Monday, October 22, 2007

Dealing With Difficult Personalities

“All psychologists are psychological, but some are more psycho than logical”...Chesterton

The sentiment expressed above was one that I held for a long time. I never really took the discipline of Psychology very seriously. In fact, I once had a friend who had a degree in it, but she was about as in tune with reality as Gary Condit during his run for re-election. However, I have recently become very interested in this field of study due to the fascinating personalities I have encountered as of late. Following are just a few of the more intriguing ones. Perhaps some of you have run into these quirky personality types yourselves.

Zealots are a taxing bunch. These are the people who will twist all facts in a way that supports their thinking. It doesn’t matter what the evidence says, they will spin everything in their favor. Often times they are political ideologues, who vote straight Democrat or Republican on every single issue at every single election, and completely refuse to listen to any dissenting viewpoints. Religious zealots will interject religion into every conversation, and cannot go eleven seconds without bringing up their messiah’s name. Every decision they make is run through their theological prism. I actually know people who look to the Bible for guidance on such things as to whom they ought to date, what kind of music to listen to, etc. Basically zealots, of all kinds, are sheep that have been brainwashed by their parents, politicians, or religious leaders. They have no critical thinking skills, and have lost any and all ability to reason for themselves. Nietzsche referred to these type of people as “herd animals”. You have about as good of a chance of getting through to these nuts as you are to having an audible conversation with Santa Claus.

The rebel is another tough one to tolerate. This is usually the person who, through practicing his or her “individuality”, effectively desecrates everything and everyone around them while espousing their demands for across the board respect from those same people and institutions that they defile. Imagine someone who adamantly refuses to properly pose for a GROUP photograph for an organization which he not only does not participate in, but doesn’t even belong to, and only attends meetings for the free food. “Respect” is the rebel’s favorite word, but in an egocentric way, the requirements inherent in the definition do not apply to him, but to others only. If you merely disagree with them, then they claim you are “disrespecting” them, yet they are free to disagree with you all they want. The true definition of the word eludes them. Respect is something that must be earned, not given automatically. It must also be reciprocal.

The most beguiling of all psychological profiles is the delusional egomaniac. Imagine someone who chronically says the most absurd and blatantly erroneous things about almost everything, and yet maintains an arrogant attitude about them self as though they are never incorrect about anything. Nothing is ever their fault, they are impervious to error, they have a very selective and often fanciful memory, and they disagree with almost everything anyone else says. It sort of reminds me of the Terminator- they can’t be reasoned with, they can’t face reality, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, until everyone else admits that they are wrong. Freud must have had a field day with these types. The unashamed hypocrisy inherent in this personality type can be blindingly irksome. Imagine Howard Stern bragging about how refined he is, Mike Tyson lecturing on anger management, Bill Clinton delivering a speech on morality, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell sermonizing about tolerance, or Cardinal Law preaching about, well, anything. Picture a conceited pharmacist who acts with contempt for his or her technicians, and yet consistently demonstrates that their knowledge exceeds his or her own by claiming things that are stunningly erroneous, even concerning the most basic pharmaceutical principles. How do you possibly ever get through to someone like that when they have no sense of shame or sheepishness? My conclusion is that you cannot. Benjamin Franklin said that the hardest thing for a person to do is to accurately know and understand oneself. He must have come across several of these personality types in his day. No matter how many times they humiliate themselves in public by being strikingly incorrect about a plethora of simple things, they will most likely never be able to see themselves as they truly are.

There are a multitude of bizarre characters out there that we must contend with throughout the course of our lives. The extensive group work that many of us reluctantly participate in, and enjoy about as much as an extensive visit with a proctologist, is supposed to prepare us for just these sorts of encounters. The best thing to do is to talk it out (with mediators if possible), be reasonable and rational, contain your emotions the best you can, and realize that futility will set in eventually. It sounds easier than it is, but getting inflamed over the absurdity and hypocrisy will only add fuel to the fire. You’ll probably never get through to them, but if any of you ever figure out a way, then common decency dictates that you must share your revelation with all of humanity!

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