Everyone has a distinctive way of seeing things and doing things. And we develop unique “styles” of relating to others. That’s what defines our personality. But sometimes a person’s style of relating is in itself problematic. Character disorders always present problems for relationships.
Becoming a better person takes a lot of deliberate, sustained effort. And you have to have the right motivation to do the work. External pressure can lead a person to make changes that are often superficial and short-lived. Genuine, lasting changes come when the motivation is internal. That happens when a person sets pride aside and willingly embraces a higher cause.
The tragedy of our times is that far too many folks lack the attributes of character necessary to function in a mature, responsible way. But we all have it within us to become a better person.
Folks who project a “can do” persona and who seem devoid of the anxieties and insecurities so often hold people back can appear to hold the keys to success and prosperity, which many potential relationship partners find quite attractive. But narcissists are more than confident. They’re often grandiose.
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.
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.
Research evidence has been mounting for some time that the concept of “personality” is not as well-defined as we have long tended to think. And the evidences also suggests that the patterns of behavior that define our personality are not nearly as stable or as immutable as many still believe.
If someone’s behavior and impulse control problems are truly a problem of chemistry, then appropriate medication (and supportive counseling) is what’s indicated. But if the problem is primarily one of character, then the person’s way of looking at the world – the various ways they think about things, the attitudes they hold, etc. – all need to be confronted and corrected in within a highly specialized treatment framework.
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.
The second installment of “Character Matters” airs live tonight (7 pm EDT [6 pm CDT]) and will thus permit telephone calls from listeners who want to join the discussion.