Thinking before acting is a good thing. It’s one mark of character maturity. But what we think and how we think matters even more.
Relationships with heartless characters follow a typical course. You get seduced by the tremendous interest someone shows in you. And most importantly, you mistake the interest for caring. Only later do you realize how utterly expendable you are, especially once you’ve outlived your usefulness.
The tragedy we witnessed two days ago is an old, old story becoming far too commonplace in our character-deficient age. We live in a complicated, demanding world and there are too many among us who never developed the character resources to deal adaptively with life’s challenges – especially failure – and to profit from their experiences, including their disappointments. It’s far too easy to just point a finger. And sadly, for too many, it’s easier still to place that same finger on a trigger and shoot.
Proper confrontation is not just a practical and beneficial way of dealing with the character disturbances of others. It’s also one of the better ways of demonstrating a healthy brand of self-love.
In the moment the disturbed character engages in their dysfunctional thinking and behavior patterns, you know they’re also resisting the idea of accepting and internalizing the values and controls necessary to change. That’s why they’re almost certain to repeat the same problem behaviors unless they are more reliably confronted and corrected.
For change to be properly promoted and reinforced, problem behaviors must be reckoned with at the very moment they occur. Toward that end, over the years I developed worksheets that both individuals with character impairments and their relationship partners have used to confront and correct dysfunctional behaviors, thinking patterns, and attitudes.
When it comes to gaining the skills to empower oneself – and especially when it comes to overcoming character deficiencies – perhaps nothing is as important as confronting, correcting, and ultimately replacing dysfunctional behavior patterns.
In order to judge the character of others objectively and accurately, you also have to know yourself pretty well.
In sound cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the focus is always on behavior and in the here-and-now.
Changing the way someone thinks about things will necessarily affect the way they act.