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Making Sense of People: The Science of Personality Differences, Second Edition by Samuel Barondes

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Four. Building a Personal Brain

When I was a fledgling psychiatrist, a colleague gave me a tip on how he gets to know a new patient. Early in the first visit, he briefly imagines the patient as a ten-year-old child. The point of this exercise is to look past someone’s current troubles and picture the person as still little. Was she shy or popular? Was he a bully or a wimp?

I’ve found this tip useful because it immediately dials up compassion: The image of anyone as a child warms my heart. But it also creates a hunch to explore. Forming an imaginary picture of someone in grade school stimulates me to learn about the development of his personality.

When I got this tip in the 1960s, my limited knowledge of personality development was based on the ...

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