Lean in the Opposite Direction

 

In my Atlanta counseling practice I've helped people who have all sorts of personalities. From the rigid to the disorganized, from the serious to the silly, from the extremely anxious to the overconfident, everyone has a unique combination of traits. One of the opportunities of a therapist is to help people develop some of the underdeveloped parts of their personalities.

No one of us is capable of being "balanced" along every dimension of personality. We all lean one way or the other on various traits. Unless we make conscious effort it's almost inevitable that we will continue to operate in ways that feel very familiar to us rather than trying to expand beyond our comfort zone.

I've come to appreciate the great benefit that can occur when we practice engaging the opposite quality from our natural tendencies. For instance, in my counseling practice I may encourage a very serious person to find ways to be more playful or silly, while suggesting that a more lighthearted person might benefit by practicing being more solemn or forceful. Someone who is a "neat freak" may find it useful to have a little more tolerance for disarray while someone who is messy will probably appreciate the value of becoming more orderly.  A person who tends to be a loner may discover the benefits that come from practicing interactions with others while someone who thrives in social settings can find value in periods of solitude.  The examples can go on and on.

The goal here is not to eliminate a particular personality tendency but to develop the other side of the spectrum in order to be more well-rounded. Many times even a slight improvement in the "opposite direction" can go a long way. (It's yet another example of my saying that sometimes "ten will get you fifty".)  

So if you know some of the natural tendencies of your personality, experiment with the opposite side of the spectrum. This advice is similar to my suggestion to "do something different".  It will inevitably lead to more choices and options when facing different situations, which is a marvelous pathway to healthy freedom and personal power.

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Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta counseling expert with a private psychotherapy practice for adults.  He offers services to individuals and couples and has special expertise in treating the causes and effects of sexual behavior that is problematic due to being addictive, compulsive or otherwise poorly controlled. 

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