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Stabilizer™ Temperament and Belonging


Stabilizer™ Temperament and Belonging

As I'm working through Dr. Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" workshop I am reminded how Dr. Brown's research shows that all humans are wired for connection. We all have a deep-seated need to feel love and belonging. Except perhaps psychopaths who feel neither shame nor vulnerability.

The word 'belonging' in Type language is associated with the Stabilizer™ Temperament. In 450 BC, Hippocrates called it "Melancholic", later on Spränger called it "Economic", Keirsey called it "Guardian", and if you're familiar with your MBTI® result, it maps onto Sensing and Judging preferences (SJ). Temperament theory has been around for millennia, before Jung's Type theory, and it's a holistic view of a person's behavior and motivators.

Membership or Belonging, as well as Responsibility or duty, are deep psychological needs for Stabilizers. They try to meet these needs by respecting and upholding traditions and rituals. They tend to first look to the past to learn how things used to be done, or if they have personal experience of something, before making up their minds. They often value rules and may strive to uphold societal structures by keeping their families or larger systems secure. I have a friend who loves planning and making lists, doing plenty of research before a new endeavor, and she's happy to observe and ask trusted experts about their experiences when she's trying something for the first time.

Although I'm quite prepared to believe every human being (except those who lack the ability) wants to be connected - emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually - I wonder if the majority of Dr. Brown's research subjects had Stabilizer temperaments. Or perhaps women in our generations were still raised with a focus on duty and responsibility to the family. Or maybe the need to belong is a sign of extraverted Feeling. Making yourself smaller, perhaps, so as to not offend anyone. Which of course takes us back to the difference between belonging and fitting in. Maintaining harmony may be too big a price to pay if your self-worth is on the line.

I don't know if the elephant is a good symbol to represent belonging, but from what I know, their survival is dependent on the group, they live for a long time, and they also keep up traditions. Plus I saw this picture and thought how marvelous to remember that these majestic creatures also start out small, and vulnerable.

*African elephants are now listed as Vulnerable. They wander in non-territorial herds that can reach 200 elephants, even one thousand during the rains. Their society is based on a social matriarchal community. The matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of 9 to 11 elephants. Only closely related females and their offspring are part of this herd because males wander alone once they reach maturity. The herd’s well being depends on the guidance of the matriarch. She determines when they eat, rest, bathe or drink. Females in the herd practice motherhood by being allomothers to the calves. These assistants play with and babysit babies and retrieve them if they stray too far. 


Image by Fred Ericsson, Flickr, Creative Commons License





Your lover's forgotten your birthday again, and you accept his explanation that really it's just another day in the big-picture view of things. He may even be right, what with all the wars going on, what's a wasted dinner reservation?Your co-worker hasn't been able to finish the project and promises she'll make it up to you if you just help her out one more time. You think about your own deadlines but agree to stay with her anyway. And this box of doughnuts really is going to be the last one, tomorrow you'll start a diet. Is it time you faced up to your blind spots? Even if that means you, your relationships, or "things" would change? What's holding you back to look life straight in the eye and take responsibility?

Denial has to do with hope, fear, change, and with taking responsibility. I can think of so many situations when I've been in denial. What they had in common is that I was rarely aware of being in denial. I was either thinking, or feeling, but not both in mindful unison or congruence. Helpful friends pointing out that I was in denial didn't serve to yank me out of it, on the contrary. I would get all the more defensive and scared, worried now that it was so obvious to the outside world there was something not quite right. Reacting came more naturally than taking charge and acting.

Eventually there was that moment, when situations got played out and resolved, or when I was presented with that one particular piece of information I was missing. Veils have been stripped from before my eyes and all of a sudden I saw things clearer. Who here hasn't had that kind of slap-to-forehead moment? I also saw myself clearer, and learned to be more patient with myself and not feel ashamed at how supposedly stupid I was. Despite what we may read about inner voices and nagging feelings, I can't be  sure I've always had one of those. They'd probably make me feel guilty, too, because I didn't listen. How would that be helping the situation, since I can't go back in time anyway?

If there really ever had been a nagging feeling, why wouldn't I have listened to it? After all, I know what's good and what's bad for me. Maybe the consequences were too scary at the time, in which case denial helped my survival because it kept me functioning. Do you have an inner alarm-bell that cannot chime anymore because it's too cluttered to move? Or are you silencing it with drugs, alcohol, or food? How is that helping you survive, and would you agree that in order to grow, it's good to step outside the comfort zone?

I have some more questions about the nature of denial, see if you want to contribute your thoughts in the comments section. How much of our actions are guided by our subconscious, and if that's where denial lives, can we ever truly know when we're in it? Seeing as we have the choice to choose denial, or not dealing with what's bothering us, doesn't that mean we're automatically out of denial, because we're choosing to ignore the symptoms? We're choosing to stay the same, not change, maybe hope for something else to change so we won't have to? Since whatever strategy we employ doesn't work anymore (or else we'd be happy), what alternative behaviors can we think of?

Here's what I found on "Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings." It's not ok that your partner doesn't pay attention to you anymore, it's not ok that your colleague unloads her messes on your desk, and it's not ok that you're 200 pounds overweight. Go on pretending everything's fine and you might just end up hurting yourself. Why not try and face what there is to face, even for five minutes? You can set a timer, if you want, and don't even have to tell anybody. But you'll be amazed at how brave you can be, and how you can change your own outlook on your life. Awareness is the first step of the journey.

You're gonna get your feet wet either way, whether you choose the river or the sea is up to you.

Til next time, have a good one!

Image by Leminton, Flickr, Creative Commons License 



Opportunity for change No. 2 - pleasing others vs. pleasing yourself

You're probably still pretty good at your job though, at least good enough for your boss and colleagues to know that they can't live without you. Combine that with your helpful attitude and friendly demeanor, and you find yourself swamped with little bits and pieces clogging your schedule that may not even be in your job description! But, not wanting to appear rude and desperate to prove you're a team-player, you do them anyway. As a result you're stressed and busy, sometimes feeling like a headless chicken, and every evening you come home you're too tired to do anything more than kick off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, munch on fast or microwaveable food and plonk down on the couch in front of the television. Again, I've experienced that, and probably so have you. The keyword here is boundaries. Yes, you're a nice person. Yes, you're helpful. Yes, it'd be quicker if you did it all yourself instead of explaining it to someone else, with the added benefit of you knowing it's been done right. Can you tell there's a "but" just around the corner? Here it is: Continuously helping out others to the point of neglecting your actual responsibilities and health will not necessarily make them like, respect or value you more than they do or do not do already. "This'll just take a minute..." is fine and well, but is is a minute that you most likely had already set aside doing something else. Now, who should be in charge of deciding which minute and which task is more important? This is your time we're talking about!

Nobody's saying anything against helping out a colleague when they're in a tight spot and you have some time to spare. There's a lot to be said for guarding yourself against the office-slackers who make it their business to seek out colleagues they can exploit and regularly roll off some of their workload on though. It is likely they will play on your kindness and be indeed grateful ("You're the best, thanks ever so much"), or appeal to your ego ("You're really so much better at this than I am"). Alright, those phrases have been uttered sincerely too, so you'll just have to go with your gut-feeling if you're being used or truly appreciated.

If you're not sure about what that gut-feeling is, think it through a little. When approached for help you rarely have to answer yes or no on the spot. Take a moment and ask yourself some questions to find out how you feel about entering that commitment (and it is a commitment, assuming you're not likely to say you'll help and then eventually turn around and say you didn't have time after all). For example, is this a reasonable request? Does the colleague genuinely need help because they cannot perform the task at hand? Are you the best person they could ask for help or would somebody else be more suited? Does your schedule permit you taking out the time you would need to help the other out, or would it put you under pressure regarding your deadlines? If this is a recurring issue, would it be possible to speak to a superior about re-distributing responsibilities? Why do you think you should help them? What do you get out of it? What is

your motivation?

If you're new to the position or the company, don't dismiss enquiring colleagues too quickly, but do be wary. If the same people come to you repeatedly, make the time to sit them down and explain exactly how you do the thing they admire so much, in order for them to learn to do it themselves.

Your position comes with its own set of responsibilities, make sure you see to them accordingly. After all, you are the one who will have to answer for them to your boss eventually. How will the boss react when you tell them you couldn't finish your project because you were busy helping out someone else with their tasks? "Hmm, we have a great team-player here" or more along the lines of "What a pity, that sounds like a distinct lack of prioritising and time management skills."

Putting your responsibilities first is a sign of the respect you have for your position and for yourself. All of us need help sometimes, and we should not be afraid to ask for it. But if you have the feeling someone is taking advantage, don't be afraid to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm busy." This way you will avoid unnecessary stress caused by too many open issues that are not even yours to worry about in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to something or someone does not make you a bad person. It makes you an aware person who knows their limits, and that is a very good quality to have.

I invite you to think about all the people in your life, not only in your job, as this powerful concept of boundaries applies to family members and friends as well. Who do you feel comfortable being around? Who would you rather not spend time with? Are there some who take more of your energy than they give? Is there anyone who you feel doesn't respect you? In what way are they behaving? Is there anything you can do about that?

Who says that a nice glass of wine after work is only reserved to the overly stressed-out, by the way. You still deserve to decompress in any way that works for you! Come back next week for more articles on opportunity for change, and have a look at your work-life balance.

Til next time!