Personality Disorders and the Wheel of Life

Are the six archetypes on the Wheel of Life personality disorders? In their extreme manifestations, I would say, yes they are. I have been treating them as “normal” ego states that we are all susceptible to, but they can become abnormal and pathological when they begin to dominate the personality. It all depends on the severity of the case, but because they are usually “ego-syntonic”, that is, consistent with the integrity of the ego, they tend to be seen as normal enough by the person in question, unless they produce extremely problematic or destructive behaviours.

DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists ten personality disorders organised into three clusters. The ten disorders are: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive. They are organised according to “odd or eccentric” behaviours (cluster A), “dramatic, emotional or erratic” behaviours (cluster B) and “anxious or fearful” behaviours (cluster C).

So how do these map onto the Wheel of Life? Well, cluster A disorders (paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal) seem to apply primarily to the Muggle-Muppet axis; cluster B disorders (antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic) to the Diva-Demon axis and cluster C disorders (avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive) to the Addict-Victim axis. Based on this categorisation, we might say that muggles are basically paranoid; muppets schizoid and schizotypal; divas histrionic and narcissistic; demons antisocial and borderline; addicts obsessive-compulsive and victims avoidant and dependent.

I don’t think this formulation quite works though – some disorders seem closer to other archetypes. Also, addicts seem to be a bit of an anomaly. There is no personality disorder that unambiguously describes the addictive personality. Perhaps this is because addictive behaviours are secondary effects of an underlying personality disorder. For example, someone suffering from borderline personality disorder will often exhibit addictive behaviours (especially substance abuse), an obsessive-compulsive person may develop an eating disorder, and someone with dependent personality disorder will clearly be susceptible to physical as well as emotional addiction. The results are similar, but the underlying causes are very different.

Addiction is not really a personality disorder in its own right, so, for the present purpose of relating the archetypes to personality disorders, in the interests of simplicity I will put the addict archetype to one side. Using descriptions proposed by the psychologist Theodore Millon,[i] I think the following slightly amended diagnoses for the remaining five archetypes are a better fit than a strict adherence to the cluster model alluded to above:

  1. Muggles can be obsessive-compulsive, schizoid and/or paranoid:

OCD Muggles are “restrained, conscientious, respectful, rigid. Maintain a rule-bound lifestyle. Adhere closely to social conventions. See the world in terms of regulations and hierarchies. See themselves as devoted, reliable, efficient, and productive.”

Schizoid Muggles are “apathetic, indifferent, remote, solitary, distant, humorless. Neither desire nor need human attachments. Withdrawn from relationships and prefer to be alone. Little interest in others, often seen as a loner. Minimal awareness of the feelings of themselves or others. Few drives or ambitions, if any. Is an uncommon condition in which people avoid social activities and consistently shy away from interaction with others. It affects more males than females. To others, they may appear somewhat dull or humorless. Because they don’t tend to show emotion, they may appear as though they don’t care about what’s going on around them.”

Paranoid Muggles are “guarded, defensive, distrustful and suspicious. Hypervigilant to the motives of others to undermine or do harm. Always seeking confirmatory evidence of hidden schemes. Feel righteous, but persecuted. Experience a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspicion of others that lasts a long time. They are generally difficult to work with and are very hard to form relationships with. They are also known to be somewhat short-tempered.”

  1. Muppets can be borderline, schizotypal and/or antisocial:

Borderline Muppets are “unpredictable, manipulative, unstable. Frantically fears abandonment and isolation. Experience rapidly fluctuating moods. Shift rapidly between loving and hating. See themselves and others alternatively as all-good and all-bad. Unstable and frequently changing moods. People with borderline personality disorder have a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships.”

Schizotypal Muppets are “eccentric, self-estranged, bizarre, absent. Exhibit peculiar mannerisms and behaviors. Think they can read thoughts of others. Preoccupied with odd daydreams and beliefs. Blur line between reality and fantasy. Magical thinking and strange beliefs. People with schizotypal personality disorder are often described as odd or eccentric and usually have few, if any, close relationships. They generally don’t understand how relationships form or the impact of their behavior on others.”

Antisocial Muppets are “impulsive, irresponsible, deviant, unruly. Act without due consideration. Meet social obligations only when self-serving. Disrespect societal customs, rules, and standards. See themselves as free and independent. People with antisocial personality disorder depict a long pattern of disregard for other people’s rights. They often cross the line and violate these rights.”

  1. Divas can be narcissistic and/or histrionic:

Narcissistic Divas are “egotistical, arrogant, grandiose, insouciant. Preoccupied with fantasies of success, beauty, or achievement. See themselves as admirable and superior, and therefore entitled to special treatment. Is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings.”

Histrionic Divas are “dramatic, seductive, shallow, stimulus-seeking, vain. Overreact to minor events. Exhibitionistic as a means of securing attention and favors. See themselves as attractive and charming. Constantly seeking others’ attention. Disorder is characterized by constant attention-seeking, emotional overreaction, and suggestibility. Their tendency to over-dramatize may impair relationships and lead to depression, but they are often high-functioning.”

  1. Demons can be sadistic and/or passive-aggressive (negativistic):

Sadistic Demons are “explosively hostile, abrasive, cruel, dogmatic. Liable to sudden outbursts of rage. Gain satisfaction through dominating, intimidating and humiliating others. They are opinionated and close-minded. Enjoy performing brutal acts on others. Find pleasure in abusing others. Would likely engage in a sadomasochist relationship, but will not play the role of a masochist.”

Passive-aggressive Demons are “Resentful, contrary, skeptical, discontented. Resist fulfilling others’ expectations. Deliberately inefficient. Vent anger indirectly by undermining others’ goals. Alternately moody and irritable, then sullen and withdrawn. Withhold emotions. Will not communicate when there is something problematic to discuss.”

  1. Victims can be dependent, avoidant and/or depressive:

Dependent victims are “helpless, incompetent, submissive, immature. Withdrawn from adult responsibilities. See themselves as weak or fragile. Seek constant reassurance from stronger figures. They have the need to be taken care of by a person. They fear being abandoned or separated from important people in their life.”

Avoidant Victims are “hesitant, self-conscious, embarrassed, anxious. Tense in social situations due to fear of rejection. Plagued by constant performance anxiety. See themselves as inept, inferior, or unappealing. They experience long-standing feelings of inadequacy and are very sensitive of what others think about them.”

Depressive Victims are “Somber, discouraged, pessimistic, brooding, fatalistic. Present themselves as vulnerable and abandoned. Feel valueless, guilty, and impotent. Judge themselves as worthy only of criticism and contempt. Hopeless, suicidal, restless. This disorder can lead to aggressive acts and hallucinations.”

[i] Millon, 2004