By far the most limiting aspect of traditional approaches to understanding the most character-disturbed individuals among us is that purely behavioral descriptions don’t capture the essence of what is unhealthy and problematic in them.
By now, some may have read my initial post on the “aggressive personalities” (see “Understanding the Aggressive Personalities”). I expect that the post may prompt some discussion, and I’m hoping for a robust dialogue. It’s very unfortunate that the professional community has give such little attention to these most character-disordered of all personality types. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s also unfortunate that for a long time the official diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals only recognized one subtype of these personalities, applying the term Antisocial Personality Disorder basically to persons who consistently led lives of crime since mid-adolescence. A relatively recent revision of the manual has de-emphasized the criminal conduct aspect of this personality type but has failed to clearly delineate the many different subtypes, instead suggesting that persons qualifying for the APD diagnosis may have either a varied smattering or clustering of disturbing traits. This poor classification system fails to recognize the distinctly pathological traits that define at least five very different, sometimes dangerous, and always problematic personalities.
By far the most limiting aspect of traditional approaches to understanding the most character-disturbed individuals among us is that purely behavioral descriptions don’t capture the essence of what is unhealthy and problematic in them. It is my assertion that their inordinate predisposition for aggression lies at the heart of their character disturbance and influences every aspect of their disturbed development. At heart these individuals are under-inhibited, unnecessary, and unrelenting fighters who would be entirely different characters if they could bring themselves to concede, back down, or submit, especially when it is in their long-term best interest to do so. Other problematic traits can combine with this aggressive predisposition to create some very disturbing personality styles.
I find it helpful to categorize 5 basic aggressive personality subtypes:
- The first type I call the unbridled aggressive.
- These are the individuals we have typically called “antisocial” in their behavior pattern because they so frequently violate major social norms and end up running afoul of the law.
- The second type I label the channeled aggressive.
- Individuals with this personality type frequently channel their aggressive energies into socially sanctioned outlets such as competitive sports, military careers, etc., and tough corporate enterprise. They contain their aggression for pragmatic purposes but will cross socially acceptable boundaries when they feel assured they will get away with it.
- Covert-aggressive personalities do their best to appear benign on the surface and to veil all their aggressive agendas.
- They are among the most manipulative of personalities, and are the primary subject of my book In Sheep’s Clothing.
- Another subtype is one that I label the sadistic aggressive.
- Most aggressive personalities hurt other people. But that is not their principal aim. Aggressive personalities generally simply want what they want and if they have to run roughshod over someone else to get it, so be it. Causing pain is not their aim. Getting their way is their main desire. But for the Sadistic Personality, inflicting pain and demeaning others is a primary objective.
- Lastly, I apply the label predatory aggressive to the most severely disturbed of all characters, the psychopath (alt: sociopath).
- These individuals are first and foremost characterized by their senseless, remorseless, and completely empathy-devoid use, abuse, manipulation, and exploitation of others. Some of these individuals also lead parasitic lifestyles.
In the next series of posts, I’ll be exploring each of the aggressive personality types in much greater detail. I’ll also be discussing the pitfalls of attempting to intervene with such personalities using traditional approaches. It’s very unfortunate, but many longstanding notions about why people do the things they do can put a relatively healthy individual at an extreme disadvantage when they encounter one of the aggressive personalities. Not really knowing who and what they are and what really makes them tick, so to speak, is how most people end up getting victimized by them.
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