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Dr George Simon, PhD

“Empowerment Tools: Judge Actions, Not Intentions” Comments, Page 1

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16 Responses (3 Discussion Threads) to “Empowerment Tools: Judge Actions, Not Intentions”

  1. avatar image

    This is exactly what I was told on my first visit to a counsellor and why I was involved in the first place. I didn’t judge actions, I dismissed them and guessed and guessed and worked hard to understand and help…….The challenge now is to remain informed and empowered and not ignore the obvious.

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      Wow! That is also one of the first things that my psychologist told me and I ignored him as well.However, this time my motivation is me…myself…and not external. Thx for another great article!

    • 1.2

      Thanks for the comment, Mia.

      I’m also really heartened by the thought that another psychologist somewhere gave Lunna the same advice. Maybe the word is spreading after all!

    • 1.3

      Hello Mia, Lunna and George,

      George – you know I think that the kind of “psychological theory” that pervades some cultures with the idea that we are all well meaning neurotics, has less influence on how counsellors and psychologists work with clients than you seem to be assuming here… I think *some* therapists may indeed try to understand their clients by bending over backwards to find reasons for their behaviour, but I haven’t yet heard of a counsellor who, faced with a client who was suffering in an abusive relationship, advised them to try and understand the other person better…

    • 1.4

      Hi, all. Thanks for your comments. Sarah, your point is well taken about most therapists. However, a more insidious thing occurs even with good therapists who never mean to condone abusive behavior perpetrated on their clients (I base this on years of case consultation with some very good therapists). Because the nature and prevalence of character disturbance is still not widely perceived, sometimes the most subtle but nonetheless devastating abuse is overlooked. Further, the disturbed character’s behavior is often misinterpreted or mislabeled. I can’t count the number of such things, all based on traditional assumptions about the underlying causes of behavior. Assumptions like: His ego inflation is a compensation for underlying feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem; He won’t commit because he has a fear of intimacy and trust issues with women; His desire to control is prompted by his fears of abandonment……..and it goes on and on. In my experience, victims would rarely be in the distress they’re in when they desperately seek help if they had a clear read on what was really going on in their relationship (both from the standpoint of what their abuser’s behavior was all about as well as what made them vulnerable). But what really got them in trouble is that they racked their brains trying to figure out what was going on and making presumptions based on traditional notions they were familiar with. If these ended up being reinforced in the therapists office, they were put at a further disadvantage insofar as really empowering themselves for the future.

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      I was surprised as well when I recently researched for a highly recommended counselor to help my marriage. I took articles of Dr. Simons with and also kept well documented records of my dh’s behavior. My counselor refused to even look at the articles and when it came time for joint counseling after being with dh on individual sessions for a long time, he started to dismantle anything I said and vilify my part in the marriage. That suited my dh just fine, now he is worse off. My dh is a pro, you have to live with somebody like this to truly understand the lengths he will go to manipulate.

    • 1.6

      Hi George,

      I think I was confusing different issues – how therapists are likely to treat individual clients who are victims of abuse/manipulation and how they might treat the disturbed characters themselves. I remain convinced that your average individual therapist faced with a client who is being abused will not call upon psychological theory to convince the client to feel sorry for their abuser. When faced with someone who uses these abusive strategies themselves, therapists might be more likely to try and ‘understand’. But as you have pointed out, if I remember rightly, a ‘disturbed character’ is extremely unlikely to be genuinely in therapy at all.

      As far as the labelling during case consultations is concerned, I take a kind of pragmatic view – I do believe that most behaviour is ’caused by’ something, but that is neither here nor there when dealing with abuse right in front of me. Even if I know a psychopathic killer received no love in his childhood, this has no bearing on how he should be sentenced or how his victims’ families should be treated….do you know what I mean?

    • 1.7

      Hi, Sarah.

      Yes, I know what you mean. As for the presumption that there’s always a set of underlying causes to behavior, I agree but our latest research is telling us we must be very careful about some of our more traditional assumptions (e.g., the psychopathic killer was probably unloved as a child) and what some of those assumptions prompt us to believe that those causes might be. As we know from the central tenets of CBT, what we believe influences how we act, no matter how aware we are of the connection. So, as I mentioned before, the most common therapist errors are core beliefs that bias perception and sometime even cloud awareness and judgment to the most subtle kinds of abuse and character disturbance, and sometimes a misinterpretation of what appear to be the dynamics of an abusive situation that is not open, obvious, or intense. Certainly no decent therapist I know would condone obvious mistreatment or deliberately instruct their victim clients to respond in a manner that condones the behavior, either. Can’t say I haven’t seen some egregious cases, though…………

  2. avatar image

    Another great post. It is such an important subject, for so many people. Thank you for writing this.
    I know that for me, it was the belief that he was never actually doing anything “on purpose” but doing it “because…”, and therefore I needed to be more sympathetic, less “looking for a fight” (as he put it on those occasions when I actually tried to bring up some of his behavior). Even now, with my eyes open to the way I had enabled him for many years, and with the firm notion that I will not tolerate that behavior any longer, even now, I often feel guilt at holding him accountable for his behavior, as if i “should” be more understanding, and thus not get hurt.

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    While it comes late in life, your words bring understanding, how empowerment could have helped me avoid some very volatile situations or at least helped me escape them sooner.

    Once naturally outgoing & happy natured, I am probably one of the most neurotic personality types, & absolutely hate/fear/internalize confrontation. This likely stems from severe physical & sexual abuse that happened to me as a young girl but may have been ingrained through the years as I traveled from one abusive relationship to another.

    Just starting reading your book, In Sheep’s Clothing, & find it almost overwhelming. Not because the information is bad, but the reverse…it fits. For the first time in my life, it all makes sense. Just wish this had been available to me years ago, as this information has been so disparately needed. Marriage & personal counselors tended to focus on my prior abuse (what happened to me) & not the man I was with, whom was & should have been accountable for abusing me further. That only served to destroy rather than build any sense of self worth, piling guilt upon already over laden guilt that I did not deserve, & burying me under the weight of my inability to speak of all the wrongs aimed at my very being. Nobody deserves to be physically or mentally hurt. Not ever. We are all accountable for our OWN actions.

    I left my fourth marriage last year, after being shoved across the washroom 1 day after having back surgery that split the stitches across my back, wide open & leaving a horrid scar. Like that, each marriage was physically or mentally abusive & tore at any outside relationships I had. Never could understand how I ended up back in abusive relationships, but without fail, it would happen & there I would be, the victim again. I did NOT want to be a victim. Not ever on your life, even though counselors told me it was so. Each time, I would find myself being guilted into believing it was my fault. My fault I was hit or hurt. Rather, my fault really lay in not leaving or openly calling what was happening to me “abuse”. My fault I fell for the old “don’t embarrass the family no matter what” kind of morbid thinking my parents instilled upon me so many years ago.

    It will take some time before I can put this all into perspective or even feel that my feelings and thoughts have or hold any value. Your words bring back a sense of hope long ago lost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It isn’t going to be easy, but I promise to make the most of it & put this information to good use & better my life with it.

    [Editor’s Note: This comment has been edited slightly from its original form.]

    • 3.1

      Thank you so much for this comment, Mary. It is truly one for the archives. Your comments contained not only some profound truths, but you articulated them very well.

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    Dear Doctor Simon,
    Thank you for these empowerment strategies. And for the information about aggressive and covert-aggressive personalities. It’ll surely help in the future, because my attempts at confrontations with aggressive people have backfired in the past.

    For example, I confronted my sister about a left-handed compliment she paid me in an e-mail to someone I referred her to professionally. My professional contact felt insulted by the insult to me, because she was only helping my sister as a favor to me. Anyway, I confronted my sister and she gave me the silent treatment for 6 months, even after I got in an apology about not handling the confrontation diplomatically–instead of talking about my feelings of hurt and embarrassment, I merely took my sister to task. Anyway, I sent my sister a heartfelt letter about this, telling her the silent treatment had to end: that I didn’t deserve it and that she was not worthy of it. The note also said that I loved her and missed her and wanted to work things out. She responded to this with phone call demeaning my note as “Melodramatic” saying she didn’t give me the silent treatment for the last 2 of the 6 months–that she didn’t return my post-apology phone call simply because she was too busy. She also said that she felt justified in “Using any method necessary.” I felt queasy, like I literally couldn’t stomach what my sister was saying and what it meant about our relationship. I froze, felt shocked and stunned and got off the phone as fast as possible. It was an eye opener and I knew then things were terribly wrong: this was toxic behavior.

    Reading your book, IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING, was a revelation. Thank you so much. Your book (and this web site) talked about trusting your gut feelings and explained the manipulative tactics used by covert- aggressive personalities. I will practice using your empowerment techniques because we have a family gathering coming up and there’s no way to avoid my covert-aggressive sister.

    Also, I’m going to tell my mother about these empowerment techniques and your book, because my step dad is unleashing his whole arsenal of manipulative tactics on her after Mom confronted him about his recent affair–denial, demeaning her, outright lying, minimizing, making himself out to be the victim, making her out to be the bad guy, etc. And his tactics seem to be working.

    Are there any other suggestions you have about empowerment? Do you have suggestions about how I can help my mother?


    • 4.1

      Thank YOU for your comment and endorsement. Really, even after all these years, the validation is what keeps me going. There are more empowerment articles coming! I hope they add some insights and help you help your mom.

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    I’d just like to add another note of thanks here. I have been reading through all your posts and they have opened my eyes to what is actually happening in my life. The past 2 years have been trying, and I just couldn’t understand why my relationship hadn’t yet improved after all of “our” efforts to change. It was only when I finally realized that what was “obviously not true” (that my SO really doesn’t feel guilty for her hurtful actions) that everything finally started to make sense and I felt some peace.

    Past actions may not totally dictate future actions, but as you say, it’s all we’ve got and it gives a huge hint as to what is going on underneath. I just didn’t want to believe.

  6. avatar image

    Dr. Simon,
    Thank you for these articles. I only wish I had read your writings three years ago. I cringe when I think about the endless hours I spent researching Asperger’s, Schizophrenia, Schizoid, Narcissistic PD, Borderline PD, sons of emotionally incestuous mothers, and pouring over the DSM trying to find out why someone would act like that and be so hurtful. It was perpetuated by the fact that in his softer moments when he “seemed” remorseful, he would acknowledge that he identified with several of the PD traits after listening to someone speak about them or at a seminar. Two to three days later, if even that much, he would toss it all. If only I had just acknowledged the behavior rather than making excuses for him or forgiving him saying “I know that’s not who you are”. Good grief.
    Thanks again, Dr. Simon. Apparently, I need to purchase your book “In Sheep’s Clothing”.

  7. avatar image

    Dr Simon,

    I agree with most of your points. One has to account and correct themself for their behaviour. This will reap a true benefit to self and others. I have undergone lot of stress and panic in past two year and real cause of these is fear. This is very distructive as you never imagine (which is created by ourself). Once we realise this , change is possible. I have confronted with people (and also apologized for my own behaviour) I had problem with but I have been pushed and made a scape goat.Most people when confronted dont either accept or not aware of their own behaviour when pointed out. Even during the discussion all old situations has been pointed out which are irrelavant to that situation. People have been politely harsh to me.I have been asked by partner to keep quite to resolve the situation. But does that solve problem?

    I didnt let it bother me (for long time) and now taking help to develop myself rather than concentrating on others behaviour. When these others are close family it will be difficult and we need to draw a boundary.

    Hopefully all my problem will be answered very soon.Im greatful for you time and effort to bring awareness to the people.


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