The Dark Triad and Toxic Personalities

In Spiritual Theology, the landmark work of Fr. Jordan Auman, the author speaks frankly of the necessity of studying observable psyhological phenomena as we progress through the spiritual life, as we learn from those who have gone before, and as we study the writings and lives of the saints.

Thus, spirituál theology deals directly with the psychological data of the spirituál life, and in so doing it adds to the principles of moral theology the experiential or existential element that constitutes spirituál theology as a combination of speculative and practical theology. To summarize, spirituál theology comprises three elements:  (1) the psychological data of spirituál experience; (2) the application of theological principles;  and (3) practical directives concerning progress in the spirituál life with a view to Christian perfection. 

To some degree, psychology is helpful.

But like philosophy, and unlike theology, psychology can be used to justify just about anything. So you have to be careful when looking it over.

It can be useful for understanding the dynamics of the spiritual life, and especially for understanding the actions of toxic personalities, that tend to exhibit the characteristics of the dark triad – some of whom inhabit, and manipulate within, the Church freely, as most people consider that everyone involved in the Church is operating out of charity, hope, and faith. It’s not an unusual phenomenon in the least – you can check the headlines over the last few decades to give yourself an idea of toxic personalities at work in the Church.

Toxic personalities

They seek to divide, to destroy, to ruin, to control. It doesn’t matter why, as it’s usually based on their own unfulfilled wants, or evil desires. And, they know they can get away with it. They enjoy it.

Understanding Dark Traits

People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behavior—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.

While many researchers consider psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism three distinct traits with overlapping characteristics, others believe the commonalities suggest an underlying personalityconstruct that has yet to be fully understood.

How is psychopathy related to the dark triad?

Most researchers consider psychopathy—a trait characterized by a lack of empathyand remorse—to be the “darkest” of the Dark Triad, in so far as psychopaths generally cause more harm to individuals and to society than do narcissists or “High Machs.”“Psychopath” is not a mental health diagnosis; the disorder that most closely represents it in the DSM is antisocialpersonality disorder.

What is Machiavellianism?

Machiavellianism is not a mental health diagnosis; rather, it’s a personality trait describing a manipulative individual who deceives and tricks others to achieve goals. It is based on the political philosophy of the 16th-century writer Niccolò Machiavelli. Some evidence suggests that of the dark traits,Machiavellianism is most closely tied to high intelligence. If a psychologist refers to someone as “High Mach,” it means they behave in a highly manipulative manner.

How is narcissism related to the Dark Triad?

The third piece of the triad, narcissism, is characterized byexcessive self-regard and heightened arrogance. While many narcissists are merely frustrating, extreme or “malignant” narcissists can becomeemotionally abusiveor even violent when they aren’t given the special treatment they believe is deserved.

What is “D,” or the dark factor of personality?

Recently, researchers have begun to hypothesize that a single core factor—classified as “D”—may underlie many different negative traits, including those in the Dark Triad as well as sadism, entitlement, and others. “D” denotes a tendency to maximize one’s own desires at the expense of other people’s.

What is the “Light Triad”?

Researchers have recently begun to study the so-called “Light Triad” of traits:
faith in humanity, humanism, and Kantianism. The theory is often framed as the opposite of the Dark Triad, and hinges on the belief that people are inherently good and should not be treated expediently.


Via "Psychology Today", accessed August 7, 2020.

Our spirituality is based on the imitation of Jesus Christ

We do that by meditating upon his life and teachings, often through the eyes of his most blessed mother. Filled with the Holy Spirit we are able to grow in supernatural wisdom, fear of the Lord, understanding.

Do you know toxic people in your life?

How are they affecting your spiritual life?

More importantly, why are you letting them do so?

At some point, it has to simply stop.

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