“Having to Win: Combative Thinking and Character Disturbance” Comments, Page 1

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4 Comments on “Having to Win: Combative Thinking and Character Disturbance”

  1. “It should be said, however, that no disordered character has ever matured into a more pro-social being until they have dealt directly with and overcome their penchant for thinking too combatively”
    Perhaps, but even when they believe they are not trying to win, they act contrary anyway. I hear him say over and over “I no longer want to win” and then go on to debate his point in the same breath. I think it is so ingrained that it may take years to understand the difference between saying I don’t want to win and developing the skills to communicate that they don’t want to win. All I have to do is approach with a need and demand resistance is always there. I don’t understand it, nor do any of my approaches work.

  2. Great comment. Let me lend a few additional comments of my own. We cannot judge the disturbed character’s true thoughts and beliefs by what they say. Remember, lying – both to themselves and others – is a dominant characteristic of their disturbance. So, just because a person says he no longer wants to win doesn’t mean he doesn’t and it also doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know he doesn’t. A primary philosophy of behaviorally-oriented approaches (the most appropriate approach for dealing with character disturbance) is that we judge behaviors as they are. We don’t focus on or second-guess intentions. So, when a person resists, they’re fighting purely and simply. When people fight, they fight to win. The key to disrupting the game is to not play the game. That is, don’t engage with someone who wants to fight. Withdraw all engagement and leave the door open for a more appropriate encounter. Therapists have a hard time with this sometimes, especially if they’ve been steeped in traditional approaches and can’t bear the notion of denying involvement to a client who has no real desire to cooperate. The art of constructive engagement is at the heart of the matter. It’s HOW you make clear the terms of engagement with anyone who wants to have a relationship with you. If it’s clear in a plain, simple and non-threatening way that support is available to anyone who wants to cooperate and not available to someone who only wants to fight, the nature of the “game” (interpersonal process) HAS to change.

  3. Good question, b messado! Overcoming the tendency to engage in combative thinking involves accepting the precept that the desire to win and prosper is inherently bad. The problem comes when individuals have a tendency to fight too quickly, too often, and without regard to when winning in the long-run is predicated on the ability to give some ground in the short-run. Good cognitive-behavioral therapy that reinforces these principles and helps guide a person toward to the self-correction of unduly combative thoughts has helped turn many lives around!

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