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Mythology, science fiction, and comic books are rife with stories about heroes and their battles against society’s ills—the constant conflict between good and evil. We are supposed to see these two primary characters—the Hero and the Villain—as polar opposites in terms of ethics and morals. But, when it comes to their particular characteristics and habits, are they really that dissimilar?
Contrary to common assumption, right and wrong, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical is not always at opposite extremities of the good/evil spectrum. Furthermore, the people fighting for the cause on either side may not always appear or act the way you would expect. Science may finally provide credence to the old adage that “there is a narrow line between good and evil.”
What exactly is heroism?
In the days following Japan’s devastating earthquake, word quickly spread about acts of heroism across the region, from the 50 brave nuclear workers known as “The Fukushima 50,” who stayed behind after evacuation in a valiant attempt to prevent further disaster, to a man who donned scuba gear and went into the tsunami to rescue his wife and mother, as well as other (sometimes a little tall) tales of men and women who fearlessly put themselves on the line to help others in the midst of everything. Also, you must try to play this Are You A Villain Or Hero quiz.
Are You A Villain Or Hero?
Would we consider all of these folks heroes, or were they just ordinary men and women who stepped up to the plate? Is there anything else that plays a role, such as a specific personality type, that makes people more prone to engage in heroic acts?
While it is likely that a mix of factors, such as culture and situational rise to heroism, contribute to the rise to heroism in Japan, there is a distinct personality type that is more inclined to engage in exceptionally heroic action. Surprisingly, this type of individual is also very likely to be the type of impetuous, argumentative person who quickly breaches rules, behaves rashly, and confronts authority—all for the sake of doing good. These extreme heroes do not suit the image of the Dalai Lama, who is a loving, peaceful, non-aggressive hero—in fact, they are not necessarily the most pleasant people to be around; they are the ones who always stir up controversy or rock the boat, the whistleblowers. They are, nevertheless, the most important types of heroes to support since they have the greatest potential to perform exceptionally excellent things.
Is it true that the world’s greatest heroes are also some of the most stubborn, rebellious, and unnecessarily law-abiding rule-breakers? I am, indeed. Not only that, but there may be a genetic link between these extreme heroes and individuals who are least likely to act heroically—sociopaths. This individual is known as an Extreme Altruist, or X-Altruist.
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Why do ego, empathy, and emotion matter?
First, let’s define “ego” and why it’s important in talks about personality and emotional stability. Your ego is essentially your concept of self. It’s your identity, your self-concept, and your reality check all rolled into one. Ego strength is defined as “a person’s ability to sustain his or her own identity in the face of psychological suffering, discomfort, upheaval, and struggle between internal forces and the demands of reality.” So the ego is essentially the glue that binds you together, and ego strength is required to sustain emotional stability.
Strong ego = excellent; this indicates you can roll with the punches—you handle stress effectively, you are secure in your talents, and even significant setbacks do not permanently fracture your self-identity or make you question your worth as a person. Fragile ego = bad; stressful situations, disappointments, or even slight criticism cause your entire universe to crumble, ruining your self-esteem.
While the expression (or lack thereof) of empathy is viewed as the distinguishing feature that distinguishes the X-Altruist from the Sociopath, there are other underlying traits that significantly influence the ability, willingness, or tendency to express empathy, and these are markedly different in X-Altruists as compared to Sociopaths. These include the ability to participate in Flexible Detachment from emotion or stress, as well as having a strong Ego Resilience. Flexible Detachment allows the X-Altruist to protect their ego from significant emotional harm during times of crisis, while strong Ego Resilience allows them to recover and rebound rapidly if damage does occur.