Fighting Vice v. Forging Virtue

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you probably know that I use a lot of Athenian philosophy in thinking about interventions and symptom management.  I’ve also written about how this school of thinking has had tremendous influence on the field of psychology.

Today we’re going to take a page out of DBT (willfulness v. willingness) , Positive Psychology (virtues) and CBT  (changing our thinking and behaviors in understanding and responding to the “problem”).  The problem can be anything from a character trait that you are not happy about to a symptom that affects functioning in one or more important areas of your life.

Sometimes our distress is the result of our “fighting” something.  That “something” typically has to do with how we think about, feel about or react to an event.  This creates a set of problems because it keeps us stuck in an argument with ourselves or a reality that may not change.

Fighting vice can mean:

  • Fighting a belief, urge or tendency that many people have but engaging these to an extent that blocks helpful thinking or behavior. (For example-Ruminating on what another person said about you and its’ influence on the opinions of others.)

I’m sure I’m missing something but not much.  Seem’s pretty simple doesn’t it?  A few little things that get in the way of feeling more in control of ourselves and our lives.  Although simple in definition they can be difficult to overcome.

Fighting vice requires little thought or planning, it is a patterned response to an automatic belief that leads to (usually) predictable outcomes. Typically the outcomes are not good ones. Many times these responses were at one time survival skills that actually allowed us to get through a difficult part of our lives.  Because they are an established routine and tied to survival instinct, breaking the patterns can be difficult.

Forging Virtue means:

  • Understanding the vice and it’s harmful impact on yourself and those you are close to.
  • Using our reason to define (behaviorally)what it means to be virtuous.
  • Make a conscious effort to engage in the behaviors that meet your definition of virtue vs. fighting the desires/emotions that push you to vice.

Many times we fight something because we lack a concrete definition of what it is we want to work towards.  I use the term “forging” when it comes to virtue because virtue is work. Virtue involves using our reason to define what it means to be different (in a good way) than how we would normally respond to a situation behaviorally.  Being virtuous demands an attention to this definition when triggers occur and acting from those behaviors that define it, in response to the trigger.

Having a clear and reasonable definition of virtue allows us to no longer depend on our emotions, distorted thought patterns or the opinions of others in judging our character or worth.  It also provides us with a point of reference to work towards. An alternative to remaining engaged in a battle that lacks purpose, meaning or clarity and in the end usually leads to ineffective action and less than desirable consequences.

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