January 23, 2005

Redirect Negative Traits

“Be courageous as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to do the will of your Heavenly Father.”
— Ethics of the Fathers 5:23
Numerous traits comprise the character of a human being. We tend to consider some traits as commendable and others as undesirable.

Traits per se are neither good nor bad. They acquire a value according to the way they are applied. Hate is generally assumed to be a very loathsome trait, but when one despises evil and injustice and seeks to eradicate them, it becomes a constructive and admirable trait. Love, on the other hand, is generally looked upon as a very positive trait. Yet, when misapplied, love can transgress the boundaries of decency and result in grossly immoral behavior.

Rather than seek to eradicate an undesirable trait, we might consciously redirect it so that it serves a useful function. While redirection can happen with some drives at an unconscious level (which constitutes the psychological defense mechanism of sublimation), we have no control over what happens in the unconscious.

Preferably, we should avoid dismissing a trait which is generally considered unacceptable and consciously redirect it into a positive channel. It is obviously to our advantage to redirect energy, rather to have to repress it, since maintaining that repression requires expenditure of energy.

... try to direct all my traits in a way that will serve a constructive purpose.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. He is a prolific author, with some 30 books to his credit, including,"Growing Each Day", from which this was excerpted.

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