I recently learned a helpful tool for understanding myself and others. It came from Jonathan Ellerby who leads Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality. He talks about four kinds of people:
Correctors spend a great deal of time and energy noticing what's wrong and letting other people know what they notice whether their critiques and feedback are asked for or not.
Protectors spend a great deal of time and energy protecting other people from what they perceive to be discomfort or pain and suffering whether what they are doing is actually helpful to the other person or not. This style can be a classic enabler at a time when helping another can be disempowering and not helpful.
Objectors disagree with everything and anything, arguing and standing up for the opposite of whatever opinion or idea is being expressed. They may think of themselves as a devil's advocate. However, others may perceive them as being invalidating and insensitive.
We all have all three of these behaviors. Since I read Jonathan's article, I have been noticing all three in myself. Sometimes I am critical of myself and constantly correct what I say or do. I do my correcting with others too. Luckily for them my judgements are mostly kept to myself and not spoken out loud. When I notice I am focusing on being especially critical of myself or my partner I have learned to recognize it as a call for help from myself. Usually being very critical and judgmental lets me know I have abandoned myself and am in need of my own attention. Usually under my judgement is fear. If I can find the fear and comfort myself, my judgements lessen.
I have really noticed the protector this week in my work. I have the idea that I am giving my clients a gift when I run over in sessions. I want them to have extra time so they won't leave in so much pain. After we finish I have watched people run to their cars because they are late to their next appointment. One person bravely told me this week that it is helpful to her when we end on time. She feels safer and more trusting of me. I am grateful for her feedback. This week I have been more aware of ending on time and trusting my clients to finish their processing on their own without me. Being a protector is trying to help in a way that's not helpful.
When I am in the space of being argumentative and objecting to everything that I say or do, that is the objector. I do this much more with myself than others. Some people seem to enjoy going toe to toe with others and dissing everything another says. Several people I know have family members who seem to thrive on disagreement. It seems to me to be an unskillful attempt at connection.
That brings me to the forth style. It is called the connector.
Connectors have awareness of the corrector, protector, and objector in themselves. They have learned to embrace these styles as unskillful attempts at connection and to be forgiving of themselves and work to be more skillful. Connecters understand that we are all one and everything is connected. Their way of relating, although imperfect, comes from the intention of compassion for self and others. By being mindful ( which is awareness with acceptance) of the corrector, protector and objector, in myself, I can ask , what else can I do besides what I am doing to feel connection here? Then I can create a do-over to experiment with a behavior that creates more of a feeling of really being connected to myself and others. Taking care of myself with healthy boundaries would be one example of a more skillful tool for connection. When I am taking care of myself it is easier for me to feel genuine compassion for myself and others. Then the sense of all of us being connected is much stronger and gratitude flows.
What do you think of the usefulness of knowing about these four styles? Can you recognize the corrector, the protector, the objector and the connector in yourself? Can you see expressions of them in others? Knowing about these styles continues to be helpful to me. I am grateful to Jonathan for thinking them up and sharing them so freely. I am grateful to you for reading this blog. Thank you