Untitled, by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1984)

Every one of us has a fundamental flaw, an immaturity of character, a dark side or negative tendency. This is known as the CHIEF FEATURE, since it tends to take control whenever we feel stressed, anxious or uncertain. To the extent that you can identify and handle your chief feature, you are doing well in your personal growth.

What is a Chief Feature?

Generally speaking, all personality traits (or overleaves) are neutral. They can be applied positively or negatively, but in themselves they are neither positive nor negative. Personality traits are merely different ways of being.

A chief feature [1] is different. A chief feature is negative by nature.

A chief feature is a dominant negative attitude — a defensive and potentially destructive pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.

We all have at least one. It comes and goes in childhood, solidifies during adolescence, and then surrounds us like a protective shell in adulthood. It seems like a good thing to have at first but, as I will explain, it is based on a false premise and so serves no real purpose. Throughout adulthood it just interferes with our lives by blocking aspects of our true nature and stifling our true character, usually without us even knowing.

Your chief feature is your primary ego defence and your main stumbling block in life.

This article describes how the chief feature comes to have such a stranglehold on our personality. First, though, a general description of the seven possible chief features.

The seven chief features

In the Michael teachings there are seven types of chief feature (character flaw / ego defence / personality defect / stumbling block, whatever you prefer).

Here they are listed from the most introverted to the most extroverted:

  1. Self-Deprecation (belittling/diminishing/undervaluing oneself)
  2. Self-Destruction (sabotaging/punishing/harming oneself)
  3. Martyrdom (reacting as if persecuted/victimised/oppressed)
  4. Stubbornness (resisting change in one’s life)
  5. Greed (selfish overindulgence, over-consumption)
  6. Arrogance (inflating/exalting/overvaluing oneself)
  7. Impatience (reacting as though being sabotaged/obstructed)

Note how they can be arranged in pairs (plus one in the middle):

7CFs2 400

Impatience and martyrdom are both about our actions. It is as if there is a battle of wills going on between ourselves and others, or life, or even ourselves.

  • In the case of impatience, we feel a need to act quickly — and hate it whenever anything interferes with our will or slows us down. “Why do people always stop me from doing what I need to do? Everybody should just get out of my way.”
  • In the case of martyrdom, we feel a constant need to blame others for our own misfortune, as though we never had a will of our own. “Don’t blame me. Everybody else is imposing their will upon me.”

Greed and self-destruction are both about our personal relationship to life. In both cases, there is an underlying feeling about ourselves that prevents us from ever feeling OK in life.

  • In the case of greed, there is an underlying feeling of lack, a hole inside oneself that needs to be filled, though it is actually a bottomless pit: “Life will never be OK until I have it all.”
  • In the case of self-destruction, our very presence is already more than enough. There is a constant inner turmoil that makes us want to get away from ourselves: “Life will never be OK until I end it all.”

Arrogance and self-deprecation are both about personal esteem and self-esteem. The thought behind them is something like, “Who I really am will never be satisfactory in the eyes of others. So no-one must ever see the real me.”

  • In the case of arrogance, we feel a need to be seen as flawless because exposing our flaws makes us feel unbearably vulnerable.
  • In the case of self-deprecation, we just want to be seen as little as possible because we already feel hopelessly inadequate.

Stubbornness is simply about change in any form. We feel a need to keep things just as they are and resist any outside influence, even positive ones: “No, no, no! You can’t make me. I won’t have it.”

We all have, within us, elements of all seven of these negative attitudes. It goes with the human condition. And we can be influenced by any of them from time to time. But whichever one of these patterns is always subconsciously pulling your strings, that is your chief feature, your primary obstacle, your Achille’s heel.

In terms of our psychological well-being, personal growth and spiritual development in later life, our chief feature presents a challenge. To overcome it, we have to become more conscious. But if we utterly succumb to it, the result can be a grotesque character flaw.



Anatomy of a Character Flaw

Understanding the personality is like playing with Russian dolls — removing one layer reveals another layer underneath.

If we were to open up a chief feature, what would we find? Here is my understanding as a psychologist of the structure of the chief feature.

Persona

First of all, the outermost layer is what psychologists call the persona.

mask-2

This layer is a mask, a pose, an act. It’s how we want others to see us … a false image designed to hide the “truth” about us.

(This layer is particularly dense for those with arrogance or self-deprecation.)

For example, someone might be in the habit of acting like they are perfect and superior in every way. Their mask of superiority is what their chief feature wants the world to see instead of the terrible truth within — an ordinary, flawed human being. This would be part of the chief feature of arrogance.

The persona layer of the chief features is a cover story, a decoy, a fabrication. And it is specifically crafted to hide what lies underneath …

Shadow

There is within each of us a hidden layer of negativity and denial, known in psychology as the shadow.

The shadow includes all the childish ways we would act out our negative feelings, were we to allow it. Such negativity may be directed either against the world outside or against the self — but it is single-minded and desperate, being driven by our worst fears, our inner demons.

inner demon

The “demons” within us represent our personality at its most selfish, destructive and immature. These childish aspects of ourselves are obsessed with getting their own way, and terrified of getting it wrong.

We wear the persona as a mask to hide  these ugly tendencies from public view. The outer image of ourselves portrayed by the persona is usually the exact opposite of the inner image we hold of our own shadow. If my suppressed urge (shadow) is to be nasty, for example, my public image (persona) may come across as unusually nice.

Note that very young souls (those in the earliest stage of reincarnation, known as Infant souls) do not develop a persona. They do not comprehend the social need to disguise their negative behaviour. Once triggered, their “demonic” side is expressed directly.

Older souls, however, are inclined to keep their negative potential hidden from public view—and in the case of repressed Baby and Young souls, from their own view as well.

Baby souls are likely to see their negative tendencies as the work of the Devil, for example.

Young souls are more likely to project their demons into the ‘real’ world, seeing for example much evil in the world which demands (justifies) a destructive response.

Mature souls are more sensitive and self-aware, and often come to recognise their own shadow tendencies. They are more likely to want to heal their inner demons — bring their negativity out of the shadows and into the light of conscious awareness. It can be a constant struggle.

Old souls are more likely to take a philosophical, self-accepting view of their own negativity. They are less likely to have a false persona at all, caring more about being true to themselves, but also having the wisdom not to “act out”.

Fear

cryingFinally, if we lift away this negative reactive layer (the shadow), we find the emotional core of the chief feature.  This is a core of fear — personified as the helpless young child within us who fears to repeat some sort of painful experience.

At the core of personality we have our emotional memory banks from early childhood, even from birth. There will also be emotional resonances with traumas from past lives. Here is where all experiences of loss, deprivation, abandonment, neglect, abuse and mistreatment have left their mark.

The tremendous fear of repeating such experiences is the emotional engine of our negative and destructive tendencies, and the driving force of the entire chief feature.

How we create our own stumbling-block

Every child is born with a list of needs and desires.

  • Infants need nurturing, caring, attention, affection—in a word, love—in order to feel safe and secure.
  • Toddlers need to assert themselves and discover their capabilities and limitations as independent physical beings.
  • Schoolchildren need to form relationships and be accepted by their peers.

But life is never perfect. In some cases, there is deliberate abuse. Parents can be emotionally immature or insensitive, or too wrapped up in their own problems to care for the needs of a child. Even the best parents are imperfect in their love. Some are physically unable to give the child the optimum type or amount of love required. Sometimes, parents just die or disappear from life.

It isn’t all about the parents, of course. Siblings can also have a devastating an effect on the child, as can friends, neighbours and schoolteachers. Some research shows that parental influence on a child’s development is prominent only up to age five, after which peer groups become the greater influence.

Inevitably, a child carries his or her own version of suffering. There is always some degree, however small, of loss, deprivation, frustration, trauma, abandonment, neglect, abuse or mistreatment.

Fear

All chief features are based in fear, and fear is the driving force behind all the negative poles of the overleaves, and the cosmos for that matter.

MICHAEL

Having undergone negative experiences, the child now has a constant fear of the negative experiences recurring. “If life is out to get me, it could get me at any moment. I never know how it might get me next.”

The fear may be a terror of some specific bad experience happening again, or it could be more of a dread of some awful thing which is always threatening to get worse. Either way, it becomes the  adult personality’s deeply held sense of insecurity.

The chief feature is a character structure designed to avoid or handle a particular kind of fear.

Chief features are all built around a basic fear, which is another way of saying a block. However, it is not the fear that is the cause of the chief feature. The chief feature operates because of the protection believed necessary from that fear. It is, in essence, the fear of fear; the belief that you cannot survive if you surrender and experience the fear and what is underlying the fear. The structure is built upon that foundation.

MICHAEL

There are, of course, seven fundamental fears: [2]

CF fears

Misconceptions

The soul still “remembers” what perfect love and freedom and security feel like, so the harsh realities of incarnation can come as a shock.

Because of the negative experiences of childhood, especially if such experiences are repeated or if they are particularly traumatic, a child begins to construct a somewhat distorted worldview. In other words, the child puts together false beliefs or negative ideas about the self, about others or about life in general.

The nature of the child’s misconceptions depend upon the type and strength of the specific painful experiences. For example, if the child is regularly punished for no apparent reason, the child might conclude that “life is out to get me.”

Children tend to over-generalise, so this misconception becomes all-encompassing. It becomes a personal myth.

Negative behaviour

Driven by a deeply-held fear, and steered by a distorted worldview, the emerging chief feature springs into action. The child thinks for instance, “I will stop life from hurting by taking control of my pain. I will hurt myself more  than anybody else can.”

The child’s chosen survival strategy involves some sort of conflict, a war against self, against others or against life.

It is a defensive behaviour pattern which looks irrational from the outside but from the child’s perspective is perfectly rational. It is this way of acting which make up the negativity of the emerging chief feature in childhood.

Chief feature is a survival device, and one of its strongest hooks into the personality is the instilled conviction that you cannot survive without it. The lure of the chief feature is that when there is much stress and the circumstances are difficult, it will in fact get you through.

MICHAEL

Distortion of the life goal

Your life’s goal is one of the overleaves chosen by your soul before incarnating. There are seven possible goals (Dominance, Growth, Acceptance, Surrender, Submission, Rejection and Retardation).

For the soul, the goal it chooses is a way to evolve through physical life. While we are incarnate, pursuing our goal offers a path to joy and fulfillment.

But for the chief feature, however, the urging of the goal is a threat to the personality’s survival strategy.

The life goal tends to seek greater love, truth and freedom, while the chief feature is like a parasite that feeds on  fear, falsehood and self-limitation. Happiness itself is “part of the problem”— something to be feared and avoided as far as possible.

And so the chief feature, in its mindless, terrified way, convinces us that negativity is the only safe option. Higher principles such as truth, joy, freedom and love are incomprehensible to the chief feature and therefore not to be trusted.

The chief feature distorts the functioning of the goal as we make life choices. It mixes up our pure desire with our primitive fears. It interprets positive options as threats to our survival. It blinds us to the possibilities and makes our chances of fulfilment virtually impossible.

In attaching expectations and conditions to the goal, the chief feature “colors” it so that it cannot be recognized or it becomes acceptable only under certain very limited circumstances, often circumstances that are impractical at best, such as a young woman with genuine back problems who feels that the only way she can be worth anything in life is if she becomes a ballet dancer.

MICHAEL

In this way, the chief feature turns us away from the positive pole of our goal and towards its negative pole. For example:

  • If your goal is dominance, your  soul may be desiring to show great leadership (the positive pole of dominance) but your chief feature manifests as dictatorship.
  • If your goal is acceptance, your soul’s desire is to learn how to accept others unconditionally but the effect of your chief feature will be ingratiation—begging to be accepted by others.
  • If your goal is growth, your soul’s desire is to have the sort of contrasting experiences that lead to great insight and comprehension, but the influence of your chief feature will merely lead you into confusion.

Image management

Coming of age—the transition from adolescent to adult—is a major turning point in anyone’s life. The prospect of leaving the family home and operating as a free agent in adult society is, in some ways, like starting life all over again.

Emerging adults need to feel safe and secure, just like infants. They need to assert themselves and discover their limits, just like toddlers. They need to be accepted by their peers, just like schoolchildren.

All of this can trigger a terrible fear, buried deep in their psyche, of repeating the same sort of painful experiences that happened in the first few years of life. The defensive strategy is designed to prevent this from happening.

However, the emerging adult faces a dilemma: I want to be an adult, and be seen as an adult. But my normal survival strategy is socially unacceptable — it makes me look like a child. I have to protect myself, but I also have to manage how others see me.

The solution is to develop a “spilt personality” — the childish fears, attitudes and negativity become locked away inside (to become the  shadow), while a carefully managed public image is presented to the world (the persona).

One final final step, which happens more often than not, is when the young adult actually identifies with their own image or persona. In other words, they believe their own lie. Now the chief feature is a closed system, an almost inescapable cycle.



A Vicious Circle

ouroboros

Like the symbolic serpent eating its own tail, the chief feature is a vicious circle that feeds on fear, illusion and falsehood.

I find it fascinating the way the chief feature works. Not only does it interfere with natural self-expression and self-fulfilment, it also attracts the very thing which the personality fears—and then uses this to justify its own existence!

For example, consider a young woman with a chief feature of arrogance.

Her innermost fear says to her, “My secret imperfections leave me vulnerable to unbearable criticism.” She fears exposing this vulnerability. Any such exposure is a no-no. So her behaviour becomes a message to the world: “I’m magnificent, folks. I am already complete. My life is as perfect as it can get. Don’t even bother looking for imperfections.”

Needless to say, however, going around acting all high and superior like this inevitably attracts criticism, the very thing she is seeking to avoid.

But when this happens, her chief feature simply notes the criticism, decides that her mask of perfect invulnerability needs to be reinforced, and ups its game! Instead of acting overtly superior and self-important, she may now do it more subtly by highlighting weaknesses in others, becoming very critical of others’ failings. This draws attention away from her own vulnerabilities and, by implication, gives the impression of her not having those same weaknesses. She might also learn subtle ways to invite praise from others, thereby keeping them focused on her better aspects and oblivious to her failings.

The chief feature is is like a black hole in the personality. Not only does it suck the joy out of life but it is also invisible, a psychological blind spot. People generally do not know what their greatest flaw is because they cannot see it.

It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy: “The thing I fear the most just keeps happening to me.” The chief feature is oblivious to its own causal role in the process.

Getting rid of a chief feature therefore is a very difficult task precisely because it has such a seductive grip on the entire personality. Even if we become aware of it, we are not sure of we can survive without it. We can, however, become more conscious of it. We can feel it when it is trying to take over. And once we are aware of its ways of working, we have more choice. We can choose to ignore the fear that normally bosses us around, or at least accommodate it in a non-destructive way.

Positive and negative poles

Like all overleaves, each type of chief feature has its positive pole and its negative pole.

  • The negative pole of a chief feature represents the state in which false beliefs and maladaptive behaviours are in total control of the personality. You are acting unconsciously, reacting to situations out of fear.
  • The postive pole of a chief feature represents the state in which the grip of fear has loosened—the chief feature is no longer in control, though it is still making its presence felt. You are able to act more consciously from a position of power and choice. There is still some unnecessary influence, however.

The positive and negative poles of the chief features are shown below. For a more detailed explanation, see the individual pages on each type of chief feature.

CFs

Primary and Secondary

I have been talking about the chief feature, or the character flaw, but in fact people usually have two of them distorting their personality—a primary and a secondary. The primary is the one that distorts the goal overleaf. The secondary, however, distorts the attitude overleaf (how the personality perceives life). So while the effect of the primary flaw is outward, affecting overt behaviour, the effect of the secondary is inward, affecting how we think and feel.

In my case, for example, my primary obstacle is impatience — a tendency to rush and push, driven by a fear of missing out. This interferes with my life goal, which happens to be growth (the desire for intense and varied experiences). So having impatience as my chief feature means that I am frequently anxious about missing out on opportunities to experience life. I tend to rush from one activity to the next like a bull in a china shop, afraid that if I slow down I will miss out on some important experience.

My secondary obstacle is self-deprecation — a tendency to diminish oneself out of a fear of having one’s basic inadequacy exposed to the world. This distorts my life attitude, which happens to be idealism (focusing on positive possibilities, how life can be). So having self-deprecation interfering with my attitude means that I tend to think about how much better my life would be ideally, if it wasn’t for me and my inadequacies.

Does “chief feature” mean the same as “ego”?

Spiritual teachers often say that our main problem in life, the thing that leads to unhappiness and hampers our spiritual growth, is our own ego. So is “chief feature” just another name for ego, and vice versa?

Well, we have to be very careful with the word “ego”, as it has completely different meanings in different contexts.

To the general public, the word ego refers to that part of us which loves praise, fame, success, victory. It is the selfish part of us that wants to win the game of life, the big-headed part of us that likes to believe “I am the best”, the infantile part that wants us to have it all, now.

However, many psychiatrists since Freud have used the word “ego” to refer to what they regard as the most advanced function of the mind — namely, the ability to be rational, to make decisions, to resolve problems. They also regard this rational “ego” as synonymous with the “self”. (In other words, there is no spirit or soul, There is only the ego, which is a function of the human mind.)

So to the lay person, the ego summnarises all that is bad in human nature, while to the psychiatrist the ego is  important and valuable — the basis of rational choice.

Spiritual teachings tend to combine both views. They regard the ego as both rational and self-serving. Being rational, it cannot grasp the ultimate unity of reality. Being self-serving, it blocks our spiritual nature and so prevents us from experiencing love, joy and fulfilment.  And so spiritual teachers urge us to transcend the ego in order to become whole, to connect with all of life, and to discover our real meaning, value and purpose.

At the same time, most spiritual teachings make a definite distinction between the self and the ego. In the spiritual framework, the ego is a false or lower self, while the soul (or inner being, or true nature) is the real self, the higher self. The ego is simply a structure in the mind which claims to be oneself but isn’t.

It is in this sense that the chief feature may be identified with the ego. More exactly, the chief feature is the ego’s primary means for self-preservation.

Most people would readily identify the traits of arrogance, impatience and greed as obvious ego traits.  Less obvious, though, are the more introverted chief features: self-deprecation, self-destruction, martyrdom, stubbornness. This is because of the general public’s view of the ego as being outwardly selfish, big-headed and infantile. But if we regard the ego simply as a false self then we soon find all these traits at work.

Read on

Ok, that’s the background on the seven chief features. Now click on the links below to learn about each one in detail and see if you can spot your own. But be warned: your chief feature is a blind spot! Many people cannot see their own biggest flaw.

Self-Deprecation | Self-Destruction | Martyrdom

| Stubbornness |

Greed | Arrogance | Impatience

Books

Transforming Your Dragons

For an excellent book about the various negative patterns and how to handle them, see Transforming Your Dragons by José Stevens.

The 7 archetypes of fear - cover

Another great and insightful book about the seven character flaws, including three common variants of each type: The Seven Archetypes of Fear, by Varda Hasselmann and Frank Schmolke.

Notes

[1] The name “chief feature” was originally coined by the spiritual teachers Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. They wanted to indicate how most people are psychologically dominated by something negative in their own personality structure. It is possible that their source of inspiration was the entity known here as Michael. Many of those involved in the original Michael channelling group also had a background in this teaching, so the term carried over.

[2] I have noticed that some online writers have the fears slightly differently: they have worthlessness as the underlying fear of self-destruction and loss of control as the underlying fear of martyrdom, rather than vice-versa. The list shown here is consistent with all of the channelled material I have seen in the various Michael books and elsewhere.


99 Responses to “Character flaws: The seven chief features of ego”


  1. 1 Angel 27 Sep 2013 at 6:54 am

    Hi Barry,
    Regarding worldly success and failure; it seems we are such a selfish and materialistic society. You know, the ME Generation! I’d have to say my chief feature is self-deprecation. I can recall times past and present when I would be too hard on myself about making mistakes.,etc

  2. 2 Angel 27 Sep 2013 at 6:59 am

    To Sue Harris and all others,
    I wish you the best in overcoming your adversities
    As well as you Barry in overcoming your impatience.

    • 3 barry 27 Sep 2013 at 9:31 am

      Thanks Angel

      These days I only get impatient with inanimate objects, which I guess is progress.

      Fo example, when I’m putting cups and saucers on a shelf, I (unconsciously) expect them to understand where they are supposed to go, and just obey my will. Instead, they prefer to obey the law of gravity and go crashing to the floor.

  3. 4 Andru 01 Oct 2013 at 2:50 pm

    This is a very amazing article. As one self deprecating person, I learnt to understand a bit more about it. Thank you for putting this up! :)

    • 5 barry 02 Oct 2013 at 6:08 am

      Cheers Andru!

  4. 6 anonymous 10 Nov 2013 at 10:01 am

    Hi there.

    I am in recovery and working a 6th step of “character defects.” I came across this article and have learned so much. I really appreciate you leaving it here as it has helped me with my step work.

    Thank you again.

  5. 7 Alan L 20 Nov 2013 at 5:43 pm

    So, what you are saying is that there are layers of denial in a person’s soul. But even as psychologists have surmised is that “chief features” of conditioning are permanent behavioral patterns; so, all you can you do is provide or propose to yourself better outcomes and goals based on your current dynamic. When the dynamic changes….then you are back to school on yourself and your dynamic because of your deniability between the two is permanent.

    • 8 barry 21 Nov 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Well, that would be the case if we are merely products of our conditioning, whose learned behavioural patterns are immutable. But if you are capable of self-awareness, self-insight and intentional growth, then you can gradually bring your conscious self to bear on the unconscious patterns. You can choose to be more conscious, less automatic, you can see the underlying fears for what they are, you can suppress habitual reactions and set deliberate goals to act ‘better’ according to your own standards. It’s a perfect growth challenge for any adult seeking self-understanding and self-improvement.

  6. 9 King james 15 Dec 2013 at 1:42 am

    Awesome

  7. 10 luciana.flora@uol.com.br 30 Mar 2014 at 6:22 pm

    For me it was easy for sure is self depreciation .. I’ve seen it all atutudes .. And now that things are going well for me, I find myself trying to lower the expectations of the people about me .. For me it was very obvious .. was not a blind spot ..

  8. 11 Carson 04 Apr 2014 at 12:17 am

    I think that it helps to use this information to better understand ourselves, but it begs the sequel of “how to I overcome all of these problematic chief features that have taken ‘me’ over?”
    Honestly, my only luck so far has been my relationship with God because it helps to give my soul rest to seeking perfection that will never be reached. But some practical tips in regards to this article could be helpful, especially for those who don’t experience the relief found through meditation with God.

    • 12 barry 04 Apr 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Hi Carson

      Well, I have briefly addressed ways of dealing with these traits at the end of each individual page – some more fully than others. But I take your point, I could add a section here on “What to do”.

      The challenge of confronting and taming one’s character flaw(s) is often characterised in mythology (and Hollywood) as the hero’s journey. I suspect you are familiar with the Jungian archetypal analysis – the protagonist is sent from home on a sacred quest, but he is tricked and trapped at every turn by some kind of evil monster. Eventually he realises what’s going on, and he plucks up the courage to directly confront the monster – in fact, to go inside its own lair, and slay it there – which, lo and behold, leads to some great treasure being discovered. The “leaving home” is the transition from adolescence to maturity; the “sacred quest” is to become whole, something greater than one can yet imagine; the monster is one’s own character flaw, resisting wholeness; its dark, secret lair is one’s own shadow side, the denied or repressed aspects of self; the “treasure” is the whole and authentic self.

      So, how to go about slaying dragons? Each pattern will have its own trips and traps set up as a vicious circle, but as a rule there will be certain processes or habits that one can observe in oneself and seek to overcome, or at least intervene.

      1. PERCEPTIONS: When we perceive situations through our “dark lens”, we are on the look-out for what our negativity expects to see. For example, my self-deprecation constantly anticipates the threat of exposure, humiliation and shaming coming from any direction. This leads to many false alarms, where I might back away from a situation that wasn’t actually posing any threat at all. But because I’ve backed away from it, I never get to find out that I had misjudged it. My false perception is never tested. So one way to confront to the monster is to notice our perceptions and examine our underlying assumptions. Mindfulness of our suspicions and prejudgements about the situations we dislike the most.

      2. REACTIONS: If we are really caught in our negativity and it’s still a blind spot, then we won’t notice anything wrong with our perceptions at all – we just see a “bad” situation and in the same instant react “appropriately”. For example, someone with impatience sees a traffic jam as a threat to their “need” to keep moving through life as quickly as possible, so they shout at other drivers, honk the horn, rev the engine, and maybe even blow a gasket! If we can’t be mindful of our perceptions, then we can at least be mindful of our outer reactions – our negative behaviours. Simply asking “Is this the best way for me to act?” or “Is this really how I want others people to see me?” might be all it takes to stop and regain control. Our negative patterns run on autopilot — an autopilot that has set itself on a destructive course. But we, as conscious beings, always have the power to take back control and set ourselves flying straight and level in the desired direction. It takes a lot of practice, but every little helps. No bad habit is set in stone.

      3. THE FEAR: If we are to go directly into the monster’s lair – the shadow – then we must literally confront our worst fear. Most people don’t even explicitly know what their worst fear is, in terms of being able to articulate it. It’s more subtle, implicit. A quick side-note: There is a relatively new concept in psychology called Terror Management Theory, which says that what drives people (unlike other animals) is our awareness of our mortality. At some point in life we conceptualise our own demise, and we experience absolute terror. We handle that terror by – for example – building monuments, or leaving a legacy in the form of our children or our life’s work. Most people are aware of their fear of death and how they deal with it, however. What most people are NOT so aware of is their fear of LIFE. All of the seven character flaws represent a fear of life in some way – e.g., “my life is always missing something” or “my existence has no value”. So the most direct sway to confront the negative pattern is to seek your underlying worst fear, name it, describe it, get to know it – and thus become less and less identified with it.

      I hope this helps (I may copy it up to the main text), but as I said the specifics will be different for each particular pattern. There are many more insights and sensible self-help tips to be had in the book by José Stevens, Transforming Your Dragons.

      cheers

      Barry

  9. 13 mhi 06 May 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Hi, this is a very interesting article, thankyou for it .I have been meaning to find something like this but the thing is, some recent events of my life have sort of ‘shattered’ the foundations of my personality. I dont know what my cheif feature or shadow is anymore. Its extremely extremely frustrating and is affecting my daily life
    I was wondering if you could suggest a test or quiz to determine or sort out this dilemma?

    • 14 barry 10 May 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Well, I would probably start by asking you what is your deepest, worst, most private fear?
      – that you will die too soon, before doing everything you should do?
      – that others will perceive you as ordinary rather than as special?
      – that you will never have enough of something that feels vital (like power or money)
      – that changes will occur in your life which you have no option but to go along with?
      – that you might lose control of yourself?
      – that your sense of inadequacy as a human being is true and will exposed?
      – that you can never do enough to please others or suffer enough to feel worthy?

      Any of these hit home? (There may be more than one.)

      • 15 mhi 11 May 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Well the last three probably nailed it all also i have always thought i have been quasi deceptive in my social relations like not two faced but being on good terms with everyone, even people i dont quite like and that has been a struggle trust me. I have been overweight all my life and that has been my inadequency and i have tried compensating for it by getting good grades and having the whole “good person” act and that required a lot of indifference on my part to a lot of things but lately since the last few months i m super sensitive over everything, what people think of me? why do they think that way? What have i let out that made them think so? Maybe i m that person that i have been painted up to be because obviously if everyone thinks that there has to e some truth to it right? So basically i dont know who i am now, the person i thought i was or what everyone may think i am and as a person who has always been somewhat reserved and guarded it frustrates me to no end not knowing and i know how incredibly stupid all this ounds but its taking its toll on everything because i know i have never done, wished anything bad on everyone knowingly.
        I read through the article again and found my cheif features to be as of this moment greed, self deprecation, self destruction and martydom
        Thankyou for taking the time out to answer, cant believe the first time i say it all is on a public forum though but seriously thanks alot!

  10. 16 BarbaraZ 03 Jun 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I found this to be very thought provoking and useful. We are in a strange time. I talk to a lot of people who struggle so much with their “demons” only wanting to find a way to live a happy life. I shared the link for those who might be inclined to look at life from this perspective. I believe that once you look and then see you must acknowledge and then be compelled to change.
    I love the approach involving spirituality because I didn’t expect to find that when I started my search. The word Ego is thrown around a lot and I simply had to reacquaint myself with what the word actually means again.
    Thank you for doing this work.

    • 17 barry 07 Jun 2014 at 7:34 pm

      Great, and thank you so much Barbara.
      Barry

  11. 18 John Joseph Martinez 14 Aug 2014 at 3:14 am

    Personality leaves sound a little like modern Enneagram personality traits. Anyway, great site, thank you Barry for what you are doing. I am seeking my truths, my evolution, and my growth here on this plane of existence and have delved into various schools of thought, some more worthy of my time and effort, than others of course, and find your input intriguing and worthy. I am sooo interested on doing an enlightenment retreat and let the inner me out for awhile…I’ve had a few moments of personal clarity, soul shine, one–ness, etc, and have always longed for that as permanent state of being. Maybe some day! I will continue to peruse your site (bookmarked!) and will keep taking in info for my ongoing growth and enlightened awareness of….me! Life belongs to me / I belong to Life!
    Be well, i send you my best wishes in all your efforts this Lifecycle.
    J_

    • 19 barry 14 Aug 2014 at 8:29 am

      Many thanks John. Have a great journey!

      B

  12. 20 Naina 15 Oct 2014 at 6:44 am

    Hi Barry,
    I am twenty years old and live in India. I’ ve had problems with dealing with my inner self and I always come about questioning myself as in whether m I right or wrong in taking a particular decision. This leads to me thinking so much that I come within the circle of self doubt as of whether m I suffering from a mental illness like bipolar disorder or something and then by my further reasoning I come to conclusion that it is my being calling out for some spiritual answers. As a person, I am shy and not open and so I find it very difficult to find answers of my questions. As a result I have also thought of taking on meditation very soon hopefully.

    I sometimes also end up fearing a personality disorder as I have big ambitions in life but do not have enough drive in myself to achieve them and also my ultimate goal in life is to be peaceful and joyous regardless of the difficulties. I am indecisive in whether what to go for and there’s also a sense of meaninglessness which I feel sometimes. Doctors I have consulted tell me that I have a problem of over thinking which also sometimes brings about a feeling that is what is happening is unreal. Also I have problem accepting change and there is stubbornness.

    I will be very glad if you could help me with this. Also to let you know my behavior is normal except that there are mood swings happening internally. Thanks.

    • 21 barry 30 Oct 2014 at 1:47 am

      Hi

      So, just to be sure I’m understanding you correctly: You struggle to make decisions, not knowing if you are ever making the right choice. But from that uncertainty you then spiral into self-doubt, self-judgement and self-questioning. And from there you imagine the possibility that you could even stumble into some kind of mental illness.

      Based on what you have said, my (tentative) impression of your personality structure is:

      — Goal of contentment (you want to peacefully go with the flow of life)
      — Mode of caution (you like to be sure you are doing the right thing before you commit to anything)
      — Chief feature of self-deprecation (you lack confidence and judge yourself harshly for that)
      — with a secondary feature of stubbornness (you “justify” the constant self-doubting and self-judging by perceiving change as something to be resisted).

      I suspect that through your adolescent years you have — like most of us — adopted the cultural myth that to be an adult you must be ambitious and successful, or else you are “a loser”. This is a pervasive but nonsensical notion in today’s world. I suspect that you can “feel” how it contradicts your inner sense of going with the flow, but lack conscious awareness of it, hence the tension between the lure of ambition and your inner “lack of drive”. See if you can focus on the positive quality of contentment or flow and ditch the idea that you are required to show ambition.

      With a mode of caution, the danger is of over-thinking — “paralysis by analysis” — not making any decision or not making any commitment to a course of action because of the fear that the decision could be the wrong one and therefore needs more (and more and more) endless thought.

      Try to focus on the positive and uplifting energy of caution, which is acting with confidence because you have clearly and consciously assessed of your options and have planned the best course of action.

      You can make good judgements and choices based on whatever information you have that — to you — is enough to get going with. In other words, instead of being fearfully reluctant to make any choice, be deliberately cautious with a focus on making the best choice you can given the limited information available. And see if you can accept the idea that no choice is right or wrong. You are not here to make right or wrong choices according to any external standard. You are here to develop your unique way of choosing.

  13. 22 spherey 30 Oct 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Really well-put. I resonate with that.

  14. 23 11:11 ........1 17 Dec 2014 at 12:18 pm

    i have all the negative poles oh god lol.

    i used to have all the positive poles. realised i had my own mind and i instantly stopped being a brainwashed crazy person. i was free,

    got locked up and fed antipsychotics quick smart. people are robots and thats what they do to the children these days. cant judge them for what they were taught.

    i have a broken heart now though as a result of the meds, thats the feeling. and all the negative poles, i dont like them. my original personality is diametrically opposite to whats inside me. i could just act confident and tell myself hey youve got got good intentions fuck what they think but im not up against people im up against heartbreak, im up againt myself.. i feel beaten but i dont want to be beat, i dont want to lay down and die im on the forefront of coming back from antipsychotics i want to be the one who says yes it can be done we dont have to wish for death. i wont be beaten im gonna win this.

    do you, could you suggest anything?

    • 24 barry 17 Dec 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Hi there

      I’m not a psychiatrist, and I don’t know your history, so I cannot formally “advise” you. But my guess is that anything that helps you to filter or clarify your perception of reality should be helpful. I really don’t know if that means you should keep taking the meds, or try a change of meds, or try coming off the meds. But there is an intensity to your experiences that must be difficult to live with.

      Barry

  15. 25 Blueprinter 17 Dec 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Can I use the graphic of the traits that looks like an atom. Like to post to Facebook?

    • 26 barry 17 Dec 2014 at 6:44 pm

      No problem!
      B

  16. 27 anneshirleytoday 18 Mar 2015 at 1:37 am

    But what if you identify with all seven cheif features? How does one get to the root and identify the main cheif feature that all these seven seemingly stem from?

    • 28 barry 23 Apr 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Like I suggested to someone else, see if you can get in touch with your deepest, worst fear about life and death.

      Dying too soon –> Impatience
      Being responsible –> Martyrdom
      Living without enough –> Greed
      Living with suffering –> Self-Destruction
      Being judged nothing special –> Arrogance
      Being exposed as inferior –> Self-deprecation
      Being affected by others’ decisions –> Stubbornness

      Alternatively, ask a friend. It’s often more obvious to other people than to ourselves.


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