Healing Virtues

Table of Contents:

Honesty

Sincere truthfulness is a virtue that straddles the epistemic and ethical spaces of normative appraisal. It involves a commitment in therapy to forgo deception of others and oneself. It reflects a patient’s motivation to face up to what he might otherwise want to avoid and to candid disclosures of same. It also reflects a motivation to forgo self-deceptive rationalizations. Eagle’s devoted and truth-seeking attitude is a healing virtue that infuses the patient’s work in psychotherapy.58 It is intrepid, unflinching, and courageous, i.e., the patient must work up a measure of self-possession to face the vicissitudes of psychotherapy.

Imaginative Flexibility

Imaginative flexibility is an ability to envision options and possibilities, a willingness to change, and an ability to modify behavioral strategies and core aspects. As a configuration of personality traits, it covers a range of abilities to

recognize and adapt to various situational demands; shift mindsets or behavioral repertoires when these strategies compromise personal or social functioning; maintain balance among important life domains; and [to] be aware, open, and committed to behaviors that are congruent with deeply held values. In many forms of psychopathology, these flexibility processes are absent.59

As a virtue, it is a good dispositional quality of character to respond to the demands of the world in a good enough or excellent way. If the demands of the world include the demand for self-improvement, then imaginative flexibility aims at the targets that this demand indicates, i.e., the desired changes to the patient’s psyche and behavior that are improved ways of relating to oneself and to others. It can be especially relevant to patients with borderline, antisocial, or narcissistic personality disorders, many of whom are fixed and rigid in entrenched patterns of affective and cognitive response. Seeing beyond their embedded maladaptations is perhaps the first step in changing them for the better.

 
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