Behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.
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.
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.
People of mature character are mindful of both their decisions and their actions. They temper their urges with reason and foresight. They neither rush into action nor into judgment. Healthy characters think not only about what they’re about to do but also about the likely consequences of their choices.
Our gluttony isn’t just about food. From sex to money, we want more of just about everything. And nothing really satisfies. Moreover, anything we can get too easily and do too often can become an “addiction.”
At a primal level, we are all animals with basic desires, instincts, urges, and raw emotions. And these primal characteristics of ours are not inherently evil. They’re a part of who we are. But because we are more than mere animals, we’re capable of functioning on a much higher plane. Before we can elevate ourselves to that plane, however, we must first “own” and then reckon with our baser inclinations. Of course, this is neither appealing nor easy. In fact the burden of self-reckoning is a “cross” we’re all called to carry if we’re to fashion a better world. Failing to accept this burden and instead lying about the flaws within ourselves that we need to reckon with is the ultimate evil.
How did we end up here? That’s the question so many folks who have been struggling in or recovering from a toxic relationship find themselves asking. Many also question how we ended up here as a society. My new book with Kathy Armistead provides a practical guide to surviving and thriving in a character-disordered world.
Some see the narcissist as “a legend in their own mind.” And because the way a narcissist views their self-worth and capabilities is almost always inflated, it can indeed be a pretty ugly picture when their grandiose illusions are shattered.
There’s a continuum of severity to character impairments, ranging from mild character immaturity to severe character dysfunction. Not all the difficult people in your life will meet the criteria established for a true character “disorder.” But that doesn’t mean that some of these folks aren’t significantly disturbed characters capable of making your life miserable. The degree of character impairment a person has, however, does have a lot to do with how likely it is they might change (with the right type of intervention).
The most successful and well-adjusted adults come from homes in which love was experienced both liberally and unconditionally whereas parental approval for behavior was bestowed quite conditionally.