Tenderness

You are not afraid of the sufferings and sorrows of other people, even when they are acted out in unappealing ways. Beneath even defensiveness and self-righteous behaviour, you know that deep down people need nurturing and consolation. One danger is being naive about people’s dark sides. But at your best you know you can be mean yourself, which helps you to sympathise. You bring strength and forgiveness where other people might panic.

Security

One tendency in you – which is of course normal to the human race – is to bristle when criticised, and to defend yourself when you feel under threat from aggression or blame. Defensiveness can make you conceal your less honourable motives, from others, and from yourself. The habits once made sense: they all derive from past efforts to protect yourself. And most of the time – because we don’t get much help in loving ourselves – you still need them to feel secure.

Resilience

You have a tendency, after a setback, to turn your emotions towards restriving. What attracts you is the idea of wiping out a humiliation by resumed action – overcoming weakness, repressing your fear. Because part of your motive is pride, you can sometimes be unwilling to admit weakness or to receive aid. But at heart, tour insistence on coming back and never folding has taught you a valuable pessimism: you know that important journeys are never easy.

Misanthropy

You have seen the darker side of human nature, even in daily life. When you look beneath the surface everyone is pretty messed up; there’s more selfishness circulating that others admit. You are never surprised by the stupidity of others, even though it annoys you. Your streak of misanthropy is, in fact, a requirement of remaining sane. You’ve wisely come to terms with your need to sometimes confidently reject people.

Playfulness

You are good at seeing what’s funny, at relaxing and finding the pleasure of the moment. Play is random, whimsical, fantasy-driven behaviour which releases internal tension. Because it is detached from some pressures it allows you to act on weirder, perhaps neglected, parts of yourself. The downside is that it is no help in sticking with things that are not much fun but which need to be addressed. So it is well complemented by its opposite, Stoicism.

Exhibitionism

There’s a strand in your nature which loves making an impression – perhaps with your clothes, or conversation, or in a self-revealing blog or a novel. You like to dramatise yourself, to pose as a unique, perhaps mysterious person, to joke or exaggerate your part in adventures. Though you might more than once have been called a show off, it is actually a generous tendency: you want to please and entertain others. It could be the start of good teaching and leadership.

Sensitivity

You have delicate, sensitive perceptions; you can be deeply moved by appearances – the right light in a room, or good food, or the texture of a piece of clothing. Expressive, intelligent language has a powerful hold on you; your mind works better when it is inspired and provoked by vivid imagery. It can be sad to live in a world which is often so ugly and not properly looked after. But you know that things can be otherwise, and you have the ability to appreciate the world at its best.

Aggression

One part of your character is anger in all its forms: frustration, outrage – and when anger is suppressed – bitterness, grumpiness, and bodily aches. Fundamentally, frustration comes from hope: you get upset because you expect your life will be more than a valley of tears. One way to deny aggression is to direct it inwards, as self-criticism. But you’re at your best when you acknowledge anger, and act it out clearly and in a focussed way, with honour.

Shyness

Part of you is gripped by the fear that you’ll launch into something and completely mess it up. The upside of this is wise caution: people are indeed often too rash, whereas you know, by instinct, that holding back can save you. Probably, you feel shame and self-disgust a bit too much. But when you do feel in your element, you act with a wisdom and sensitivity never found in people with thicker skins.

Independence

You don’t set out to be different for its own sake; you are more easily guided by what interests and moves you. You are more concerned about what is right for you than about the pressure to fit in. In sex you are more aware than others of impulses which are not entirely conventional. You know the value of selective irresponsibility, of forgetting occasionally about being ‘good’.

Leadership

You are good at making decisions; you have a clear sense of what needs to be done and what others should be doing. Played out inside yourself, this tendency drives you to value willpower and self-control. You may be accused of bossiness. But acting on your desire to dissuade, restrain or guide is often appreciated by others – who might secretly like a clear direction, and some firmness.

Reverence

One part of you dreams of giving yourself up – perhaps just for a while – to a hero or mentor. In the right circumstances you can flourish by letting go of your ego. In your inner life, reverence plays out as a willing submission to your own conscience. In the outside world, you might get frustrated searching for something worth believing in – a country, a person, a company – but you will always be open to feeling respect, admiration and wonder.

Rationality

You like clarity and intelligent simplicity and you get frustrated at messy thinking. This can make you seem unreasonably pushy to some, but it is actually a virtue: you are motivated by a horror at pointless effort and a longing for precision and insight into how things and people work. Your ability to synthesise and bring order is essential in producing thinking which is truly helpful.

Loyalty

You are good at sticking with people, even when things get awkward and tricky. You give people a second and third chance, because fundamentally, you are good at recognising people’s good sides (even when there’s quite a lot about them that is not so attractive). Partisanship is actually your strength: you stay on someone’s side for more than intellectual reasons – because they feel like a part of who you are.

Ambition

You have a strong sense of potential and an intense drive to accomplish difficult things. The core of this is your ability to hold together the big goals and the daily efforts. Where other people’s hopes collapse when they encounter the tedium of the journey, you keep coming back. Oddly, it is actually your ability to endure feeling unheroic that counts. You know the power of working away solidly on what’s in front of you.

Vulnerability

Being affirmed and nurtured by others is a central requirement for you to feel safe. This means you can be slow to warm up to other people, which is difficult because what you most need from them is their warmth. Yet you know how to be vulnerable: to let down your defences and accept that you need another person. This lack of pretence is a valuable trait, and ultimately more endearing than the macho efforts others make to deny their childlike sides.

Orderliness

You love it when everything is neat and tidy: when there is a proper way of doing things, and you can tick things off the to-do list and know where everything is. So others, at times, are to you unbearably sloppy and messy. And you run into things that can’t be ordered (a child, a partner, a colleague at work) which drives you slightly nuts. But your desire for order is a good one when it is focussed where it is needed and when you’re okay with a bit of mess.


Knowing that one’s way of relating to others carries a name is one step on the path towards greater self-knowledge and change where change feels necessary. Each of these patterns relates back to particular experiences in childhood and ways of having been parented. 50% of people in the US are estimated to be securely attached, with the other half divided into anxious and avoidant quarters. We don’t need to be free of psychological hurdles to deal with life, but knowing how to explain in good time who we are, and where we might be tricky, is a central to forming good enough relationships.

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