LSI 1 Series: Oppositional

Lorraine McCarthy, Counsellor/Coach, Human Synergistics Australia

Oppositional Style is best summarised by two of the items, ‘usually against things’ and ‘opposes new ideas’.

I am familiar with this style as it was strong in my mother’s thinking and behaviour. With such a role model I learned how to do it and need to notice it in myself and stop it from time to time. She had a habit of shouting at the TV if there was something on she did not agree with and quite often got up and left the room in disgust. It seemed to have become a habit with her. Occasionally her oppositional rants could be quite entertaining but over time it had the effect of sucking the joy out of life. She often seemed flat and unmotivated. If it was me and my ideas she was opposing I felt powerless and sad. Not good.

If we describe ourselves as ‘complaining, ‘unfeeling’, ‘cynical’ and ‘suspicious’ we are metaphorically asking ourselves to be this way in order to add value. What a very sad way to be. ‘Cynical’ leaves no room for love and trust. It shuts down the spirit of the universe, killing possibilities before they have emerged. ‘Resentful’ is an interesting item in this style. It is saying in effect ‘What about me?’ If we give ourselves a 2 or 1 for this item it is a very pertinent question to ask ourselves. It suggests that at some level we are turning our back on ourselves.

It is helpful to look at other Styles in the Circumplex in which we have extensions for clues as to how we do this. If it is Approval Style, we are likely to prioritise meeting the needs of others instead of our own. In Conventional Style, we might be stifling our innate creativity by asking ourselves to obey the rules. In Power and Competitive Styles we may be putting pressure on ourselves by demanding that we be in control or be seen and noticed. Resentment is an understandable response to either neglect or pressure, or both.

Perfectionistic Style can have links to Oppositional as we set such high standards for ourselves and others, that nothing and no one can meet them. We are ‘hard to impress’.

Some suggest as a justification for being Oppositional that we need a devil’s advocate, but if this role has value at all it fits more constructively into Achievement Style, in understanding the idea of cause and effect and what might or might not be effective at a rational level to achieve a goal. At a thinking level it is nothing but ‘negative’. Interesting that while some may attribute certain white knight qualities to the devil’s advocate role, many of the items suggest a covert somewhat manipulative approach to opposing: ‘critical of others behind their backs’, ‘doesn’t talk about things directly’, ‘never opposes authority directly’ mask a strong internal negative state of mind.

Oppositional Style sits at the bottom of the Circumplex. It is next to Avoidance and is in effect avoiding by attacking. It is motivated by high security needs. The two items at the top most highly correlated to low effectiveness are ‘doesn’t accept criticism well’ and ‘blames others for own mistakes’. This suggests a strong fear of being not good enough. Although it sits on the task side of the Circumplex the items ‘distrusts others’ and ‘slow to forgive a wrong’ shows its relationship to people too.

If we describe ourselves as Oppositional we are asking ourselves to oppose in order to be worthwhile. The glass is half empty. How miserable. Why would we do this to ourselves? It ignores all that is innately wonderful in ourselves and others. There is so much more peace and joy to be had in focussing on what’s good and what’s possible.


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