Lesson 4 of 7  - optimize your relationships

An Attitude Inventory

Are Yours Healthy
or Toxic?

by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/relate/keys/attitudes.htm

Updated 02-05-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. These articles build on Lessons 1 - 3, and prepare you for Lesson 5 (evolve a nourishing family) and Lesson 6 (learn to practice effective parenting). The article invites you to become aware of the power of your attitudes about key topics and whether they're healthy OR toxic.

      This inventory assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this Website and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement lessons 1 through 3, and...

  • this perspective on awareness  

      How would you define "an attitude" to an average ten-year old? How would you explain where attitudes come from, and why they're important? This article offers a way to discover your key attitudes about yourself and other family adults and any kids. The attitudes below can significantly affect your personal tranquility and the quality of your relationships and family.

 Abut Your Attitudes

      Your tireless Inner Critic (personality subself) gives you attitudes OR judgments: good-bad, right-wrong, acceptable-unacceptable, safe-dangerous, trivial-vital, etc. These opinions color your perceptions, evoke emotions, and shape your decisions, behaviors, relationships, and achievements.

      Starting in childhood, attitudes affect our emotions, serenity, and physiology (heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, hormones) moment by moment. Would you agree that much of this "shaping" is unconscious (reflexive) or semi-conscious? Do you feel that people can become more aware of their primary attitudes? Change their attitudes? Can you think of a major attitude you've changed, across your years?

      My years studying clinical hypnosis validated psychiatrist Milton Erickson's claim that we all reflexively broadcast and decode tiny behavioral cues about what we and others really think and feel right now. This means that your subselves' attitudes about the items below will "leak" to other people in small facial and body reactions, voice dynamics, whether you want to disclose them or not. Adults and kids will decode your attitudes and react to them - often subconsciously.

      Most attitudes about people are...

  • "positive" - i.e. they convey compassion, appreciation, human equality, and respect, or...

  • "negative" - i.e. superiority or inferiority, scorn, disapproval, and rejection; or they convey...

  • no judgment - e.g. "girls tend to mature faster than boys." 

      My experience is that typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) hold significant negative attitudes about key topics. These may be ethnic, religious, age, occupational, and gender prejudices, which may qualify as bigotry. Typical GWCs tend to be unaware of their attitudes, where they got them, and how they affect their serenity, relationships, and families.

      Grown Nurtured Children (GNCs) and GWCs in true wound-recovery are more apt to hold positive, nourishing attitudes, and have more harmonious relationships. Do you agree? 

      Are you a GWC or a GNC?

      Use this inventory to learn more about...

  • what attitudes you're probably broadcasting to people you live and work with,

  • who is broadcasting - your Self (capital "S") OR some distrustful subselves, and learn more about...

  • key attitudes in family members and others which may promote relationship stresses. This prepares you to use your communication skills (Lesson 2) to improve that, where appropriate.

      Use this inventory to learn and discover, not to blame or judge! Before exploring your attitudes and what they may mean to you and important others, do a…

Status Check: See what’s true for you now: T = true, F = false, and “?” means ”I’m not sure, or “It depends on..." (what?). Option - think of several attitudes you hold now - e.g. about abortion, addiction, divorce, God, abuse, and arrogance.

I can clearly define what “an attitude” is. (T  F ?)

I believe our adults' attitudes have a direct effect on (a) the nurturance level and serenity of our family, and (b) how our dependent kids will “turn out,” long term. (T  F ?)

I feel attitudes can be consciously _ chosen and _ changed  (T  F ?)

Every able adult is responsible for their attitudes and their effects. (T  F ?)

In important relationships and social situations, I’m usually aware of (a) my attitudes on key topics and (b) those of each other adult involved. (T F ?)

I’m comfortable discussing key (a) attitudes and (b) attitude conflicts with each of our family adults now. (T  F ?)

Each of our family adults can clearly define what a values conflict is. (T  F  ?)

I feel each other family adult would answer “true” to each of these items now. (T F ?)

At this time, we adults have no serious “attitude conflicts” about key issues; or if we do, we have an effective way of resolving them now. (T  F ?).

I’m sure that my true Self is answering these questions now. (T F ?)     

      Pause and note your thoughts and feelings. What do they mean?


      To get the most out of this attitude inventory...

Choose an undistracted time and place, and reserve ~ 30" to reflect on these items and what they mean.

Choose an attitude of nonjudgmental curiosity, rather than "I have to answer these 'right'."

Reflect and say out loud why you began reading this inventory - what do you need? If your first reaction is something like "I don't know," then breathe well, close your eyes, and ask again: why am I reading this article? Trust your first response without analyzing...

Option: print this and hilight or jot key reactions as you take the inventory. Consider journaling about your thoughts and feelings after you finish. The process of reviewing your beliefs is as important as clarifying them.

Reflect on where you got any toxic attitudes. You didn't have them at birth. Are your key attitudes yours (based on your life experience) or someone else's?

 Assess whether your true Self is about to take this inventory. If not, your other well-meaning subselves may skew your results and hinder your learning.

Read any linked articles that interest you after you're done with this inventory.

Read each item out loud, and then decide what your attitude is. Reflect and be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and breathing. Option: rank your opinion on each item from 1 (toxic) to 5 (nourishing), or use "?" if your attitude varies or is unclear.

 Inventory Your Attitudes...

      These beliefs can help or hinder your key relationships...

      1)  Is legal divorce sometimes or always wrong, irresponsible, cowardly, weak, immoral, sinful, or bad; OR a painful, useful way of (a) self-learning and (b) regaining the potential for future health, peace, and happiness for all concerned after all other available options prove fruitless? (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      2)  Are adults who divorce bad, sick, weak, wrong, quitters, failures, irresponsible, losers, immoral, and/or sinners; OR are they psychologically wounded, unaware, overwhelmed, scared, exhausted, needy persons seeking more peace, hope, comfort, and safety in their and their kids' lives? (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      3)  Are adults who have sexual or romantic affairs bad, sick, irresponsible, immoral, weak, pathetic, wrong, and sinners; OR are they unconsciously controlled by false selves which significantly hinder...

  • healthy courtship choices,

  • wholistically-healthy intimacy, bonding, sexual satisfaction and harmony, and...

  • effective communication and problem-solving?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      4)  Are adults who (a) conceive unwanted kids or (b) abort pregnancies, bad, sick, irresponsible, immoral, weak, pathetic, wrong, pitiful, and/or sinners; OR are they wounded, impulsive, reactive, needy, tormented, scorned, guilty and shamed people needing genuine respect acceptance, empathy, supportive confrontation, and healing?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      5)  Are family adults who legally sue or call the police on each other bad, sick, weak, pathetic, vengeful, abusive, childish, immature, irresponsible, immoral, and/or wrong; OR are they overwhelmed, unaware, wounded, weary, reactive, tormented people ruled by needy, distrustful subselves who can't problem-solve effectively and see no better  choices?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      Recall: 1 = a toxic attitude > 5 = a healthy attitude

      6)  Are people with past or present addictions, including codependence, bad, sick, diseased, weak-willed, losers, irresponsible, stupid, ignorant, and/or wrong, OR are they unaware, wounded, needy, unhappy, hopeless, confused people whose protective false selves persistently try to provide self medication (temporary comfort) from relentless daily inner pain?   (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      Attitude 7)  Are mothers who give up OR lose child custody bad, sick, weak, irresponsible, immoral, pathetic, immature, despicable, and/or wrong; OR are they...

  • making a supreme sacrifice for their child/ren ("I cannot nurture effectively now, and need others to do that, though it breaks my heart and others don't understand")   (1  2  3  4  5  ?);

      OR are they...

  • wounded, unaware, financially and often educationally disadvantaged, under-supported, and victimized by majorly-wounded ex-mates and in-laws and uninformed legal and mental-health systems? (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

       8)  Are stepfamilies and step-people inherently inferior to traditional intact biofamilies? Are they comparatively abnormal, substandard, limited, unnatural, dysfunctional, ... OR are they an ancient, normal type of human family with (a) special challenges and (b) the steady potential to be as nurturing, enjoy-able, and productive as all other kinds of  family? (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      9)  Are typical stepparents (or stepmothers) evil, wicked, inferior, second best, abnormal, and/or less effective caregivers; OR are they well-meaning, unaware, confused, significantly wounded, idealistic, overwhelmed, guilty, anxious, frustrated men and women doing their best in a confusing, alien family role and environment which they're usually unprepared for and lack adequate support?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      10)  Are kids of divorce or parental death and remarriage (stepkids) damaged and disadvantaged, OR are they...

  • of equal human potential with non-divorced peers and...

  • challenged with special adjustment needs and wounds that may slow or block personal growth and effective adult independence and contentment?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

Option: after ranking this, read this recent research summary and return here..

      11)  Are adults and kids who believe in a Higher Power or Supreme Being deluded, silly, weak, gullible, brainwashed, losers, New Age, stupid, pathetic, dumb, tragic, bigoted, hypocritical, and/or unrealistic; OR does such a spiritual entity really exist, care, listen and respond, and steadily direct each child's and adult's life course whether they believe it or not?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      12)  Is human suffering wrong, bad, tragic, awful, purposeless, and preventable; OR is it unavoidable, instructive, and potentially growth-promoting, long term?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      13)  Is interpersonal conflict bad, unproductive, stressful, harmful, and/or "negative"; OR is conflict (a) a useful sign that someone's primary needs are unmet, and (b) an opportunity for personal and relationship growth?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      More key attitudes that will affect your relationships and self-esteem.   Recall: "1" here is a toxic attitude, and "5" is a nourishing attitude.:

      14)  Are some emotions like anger, shame, guilt, lust, greed, scorn, and fear bad or negative, OR is every emotion a normal, useful sign that one or more needs (discomforts) are currently unmet and merit  attention?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      15)  Are some adults and kids inherently evil (willfully malicious and incapable of genuine caring, love, empathy, and compassion) OR are they...

  • unaware of being dominated by a protective false self and...

  • relentlessly burdened with reality distortions, excessive fears, shame, guilts, inner pain, and perhaps uncontrollable rage impulses; who...

  • lack the self-awareness and adequate human and spiritual resources to stabilize, self-confront, and start healing?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      16)  Are confusions and doubts usually bad, problematic, distracting, undesirable, and unproductive, OR are they often useful signs of (a) psychological wounds and/or (b) symptoms of healthy change in important attitudes, perceptions, and values?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      17)  Is serious or chronic depression always bad OR can it sometimes be a normal sign of the sadness and despair phase of healthy grief that needs empathic, patient support and encouragement, not alarm, treatment, and medication?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      18)  Are adults OR kids who are excessively controlling manipulative, aggressive, egotistical or abusive, bad, sick, weak, pitiful, evil, and/or wrong; OR are they unaware of suffering from psychological wounds and a leaderless personality which cause impulsive, uncontrollable, hurtful actions to other people and themselves?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      19)  Are parents who emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically neglect or abandon their kids bad, sick, immoral, criminal, disgusting, weak, irresponsible, and/or wrong, OR are they...

  • excessively wounded, ignorant, unaware persons, ...

  • who's false-self protectively blocks bonding with and nurturing themselves and/or others, and...

  • who suffer relentless loneliness, toxic shame and guilts, anxieties, and social and internal scorn and rejection, and...

  • feel situationally OR chronically trapped, helpless, and hopeless?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      20)  Are families who are court-ordered into therapy or mediation usually too troubled and resistant to really change, OR is each case unique, with strategic chances to learn better ways of functioning together?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      21) Are people often controlled by a false self (wounded) inferior, sick, hopeless, wacko, abnormal, disadvantaged, disabled, second best, and/or crazy, OR are they worthy, talented, neglected, unaware, miserable people doing their best to survive, who have the steady potential to learn and heal (empower their true Self to guide and harmonize their other well-meaning subselves)?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?)

      22)  Are adults who seek counseling or therapy bad, sick, weak, inept, losers, too needy, inadequate, inept, failures, dysfunctional, and/or immature, OR are they wounded, unaware, desperate, confused (unfocused), overwhelmed, surviving, distracted, and courageous?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

       23)  Are typical females inherently weaker, dumber, and inferior, or disadvantaged, stronger, wiser, and superior to average males; OR are females and males physiologically and neurologically different and equal in dignity, worth, spirit, and human potential?  (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      24)  Are parents who date "too soon" after divorce or mate-death wrong, stupid, unrealistic, insensitive, shallow, over-needy, asking for trouble, childish, selfish, or crazy; OR are they wounded, needy, hurting, scared, weary, lonely, fragmented, lusty, overburdened, guilty, reactive, tormented, and unaware? (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      25)  When viable compromises aren't available, are bioparents who put their marriage ahead of their kids' immediate needs wrong, misguided, selfish, shameful, sinful, or bad; OR are they taking a thoughtful long-range view and protecting their kids and themselves from potential divorce trauma? (1  2  3  4  5  ?) 

      26)  Are attitudes about attitudes and which subselves cause them silly, psychobabble, too confusing, too intellectual and far out, irrelevant, scary, and/or unimportant; OR are they useful, enlightening, helpful, and worth discerning and discussing? (1  2  3  4  5  ?)  

+ + +

      Pause and notice your self talk now. These 26 items are representative, not exhaustive. Each item illustrates your ruling-subselves' options to be judgmental, unempathic, and pessimistic OR realistically optimistic, compassionate, empathic, and respectful. Do you see a trend in your attitude ratings?

      My clinical experience is that people who choose "1s" and "2s" on most of these attitudes are unaware of...

  • being significantly wounded, and are probably...

  • living and/or working in a low-nurturance environment.

      If you're interested in purposely changing some toxic attitudes, consider (a) identifying the subselves and people who preach them, (b) reviewing your Bill of Personal Rights, and (c) use respectful parts work to help the subselves adopt more nourishing beliefs. You may need to encourage them to trust your true Self and come to live in the present before they'll agree to change.

Bottom line - in  important social situations, (a) be aware of your attitudes and who's causing them (true Self or false self), and (b) learn how to respectfully negotiate values conflicts between your subselves and with other people. Also (c) evolve an effective way of shifting toxic attitudes toward nurturing. Empowering your Self (Lesson 1) will do this automatically


      This article exists to raise your awareness of the importance of key attitudes in shaping your personal serenity, relationships, and family nurturance levels. It provides an inventory of 26 common topics that cause strong right/wrong opinions in many  people.

      Attitudes range between "very toxic" (harmful, stress-producing) to "very nurturing" (growthful, accepting. healing, compassionate). Many key attitudes are semi-conscious, and reflect whether the person is guided by a true Self or well-intentioned other subselves.

      Once aware of your attitudes, you can intentionally change them from toxic to nurturing. You can also teach attitude-awareness to the young people in your life. If you don't - who will? 

      Pause, breathe, and recall why you took this inventory. Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self or ''someone else''?

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