Issue 3 Febuary 2003


Hal & Sidra Stone

As we grow up, we gradually learn to identify with a set of rules and certain ways of thinking and behaving that increasingly define who we are in the world. These determine both how we see ourselves and how other people see us.

We have discovered that these primary ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving – which are related to the rules that govern our life – are a function of a group of selves. We have named these the “primary selves.” This simply means that they are the selves within us that are dominant – they are the ones that determine how others (and we, too) experience who we are.

The really strange thing about all this is that most of us don’t know that we are identified with these primary selves. They feel like just who we are. These primary selves are very important to us because they are what give us the strength and focus to be successful in the world in particular ways. A Pusher for example helps us to get things done. A Perfectionist makes sure that we do them right. A Responsible Self helps us to behave responsibly in the world. A Power Self keeps us in charge.

On the other side of the coin, if selves that are more relationship-oriented are primaries then we have the equipment to be in relationship in an enjoyable way but we may lack power in the world. A Pleaser helps us to sense what people need and want and it knows how to make relationships pleasant. It protects us from people’s displeasure by not letting us react too strongly to them. But a Pleaser cannot take power directly; others always come first.

If the Vulnerable Child is a primary self then there is a danger that we might become victims in the world because although vulnerability gives us sensitivity and the ability to connect deeply with others, it doesn’t give us power.

Where things really get interesting is that when we grow up with a primary way of being in the world, that self – or group of selves – colors the way we see the world. It determines what we like and don’t like; what we judge and don’t judge. For example, let us say that you are a man who has grown up with a very strong Pusher energy that drives you mercilessly towards success and achievement. You meet a woman who is very much the opposite of you. You like her and feel attracted to her but – at the same time – you feel heavy judgments towards her because she is so laid back, so lacking in ambition. Instead, she is interested more in her creative process.

As a man you have quite a dilemma now until you realize that your judgments, that all judgments, come from your primary self-system. If we talk to your Pusher and your Achiever we discover that it is they that have the judgments. When you are able to separate from these selves and have the ability to use them in a conscious way, then your judgments begin to disappear.

If you are identified with responsibility and you meet someone who is irresponsible, one of three things can happen. You may be irresistibly and mysteriously drawn towards this person; you may be filled with judgments, even hatred, towards this person; or you may feel both the attraction and the judgment simultaneously. You might even marry this person because of the attraction and then spend your life alternating between judgment and attraction/ love.

The basic teaching in all this is very simple. Whenever you feel a judgment towards another person, pay attention to the particular trait or traits that you are judging. If you feel that someone is untrustworthy and every time you think of him or her you get angry, ask yourself what the actual personality qualities are that push your buttons. You might find that your friend is selfish and self-serving and always puts himself first. It these are the traits that you resent then you have a remarkable gift coming because you are being given the opportunity of learning about selves that you have that are unconscious or disowned. What a gift this can be to you!.

Remember too that judgment and discernment are not the same thing. You may make a discernment about someone without having a judgment. Judgments are always more visceral. You feel them in your body whereas discernments tend to be more objective.

Most people like to think that they are discerning rather than judgmental because judgments seem to be a bad thing to have. This prejudice against judgments is there because most of us haven’t learned yet how to use them creatively, how to make friends with them, and how to learn from them about our many disowned selves.

So, pay attention to your judgments and use them constructively. Welcome to the world of creative judgment. Enjoy!