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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

 Every pastor can be a valued and competent counselor.

Life Plans

Psychologists are known for arguing about a lot of issues, but most of them agree that
the human personality forms in the first few years of life.
Generally speaking, it is entirely form by the age six or seven.

As you grow out of babyhood, you form your personality through trial and error.
You learn what behavior works for you and helps you reach your desired goals in life.

As you coped with real and imagined difficulties and challenges you develop a life "plan"
that helps you make sense out of things.
As your life plan took shape, so did your lifestyle.
As your lifestyle developed, so did your idiosyncrasies.

A lifestyle is a style of living -- the way you do things to reach the goals
that fit in with that life plan you formed so very long ago.
And your lifestyle is very resistant to change.
That is why the little boy or little girl you once were, you still are.

While lifestyle is always consistent with early childhood memories, there is one problem.
Defining lifestyles has to be done in broad categories that don't totally fit individuals.
Each person has his or her own unique lifestyle, which is a combination
of several general categories that we see over and over in people.

So, when we describe controllers, drivers, pleasers, victims, martyrs, charmers, and others,
we must keep in mind that most people are blends of different lifestyles.
One general category may predominate, but others are usually involved as well.

The Controller

Controllers see the world as a pretty serious place and often have difficulty with relaxing
and just enjoying life.
They just can't let go.

Much of their energy is spent trying to keep others in line with their own expectations
of what is good, right, and needed.
Often in their obsession to make sure everything goes right (their concept of right),
controllers have unrealistic expectations for themselves and others.
This often leads to real problems in relationships -- especially with spouses and children.

A controller's private logic goes something like this:
"I am going to do things my way.
Other people are not to be trusted to do things as well as I can.
The world is a mess and it needs to be set right -- with my help

There are two basic kinds of controllers.
Offensive and defensive.

Defensive controllers are a special breed who control out of fear of being dominated or crushed.
Offensive controllers act upon life and people around them.
They love to make things happen and, in some cases, to create chaos.

Some traits of a controller are as follows:
It is hard for me to function if I'm not in charge.
I prefer to work alone.
I enjoy competition -- especially winning.
Hi place high expectations on others.
I like to make things happen.
I have a temper.
I don't enjoy surprises; I want to know when, where, what, and how.
I often find myself wishing other people would take life a little more seriously.

The Driver

Leman and Carlson say that the driver is first cousin to the controller.
For many drivers, their life motto is "The finish line or bust!"

As drivers work out their plans, they conclude:
I am goal-oriented and will do whatever it takes to reach my objective.
Other people are obstructions who will interfere with my reaching my goals if I let them.
The world is full of things to be done.

Drivers race through life trying to cover the most miles with the fewest possible pit stops.
There always looking ahead to the next possible accomplishment.
Drivers want to win.

The authors of this book (Unlocking Your Childhood Memories) wrote that
the dedicated driver is so competitive that he would check the bottom line
of his profit and lost sheet on his deathbed.
For him, winning isn't everything; it's the only thing!

If there is something of the driver in your lifestyle,
you will answer yes to several of the following:
I don't have a enough time to fool around with this stupid quiz.
I work from a daily checklist.
I feel that reaching my goals is more important than spending time with people.
I prefer to win. 
Nice guys finish last, and results are what count.
Most of my memories include times of accomplishment and feelings of pride
and satisfaction about my successes.


Many marriages are made up of a controller and a pleaser.
Although women can be controllers, most of those who come for counseling are pleasers,
women who simply can't say "No" to the men who control them.
It is possible for a man to exhibit pleaser characteristics.

Pleasers are burdened by low self-esteem.
They are always willing to try harder so that others will like and accept them.

Pleasers are their own worst enemies.
Pleasers feel their value does not come from within but from without.
They feel they have worth only when they perform well and others accept them.
They live their lives on a yo-yo, dependent on the moods, emotions, and opinions of others.
Pleasers are quick to blame themselves and to go through life saying, "I'm sorry, it's my fault."

A pleaser may be so adept at taking over that on the surface she can look like a controller,
but what she's really doing is trying hard to gain acceptance from her husband.

The pleaser often makes remarks like these:
I wish I had more confidence.
Sometimes I feel as if I'm walking on eggs to keep the peace.
If the clerk shorts me a penny or two, I don't challenging it.
I feel I really can't do most things right.
I feel overpowered by my spouse and my kids.
I can't say no and will often appear to agree with people when I really don't.
Giving in is easier than standing up for my rights.
I wish I could run my own life for a change.

If you answered “yes” or even partially “yes” to several of the above statements,
the pleaser lifestyle is definitely part of your life plan.

Actually, there is nothing wrong with being a pleaser as long as you keep your schedule
halfway under control and don't feel walked on or totally unloved and unappreciated.
When that happens you start moving toward two other lifestyles
that border on pseudo-masochism.
Some people may not admit it, but they prefer being kicked around a little and abused.

Victims and Martyrs

When a pleaser's lifestyle gets out of hand and the controllers move in like sharks
for the kill, and she becomes a victim or a martyr.
These two lifestyles are mentioned together because of their strong similarities.

The victim loves words like “me, my, and I”, usually followed by a list of laments
that would make Job feel like the luckiest man alive.

The private logic of a victim goes something like this:
I am surely the most unfortunate of human beings.
Other people are going to have to take pity and make allowances for my terrible plight.
The world is surely out to get me, and it is succeeding.
Are there strains of the victim in your own lifestyle?

Admitting a lifestyle is the first step toward modifying it for the better by saying:
I seek sympathy or pity from others.”
I have a lot of aches and pains that I complain about, but they seem to come and go.”
I like to be the center of attention.”
I feel others often take advantage of me.”
“My early childhood memories include recurring threads of suffering.”

If any of these fit you to some degree, then you must realize that
the victim is at least a part of your lifestyle.
If that is the case, congratulations!
Self-knowledge is the first step toward self-improvement.

Very close to the victim is the martyr.

Unlike victims, who suffer through anything and everything, martyrs need a cause of some kind.
For the woman martyr, her cause is usually family, particularly the man she married,
who may use or abuse her.

Because martyrs have a poor self-image, they seek out a mate who will reinforce that image.
For example, a martyr is often married to an alcoholic, a drug user, or a deadbeat
who is always out of work but still planning to make the big killing that will make all of them rich.

These kinds of men are a perfect match for the martyr because she can make excuses for him
and take care of him until he "gets his act together."

The logic of the martyr are things like these:
I am some one who needs to suffer -- by putting myself out.
Other people are there to be helped and served.
The world is unfair, but I don't deserve anything better anyway.

The logic isn't very sound, but it is such a consistent part of the martyr's memory patterns,
and it holds the martyr in a viselike grip.


Charmers are people who get by in life relying on being cute or funny.
Their memories include times of being accepted by making people smile and laugh,
times of cutting up and goofing off, and times of being upset if they didn't get their way.

If there are any charmer in your lifestyle, asked yourself these questions
about your early childhood memories:
Did you like to make people laugh?
Did you rely on charm to make others like and accept you?
Did you enjoy being the center of attention?
Did you pout if you didn't get your way?
Do any of your memories involve times of entertaining others with your charm, cuteness, and humor?

Once a charmer, always a charmer.
If charmer is part of your lifestyle at all, you still like making people laugh
and being the center of attention.

Obviously, it would be easier to admit you are a charmer, rather than a victim or a martyr.
However, keep in mind that no lifestyle is necessarily "good" or "bad."

They all simply serve to show us how we perceive the world and how we act
in order to make it make sense -- for us.

There are many other lifestyles.

There are the getters which are kin to charmers and, in some ways, controllers.
All tiny children are by nature getters, but some developed a getting lifestyle
that lasts into adult hood.
They really believe it is more blessed to receive than to give.

Their logic tells them things like, "I am more important than others ..."
"Others owe me, and I deserve everything I get ..."
"The world is a place where you can get big payoffs from small investments."

Then, there are the rationalizers.

The rationalizers are intellectuals who do everything they can to avoid or deny any emotions.
They love theoretical talk, but they bury their true feelings below layers of facts and opinions.

Then there are the goody-goodies which are kin to perfectionists and pleasers.
They strive to be just a little more competent, useful, or holy than the others.
The goody-goody lives by the book -- the rule book -- and believes that only by excelling
in the particular area of moral perfection that he believes is right can he truly be
accepted and belong.

Remember, we seldom see someone who is a pure anything as far as lifestyle is concerned.
We are much more likely to see blends, but in most cases one protector lifestyle
will dominate the others in a person's personality.

Keep in mind that a lifestyle doesn't take a lifetime to develop.
The broad strokes are there by the time you are two or three.
By the time you are four or five, the grain of your wood is set.

The childhood memories that you think of today consistently confirm the perception of life
that you fashioned for yourself so long ago.

If you don't like some things about your particular grain, what can you do?
While you can't change your grain, there are many things you can change,
and you can begin by cutting your memories down to size.

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