Understanding the Channeled-Aggressive Personality
The Channeled-Aggressives in our midst want everyone to know that they are a power to be reckoned with and have little regard for those whom they perceive to be less tenacious. They might even regard it as a perverted indication of respect if others cower in their presence. Do you know someone like this?
This post is the second in a series about some personality types that are the most disordered in character. In some earlier articles, I presented some of the characteristics all the “aggressive personalities” share. In my last post, I described the “unbridled aggressive” personality type. (See “Understanding the Unbridled Aggressive Personality”.) This type of aggressive personality is frequently involved in law-breaking behavior (whether or not it is detected and/or sanctioned). But there is another aggressive personality subtype which shares many of the characteristics I outlined in my last post, but is rarely involved in a lifetime of crime.
We all know tough-minded, callous, driven people. These are the individuals determined to prosper, generally at someone else’s expense. For them, all that matters is taking care of number one. Stay out of their way, and you might never have a problem with them. Get in their way, and you might very well be “toast.” Insensitivity, disregard for boundaries, extreme competitiveness, and intolerance for weakness are the core characteristics of the aggressive personality subtype I call the channeled-aggressive personality (see my book In Sheep’s Clothing). These people ruthlessly strive for the dominant position in relationships and to win at all costs. They also don’t mind projecting their aggressive styles openly and proudly.
They are not the same as those best described as having an assertive personality because they’re not particularly mindful of the potential impact of their behavior on others. They don’t mind it if others fear them or loathe them. They want everyone to know that they are a power to be reckoned with and have little regard for those whom they perceive to be less tenacious. They might even regard it as a perverted indication of respect if others cower in their presence. They are proud of their tenacity and lack of apprehension when it comes to taking on the challenges of life, and they ascribe to the firm belief that the spoils of life’s conflicts rightfully belong to those willing to do what it takes to be victorious. Unlike their unbridled aggressive personality counterparts, however, they do not lead habitual lives of crime or engage in frequent major social norm violations. Instead, channeled aggressive personalities generally direct their energies into social pursuits in which traits like the determination to win, tough-mindedness, fierce competitiveness, etc., are not only tolerated but often prized. But their self-restraint from criminality does not arise out of a well-developed conscience or a high degree of social concern. Rather, it arises out of a more pragmatic desire to avoid possibility of social sanction and loss of freedom or power.
The principal features of the Channeled-Aggressive character are:
- They are as interpersonally ruthless and heartless as any other aggressive character.
- They generally confine their aggressive interpersonal conduct to non-criminal activity.
- Although they place limits on their aggressiveness, their self-restraint is not so much based on social conscientiousness or a felt obligation to subjugate their wills to a higher authority, but rather a practical desire on their part 1) to avoid social sanctions that might potentially restrict their freedom and 2) to maintain a favorable social image.
- They will abort all controls (and consequently will break the law) when they are convinced they can successfully avoid detection or sanction or have amassed sufficient power, influence, and control in their relationships that they will not be challenged.
- They share the same narcissistic characteristics (e.g., sense of superiority, feelings of entitlement, self-centeredness, etc.) as the other aggressive personality subtypes.
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Channeled Aggressive personalities gravitate toward situations in which they can amass power and exert control. They are often found in the ranks of law enforcement, military command, big business, contact sports, and politics. Some have the manipulative skill to favorably manage the impression of others and appear as true team players. In reality, however, they are a team unto themselves, always looking out for number one. Many times, they are respected for their ambition, drive, capability, and tenacity. They are just as often individuals who can seem great to work with as they are individuals who are clearly hell to work for. They are different from assertive characters because they are more tenacious and don’t pay much heed to how their actions might negatively affect others. They’re out to win, regardless of the cost or impact.
Channeled-aggressive personalities reveal themselves for the defective characters they are when they sense that they are likely to avoid detection and/or sanction for breaking the rules. When they feel reasonably assured that they will get away with it, they will not hesitate to cross an important boundary or exceed a crucial limit. Convinced that their latest laser and radar detector is the best on the market, they will take to the highway with reckless abandon, weave between cars, and prove to the world that they can shave at least 4 minutes off the time that other hapless commuters spend getting to work. Convinced that their corporate books are “cooked” so well that even the best accountants can’t find fault with them, they’ll exploit and pillage their companies, looking good in the process. So, it’s not that these types are really devoted to the rules. They are as much at odds with them as is any other aggressive character. And when they think it’s a sure bet that they won’t be detected or suffer, they won’t hesitate to break the rules. This remarkable lack of social conscience marks their principal character defect.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by
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