Imagine designing your whole life, including your own personality…
In some computer games and online worlds, of course, you can do just that. You choose an ‘avatar’, a virtual identity, to represent you. Starting with a basic template, you can select your physical features such as size, shape, hairstyle and so on. Then you might also go on to select your personality traits, such as paranoid, brave, evil, and so on. The choice of personality determines your character’s actions and reactions, which in turn affect how the game unfolds.
But what if we could choose our own personality in real life?
Actually, according to various spiritual teachings, we have all done exactly that.
From the vastly expanded perspective of the soul, our earthly human life is a bit like a massive multi-player online game. Each time we play, we get to pick a human body to be our ‘avatar’ and we also select the personality traits we want this avatar to possess in life.
According to the Michael teachings there are five core personality traits:
Together, these are known as OVERLEAVES because they overlay the pure energy of the soul, like coloured filters overlaying a ball of light, shaping our human experience and behaviour in specific ways. They are the building blocks of our human character.
Each is available in seven forms. For example, the available modes include Aggression, Caution and Passion.
Choosing the Overleaves
All overleaves are chosen.
Some of the overleaves (specifically the Goal, Mode and Attitude) are deliberately chosen by us, before birth, to give us the “right” personality for the task ahead in life.
For example, if a soul wants to experience being powerful, or perhaps learn how to use power more responsibly, then a Goal of DOMINANCE would be appropriate. This would give the personality a desire to take the lead or take control throughout the life.
So the Goal, the Mode and the Attitude are chosen before birth. The other overleaves are formed and adopted during life itself.
- Centering, which determines how the personality processes personal experiences, is selected during early childhood.
- Chief feature, which is how the ego tries to “protect” itself, develops throughout childhood but finally solidifies during late adolescence.
The Chief Feature is really a negative overleaf, a manifestation of fear and illusion in life, and as such is the personality’s main character flaw. More on that in a moment.
Goal, Mode and Attitude
The three main overleaves, central to the personality, are set before birth:
- GOAL: Your basic motivation or driving force; your preferred outcome in all situations. Your goal shapes your choices in life, being both an attractive aim and a personal challenge. Example: dominance.
- MODE: Your manner of expression or behavioural style; your normal way of doing things. Example: caution.
- ATTITUDE: Your outlook on life or philosophical style; your normal way of perceiving things. Example: idealism.
To explain further: Your Goal defines how you intend to live life, or what you want out of live overall. Your Mode and Attitude define how you “do” life and how you “view” life, respectively. They complement each other — your Attitude shapes your inputs (perceptions), your mode shapes your Outputs (actions). That is, your Attitude defines your inward orientation to life while your Mode defines your outward approach to life.
As with most things in the Michael teachings, each of the overleaves consists of seven types or options. The seven types of Goal, seven types of Mode and seven types of Attitude are shown here:
So it’s as if you select one from each column before you are born, carefully (or sometimes not so carefully) choosing the options best suited to your particular life task.
In my case, for example, I perceive with an Attitude of Idealism, I operate in a Mode of Perseverance, and I am driven by a Goal of Growth.
Positive and Negative
Each overleaf has a positive pole and a negative pole.
For example, the positive pole of Dominance is LEADERSHIP while the negative pole is DICTATORSHIP.
The positive pole is in alignment with the soul’s purpose. It channels the raw energy of essence, which is pure, conscious and loving.
The negative pole of an overleaf is destructive, or at least self-defeating, and is driven by the personality’s Chief Feature and its underlying fears.
Your centering determines how you tend to experience life moment-by-moment. It refers to which “centre of operations” you habitually use.
There are seven centres in all, but the ones most used in ordinary life by the personality are the emotional, intellectual and physical (moving or kinesthetic) centres.
Actually, you have a primary center which focuses your immediate conscious experiences and a secondary center or “part” which produces your automatic reactions to those experiences. For example, you might inwardly experience life using words and logic but outwardly react to what you experience with feeling and emotions. This would be described as having intellectual centering with an emotional orientation — or being in “the emotional part of the intellectual centre”. This is shown here as
Intellectual → Emotional
There is also instinctive centering, which equates to the autonomic functions of the body. This is the temporary centering of those who are in a coma, for instance.
There are, in addition, three higher centres—but these tend to be accessed only briefly during meditation or in moments of great emotional intensity. The higher emotional accesses pure love, the higher intellectual access pure truth, and the higher physical or higher moving accesses pure energy.
Centering is formed in early childhood and plays a part in one’s subsequent learning style. For example, children with physical centering tend to process new experiences and information through physical movement, as though literally trying to “grasp” it or “get on top of” it. This may be viewed by their parents and teachers as restlessness and fidgeting.
Your Chief Feature is your main, overriding character flaw or personality defect. We all have one.
The Chief Feature is a personal response to deep, existential fear. The fear is formed in childhood, compounded by painful experiences and childish misperceptions. In my case, for example, I have always had a basic fear of dying too soon, before I get everything done.
In adolescence, as we approach adulthood and independence, we adopt a behaviour pattern to manage the fear. That is, we find some strategy to try and stop the thing we fear most from coming true. This behaviour pattern defines the Chief Feature of the young adult personality.
If the fear is of dying too soon without getting everything done, for example, then the behaviour pattern used to handle that is to rush headlong through life like a runaway train. This, then, is the Chief Feature of impatience.
So the Chief Feature is a survival strategy or defence mechanism. Ultimately, it is a false mechanism, a sham. It serves no real purpose past early adulthood. It does nothing except get in the way of our authenticity and personal fulfilment. However, it is nigh on impossible to shake off.
At the same time, it is usually the most obvious and dominant trait of the whole personality. Hence the name, “chief feature”.
Primary and Secondary
There are, in fact, usually two such mechanisms, a primary and a secondary. The primary defence mechanism (i.e. chief feature) interferes with the person’s true Goal and the secondary interferes with the true Attitude.
If, for example, your primary is impatience, you will be anxious about missing out on opportunities to achieve your life’s Goal (in my case, Growth). But then your impatience will tend to hurl you into situations which make it difficult to achieve the Goal anyway, thereby perpetuating the problem. It is always a vicious circle.
And if your secondary defence is, say, self-deprecation, this will affect your Attitude or view of life — you will tend to interpret your life in ways that belittle your own capabilities, since self-deprecation is the strategy of those who fear being judged for their own inadequacies.
See article: Chief features: the seven character flaws
Putting It All Together
To get a clearer picture of how the overleaves fit together to make up our personality structure and affect us in life, I have done this flow diagram. The examples shown are my overleaves, just for illustration purposes.
[click for enlargement]
Basically it shows how the whole process of living is a constant cycle with choices at the heart of it. We perceive the world around us through our senses, we choose what to do and then we enact those choices in the world. The overleaves — those seven-sided boxes in the diagram — add colour to the mix:
- The Goal provides a distinct motivation, pushing our choices in a direction consistent with our life plan.
- The Attitude adds a distinct interpretation to our perceptions that is consistent with our life plan.
- The Mode gives us a distinct manner of acting on our decisions that is consistent with our life plan.
- Centering emerges as a quick and simple way of reacting to immediate experiences.
- Chief Features emerge out of our growing fears and insecurities, adding a negative influence to our choices.
Understanding the overleaves gives us a very clear picture of how someone is operating in life. Usually the most obvious aspects of a person’s character is their Chief Feature (or character flaw). Actually, this is the most obvious in others and the least obvious in oneself. It is often quite easy, for example, to spot someone else who has arrogance — not so easy to see it in yourself.
The other overleaves are less easy to spot, but I find that you once you start looking, your sensitivity develops with practice. Just watch for how a person prefers to be across different situations. Those with a Goal of dominance, for example, have a distinct manner about them — always itching to take charge of something.
Of course, observing others is one thing. Observing yourself is another. In the near future I will be ading more personality tests to this site to help you identify your own overleaves.