Anger is a widely misunderstood emotion. Some have maligned it as an evil in itself. But it’s one of our most basic emotions. Nature put it there for good reason. We become riled to mobilize ourselves into action to remove a threat to our welfare. But just as being too frequently or intensely anxious can be problematic, being chronically or excessively angry can also cause trouble.
I’ve worked with thousands of person’s struggling to understand and deal with various disturbed characters in their lives. And it’s been most rewarding to equip these folks with both the understanding and tools they needed to empower themselves. I’ve also worked with thousands of disturbed characters. And to have witnessed many of these individuals become better people has been the blessing of a lifetime.
Manipulators are covert-aggressors. They’re out to win, dominate, and control but don’t want to be seen that way. If you knew what they were really up to, they’d run a higher risk of being resisted. And if you knew what they were really like, you’d be more wary of them. They’re the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Over the years I’ve counseled many individuals whose life became a shipwreck because they never gained mastery over their aggression. Sometimes they were overt about it. Other times, they were covert in their aggression (for manipulative purposes). Either way, they made a mess of their relationships and brought untold pain into the lives of many. For these individuals, acquiring the controls necessary to assert as opposed to aggress was truly the task of a lifetime.
In many ways, character is like a psychological immune system. Stressful things happen to all of us, but when you have a rightly developed will, you can more readily summon the internal resources to weather the storms of life. Still, the strength and solidity of our will must always be tested.
Mindfully and rightly exercising our will in all the little matters builds strength of willpower. It prepares us to face life’s bigger tests successfully.
We humans are not merely products of our constitution or our environment. Yes, we have innate predispositions. And yes, things that happen to us influence us. But we’re unique among all creatures in our capacity for choice. And a variety of powerful experiences has taught me that a person’s will is capable of being nurtured, strengthened, and correctly directed.
Not all undisciplined behavior represents a genuine addiction. And while there are some rare exceptions, most true addictions don’t just develop overnight. There’s a typical pathway to getting “hooked.” And that pathway is littered with many clear warning signs. Healthy characters respect and heed those signs. But underdeveloped characters tend to ignore or disregard them. That’s why character, and mastering character’s “sixth command,” is so important.
It’s not enough to simply think before acting. What you think and how you’re thinking matters, too. You have to think with social awareness. And your thinking has to be guided by sound principles. Disturbed characters operate on the pleasure principle and the self-serving principle. But healthy characters operate on the principle of the greater good.
Mindfulness as a character quality is more than a particular practice like meditation. It’s a state of being and a way of living. Being mindful is about keeping ourselves maximally aware of both our inner world and the outer world, as well as the impact of our choices on those worlds. To be of sound character, one has to be mindful.