Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
In positive psychology, when we speak about our character, we speak about our strengths according to a carefully measured and weighed set of virtues and strengths. The powerhouse team of Dr. Chris Peterson studied our positive traits. Everyone in the field of positive psychology is well versed with the story, the history and the strengths themselves. We often share them with glad tidings. We often use them as a launching point of exploration of a variety of deeper meaning.
What I personally sometimes forget, as I’m sure countless others do, is that not everyone understands or even knows what we’re talking about when we speak of ‘character’. To be clear, when we, the practicing people of positive psychology, step into the discussion, we’re talking about the positive attributes of individuals or groups. We’re focusing on positive strengths, or virtues. We’re tackling whatever issue at hand from the angle of searching for what’s healthy, or happy, or whole about the subject of our conversation.
That is not always the case.
Take social media for instance. And business practices. Religious organizations. Education or training facilities. There isn’t a corner of our planet that doesn’t touch upon character as a main topic of conversation. Each with it’s own personal twist on what is important about our central character.
People outside of psychology focus on something else entirely. Language is not always the same language, even in the same language! When someone questions your integrity for example. It is not outside of the lines of life to ask them if they would define integrity for you! You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know the true definition of the word! Question them. Or, better yet, if possible, walk away from the negativity.
They have free will to be negative. You have the free will to be positive.
C. S. Lewis said, “Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
Too often, we are trapped by societal frames of rudeness or courtesy. Passive aggressive comments, when given ‘in the name of good intentions’, can also be terribly insulting. We have a tendency to seek conflict in social media, but shy from it in our face-to-face encounters. To be clear about one’s own identity, character and yes, integrity, we have to be willing to be our own champion of our decisions.
When we are living in someone else’s mirror, we are too often fooled by their penchant for how things ‘are’. To exercise our free will and celebrate our voice, we must set down the societal mirrors, pick up the internal dialog of our character strengths and choose.
My Irish history professor once said, “If you believe it to be so, it is so.”
That’s life in a nutshell. Our character strengths and virtues will go where we tell them to.
About the author: Karen Henry-Daly is a transitions life coach, writer and speaker. She specializes in working with people who want to create positive changes and savor who they want to be. Her full bio can be found at: wings13326.wix.com/wings13326#!about-karen-e-m-henry-ma/c11k
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