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In Lockdown we all show up differently

I’m trying to be a bit selective about what I sign up to and what I ignore during this lockdown, aware that my inbox has become overloaded with ‘helpful’ information, suggestions and ideas about how to manage myself and my situation right now. At the start I found it quite difficult just to try and process everything that was coming through, but one daily message I look forward to, is from Gretchin Rubin.


She’s best known for The Happiness Project and describes herself as ‘a writer who relentlessly explores human nature to understand how we can make our lives better’. She recently created her own personality profile – The Four Tendencies – and the free online test can be taken here.


If you’ve been on a One:Retreat day or weekend, or are a regular reader of these blogs, you’ll know we’re great believers in the importance of understanding the strengths and challenges of our own personality type and those of our family – never has this been more important than it is right now.


Rubin has an interesting article about the many different profiles we can choose to do today and how each can bring new insights .


We use the Path Elements Profile at One:Retreat and if you’ve taken this profile, the Rubin test can give additional insights into your own personality. I certainly found it helpful especially at this time when Alan and I are spending 24/7 together compared to ‘normal’ life when we barely set eyes on each other for four days of the week! We are both still working but in the same small space. As everything we do is online now, trying to share office space has its challenges!


Our daily exercise is cycling and yesterday we went along the Cloud Trail near our home; it was glorious. Well, the journey there was! As we stopped at the end for a quick drink before heading back, I realised I’d got a puncture and suddenly all the annoying traits I’d felt over the past few days of living in very close proximity to a Double Earth (detailed, pessimistic, man of few words) disappeared, as he produced a puncture kit (who knew it was a good idea to take one of those out with you on every long bike ride?!), sorted the problem and a 9 mile walk home, pushing my bike, was avoided. Suddenly he changed, in a second, from the most annoying guy in the universe to my knight in shining armour. But actually, he hadn’t changed at all – the only thing that had shifted was my attitude to him – a timely reminder that attitude affects everything. Our ‘E+R=O’ blog gives more details about this equation.


We know we’re totally opposite personality types and never has this been so obvious as during the past few weeks. I’m an extrovert (Wind), Alan’s an introvert (Earth). He’s actually enjoying this time – less face-to-face interaction with people and more time to concentrate on pet projects like gardening and reading. Meanwhile, I have cabin fever by 10am and the daily Zoom sessions with family, friends and work clients are a life saver. While Alan’s generally very content and relaxed, I’m constantly trying to think how it might be possible to bend the rules just a little so I can have the social interaction that’s so essential for me to flourish. I haven’t done this yet but I confess it does take up quite a bit of my thinking time!


Remembering how each personality responds to situations can help us appreciate each other more and bring that extra dimension of kindness and understanding, which is vital in the current situation. So which element do you most relate to?


As Introverts, Earths are likely to be saying, ‘I never liked being around lots of people anyway. I am glad that everyone is understanding now that most things can be done remotely’. They didn’t need to panic buy loo rolls or anything else, they already had adequate stocks of everything ready for a crisis just like this.


Waters may be enjoying the opportunity to support others, whether in their family or in the community, and feeling a sense of fulfilment at helping make a difference at this difficult time. Although anxiety levels will be high as they take on the suffering of those around them and feel a pressure to meet everyone’s needs.


As extroverts, Winds and Fires will find the lack of freedom to control their own lives and the lack of variety in each day a challenge and are probably finding lockdown more difficult. The lack of variety and need for more routine will be a challenge so finding new ways of bringing social interaction and variety into each day will be vital.


Lockdown, whatever that looks like for you right now, in work or stuck in your own home is anxiety provoking. Many of us are more anxious today than we were a few weeks ago and it’s helpful to appreciate how fear impacts the different personality types. Add to this financial concerns, worries about jobs and the future, as well as thoughts about our own mortality.


So, how are we likely to manage these challenges?


One of Earth’s greatest fears is encountering unpredictable outcomes. Earths become stressed by concerns about the unknown but tend not to discuss their worries and fret quietly, becoming cold and distant when anxious. If that’s you, be aware of how this might impact your partner and family.


Waters get anxious when there’s lots of change and are stressed by conflict and being taken for granted. They will try to meet everyone’s expectations and needs and then mask their own emotions, which can increase their stress levels. It can seem as if they’re coping well with stress but the ‘mask’ will slip when the pressure builds up to a certain point and eventually they will boil over and lose it or freeze others out completely.


Fires fear losing control. Fires have a high tolerance for stress and handle extreme pressure well but will frequently express frustration and anger at loss of control. They will usually find a way to resolve problems but this is likely to be much more difficult now with so much of the control over our daily personal and work lives being taken away. This will cause real issues for them as perhaps for the first time in their lives, they have lost much of the control they need to thrive. Fires are said not to suffer from ulcers personally but may be ‘carriers’ because of the stress they bring to others. Consider the impact your fiery personality might have on your family right now.


Winds become stressed by isolation and/or social rejection. Winds can find repetitive activities difficult, have a strong need to interact with others and their self-worth is often affected by external circumstances. They will likely feel that everything they need to thrive has been taken away and like each of the other personality types, will probably revert to living in their challenges rather than their strengths *

*You can find a summary of the strengths and challenges of each personality element here Strengths and Challenges PEP.


So, what can we do to ensure that our relationships thrive and survive this time and don’t become one of the inevitable breakdown statistics?


  1. Take a look at the Strengths and Challenges sheet in the link above and take turns to decide together which element/s you both are and whether you’re living more in your strengths or challenges right now.
  2. Agree together three of the ‘challenges’ you will each work on to try and improve your relationship over the next few weeks.
  3. Last week, we started working through The Couples Therapy Workbook. It’s one of the recommendations on the One:Retreat Resource sheet and it’s excellent. It contains 30 Guided Conversations to re-connect relationships and is a great MOT for any couple who are now spending more time together. The idea is to set aside just half an hour a day to explore together questions around different aspects of your relationship. It’s available on Kindle for £10 so you could start today! It’s a worthwhile investment.





Ruth Adams

Ruth has worked as a trainer and a communications coach for 20 years and loves to inspire people - from a boardroom to a classroom - to find freedom and unlock possibilities. She is an associate of Family Futures, an area co-ordinator for Adoption UK and a director of Achkiy, a charity working with women in shantytowns in Peru. Ruth is married Alan, has 3 birth children in New York, Berlin and Barcelona, 2 forever daughters and 6 grandchildren.

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