Navigating Challenges: A Path to Understanding Ourselves and Others by Matteah Spencer Reppart

Hello!  I’m Matteah Spencer Reppart, Founder and Principle of Proponents LLC. I live and serve at the intersection of the multitude of our humanity and the complexity of our systems. I love supporting people towards systems transformation.

In our evaluation practice, we will inevitably encounter uncomfortable situations and difficult interactions. How we navigate our discomfort and manage the psychological, emotional, and physical stress that comes with it requires skill and awareness that we all can build and gain. 

Due to some personal relationship dynamics (are you with me, parents of pre-teens?!), I recently took a deep dive revisiting The 5 Personality Patterns. The Personality Patterns, as described by Steven Kessler, are our deeply practiced survival strategies. As children, we develop and practice these strategies to help us get through difficult situations. But as adults, we typically operate in these strategies on autopilot, trapped by our default reactions and behaviors, and struggling to rise above the challenging situations we face. Kessler invites us back into presence and conscious choice.

Understanding these Patterns can be useful in helping us understand how we tend to navigate difficult situations – especially new or stressful experiences.  But they are also extremely useful in helping us understand and navigate the behaviors and reactions of others.  (Anyone have challenging dynamics with co-workers?) One way I’ve come to understand the 5 Patterns is to consider that those who practice each pattern are preoccupied with a primary question:

  • Is there safety or danger here? (Leaving)
  • Is there (heart) connection here? Who has needs and how will they be met? (Merging)
  • Is there space/autonomy for me here? (Enduring)
  • How can I win/wield my power here? Who has power here? (Aggressive)
  • What are the rules? (Rigid)

Another way to recognize the Patterns is to understand that under stress, individuals may experience different urges: 

  • To leave, check out, or go up to the intellectual/mind/spirit space (Leaving)
  • To reach for others or take care of others (Merging)
  • To shrink, avoid, “plant” or become immovable (Enduring)
  • To take over, dominate, or push (Aggressive)
  • To control, order, correct or get busy (Rigid)

In the evaluation realm of our dominant western culture, we typically engage with information through our minds, intellectually and cognitively. However, our hearts and our bodies (gut) are also core intelligence centers that can inform our knowledge and understanding. Referencing this type of intelligence takes practice. These Personality Patterns offer us an opportunity to be receptive to energetic and physical cues/information as we consider our intuitive felt sense, the focus of our attention, the tension we hold in our bodies, and our patterned responses and behaviors.

Rad Resources

Check out Steven Kessler’s book, The 5 Personality Patterns. (It’s currently on sale direct from the author’s website!)

Hot Tips

In his book, Steven Kessler recommends a variety of techniques to calm your body as a way to help you step out of Pattern.  This can be anything from focused breathing exercises, gentle movement or yoga, listening to music, shifting our gaze or attention to nature, or drinking a warm cup of tea. To support your practice, check out Libby Smith’s Breathwork sessions.   

I have recently found EFT (known as Emotional Freedom Technique or “tapping”) to be an extremely effective, quick, and easy way to help me move through a stressful moment. Here is a little video that I recently found that guides the listener through a 3-minute EFT Tapping Technique.


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