While all of us have character defects, it is more common for recovering alcoholics to examine their own most scrutinously. Therefore this article is directed chiefly towards those who either currently are, or were, substance abuse users. That said, I'll begin off in discussing Alcoholics Anonymous and the matter of character defects in regards to AA.
Secondly, I'll discuss the various DIFFERENT support groups that are available to those people in need of assistance from others who have suffered, or who are suffering, in a similar capacity to themselves; one such group having been specifically created for non-religious substance abuse users in need of support.
Lastly, I'll discuss my own thoughts on the subject of character defects, hopefully providing new insights into this matter, because most of what I read on the Internet regarding character defects is the same sort of information from one website to the next, and often presented in a relatively morbid fashion. While the topic of one's character defects is obviously a topic of some serious concern, that doesn't mean it can't be handled with more lightness than what most people, writing on the subject, handle it with.
Introductory notes aside though, and with no further adieu...
Character Defects In Regards To AA
When coming clean, and wishing to remain so, AA members refer to a written work nicked-named The Big Book.
In it, there is a twelve step program to be followed where members...
* admit to being powerless over their drinking problem
* seek help from a 'higher power'
* take a 'moral inventory'
* list and ready themselves to remove character defects
* list and make amends to those who they have harmed in their lives
* help other recovering alcoholics
No step of the way is easy, but identifying one's character defects is especially difficult, even with all the literature on the topic, guidance from sponsors, and suggestions in online forums from other members of the fellowship.
Asking a question like 'Where was I to blame?' is a way to begin this process, but it's usually easier to know who you may have hurt, as opposed to trying to know how you specifically hurt them.
If you would prefer a long list of character defects to run your finger down, selecting JUST those traits you think mirror negative aspects of yourself, you can find such lists all over the Internet, but this is merely another method of trying to find an answer that's incredibly hard for many to find because most people don't truly UNCONSCIOUSLY want to find this sort of answer, regardless of the long-term benefits involved in the process. That said, lists that I prefer, apropos character defects, are ones that define many possible character defects, but then proceed to state quite clearly how you can tell if these negative attributes are those you might yourself display.
And should you wish to read The Big Book online, then you can click here.
As a sidenote: a play was once written called Snow White And The Seven Defects, which is often insightful, but in a somewhat humorous way, and can be downloaded in PDF format here.
Other Programs Similar To AA
Because substance abuse is a topic not simply limited to those who have alcohol problems, there are other support programs that people can join if they have had, or have, an addiction to illegal narcotics (be it marijuana or cocaine, for instance), legal narcotics (pills that can be bought on the shelves of any chemist), or cigarettes.
These programs all mostly follow The Twelve Step Program or a variation of it.
Support groups that help people deal with problems not related to substance abuse include, amongst others...
* Adult Children of Alcoholics
* Clutterers Anonymous (sometimes people are messy due to a psychological reason, and this program helps one identify if this is the case)
* Emotions Anonymous (a support group for emotionally and mentally ill people)
* Online Gamers Anonymous
* Re-entry Anonymous (a support group mostly for released prisoners who are trying to stay away from a life of crime)
* Workaholics Anonymous (a support group for workaholics, but also for those who may be compulsive in another sense... e.g.: people who are too compulsive with hobbies or perhaps are compulsively clean)
A society that helps recovering alcoholics - but those who are specifically non-religious - is Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and it is a non-profit network of autonomous addiction recovery groups. To quote Wikipedia in regards to the group...
'The program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The suggested guidelines for (SOS) emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual in nature. SOS represents an alternative to the spiritually based addiction recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. SOS members may also attend AA meetings, but do not view spirituality or surrender to a Higher Power as being necessary to maintain abstinence.'
The following piece of dialogue is taken from an often-used statement made before each SOS meeting...
' "We respect diversity, welcome healthy scepticism, and encourage rational thinking as well as the expression of feelings. We each take responsibility for our individual sobriety on a daily basis. This is a sobriety meeting. Our focus is on the priority of abstaining from alcohol and other mind-altering drugs. We respect the anonymity of each person in this room. This is a self-help, non-professional group. At this meeting, we share our experiences, understandings, thoughts, and feelings." '
The most important idea to take note of, at this point, is that there is quite likely a support group for every type of person out there, suffering from every sort of condition, so never lose hope that you are alone if you are suffering in some way due to an addiction, or as a result of another person's addiction.
But now, lest I totally lose track of the main topic at hand, here are my own thoughts regarding the matter of character defects...
On The Matter Of Character Defects
You needn't wait until hitting rock bottom before choosing to examine yourself for character defects.
Yes, self improvement is largely about one initially working on oneself from a point of 'positivity', but that doesn't mean you can't also begin from the alternate end. In fact, to maintain a balance, I highly recommend you at least consider looking at your own character defects, because you definitely have some (even if only a few) so you may as well determine what they are, THEN consider whether or not you might attempt ridding yourself of them, or simply alter them in some manner.
A note on character defects:
- Some character defects, you will find, are actually quite useful.
This sounds like a contradiction, so allow me to elaborate more in regards to what I mean, but using myself as an example...
I love to sleep.
Really though, I LOVE IT! And I apparently always have. Even when I was a baby, my mother's friends would occasionally wonder if I had perhaps died because I remained so content asleep upstairs in my cot. And if they hadn't known her any better, they might even have wondered if she'd possibly drugged me.
So I'll often sleep, even when I'm not particularly tired.
There's just something magnificent about lying down with my eyes closed on an extremely comfortable surface, sometimes in a patch of sunlight, sometimes then proceeding to have dreams (if I'm lucky) which sometimes inspires my thinking in any number of ways.
And when I consider the natural world at large, I see that many animals sleep more than they usually need to, so I wonder if my 'loving sleep' isn't actually just a very normal animal process because it may simply be a part of my genes which I've never fought against.
Whatever the case, however, I know that when I'm sleeping UNNECESSARILY, I could be working. Therefore, at some point, my 'loving sleep' becomes a character defect. BUT... sleeping makes me happy. Really happy. Also, as I previously stated, I often wake up feeling inspired after a good nap. And because I'm a writer, it's important that I'm both happy and inspired. Especially since I'm predominantly a self improvement writer. Therefore this is one character defect which - if I rid myself of it - may hurt the QUALITY of my writing, even if it allows for more of a QUANTITY of writing as a result.
So what's my point?
If you find yourself with a list of personal character defects, then you should follow this by next ascertaining which of those defects are actually more useful to you than they are unfavourable, before trying to nullify them all.
Another note on character defects:
- Some character defects simply need to be tweaked.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe perhaps said it best when he stated that 'By nature, we have no defect that could not become a strength, no strength that could not become a defect.
In other words: perhaps one's character defects are sometimes just unbalanced aspects of ourselves that simply need rebalancing. Again, here's an example to elaborate...
If you have trust issues, this CAN be to your benefit (especially if you're around a certain group of people who it is wise to be wary of) but being TOO untrusting can be hugely detrimental also (obviously) as you might become unreasonably paranoid as a result, which may likely lead to others becoming irritated with you or distant, etc.
As another example, I know many people who are, quite plainly, rude. I can only surmise that many of these people are this way inclined because they like others to know immediately and clearly where they stand on certain matters (which is actually a pleasure sometimes, as there are many who will never say or do anything for fear of 'rocking the boat') but in speaking your mind to the degree, and in such a way, that others find you don't care at all about what they think or feel on a topic can cause others to become defensive towards you, etc.
As a final example, I firmly believe that 'being selfish' is at least periodically an absolute necessity in life. Sometimes only WE know how to best reward ourselves, and - quite frankly - sometimes we perform in such an extremely awesome manner than we need to reward ourselves as a result. But if rewarding ourselves comes at another's expense, then that could be a character defect that we need to work on.
So what's my point?
Monitor those parts of yourself which are strengths because sometimes, in some ways, your strengths are also (or can also become) your character defects. We live in a world where possibly the only things that are black and white are the colors black and white. Even 'being kind' can become a character defect, for if you show too much kindness to too many people, then others will VERY LIKELY take advantage of you at any and every opportunity.
Concerning the above point, I often wonder - added to the fact that you can tweak any aspect of yourself that is a strength into a weakness, or vice versa - if perhaps, every single weakness is ALSO actually a strength and vice versa. But that's the topic for another article.
A last important note on character defects:
- Some character defects define you (or, at least, you feel they define you), and it's therefore hard getting rid of them as it's akin to ridding yourself of a part of what it is that makes you you (even if that aspect of yourself happens to be a character defect).
Here I'll use no examples to illustrate my point though, as I feel (and hope) I have stated my point clearly enough already. It's simply a case of 'any change being scary, even if said change is to your own benefit'.
So what's my point?
Your identity is not written in stone. Your identity is simply who you are at any one moment, and just because most people don't go from being one person to being somebody else ENTIRELY DIFFERENT the next day, this doesn't mean that people don't change. We do. And we change all the time (just usually in small ways, and usually not consciously). So my advice to you is that you CONSCIOUSLY change yourself in the way you feel will be mostly to your benefit, because you will change anyway, so it might as well be your decision how you change, and in how great a manner you change.
Altering (or getting rid of) a negative aspect (or negative aspects) of yourself can be more of a daunting thought than it is a daunting process.
If there's one thing I know, it's that reality FREQUENTLY surprises everyone.
For some reason, I am reminded of the quote by Herbert Marshall McLuhan: 'We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror.'
How To Ascertain Your Character Defects
Firstly, assume that you're not honest (or that you're not entirely honest) with yourself regarding your flaws. Know that while you may think of a great number of character defects you have, it may be UNCONSCIOUSLY more convenient for you to also NOT see a great many other character defects that are most certainly a part of you.
So how do you find as many character defects as you may have when you're also unconsciously stopping yourself from digging in those certain areas of your mind where you don't want to dig?
There are many ways to go about doing this.
1) Ask others (preferable people who truly love you and therefore want the best for you) what character defects they think you may have. Your loved ones, however, may tell you of character defects you have that are actually there OWN character defects (in psychology, this is called 'projection') so NEVER just go by what one of your loved ones says. As a side-note to this point: look and see what aspects you hate most in others. Sometimes those flaws might be a reflection of your own character defects, and that's precisely why those short-comings so greatly incite irritation in you.
2) Make a list of the GOOD qualities about yourself, and ask others what they value in you too. Because I've already explained my logic in how those negative qualities are also sometimes your positive qualities (and vice versa) this may lead you into seeing some character defects in your good qualities that you hadn't considered before, and it may furthermore help you to be stronger in being honest with yourself about what your character defects are WHEN you see how many redeeming qualities you have too.
3) Meditate or hypnotise yourself, incorporating a sentence which may go something along the lines of 'I am strong enough to honestly see every aspect of myself, whether positive or negative'.
The above three examples of methods to honestly see your character defects are just a few methods one might use to start the process of pointing out those negative aspects of oneself. But if you're not sure how much success you're having in this exercise of revealing your character defects, then instead of trying to identify what's wrong with you (in order to rectify those traits) you can also try the following two methods to help change yourself for the better, and maybe, in doing so, you will come to correct your character defects without intentionally meaning to.
1) Instead of focusing so much on yourself, focus on others. Look and SEE how others think and what they feel, then think IF and HOW you can help them in some capacity. If you try and help another individual, however, and that person resists your aid, ask them if you can help them in another way. If they still turn you down, then move onto another person. I find that individuals often become better people after becoming parents. Now I'm not saying you should go out and have a child if you're feeling depressed or are a total wreck. In fact, that's EXACTLY the wrong thing to do. But I do find it interesting that caring for others - sincerely and unconditionally - often makes a selfish person more selfless, and introverted people more extroverted. But, as always, maintain a balance. As I hit upon in a previous paragraph: don't give too much of yourself to too many people as that can also have dire effects which will be just as bad (albeit in a different manner) as if you were to be too selfish.
2) Try and model yourself on a person who you admire or who you can tell others respond optimistically towards. I'm not implying that you should take on every idiosyncrasy of another person though, in the hopes of becoming their exact psychological twin; but observe generally what they do, and how they do what they do, and see if you can pick up on some of their good habits. I mention this because some of us learn to 'change for the better' through examples (living examples, in this case) as opposed to reading about such methods on the topic.
Remember that most people (if not all people - even the most mentally able) have the following issue in common...
At the end of the day, one's worst enemy is USUALLY oneself.
If, for instance, you have a drinking problem, but you wish to overcome it, it SHOULD be as simple as 'just not drinking anymore'; however, this isn't the case at all. But you should be able to say to yourself 'don't drink anymore' and that should be it. Problem solved, because you know why you shouldn't drink, and you know that it's up to you whether you drink or not, etc, but it's not that easy. And it's not that easy because sometimes we can't believe it could be that easy, and sometimes because we are able to - more-so than anyone else - convince ourselves that acting against our own best interests is absolutely fine, and sometimes because we don't honestly believe we are strong enough to resist a temptation or to alter a harmful behaviour, and so on and so forth.
So what's my point?
Actually this time I don't have one. I simply thought it would be worth filing away, somewhere, that whatever your full potential might be in life, it's always ultimately YOU who controls if and how you get there. But what your full potential is is another matter altogether, and I suspect most people don't normally come close to realising their best selves.
So character defects are bad (obviously) but dealing with them is good (also obviously). That said, if you can successfully discover what flaws you may have that are keeping you from having a better life than the one you currently have, then you've already accomplished the task of clearing away a path before you that will hopefully begin in leading you to a better future. All you'd have to do at this point is walk the path.
Last but not least (and perhaps 'most', in fact)...
I stated near the beginning of this article that I believe, wholeheartedly so, that many of life's more serious situations (but not all of them) can and should be handled in a lighter fashion than many would handle them. While investigating the matter of 'character defects', for instance, I found a website selling buttons that say 'Yes I have character defects, and I'm not afraid to use them'.
I like this.
The core of what most self improvement concepts are about is 'remaining positive' or 'attaining a positive attitude', so why not think positively even when mulling over the negative? I'm not saying you should crack jokes about all the terrible things you've done in your life, then continue to elaborate in jest about why this is specifically so; I'm saying you shouldn't try and come to a positive point in your life by being too negative about your negative qualities, because you don't have to.
We all make mistakes, and if you're trying to rectify the behaviours in yourself that have led to the repeated mistakes you've made in your past, then that in itself is a hugely redeeming quality you have right there, and you should never forget that.
Remind yourself that the one thing you've DEFINITELY got going for you is also the most important thing... the fact that you want to change for the better.
OTHER RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
* The Heart Of Self Improvement
* Self Fulfillment
* Happiness VS Contentment
* Contributors And Feeders
* Self Improvement Tips
To return to the main Mental Health Articles page, CLICK HERE.
To return to the Homepage, CLICK HERE.