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Values of the Self-Sacrificing Type

 

Why do people do the things they do? What people believe will benefit them, they judge to be good. What they believe will harm them, they judge to be bad. Their beliefs about what is good and bad constrain them to act as they do (Seddon, 2007, pg. 88).

The Stoic doctrine that things not in our power are neither good nor bad can be deduced from a number of other core Stoic beliefs. (see G. Sterling).

  1. Virtue is the only thing genuinely good (see K. Seddon), and vice is the only thing genuinely bad.

  2. The only things in our power are our beliefs and will.

  3. Virtue and vice are types of acts of will.

  4. Ergo, virtue and vice are in our power.

  5. Ergo, things not in our power are neither good nor bad.

The following seem to be the core value beliefs of the Self-Sacrificing type. These beliefs give primary value to external things, things not 'in our power' (2005, pg. 219). Therefore, they are false judgments of what is good and bad.


  1. Situations that lead to disappointment, failure, or mistreatment are good.

    But situations are not in our power. They are neither good nor bad. Failure and mistreatment are not in our power. They are neither good nor bad. Disappointment is in our power. It is bad

  2. Attempts by others to help him or her are bad.

    But the actions of others are not in our power. They are not evil.

  3. Positive personal events (e.g., new achievements) are bad.

    But events are not in our power. They are not evil.

  4. Being hurt, defeated, or humiliated by others is good.

    But what others do to us is not in our power. It is neither good nor evil.

  5. Pleasure is bad.

    But pleasure is not in our power. It is not evil.

  6. Sacrifice of accomplishment of their personal objectives is good.

    But accomplishment of tasks is not in our power. Sacrifice of such tasks is not good.

  7. People who consistently treat them badly are good. People who consistently treat them well are bad.

    But what others do to us is not in our power. It is neither good nor bad.

  8. Self-sacrifice is good.

    But only virtue and virtuous acts are good. Self-sacrifice per se is not virtuous. It may be motivated by desire or fear, or some other concern for externals. It is not good.


What we judge to be good, we desire; and what we judge to be bad we fear, or desire to avoid. What we desire, we pursue; and what we fear, we try to avoid. The repeated pursuit of objects of desire and avoidance of objects of fear form vices of character, or dispositions to make particular false value-judgments. The habitual false value-judgments listed above constitute the vices that I believe lie at the core of Masochistic personality, or character, disorder.

Making proper use of impressions, which is the core of what could be called Epictetus' self-therapy, consists of detecting our false value-judgments/passions and immediately correcting them. This requires an awareness of what is in our power and what is not in our power (Seddon, 2007, pg. 190).


Needs of the Self-Sacrificing Type



John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris (1995). The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Keith Seddon (2005). Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living. New York: Routledge.

_________ (2007).Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace. United Kingdom: Lulu.com.

_________ (2009). Socrates on Virtue and its Sufficiency for Happiness. International Stoic Forum.

Grant Sterling (2005). "Core Stoicism." International Stoic Forum.





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Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus


Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus