What's Your Move?

You ever feel like just staying home, when you usually go out? Are you a homebody that gets occasionally energized to go be around people? Do you ever find yourself with people, discontent at the way things are, and head off to talk to a manager, owner, or higher-up about a necessary change?

If you have ever felt these shifts, notice if you are resistant when they happen. Try to recall what happened in your environment when you gave voice to these feelings. Were your desires rejected, accepted, celebrated? Remember how you spoke to yourself in those moments. 

Dr. Karen Horney says that we cope with our stresses and try to get our needs met in three very specific ways. She discovered three groups to describe each coping strategy. I wrote earlier about the Intelligence Centers and how we tend to rely on and even overuse one. The same imbalance exists here. We humans tend to get in a rut, taking the same stance and wearing out the mental, emotional and physical muscle it takes to stay there. 

Dr. Horney’s groups are:

Assertive (also called aggressive) people move ahead of or against people. These folks are concerned about meeting their desires through change. They want to see some kind of new action taken (Type 8), experience a new stimulation (Type 7), or accomplish something that’s important to them (Type 3). Pushing forward, their vision for what benefit lies in the future compels their aggressive pursuit. 

Compliant people are usually the ones who are moving with people. Now, don’t get confused, they aren’t necessarily compliant to groups or other people. These folks have a strong superego, or inner-critic that demands they move with the group in a certain way. My teacher (and undercover comedian) Clare Loughride, forbade us to use the word “should.” She said we set ourselves up to feel bad with that word. “Stop shoulding on yourself,” she told us. “And while you’re at it, stop shoulding on other people, too.” 

Compliants think they should take a certain position with people: The world should be a better place (Type 1), we should help each other more (Type 2), I should consider each and every perspective and belief instead of owning my own (Type 6).

Withdrawn people typically move away from people. Drawing inward, these types of people keep to themselves, content to be alone in their world of facts and thoughts (Type 5), emotional complexity (Type 4) or distracting themselves with creature comforts or busywork (Type 9). They are fine to be alone; however, this social stance can reveal some mental, emotional or physical discomfort that they aren’t dealing with in a healthy way. 

There is a way to bring harmony to how we move throughout the world. Knowing your stance is good; sensing into the stance you need at the time is key to the kind of rest, growth and change we need. 

Horney’s Groups line up horizontally like this:

Looking at them again, this time vertically, you can see that each group has a head, heart and gut type, aligning them in the Harmony Triads:

Hornevian Groups

Assertives:    3    7    8

Compliants:   6    1    2

Withdrawns:  9    4 5

Harmony Triads

Head Types:  5   6   7

Heart Types: 2    3   4

Gut Types:    8    9   1

See how the types are in the same vertical group?

What does this mean? It means that every type of person had access to their head, heart and gut through their Harmony Triad. When we sense into what our heads, heart and gut are telling us; we have information about how we should move in the world.

This movement could look different. Instead of a Four staying withdrawn, for instance, she may sense with her gut that her energy is needed, and she shows up in the group with a contribution. A One may understand that he is tired of improving the world and needs a break to process his emotions, so he may withdraw. An Eight may realize that her tendency to confront is not necessary and may enjoy vulnerability and tenderness with people. 

Those around us who want or expect us to do certain things because we always do may be encouraging a dangerous pattern. We can tune into what we need instead of using external expectations to push us because we’re out of touch with ourselves. Instead of just doing what is expected, we can lovingly communicate our needs and unapologetically meet them with balance and compassion for ourselves. Relief is on the way! You now have a tool for understanding what’s going on when you want to turn in and everyone around you is pressuring you to “Turn up.”

Knowing ourselves sets us up to take the rest, action, or make the connections we need at the time. With suicide rates, overdoses and crimes of passion at an alarming high, we do ourselves and others a life-saving service by understanding our needs and prioritizing them. 


1. Take inventory of your head, heart and gut.

2. What do you think?

3. How do you feel?

4. What do you sense is best to do?

5. What’s your move today?

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