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Survival Games

We even go crazy according to type.  Can you believe it?

The idea is, when we can't get our needs met in normal ways, we go to extremes to get them met -- even if those extremes are unsuccessful.  Usually the extremes are successful at diverting others from looking at what we don't want them to see.  For Catalysts, of course, we usually divert people away from noticing when we aren't authentic.  We're also liable to get sucked into other peoples' games.  

Here's what Dr. Linda Berens has to say about what happens when Temperament needs go unmet:

If the Temperament needs are truly not met, the individual becomes psychotic, as in schizophrenia or major depression or sociopathic. In other words, he/she is bad off enough to warrant one of those terrible labels and is nonfunctioning. However, in most cases, the dysfunction is less severe and may only show in limited arenas. I refer you to Eve Delunas' book, Survival Games Personalities Play, for the only written resource on this.  [see below]

As a coach, therapist, or even as a facilitator, I am always asking, how is objectionable, dysfunctional behavior a result of this person trying to get their Temperament needs met? Then I ask, how could I trigger them into getting their needs met? How am I contributing to them not getting their needs met? (The issue is not, "does the person perceive their needs aren't getting met?" but rather, "are they indeed getting met in some way?" The gap between where the person wants to be and where they actually are is a developmental issue and a character issue as to whether they take a pro-active approach to their situation or wallow in it and complain!)

The main assertion of the Temperament-based model of psychopathology -- based on reams of case studies and much analysis by many students of Temperament in the Masters in Counseling program that David Keirsey chaired, and on the experiences of graduates of that program doing systems-based therapy -- is that when the core needs are not met, we go to great lengths to get them met. 

For the Catalyst, the core needs include the need to:

  • become self-actualized

  • develop potential

  • be authentic

The key differentiator is that for the "great lengths" to be truly symptomatic behavior, it must meet several criteria such as absurd (people complain about it as bizarre), unconscious (individual is unaware of it), automatic (person says, "I can't help it"), recurrent, unpragmatic (it doesn't work and in fact gets the person in deeper), and relationship defining (leaves others feeling helpless, powerless, speechless). These criteria for a symptom were delineated by David Keirsey and are based on a model of communication theory and systems theory.

I'd say that if an individual is merely challenged in some way and is "psychologically healthy," then dysfunctional, symptomatic behavior will not emerge in more than transitory ways and the person will find a way to cope with the limitation. It may be challenging or difficult, but they will find a way.

But what often happens is that in our interactions with others, we are treated as symptomatic and then become so. So the Rational who feels incompetent as a youngster bumbles, stutters, fails to be articulate or whatever. Then parents, teachers, playmates, etc., belittle her and increase the sense of incompetence and the bumbling, stuttering, or whatever becomes a symptom of a dysfunctional relationship, not just that the person's needs are not getting met.

There is so much more to teach than what is merely in the books. It is a whole way of looking at the relationships between the core needs, the core values, and the talents, as well as the efficacy of the interactions with others. Temperament does not occur in a vacuum, but always in the context of an interaction, so I'd look at more than just the individual.

According to Eve Delunas, Catalysts (aka Idealists) play games when

  • they have not been true to themselves;

  • they fear rejection if they are true to themselves

Here are some ways this will manifest in the workplace.  Catalysts will

  • sacrifice needs to please others--don't tell the whole truth

  • become resentful and engage in passive-aggressive behaviors

  • difficulty giving and receiving constructive criticism

  • conflict avoidance--think that conflict is a dirty word

  • use inaccurate mind-reading; don't check out their assumptions

  • hold unrealistic expectations of themselves and others

The game Catalysts prefer to play is called "Masquerade."  Its purpose is to alienate the self and deceive others.  The psychiatric labels given to these games are

  • dissociative disorders

  • schizophrenia

  • anorexia nervosa

The purpose of the game is to alienate the Self and/or deceive others.

To prevent Catalyst survival games in the workplace, here are some guidelines:

  • demonstrate that people matter to the organization

  • provide opportunities for the democratic process through group discussion and problem-solving

  • allow them to do work that can have a positive, long-term impact on people

  • provide a safe arena for working through conflict and other interpersonal issues

  • help them determine if they are expecting too much of themselves

  • appreciate them with a personal acknowledgement of their meaningful contributions

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I've been paying attention to when I flip into survival games, and some interesting things have shown up.  First of all, at one time the survival game for Catalysts used to be called "marionette" instead of "masquerade," and I actually like that term better.  It seems to illustrate what I do quite accurately, because I become this powerless "marionette" who just lets other people "pull her strings."

It's interesting, but I've noticed this game shows up when I go through airport security.  When we took a flight yesterday, we went through the usual metal detectors, and then I was pulled out for a random explosives check.  I transformed into a "marionette" as an airport authority required me to unzip my hand luggage and let her swipe it with a cloth.  Then I was required to stand with my feet apart, arms outstretched, while she ran a wand over my body.  (I've done this at other airports where I've been patted down by hand.)

I dislike that experience intensely -- I am treated as an object, not a person, and there's nothing I can say to "defend" myself.  If anything, talking seems to make the experience worse.  So I became a marionette.  It's as if whatever makes Vicky Jo a person gets up and leaves the room until it's over.  There's a double bind, in that I can't speak up to defend myself and must submit to this process even if it is uncalled for.  I have no say, no power over what happens to me in this circumstance.  And it's so uncomfortable, so identity canceling, that I can't even be "present" while this is happening to me.

I also noticed myself playing "marionette" one night at a friend's house.  We were babysitting, and we adore these kids.  And the father came home and got contentious with me, teasing me with a wooden spoon and threatening to smack me with it.  I knew if I confronted him about his distasteful behavior that I risked being thrown out of their house and banned from seeing their children.  It was a double bind.  Since I couldn't resolve it, my whole system shut down.  I pretended to be sleepy, and tried to sidestep the confrontation that way.  My body became limp and I was unable to make eye contact.  Authentic I was NOT.  Again, it's as if Vicky Jo left the room until it was "safe" to return.  And this time, I was very aware that I had lapsed into "marionette" even while it was happening.  (I still didn't know what to DO differently, but I was highly aware.)  Later, I thought of a way I could be with that situation should it ever happen again, but it was fascinating to notice how I had dropped into a survival game when it seemed there was no way out.

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The Keirsey Temperament model claims that, "it takes a certain talent to go crazy a certain way" -- and this model says that each of the types has a particular style of becoming crazy, literally crazy -- mental hospital kind of crazy.  We're talking psycho ward insanity.

As we let that conjure up visions of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," let me explain a little more about it.

Eve Delunas did the research for David Keirsey, providing the data that forms the basis for much of this theory.  And she wrote about a "mild" version of symptomology in her book, "Survival Games Personalities Play."  Eventually, we're hoping Dr. Keirsey will finish his own book on this rich topic, and everyone will hear about the connection between insanity and personality patterns.  

What's interesting is how, even in day-to-day behaviors, it's possible to notice the tendency for each of the Temperaments to lapse into some form of "game-playing" when they are experiencing stress (not getting their needs met).

In her insightful book, Eve restricts her analysis to the four major Temperament groupings -- so of course the INFJs and INFPs are lumped together.  Both these types play inauthenticity "games," which Eve labels "Masquerade."  And I confess that as a coach I find it fascinating how both my INFP and INFJ clients readily cop to challenges with authenticity -- it's a real struggle.  (If you would like to take a low-tech, unscientific authenticity assessment, it's on my website here.)

Just as Type may be divided into 16 types, so Temperament may also be broken into 16 types.  (It fascinates me how people don't know this.)  And then, with these 16 unique Temperament patterns, each of them displays a tendency toward a particular version of insanity.  Thus, while both INFJs and INFPs struggle with authenticity and play the game of "Masquerade," the disorder manifests in entirely different forms for each of the patterns.


INFJs have a tendency to dissociate toward catatonia, becoming catatonic.  When I first heard about this a decade ago, I shrugged it off and didn't think much about it.  After all, the image that comes to mind is "Cuckoo's Nest"-like.  It brings to mind immobile people in hospital gowns drooling out the side of their mouths while calloused doctors prod them with needles or lit matches, and the person doesn't even flinch.  It's a surreal, Dali-esque image based on some macabre Hollywood portrayal of insanity.  (At least that's what I conjure up.)

But then I was talking on the phone with Dr. Berens last week and she mentioned it during our conversation.  And all of a sudden, I made the connection.  The light turned on in my brain, and finally I got it.

Swiftly came to mind all the times in my life I have been "catatonic" -- meaning, been in a catatonic state that I could not be shaken out of.

Oh my god!  There it was!  It had been staring me in the face all along.

My tendency, when I am feeling stress, is to crawl into my bed and STAY THERE.  That's how I express depression, that's how I react to disappointment, that's where I go when I feel overwhelmed or things feel out of control.

I had taken notice when Dr. John Beebe lectured about the danger of introverted iNtuition "falling into the archetype."  I believe I have "fallen into the archetype" once or twice.  But that's a bit abstract and difficult to pin down.  It's easier for me to notice how I have on occasion "dissociated to catatonia."

I remember a decade ago some boyfriend dumped me.  I was soooo depressed that I crawled in bed and stayed there.  Despite friendly phone calls from my sister and invitations to visit for Christmas, I remained in bed and slept through the holidays, literally.  I remember wondering whether I might possibly die in my bed, a slow form of suicide.  I lost weight and became gaunt since I didn't have the energy to get up and feed myself, much less shop for groceries.  It was a frightening, lonely, and isolated time for me.  I daresay a mental health specialist might have diagnosed me as "dissociated to catatonia."  

So yeah, my catatonia does not match the "Cuckoo's-Nest" version of immobility that's so extreme I don't feel needles or lit matches against my skin.  Nevertheless, I think my tendency toward catatonia is real.  And I get the impression it's an accurate portrayal of INFJ stress symptoms, since I frequently hear about INFJs needing to "sleep a lot."

I confess:  when I feel hurt, I go to bed.  When I feel afraid, I go to bed.  At the first sign of overwhelm, I head for bed.  My bed is my safe, private haven -- my own desert island.  Not that bed is bad!  I do a lot of creative thinking in bed; I get some of my best ideas in bed; and there's nothing like a romantic afternoon in bed.  Bed is grand! -- to a point.  When I fall over that dangerous edge, bed becomes a prison of my own making and I am immobilized.  That's when symptoms of catatonia have overtaken me.

In other forms, I may go lifeless, limp.  I confess that in the face of unwelcome sexual advances, I have sometimes gone "catatonic" and pretended it wasn't happening to me, or that it wasn't my body being violated.  Elvis left the building, and perhaps if you stuck me with a needle or burning match at those times, I wouldn't have reacted to them either.  I become a lifeless puppet, a marionette, a catatonic form of non-being.

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