Buddhist Ethics as the Building-Up of Personality
Even if they succeed they cause much spiritual turbulence, knocking the outlook of the person off guard. Now in western societies we have come to associate turbulence with life, and so many Westerners, upon hearing these teachings, instinctively shy away from them.
It is possible that part of the reason things have developed thus in the West is because there is Christianity itself a junction to such turbulence where a radical inner shift of a single moment can trump a lifetime of steady good deeds. Buddhism stresses the gradual building up of virtue, though it is not like the Jewish Pharisees the accumulation of deontological-legalistic virtue by following any set of laws as much as it is a virtue-ethics, that builds over time by cultivating spirituality compassion in oneself until it wells over into others.
Power Types: The Buddhist Theory of Narcissism
Personality is also affected by ultimate life goal. Aside from hedonism, there is also a person ruled by power. This person will be prone to experience inhibitions when he failed to excerpt his will on others, and he may be bored by a lack of conflict or expansively in his environment. All too often, he will attempt to fix by aggression what can only be fixed by compassion. To people with a healthy ethical character, the achievement of life goals may spur the person on to good works and heightened creativity, but in people with a compromised ethical character, success may become crippling and stand in the way of development, creativity and growth. What early Buddhism seems to be describing here is a version of Narcissism where the narcissist’s limited self-insight will cause them to confusedly identify with whatever success that have come his way in life, without being able to analyse whether these successes were in any way deserved. In such persons, successes will be crippling to their development, eating away at their personality and potential.
In Buddhism too we find that aggressive power personalities are actually running away from a deep-seated sense of shame (which is congruent with modern-day Western understanding of the Narcissistic personality). As in the West, this then presents the predicament of how to treat or solve the narcissists problems. The self-shame comes out in self-destructiveness and shame. Thus where normal people often think they can cure the narcissist by showing them to egotistical nature of they ways, Buddhism predicts, as modern psychology has also found, that a narcissist who actually becomes self aware is more prone to feel simply “empty” and do nothing to actually to take up empathy and good deeds.