In the battle for survival, one of the ways of dealing with fear is to rigidify one’s response to life. In order to survive, a person may adopt a specific defensive stance in life rather than dare spontaneous expression and risk being hurt again. One literally gets scared out of being oneself.
Sometimes there is a pain or fear in seeing certain things about ourselves. One suggestion is that that kind of pain is okay – even essential if one is to grow. It is like coming out of the cave and feeling painful sensations in our eyes at the first rays of the sun. After awhile we become accustomed to the light, and the temporary pain is replaced with a permanent joy of seeing!
There are four primary ways where we get stucked in our growth. Read through this and find out for yourself which polarity you find yourself in. This is an important way of knowing who we really are. The four categories are:
The STRIVING Person – is stucked by the strength polarity; receives the message that work, personal achievement and competitive performance are things that make life meaningful; he assumes that play, fun, recreation and the joy of intimate relationships with others are a waste of time. At the unconscious level, this person feels betrayed that this deep human need of for unconditional affection and love from others was not adequately met. He suffers under the heavy burden of perfectionism. One works oneself to death trying to appear worthy.
The HELPLESS Person – Even when a trusting relationship with God has been established, this person still feels the fear of being overwhelmed by life. He is stucked with the weakness polarity; never learned to stand on his own feet. He doesn’t want to get in touch with his own strength and adequacy, he may continue seducing others into doing the thinking, feeling and acting. This person may have suffered early traumatic experiences with family or peers; no longer trusts anyone; there is a residual feeling of terror and helplessness.
The CRITICAL Person – Blaming and attacking are a more aggressive forms of manipulation used in relationships with this type of person. Being hurt is this person’s greatest fear. This person is out of touch with the complimentary dimensions of love and weakness. He is stucked with the anger polarity and cannot allow into the awareness feelings of tenderness or humility. As a child, he could well have received a harsh, judgmental treatment he or she now dishes out to others. Other factors are insecure parents, jealous brothers or sisters, exploitative relatives and others.
The COMPLIANT Person – Begins when the child learns that he or she can win the approval of parents and others by pleasing them. He becomes stucked with the Love polarity. The problem is that in getting the approval of the others, one makes everyone else the judge and master. One must constantly repress feelings of strength and anger, and instead feel only love and weakness. In living up to everyone else’s expectations and demands, one sacrifices one’s own individuality and originality. Love loses its genuineness. The price of constantly living the “nice guy” or “nice girl” role is fatigue, resentment and inner emptiness. The pay-off is the occasional crumb of approval or pat on the head that one receives for being so nice to others. Life becomes slavery as they become frantically busy, self-sacrificing and often desperately lonely.
Defenses are learned strategies; we are not born with them. Once we discover how we make ourselves tense, rigid and controlled in our posture towards life, we can begin to reverse the process. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! There is hope for the troubled, entangled and imprisoned individual. Our faith in the creative grace that will lead us to wholeness is warranted.
But the process of growing out of our psychological ruts is not without risk and pain. We may have to experience the real travail of owning our feelings and learning to express them honestly to others before we begin to enjoy the celebration of restored meaning in our lives.
Every way of being stucked can be understood as a subtle distortion of man’s existential calling or vocation: to love himself, others and God wholeheartedly. Praying about our life situation must be combined with the courage to DO something about it. God may truly inspire us along the wisest pathway for our lives, but we must take the responsibility for doing the walking or we will never get anywhere. The fruits of that direction will also be felt in the personality as peace, joy and excitement.
An awareness of how these patterns are being acted out in one’s life creates the possibility of experimentation with new alternatives, growth and change. It is the invitation of Christ to each individual, and the joy of a God who delights in giving good things to those who seek Him. It is also the finest meaning of salvation, redemption and the grace of God.