“The Answer” and Character Types

I recently learned a new concept in a training about S.A.F.E which stands for Somatic and Attachment focused EMDR which is a therapy that focuses on how our early experiences with caregivers (attachment) and ways these were stored in our memory and body physiology (somatic) impacts our current functioning, moods, and symptoms in the present.  The concept I learned about is called “The Answer” and along with learning what that is, I learned about the ways this answer can show up in different character type patterns that often can lead to feeling stuck. 

“The Answer” is the way in which we have learned to stay safe and/or connected within our family of origin during childhood that has since become a patterned and automatic response throughout our life in our way of relating to others and ourself.  “The Answer” was once adaptive meaning it helped us out, yet it is now often our presenting issue or what is keeping us feeling stuck in life.  It is often what is standing in the way of us getting what we want most in life and/or being our authentic self.  But since “the answer” is also what helped us to stay safe and/or connected, it’s also a strength of ours which means working with it can be complicated.  We first need to learn to respect the reason it shows up in the first place before we can invite in new experiences and opportunities to help shift and transform our strategies leading to more authentic connection to ourselves and others.  

Most people have multiple “answers” or character types that are expressed with overdeveloped competencies and areas of need that are underdeveloped.  The goal in healing is to help create a balance between the overdeveloped and underdeveloped aspects of “the answer” while increasing choices so your authentic self can be present in life today which leads to emotional and mental wellbeing.  

Our “answer” can often feel like the water we swim in so becoming aware of it can be challenging.  Yet doing so can help us in healing by learning more about the aspects of ourselves that became overdeveloped during our childhood and likely contribute to the problems we experience today.  It also can help point us to the areas that were underdeveloped that can now be cultivated in adulthood to help lead us towards balance, healing, and transformation.   

Below is a descriptive list of the different Character Types:

  • The Invisible One: This character type is developed due to it not being safe at home to be seen or heard and therefore it was an important requirement to become small and disappear.  This type can be sensitive to external signals which was helpful to indicate when hiding was needed.  This type can struggle with dissociation and their body may tend to be small or pulled in in some way such as hunched over shoulders or frequent sensations of wanting to curl into a ball.  They often hold the belief that they are in constant danger.  This type is underdeveloped in being able to feel safe in their bodies, ground, and staying in the present moment, especially when it comes to staying present with their feelings.  They often long to be seen and heard as well as know that they are welcome and it is safe to be here now.  This type can benefit from learning how to ground, become more oriented to present safety, and how to feel safe in their bodies.
  • The Emotional/Sensitive One: This character type is developed due to it not being safe to feel safe growing up.  Often these types grew up in environments that were chaotic and unpredictable so staying hypervigilant and on the lookout was essential.  This type can also be overdeveloped in being sensitive to external signals such as knowing and sensing the feelings of others and often will merge with others to try to stay safe and connected.  This type learned to self-soothe through soothing others so can feel deep distress when not with other people due to difficulty with self-regulation/soothing.  This type tends to feel a lot of emotion that tends to keep them stuck and swirling.  These types are underdeveloped in ability to identify a separate sense of self, boundary set within relationships, and self-soothe.  This type would benefit from learning that it is ok to feel safe when they are safe.
  • The Nice/Non-threatening One: This character type is developed in environments where emotional needs were unmet along with others being overpowering and/or controlling.  They learned that staying safe and connect meant it is not ok for them to develop their own sense of personal power or autonomy.  To navigate this, they often picked up the strategy of people pleasing and being overly nice to others.  This type tends to look outside of themselves for power and direction.  This type tends to often feel helpless, powerless, and/or a victim to their life circumstances.  The body of this type can often look limp or deflated.  This type is underdeveloped in being connected with their own sense of power and choice and would benefit from learning that they are capable.
  • The Independent One: This character type was also developed in environments related to emotional neglect yet was either encouraged to be independent or was left alone on their own to figure out how to meet their needs.  This type is often highly competent and able to take control of situations yet often struggles with deep loneliness.  The ability to ask for help and trust others are available for help is underdeveloped for this type so they tend to not seek it or think it is a possibility.  This type’s body tends to be square and firm.  This type would benefit from having experiences where support and help are available to them so they can start to feel connection is possible for them.
  • The Rock: This type is often created in environments with extreme pressure and control with little consideration for their personal thoughts or opinions.  This type tends to endure ongoing suffering and/or negative experiences due to feeling like they and/or their needs do not matter.  This type gets good at doing what others want them to do or what others tell them they “should” be doing.  This type can at times become stuck in procrastination as it was often the only way this type could hold onto some part of their own personal will power while submitting to the pressure and control of others around them.  This type often does not know what they like or want but often knows a lot about what they do not like or want.  This type can benefit from learning what they like, want, and need as well as asking for it and taking action towards it.  This type would benefit from learning that what they want matters and they have personal power towards taking action on it.
  • The Chameleon: This type is often created in environments where there were a lot of changing demands such as living in multiple home due to divorce or moving from foster home to foster home.  This type is good at sensing what other people want from them and changing to give it to them.  These types can be very adaptable and often “go with the flow.”  At times this type can be manipulative by doing or saying what others want in order to get what they want from them.  It is difficult for this type to be honest with others and themselves, to know who they are, and to be straight forward.  This type’s body tends to have difficulty with being in direct, face to face interactions with others.  This type would benefit from learning how to express and advocate for themselves as well as internalize that they matter and it is ok to be themselves.
  • The Hero: This type often has an overdeveloped “fight” response and learned to be powerful and self-protective.  This is often due to environments where they did not feel safe and/or protected by the adults in their lives.  This type tends to set very firm boundaries with others and often struggles with being vulnerable both with others and themselves.  The body of this type tends to be more puffed out.  This type tends to long to connect with others and would benefit from learning that it is safe to do so.
  • The Doer: This type often carries around the sense that they need to be perfect and mistakes are not ok.  This type is often very busy and engaged in some type of work.  This type has a very difficult time with just being and believes that they are what they do and they themselves are not enough.  This types body language is usually leaning slightly forward, ready to take action.  This type is underdeveloped in the ability to play, relax, and engage in self-care.  This type would benefit from learning that they are enough and it is ok to play and relax.
  • The Life of the Party: This type learned that in order to be seen, they need to be big and draw attention to themselves.  This type usually is loud and bright and use humor as a way to deflect and deny pain.  They tend to want all the attention on them.  They can be fun and energetic with high energy yet can struggle with resting, grounding, and being authentic.  These types tend to have a lot of movement in their upper bodies.  This type often believes deep down that they do not matter.  This type would benefit from learning to internalize that they matter and they do not need to work so hard to be noticed by others. 

Often our authentic self is right below these character types, just waiting for us to reconnect with it. 

This information was gathered from the online training and training manual of S.A.F.E. Approach to EMDR Therapy created by founder and author Deborah Kennard, MS of Personal Transformation Institute. 


Blog by Malinda King, MA LPCC
Photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels