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Talking about -isms, so you can more easily work with -ists

Saturday March 12, 2022

One of the coolest ways of dealing with issues involving -ists is shifting to a lens of -isms.

If you can understand how an -ism can happen to anyone, you can better confront the question of -ists. Even in yourself.

As an example, a typical person would probably rather admit to being “caught engaging in narcissism” than “being a narcissist.” This separation of problem from identity is really crucial in supporting the way people want to see themselves, while also allowing a persistent approach to solutions.

It’s like the difference between saying, “I do that thing sometimes” and “I am that thing”. It is extremely hard to get yourself to move out of the “I am that thing” box, to say nothing of trying to convince others! So fixating around the identity by using an -ist term can threaten our ability to work on an issue.

Once problems can be deepened by engagement with aspects of identity, as opposed to taking on the “whole” identity as if it’s a problem, it becomes clear that more conditions or models may apply than previously anticipated.

For example, in the world of personality type theory, we could say:

  • I was confronted by my narcissism when I was caught in the grip of my fourth cognitive function.
  • When I am around types that focus on specific cognitive functions, various -isms are activated that weren’t really on my radar before.
  • Focusing on my own temperamental motivation and perspective shields me from -isms that lurk in my shadow. This shows me I have some things to learn about how others deal with issues which are frustrating to me.

As these new models emerge, the problem can be engaged with more easily without ignoring additional issues around projection (it’s not me, it’s them!), embarrassing vulnerability freakouts, and a fault-sharing, blame-spreading mindset.

Since the -ism usually breaks through this subjective Me / Not Me barrier more easily, and since that barrier is also a breadth-to-depth barrier, we can take a huge variety of issues and give them, individually, the needed treatment by narrowing the scope and focusing on workable avenues for problem solving.

(Some people also use the phrase “-istic behavior” which can help, but “behavior” is also a very detached term which can lead to feelings of defensiveness and activate a backlash effect. The “focus on -ism” approach allows quicker attachment while also allowing that the problem may be limited in scope.)

This topic also highlights the way identity is a very potent tool, and especially, positively so if we can be flexible with it. There is an “OK, I’m lots of things, AND I’m going to use that to help me solve problems” aspect which is extremely underrated in overcoming life’s challenges.

Filed in: Therapeutic Practice /142/ | Control /109/ | Relationships /77/ | People /70/

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