Fundamental Trends of Character
Trends are basic ways of getting needs met. Some character structures are named for their basic trends. The same trend can exist in other characters, in which case it can be confusing to speak about, because it seems to be mixing characters up. At times, a trend can be striven toward by effort and decision, perhaps as an effort to deny or overcome the results of innate character. All energy structures can partially show these basic trends depending on 1) how well issues were satisfied in development, 2) family needs as a whole, and 3) social influences. Trends as concepts of their own can also be used to 'detach' the essence of a character from the energy structure in order to compare and contrast character goals from functional ideas of health-- for instance orality can be contrasted to desire for contact, or rigidity contrasted with aggression. below are four major trends:
- Abstraction: This is organizing life around ideas and concepts. The basic hope is that if life is understood, love and good feelings follow. It is basically, trying to figure life out. This can lead to intellectualism, but also mysticism. A partner's upset, for instance, becomes not a felt experience but a problem to be solved. Solutions are not actions but rather ideas about addressing problems. Social betterment is sought through understanding. Most benefits of culture have come through abstraction of course but when an existence is based on it, love, pleasure, and contact become strangers. Connection is sought through sharing ideas. Sometimes psychotherapy falls into this trend, where a client's life becomes a set of 'issues.' Excessive abstraction derives from a fear of living as a physical individual (existential insecurity)
- Orality: This is organizing life around needs. At bottom this is about one's own need but is usually projected into the needs of others. The basic hope is that an ideal nourishing and accepting person will answer the call and bring love and good feeling. A subtrend is austerity in which one tries to reduce one's needs, which is an attempt to fend off disappointment. The liberal political point of view stems largely from this focus on needs. Needs exist of course but so does the opportunity for their reasonable fulfillment as an adult. Orality is not so much the recognition of needs but rather 1) others are felt to hold the key to need fulfillment for oneself or needy others, (dependency), 2) a pervasive climate of unfulfillment (deprivation).
- Dominance: This is organizing life around the practice of getting others to do what one sees fit. The hope is that if one controls the situation, love and good feelings are secured. Dominance easily lends itself to an interest in power, but can also lend itself to an interest in seduction. The need to dominate may extend to other people, but it at least incorporates one person the significant other. Dominated people need not be treated badly, but their autonomy is undermined. Dominance used to be the sole providence of the psychopathic character or Inspirer, but it has become more of a cultural norm now. The cult of celebrity, glamorized professional sports are about dominance. The concept "American Exceptionalism" is undisguisedly about dominance. Business used to be about rigidity (and probably still is in developing economies) but more and more corporations are geared toward dominance including 'regulatory capture.'
- Rigidity: This is organizing life around accomplishing goals. The hope is that if one is effective in the world, love and good feeling follow. The 'Horatio Alger theme of 'rags to riches' is about rigidity. So is the concept of the 'self-made man'. It is not about the ultimate success but about persistence, consistency, and 'grit.' The historical concept of the ideal housewife with the perfect home is about rigidity. A career and one's worth can be the same. The conservative political point of view stems largely from this focus on concrete personal accomplishment. Alexander Lowen wrote many times that in the achiever or rigid character, rigidity is over-determined (by both energy structure and this trend). With rigidity, others can be misused somewhat in the drive to the goal but this is not the main purpose of the trend.
- Genitality: This is organizing life around satisfaction, loving, and creative work. Genitality then, becomes the 'holy grail' or mark of healthiness. Reich spoke of the 'genital character,' but Lowen, perhaps more realistic, dropped it. As a trend, however, it is a necessary construct as it refers to a type of functioning that is the goal of the entire tradition.
A script arises when a person makes a somewhat or totally conscious commitment to one or more trends. There is an element of 'performing.' This is a later development than the formation of character, often occurring in a few years before or after puberty. Unlike character it may have a cognitive component. Sometimes a 'pivotal event' is cited as being formative. A young person then starts to pursue this as a goal, even when it does not arise from feeling, and even when they are not very good at it. Sometimes scripts are a family product. Scripts can be thought of as ideologies that justify trends. They are a useful idea to describe a type of striving that may actually not be suited to the underlying character and energy structure. It can contribute to confusion about character in general and in a specific instance. Scripts contrary to character do not alter character, though, because they are really mental ideas, and do not change the underlying body or energy structure.
- Redemption Script: If one's family of origin is felt to be unsuccessful, then life can be dedicated to being successful, not for oneself, but for the family, so that love can be 'unlocked' This is based on orality as one is organized around the unfilled need of others for dignity.
- Power Script This is becoming a very popular script. At times it is called the 'psychopathic defense' if displayed by people who really do not have that energy structure. It is an attempt to feel secure by dominating or controlling people not so much by charisma but by external accomplishments. The power is projected less in a smooth way, more by persistence and effort and vigilance. We live in a 'civilized culture' where power is supposed to accrue not from physical capacity to take it, but from 'correctness.' That is why in the power script, there is a tendency to criticize, pick fights, argue, and assert what is correct. Our culture is based on power. Originally it was based on power over nature, but very quickly it became also based on power over others. Power is natural to the inspirer and achiever characters. To be seen as powerful becomes a goal of non-energy projecting characters, especially communicators. Communicators tend to believe that over-coming resistance is a matter of information and will. Communicators however, really want others to take care of them, so there success with the power script is often self-undermined--they really don't want to displease anybody.
- Masochistic Script Characters that lack aggression often develop a pleasing nice-guy or nice-girl persona. Creator and communicator characters however do not develop the thick powerful structure of the consolidator. Rather, for them, the social masochism develops as adult responsibilities start to arise in early adolescence. Persons with a masochistic script often enter the the non-authority helping professions--special education, nursing, ministry, social work, psychology, etc where they can bear the unsolvable problems of others. Creator characters are likelier to enter solitary professions, but are very capable of never complaining.