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Acting-Out Behavioral Personality Characteristics

Chapter 4: Acting-Out

Behavioral Personality Characteristics
Laying the Foundation:

Personality Traits of Low Self-Esteem
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


Acting-Out Behavior Characteristics 
Appearance to world of persons in the acting-out behavior role:
  • The “scapegoat” of the family
  • Irresponsible
  • Troublemakers at home, work, school, or community
  • Get into a lot of mischief
  • Runaways
  • Drug or alcohol problems
  • Delinquent or pre-delinquent behavior
  • Brushes with legal authority
  • Rebellious against any type of authority figure
  • Do not take direction easily
  • Goof off people
  • Bring disgrace to family, fellow workers, friends, or self
  • Lack tolerance for others
  • Poor achievement record
  • Angry, hostile, or belligerent
  • Fail at school or work
  • Sexually promiscuous, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unwilling to abide by rules or codes of conduct
  • Prone to use a self-destructive behavior pattern
  • Lack of worth to the system, organization, family unit
  • Sullen and uncooperative
  • Bombastic, mouthy, caustic
  • Shallow, self-centered, manipulative, exploitive

Feelings inside persons in the acting-out behavior role:

  • Lack freedom to vent frustration directly onto its source
  • Emotional withdrawal from problem situations, e.g., family, job, peer interactions
  • Dependence on others to fill unsatisfied need for belonging to a family or unit
  • Starved for attention from those in their lives who have problems
  • Lots of bottled-up emotions; need for acceptance, belonging, being wanted and cared for
  • Jealous and irritated at all the attention others get in family, school, job, or with friends
  • Sense of being neglected, ignored, or unwanted
  • Lack emotional support
  • Intense need for love and intimacy
  • Unwilling to use “achievement tactics” to gain others' love, attention, and respect
  • Self-hatred for not being “good enough” to gain unconditional acceptance from others
  • Intense sense of rejection and loneliness
  • Intense hurt

Consumed with anger at:

  • parents for not caring
  • the person in life who has the major problem
  • the looking-good types for hiding and denying the problem
  • the world for accepting their behavior as “real selves" that brought them to their current problem state
Negative consequences of acting-out behavior role:
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excesses can lead to poor nutrition and poor health
  • Involvement in hazardous exploits and accidents
  • Self-destructive consequences in school, job, family, community
  • Suicide: accidental or intentional
  • Alcoholism or chemical dependency
  • Heavy sense of guilt for personal negative behavior traits
  • Self-loathing and self-hatred
  • Shallow relationships with others with few deep, caring friendships
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Problem in showing love for others
  • Peer group becomes primary reference or system for their involvement in life
  • Anger increases rather than decreases
  • Poor development of intimate, cooperative, or loving relationships with others
  • Violation of accepted standards of behavior at home, school, work, or in the community
  • Use of emotional defenses of rationalizing, noisy argumentation, etc.
  • Provides troubled persons with a chance to get focus away from themselves and onto the acting-out person

Some beliefs of persons in the acting-out behavioral role:

  • No one is ever willing to admit how screwed up this family really is.
  • There is no sense in trying to make it work in this family since no one else is willing to work on the problems.
  • The only sanity in my life is with my friends.
  • No one is going to tell me how to live my life.
  • There is nothing I can do to make things better.
  • No one loves me.
  • No one understands me.
  • I will do anything to get the love I need.
  • Life sucks!
  • You have got to be a sucker or a wimp to go along with what they expect out of me.
  • The only value that counts in life is to be yourself.
  • Everyone is so dumb they can't see what's going on.
  • The only thing that counts in life is power.
  • Attack first before you get attacked.
  • Don't ever let anyone take advantage of you.
  • Everyone in authority is messed up so ignore them.
  • There is no proof that hard work and effort pay off in the long run.
  • Get out before they devour you.
  • Don't trust anyone!
  • Get everything you can grab because you won't be given anything.
  • I don't have any dependencies or problems.

Turning negative acting-out behavior into positive potential


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Reliance on peers

Positive Potential: They can be helped to see that they are capable of being “real leaders” if correctly channeled. They have an ability to interact freely in a variety of social settings


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Acting out

Positive Potential: They are capable of being healthy “risk takers” if correctly channeled.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Defiance

Positive Potential: They are capable of seeing the “truth” or “reality” in a “corrupt” or “sick” system, e.g., family, school, job, or community organization. They can speak the truth, which others often do not want to hear.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Rebellious

Positive Potential: They challenge the status quo! They ask questions others are unwilling to ask or to face. They can help others to analyze the propriety of rules, customs, rights, and habits.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Withdrawn

Positive Potential: They are capable of pulling themselves out of a “sick” situation so as not to be caught up in the disease themselves. They are capable of ignoring the games that keep people down in a system.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Mischief making

Positive Potential: They are capable of initiating lots of “fun” or stress-reducing activities for the system, which have a unique form and involve imagination and creativity.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Sullen

Positive Potential: Having experienced rejection, hurt, and pain, if channeled they can be sensitive to those who suffer similarly today. They can become excellent helpers due to their ability to tune into and be sensitive to others.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Argumentative and rationalizer

Positive Potential: They can be helped to channel their verbal prowess so as to be effective logisticians or debaters. They have good potential for being courtroom performers.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Irresponsible

Positive Potential: They need help recognizing that their behavior is a part of a compulsive pattern in a delusional system. Much of what appears to be irresponsible is a cry for help, which can result in the family system getting help for itself.


Negative Acting-out Behavior: Nonproductive

Positive Potential: If channeled appropriately they can become a “change agent” in family, school, job, or community, due to their sharp awareness of inequality and injustice. With help, they can use their willingness to speak out as catalysts for real changes for good in such systems.