Understanding the Aggressive
Personalities – Part One
Aggressive personalities are
fundamentally at war with anything that stands in the way of their unrestrained pursuit of their
When it comes to disturbances of character, the aggressive personalities are among
the most problematic. Researchers in the areas of personality and character disturbance have long recognized that
one particular group of highly disturbed characters is at the center of most abusive relationships and poses the
greatest threat to social order. Yet, for many years the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders has
recognized only one small subtype of these personalities as disordered. The manual confers the “disorder” status
primarily to career criminals (i.e. antisocial personality) and only recently has come to recognize the most
severely disturbed character — the psychopath (alt: sociopath) as a distinct variation of this personality
This article, and the one to follow, will explore the defining characteristics of a
group of personality types that I call the aggressive personalities. Not all of the aggressive
personalities engage in criminal behavior, and few are actually violent, but all pose problems for
relationships and society. These articles will explain what character traits the aggressive personalities have in
common that make them so problematic and outline the defining characteristics each of the various aggressive
personality subtypes possess that make them uniquely disturbed.
It is erroneous to equate human aggression with violence. As I note in my books In
Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance, most human aggression is not inherently violent, but rather forceful
energy directed at securing a desired goal without regard for the impact on others. There are also many
modalities of aggressive behavior. Aggressive personalities are individuals who have adopted an overall “style”
of perceiving, thinking about, and interacting with others and the world at large in a manner that involves
considerable, persistent, maladaptive aggression expressed in a variety of ways and in a wide range of
circumstances. Biological predispositions, environmental factors, and the dynamic interplay between biology and
the environment all contribute to the development of this personality style. And because the aspects of one’s
personality that reflect his/her capacity for and commitment to virtuous and meritorious conduct define a
person’s character, the aggressive personalities can rightfully be considered among the most severely
All of the various aggressive personalities possess characteristics common to
narcissistic personalities. Indeed, some theorists tend to view the aggressive personalities as merely aggressive
variations of the narcissistic personality. Moreover, one of the aggressive personality subtypes is principally
defined by a narcissism carried to the most extreme and malignant extreme. Still, the principal distinguishing
characteristic of the aggressive personalities is that in addition to their narcissism, they have a persistent,
unhealthy penchant for aggression. While there are distinctly different aggressive personality subtypes, all the
aggressive personalities have the following characteristics in common:
They actively seek the superior or dominant position in any relationship or
encounter. There is a saying in the real estate business that there are three things that really
matter: “location, location, and…location.” With aggressive personalities, there are three things that
really matter regardless of the situation in which they find themselves: position, position, and…of
They harbor a deep-seated abhorrence for submissive behavior of any type and resent
subordinating themselves to any entity that one might view or conceptualize as a “higher power” or
authority. They are fundamentally at war with anything that stands in the way of their unrestrained
pursuit of their desires. That often means the rules, dictates and expectations of society. Some will
accede to or give assent to demands placed on them when it is expedient to do so, but in their heart,
they never truly subordinate their wills.
They are ruthlessly self-advancing, generally at the expense of others. They actively and deliberately
seek to exploit and victimize others when to do so will further their own ends. The aggressive
character goes beyond the narcissist’s simple disregard for and lack of consideration of the rights or
needs of others, to an active trampling of others in pursuit of their own desires.
They have a pathological disdain for the truth. Aggressive characters don’t just disregard the truth,
they’re actively at war with it. Truth is the great human equalizer, and the aggressive personality
always wants to maintain a position of advantage. So, they deliberately play very loose with the truth
when they’re not flat out lying to con or dupe you. They don’t want you to “have their number.” That
upsets the balance of power.
They lack internal “brakes.” They don’t arrest themselves when they’re on their missions. Like a
rolling train with no means to stop, they exercise little control over their impulses.
They view life as a combat stage, with every event in life having only four possible outcomes:
I win, you lose.
You win, I lose.
I win, you win.
I lose, you lose.
Their greatest desire is for the first possible outcome. They like it best when they win and you lose –
when they’re on top and you’re on the bottom. For them, life is a contest and they want to emerged the
victor in every situation and secure the dominant position. Contrarily, they abhor the notion that you
might win and they might lose. They will resist this potential outcome with every fiber in their body.
Such an outcome puts them in the inferior or subordinate position, which they detest. Aggressive
characters will reluctantly, but not so graciously, accept win-win outcomes. That is, they’ll stop
warring with you if they think they’ve achieved some sort of victory out of the encounter, even if you
also get something you want. Tragically, if it becomes clear that they are most certainly headed for
defeat, they won’t go down easily. They often want to take someone else with them. It takes some of the
sting out of defeat.
Now that you have a general understanding of the aggressive personalities, it’s
important to discuss the various common subtypes of these highly disturbed characters, their unique traits, and the
unusual pain and suffering they can bring into the lives of others.
Read a continuation of this article in Part 2