This group of personalities shares a common characteristic of turning to others as their primary strategy to achieve their goals. Unlike those in the DAD (dependent) spectrum who tend to take a passive dependency stance, the SPH personalities take an active dependency stance. They engage in a variety of manipulative, seductive, gregarious, and attention-getting maneuvers with others to maximize protection, nurturance, and reproductive success. In this post, we will explore the different types of personalities within the SPH spectrum and delve deeper into their characteristics and behaviors. (Millon 2011 330) Because this is the first post I’m posting about an individual spectrum, I also explain what I’m doing along the way. I won’t do this in the later posts, so while it mostly doesn’t matter what order you read them in, I suggest this one first.
Do note for this and the other posts about personality types that I, like Millon, have a tendency to focus on describing the personality disorders, leaving the more mild related personality types for the reader to infer the properties of. This is useful at first because at this level of detail, most of the features of the milder personalities are described best as “like the more extreme personality’s features, but less extreme”. To use this post’s subject as an example, the Histrionic personality is attention-seeking to a pathological degree. The Sociable personality also seeks attention, but tends to do so through more effective, and less extreme, means.
Figure 7.1 From Millon 2011
(Millon 2011 340)
This figure displays the relative strength or weakness the SPH personalities have on each polarity dimension. While Millon’s figures only include three colors, likely to keep the information simple and clear, we can imagine a gradient from white to black. Then the Histrionic personalities are as shown, and the Sociable and Pleasuring personalities have light shades of gray for Accommodation and Individuation, and dark shades of gray for Modification and Nurturance.
Their described behavior and personality structure can be explained in terms of the information on the polarities shown here. Based on their Pleasure and Pain polarities being average strength, we know that they are typical in their balance of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance aims. The imbalance between Passive and Active most obviously explains their social behavior. As seen in the contrast with the DAD personalities, which have the opposite imbalance but the same Self-Other imbalance, this imbalance explains why they so actively pursue attention and relationships. Their Self-Other imbalance can be understood by contrasting the SPH spectrum with the ADA spectrum, since they have opposite Self-Other imbalances but the same Passive-Active imbalance. Whereas the ADA personalities actively pursue their Pleasure and Pain aims by providing for themselves, the SPH personalities actively seek, or create if necessary, external sources of fulfillment. Thus in the social domain, the ADA personalities are more independent whereas SPH personalities prefer dependency in their relationships. But the explanations works in less obvious domains as well. For instance, their flighty cognitive style and dissociative coping methods both stem from their propensities to look outward rather than inward and to change what doesn’t suit their needs. These will be further explained in the Trait Domains section of this post.
Figure: Salience of the Trait Domains in the SPH Spectrum
Millon includes diagrams of the saliences of the trait domains. These show the relative importance of each trait to the particular personality as well as which traits directly interact with one another. Each of these traits will be explained in further detail below.
(Millon 2011 341)
Trait Domains of the SPH Spectrum
The following table provides a brief overview of the traits of the SPH spectrum. Again, Millon includes one of these for each spectrum, and they are quite useful as reference tools, so I’ll include them in these posts.
Traits in the Behavioral Level describe the behaviors the personalities The Phenomenological Level describes what it’s like inside for someone with one of the personalities. The Intrapsychic Level describes how the mind operates, and the Biophysical Level how the personality manifests in the body. The traits with an (F) to the left are functional traits whereas those with an (S) are structural.
(Millon 2011 342)
I’ll now describe each of these traits in further detail.
Emotional Expression: Dramatic: Histrionic individuals possess common traits and behaviors that distinguish them from others. They have a tendency to overreact, behave in a volatile and provocative manner, and present themselves in a theatrical and engaging way. They do not tolerate inactivity and are prone to impulsive, capricious, and highly emotional behaviors. Furthermore, they are often drawn to momentary excitement and hedonistic pleasures. At first glance, SPH personalities may impress others with their ease in expressing thoughts and emotions, flair for the dramatic, and ability to attract attention. However, these exhibitionistic and expressive talents are frequently fleeting, shallow, and superficial. SPH individuals often exhibit superficiality, excitability, and intolerance for frustration, delay, and disappointment. Their expressed words and feelings may appear simulated and lacking in depth or authenticity. (342)
Interpersonal Conduct: Attention-Seeking: SPH personalities seek attention and affection in their relationships by actively soliciting praise and utilizing their charming and entertaining personalities. They often display a mixture of sophistication and naivety and are skilled at manipulating others to meet their desires. They use themselves as commodities, presenting attractive fronts through displays, exhibitions, and other dramatic gestures to draw attention and recognition. They also learn to be hyper-vigilant to potential hostility and rejection, adapting their behaviors to conform to the desires of others to avoid indifference and disapproval. However, despite their talent for pleasing others, they often fail to provide sustained affection in return and instead offer fleeting and superficial displays of affection. (342-343)
Cognitive Style: Flighty: The external focus of SPH personalities leads to a lack of introspection and a shallow pattern of learning. They tend to be suggestible, paying attention to superficial events and integrating their experiences poorly. They often describe themselves in terms of their relationships and effects on others, rather than their own traits, leading to a lack of identity apart from others. They react more to external stimuli than internal promptings and have a well-developed radar system that alerts them to signs of rejection and enables them to manipulate others with skill. Their flighty behaviors and superficial cognitive style may represent an intellectual evasion and a desire to avoid troublesome thoughts or emotionally charged feelings, including their hidden dependency needs. They tend to steer clear of self-knowledge and depth in personal relationships, dissociating themselves from thoughts, people, and activities that might upset their strategy of superficiality. (343-344)
Self-Image: Gregarious: The self-image of SPH personalities is largely based on their ability to be socially successful and well-liked. They view themselves as sociable, friendly, and agreeable individuals who are stimulating and charming. Physical appearance is often an important factor in their ability to attract acquaintances, and they prioritize creating a busy and pleasure-oriented context for their social life.
However, despite this outwardly positive self-image, many SPH personalities lack insight into their deeper insecurities and needs for attention and approval. They may deny or suppress signs of inner turmoil, weakness, depression, or hostility in order to maintain their self-image. This lack of self-awareness can lead to an overly suggestible and superficial cognitive style, as well as a tendency to avoid introspection and genuine personal relationships. (344)
Intrapsychic Content: Shallow: SPH personalities manipulate their inner world to ensure the stimulation and approval they require by seeking constant nourishment from those around them. They lack a core identity apart from others and must draw nurture from others, as the internalized objects of their intrapsychic content are composed largely of superficial memories of past relationships. Their inner world is composed of a random collection of transient and unconnected affects, which leads them to become increasingly dependent on external stimulation and approval. SPH personalities often successfully accomplish their aims of eliciting stimulation and captivating the attentions of others, but their strategies are considered pathological because they fail to limit their manipulations to appropriate situations. They seek attention and approval indiscriminately and persistently, and their needs for recognition and approval appear insatiable. Signs of indifference or neutrality on the part of others are often interpreted as rejections and result in feelings of emptiness and unworthiness. Finally, because they lack the richness of inner feelings and the resources from which they can draw, SPH personalities have difficulty maintaining full, meaningful, and stable relationships with others, and they often shy away from prolonged contact with others for fear of being exposed as frauds. (344)
Intrapsychic Dynamics: Dissociation/Repression: As noted before, individuals with an SPH personality actively avoid introspection and responsible thinking. They are typically more aware of external events rather than their internal experiences. Moreover, their lifelong focus on others’ thoughts and feelings has hindered their ability to deal with their own inner thoughts and emotions, leaving them with a lack of intrapsychic skills. Consequently, they tend to rely on crude mechanisms to handle unconscious emotions, such as sealing off, repressing, or dissociating memory and feelings that might cause discomfort. This leads to a blank past, devoid of the complex reservoir of attitudes and emotions they should have acquired through experiences.
SPH personalities regularly alter and present different social facades to distract themselves from reflecting on their inner emptiness or painful thoughts and emotions. By separating their true selves from the theatrical pose they present to the world, they can avoid integrating their inner world into their conscious life.
These personalities try to repress their inner world of thought, memory, and emotion to prevent it from intruding into their conscious life for several reasons. Firstly, their sense of worth depends on others’ judgment, and they cannot appraise their personal value or provide self-acceptance or approval. Secondly, they distract themselves from attending to the outer world by turning their attention inward because they feel they must be ever alert to others’ desires and moods.
Due to the contrast between their pretensions and objective reality, SPH personalities tend to repress not only one or two deficiencies but their entire inner self. They aim to keep the triviality of their entire being, its pervasive emptiness, and paucity of substance from awareness. Repression, therefore, is massive and absolute, applied across the board. (345)
Intrapsychic Architecture: Disjointed: The inner world of the SPH spectrum is loosely knit and carelessly united in its morphologic structure and organization. The regulatory mechanisms used to restrain impulses, coordinate defenses, and resolve conflicts are scattered and unintegrated, leading to the use of ad hoc methods. To maintain overall psychic stability and cohesion, regulatory mechanisms must be broad and sweeping, but when successful, they only undermine psychic coherence by further disconnecting and isolating this personality’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.
SPH personalities have deprived themselves of past learnings, making them less able to function independently and perpetuating their dependency on others. They remain locked into the present to compensate for the void of their past and the guidance it could provide. This preoccupation with external immediacies has led to a further impoverishment of the little richness and depth they may possess, resulting in a skimpy and insubstantial intrapsychic world.
To preserve their exteroceptive vigilance, SPH persons actively seek to blot out any awareness of the barrenness of their intrapsychic world, reducing ‘inner’ distractions that may be potentially disturbing. The inner emptiness is particularly intolerable as it exposes the fraudulence that exists between the impressions they seek to convey to others and their true cognitive sterility and emotional poverty. (345)
Mood/Temperament: Fickle: The high level of energy and activation, as well as the low threshold for autonomic reactivity, observed in SPH behavior, suggest a potential biological underpinning to the personality spectrum. It is possible that SPH individuals have a high degree of sensory irritability, excessive sympathetic activity, or a lack of cortical inhibition. These traits may result in a wide range of intense and erratic emotions. It is also suggested that SPH adults likely displayed a high degree of emotional responsiveness in infancy and early childhood, as constitutional traits tend to be stable throughout life and active and responsive children tend to foster and intensify their initial responsiveness by evoking stimulating reactions from others. (345-346)
Variants on the SPH Spectrum
These first few variants are variations on the Sociable personality, the mild counterpart to Histrionic. To correctly frame our understanding of these personalities, it’s worth noting that in our society, friendliness and general sociability are often rewarded and viewed favorably. However, this may not be the case in other cultures, where emotionally expressive and socially gregarious individuals may be viewed with suspicion, seen as superficial and lacking in substance. These personality traits are not solely a result of the larger society’s values and influences, but also stem from the individual’s upbringing and unique experiences.
When we consider an outgoing personality, we should understand that it is not just a result of more general social influences but also a product of the individual’s specific past experiences. This pattern of behavior is created by the coalescence of cultural and unique life experiences, except in cases of extreme behavior, such as those with histrionic personality disorder. (346)
Gregariously Sociable Personality: The Gregariously Sociable personality is characterized by a strong desire to be seen as attractive and appealing to others. They are emotionally expressive and often use their physical appearance and social skills to attract attention and admiration from others. They enjoy being in the spotlight and will go out of their way to show off their charms and allures publicly.
This personality type is highly social and seeks to build a large network of friends and acquaintances. They are skilled at flattery and may use unusual attire, accessories, or popular styles to enhance their appeal to others. They are also comfortable in social situations and may be seen as the life of the party, enjoying attention and praise from those around them.
Overall, the Gregariously Sociable personality is characterized by a desire for attention and admiration from others, which they seek to achieve through their physical appearance, social skills, and expressive behavior. They are highly social and enjoy building large networks of friends and acquaintances.(347)
Appeasingly Sociable Personality: The Appeasingly Sociable Personality is characterized by a strong desire to please others and gain their approval. These individuals seek validation from others and will go to great lengths to make others like them and approve of them. They are often very adept at pleasing people and making them feel appreciated and valued.
What sets these individuals apart is their need to placate others and smooth over conflicts. They are skilled at moderating conflicts by yielding, compromising, and conceding to the wishes of others. They are also willing to sacrifice their own needs and desires in order to gain the approval and commendation of others.
The Appeasingly Sociable Personality Style is often a combination of histrionic, dependent, and compulsive traits. These individuals may exhibit attention-seeking behavior, have a strong need for reassurance and support, and may feel compelled to adhere to strict routines and patterns of behavior.
Overall, the desire to please others and gain their approval is the driving force behind the Appeasingly Sociable Personality Style. These individuals are skilled at forming and maintaining relationships, but their focus on pleasing others can sometimes come at the cost of neglecting their own needs and desires. (348)
The next two variants show the potential regression of the Sociable personality style to the more pathological Pleasuring level. The normal segment of the SPH personality is typically beneficial, but persistent attention-seeking, shallowness, and flightiness can lead to annoyance and rejection by others. When normal skills fail, individuals may regress to the more frantic pleasuring behavior of the Pleasuring personality. (351)
Theatrically Pleasuring Personality: The theatrically pleasuring personality is a dramatic, attention-seeking individual who lives life as if they were public commodities. They transform themselves into something synthesized and projected on the world, changing their appearance to fit the environment they are in. This variant of the SPH spectrum is affected and mannered, putting on striking and eye-catching postures and clothes to create an appealing image of themselves.
The person who acts in this fashion views himself or herself as a stage performer, who must create an aura of appeal in order to be successful. Theatrically pleasuring persons are adept at manipulating the social context, using the audience as a prop, displaying an excessive degree of exhibitionism in order to gain and maintain attention. It is the reaction of the audience that is all-important, since it is the ultimate source of validation. They exhibit an uncanny ability to judge the reactions of others and tailor their behavior to get the desired response. This ability to read others is most effective when it comes to detecting and playing to the needs of those around them, satisfying them in ways that lead to approbation and admiration. These personalities are most effective in dealing with strangers or casual acquaintances, since they do not have to maintain the illusion for long periods of time. (351)
Infantile Pleasuring Personality: The infantile pleasuring personality is characterized by a mix of histrionic and borderline personality traits. They display labile emotions, childish behavior such as pouting and demanding, and have a crude and direct sexual provocativeness. This subtype could be seen as a poorly organized version of the SPH type. They are high-strung, emotionally volatile, and have a childlike hysteria, often clinging to significant others and demanding attention and affection from them. They may also exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may resort to self-injury or suicidal behavior in response to perceived rejection or abandonment. Overall, the infantile pleasuring personality is a maladaptive coping mechanism that serves to protect the individual from emotional pain and insecurity, but ultimately leads to dysfunctional relationships and social isolation. (354)
As the Pleasuring personality type fails to receive the attention and approval they seek, their behavior may become more extreme, leading to a full-blown Histrionic personality disorder. They may become more manipulative and dramatic in their attempts to gain attention, often exaggerating their emotions and using seductive behavior to attract others. This can lead to a vicious cycle, as their behavior drives people away, leading to even more intense efforts to gain attention and approval. Histrionic behavior can interfere with personal and professional relationships, and those with the disorder may struggle to maintain stable relationships or hold down a job. (355)
Disingenuous Histrionic Personality: The disingenuous histrionic personality can also display a lack of authenticity in their behavior, often exaggerating or fabricating stories to gain attention or sympathy. They may also engage in manipulative tactics, such as playing the victim or using flattery to get what they want. Despite their desire for attention and approval, they may struggle to form genuine connections with others and may ultimately find themselves isolated and lonely. The disingenuous histrionic personality may also experience frequent mood swings and may be prone to outbursts of anger or sadness when they feel that their needs are not being met. Overall, their behavior can be seen as self-centered and lacking in empathy for others. (355)
Tempestuous Histrionic Personality: The tempestuous histrionic personality is characterized by a high degree of emotional instability and impulsivity. They may experience short bursts of intense emotions, which can lead to impulsive actions, followed by periods of depression, moodiness, and sulking. They are highly sensitive to criticism, have a low tolerance for frustration, and often engage in immature behaviors. They are also focused on immediate gratification, seeking out excitement and stimulation. Their emotions are easily triggered, leading to a distractible, flighty, and erratic style of behavior. The tempestuous histrionic tends to lack impulse control, and their emotions often spill over in pure and direct form, without being filtered or moderated. (356)
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