My Life as a Status-Robot!
Understanding the Rigid Character Type
The five primary Character Types, or Safety Strategies - Leaving, Oral, Enduring, Rigid & Aggressive - may usefully be placed into two groups.
Those in which the primary wound takes place before ego development begins
Those in which the primary wound takes place after ego development begins
Our ego, our sense of personal selfhood, begins to develop at around the age of 2 and is well underway by the age of 4.
Those individuals dominated by the Leaving or Oral safety strategies will thus be in a largely pre-egoic state. They may have considerable mental development but will struggle to get anything done in the world.
Those dominated by the Enduring safety strategy have had their energy suppressed, just as their ego first began to develop. They also may be considered pre-egoic.
Those dominated by the Rigid or Aggressive safety strategies will be in an egoic state. They have drive. But still carry within them deep wounds from the past, which influence them on a daily basis.
Let’s take a look at the Rigid type.
The Rigid character type comes about as a result of parental conditioning. It happens when our parents train us, rather as a family dog might be trained. We are given rewards for “good” behaviour and punishments for “bad.” Eventually, we learn that who we are is not important. It does not really matter. What matters is what we do, how we behave. In short, how we function.
This repeated giving of a reward for certain behaviours, combined with punishment for others, programs our dopamine system - the way our brain gives us motivation. Over time, we learn to do the “good” behaviours, and avoid the “bad” ones, without our parents around. In the old days of psychology, this was known as “classical conditioning.”
Being trained early in life to focus on behaviour, the Rigid type at some point comes to believe that life is all about functioning. They understand that if they “play the game,” they will get the reward. That reward takes the form of moving up some form of hierarchy that surrounds them, through an increase in either financial or social status. The “punishment” is the opposite - moving down. Perhaps they get a promotion at work, for putting so much effort in. Perhaps their increase in finances allows them to pursue a partner they see as more attractive, thus offering increased status. Perhaps they drop old friendships for newer ones for the same reason.
The Rigid type respects the game and is happy to play his or her part. They will instinctively test those who seek to move up the social hierarchies that surround them. Those who “pass the test” will be accepted as equals. Those who fail will be treated as having lower status.
Social, financial and sexual hierarchies abound in human culture, no matter where on earth you are. Their roots are also found in the “dominance hierarchies” of the animal kingdoms from where we originated. So, one might ask, is any of this really a problem? Let’s face it, without these hierarchical structures and the people to uphold them, would human culture survive for long? Well, let’s take a look at a couple of the issues.
Firstly, on a personal level, whilst the Rigid type may acquire a sense of meaning through functioning well and playing their part, they frequently struggle to relax or to simply “be,” without doing something. Once calibrated to receive dopamine through certain behaviours, the brain can become addicted. A sense of deep, even existential dread may begin to manifest, should they ever try to come off the “hamster wheel” of constant, correct behaviour. They may come to need near-constant stimulation to simply feel okay. As they get older, and their energy levels perhaps begin to lower, they may also push themselves to maintain a level of functioning that they are no longer capable of, leading to burnout or depression.
In addition, treating ourselves like a machine inevitably leads to low self-esteem. We are human. We are unique, amazing and beautiful. Believing that we need to behave like a machine cannot but help lower our sense of self-worth.
On a societal level, having a high number of Rigid types may lead to our culture becoming powerful and successful. But in the wake of this comes a certain “unipolarity” of mind. There is a constant need for growth, for development, for gain. In short, for more.
But, finally, resources are limited. Unless targets and directions can be altered, such that the same dopamine rewards are fired for different goals, it would be easy for such a culture to devastate the environment in which it is embedded.
The inherent need to keep moving forwards, and the inability to simply be with what is, is also a considerable weakness. If there should be challengers to such a culture, they could easily make use of this - slowing things down and causing the dominant culture to collapse into all the negativity that a dopamine shortage leads to.
What’s the solution for the Rigid type, or the part of us that is Rigid?
It starts on the personal level but leads also to the societal. Bit by bit, the Rigid type must practice being more present whilst doing what he or she needs to do. To simply try to stop doing, and to perhaps spend hours sitting in meditation, would be unrealistic. But taking the time to really be present whilst you are doing something is absolutely possible and is anyway a form of meditation.
Do not treat yourself like a machine. Yes, we have things to do. They need to be done. But we can do them whilst still present in our body, taking the time to make whatever we’re doing truly an experience.
So, when taking a break for coffee, for example, we can endeavour to not view it as simply a routine from which we will get more energy for work. Instead, we can feel each movement of our body as we make or order our coffee. We can continue this whilst drinking it and not go on autopilot. We can make our coffee break a meditative experience! This can absolutely happen.
Even at our workstation, we can take time to feel our body as we tap away on our keyboard. At regular intervals, we can also deliberately take a couple of breaths using the abdominal muscles to boost the level our level of presence.
Remaining in touch with the sense of our body, as we do what we need to do, keeps us human and beautiful… and most definitely not a machine.
Thank you for reading
(Find my books on Amazon here)