Two Ways of Relating to the World

Most people who come to see a psychiatrist are suffering from what is called either neurosis or a character disorder. Put most simply, these two conditions are disorders of responsibility, and as such they are opposite styles of relating to the world and its problems. The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with character disorder not enough. When neurotics are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that they are at fault. When those with character disorders are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that the world is at fault.

Even the speech patterns of neurotics and those with character disorders are different. The speech of the neurotic is notable for such expressions as “I ought to,” “I should,” and “I shouldn’t” indicating the individual’s self0image as an inferior man or woman always falling short of the mark, always making the wrong choices. The speech of a person with a character disorder, however, relies heavily on “I can’t,” “I couldn’t” “I have to,” and “I had to” demonstrating a self-image of a being who has no power of choice, whose behavior is completely directed by external forces total beyond his or her control.

As might be imagined, neurotics, compared with character disordered people are easy to work with in psychotherapy because the assume responsibility for their difficulties and there fore see themselves as having problems. Whose with character disorders are much more difficult , if not impossible, to work with because they don’t see themselves as the source of their problems; they see the world rather than themselves as being in need of change and there fore fail to recognize the necessity for self-examination.

M Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Eulogy Virtues

David Brooks, in his new book, The Road to Character (Random House), distinguishes between what he calls "résumé virtues" and "eulogy virtues." The former are the skills that get you good grades, good jobs, nice houses, and hefty bank accounts. The latter are what make you a good person. Though I think the distinction between skills and virtues is an important one, Brooks is wrong to imply that résumé virtues are all that we need to produce excellence at work, or that eulogy virtues are for what comes after one’s work has ceased. Eulogy virtues are just as important to becoming good doctors, good lawyers, good teachers, good nurses, good physical therapists, and even good bankers as are résumé virtues. And they are also important to becoming good children, parents, spouses, friends, and citizens. As Aristotle knew, virtue is needed for material success just as it is needed for moral success.

Barry Schwartz writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education