Untitled, by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1984)

Every one of us has a fundamental flaw, a defect of character, an Achilles’ heel. This is known as the CHIEF FEATURE, since it tends to dominate the entire personality. 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. We create it during adolescence, and thereafter it manifests as a lifelong character flaw or personality defect.

We forge this bit of our personality initially as a weapon, or at least a shield, to “protect” us as we emerge into the adult world.

It seems like a good idea at the time 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. 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, there is nothing good about any chief feature. In the extreme, they can develop into personality disorders and even mental illness.

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 our 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.

Chief feature as 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

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.


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


  1. 1 Kayano 29 Dec 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Very good read. Being an Irish Catholic having suppressed emotions is practically a stereotype. The graph is actually very accurate. I use the phrase regarding those as ” swings in roundabouts” to my mood, and “sure it makes no difference” regarding my actions. Funny and very informative to see it portrayed on a graph. Kind of like a pleasure pain reaction! Thanks, Kayano

  2. 2 EG 01 Jan 2013 at 10:51 am

    Amazing, fascinating and enriching!
    Thank you!

  3. 3 Karren 16 Feb 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Would it be possible that I am have both arrogance and self deprecation? That I am different in our school, like I am kind, patient and studios and when it come to our home, I am arrogant, lazy and hot headed? I don’t really understand what am I…. :(

    • 4 barry 16 Feb 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Karren (again!)

      You could ask yourself which of these various ways of being feels real, and which are manufactured? For example, does it come naturally to you to be kind, or is it something you fake in order to be accepted? I’m not saying it’s one or the other – I don’t know! – only you can know your own heart.

      It could be that when you get home you give yourself permission to blow off in a way that you wouldn’t get away with at school. You can laze about in front of your family and they are used to it. The family situation is far more intimate and familiar than most of our interactions at school.

      Alternatively, it could be that at school you are exploring ways of being that you haven’t felt able to explore at home. Adolescence is a very exploratory and experimental time, and we like to do so with our peers (schoolmates), rather than the people who have known us since we were born.

      So, various possibilities there – I hope at least something here helps.

      Cheers

      Barry

  4. 5 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Very new to this Michael information but finding it an intriguing study, Indeed sometimes exciting, sometimes scary, sometimes frustrating sometimes enlightening. Overall it seems like a very good thing and great work you are doing, and I can see it helping a lot of people. Having problems differentiating whether there is an increase in the directness of how immediate spiritual consciousness raising is manifesting in this time period, or whether it is just happening in my imagination, which makes it difficult to feel comfortable making absolute statements.

    A similar process seems to leave me unable to make decisions in my life. Just mentioning that. Not sure why. It is hard to decide if this is a flaw or wisdom. I haven’t begun to grasp the whole system of what you present on this site: Overleaves, Chief Features, Monads, and all the seeming stratifications within each style or type.

    A similar sense of equivocation emerged earlier today when I took the test Discover Your Soul Type you made on Quibblo . I had already been caught up in an intense Q’n’A with Stephen Cocconi’s Michael Tarot Cards, and Artisan repeatedly appeared during that. Being an artist has been a strong identification point throughout my life. Not a successful one particularly, but it has been a sort of ever present aspect of my life. So I was expecting to see Artisan turn up as the result of the Quiz. Being aware this might happen, I thought I could detect which answers in the Quiz would lead to Artisan being the outcome, and also saw other options in the Quiz I could have chosen as answers that would still be true. One of the answers I gave was not a seemingly obvious Artisan answer, but it didn’t seem to weigh against it being the outcome anyway.

    I came to the conclusion that the other answers I could have given were probably Overleaves or some other aspect in the Michael system of description that were a part of my make-up. Warrior has also been a strong message for me many times, yet I myself am quite retiring. More than once, messages about previous incarnations have referred to Warrior type things. So funnily enough the first thing I saw when returning from the Quiz site to the page I had left from, the next thing I read was a female commenter who said she was an artist, and the quiz had told her she was an Artisan, then proceeded to discuss using her wooden sword in warrior practice. My daughter also has a wooden sword and trained as a Samurai (and met a Master in Japan I might add – serious stuff) and we both have had reason to suppose we may have been Samurai in an earlier incarnation. You said to the commenter that she was probably an Artisan with a Warrior overleaf. I mention this in passing, it is in fact the kind of stuff I am constantly presented with in my day to day life – a plethora of coincidences. I sometimes imagine that there comes a point where the coincidences become so all encompassing that there is no difference between the present and all of the uncanny connections that are occurring, and that this is total attunement to the Tao.

    Anyway. I digress. I was studying this section and following the links and reading each of the more detailed descriptions of each Chief Feature. Like others in this reply thread, I can see a bit of all of them in me, but am not sure which is the main one. I didn’t know whether to take this as a sign, but the link to the page where Greed is discussed in more detail wouldn’t work, so I wasn’t able to read your more detailed information on that.

    Thanks for the amazing work you are doing here.

    • 6 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Ahem. I found the link to the Greed page starting from the ‘Reincarnation: the 35 steps of soul evolution’ page, so it was some anomaly that the link wouldn’t work from the set of links on this page under the heading’ Read On’. So I have read that now too. Am still left feeling I have all of the Chief Features active to some degree or other. Perhaps mine is Stubbornness and I access all of the others depending on which pressures and stresses I am undergoing. This would seem to align with the diagram that places Stubbornness at the centre. Perhaps Greed is particularly acute for me right now as my basic financial and material security are under threat at the moment and it is the situation that is dominating the other stressful scenarios that are hovering around my life situation (there are quite a few).

      • 7 barry 20 Feb 2013 at 11:09 pm

        Maybe try asking yourself what is the thing you dread or angst about the most in the darkest depths of your existence? Or, more accurately, what is it that you most dreaded when you were, say, between 10 and 20 years old.

        In my case, I had an absolute dread of dying before experiencing and understanding absolutely everything in life. The thought of it sickened me. The solution – Try to do everything and do it as quickly as possible. In other words, impatience.

        My wife has a long-standing dread of exposing vulnerability, and so of course her chief feature is arrogance. She wears it very lightly though!

        The “solidity” of the chief feature varies with soul age. For example, Young souls with arrogance can be very explicitly boastful, or extremely vain, while Old souls with arrogance will be more subtle about it, less driven by the underlying dread.

        • 8 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 11:21 pm

          Thanks Barry. That is a really helpful pointer. The first thing that came up was my current most dominating fear of being homeless and having little or no money, which seems to coincide with the negative pole of Greed. As I said I can see how I have acted out all of the negative aspects of the Chief Features throughout my life to one degree or another. And as comes up in our discussion below, am next perhaps going to try to identify the actual Chief Feature if I can. Perhaps, as you said, looking at my deeper anxieties at an earlier age might help, but that will take a bit of genuine soul searching.

    • 9 barry 20 Feb 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks Luke. I will check the link.

      A small point of clarification which might help you piece together this big jigsaw puzzle!…

      In this framework we are each a composite of two things – ESSENCE, which is who we always are, i.e. soul energy evolving in consciousness, and PERSONALITY, which is how we think and act and identify ourselves as a human being within a specific lifetime. Essence is constant (but evolving), while personality is transient and is likely to change from one life to the next. Personality is a kind of costume worn by essence to play the human game a certain way, pretty much in the same way one can select and re-select character attributes within a video game.

      The personality is actually made up of two things – (1) the “OVERLEAVES”, which are the Goal, the Mode, the Attitude and so on which have been chosen by the soul before birth, plus (2) any traits we accidentally pick up during life from our parents, society, culture, friends, and so on. The overleaves constitute our “true” personality while the rest make up “false” personality. The mid-life crisis or 4th Monad is the point at which we tend to drop false personality, fully engage the true personality, and get in touch with our essence and its current life task.

      At the level of essence, we can be divided into seven basic types, or archetypes (Warrior, King and so on), but thanks to “casting” (http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/casting-your-place-in-the-cosmos/) we are also characterised by what might be called subtypes. For example, you could be an Artisan with Warrior casting. That would mean you are, in essence, primarily creative and original but with a secondary energy that has a feisty, combative edge.

      (I am a Scholar with Sage casting – I like to gather information, turn it into knowledge, and then share it in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening.)

      And then there are sub-subtypes, and so on ad infinitum. Each of us is unique in the specific mix of essence energies.

      So – bottom line – there are essence combinations as well as overleaves. With my quiz I have tried to get at the primary essence type, though admittedly it can be hard at first to tell if someone is, say, a King soul with a goal of Acceptance or a Sage soul with a goal of Dominance. With time, however, the subtle differences become apparent.

  5. 10 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks Barry

    I think it would take me quite a period of study to assimilate the information presented. Working out how my make-up applies to the framework as laid out here could take some concentration I think. Applying make-up to a framework… that sounds pretty Artisanish. From reading your site I can definitely confirm that you come across exactly as the Scholar with Sage casting combination you described, as indeed you have imparted very interesting information and it has an entertaining and light touch, a humorous quality.

    It seems perhaps it might be difficult to get a complete picture (of oneself in terms of the Michael Teachings framework) working alone. Did you figure out your Scholar/Sage combination through your own investigation or did you come to it through a mixture of that and feedback from others or through information being channelled for instance, if it isn’t inappropriate to ask? I was wondering if it is possible to work out all of the relevant points of the framework that apply to myself, by myself, or would you think that is probably not possible, or unlikely to be complete?

    • 11 barry 20 Feb 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Luke

      My ambition is to enable people to figure themselves out. That said, it is difficult because the essence, soul age and true overleaves can be obscured by dense layers of social conditioning, old habits and delusions.

      Most personality tests rely on self-awareness and self-knowledge, but It takes years, in fact decades, of self-observation to see oneself in a true light. Also, some people assume that the “best” thing to be is an Old King, and then try to squeeze themselves into that pattern. I hope to find ways around these tendencies if possible. For now I am hoping that the different descriptions here will elicit a sense of resonance – “Oh yes, that’s me all right…” But ideally I would like to put together a very clever questionnaire that will help people pinpoint themselves – I’m working on it!

      Of course the easy way is to ask Michael, or rather ask a Michael channel to ask Michael (or whoever/whatever has the answers) for you. Just be aware that there is no such thing as a perfect channel – some are better than others, and they can all have off-days. The first one I asked said that I was an Old Priest, and I could not resonate with that at all. I then tracked down the original channel Sarah Chambers, a few months before she died, and so far I cannot find any fault in the profile she gave me. The same is true of my wife.

      I had a similar experience more recently. Our son is clearly a Scholar with Artisan tendencies, though we also thought it possible he could be an Artisan with Scholar tendencies. We can also see that he is sensitive, totally averse to conflict and confrontation, and not very adept at being in his physical body. I asked a channel for his profile and it came back as a Warrior with a goal of Rejection. Absolutely not even close. So I went to a second channel (one of those listed on the site) and this time the profile was unmistakable: Scholar with Artisan casting, goal of Acceptance and emotional Centering. Everything ticked a box.

      • 12 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 11:09 pm

        Hi Barry

        It’s very kind of you to give such a detailed and open answer. I admire the courage in the work you have done to go through the process you have to learn these things (this I say party from reading your article about Enlightenment Intensives also). I am quite afraid of things like group processes or consulting readers or channellers. I suppose that is why I asked what you think of whether this work can be done alone. The more I look at it it seems some kind of interaction is probably important to the process. A very clever questionnaire would be amazing though!

        Thanks again.

        • 13 barry 20 Feb 2013 at 11:17 pm

          I have the goal of Growth which means that if something looks like it could move me forward in my awareness and understanding, I tend to jump in with both feet no matter how shy or afraid I feel about it! And with mode of Perseverance, I tend to keep at it once I’ve started.

          • 14 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 11:23 pm

            An admirable quality!

            • 15 barry 20 Feb 2013 at 11:28 pm

              From where I’m sitting it sucks and I want a nice restful life next time around :-)

              • 16 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 11:31 pm

                At least you know enough to know what sucks because you’ve had the perseverance to find out – plus you’re helping people. I don’t even know what it is I’m doing that sucks, I just know it does :)

                • 17 Luke Temple Walsh 20 Feb 2013 at 11:49 pm

                  Would you believe, simultaneously to your last message, and before my reply I drew the Jupiter card reversed in Stephen Cocconi’s Michael Tarot, as if it were humorously berating me for lacking authenticity and using a kind of drama to get attention? It told me: ‘ Are you just posing in that lamp shade you have covered your eyes with? Or, have you decided that any prop will help you get noticed?’ and had the quote: “An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear person.” ~ Joseph Addison. Once again though, thanks for your pointers and advice, it’s very much appreciated.

  6. 18 Warren 24 Mar 2013 at 4:01 am

    Good Job you should make this a book i gurantee it would sell…i could relate to image management and a matured soul like anyone here you could find yourself in those words unless your not human.

  7. 19 gayst 28 Mar 2013 at 6:46 am

    I’m interested in what you are describing here. I find I have used all the traits at one time or another and I understand the concept of them representing both a “higher” and “lower” manifestation. I have been working privately my entire life towards transforming these tendencies into their more highly evolved form. But I don’t identify with one form more than another, though I do think you’ve covered the spectrum and pointed out some mightily insightful correlations.

    I’m not young at 55. My life has been complex (as is everyone’s), but I’ll give some specifics. I was sexually abused by my parents at a young age, put a stop to it myself at the age of six, suffered their fear of me and continued psychological abuse for many years coupled with more subtle forms of physical abuse, became a drug addict at twelve (but am not now or for many years) , married a man much older than me at eighteen. My husband was in a terrible car wreck and suffered a long and lingering death in a coma that lasted for nine months. He was a veteran and was placed in a VA hospital where he was treated worse than an animal. I saw unbelievable cruelty on many levels from the time I was born.

    I went on to make my living in the arts. I was an actress, a painter, a film maker, a writer and other varied forms. I married several more times, none “stuck”. I have lived in many places and countries. I didn’t have children (by choice) and am psychic, but in a very intuitive “feeling” kind of way. For instance, I knew my first husband was going to “go away” before he was in the accident and I was living in NYC prior to 911 and knew it was coming. I’ve never seen the sense in owning property as nothing, in my view can ever truly be “owned” and all seems to me to be experience, running the gamut from excruciating to exquisite. I have no favorite color, they are all so beautiful, each in their own way, though I have leaned towards one color over another at various times. As of now, it’s shades of blue and green.

    In examining myself and what I fear the most, I think the answer would be that none of this means anything, as in my heart I so believe it does mean something. It all means something, though I don’t pretend to know what that meaning is, but I do fear that I’m deluding myself in order to make this existence seem worthwhile.

    So, I can’t see where I fit in the design you’ve outlaid. Perhaps you can?

    Also, I understand the communications came from a spirit named Michael, but where is God in all this?

    • 20 barry 28 Mar 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Hi there

      First of all, I would recommend that you check out the goal of Growth (http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/goal/growth/).

      There are seven basic life goals, and in each life we choose one as our primary driver or motivator. It depends on what our specific life task or purpose is. (The work on the life task starts from around age 35; before that we are “in training” for it, having experiences that will point us in the right direction.) In my case, for example, my life task, as I now understand it, is to seek, validate and share what I deem to be worthwhile wisdom. I also have the goal of Growth, which clearly fits the life task. The goal of Growth itself amounts to seeking wisdom, i.e. spiritual or philosophical understanding that can be applied to real life, but this search is usually spurred on by intense and/or hard-to-understand life experiences. So now in my 50s, I can look back and see that my life has been a search for wisdom. My early experiences weren’t abusive like yours, but unbearably mundane and bland, and sometimes unbearably stressful. I was plagued with a sense of meaninglessness, and therefore driven to seek meaning.

      In addition to my fear of ultimate meaninglessness, i also feared that whatever sense of meaning I bought into by reading books or listening to teachers may be completely invalid. I could be barking up the wrong tree with all this psycho-spiritual babble. So, it’s possible that your fear that “none of this means anything” might have a similar basis – either it’s the fear of ultimate meaninglessness that has spurred you on to look for meaning, or it’s the fear whatever meaning you have found and are pinning your hopes on isn’t really “it”.

      What eventually rid me of such fear was the direct experience of ultimate Truth, something I have been blessed with on a number of occasions thanks to a certain technique (see http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/enlightenment-intensives/). Once you know, you know. I heartily recommend you try out this process, or anything that similarly involves an inner search for ultimate Truth.

      Cheers

      Barry

      P.S. The term God, as far as I’m concerned, is just too anthropomorphic to be of much use to those seeking pure answers. That’s not to say there is no God, but the word itself is too heavily associated with antiquated notions of a celestial authority figure or angry father who doles out rewards and punishments. It is more useful to speak of Spirit, Essence, the Source, the Tao, Being, the Absolute, Life, that eternal stream of love which we are all an expression of, and from which we can never become separated except in our own minds.

  8. 21 katieotto215 28 Jun 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Hi :) This is a wonderful article. You may have already addressed this above…but could you list the fears associated with each chief feature? I think seeing that will help me discover mine. Thank you.

    • 22 barry 28 Jun 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Fear of exposing vulnerability –> Arrogance
      Fear of exposing inadequacy –> Self-Deprecation

      Fear of experiencing lack or need –> Greed
      Fear of experiencing losing control –> Self-Destruction

      Fear of missing out / not getting value –> Impatience
      Fear of worthlessness / not having value –> Martyrdom

      Fear of any change –> Stubbornness

  9. 23 Yan Hadj 26 Sep 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I very recently read the Michael texts, Barry, but your writing never fails to provide further insights. I was interested to read that you have two of the same overleaves as myself: a goal of growth and impatience as your chief feature. Whislt difficult to live with, in some ways I think this chief feature has helped me to begin to realise my life tasks. One way in which this chief feature used to evidently manifest itself was that I simply could not tolerate stretching after a gym workout!

    • 24 barry 26 Sep 2013 at 5:40 pm

      Hehe. Yeah, apparently growth and impatience often go together – life’s just too short when you’re trying to experience as much as possible! My personal bugbear is sleep – a complete waste of time.

      • 25 Yan Hadj 27 Sep 2013 at 8:29 am

        That must be a tough one. Have you found any techniques to be particularly effective at overcoming impatience when it takes hold? I try to remind myself that time is ad infinuitum; sometimes that does the trick!

        • 26 barry 27 Sep 2013 at 12:20 pm

          I recognise that if I’ve been triggered and I’m “in a state” then it’s definitely something in my response patterns rather than something inherently wrong with the world. So that defuses the energy of it and then I can pause and see which of my unsatisfied attachments has got me so frustrated.

          For example, I can get impatient standing in a queue waiting to buy something, and get annoyed with the sales assistant and with every person in front of me, and start projecting onto them all sorts of stupidity and inconsiderate behaviour. But then I remember that everyone is there for the same valid reason as me, and the assistant can only deal with so many at a time. So my attachment to “immediate service” so that I can move immediately onto the next thing is coming from a very immature way of looking at the world.

  10. 27 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

  11. 28 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.

    • 29 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.

  12. 30 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! :)

    • 31 barry 02 Oct 2013 at 6:08 am

      Cheers Andru!

  13. 32 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.

  14. 33 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.

    • 34 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.

  15. 35 King james 15 Dec 2013 at 1:42 am

    Awesome

  16. 36 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 ..

  17. 37 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.

    • 38 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

  18. 39 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?

    • 40 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.)

      • 41 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!

  19. 42 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.

    • 43 barry 07 Jun 2014 at 7:34 pm

      Great, and thank you so much Barbara.
      Barry

  20. 44 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_

    • 45 barry 14 Aug 2014 at 8:29 am

      Many thanks John. Have a great journey!

      B


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