Personality and Character
We all relate to others and the world at large in a distinctive way. And the manner in which we relate pretty much defines our personality. Now, what we call our character reflects the moral and ethical aspects of our personality. Unfortunately, in our times too many folks relate to others in unhealthy, even destructive ways. That’s what defines character disturbance.
The Nature of Character Disturbance
Both our innate tendencies and the things we experience shape our personalities. We form certain attitudes – beliefs about how the world operates and how to best cope. These ways of thinking heavily influence how we act. They especially effect how we conduct ourselves in relationships. Disturbed characters see the world and others in some pretty unhealthy ways. And their unhealthy perceptions and attitudes predispose them to relate in a destructive fashion.
It’s All About Relationships
Relationships become toxic when one or both parties to that relationship have problematic traits in their character. For example, if I have narcissistic traits in my personality, I’m likely to be self-centered and demanding. I’m also likely to view others in terms of how they reflect on me and the view I like to hold of my own importance. At the beginning of a relationship, I may go all out to impress and attract someone. I might make the object of my desire feel so special they simply can’t resist me. But in time, my egocentricity will simply have to surface. And it will inevitably impair the development of genuine intimacy.
Learning to Better Relate
In my teaching seminars I stress the radically different nature of therapy for disturbed characters. Such therapy is actually training in healthier relating. It’s not just talking and listening. And it’s much more than exploring feelings and inner conflicts. You confront directly but lovingly unhealthy ways of looking at and thinking about things. And you confront intimacy-impairing ways of interacting. Then you “invite” them to try a different approach. And when they show any willingness to do so, you reinforce their effort.
Helping character-impaired people change is difficult, specialized work. And when someone’s character disturbance rises to the level of a disorder, successfully promoting change can be impossible or next to impossible.
Next week we’ll focus the character traits that pose the biggest obstacles to intimacy in relationships. We’ll also talk about how to best deal with them.
Character Matters airs live this Sunday at 7 pm EDT (6 pm CDT). Call in at (718) 717-8296 to share or ask a question.
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