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"Flawless! "
The Ten Most Common Character Flaws and What You Can Do About Them




CHAPTER ONE:
Everybody Has Them

Flawless!
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If you're like most of us, you are constantly dealing with people who would rather be right than happy. They are that great class of unfortunate souls who are incapable of admitting they are wrong. They are convinced that their way of living, their way of doing things, is best. These characters wish that the rest of the world would get with their personal program. Then, according to them, everyone would be better off.

Or maybe you have a boss or coworker with a flash-point temper who gets enraged over the silliest things. Some of you might have a spouse or partner who blames you for his or her problems. Do you know anyone who prefers criticism over solutions, or who relishes nurturing resentment?

These people have character flaws.

The truth is that everybody has them. Some of us have more than others. You may notice you have them too. I know I have my share.

Don't worry if you happen to see your flaws surfacing as I describe them. That is a sign of your own open-mindedness and willingness to get a handle on your problems.

We are a society that is enamored with defective character. We watch thousands of hours of TV and films where the leading role is portrayed by an imperfect character. We watch celebrities, politicians and stars on and off the screen with an almost morbid fascination for their defects: J.R. on Dallas, Jeffery Geiger on Chicago Hope, Diane on Cheers or Abby on Knotts Landing -- the most flawed people seem to be among the most captivating. Perhaps in their struggles we see ourselves.

Great individuals with high character also have glaring faults. It is precisely because they have such high character that their flaws stand out. The common perception that good people have fewer flaws is wrong.

It is not a matter of more or fewer flaws. It is the willingness to change them that counts. If you read the lives of saints and sages you will find that they too had to discipline themselves to improve their character. It is in the process of working on these flaws that one develops great strength of character. Strength of character is what this book is about.

Some people, you may have noticed, deliberately cling to their defects of character. In fact there are many who hone their flaws in order to be in control or have power over others. As much as some hate to admit it, there are evil people in this world who use character flaws to get ahead and dominate others. These individuals have always been with us.

Our modern, allegedly enlightened society seeks to reform them, even when it is obvious that there is no willingness on their part to change. As a society we have become fascinated with the dark side, like sunbathers who bask in the shadow.


Your Character, Your Reputation

A person's reputation used to be based on living a good and honest life. If you were someone who kept your promises, and didn't take anything you didn't deserve, you were considered good. A man could go to his grave satisfied that he had lived an honest life.

Nowadays a man or woman's reputation is often based on hype, not morality. We judge a people by how good they are at doing something. Sports figures are considered great based solely on their performance, not on the kind of people they are. Since most of what goes on in our society is based on promotion, it is publicity and not character that determines our heroes. This constitutes a great moral crisis for our society. Celebrity is revered, and often name recognition is more important than a good name. Worse yet, having a good name no longer implies moral substance. It means visibility through the media. And the media is cultishly devoted to flaws.

In this book you will learn not only how to identify the ten most common character defects, but also what to do with them. You may ask, Why bother?" I believe that the reward for changing even one of your flaws is greater peace of mind. It is worth it. If you don't think you have any character flaws, feel free to put this book down. You don't need my help. I offer my condolences to your friends and relatives. If you do work on yourself you will learn how to deal with the flaws in others too.

Having character flaws is very human. Doing nothing about them is tragic. Changing them is evidence that you are more than mere flesh and blood. Man reveals his spiritual nature through his transformation in character. The greatest evidence of the spirit working within man is the fact that character can change. You possess the ability to change.

In fact you are the possibility of change, capable of a profoundly peaceful life if you choose it. You must be willing to let go of the character flaws that have been limiting you. It is simpler than you can imagine.

Are You Possessed by a Flaw?

Most of you know how incredibly difficult some people can be. "He's a bear to live with," or "What a character." These are expressions we have all used. You may not have a name for the particular character flaw, but you know what it looks like. It makes for great gossip and keeps our attention riveted. Archie Bunker had one-- he was addicted to being right. Donald Duck had one -- raging indignation. Popeye's girlfriend, Olive Oil, had one-- she was the perpetual victim to Brutus, who was both arrogant and intolerant. Character flaws affect relationships. The know-it-all Ralph Crandon and his intolerant wife, Alice, built a marriage around their foibles.

Flaws add flavor and zest to life while creating turmoil, chaos, and pain. For those of us who love excitement and romance, flaws also add intensity. They are often part of the key to making deep relationships work. When you overcome a defect in character or learn to tolerate those found in your partner you add a profound bond to long-term love.

So Why Change?

There are many reasons to work on character flaws, even if your life seems to be manageable. First of all, it is always good to strive for perfection. Changing what you can is the courageous thing to do, and life needs to be lived courageously. Second, character flaws tend to spin around in your emotional world like a hurricane ready to hit the coast. They have power to disrupt your relationships. A flaw can suddenly become much more severe. Worse yet, one character defect can trigger others to surface. Third, flaws are automatic -- they occur without your permission. When you are possessed by a flaw it chooses when to surface and you are a hostage. Fourth, the worse they get the more you will deny that you have flaws. That is a problem in and of itself.

Character flaws tend to come in clusters. Intolerance can trigger anger, which can kick in a feeling of rejection or inadequacy. These clusters can spin and perpetuate themselves. You only need to get one flaw going and the others automatically join. When they are all working in combination you are out of control. When they are out of your control, your life becomes unmanageable. I guarantee that when they are out of control, then you have made the lives of others unmanageable too. This is what I mean when I say that your are possessed by the character flaw. If it possesses you, then you are past due for an emotional tune-up. Humans can't go a hundred thousand miles with out a tune up. We need to constantly correct our flaws. The good news is that correcting them has many rewards.

Two Goals of This Book

Let me suggest two goals to you: your first goal should be to transform your own character; your second should be to learn how to survive the flaws of others. When you achieve these two goals, you will automatically become more successful in relationships and in business.

You will be a better parent, a better friend, and a wonderful spouse. Now I know that every self-help book you have ever read tells you that you must change your beliefs in order to change yourself. They never seem to be specific about what it takes to change a belief. I will be very specific. I don't want to leave you with an excuse not to change.

After you adopt new beliefs we will talk about mastering the use of wholesome qualities, much the same way you would use a character flaw. It is a little more difficult at first. Being honest doesn't come easily or automatically if you have been by dishonest for a long time.

Peacefulness is torture for the rage addict. I'll show you how to gently change. You can not, however, change the beliefs of others. You can suggest alternative beliefs or demonstrate that you believe differently. You can't push a rope.

As my friend Charlie "Tremendous" Jones would say, "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can put salt in his oats." The most important thing to surviving the character flaws of others is to find the good intention or the need behind the flaw. When you discover the hidden need it is as though you just salted those oats. You see, you will have discovered the hole in a person's soul.

Holes in Your Soul

I'll bet you can spot a person with holes in his or her soul. Have you ever complimented someone on how she looks, only to have her deny it and point out her flaws? Have you ever called someone on his bad behavior only to have him point out why you are the problem? Or maybe you know a teenager? They all have holes in their soul, unfulfilled needs that drive them to adopt character defects in order to survive. Teenagers are changing so rapidly that they don't have time to hide their "stuff" the way adults do. But you can spot it easily enough. Look at the individual who wants everybody to like him. He lies, distorts and makes up things as he goes along, just to fit in or be appreciated. Unless you are living in a cave someplace you see them all the time.

Most of your flawed associates don't want to change. When they do decide that it is time to change they start working on their personality, which is more superficial than character, and easier to affect. That's like treating a skin disease with makeup. Most of my colleagues will tell you that it takes years of hard work in therapy to make profound changes in the personality. Many of them will also tell you that you are stuck with your character. You can't change it.

Don't you believe that for a moment. In my twenty years as a psychiatrist, I have seen some of the most miraculous transformations in character in my patients. The good news is that the character change seems to be simpler, sometimes almost effortless. Not that you can change without effort. It is just that some people have such a profound transformation that it can only be explained by the word "miracle."

What is the key to this miraculous character change we see in some seriously flawed individuals? Do these severely flawed beings hold the secret to a pattern that we can adopt? My take on it is that the key to this profound transformation is a willingness to change, a kind of humility. You don't have to be strong willed, just willing. In fact it seems that the weaker one is, while humbly admitting the need to change, the more profound the change. Grace falls like rain on the good and the bad. The hungrier the crop the more it can absorb.

Willingness to change is not the same as changing by self will. Willingness is the humility to expose a hole in your soul. It is the honesty to admit that there is a need that hasn't been filled with all your attempts, efforts and exertions. There is an empty feeling that can't be relieved by obsession, confession, or possession. You can use a flaw for control, power, or manipulation, but in the end you are no better off because a basic need still lies unfulfilled.

This is an unusual self-help book because I am not asking you to be strong to improve yourself. I am not asking you to be motivated and to go into action, to be passionate and energetic, but to weaken a bit, to soften up, to be less rigid. I am not promising you more intelligence and pizzazz but more wisdom, humility and character.

Sanity, responsibility, and serenity are the goals of this transformation. It isn't talent that will take you there, but willingness. If you are distressed enough to be willing to change, something is going to happen. There is a core of goodness in every individual that has been programmed to help you grow. Some people have their emotional growth stunted at an early age because of abuse, trauma, alcohol, or drugs. Still the process of transforming aches to occur.

The patient's soul is longing to grow up, trapped in a body of an individual whose emotional growth is stunted. Eventually with a little help, the journey startes.

Are You Bored, Lonely, Inadequate or Feeling Trapped?

A hole in your soul causes you to feel separate, isolated and disconnected from others. You might notice that some really high achievers are running on empty, emotionally. They are trying to fill a hole that causes them to feel inadequate, unappreciated, or disapproved of by others.

In fact all these needs and negative feelings are unconsciously connected to what we believe about ourselves at the core of our being. Today there are many people whose beliefs are so out of whack that they are having an emotional-core meltdown. It is a spiritual problem in essence that shows up as a character crisis. I get excited when I see someone in crisis. I know that there is a power within you that will find the right stuff to fill the hole in your soul. The crisis is a signal that it is time to find meaning with in. It is a time to look at your stuff to create a life of peace, joy, and self-esteem.

You can only go backwards so far before you run into something that causes you to change direction. I learned this vividly when I did my residency training while living in New York. We used to park our cars using a technique learned at the bumper-car ride in amusement parks.

Back up till it goes bang, then pull forward. It doesn't work well in other parts of the country, but in NYC it is quite effective.

We do the same thing with our emotions. We back away from taking a good look at the beliefs we live by until we can go no further. When you can no longer live with what you believe, it is time to start changing beliefs. Changing beliefs will influence your character.

Character flaws hold the secret to wholeness. They hold the key to knowing how to fill in the holes in your soul.

What usually happens, though, is we try to fill the holes in our soul with ego. We develop swollen, inflated, or puffy egos.

Puffy Ego Syndrome

Okay, you can't find the term in any psychiatric literature. That's because I made it up. It simply means an ego that tries to compensate for low self-esteem by making itself larger.

Your ego puffs itself up and tries to plug the holes with defective exaggerations of character, and your flaws get worse. You ego is trying to help you survive. It helped learn social graces and keep you toilet trained. It has done a pretty good job. In fact your ego has learned how to be creative in using character flaws. In my years of treating patients, I have found ten flaws that occur most frequently.

The Ten Most Common Character Flaws

Addicted to being right
Raging indignation
Fixing blame and nurturing resentments
The dread seekers -- worry and fear
Resisting reality, intolerance
The poor me or martyr syndrome
Self-regard run riot
The excuse for everything -- inadequacy
Hypercritical fault finders
The trap, chronic dishonesty

Sparkle Like a Gem

This book is designed to help you shed some of these ten flaws. It may also help you put some new defenses to work with people who have always gotten to you before. When you finish this book, expect that your character will sparkle like a finely cut gem, but don't expect to be finished. If you are still alive when the last page is read, that is a sign that you still have some change to go through and more fun to experience.

This is a book about hope. You already have everything you need to get going. If you have identified one of the character flaws as your own, don't focus too hard on it. Start exploring the wholesome quality that could replace it and make your life better.

You also do not have to read the book in order. You know what you need better than I do. If you want to skip to the chapter that seems appropriate, then go to it. You don't even have to finish this first chapter. Follow your own sequence. Or ask a friend which one you need to read first. Make sure it's an honest friend, though, someone who will tell you the truth.

Did You Laugh at Yourself Today?

A real sign of maturity is the ability to laugh at yourself. I hope you take yourself a little less seriously after you read this book.

Re-creating yourself, changing your destiny, is serious, but criticism from others really isn't. When you start to change I guarantee that some well-meaning friend or relative will try to get you to be your old self. They will get a bit uncomfortable with the changes they see.

They were used to your goofy behavior and would like to see it continue. If they are offering you criticism out of love and not the need to be right, then accept it if it is true and be amused if it isn't.

Remember that the goal of transformation is profound peace and loving relationships. You don't need all this aggravation just to fulfill the need to be right or to be admired.

Life is a gift to you. Your life can be a blessing to others. Your character is the wrapping that the gifts of your soul are packaged in.

Make it a work of art. The world will be a better place if you do.

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