The character disorder spectrum is vast. And it has multiple dimensions, too. To understand it fully and to know how to cope is to have power. And that’s what this ensuing series of articles is all about.
Many therapists will say they understand personality and character disturbances. But then when you go to them for help you find they just don’t get it at all. In fact, you might even experience therapy-induced trauma.
Narcissism is more than just self-centeredness (i.e. egocentricity). And it’s more than just super self-confidence. It’s pathological self-love – a self-love that always poses problems for relationships.
There’s more information than ever out there about personality and character disorders. Still, many misconceptions still exist because professionals have largely failed to succinctly and uniformly define key concepts and because there’s such a high degree of variance of opinion about the nature of personality disturbances and what can be done about them.
Upon hearing the term “disorder,” many folks infer that a genuine disease process is at work that in some measure relieves a person from full culpability. But in fact only a handful of clinical illnesses can potentially render a person not fully responsible for their behavior.
Perhaps no two concepts in psychology are as confusing at times as personality and character. That’s in part because the definitions of both terms have evolved over time. But it’s also because certain misconceptions about the terms have persisted over the years not just in the minds of the general public but also in among professionals.
Jonathon was like a car whose gear shift is always in “drive” mode, gas peddle is always full to the floor, and has no brakes. And he simply had to learn to exercise voluntary control over his impulses – a real challenge for a kid “wired” to act first and think later.
There are relatively few problems that come to the attention of mental health professionals that are strictly the result of disease processes, biochemical abnormalities, extreme and unusual circumstances, or involuntary factors. Personality disturbances, and especially character issues, are often at the heart of things, although they’re rarely diagnosed.
Most personality styles are adaptive in the sense that they draw upon the person’s natural inclinations as well as their learned experience to form a distinctive and functional “strategy” on how to deal with life’s challenges, get one’s needs met, and prosper. But sometimes one’s distinctive way of coping can, in and of itself, present big problems.
Those of you who’ve been keeping track of the debate that’s been raging on this blog with regard to influence of biology on various aspects of personality formation might find my article “More Evidence of Abnormal Brain Functioning in Psychopaths” of particular interest.