hand of stubbornness

STUBBORNNESS is one of seven basic character flaws or “dark” personality traits. We all have the potential for stubborn tendencies, but in people with a strong fear of change, Stubbornness can become a dominant pattern.

Stubbornness is a basic character flaw or personality defect, one of seven possible chief features adopted in adolescence to protect the self at the level of false personality.

Stubbornness is the tendency to resist any form of change. It is defined as:

refusing to move or change one’s opinion; [1]

the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome; resolute adherence to your own ideas or desires [2]

Other names for stubbornness include dogged insistence, intransigence, temerity and pig-headedness.

Stubbornness is essentially an entrenched resistance to change. And given that life is all about change, stubbornness is effectively a resistance to life itself.

The person with stubbornness is driven by a fundamental resistance to being forced to do anything or experience anything against his will. The basic stance is, “No, I won’t, and you can’t make me.”

The personality with stubbornness is over-sensitive to the possibility of having sudden or unwanted change imposed upon itself, and sees the threat of it everywhere. Anything new or different or involving change is perceived (subconsciously at least) as a direct threat—even if the change in question is positive and in the person’s best interests.

Like all character flaws, stubbornness involves the following components:

  1. Early negative experiences
  2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
  5. A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood

Early Negative Experiences

In the case of stubbornness, the early negative experiences typically consist of domestic instability or upheaval and the streess of having to suddenly put up with new situations. The situations causing such stress could be beyond the parents’ control, such as having to uproot in a time of war.

Alternatively, the stressful instability (as the child experiences it) could be of the parents’ own choosing, such as constantly moving home to find a better job. Most often, perhaps, it is just part of ordinary family life—the arrival of a new baby, for instance.

Whatever the circumstances, the core experience for the child in question is the shock of the new. Just when the child thought she knew where she was, living safely at home with her best friends and her favourite toys, without any warning she is whisked off to start afresh in a new, unfamiliar place. Change has been imposed against her will, and it has caused unbearable stress.

The cumulative effect is a desparate desire for stability and familiarity, to stay put and have everything nailed into place, and to fend off anything new or unfamiliar.

Misconceptions

From such experiences of sudden instability and imposed change, the child comes to perceive life as being unstable and volatile:

New situations are traumatic and must be avoided.

People want to impose drastic changes on me against my will.

A big enough change in my life could destroy me.

Fear

Based on the above misconceptions and early negative experiences, the child becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, of course, the fear is of new situationsof having new, unfamiliar circumstances imposed upon oneself.

stubornness childStrategy

Because of this constant fear, the individual will crave permanance, stability and predictability. So the basic coping strategy is to resist change and any possibilty of change.

Typically this involves:

  • refusing to change or to accept new situations when asked to do so;
  • blocking the emergence of new/unfamiliar situations;
  • perceiving and anticipating every possibility of change or novelty so that it can be blocked;
  • denying that there is ever a need for change;
  • resisting internal pressures or impulses to change oneself.

In the case of illness, for example —

The chief feature of stubbornness will often insist nothing is wrong in the first place, no matter what evidence there is to the contrary, but once illness has occurred, it then strives to continue the pattern so that nothing so dangerous as new improvement is permitted.
MICHAEL

Persona

Finally, emerging into adulthood, the individual does not want go around being overtly afraid of new situations. Hence stubbornness puts on a mask which says to the world, “It’s not me—it’s just this situation. Changing it would be wrong and unnecessary. Everything is fine the way it is, actually.”

Under the guise of reasonableness and logic, the underlying fear tries to have its way. All new ideas are supposedly unreasonable and illogical. All actual changes are unnecessary and bad.

When this doesn’t work, however, the mask comes off and the underlying shadow or “inner demon” is likely to emerge in a fit of rage. “How dare you do this to me? It’s totally outrageous!” The rage is driven by a deep inner sense of overwhelming panic over the new situation.

All people are capable of this kind of behaviour. When it dominates the personality, however, one is said to have a chief feature of stubbornness.

Positive and Negative Poles

In the case of stubbornness, the positive pole can be termed DETERMINATION and the negative pole can be termed OBSTINACY.

+ determination +

|

STUBBORNNESS

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– obstinacy –

Determination is state of mind that ensures a good enough situation is maintained: It ought to be this way because it makes sense. In moderation, this can be healthy or at least a healthy antidote to any kind of victim state.

grumpyObstinacy, however, is a state of excessive fixation on an existing situation, regardless of logic, regardless of desirability. It must be this way because I say so and I don’t care what anyone else says. Obstinacy will cause a person to cling to a terrible situation for no reason other than to avoid the possibility of facing change.

Handling Stubbornness

Stubbornness is the most prevalent character flaw there is. We all have some degree of stubbornness withion us, but more people have stubbornness as their chief feature than any other.

As with every chief feature, the key is becoming conscious of how stubbornness operates in oneself. If you have stubbornness, you can begin by observing your outward persona in action:

  • Do I have a tendency to justify the status quo?
  • Do I generally argue against change or newness on seemingly logical grounds?
  • Do I often deride new ideas or suggestions?

Try to catch yourself in the act of putting on your “Leave well alone!” mask.

Then dig deeper:

  • Why do I resist change, newness? What am I afraid of?
  • What do I fear would happen to me if I allowed uncontrollable chnges to happen?

Approaching the deepest level you may need outside help in the form of a counsellor, therapist or at least a close friend:

  • Where does this fear of new situations come from?
  • How was I hurt in the past?
  • Can I let it go?

Just as you can become more aware of stubbornness through self-observation and self-enquiry, so too you can gain more control over it through using that awareness and by exercising choice in the moment.

  • Whenever I am tempted to resist or attack people who want to change the status quo, I will consider the unreasonableness of my intentions rather than just theirs.
  • I understand that resistance to change is a resistance to life itself and leads nowhere.
  • I will be more willing to allow ordinary changes to happen in my life, knowing that they won’t destroy me.

Another way to handle a chief feature is to “slide” to the positive pole of its opposite. In the case of stubbornness, though, there is no opposite. It is the only neutral form of chief feature—which means it has no polar opposite, being positioned at the intersection of all the dualities.

7 CFs 300

This allows for greater flexibility, however. A person with stubbornness can easily “slide” from neutral into any of the other chief feature positions, such as greed or martyrdom.

If you are getting caught in the grip of stubbornness’s negative pole of obstinacy, you can re-balance yourself using the positive pole of any of the six other defensive patterns:

  • desire (the positive pole of greed)
  • sacrifice (the positive pole of self-destruction)
  • pride (the positive pole of arrogance)
  • humility (the positive pole of self-deprecation)
  • audacity (the positive pole of impatience)
  • selflessness (the positive pole of martyrdom)

In each case, there is a determination to cause, or allow, things to change—and determination is the positive pole of stubbornness.

For example, when you are stuck in obstinacy, sitting with “I won’t allow it! I won’t allow it!”, your attention is wrapped up in the imposition of change and your sole intention is to resist that. To loosen the grip of stubbornness you have to you turn your attention to some other aspect of the situation:

  • What’s in it for me? (desire)
  • Even though I don’t like it, will it help someone I care about? (sacrifice)
  • Will it make me feel better about myself? (pride)
  • Will it help bring my ego down to earth? (humility)
  • Will it buy me time to do what I really want to do? (audacity)
  • Is it just what’s needed, regardless of what I want? (selflessness)

By paying attention to one of these aspects of the situation, your fixation on the change itself is loosened. And by being willing to go with one of these aspects, your intention to resist is overcome.

Further Reading

Read an overview of the 7 character flaws – or see these specific pages:

TYDOr for an excellent book about the chief features (character flaws) and how to handle them, see Transforming Your Dragons by José Stevens.

Also of interest: Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the stubbornest of them all? (A Colorful Mind blog)

[1] http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/stubborn

[2] wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

21 Responses to “Stubbornness”


  1. 1 martine 28 Dec 2010 at 3:01 am

    Thank you very much for a most interesting article. I am doing research on father/daughter incestuous relationship and the consequences it has on the behavior of the abused adult. While your article did not directly address my research, it was enlightening regarding the construction of civil identity. Do you have any recommendation for my research?
    Thank you so much. Martine Louis

    • 2 barry 28 Dec 2010 at 11:43 am

      Hi Martine

      I’m not an expert in that field, but I would say that the link between early experience (such as incestuous abuse) and later behaviour is not one-to-one but is mediated by many variables. One of these is the personality of the child. Some children are very adaptive and resilient, for example, while others are more prone to crumble. Another is the child’s worldview (initially passed on by the parents). For example, belief in a world in which bad things happen to bad people because they deserve it is likely to lead to an interpretation of abusive events in terms of the child being deserving of it. Take a look at my page on Self-destruction for more along this line of thinking.

      Hope this helps.

      - barry

  2. 3 martine 28 Dec 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Very helpful, thank you.
    I am older, 70. Your article on self-destruction has helped me understand why I was so self-destructive during my whole life, biting myself to the blood, making all the wrong decisions, etc… etc… manifestations of wild anger…. I am now in a position to avoid the triggering moments. So I think that I am under control, but I know better. We do not change that much. Our circumstances change, and we do make efforts, but the wild beast is always present in some of us.
    I am doing this research because I am writing a novel which, I hope, will be meaningful and enlightening.
    Your writings are most interesting. Best, Martine

  3. 4 kavyashree 08 Oct 2011 at 2:19 pm

    this paragraph is just the perfect ones i have been looking for my thought!!!

    • 5 barry 08 Oct 2011 at 2:44 pm

      great :)

  4. 6 rachel fenton 11 Jun 2012 at 5:23 am

    wow! Just amazing! This is very helpful upon me. I’ve been told that im stubborn and denyed it but reading this proves that iam and the cooping skills to help stubborness are great. I think it will be alot easyier for me to stop being so scared and stubborn to change.

    • 7 barry 11 Jun 2012 at 6:26 am

      Brilliant! Thanks Rachel

  5. 8 Daughter of a stubborn Dad 01 Aug 2012 at 5:58 pm

    This article is awesome and hits the nail right on the head describing my father. My family is having problems with my father who is in charge of our family business. He has always (since I can remember) exhibited symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety but never been diagnosed with anything (because he refuses to seek help since “nothing is wrong with him”). Last month he tried to commit suicide, but was unsuccessful. He was admitted to a mental hospital for a week, then released after he promised to continued to see his psychiatrist and a psychologist. He saw both once and now does not see the need to schedule more appointments. The family wants him to retire from the family business (he is 71) to reduce his stress, but he refuses. He did admit to the Dr. that the reason he tried to commit suicide was due to the stress and pressures he could not control at work. Now he wants to go back to work and change nothing. He cannot finish the simplest of tasks (ie: printing a form from his computer to the printer) without exhibiting great stress. He is afraid of change and I’m afraid that we will be unable to help him change this stubborn personality – which will again lead to him possibly hurting himself or others. It is a terrible situation for the family and we feel helpless. The mental health system is not helpful at all when an adult patient will not admit that they need help!
    ~So frustrated and sad.

    • 9 barry 01 Aug 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Such a painful situation. My heart goes out to you all.

  6. 10 Roseann 08 Oct 2012 at 11:57 am

    Stubborness to the point of almost or actually being pathological has probably destroyed more lives than people will ever realize. Living with someone who must control their own every move and word and your every move and word and refuses to change has caused such destruction in our family. It is sad. The only way to protect ourselves was to just finally leave. We haven’t left him in the lurch, but we keep our visits with him to a minimum.

  7. 11 Confused and frustrated... 22 Oct 2012 at 7:49 am

    This is a great article ane really does explain stubbornness well, I wish there was a secret word or method to getting through to someone who has taken on this personality trait. As it says early on in the article, stubbornness is a basic character flaw and is a resistance to life itself. Astonishining how someone can be this way and think that they are happy, anyone have some insight? I could use some right now!

    • 12 barry 23 Oct 2012 at 7:26 pm

      Well, like all of these defensive patterns, stubbornness operates under the surface, more-or-less unconsciously. Stubbornness automatically perceives change as a threat and automatically resists it, like there is no other choice.

      And the booby-trap here is that in trying to get him to be less stubborn, you are trying to make him change.

      If you try to point out to a person that they have such a pattern while they are still hooked on the fear of change, then they will simply try to justify it. To them, life is like walking through a hail of gunfire, and if you point out that they are always seem to be wearing a suit of armour then … “Yeah, of course I am. What’s wrong with that?”

      And if you suggest that they would be better off being more exposed and less rigid, you are literally suggesting the very last change they would ever be willing to accept.

      One approach might be to gently address his attitude to change in general. The operative word is “gently” as any attempt to dig, prod or CHANGE him is going to be automatically resisted. But maybe explore some positives: What constitutes an acceptable change? Have there been times when he has rolled with the changes without a problem? Have there been times when he has willingly chosen to accept a change? And it’s turned out fine?

      This might enable him to see the distinction between automatically resisting change by default and consciously choosing to accept (or resist) change. Note especially that having conscious choice doesn’t mean “I have to accept.” It means “I am free to accept or resist as I see fit, to choose whatever I consider to be in the best interests of myself and my loved ones.”

      But automatic resistance means “I have no choice.”

      Bringing the fixed pattern and the irrational fear behind it to the surface where it can be observed and considered rationally is probably much less threatening than any external demand for change…

  8. 13 Diane Buscaglia 18 Mar 2013 at 9:08 pm

    thank you SO much for the enlightening words.

  9. 14 alicia Allanson 24 Jun 2013 at 2:18 am

    A work mate referred me to this resource. Thnx for the information.

  10. 15 Sarah R. Lane 20 Nov 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Barry,

    I very much understand myself, yet I am confused as to my role with my child. I provide for his needs, and love him. I feel like there is more I should or could do to aid him on his journey. How do I figure out what that is? He is 5 years old.

    -Sarah R. Lane

    • 16 barry 29 Dec 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Apologies for my very late response – I have built up a backlog of 23 unanswered questions/comments during an extended period of low health. Anyway…

      My suspicion is that you “know” this being who is currently here as your 5 year old boy, but as a mere 5 year old boy he isn’t yet ready to benefit from what you are able to give him.

      In other words, the two of you have “signed up” to this particular form of parent-child relationship in which you will be able facilitate something in him – as you say, “to aid him on his journey.” But it won’t be happening just yet. Maybe it’s when he’s 10, or as a teenager, or maybe it’s something less specific but spanning his entire childhood with you.

      Maybe it’s already happening by osmosis, and you just can’t see it on the surface.

      But by the sound of it, there is likely something planned in the future in which you will play a pivotal role for him in his development in this life. I guess you will know it when you see it.

      How to figure exactly out what it is? One way to answer that is to take a philosophical approach and say that you don’t *have* to know what it is, it will most likely just unfold anyway. But I get that you are keen to get it right and “scratch that itch” of not-knowing. Two options come to mind.

      1. You could get a formal reading from a Michael channel or some other psychic who knows what they are talking about. (A lot of them don’t.) See the list of links near the bottom of my page on the Michael Teachings (http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/).

      2. Go deep inside yourself in reflection (contemplation, meditation, introspection, self-enquiry, however you like to call it). Lock yourself away in a quiet room for up to an hour, with a journal to hand. Ask yourself what it is that you are here to give this person or soul who is in your life? What is it that they could really receive from you that would be of greatest value? … If you drift off, ask again, and be clear in your own mind that you really mean to know the answer during this session … Try to feel your way to the truth rather than “construct” a nice answer or a rational answer. It’s like finding your way through the unknown just using your feeling of truth (“warmer” vs “colder”) as your compass. Eventually, you might just get it and know that it’s exactly right.

      Hope this helps,

      Barry

  11. 17 Sarah R. Lane 29 Dec 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Thank you,
    -Sarah

    • 18 Anisa 03 Mar 2014 at 9:47 am

      I understand myself more now. Thank you for enlighten me. I needed to read this thanks again!

  12. 19 Anonymous 22 Mar 2014 at 6:22 am

    What if the person that is being considered stubborn is merely not wanting to do something based on facts? What if the person who is calling the other person stubborn is just ignorant of the facts in the matter (or chooses to ignore them like a child)? Just because everyone is doing it does not make it okay. This applies to every situation. A rare majority of stubborn people are not actually stubborn, they just have the highest IQ in the room and cant stand being around infantile little babies that have no respect for objective scientific inquiry.


  1. 1 Stubbornness « The Noontimes Trackback on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:02 pm

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