Disagreeableness is Essential to Empowerment
In the field of psychology we use agreeableness as a measurable personality trait. Being agreeable means, generally, agreeing with the general flow of those around us, not causing a stir, going along with the majority opinion, not always of course but most of the time. We may consciously know we're being agreeable, but, it's much more likely that we're being agreeable because of what it gives us on both a conscious & unconscious level, which is, usually, safety, belonging and a sense of 'tribe'.
We all have ''tribes'' that we want to belong to, groups of people, families, work colleagues, people that we admire, like & want to be around, people who like us and want us around.
However, with 'tribes' come unconscious agreements; what I mean by this is that there are agreements between the people in that group that are unconscious, in other words we don't consciously know that we are agreeing to certain codes of behaviour, using particular language, holding certain opinions etc, but this is one of the threads that bind 'tribes' of people together; the bonds of having similar world views, similar ways of seeing & wanting life to be, similar histories, similar ways of behaving & they are all, usually, unwritten & unspoken as well as unconsciously understood.
As animals we need groups of people to belong to, we are essentially pack animals, it's good for our mental health, and, when times are difficult, mentally and/or physically, we need a group of people around us to help us weather life's storms. Often those who are ostracised from their family of origin, for whatever reason, then seek out alternative tribes in adolescence & adult life, alternative groups to belong to & feel safe in, and these are often other groups of 'outcasts', 'others' who don't fit, or don't want to fit, into mainstream tribes. Those ostracised from families of origin can create deep bonds in tribes where the 'norm' is anti-establishment because it's the rub of the conflict itself that is part of what bonds the group - it is the difference that draws the group together.
Where am I going with this and what has this topic got to do with my work in relation to sexuality & relationships?!
Within the sexuality field there are many 'tribes', there are those interested in neotantra, kink or BDSM, there are those who are involved in particular spiritual/sexual schools, others who are solely interested in spirituality-free spaces & activities such as sex clubs, perhaps those who would call themselves Social Justice Warriors, those interested in porn (in favour or against) etc. And this is great, diversity is required for the human being, we are not, nor should we be, the same as each other. We are built differently, we come from different cultures, we desire different things, as we should.
What I want to point to here is the 'danger' of becoming immersed in any one 'tribe' and not seeing with clarity it's unwritten & unspoken unconscious agreements. Each and every group has them; if it calls itself any kind of group, tribe, family, team etc it has unconscious agreements that bind people together. The only question here is; are you aware of your own needs, the ones that are being met by belonging to this particular group or movement? are they healthy? is this what you really want? & perhaps most importantly, is there freedom within this group for you to be and speak against its' grain, or, are you ostracised again for difference, for not towing the 'party line'?
This is where the disagreeableness of empowerment comes in. If you are not free to be fully and freely yourself (within the law & with the consent of all other adults involved if 'it' involves them) then you are not empowered, it is something that is being sold to you as empowerment, but if you are not free to take it, shape it for yourself & those around you, make it your own & have your own relationship with it then you are not free at all.
What IS empowerment? ''the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.'' - if your ''empowerment'' means abiding by certain unspoken agreements, as well as spoken ones, and doesn't allow you to control your own life in every way (taking the law & consent into account), including your behaviours, the language you use, the beliefs you have, the practices you take part in, the politics you hold etc then it is not empowerment, it is authoritarianism masquerading as empowerment.
A certain amount of disagreeableness is good, it makes sure we're not doormats, accepting and tolerating bad behaviour from others. Too much disagreeableness and we find ourselves without many close friends because we are, perhaps, too difficult to get along with & rub too many people up the wrong way or challenge the status quo too much. Just the right amount of disagreeableness and we are able to maintain integrity, autonomy, the powers of critical thinking; in short, we do not become, or indeed possibly remain, a sheep, simply following the crowd in order to have our belonging needs met at the cost of our own integrity.
The next question is, how can I measure my agreeableness? and then, if I find myself too agreeable what can I do about it?!
Many are familiar with the Meyers Briggs personality test, I think it can be useful as a personal development tool, a single window through which to look at oneself & others, but, it's old & has largely been discredited & indeed disowned by most in the field of psychology, so instead I want to invite you to check out psychology professor Dr Jordan B Peterson's test instead, there's a small fee, around $12 if I remember correctly, but you have access to the information from then on, it's comprehensive & detailed, well organised & presented in a very user friendly site. If you're curious about yourself, understanding yourself more, perhaps seeing what parts of yourself may benefit from a little 'work' and focused attention, then I highly recommend it to you. You'll find it by clicking here.
My advice, should you find & feel yourself too agreeable, is to seek out an empowerment programme or professional counsellor or therapist to explore the issue with. When I say an ''empowerment programme'' I'm talking about something that is not interested in training you, something that is not trying to get you to join anything or be part of a group, nothing that is trying to tell you who you are but something that wants you to be more you, whatever that looks like (legal & consent issues considered, of course).
26th February 2019