the compliant types

The personality types corresponding to Karen Horney’s Compliant strategy are the One, Two and Six. These types are generally industrious, principled and conscientious. It’s worth mentioning here that the word compliant doesn’t necessarily mean that these types are compliant to those around them, but rather to their over-developed superegos. Each of these types responds to problems, threats and obstacles by conforming to an internalized set of rules, ideals or codes of conduct. In other words, they feel there is no free lunch and put a significant amount of pressure on themselves to measure up. They feel they must earn the right to have their needs met and these needs are defined by the Triad they fall into: One is in the Belly Triad meaning they will attempt to earn their right to autonomy and self-governance through being above reproach; Two is in the Heart Triad meaning that they will attempt to earn their right to recognition and value through being good, likable, and indispensable to others; and Six is in the Head Triad meaning they will attempt to earn their right to stability and security through vigilance and following (or defying) the rules. All three types feel their sense of self most keenly when they’re moving toward others and/or the flow of life. For the Compliant types, the affect is “I get what I need by being cooperative and dutiful to my ideals.”

The Compliant types are also the types most disconnected from the Head Center. This does not mean they’re less intelligent than other types, but rather that they have the most difficulty connecting with their internal guidance. When we don’t fully inhabit the Head Center, we’re also going to be out of touch with the experience of direct knowing, or at least not trust our past experiences with it. Therefore the reliance on internalized rules and standards comes into play. These types are prone to substituting opinions, conventional wisdom and static ideas from past experience for the dynamic inner knowing that comes from being in touch with the Head Center.

The journey of growth for the Compliant types is of course to learn to fully inhabit the Head Center. This entails becoming present to feelings of uncertainty, not always having an “answer” and not trusting themselves—and being able to tolerate these feelings without referencing ideas of the way things “should” be. This goes against the grain for these three types who are generally used to self-effacing their own needs in lieu of their reliance on internalized ideological structures. However, learning to trust themselves and to tolerate the anxiety that comes up as a result allows them to discover the awakened Head Center qualities of pristine clarity, vision, wisdom, wonder and an exquisite receptivity to reality that have been present all along but have gone unnoticed or undervalued.

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