of his wife and, of course, Grace’s desire for a committed relationship and marriage. The behavioral response was the course of actions described in the vignette.

The dimension perspective suggests that, as a former sales manager and husband of forty-five years, George had the personality traits that facilitated his maintaining a loving relationship (high Altruism) with a woman and being able to initiate a new relationship (high Extraversion). These behaviors—caring for his wife, mourning her death, initiating a new relationship, experiencing erectile dysfunction, resolving the problem, and making a new life commitment—came about because of the alignment of the elements in the specific triad of George’s individual potential, environmental provocation, and behavioral response. The dimension perspective seeks to elaborate this triad in each case, relying on the measurements it provides to describe each element of the triad, but especially the individual potential and the behavioral responses.


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