How To Spot Your Hidden Agenda

You may have noticed that sometimes posts disappear from the website.

You may have noticed that “When Trying To Be A Good Person Blows Up In Your Face” and “The Two Dangerous Strains of Spiritualization” have been two of such posts.

Why do I take them down?

Because I realized that those posts were filled with my hidden agenda.

What is a hidden agenda?

Well, first we have to back up a bit. We have to start with the idea of a Soul Wound. I’ve written on this before, but remember that my perspective is that each of us carries around a Wound, which is essentially a black-and-white, generalized lie that communicates


I am unworthy. I am bad.
And it is my fault.


Our Soul Wound is a sense of shame that many of us struggle divorcing from ourselves. Anytime we feel unwanted, not good enough, or otherwise rejected, the voice of our Soul Wound speaks up and taunts, “seeeee? told ya so.”

We word our Soul Wound in different ways according to what resonates most with us. For example, my Soul Wound is “I am unwanted” and my husband’s is “I’m not important.” I have friends who have the Soul Wounds of “I’m to blame” and “I’m unlovable.” All of these lie statements are the ‘reason’ we give ourselves whenever we experience the shame of rejection. We try to make sense of the pain and the childlike (and sometimes childish) seat of our emotions egotistically makes us the center of that reason why. We’re unworthy and bad. And it’s our fault.

What happens, then, is that we develop a hidden agenda to protect this very vulnerable core of ourselves that is deeply ashamed and feels poignantly disregarded. We develop a hidden agenda (or a few) to try to keep our Soul Wound from getting triggered … because that hurts. We don’t like to feel unimportant, unwanted, unlovable, and to blame.


Our hidden agenda is the face that we present to the world that is often the opposite of what our Soul Wound says when it speaks its lie to us.


For example, my hidden agenda, at its core, is all about trying to prove to others that I AM wanted. Others may try to prove that they ARE lovable, important, and blameless. 

A hidden agenda seeks to prove that no! we are good, we are worthy, and we are blameless. A hidden agenda is how we pretend to live without shame.


But our hidden agendas
are actually fueled by shame,
just like the Soul Wound itself.


Our hidden agendas are the tough outer shells around the soft and vulnerable Soul Wound. Hidden agendas are our protest against the message of the Soul Wound. But, in so many ways, our hidden agenda is just a band-aid on the problem. The hidden agenda is almost a form a denial — if we coat the Soul Wound, we can pretend it’s not there.

What we need to do is actually chip away at the Soul Wound … not build up hard and high defenses to protect it from the harm of others ‘hitting too close to home.’

But, instead, we opt for plugging our ears, whistling a tune and not looking at the elephant in the room. We build hidden agendas to try to cover up that Soul Wound elephant.

What are some examples of hidden agendas?

In a book titled “How To Communicate: The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Personal and Professional Relationships”, this list is suggested:

  1. I’m Good*
  2. I’m Good (But You’re Not)*
  3. You’re Good (But I’m Not)*
  4. I’m Helpless, I Suffer
  5. I’m Blameless
  6. I’m Fragile
  7. I’m Tough
  8. I Know It All

[*Note: ‘good’ can be swapped out for any adjective, e.g. smart, talented, dependable, trustworthy, loyal, courageous, generous, hard-working, etc.]

The first thing I want to point out this that there are two varieties of hidden agendas listed here. There are the more in-your-face, aggressive types (#s 1, 2, 5, 7, 8) and the comparatively passive, victim-like ones (#3, 4, 6). Back to this distinction later.

Next point: bear in mind that although we have go-to hidden agendas, we can slip in-and-out of any of these at any point as circumstance ‘requires’ for the safety of our Soul Wound. So, although, for example, my main hidden agendas are “I’m good and desirable” and “I’m tough”, I can certainly fall into “I’m blameless” and then also the quite contrasting “You’re good and desirable, but I’m not” along with all the rest.

If your Soul Wound is something to the effect of “I’m unimportant”, then your prime hidden agendas might be “I’m competent”, “I’m powerful”, “I Know It All” … and then also the flip-side of “I’m fragile.”

If your Soul Wound plays to the tune of “I’m unlovable”, then maybe your key hidden agenda in addition to the straight-up “I AM lovable!” is “I’m generous”, “I’m loyal” and other ‘lovable’ traits. If your Soul Wound is all about not feeling lovable, then chances are that your contrasting hidden agenda is “I’m Helpless, I Suffer.”


The point is that our hidden agendas are methods we use to garner attention. We don't feel rejected if someone is paying attention to us. Attention, of course, is not the same thing as acceptance, but we can usefully craftily convince ourselves otherwise and tell ourselves that we're very happy simply with shallow attention.


We have our Plan A Hidden Agenda, which casts us in a strong, positive light and then we have Plan B Hidden Agenda (that contrasts with Plan A) which casts us in a weak, relatively negative light.

Thus, my Plan A Hidden Agenda is “I’m Good, I’m Desirable, I’m Tough” and my Plan B (obviously used when plan A failed me in some way) is the weak, passive stance of “You’re Good, Desirable, and Tough … But I’m Not”.

In other words, I first try to actively, potentially even aggressively convince others that I’m ‘want-able’ by being an Alpha-Dog type — confident, powerful, self-assured, in control, even domineering, condescending, and arrogant.

If that doesn’t work (because the other person involved is the relative Alpha-Dog), then I switch over to Plan B, which is “I’ll be the loyal, subservient, helpful, supportive B-Dog if only you’ll allow me to be with you!”.

The agendas I mentioned earlier that are relatively passive and victim-like are those that are B-Dog agendas: “I’m Helpless, I Suffer”, “I’m Fragile”, and “You’re X, But I’m Not”. These are all agendas in which we makes ourselves the relative B-Dog, asking for the Alpha’s protection, provision, and inclusion in the pack. Remember, in contrast, the ‘alpha-dog’ hidden agendas are “I’m Tough”, “I’m Blameless”, “I Know It All,” “I’m X”, and “I’m X, But You’re Not.”

I’ve mused here about the possibility that hierarchies in relationships — that is, relative alphas and betas — are healthy (or at least unavoidable), but what we’re talking about here are our hidden agendas that encourage unhealthy levels of alpha- or beta-ness.


When an alpha is a dictator instead of a leader, he is insecure. Likewise, when a beta is unctuous and overly self-sacrificing, he's not a follower; he's a doormat (i.e. also insecure).


In these instances, rather than feeling safe and secure in the mutually agreed upon (and healthy) roles of leader and supporter, the alphas and betas tip to the extremes of their roles.

Rather than accepting a balance of responsibilities and related rewards, dictators take too many rewards without the responsibility, not truly believing they’re worthy of true followers — so they force it. Doormats relinquish their own responsibility to contribute support to the relationship and, rather, pitifully take the proverbial crumbs from the table, not seeing themselves as deserving better.

So, of the 8 hidden agenda categories, 5 are wielded as tools by the overly alpha-dogs and 3 are used by the overly beta-dogs. Or, as I said, really, we all switch back and forth between alpha- and beta-ness dependent on the circumstances. It seems to me, though, that we all have either a general default Plan A position — either alpha or beta — or at least specific defaults in particular relationships.

Another way, then, to think about the 8 hidden agenda categories is thus: the 5 that concern alpha dogs are all about status and the 3 that concern beta dogs are about inclusion.

In other words, an insecure person using alpha-dog hidden agendas is very preoccupied about status, reputation, respect, autonomy, competence, etc. The hidden agendas thus reflect this preoccupation — “I’m Tough”, “I Know It All”, “I’m Blameless”, etc.


The insecure alpha-dog
works very hard
to ‘maintain appearances’
and truly command attention.


Similarly, an insecure person using beta-dog hidden agendas is very concerned about being part of the pack under an alpha-dog. They are worried about protection and provision — they desire inclusion. Thus, they will put themselves down as a manipulative trick to bolster the alpha’s feelings of alpha-ness, hoping to encourage the alpha to therefore take care of the poor insecure beta who feels weak and helpless.


The insecure beta-dog begs
for attention by putting himself
in a weak, helpless position.


In both cases of the insecure alpha and the insecure beta, they are getting attention. It’s probably not positive since the alpha is rather forcing himself down others throats and the beta is being wimpy and whiny, but even negative attention is better than none, right?

So, in instances of the blog posts mentioned at the beginning, I realized that I was not presenting a mere opinion piece on the given topics. I was subconsciously sneaking in my hidden agendas — the full gamut of them, really. Sometimes I painted the picture of me as the tough, competent, blameless alpha and other times I would make a subtle appeal for you to pity me and how beta-me was so used and abused by others.

I want to re-write those posts as objectively as possible because I think the ideas are still good and need to be communicated. But, I want to do it without an agenda. I want to do it without trying to ‘prove’ myself to you in some way. I need to cast aside any and all magic formulas to try to woo you into wanting me. I do that by wanting myself. If you like to hear what I have to say, that’s bonus; but I’ll put my musings into a post for my own sake first and not to try to cajole you into a relationship with me. If we end up having one (I’d like that), let’s make it a healthy one — one that’s secure and safe.

What do you think about this idea of hidden agendas? 

Do you think you have one? What is it?

What is the Soul Wound you are constantly trying to protect?

Instead of overcompensating for the Soul Wound by enclosing it with a hidden agenda, will you join me in overcoming Soul Wounds instead of protecting them?

For my part, I promise to try harder and harder to write without my hidden agendas shining through. And when I do slip up and let insecurity speak, I’ll do my best to ultimately (and hopefully quickly) own up to it and make it right.

Just for the record …

I don’t know it all.

I’m not always tough.

I’m not nearly often enough as emotionally intelligent, polite, kind, generous, thoughtful, or smart as I’d like you to think I am.

I’m definitely not blameless.

And I’m also certainly not a helpless, victimized overly beta-dog. I own myself.

How about you? Do you have a hidden agenda to first own so you can begin to conquer it?


Check out my follow-up piece to this one: When You Get Hooked Into Conflict.

About the author

Laura Bennett

Laura Bennett

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