Some Surprising Roots of your Traitors

Years ago, when studying family therapy, I was struck with a passage in Carl Whitaker's book The Family Crucible in which he encourages the parents of grown children to verbally give the son 'permission' to be happier than they, the parents, were. The concept Whitaker was working with has to do with our unconscious mind.[1]

We make decisions as little children such as, “I can see that my father gets upset when I beat him in chess. I won't play with him anymore since I don't want him to feel bad.” That decision morphs into, “I'm not interested in chess anyway.” Soon, the child is no longer playing chess with anyone. He or she has successfully put the Chess Player character in the closet and locked the door. The child doesn't stop with chess. Inside, he or she knows that the father feels competitive and so, unconsciously, starts behaving in ways that produce less than straight A's.

This pulling in, making yourself less for the sake of a parent, can manifest in academics, sports, the arts, or any discipline, including how you dress or take care of your physical body. The basis that is unconscious is, “I don't want to hurt my dad or mom.” However, it shows up in self-sabotaging behaviors such as losing homework, not following through with promises, being late, forgetting, procrastinating, and many more. We are so creative when our unconscious doesn't want us to do something.

You can see that this is ripe for the emergence of a traitor character. In our family of origin, because our survival is based on our parents, it is an angel character who cautions us to make sure that our parents feel positive emotions towards us. When we see them regarding us negatively, it is part of the survival system to want to shift that, even at our own expense. This angel character that emerges ensures that we will not be better than our mother or our father. Let's call this angel character 'The Smallifier.'

Leave the family of origin, and that character, The Smallifier, keeps functioning even though your parents aren't around. But, if they are alive, your unconscious is still protecting you from hurting them. Sadly, even after parents have passed away, the unconscious contract that you made with your mom or dad to not surpass them binds you and holds you back from your potential.

Until you face this character, The Smallifier, and engage with it to find out what it thinks it is protecting you from, you are at its mercy. This is true for all traitor characters. Until we bring them into the light, get to know them, get to find out what their real purpose is, we are slaves to them. The good news is that this can change and we can not only get to know these characters, we can make them our friends and use what is best about each of them.

The practice this week focuses on Recognizing The Smallifier.

If you are interested in books or movies that address this topic, please take a look through our resources section.

[1]: Whitaker, C. (1978). *The Family Crucible. New York: Harper & Row.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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