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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Treatment Tuesday: Personality vs. Parenting

This week's assessment is for Michelle. She wrote in about her character Shannon,* who was raised with a Golden Retriever, over-indulgent mom and a Beaver, micromanaging dad. Shannon craved her dad's approval so much that she put a Beaver mask over her Otter/Golden Retriever personality and is still wearing that mask today. Shannon's husband, Rod*, had a power patrol Lion father and an avoidant mom. Since they were wealthy, his parents hired others to deal with Rod.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional. 

Michelle wants to know: How will Shannon parent her daughter Allison, who knows just what to do to get her mom to do what she wants and Josh, who stays buried in his iPod and video games? How would her beaver mask impact her parenting? When Rod looses his job and the family has to move in with Shannon's parents (who tend cattle and cotton), how will this affect them based on their personalities?

I'm totally flattered that Michelle has obviously been scouring my old posts! As you can see, she referenced almost every parenting style post and personality types post I wrote above. Thanks for that feel-good, Michelle.

I want to start this assessment out with Rod, even though you couched your questions as being about Shannon. But Rod's my concern because of his power patrol father who he looks up to so much. I'm not sure how much interaction Rod really had with his parents, since they hired people to look after him (I assume nannies and the like), but you indicated Rod was a Lion like his father, which will probably give him the tendency to be a power patrol. And that's what he knew, after all.

So if his tendency is toward power patrol, that could cause some problems between him and Shannon, who is at heart a Golden Retriever and might have a bent toward over-indulging, like her mom. It all would depend on how well Shannon wears the mask of a Beaver. If she's still seeking approval from dad, or trying to heal the rift that developed after her barrel racing accident, then she might try to be more like him, micromanaging everything her children do like he did to her in hopes of connecting with him. This will be confounded by her moving back into her childhood home.

There's something almost magical about grownups boomeranging back to their parents' home. Fully functioning adults can become sniveling little brats as they adopt the method of interacting with their parents they had growing up. If Shannon's mother was such an over-indulger, she might revert to not making her bed or washing her own clothes because mom is there to do it--not only for Shannon, but for Shannon's family.

The controlling part of Rod will not like this. To say that living as extended guests in his wife's parents' home will be difficult for Rod is the understatement of the year. He's going to kick against this with all his might, as he's used to being in control and managing his own family (and career). Accepting anything like charity or handouts will not be easy, if not impossible. Rod would be desperate enough to take a job that he doesn't like to remove themselves quicker from this scenario.

The generosity of Shannon's nurturing mother will not be appreciated by Rod...he'll likely see it as an affront to his ability to provide those things for his own family. This will move Shannon into a difficult mediating position. She'll find herself split between defending her parents and their way of life and way of interacting with others and trying to ease Rod's disappointment and anger over the living situation by commiserating with him about her parents.

But I digress. Back to the parenting. Shannon's figured out how to be a Beaver by observing her dad. She knows how to approach Allison to get what she wants done. It's the underdog Golden Retriever/over-indulger inside of her that may let Allison think Shannon's a pushover--when in reality, Shannon is indulging Allison, possible against her better judgment, but doing it all the same. Rod isn't going to have that close of a relationship with Allison, likely, because she knows he's not the person to go to if she wants something. Allison will favor her mother.

As for Josh, it's pretty typical for boys to go through their video game phase where they hardly say ten words a day to human beings because they are playing their marathon rounds of Zelda (can I just date myself here?). Shannon will lean toward either micromanaging the amount of time she lets him spend on the video games and turning a blind eye when he doesn't get off right at the one-hour mark. Rod will not be this way. When he says "thirty minutes and lights out!" he means just that.

I'm not sure I'm really helping that much with this assessment simply because you've got this great backstory for Shannon and have given her a personality mask of being a Beaver when she's really an Otter. As you can read from my post here, Otters and Beavers don't mix. They are fairly diametrically opposed. Rod probably fell for the Beaver part of Shannon...but a Lion can get along with an Otter just when Shannon's true personality shines through, it shouldn't put an end to their relationship. However, if she swings more toward the Golden Retriever style of over-indulging, this will be a problem for his power patrol Lion (as I mentioned before).

Shannon's got a unique problem, because when projecting an image to the world that's not who you really's exhausting. Your body has to use energy to keep up pretenses that it could use otherwise to repair the body. So FYI, when Shannon gets tired or sick...her true colors will shine through because she'll have less energy to keep the mask in place.

That's all I have Michelle. I hope it helps put you on the right direction. I welcome any additional comments below. Thanks for writing in!

Wordle: signature


Michelle said...


Thank you so much for your help. I think the part that was most eye opening for me is your insight into adults moving back home. I had not considered the psychological impact that would have.

Do you think your assessment would be much different on that note, if Rod and Shannon move back home -- but to another house owned by her moom, where they will be working for her managing cattle and cotton?

I do think there will be an impact in that they are now working for and financially dependent on her family, but perhaps not to the point of losing personal independence (making bed, etc.) because they will be in a separate house. Unless, of course, mom comes up to rearrange the kitchen and do the laundry...

Hmmmm....lots to think about. Thank you so much!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

Michelle - so glad this was helpful! I think things would definitely be less glum if they move into a mother-in-law house or some other place separate from her parents' actual household. It'll still be a hard pill for someone like Rod to swallow...but not near as bad. That might be a good literary compromise....not to put him in such a dark place, you know?

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.