I didn’t really understand the full implications of the chief feature (also called your Achilles heel) self-destruction until the other day when I found myself at social gathering of mostly people unknown to me. Spotting someone I actually recognized, though didn’t really know, I grabbed my hubby and headed in that direction. When we got over there Mr. R was busy speaking with a pretty blonde woman, whom he quickly introduced as his wife. After making introductions all around, I found myself chatting amicably enough with his wife while my husband continued to listen to Mr. R. expound about computers and networks.
Mrs. R. and I found several topics in common and I found her to be quite a chatter box. Not minding in the least, since I much prefer listening to having to carry a conversation, I let her talk. As I listened to her tell me about her life, her family, and her work, I couldn’t help but notice a distinct pattern to all the events that she was relating.
I immediately noticed that the pattern emerging from her discourse fit perfectly with her chief feature of self-destruction (something I picked up when we initially shook hands).
Here was a woman, who in her youth, wanted to be a dancer, but at the age of 16 decided to try downhill skiing despite all the warnings she’d gotten about how dangerous it could be. Yes, you guessed it…she tumbled down a hill and broke her leg and ruined her knee—so much for a dance career. She decided to follow her second choice for a career, which was writing. Again, though, I could see how her chief feature kept “popping up” and sabotaging events in her life.
She joined a rather large newspaper and was doing really well at her job of metropolitan reporter, but then for some unexplainable reason, she picked a fight with the editor and ended up fired. She explained it as probably best, after all, she had been becoming too well-known and losing her job was a humbling experience (trust me, being humbled was the last thing this woman needed—especially when I could feel the frustration and hurt rolling off of her as she said this). Then she told me about the ex-husband, who, by her description of him, seemed to me to be an emotionally abusive and demanding man. By what she said, he constantly belittled and demeaned her and what she did. When I asked why she stayed with him, she seemed surprised at me, and merely responded that she loved him. She was devastated when he left.
She then explained that she had dated other guys both before and after that first husband, but whenever she felt that the relationships were getting too intense, she would break up with them. (Her descriptions of the relationships that she broke up with all sounded like the perfect “dream” guy—good job, great personalities, helpful, kind, and loving.) She then went on to talk about her current husband (Mr. R.), and I soon saw that the man she had picked to marry was almost a carbon copy of hubby number 1, except that hubby number 2 came with a spoiled 12-year old girl (my opinion not Mrs. R’s.). Mr. R. worked part-time (when he felt like it), devoted most of his time to his daughter, and constantly faulted his wife when his daughter was upset. (Now, understand that Mrs. R. never complained to me. Her ruminations were straightforward reporting, with a few half-smiles, and shrugs thrown in. She didn’t see her situations as anything but “normal life”, so the comments about the girl being spoiled are coming from me.)
As Mrs. R. talked she puffed cigarette after cigarette, while also consuming quite a few alcoholic beverages. Next she told me how she was “failing” at work because her bosses kept giving her more and more work to do that she couldn’t keep up no matter how hard she tried. She had 4 projects all coming due at the same time, plus several (ten by her count) extraneous writing assignments to do and every day they just added more and more. When I asked why she didn’t just tell them that she couldn’t possibly take on any more, she just looked at me as if I were insane. She then stated that she couldn’t possibly say “no” to her bosses because they might fire her, and if she got fired her husband might leave. (And she said this as if it were a bad thing…) Meanwhile, she said that the stress from work combined with the stress of having to find another apartment—she was looking for another apartment because the landlord, in a fit of pique, said that her step-daughter had thrown a wild party several weekends ago while she and Mr. R. had been out of town—that her back was killing her, and she was just getting over a bout of pneumonia. On top of that, next week was her step-daughter’s birthday, and the girl wanted some new (and horribly expensive) electronic “toy”.
She talked about wanting to travel and see the world, and to try new and different things, but would quickly back off when I suggested even just going to the local park for a hike.
We finally made a break from this couple and soon afterward escaped the social gathering completely, nearly running for our car. On the way home, my husband asked me why I was so quiet and I told him that I was amazed at how blind some people were to their chief feature’s manipulations. I then explained to him that no matter how hard Mrs. R. seemed to try to get her life together, she was doomed to “fail” until she recognized that she was sabotaging herself. Because with her chief feature of self-destruction firmly in place, she was destroying herself physically with stress, cigarettes and booze. Mentally and emotionally she had convinced herself that she should simply accept everything, no matter how bad, because she simply couldn’t face her fears (success and failure). She was so equally afraid of failing and of succeeding, that she was stuck in place. She was afraid of being happy, and afraid of living. She had so much fear around her, that it cloaked her almost like a shroud.
She was allowing her chief feature to destroy her completely—not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Because of the fear instilled by her chief feature, she destroyed relationships, careers, and jobs; she was busily destroying every aspect of her life.
I had really wanted to tell her that she had to overcome this cycle of self-abuse and fear, but as frustrated as I was with her inability to see what she was doing to herself, I also realized that these were her lessons and her choices. If it takes her 1000 lifetimes of “self-abuse” to get it, then that’s alright.
After all, it’s easy for me to stand outside and say, “Hey, I see what you’re doing—now stop it!”, but it’s not my life, and not my dramas. However, it’s very difficult for someone involved in the life and the dramas to see them for what they are, to recognize when chief feature is dominating the life and filling it with fear.
So, hopefully, those of you reading this posting can take a look at your own lives and perhaps see where chief feature is inserting itself into your life and leading you on a path that just maybe you’d rather not take. Then next time you come to a similar crossroads, you can recognize the path of fear and change course. I won’t say that I’m perfect at this — I still have my moments when I race down that path of impatience, afraid that I’m missing out on something — but they’re becoming fewer and fewer, and trust me, the path of love and light is much nicer than that fear-filled path any day. So, try it — what have you got to lose, except maybe some fear…