Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do? Why do you get so angry when your kids aren’t listening to you? Why is it so hard to relax when the house is a mess?!
Here’s what’s going on – as a child, whenever an experience overwhelms our nervous system, we subconsciously build defenses against that overwhelm.
Over time, those defenses become a habit, and then they become a pattern. Now as an adult, what we think of as our personality, is often this defense pattern running the show. Interesting, right?
Personality Patterns aren’t a personality type like the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. Rather, it describes the safety strategies you immediately go to when you start to feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t describe who you are, but rather what is blocking who you are.
There are 5 types of Personality Patterns: Leaving, Merging, Enduring, Aggressive, and Rigid. There are key behaviors, experiences, and thoughts that identify us with one of the patterns in particular, but me likely also have a secondary pattern.
I know the inner journey takes time and effort, but once you know where you’re going, it will be much easier. Without a map, you may have been running in circles for years. Fortunately, there’s a map showing both how you got stuck in this pattern, and how you can break free and return to your true self.
Here are the 5 Patterns:
1. The Leaving Pattern
A person in the Leaving Pattern tends to be easily overwhelmed, highly sensitive, creative, and super aware of others’ energy. The safety strategy of the Leaving Pattern is to dip out at the first sign of conflict.
Here’s how the Leaving Pattern might be showing up:
- You tend to run at the first sign of conflict
- The world around you often doesn’t feel safe.
- You often feel disconnected from your body.
- You sometimes feel like a misfit here on Earth.
- You tend to avoid your feelings, especially negative ones.
- Routine stresses of life can overwhelm you.
The original trauma of the Leaving Pattern usually happens in utero, during birth, or as a newborn.
Many of the world’s artists, visionaries, and seminal thinkers had the Leaving Pattern. As you continued to use this pattern growing up, you practiced the skills that the Leaving Pattern requires. Over time, you’ve become really good at these skills. Here’s the cool thing – you can heal the Leaving Pattern, and the skills stay with you. You get to keep the gifts of the Leaving Pattern even after you heal it! Here are some of those gifts:
- Very attuned to others’ energy and moods.
- Close affinity and relationship to animals.
- Skillful at controlling your attention.
- Talented at seeing the big picture.
- Very creative.
Some examples of the Leaving Pattern are Phoebe from Friends, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, and Pablo Picasso.
2. The Merging Pattern
When you’re in the Merging Pattern, connection to others feels like the key to survival. In pattern, you’ll likely find that you’re quite talkative and focused on keeping everyone around you happy. The safety strategy of the Merging Pattern is to look to others to have your needs met, rather than developing your own internal capacities.
Here’s how the Merging Pattern might be showing up:
- You feel empty when you’re not connected with someone else.
- You fear being alone, rejected, or abandoned.
- You work hard to try to keep everyone around you happy.
- You might find yourself playing the victim or playing the rescuer.
- You struggle to say no and set healthy and strong boundaries.
- You wonder if others like you or what they’re thinking about you
The gifts of the Merging Pattern are the gifts of the heart: love, compassion, nurturance, and generosity. As you continued to use this pattern growing up, you were practicing the skills that the Merging Pattern requires. Over time, you’ve become really good at these skills. Here are some of the gifts of the Merging Pattern:
- Heart-centered and radiate love energy.
- Aware of the emotional connections between people.
- Good listener.
- Ensures everyone in a group is feeling included and happy.
Some examples of the Merging Pattern are the Archetypical Good Mother, Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, and Oprah Winfrey.
As a child, there was a sequence of needs, receiving, and filling that you were instinctively programmed to expect. Instead, something happened during your childhood where your sequence likely became:
I need ——-> I ask ——> Something bad happens ——> I feel worse
Many different circumstances might have led to your needs not being met in infancy. You mother might have been ill, exhausted, overwhelmed, too busy, had difficulty producing milk, or ignored your cries for milk and only fed you only on a schedule.
You may have also developed an additional layer of defense where rather than denying your own needs, you started to project your needs on others, and you became the ultimate giver. Giving to others helped you feel big and strong, instead of small and needy. You subconsciously shifted from rescuee to rescuer.
3. The Enduring Pattern
When you’re in the Enduring Pattern, you probably tend to hold all your feelings inside. As a child, you were likely discouraged from asserting yourself. Now as an adult, you may fear self-expression to the point of self-sabotage and actively avoiding success.
The safety strategy of the Enduring Pattern is to fly under the radar, hunker down, and avoid self-expression.
Here’s how the Enduring Pattern might be showing up:
- You tend to struggle in expressing yourself.
- You tend to resist authority.
- You fear being “messed with” by others.
- You often keep your opinions and ideas to yourself.
- You may not experience yourself as being strong or worthy.
- You can be slow to take action.
But not everything is bad. At their best, enduring-patterned people are embodied, stable, and steady. As you continued to use this pattern growing up, you practiced the skills that the Enduring Pattern requires. Over time, you’ve become really good at these skills. Here are some of the gifts of the Enduring Pattern:
- Deeply grounded strength.
- Stable and steady.
- High awareness of personal space.
- Great at mediating disputes.
I’m sure you know some characters with this pattern. Some examples are Charlie Brown in Peanuts, Hagrid in the Harry Potter series, and Eeyore in Winnie The Pooh.
People with the Enduring Pattern typically have a history where as a child, their unique acts and expressions were either punished or claimed by someone else.
4. The Rigid Pattern
When you’re in the Rigid Pattern, you tend to believe that order is a source of safety. You focus on improving anything (and anyone) that is not yet to your standards. The safety strategy of the Rigid Pattern is to ignore the body’s sensations or feelings and look to rules, form, and structure for how to perform.
Here’s how the Rigid Pattern might be showing up:
- Order is soothing and disorder causes you anxiety.
- You clean when you’re upset.
- You spend much of your life working and rarely make time to play.
- You tend to avoid spontaneous or unplanned activities.
- You prefer to save money, rather than spend it.
- You’re well dressed, well-mannered, and well-behaved.
As you continued to use this pattern growing up, you practiced the skills that the Rigid Pattern requires. Over time, you’ve become really good at these skills. Here are some of the gifts of the Rigid Pattern:
- Skillful with words and grammar.
- Strong, focused attention.
- Able to give clear instructions.
- Typically on time, and often early.
Examples of the Rigid Pattern are Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton.
There are two main paths that commonly lead to the Rigid Pattern:
-One or both caregivers are so caught in their own Rigid Patterns that they over-emphasize rules and order at home.
-The caregivers and home are chaotic and unstructured, and the child needs the safety of an ordered, structured environment. So, the child adopts the Rigid Pattern as a way to bring more order and structure into their life.
The core wound of someone who had adopted the Rigid Pattern is the undeveloped sense of their own inner wisdom and feelings for guidance. Instead, they are trained to reference only outside authorities. Frequently, the parent’s rules also prohibit “negative feelings.” Instead, the child does their best to think, feel, and act as the rules dictate.
As a child, you likely tried to conform to the ideal self-image you had been given by your caregivers. You tried your best to be perfect. Instead of learning to be yourself, you learned to perform instead.
5. The Aggressive Pattern
When you’re in the Aggressive Pattern, you tend to doubt whether you can trust or depend on others. As a result, you may try to dominate and control yourself, others, and situations in order to feel safe. The safety strategy of the Aggressive Pattern is to become powerful and in charge.
Here’s how the Rigid Pattern might be showing up:
- You tend to doubt whether you can trust or depend on others.
- You feel like you’re stuck in fight response.
- You’re street smart.
- You rarely ask for help.
- You prefer to be the leader of a group.
- You really value competence.
At their best, aggressive-patterned people are highly competent and have a strong, focused will. As you continued to use this pattern growing up, you practiced the skills that the Aggressive Pattern requires. Over time, you’ve become really good at these skills. Here are some of the gifts of the Aggressive Pattern:
- Courageous and resourceful
- Bold and entrepreneurial
- Lively, aware, and highly engaged
- Good sense of humor
There are characters that you surely know who have this personality pattern. Some examples are Tom Cruise, Military special forces, and Lucy in Peanuts.
Aggressive Patterned people typically were in distress at a young age and made it through by willing themselves to survive. There wasn’t help from others when they needed it, so they learned to distrust others and rely only on themselves.
Take the Personality Pattern Quiz to figure out what your primary pattern is and understand why you do the things you do!
What is your personality pattern? Tell me in the comments!