In most books and films featuring friendship groups there are “types”, personalities dancing around each other getting on – or not – to varying degrees and experiencing all the issues that arise when theses different personalities rub up against each other. There’s the joker (Chandler in Friends), the quiet geeky one (Ross), the obsessive neat tidy one (Monica), the emotional “crazy” one (Phoebe).
Psychological research dating back to the 1980s has found that in fact there are six main personality types, or “adaptations”. We start adapting to our environment as soon as we are born in order to get what we need in our families and from the world around us. These behaviours go back so far, and we’ve been doing them for so long, that they become ingrained as our “personality”.
Each of the below “types” encompasses both helpful and not so helpful behaviours associated with a particular style of functioning that we learnt as kids because it helped us get what we needed in our families – a very legitimate cause at the time.
Read on to see if you recognise your friends in these descriptions… and, of course, if you recognise yourself…
The life and soul of the party. They are imaginative, emotionally responsive with high energy. They probably walk with a slight bounce to their step, or a smooth swing. They engage through feelings by being nurturing or playful and it is important to them that others care about their feelings.
Their main driver is to please others – they equate attention with love. They were most likely parented with an emphasis on keeping people happy, and so learnt to be emotionally responsive and pleasing, and discount their thinking.
Problems can occur when they are over-reactive, are emotionally unstable, lose themselves in others and have inappropriate boundaries. They meet problems with feeling rather then thinking or acting so they can be seen as immature, self centred, and vain. They are often uncertain of their own reasoning. They hide anger for fear of hurting others, and their response to threat is to escalate feelings.
Their main learning area for personal development is to realise they can be important and loved when not getting attention. Learning that if they feel something it does not make it true; they can also learn to feel good about thinking and therefore start to claim their personal power. They need recognition for thinking and accomplishment as they often feel lovable but not competent.
They are conscientious, reliable, dependable, and responsible. They are happy to be on their own, relate better one to one, and will initiate relationships in this way.
They were parented with an emphasis on achievement, equating worth, value and subsequent performance with approval, with a major emphasis on ‘doing things right’ and perfection. They learnt to believe that if they are not achieving their parents will have nothing to do with them.
Problems occur when they are over-responsible, overly inhibited and tense. They are anxious if not busy, their own worst critic. Sometimes they have rituals, and expect perfection from others. Their response to threat is usually to be super reasonable. They want to “Be Perfect” and are driven by “shoulds” – and so their needs often go unmet, as they did in childhood.
Their main area for personal development is accepting they are “good enough”, learning how to feel good about themselves, and to learn how to simply “be”; how to relax and have fun. They need to realise how hard they are being on themselves and allow the child in them room to play, as well as recognition for just “being”. They often obsess instead of feeling: getting in touch with their emotions and allowing themselves to express them is key.
They are good, clear, sharp thinkers, organisers and like to maintain control. They are bright, ambitious, highly sensitive and perceptive; they seldom miss anything, and are good organisers. Clothing is generally conservative and immaculate. Generally they prefer to be on their own or with one or two people.
They often having unrealistically high expectations of themselves that actually cover feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Their belief is that if they can control themselves and others they will be OK; therefore they spend lots of energy in being careful and trying to control everything. They were parented in a manner that was inconsistent, and unpredictable, and often boundaries were intruded upon.
As a child they learnt to become cautious and wary, therefore they tend to make contact with others and then pull away. They can also be aggressive, competitive, grandiose and rigid in their thinking. They tend to project and blame and can be a little envious and suspicious. If scared they attack; their response to threat is to attack with razor sharp intellect.
Problems occur when they misperceive stimuli and assume their perception is true and then act on it. They are attempting not to feel embarrassed or humiliated and are usually trying to do the right thing. Because they equate criticism with shame they attempt to do everything in a way that no one will find fault. This can make them uptight, disapproving of playful behaviour and often afraid to relax.
A key learning for the Brilliant Sceptic is to reality-check their perceptions rather than assume they’re true. They may struggle with intimacy; being close is perceived as dangerous so protecting themselves or feeling that they have to protect others from them is important. However they can practise and learn to trust, relinquish some control, and learn to relax and enjoy themselves.
They are creative, artistic, have endurance, are kind, supportive and respectful of others’ space. They are deep thinkers. They are happy on their own, and want others to initiate. Their main driver is to “Be Strong”. Dress and appearance aren’t particularly important to them, and they often have an eccentric quality. They don’t like small talk but like non-verbal intimacy.
They can, however, get lost in daydreams; they may be overly compliant or behave with withdrawn passivity. They are often in dependant relationships and can take on the role of carer.
They were likely parented in a manner that was underdone, tentative, where the child withdraws so as not to place demands on parents (the parents were probably overwhelmed or preoccupied, and the child emotionally neglected). So they grow fearful of making demands; their fear is that if they reach out the other person will be overwhelmed by their needs. Their response to threat is to keep a low profile.
Their main self-development areas are learning to support themselves, and their right to take up space, learning that it is ok to feel and have needs. They can realise that they have a right to be heard and for others to take their feelings into account.
The playful resistor has lots of child energy and likes to have fun. They are engaging, enjoy being in a group, but often prefer others to initiate. Their dress may be a bit sloppy, incongruous, and they often pout or sulk, and resist any direction from others. They tend to see what is wrong, including with themselves. They criticise themselves internally and then fight back against themselves. Their response to threat is to whine, complain and struggle.
They were parented in a manner that was over-controlling and probably quite competitive. The child experienced life as a struggle and learnt to do things their way. They had to struggle to survive. Therefore problems can occur when they engage in pointless power struggles; they fight control even when there is none. Their behaviour can be aggressively passive. They often want to be taken care of, don’t make their desires clearly known and then complain when they’re not responded to. They can be passive and dependant in relationships too, liking lots of attention but often getting it in negative ways – substituting fighting for intimacy.
Areas for self-development are lessening their ‘either-or’ view, understanding they do not have to struggle to survive but rather that they can learn to ask for what they want. Allowing themselves to grieve the loss of parents not meeting their needs is powerful, and can allow them to let go of power struggles and look for people and ways to co-operate. They can develop a sense that they are free to be different and still be OK.
Charming and charismatic, they intimidate and seduce. They love action and excitement (instead of intimacy), with all the gusto of life, and have a need for external stimulation. They may dress to seduce, shock or impress.
Their childhood message was most likely that in order to be Ok you need to be one step ahead of others. Problems can therefore occur when this leads to manipulating and taking advantage of others. They were parented in a manner that was overdone, competitive, where the parent put their own needs first, or was anticipatory; so the child learnt to expect constant stimulation, so may develop with difficulties self-starting.
They may be actively aggressive and have an underlying fear of abandonment, of being left to survive on their own. So they cope by making others look bad, or intimidating and seducing to avoid it happening again. They may therefore have developed difficulties with intimacy – seducing and then abandoning before they are abandoned.
Their dilemma is between closeness and freedom – they can be commitment phobic and fear control. Having learnt to be tough and appear that they do not care, they are afraid to trust that anyone will be there for them.
But we cannot be abandoned as an adult – we can always be available to ourselves in the here and now. The charming manipulator can learn that it’s safe to be real, and that they can get their needs met cooperatively. Grieving the neglect or abandonment of parents helps us learn to trust again, form real attachments and join in genuine human connection.
Do any of these sound familiar? Often one or two are most prevalent. We can all recognise our friends or family in these “types” – but it may not always be so easy to recognise – or face – ourselves.
Exploring our patterns of behaviour and why we act like we do can help offer us more options for how we want to behave now. It can help us be more authentic in expressing ourselves, in showing what we really thing and how we really feel. Recognising old family patterns that led to us adapting in these ways helps us move on to more freedom and satisfaction now, with all our friendships, family ties and relationships.
The Circle Line is launching soon! Sign up now and we'll be in touch when we're fully working