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By Dr. Jim Wilder

There are many different skills we use in human relationships. We must take turns speaking in some cultures but be able to talk simultaneously in other cultures – for example. As part of developing the Life Model, the Courseys and I identified 19 Relational Skills. “How did we identify 19 relational skills?” you ask. The answer is: we have a limited number of skills needed to produce a working human personality.

Our 19 identity function brain skills help us understand who we are and how to engage the world. Once these core skills are in place, we develop all sorts of other social skills that the Life Model refers to as “maturity.” Maturity allows us to use our identities in an ever-widening context of life.

The list of 19 core relational skills includes a large number of fast-track skills that operate faster than conscious thought. These speedy skills are: building joy and returning to joy from unpleasant emotions, of which there are six major ones. But, the Life Model also includes some repair skills in the 19 essentials. Repair skills run at conscious speed in the slow-track of the brain. These corrective skills include: identifying attachment and response styles as well as telling the 4+ stories used to remediate missing core skills.
It is important to distinguish the essential core skills needed for a working human identity from other skills. When any of the essential 19 skills are missing, our maturity (as individuals or groups) will grow in a lopsided way. When the 19 core identity skills are operating well, we develop a wide variety of maturity skills with many cultural styles of expression.
Shame is one of the six unpleasant warning signals hard-wired into the brain. Shame notifies us that we are not bringing joy to someone. Toxic shame leads us to feel alone and “bad” while healthy shame messages help us discover who we were meant to become. Healthy shame leads to better relationships and toxic shame to a false identity. Toxic shame might sound like, “You are fat, stupid and lazy.” Healthy shame might sound like, “We don’t pick our noses in public. We clean our noses with a tissue in the bathroom.” Not knowing how to give healthy shame messages can lead to insults or silence but not to better relationships. Some of the lopsided maturity that develops without healthy shame messages includes insensitivity, self-centeredness, and narcissism.

The core brain skill related to shame is a fast-track response that keeps us in a relationship mode with others. We feel shame, but at the same time, we are drawn toward others to share and resolve this joy interrupter. Developing good shame messages that work in our language and culture is a maturity skill. We can become much better at providing understandable shame messages for use in preaching, teaching, business, family life, and social gatherings.

However, without the ability to stay relational in our fast-track core processor (one of the 19 skills) we become offended, defensive, withdrawn, aggressive or critical. Suddenly, we have a hole showing in our maturity. We will develop problems like narcissism to hide these holes. You can read more about correcting these problems with shame in my new book The Pandora Problem.


Thank you, Jim, for this good word – and the impactful distinction between identity skills and maturity! Friends, I encourage you to watch for Jim’s exciting new book that will be available soon.
You can learn the 19 essential core skills Jim mentions by attending one of the scheduled THRIVE Training events for 2019. View dates here.  

Chris Coursey

Posted in Skill Thoughts

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  1. Pingback:The Significance of Healthy Shame

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