The Fathers’ Response to the Three Kinds of Impulsivity

Today at Ancient Christian Wisdom, Athonite monk Father Alexis writes:

In our ever-changing, fast-paced contemporary world that rewards Type-A aggressive behavior and a results-oriented lifestyle, impulsivity can become our default mode for interacting with the world. This “ready-fire-aim” approach to life can be framed as quick reflexes and speedy adaptation needed for success and getting ahead. Of course, if one’s gut reactions are wrong, that same approach can be one’s ruin.


Impulsivity, however, is not just about being an active, carpe-diem sort of person. Acting on the spur of the moment is only one of the measures of impulsivity used by psychologists. Other expressions of impulsivity include the inability to focus on a given task and difficulty with careful planning. In technical terms used in measures of impulsivity such as the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, psychologists refer to these factors as motor, attentional, and planning impulsiveness (Dougherty, Bjork, Marsh, & Moeller, 2000).


In each case, something else other than what we started to do grabs our attention and almost immediately we “decide” or rather let our impulse decide that that thing or that thought is desirable. And so without further ado or further reflection, we move our muscles, our intentions, and our thoughts in the direction that our impulses suggest. In many cases, the reward for giving in to our impulses is immediate, and so we learn to follow this easy, effortless behavioral pathway so much so that we may find ourselves having trouble getting anything done or even worse we may feel as though we are no longer really in control of ourselves.

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In probably the most profitable article I have read all week, Fr Alexis goes on to connect the Patristic diagnosis of three kinds of impulsivity with practical guidance toward attention, peace, and freedom.

Ironically, because this article on becoming free from impulsivity is a good three pages long, it may be difficult for Internet-damaged readers to continue all the way to the end. Try to resist the temptation to hit Like/Share or file this under “Someday I’ll Read.” It’s five minutes worth spending.

Full article: The Fathers’ Response to the Three Kinds of Impulsivity

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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