Tag Archives: character

Saint or Sociopath? (or something in the middle?)

This week I was thinking about my recent interactions with people, some nice, some not so nice. I thought, on the one hand, there’s thoughtful, sensitive people, and on the other, there’s pushy, self-centered people. These were the two terms or labels that came to mind. I’ve given it a bit of further thought and in my time I can’t recall anyone I’ve known who was both, that is, sensitive & thoughtful AND pushy & self-centered. They seem like two poles on a continuum. Maybe a rare individual could theoretically harbor stripes of both personalities but it seems unlikely. Thoughtfulness and pushiness are such opposites. One seems to cancel out the other and if someone was sensitive half the time, say, and self-centered the other half, well, I’d start to suspect they had a personality disorder and that’s not what I’m considering here. (I’m also not contemplating when someone has the occasional “off” day or when a person acts “out of character” once in awhile.)

I realized though, that my two distinctions aren’t really the two poles. the two poles are further apart. Here’s what I imagined instead:

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I’m not religious, hence the quotes on “SAINT” but I think most of us have a shared idea of what a “saint” is, someone of exemplary character who lives their life to the highest standards, basically a person whose existence makes the rest of us look bad in our shabby, little lives.😁 I have never personally met a “saint.” I do believe, as I have discussed on occasion in this blog, that sociopaths exist, and I do believe I met at least one in my life ( I expect that I probably encountered more but ran for the hills rather than stick around and confirm it). That said, I’ve met far more narcissists, a category I’d place somewhere in between “pushy, self-centered person” and “sociopath” on my simple line graph.

I don’t believe I’m exactly making earth-shattering discoveries here but rather that I’m not sure I’ve thought about people and personality types in quite this way before. It’s a useful way to consider people to me. I need to consider, or perhaps remember, when I encounter pushy, self-centered people, where they are on my own little line graph. It’s not insignificant that they fall closer to sociopath than saint. I’d like it if ALL my dealings were with people on the LEFT side of my continuum but I realize that’s beyond my control. However, when I DO have a say in it, that’s the side I want to pick from.

 

Short Thought 107

Isn’t it possible that someone could have a personality disorder or substance abuse problem AND a lousy character independent of that? Sometimes we tend to attribute everything unsavory or unappealing about a person to the thing which has been given a culturally defined, usually negative, label. All that is undesirable about someone is considered a by-product of their condition. If only they’d get help, we say.

But not every alcoholic who quits drinking becomes a delightful human being.  And medication and therapy won’t instill a virtuous character in someone with a mental illness or other disorder if it was absent in the first place. I just think this gets overlooked.

I feel like I was born knowing certain things

There are concepts or ideas I feel I was born knowing. It’s been quite awhile, but when I went to college I took plenty of Social Sciences classes where I studied the basic theories and philosophies of personality/character development. None of them truly addressed what I mean.

I have long been profoundly interested in the ideas of truth and fairness. We can rule out these being emphasized in my childhood at home or school, because they weren’t, not really – I heard oodles of rhetoric and dogma, but in relatively short order saw and experienced the hollowness of both. I didn’t know the word then, but had a front seat and a bowl of popcorn for repeated viewings of Hypocrisy 101. Even though I was a child, many things I saw didn’t sit right.

A second obvious possibility is that I became interested in truth and fairness as a reaction to their absence, i.e., I witnessed or felt impacted by their lack, and so made the search for them my life’s mission. I’m not going to toss anyone out of the room for suggesting as much because there IS an element or three of that at work in my psyche. I experienced things then that I’m still trying to correct now as I go about my life in the greater world.

What I’m talking about however, transcends mere reactionary railing against perceived wrongs, whether against me or others. There are just certain…things, for lack of a more eloquent, spot-on word, I feel I’ve always known. For some readers, that assertion could skew too closely to Mysticism or New Age beliefs. I don’t think of myself in those terms and don’t typically relate to much of what I hear from their respective camps. (If nothing else, my skeptical, smart-assery and irreverent natures would deny my membership.)

Whatever that quality was in me, whatever I was born knowing or being, I can tell you there was no guile in it. I was like a little laser when it came to all things true and fair, and it never occurred to me to hide it or otherwise be manipulative. My life probably would have gone smoother if I had been slicker because adults, the ones I dealt with anyway, were not so enamored of these particular qualities. Let me revisit that last statement. The adults were okay with it so long as they thought I was reflecting their mantras and dogmas, so long as my qualities, including this profound attraction to truth and fairness, “passed” if you will, for something that fit into their schematic. The older I got and the more I threw off the (artificial to me) belief systems that I was surrounded by, the more obvious it became that this kid isn’t like us (and is therefore wrong). I never believed it. The power of feeling you’ve always known something, were born knowing something both right and good, is sturdy stuff.