Barriers to Forming a Healthy Conscience

Forming a Healthy Conscience

Forming a healthy conscience is essential to character integrity. What is conscience? To put it very simply, conscience is that part of our character makeup that helps us function in prosocial ways. Sometimes, it helps us put on the brakes when we feel tempted to do the unthinkable. Other times, it pushes us to do the unpleasant when when to do so is ultimately good for us and everyone else. But forming a solid conscience is not so much a matter of the mind. Rather, it’s a matter of the heart. And there are some traits in a person’s personality that can make forming a healthy conscience difficult, if not impossible. I talk about these matters at length in both Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing. (See also:  Lobos Con Piel de Cordero.)

Two types of personalities are notorious for their conscience impairments. Narcissists are one type. All the various narcissistic subtypes have trouble forming a healthy conscience because they consider themselves above the need to serve a governing higher power. (See: Egotists: “Above” the Need for a Governing “Higher Power”.) The disturbed characters I call the aggressive personalities have big troubles with conscience formation, too. They don’t just feel above the need for a governing “higher power. Rather, while they fully well recognize the various authorities in their lives, they adrently pit themselves against them. Accordingly, they fight the entire socialization process at every step.

Internalization Is Inherently Subordination

There are a lot of “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to healthy social functioning. Most of us recognize these dos and don’ts. More than that, most of us take most of them to heart, internalizing them – making them a part of ourselves – our character makeup. And that’s largely because we have the capacity for subordination (alt: submission) when it’s in ours and everyone else’s interests. We appreciate the need for them. And we submit ourselves to them. Ultimately, as I’ve asserted in countless workshops: Internalization of a prohibition is essentially an act of submission.” Narcissists see no need for that. And aggressive personalities fight tooth and nail against that.

A New Series

I’ll be launching a new series on the aggressive personalities on next week’s installment of Character Matters.

15 thoughts on “Barriers to Forming a Healthy Conscience

  1. Dr. Simon, Would a certain person, who happens to be running for president, and who is, despite knowing how repugnant it is to most people, doubling down on his love of hitler, be an example of this strident fighting against submission? It’s obvious he’s not well. It’s my understanding he’s been diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder, but do you think that covers it? Is that a way a person with that can present?

    1. Excellent question! And an issue I’ve addressed in countless professional workshops. From the start, I must tell you I am not in mainstream of professional opinion about what I’m about to say, although I have seen a slow shift in perspective among my colleagues on the subject. So, here’s my take: While I have personally witnessed and assessed a FEW, and I stress FEW cases of individuals who were absolutely sound in character but were sadly plagued by a neurobiological chemistry suddenly and inexplicably gone awry (i.e. “normal,” healthy indifividuals plagued by periods of grandiosity brought about solely by a strictly chemical manic episode as part of a bipolar condition), most of the grandiose individuals I’ve encountered were narcissistic in character from the get go, getting only worse over time (eventually developing significant chemical imbalances and requiring mediction) as their “style” of coping and relating went unchecked and appeared to be working for them, and was thus all too unfortunately reinforced. I’ve witnessed enough over the years of the person you reference to think he likely falls in the latter category as opposed to the former, but it would be inapporopriate for me to attempt any kind of assessment so remotely. Great question nonetheless! I hope my answer makes sense. Like I said, my perspective was once grossly out of line with the popular wisdom among my colleagues, but that appears to be slowly changing.

      1. Thanks, it does make sense.
        I find it very difficult to discern between bipolar disorder, borderline , sociopathic and narcissistic personalities. Especially from folks who grew up in an abusive environment. Family included.

  2. I find it unhelpful to bring politics into this forum. The certain person and his son who is currently occupying the white house is abhorrent to me and a lot of people I know. We all see things differently. I think there’s a lot of those in office that can be described this way, they don’t seem to be representing anything but their own concerns and motives.

    1. This was/is not about politics. This was about an example of behavior. Observable behavior of a well known person that can help us to understand how various challenges present themselves. I feel for this person. He’s clearly unwell and needs help. But you cannot know how to help unless you can understand what’s at the root. Giving a narcissist drugs for bipolar won’t help and could do harm as drugs have side effects.

      My brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I doubt that as he is entitled and abusive. I wonder how much is trauma induced, how much is bipolar and how much is narcissism. All I know for sure is he’s very transactional and verbally abusive and if given a chance, will pull one over on you. So I sincerely doubt the bipolar diagnosis.

      I asked a few weeks ago about Taylor Swift and things she said. I believe she has supported another party. It’s about learning period.

      As I mentioned in my earlier reply, when there is known trauma and abuse in the person’s history, I find it much harder to pull these things apart.

      As far as politicians go, I’m not a fan.

      1. Also, In re-reading your response, I’m not sure if we are on the same page as to whom I am referring to. He’s a youngish man, who has had an established and blossoming career as a singer, a young family, and lots of endorsements. He seemed to be doing well then starting acting and speaking in ways that were out of character and were often pretty bizarre. His wife was also asking for him to get help.

        Dr. Simon, I think I read somewhere or a therapist told me that bipolar often kicks in in the 20’s. Is that true in your understanding?

        1. Sorry Healing, my apologies. I just hear so much negative rhetoric about a certain political figure that I assumed it was the same person.
          I assumed and I didn’t know and I should not have assumed.

          1. Apology accepted, Kat. It’s a very difficult time in the country and it’s difficult not to get pulled in. I’m choosing to focus on my health and well being.

        2. There is a theory that he owes a lot of money to the IRS and may be trying to promote the idea that he’s lost it to keep from going to jail. I wonder if he’s just off his meds and is being used by people who willfully exploit him for money. He’s very vulnerable

    2. Boy that was really well said. The truth I think is that we’ll all see things in a way easiest for us to digest personally. Not sure who really has a handle on “reality.” But there are certainly lots of “insane” people out there. The ones with severe mental illness and drug addiction need our help not the “freedom” to live in the streets. We truly should be “0ur brothers keepers” and in my personal opinion we’ve done a really poor job of that.

  3. Both presidential hopefuls are clearly distorted and dangerous, as has already been shown through the actions of the former president, the violence and hate sector that has blossommed, through which his deliberate actions have caused.
    KW clearly is distorted and it sickens me that tv hosts use him as a guest, when he clearly is not stable, taking advantage of him for their means. It’s sad how media can thrive through the sickness of another.

  4. Turning Americans against one another, demonizing people as others to be attacked, praising violence, sowing doubt in the elections before they begin as a pretext to fight the results if they don’t go your way, organizing an attack on all the checks and balance in the election systems to undermine them and make sure you win, because you know you can’t win fair and square, accuse your opponent of what you are doing to ensure doubt and muddy the waters. Gaslighting millions into believing you are a hero here to help them, when in reality it’s all about you, they are just pawns. When all that fails, plan a coup and watch with glee as the mob you whipped up attacks the people elected to protect and serve out Democracy. Including murdering people and looking to hang your Vice President. And you say he deserved it because he didn’t do what you wanted him to do. Then tell the mob that attacks our capitol that you love them. When all that doesn’t work and the courts have thrown out all you phony claims of a rigged election or fraud. You finally expose yourself and claim outright what you were and are and wanted all along. You want us to get rid of the constitution and install you as president. Forget laws, rights, rules, the constitution. They don’t matter. You and what you want is all that counts. And you will do whatever it takes, including destroying it all if you don’t get your way.

    Look up fighting tooth and nail against internalization of a prohibition and you will see the former president and the disgraceful people who assisted him in his failed coup attempt.

    They tried to hide and blame it others, but the documentation is there, in their own words. There are texts recently released that show you what they did and why. It was coordinated and totally against the constitution and millions of people’s votes. It was a power grab at all costs.

    If you are still supporting them after all that, then it makes me wonder why?

    1. Thats funny, this is exactly how I see it, only I see it from the party you are supporting. I have a lot of facts and information that is not in the main stream bought out media that support it – so you see – there are two different opinions that are out there. But I am ok with divergent views.

    2. I’m sorry that you watch CNN. Nothing he did on Jan 6 was unConstitutional. Pence only had to delay the certification to look again at several states that were not ready to certify which has occurred many times before. I don’t love any politician and don’t doubt that he is a narcissist.. but, I would imagine 90 % of presidents are.

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