I often have clients do personality tests. These may include Enneagram tests of Myers-Brigg. Typically, people marvel at how accurate the tests seems to be at characterizing their personality. Most will focus on all the positive traits. It’s fun to review the strengths and virtues of your personality type. I don’t like to let that last too long.
The weaknesses of the personality type are more instructive. One client of mine was an Enneagram Type 2 and Myers-Brigg ENFJ. Essentially, he was a big ole giver. But really what he was was a people pleaser. He was incredibly conflict avoidant and would subordinate his needs to others at the drop of the hat. He would endure extremely toxic relationships for stunningly long periods of time even though there was virtually no pay off for him in these relationships. Sadly, these actions were undermining his ability to transform and improve his health. He was subordinating his needs and not being assertive about defending his boundaries. In this case, his weak boundaries led to him not defending his routine. Exercise would take a back seat to work or relationship demands on a surprisingly regular basis. This behavior was undermining his success.
We dug deeper and understand that his aversion to conflict came from an autocratic father who had an extreme temper that could go off unpredictably. As a child he learned to avoid conflict, people please, and placate proactively. With his father, he could do all of these behaviors and still stumble across the ire of his father. All he knew was that being conflict avoidant would at least help reduce the likelihood of suffering his father’s wrath. He brought this defensive strategy into adulthood. It was not serving him well and undermining our health transformation efforts.
Whenever conflict welled up, he could feel his anxiety rising. He would undermine his own interests in order to avoid the conflict. We had to address this issue in order to make his health transformation successful.
Understanding his personality, the roots of his behaviors that no longer served him, and an understanding of how those related emotions manifested themselves; my client could start to slowly “untrain” himself of these behaviors. This process was not easy because he was unlearning decades of “being.” With some time he got better at defending his interests and embracing constructive conflict.
He understand it was his own behaviors that were holding him back…not impossible to control outside forces. We have met the enemy, and it is us.