“Manipulation via Shaming and Guilt-Tripping: Using the Conscience of the Neurotic against Them” Comments, Page 1

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11 Comments (4 Discussion Threads) on “Manipulation via Shaming and Guilt-Tripping: Using the Conscience of the Neurotic against Them”

  1. I don’t know how I missed this article! I continue to be reinforced by your words. They DO know exactly how to play a neurotic. I always thought so but then convinced myself otherwise, not trusting my own intuition. They can spot someone who will buy their nonsense a mile away, by body language and even the most superficial conversations. And then they move in for the kill. Once hooked, a neurotic will hang on forever in many cases.

    Thirty-seven years of buying into the shaming and guilt-tripping was a long time for me. It is so liberating to be free of it and your articles are one of many sources of knowledge, inspiration and empowerment.

    Thank you!

  2. I have a question regarding emotional abusers and manipulators.

    Are all emotional abusers and manipulators disturbed characters (meaning by this that they have mental health problems) or are there abusers and manipulators who are just plain “mean” or “evil”?

    My question arises from the fact that there are “correctional centers” and “mental health institutions”, so where do you draw the line between someone who is disturbed or not… or evil people are all disturbed, etc.?

    (I guess, some psychiatrist as well as court judges, might find it difficult to tell sometimes how to classify some criminals.)

  3. My father is a minister and I was raised with a deep-seated, hypersenstive dose of self-examination mixed with guilt. I am a full-grown woman, but can grow bright red when something goes missing and can’t be found. It’s as if I am always waiting to be accused of something and deserving of being found at fault. How do I fix this? I end up being the giver in relationships and become disappointed that others are not reciprocative. How do I fix this?

    1. Good question, Elizabeth.

      The eminent dynamic psychologist Alfred Adler once said that “guilt is a poor substitute for legitimate suffering.” I used to think this was a ridiculous statement. But over the years, I’ve come to recognize the wisdom of it.

      When something goes wrong, or when we or someone else has done something wrong, we face a choice. We can either work to repair the damage, or let it go. Righting a wrong takes time and energy. It’s work. Doing wrong and then doing nothing to fix it but instead punishing yourself with bad feelings (i.e. feeling guilty) is in a way a cop-out. Because most people don’t like to feel bad, using guilt as a means of coercing people to do right has been around for a long time. The healthiest position to take is to face misstep we make squarely and make a free decision to either excuse it and let it go, or accept the burden of repairing the damage we might have done. Guilt need not be the motivation to make amends, only the desire to foster better relationships and to foster our own character development.

    2. I read your comment and nearly squeled! I have the same problem. Well had I am working through it now. The problem is actually tied up in boundaries, (boundaries are knowing what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for) Some people with boundary problems have the tendency to take responsibilty for others problems and have a major time over active conscience. They also give love and get disappointed. However they give love out of obligation so people wont get upset or reject them. So they give love to get love, which essentially is not love at all… They also appear to be servers, always helping people but just like the love bit, they serve out of obligation because that is what “nice people do. However outside they say yes, inside they scream noooooo!! They end up feeling taken advantage of and become bitter.. Not saying that you necessarily have boundary problems but by the comment it sounds like that may be the case. I am currently reading a book about boundaries called boundaries! it deals with those problems and many more it is written by Doctor Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Highly reccomend it.

  4. You say the narcissist feels entitled to not play by the rules. I have read this assertion often. But isn’t this sense of entitlement simply a deliberately built defense mechanism. In other words its not the core reason. Rather, the core motivation is that they want something for nothing, they simply want to steal.

    1. Hi, Ken. A “defense mechanism” is an UNCONSCIOUS automatic protection of the ego from otherwise overwhelming anxiety and emotional pain. Such terms do a fair job of describing neurotics. There are a few narcissistic personalities who lie toward the neurotic end of the spectrum. MOST narcissists, however, are very character-disordered. As such, they way they appear is the way they are. So, when they act like they’re entitled, it’s because they really believe they’re special and deserve special favor. The wanting something for nothing phenomenon is another characteristic of disordered characters. That thinking error goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement. There are many erroneous thinking patterns that cluster together in the disturbed character. I have several posts dealing with these issues.

      Thanks for the comment and question.

  5. Dr Simon ,
    Thank you for your reply. I think I expressed my point of view poorly. Karen Horney in her book Neurosis and Human Growth gives the example of a person who wants to commit a crime but is afraid of being caught and punished. The “solution ” to the problem is the neurotic claim (exception from reality) to a moral blank check. That is, they consider it a entitlement that no one passes moral judgment on their criminal behavior. Likewise a person who wants something for nothing, experiences dissonance since not stealing is hard-wired into the human brain. So again the “solution” to removing the dissonance is another neurotic claim. This time its the sense of entitlement you mention. Hence according to my reasoning, wanting something for nothing, and a sense of entitlement are not separate characteristics as your answer implies. Rather one flows from the other.

    1. Hi, Ken. Actually, you expressed yourself quite well. And you demonstrate a deep and correct understanding of Horney, who is one of the more eloquent teachers on the phenomenon of neurosis. My point is that it is becoming increasingly inappropriate to over-generalize what we know about neurotic behavior to explain the behavior of everyone – especially narcissists. Many of your comments are right on the money with regard to what types of thinking contributes to the development of attitudes of entitlement. My point was that the longstanding presumption that some kind of neurotic conflict that creates the need for “defenses” or the “dissonance” you describe is itself a flawed explanation for the behavior of many. Such presumptions apply to neurosis, which in our modern age is really the “affliction” of moral majority who make society function as as opposed to the over-wrought anxious wrecks the early proponents of neurosis theory encountered and based their theories on. Today we have a bigger problem with character disturbance than we do with neurosis and MOST narcissists are character disturbed, not neurotic. So, the underlying reasons for their behaviors are different than the theory of neurosis proposes. Despite the almost poetic explanations neurosis theorist bring to the understanding of the human psyche, their basic tenets have not been validated – especially when it comes to understanding the behavior of individuals best described as character disturbed. I have several earlier posts on this site addressing the issue of the shortcomings of the theory of neurosis in our modern age and the key differences between neurosis and character disturbance.

      In short, Ken, I think you’re right on when you speak of the kinds of problematic attitudes narcissists have and the various other problematic beliefs that stem from them. I would just ask you to do some exploration into the shortcomings of neurotic theory-based explanations for these things because the Victorian era is long past, there hasn’t been a case of “hysterical blindness” (the kind of extraordinary manifestation of neurosis that spawned all the theories of neurosis) reported in advanced cultures in over 50 years, and because ours is truly the age of character disturbance. Even though neurosis theories remain eloquent, they have rightfully been superseded by theories that more adequately explain the psychological phenomena of our age. : )

  6. Dr. Simon, thanks for this excellent article and for your responses to the comments.

    You said, “He also knows full well what behaviors most people regard as wrong and shameful, and he wants others to tow the line.”

    An example of this is my brother-in-law who was a police officer and is now in homeland security. He has often stated that the law does not apply to him. He said, “the law was made to keep the sheep in line so us wolves can get around them.” He never obeys laws, knowing that other police officers will show deference when he flashes identification.

    So I agree that it is a well thought out sense of entitlement, but the question remains, where does it come from? He shows many signs of narcissism, his personality calls to mind a petulant child with ADD most of the time. So if he is emotionally retarded, how did this happen?

    1. Thanks for the comments, Skylar. A great question about where such a sense of entitlement comes from. Traditional theories typically cited early trauma as the reason for just about every dysfunctional behavior. Now, we know better. Sometimes it’s not what people learn, but what they fail to learn that’s the problem. Add to that some of their innate predispositions and a reinforcing climate in the culture, and before you know it you have people who failed to develop a decent moral compass. I address this briefly in “In Sheep’s Clothing” but delve into it more in “Disturbances of Character.”

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