The four categories of Tilt character strengths and traits are personality patterns associated with Four Human Needs:

Human Need # 1: Safety & Significance


The Wisdom Quadrant contains traits that are associated with learning that improves the social status we need to keep ourselves safe and to excel in the world through intellectual means. One might refer to this group of traits as the human pattern of conscientiousness for the purpose of safety & harm avoidance(Cloninger). As we grow our minds in more expansive ways, our potential for contribution grows. It is through learning what serves our best interest that we create stability for ourselves and those around us. As we seek and increase knowledge, this is one way to increase our standing in the social order of things and this requires mind discipline, hard work and diligence. As our knowledge expands, our perspective expands and we are better able to filter out the noise and focus on what interests us most. When we focus on learning, we increase our ability to problem solve and troubleshoot, thus improving our successful analysis of what comes into our field of perception. We can focus on what matters most to us and accomplish expertise and specialization.

Conversely, when we feel that we are inferior to others intellectually or in terms of social status, we may have an over-compensated need for safety and significance that plays out in negative ways with others. For example, we may try to increase our credentials beyond reason in order to feel "better than" others when, in effect, we never feel as though we are "enough" so the goal is always just beyond our reach. We want to have the right degree (or several), the biggest house, the highest income, the biggest office or anything that indicates intellectual prowess and status above others.

When we become conscious of this never-ending tactic of trying to fill the hole of "not enough", only then can we have the power to grasp that we can stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to appreciate our own mind and efforts for their own sake. Deciding "I am enough for me" has the effect of healing my inner opinion of myself and integrates the traits that may be over-compensating in this category. (over-used worry, avoidance of emotion, hard driving discipline, etc.)

Human Need # 2: Power & Autonomy


The Courage Quadrant contains traits that are associated with action that advances our individual autonomy and power in the world so that we survive an unfriendly environment. One might refer to this group of traits as the human pattern of persistence in the service of moral justice (Cloninger). As we grow our physical prowess in relation to others, our potential to survive and thrive in a dangerous and unknown environment increases. It is through honing instinctual character strength to sense and combat threats outside us that we overcome our human vulnerability and come out on top of those who are weaker. This quadrant is about developing instinctual and primal ability to win competitions and battles that are a threat to our survival. One might say this is the most primitive of our capacities, but it is also the most developed capacity that serves as a bias toward what helps us sustain ourselves. With a developed set of courage character strengths, we can face the unknowns and uncertainties of life with confidence, boldness and integrity. One might say this category epitomizes Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest.

Conversely, when we feel less powerful and ineffectual than others by a perception that we are unable to exercise our autonomy, we may develop an over-compensated need for power and authority over others that play out in negative ways. For example, we may try to become dominating in various ways in order to feel powerful, when underneath, we are truly fearful of being taken advantage of by others. In effect, we feel powerlessness and this plays out in a way that comes across as bullying, judging or rebelling against others. When this happens, we may win the battle but others are put off by our pattern of dominance. Beating others is never the answer to solving this inner dilemma that is insatiable and will not fill the hole inside us that wants to control our own destiny.

When we become conscious of the need to dominate and then lose respect for those we are able to dominate, only then can we grasp the true power that lies within us. Like the Red Belt in Karate, we have the skills to compete and kill, but we don't have the power over ourselves to use that power wisely as only the Black Belt has learned. True power comes from harnessing the power within and restraining oneself from using power for the sake of domination. Deciding "I have control over myself" is the beginning of a true sense of autonomy and increases our sense of confidence to face the uncertainties with a quiet power that lives within.

Human Need # 3: Acceptance & Belonging


The Humanity Quadrant contains the traits that are associated with acceptance and belonging with other important people in our lives, in psychological terms referred to as reward dependence. This human need ensures that we survive by providing a community of support in an often unfriendly world where crisis and suffering exist. It is much easier to thrive when we feel supported and loved by others. One might refer to this group of traits as the human pattern of approval seeking in service of feeling valued or essential to the group. As we grow our compassion, empathy, likability and trustworthiness, we improve our chances of being supported when life's inevitable challenges unfold. This quadrant is about developing mutually supportive relationships that serve mutual purposes and provide for the collective power of the whole community (sum of the parts being greater than the one). One might say that this is yin to yang, gather to hunt and so on. Thus it is the balancing component to the courage quadrant traits. With a fully developed social community we are supported to build greater things than we could build alone. Through collaborative effort, we feel like we belong to a group and completely integrate our identify in connection within that group identify. We learn that we need one another in order to better the potential for all.

Conversely, when we feel less accepted and valued than others and therefore feel needy and operate from a fear of abandonment by the group, we may develop an over-compensated need for approval and dependence on others. This translates into flattery, martyring, self-deprecation and indulgence in order to get love and acceptance in return. The less we feel valued, the more we may try to get approval from outside of ourselves and make too much effort to be liked. This results in a fundamental abandonment of self where you begin to ignore your own needs and desires and give up your own autonomy and power to others. Getting approval from others is never the answer to value of oneself, so the loss it creates is repeated over and over.

When we become conscious of the self-sacrifice we are making and begin to form value inside ourselves for ourselves, only then do we begin to truly become accepted by others. By honoring oneself and holding strong on your convictions, you may lose a few friends, but you will gain respect from the group. The first step is tuning into your own desires and wants, so that you claim the right to have wants and express them. No one can be in integrity if they are trying to get everyone to like them. If you think everyone must like you, you are bound to end up on a roller coaster of disappointment. Those who stand for their own convictions are truly the ones we actually like the most, because they represent what is best in all of us when we are in alignment with our true nature.

Human Need # 4: Freedom and Novelty


The Resilience Quadrant contains the traits that are associated with freedom and novelty (novelty seeking), our human need for individuality and uniqueness. Everyone wants to feel special and this specialness is important to the differentiation of our identity. We want to be alike~but we really want to be different! This human need is most represented by creative expression of who we are and includes all of the quirks and imperfections of what it is to be human. This quadrant makes use of human creativity and imagination, so that all of us have our own way and our own voice in the world. Our unique genius that we contribute to the greater community. As we grow our individuality we develop the ideas that can come only from the unique combination of genetics and life experiences that combine to make us ourself. This quadrant is connected to finding the interests and ideas that excite us and to develop them into a vision or future state that only WE can imagine. And then bringing that vision to others. The human pattern of novelty seeking is an expression of the creative genius that lies within each of us. It may be more pronounced in some than others, but we all have the capacity to bring our own perspective to the world through our own ideas and actions. The human spirit imagines...and then it brings forth a new reality!

Conversely, when we do not feel special or unique and feel good about that individuality, we may operate from fear and feel trapped by obliging the demands of others on us. If we don't feel free, then we may over-compensate for that lack of freedom by escapist behaviors. We may retreat from reality with superficial humor, with lofty fantasy, with substances that distract us from reality...anything to escape the pain of not feeling we are special and important to others. As we feel more and more stress it can unfold into anxiety and lack of responsibility, turning us into a wanderer who has no home or no community. We may exaggerate our own importance by professing it to others and becoming self-promoting in order to make up the void that is felt within. We may become eccentric and extreme in order to call attention to ourselves in a visible way. All of the antics all pointing to a soul that feels lost when alone.

But, when we become conscious of the fact that we are indeed just as special as anyone else and we stop comparing ourselves to others, we learn to value own own voice, our own contribution to the greater good and begin to come into congruence with our authentic nature. We allow ourselves to become close to others instead of pushing to single ourselves out to be different just for the sake of being different. We realize that everyone is indeed unique, not just us. We have have a role in the world, and no one is right. We are all important parts of the whole. When we find our own strong voice and express it wholeheartedly in the world, our uniqueness is not about defiance or persuasion, but instead, is about contributing to the greater good of all.

The Stress Flip Phenomenon


Human needs are there for a reason. They help us to survive and thrive in an often unfriendly and dangerous world. We are designed this way for a reason and we work out our purpose through taking a journey from Seeker, to Hero, to Healer to Sage. We must all be our own hero as we embark on the path of development to actualize our full potential. All of us get sick, we get tired, we get old. Some days we are simply not at our best. And when we are not, we may revert to old patterns. Or when we are particularly stressed, we may experience what is called a stress flip, from one extreme overcompensation to the other. For example, if I over-use traits in Humanity in order to get approval for too long, I may eventually begin to feel like a doormat to others (when actually my own choice and behavior is inviting them to take advantage). If this goes on too long, I may eventually have a stress flip and get angry, taking me to the extreme of the other quadrant where we exhibit the over-used traits of the opposite quadrant. (See Whole-Person Model). The key it to learn to be more self-aware and catch ourselves quicker when this occurs, and choose to get back into balance with our true self and reality. Then we can stay in "the zone" for longer periods of time and contribute more creatively to the world.


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Authored by Pam BoneyQuestions for the Author? Ask them Here.