On Arrogance




Arrogance was my primary chief feature until my mid-life monad. I had been working hard on it, and finally broke the back of it when, every time I felt critical of someone else, I began to look for and find something similar in myself, e.g., "I remember when I did something like that." How could I judge someone else for something I've also done or might have done? Doing this brought great release and relief. Impatience, which had been lurking in the background, came forward as my new chief feature, and arrogance became my secondary and started dissipating. However, when I get steamed up at someone else's arrogance, I know that I still have work to do on it.

Those who are in exalted arrogance, as Yarbro puts it, also have exalted fear, since, by definition, chief features are caused by fear. Arrogance is defined as a fear of vulnerability, and of being judged and found wanting. Those in heavy arrogance have usually gone through some brutal things as children (or in past lives) to have erected such walls around themselves. Typically, those of us dealing with arrogance had parents, peers, or other major figures who were stingy with praise and approval, and "generous "with criticism, giving us the feeling that we "can't do anything right." The feeling is, "I can't stand any more of this. If I hear one more thing I did wrong, I'll die." The fear of death is a factor in all chief features. Arrogance is especially common among persecuted minorities, particularly those who were made fun of a lot as children.

In stereotypical arrogance, the person protects himself, he thinks, by taking the offensive ("I'll put them down before they have a chance to get me first--the best defense is a good offense"), although that usually backfires because it attracts retaliation. This is a classic example of internalization, similar to the way an abused child may become an abusing parent--he tries to empower himself by becoming that which victimized him.

Much of our learning on the physical plane is characterized by playing opposite roles in this way until we wake up to the balance point, in this case neither victim nor victimizer, integrating the truths of both extremes and leaving behind their distortions and excesses. In healing arrogance, we find the ability to give and receive constructive criticism in a neutral and balanced way, without causing or taking harm.

More subtle manifestations of arrogance include shyness ("I'll stay away from the spotlight so that others won't see my flaws.") and being excessively self-critical ("If I catch all my flaws before they come out, no one will be able to judge me. I must be perfect!") The latter results in awkward self-consciousness, which can lead to more screw-ups for which to judge oneself. Sometimes all three of those approaches coexist, and self-criticism is always at least operating in the background. So someone in exalted arrogance is hectoring himself at least as much as he is hectoring you, although he may not be conscious of it.

We each have a subpersonality that could be called the critic. It's an essential part of self. If we didn't have it, we couldn't take stock of ourselves and make improvements. For example, if you're a performer, and received no accurate feedback on your performance, you probably wouldn't be able to polish it much. However, in arrogance, the critic is overdeveloped and tends to go nonstop, exhausting the rest of self's ability to integrate the feedback. The arrogant hyped-up critic chronically jumps to conclusions and its feedback is often inaccurate and unfair. A well-balanced critic has a sense of proportion and knows when to back off. It doesn't drown out the subpersonalities responsible for compassion and respect, for example.

The core trait of arrogance is being judgmental, which is different from objective discernment because it distorts what is viewed by making it wrong or "other." Discernment is neutral and uncharged--it tries to take all the factors into account in a balanced way. A nonjudgmental person may view something that is obviously wrong, in the sense of causing harm to others, with dismay or sadness, but without condescension. There may be compassion for the ignorance and pain of the perpetrator as well as for the suffering of the victim, and an awareness that everything we see "out there" is also "in here." There is a Hitler in everyone, as well as a Mother Teresa, in varying degrees, of course. There is no "other," only "us"; we're all in this together.

Other traits of arrogance include the "I'm right, you're wrong" approach to communication, and highly charged negative words. "You" statements in general can also suggest arrogance, such as presuming to tell someone else what his problem is. Arrogance in discourse slams shut the door to communication. What's left to say after someone has proclaimed the final word on a subject?

Chief features have stealthy disguises. Stubbornness can masquerade as persistence. Self-deprecation can seem charmingly humble. Arrogance can portray itself as "just being honest," often as the lone voice speaking the hard truth that no one else wants to hear; it views itself as special and uniquely equipped to see it, in compensation for all the criticism it received that made it feel demeaned. Arrogance is divisive and isolating ("It's lonely at the top."), which is especially rough on sages, the most social of the roles. Arrogance cannot conceive of honest, spirited debate without disrespect and even contempt.

The event that started me on my path of healing my arrogance was a painful one. I was 18, a member of a spiritual group whose local leader was a famously heavy-handed, blunt, but highly perceptive warrior. He had accurately and unkindly taken me to task for something I'd done. Licking my wounds, I went to his superior, complaining about his treatment of me. I took my defenses so much for granted that I didn't think to question them, didn't think to examine if he'd been right--I only knew that he'd been hurtful. She gently responded, "Gee, I don't know...I haven't known him to be wrong about such things very often."

Because I trusted her, her words penetrated my defenses and burned like a laser, unleashing shame at my lack of perfection and fear that no one would love me if this were discovered. It also unleashed in me a desire to honestly look at my "stuff" and become a better person. I began to emphasize the self-critical form of arrogance, and to seek out criticism from the local leader and others. I made myself rigorously examine any other criticism that I received. Every night before I went to bed, I spent time reviewing the day and exploring my behaviors and motives. I was too much in my head about this, and would have benefited from working with a therapist who could have brought a fresh perspective--we can't see our own blind spots--but it was a good discipline.

Chief features are, by definition, blind spots. If we've been working on "photographing" ours, we've at least gained some insight into its manifestations, but those are often just the tip of the iceberg. The vast body of the chief feature may lie beneath the surface and be mysterious. It can take years or even a lifetime of work to fully penetrate it. As I work now on impatience, I can see it's influence, but it's still an utter mystery to me how I manage to run five minutes late for almost everything no matter what I do--it must be magic! I must be a powerful creator to be able to do that so consistently. :) (Michael told me that my inner clock is slow, and that I could imagine speeding it up. I haven't pulled that off yet.) Those five or so minutes are just enough to stress me out, which the chief feature thrives on. I'm currently working on accepting that this is one of my flaws and that it's okay, which is another stab at my remaining arrogance, which doesn't want me to have any flaws. Getting into a battle with a chief feature, either one's own or someone else's, just gives it more power. A better approach is to pull the rug out from under it. With impatience, that might involve deliberately missing out on something and discovering that it's not the end of the world. (It occurs to me now that I could budget what seems like extra time to get somewhere, "missing out" on what I could have done with that time, and experience viscerally that life as we know it didn't come to an end.) Similarly, with arrogance, a person might receive criticism from stillness, letting the terror burn away, and find out that he survived it. Erasing chief features requires bringing conscious awareness to dark places.

Humankind can be divided into those who are willing to look deeply in the mirror, and those who aren't. Such willingness is the key to true spiritual growth (as opposed to just acquiring spiritual information).

Sometimes, those in arrogance will freely admit shortcomings in themselves that they're comfortable admitting, as a red herring, to try to throw you off the scent of those that they are fiercely protecting. This is especially true for those who also do some self-deprecation, which is not true humility or self-examination, but another form of false personality, the flip side of arrogance. Self-deprecation says, "I'm important because I'm so inadequate." It encourages the person to keep it alive, promising to save him from death by prodding him to stay on the treadmill futilely combating his inadequacy. Self-deprecation has no intention of letting go of the inadequacy, so any apparent self-examination comes to naught. Arrogance over-inflates the self, and self-deprecation under-inflates it, but to the same end. Honest self-examination is willing to see the bald facts without making them more or less than they are, and takes responsibility for doing something about them without making a big deal out of it.

It is futile to try to get those in exalted arrogance to examine what lies behind their massive defenses. They'll just turn it back on you. Projection is a common problem in relationships--we project onto others what we judge or deny in ourselves, and then get all worked up about it. Those in heavy arrogance are major projectors. Big snits on web lists are often "project-o-ramas" between those in heavy arrogance playing emotional badminton--no one is willing to look at himself, so the judgments just keep bouncing back and forth until they finally fall to the ground.

When someone is acting out of arrogance, no one else is an equal. Other people are either greater or less, better or worse, smarter or dumber--more often less, worse and dumber. If you start out on an arrogant person's pedestal, watch out, because eventually, he'll knock you off of it and stomp you into the ground, often for irrational reasons, because the real reason is that he's playing out his internal greater than/less than scenario, and it's not really about you at all.

The thicker the defenses, the more likely the person is to attract increasingly dramatic conflicts--essence is trying to shatter the defenses so that it can get on with growing. This is growing through pain. If the person willingly chose to examine his stuff, he could grow more joyfully, but the subconscious is invested in keeping probing hands off the trauma(s) at the root of the chief feature, feeling that the pain would be overwhelming. The chief feature is the scab on the wound. Only when a person loves truth more than anything else and is willing to face anything in order to heal, can the defenses be overcome. In growing through pain, this willingness might only come when events become so devastating and intolerable that the person finally decides that facing himself couldn't be worse. It may be a shattering experience, but the truth sets us free; a baby chick must shatter its shell to be born. If it doesn't set us free, it isn't the truth.

Usually, the first breakthrough is the hardest. After that, self-examination seems less and less scary; it's not necessarily easy, but at least the dam has broken (to change metaphors).

Just before I moved here to Laguna Beach from New York City, I worked with an excellent therapist for a few months. Some sessions left me feeling profoundly uncomfortable. I figured that that was a good sign. She lifted up rocks and called attention to the worms crawling under them, asking uncomfortable questions that I wouldn't have thought to ask, and stirring things up. Some people think that the purpose of therapy is to comfort you, and sometimes that's a good and necessary thing, but that probably doesn't do much for challenging the hold of the chief feature.

People get into the most trouble because of their strengths that are not yet tamed, not because of their deficiencies. Powerful people steamroll over you until they learn to center their power and release their stuck anger. Sensitive people are too easily hurt until they learn that other people's behavior is an expression of their own issues. Brilliant people get stuck in their mind until they open their heart and connect with their emotions. When we rest on our strengths and don't balance them with opposite traits, our strengths distort.

Those whose arrogance is largely intellectual tend to have little use for emotions. They assume that their intellect is supremely rational and logical, and that those who are emotional are irrational. However, the emotional center can be highly rational and accurate, and the intellectual center can be irrational and wrong. It all depends on how the centers are used, and whether they're in balance. Denied emotions go underground and subvert efforts to think clearly. In addition, no matter how good one's logic is, if it's based on faulty premises, it's false. The emotional center may be better equipped than the intellectual center to sniff out false logic; sometimes an argument sounds reasonable on the surface but doesn't feel right, because it isn't. Appearing to win an argument doesn't make one right.

There's a connection between arrogance and unresolved anger. Anger is primarily a response of the body's fight-or-flight mechanism. When a threat, real or imagined, is perceived and the fight mechanism is aroused, if the person is not able to follow through and fight, the energy often gets stuck in the body. For example, if someone abused you and you were unable to protect yourself, much of the anger you suppressed (to avoid being hurt even more) might still be in your body, awaiting release. The more naturally powerful you are, the more intense is the pressure of this stored anger. Arrogance might be chosen, in part, because it gives the person a chance to let off some of this excess steam. Arrogance gives him a continual opportunity to judge others and get angry about them.

Gestalt-style anger release, such as pounding pillows, is a good way to clear out the stored anger that almost all of us have. I did several months of daily intensive anger release during my midlife monad. When the anger climaxed, it shifted into pain release through crying. When that climaxed, I invited healing by bringing in the quality that had been missing. For example, if my anger release that day was about not feeling loved by my father, I brought forth a loving inner father. I felt continually guided in this work.

Once we've connected well with our anger, it can also be released by more subtle, less draining means. For instance, we can ask in meditation to be one with our anger, and sit with it until it dissipates.

Chief features are often a factor in mental illness. Those declared to have temporary insanity when they committed a crime in a fit of rage often have a severe chief feature, not necessarily arrogance. Chief features are, by definition, irrational, so they show up in a lot of irrational behavior or neurosis. Of course, there can be chemical and genetic factors as well.

When false personality is firmly in control, the real person isn't available to engage with. It's not unlike dealing with someone who is drunk, who isn't really "home" and does things he'd never do if he were sober.

In dealing with people expressing exalted arrogance, it's often best simply not to engage with it. It's unlikely that you'll get through to them--their hearts are barricaded--and saying things that cannot be heard tends to create more problems (although, on a list, you might choose to say something for the benefit of others or to plant a seed on the chance that it will take root in the future). On our list, we can assume that most people recognize arrogance for what it is, even if they are ignoring it. Many people here model excellent, respectful communication skills; anyone who wants to learn them can do so by observing them. If some people are continuing in attack mode, they probably don't have eyes to see and aren't motivated to change. Their blind spot is in control, and explaining it nicely to them probably won't make a dent.

Chief features are triggered by stress and fear, and none of us is always acting from them, so there may be windows of opportunity to engage meaningfully with someone in heavy arrogance when he feels safe.

As fascinating and useful as all of the Michael teachings are, there's probably no work more significant than that of erasing our chief feature(s). The chief feature is the lynchpin of false personality. It can send us into our negative poles with a domino effect. As hard as it may be to face it, doing so brings great rewards; we don't find inner peace until we do, and it takes far more energy to defend it than doing the work to dismantle it. The chief feature is the devil, and it keeps us in hell.

I highly recommend Jose Steven's book on chief features (which I've taken to calling "chief obstacles" in my readings, and which Jose calls "dragons" here): "Transforming Your Dragons." Jose is a psychotherapist and Michael channel.

No chief feature is better or worse than the others. Some people in arrogance do it in a mild and/or subtle manner, and some flame with it. The same is true for the other chief features. Almost everyone is working on at least one chief feature. We're all human; we all have "stuff." And we're all capable of doing all the chief features from time to time, even if they aren't our primary or secondary c.f.

Some people are arrogant not because they have the fear-based chief feature but because they were "spoiled" or doted over for their brains or talent, and sincerely believe that they are superior to others. This kind of conceit or snobbery looks similar to the chief feature, although it tends not to be as defensive, because they have little doubt as to their superiority, even if their opinion of their gifts is not objectively valid. It can also co-exist with chief feature-arrogance--the conceit may be used to support the chief feature.

The most fundamental expression of spirituality is not knowledge or ability--it is kindness and generosity of spirit. Those who aren't even civil are missing the point of participating in a body of teachings about unconditional love, whether the Michael teachings or almost any religion or spiritual path. It almost goes without saying that crusades, inquisitions, burning abortion clinics, and even nasty posts and flames are inconsistent with teachings about agape. However, those who could most benefit from recognizing that are the ones least likely to do so. Their chief feature is usually ready with a rationalization for their behavior, explaining why it doesn't apply to them, before realization can penetrate. It's possible that they don't even know what loving behavior would look like because of its absence from their upbringing.

Eventually, we'll all work through our stuff--if not in this lifetime, in another. As we heal our own chief features, other people's don't trigger us as much. We come to understand that nothing is truly personal. We gain acceptance for the process of learning in which all of us are engaged, finding our way out of darkness as a way to enlighten our soul.

About Shepherd Hoodwin

Shepherd has been channeling since 1986. He also does intuitive readings, mediumship, past-life regression, healing, counseling, and channeling coaching, where he teaches others to channel. He has conducted workshops on the Michael teachings throughout the United States. His other books include Enlightenment for Nitwits, Loving from Your Soul: Creating Powerful Relationships, Meditations for Self-Discovery, Opening to Healing, Growing Through Joy, Being in the World, and more to come.

Visit his website at ShepherdHoodwin.com


Did You Enjoy This Article? Share It With Your Friends

Shop at the
New Age Store




Soul Ages

Our goal sets the theme for a lifetime, acting as a primary motivator that guides our course of direction in life.


The Old Soul

Learn about the Overleaves, personality traits that shape our individual experience during each lifetime.