Impulsive Behavior

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EFFECTS OF IMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR:
PAST & PRESENT

Sean M. Raftery

W.R.A 150
Dr. Nancy Bunge
December 11, 2009

Sean Raftery
Professor Nancy Bunge
W.R.A. 150
11 December 2009

April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage killing thirty-two college students at Virginia Tech. University before killing himself. This horrifying massacre can be associated with a poor impulsive behavior. Many devastating incidents throughout the years can be associated with poor impulsive decisions. Throughout the years Impulsive behaviors have often been viewed differently. For example, older American Writers seemed to view impulsive behaviors as negative traits, while earlier American Writers found them to be more acceptable. Three American Writers specifically stood out amongst others: Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and Theodore Roethke. Our current generation mainly views impulsive behavior as a negative characteristic or inclination. Nowadays, impulsive behaviors are often correlated with diseases or psychological problems. Benjamin Franklin (1731-1813) was one of the oldest authors we read in class. I learned much about Franklin from his autobiography. Franklin was dedicated, disciplined, and focused, which left no room for impulses. Impulses often involved spontaneity and the unknown, which would not follow Franklin’s type of life style. He set aside an hour each day for reading and never missed a chance to find new books. Although he was very disciplined, he felt like it was not enough. That is why he dedicated 13 specific virtues to follow: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and finally humility. He even set up a calendar to mark the virtues he had accomplished each day. On the top of his weekly virtue chart, he followed a saying, "Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation" (Franklin, 286). Not only did he have a calendar made up for virtues, but also he had a day-by-day schedule set up that accounted for each hour of the day. He would dedicate a certain amount of time for hygiene, work, reading, dinner and rest. In Benjamin Franklin's life there was no room for profligacy. Someone that plans out every hour of everyday obviously does not leave any room for impulses, and that was exactly how Franklin liked to live his life. He did not like surprises and enjoyed knowing every detail of each day. To Franklin, family and love did not matter; the only thing that mattered was success. Often when it comes to love and intimacy, impulses are right around the corner, which is one of the reasons why Franklin was not very emotional. He eventually got married, but he was more thankful for the help his wife provided in the printing press than the emotional feelings he had for her. Franklin was not the only author we read in class that felt this way about impulsive behavior. Like Franklin, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was another older author who believed that impulsive behavior was a negative attribute. He was a self-educated slave and knew the only way that he would become free one day was to become erudite. He learned how to read and write by tracing the letters on the prows of boats. After reading his autobiography, it was easy to tell why someone like Douglass would hate impulses. He knew that if he ever acted upon impulses it was very likely he would have been beaten or even worse, killed. He also hated impulses because he knew when his masters beat him that they were acting out on impulses as well. For these reasons, Douglass could never agree with impulses or support anyone who acted upon them. Although Douglass and Franklin did not agree with impulses, there were many other authors we read in class who strongly supported them. Unlike his predecessors Franklin and Douglas, Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) felt that impulsive behavior should be embraced and...
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