Shameless and Guiltless Thinking in Character Disturbance

It could easily be said that the principal quality that defines a character disorder is that the disturbed character neither cares enough nor thinks enough about how his patterns of behavior reflects on his character.

I’ve been posting a series of articles on the types of distorted thinking patterns or “thinking errors” common to individuals who have significant disturbances of character. We’re nearing the end of this series. The series has featured a fair number of the more common problematic thinking patterns, including unreasonable thinking, egocentric thinking, external thinking, hard-luck thinking, egomaniacal thinking, hedonistic thinking, and impulsive thinking. The main purpose of this series of articles is to help you get better acquainted with the typical and problematic ways persons with disturbed characters tend to think. Individuals with disturbed characters are unique individuals who are often quite difficult to live or work with. Some prior posts have explored just what constitutes a disturbed or disordered character:

Knowing how such individuals tend to think can help anyone understand them better because how we think about things in large measure determines how we will act, and disturbed characters often act in ways that create big problems for relationships and for society in general.

Because an immature or impaired conscience is a hallmark feature of the disturbed character, such characters have a diminished capacity to experience genuine guilt over actions or intended actions that injure others. So when they’re thinking about doing something, disordered characters rarely think about how their actions might affect others or possibly transgress ethical or moral boundaries. To the degree that they might have at least some rudimentary conscience, they’re able to quickly and effectively block out thoughts of right and wrong when they’re seriously contemplating how to get something they want. Not caring enough about how their behavior might impact someone else, they simply give the rightness or wrongness of their plans no serious consideration. They might very well know that others would view their behavior as wrong, but they can still rationalize and justify with ease. Over time, this guiltless way of thinking promotes a pervasive attitude of irresponsibility.

Earlier I discussed deficiencies of conscience and shame in disordered characters:

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Because disordered characters also have a deficient sense of shame, they almost never think of how some action of theirs might negatively reflect the kind of person they are. This is such an important point because it could easily be said that the principal quality that defines a character disorder is that the disturbed character neither cares enough nor thinks enough about how his patterns of behavior reflects on his character. What’s more, when disturbed characters do perceive that someone is judging them in a negative manner, they easily think that it’s the other person who has the problem. Some of the most severely disturbed characters might even count it as a badge of honor that they are not affected by the opinions of others and hold onto their grandiose and unrealistic self-images despite a track record of wreaking havoc in the lives of those they work or live with. Over time, their shameless thinking fosters the development of quite a brazen attitude.

Our series on the thinking errors common to disturbed characters will conclude with the next post on “Circumstantial Thinking.”

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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