“Disturbances of Character: The Most Pressing Issue of Our Age?” Comments, Page 1

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21 Comments (9 Discussion Threads) on “Disturbances of Character: The Most Pressing Issue of Our Age?”

  1. Working in an inpatient setting with latency age and adolescent youth with mental illness, I would like to hear about group work you feel could help these youth develop stronger self-identities and character traits. I’d welcome group tasks and lessons you’d feel are appropriate to this population. Your book seems geared toward individual interventions but I feel in a group, many behaviors can be observed in others as a catalyst to see it in themselves. ????

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Robert. The principles I advocate have been used to structure many different group interventions in inpatient and outpatient intensive programs. Keep abreast of the series. I’ll do my best to include some examples of group-based interventions toward the end of the series.

  2. Thank God for the work you are doing. Keep it up. My family has been devastated by the behavior of a character disordered person. The wreckage she has left behind and continues to perpetuate is consuming time, money and emotional energy for those of us trying to live by social standards that it is becoming hard to even measure with no end in sight. Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is the denial on the part of the mental health and legal community. Over the past year I have found it difficult to find help or even get anyone to agree this problem exists. I have found through my experience that what you have to say is true. Not only about the nature of these peoples character, but also about the unwillingness of mental health experts to rethink their approach. Reading your writings has helped me immensely in understanding and dealing with this problem on a personal level but I have been met with constant resistance in mental health and reluctance in the family courts. I recently had to tolerate from a mental health worker the comment that they feel sorry for our character disordered person. I’m sorry but all my pity is reserved for the victims of this person. She has swindled us out of thousands of dollars and left thousands more behind in bad debts. She left her young husband in bankruptcy court and dozens of good people emotionally devastated. Her crowning achievement was the abandonment of her four year old son. We are left to explain to a child why and where his mommy is gone and will have to continue to deal with this through out this child’s development for years to come if he is to become a well adjusted man. This woman is allowed by the courts two long distance phone calls a week to this little boy even after she fails to pay any support for his welfare. Because of her character (or lack of it) the nature of her calls is all about her and only upsets the boy and keeps his wounds open. After all this a professional’s advice is to feel sorry for the perpetrator of such destruction. What is wrong with this picture? Over the past year my wife and I have searched the mental health community for help in an attempt to do the right thing but to date because of their out dated and mistaken perspective it has proved to be of minimal help. We have only found help in the ideas you and the few others that seem to understand the nature of the problem for what it is. I feel our cultures tradition has strived to be one of fair play and to set an example of human rights for the world. Our courts claim innocent until proven guilty and so on. These ideals are to be proud of and protected but I fear we have run a muck in our over reluctance to label a destructive person as just that and deal with it from there.

    1. Thank you so much, John. And your comments are right on the mark. I hope you enjoy the upcoming series.

    1. It will be available direct from the publisher on Nov 23. It will be available through the major online booksellers Dec. 18.

  3. Dr. Simon,
    I could not agree with you more that this is THE most pressing issue of our age. The losses mount like a pyramid scheme as the disordered person affects humanity in both financial terms and in terms of human potential.
    That is why I am sharing this link from the washington post.
    They are looking for a weekly columnist and I can’t think of a more important topic to place in front of the american public on a weekly basis. I hope this interests you.

  4. Manipulative people exist simple because they can and we seem conditioned to accept them if it comes with aggressive intent.

    Objective confrontation is so much more difficult.

    I find it hard to treat them and still retain some profesional integrity,I admit it and it takes me all my time to allow that water to wash over me.

    But it is a human trait that I most dislike.

    Talking of which I was just in Sinpapore for a week and found the people calm and generous so unlike their cousins in Hong Kong,I hope I am not opening myself up to all sorts of abuse saying this but”patience” here in HK have gone out the window.

    I find it especially so with Hong Kong taxi drivers,they must be their own worse enemy, all that self imposed stress for a few dollars more.

    Here is a question for you ( and an assumption)if its obligatory to vote by law in a democracy is it still a democracy.

    lee du ploy (hong kong)

    1. Hi Lee,

      You wrote… “if its obligatory to vote by law in a democracy is it still a democracy.”

      That’s what happens in my country, so I choose not to vote. To me is not a democracy, no matter what they say. We are supposed to live within a democratic political system and yet, voting is mandatory…

      It doesn’t make any sense to me, so I don’t vote and I pay my fine for not voting on political elections. But, I’m not sure all countries that face the same problem we do here have the option not to vote and pay a fine instead. Still, the whole fine thing is absolutely unfair. It’s like a big joke, and shows a lot of hypocrisy to me, too. It’s like a form of “political abuse” some cultures have to endure. And there’s no “punishment” for that.

      This is why it is so important to place ourselves in other people’s shoes. Not all rules apply world-wide to everyone.

    2. Lee, I think the point you make is why so many helping professionals working with disordered characters prefer to live in a world of denial, mis-frame their clients’ behaviors, try to make neurosis metaphors and techniques work despite their inappropriateness, and then simply write off their clients as untreatable when all that fails.

      Mental health professionals want to work with fears and insecurities. That’s what they were trained to do. Besides, t’s so much easier (and rewarding) to support than to confront and correct. Too bad 99% of human behavior is fighting and only 1% is “running.” Confronting someone who fights unscrupulously and benignly guiding them in a more character-rich direction requires a therapist to be of an entirely different frame of mind, to be tolerant beyond measure, be fearless and unabashedly honest in confrontation, and be well-versed in the tools of the art.

  5. Hello Dr. Simon,
    It’s the first time I’m reading your work and I must say I am happy to have found your website. I have recognized myself as a neurotic and the man I’m dating as a disturbed character, unfortunately. Ever since I started knowing him better I felt and then realized something wasn’t quite right. But, as I hadn’t been in a similar situation before and him being a very smart person, it was hard for me to see clearly. Now after reading your postings I have finally understood what the source of trouble was – his irresponsible, narcissistic, hedonistic self – an expression of his underdeveloped character. I was just wondering what the treatment is if any? I’ve read here that such people (I think they are categorized as Cluster B) don’t usually change.

    1. Hi, Jane. There are treatments available. Naturally, making personality changes is always challenging because by definition personality is a cluster of relatively ingrained and enduring traits and patterns. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be modified. But traditional forms of counseling are fairly useless. The “metaphors” upon which traditional approaches are based and the techniques used are inadequate to address the problems of the deficient character. Besides that, there has to be at least some degree of internal distress in the disturbed character if he or she is to remain motivated through treatment. My upcoming book “Disturbances of Character” will include some vignettes of the radical therapeutic approach required for dealing with character issues.

  6. Thank you for your answer, Dr. Simon.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue I was writing you about. I’ve given up on the relationship although something tells me I could have made it work had I dedicated myself to it entirely. Although I was reading another post of yours in which you were saying that it’s vane to think one can change another person that deeply. I’ve also come to realize it can be dangerous and disrespectful. Unless the person comes and asks for help and in that case you should indicate a professional. It’s a shame because I do see the nice qualities my ex has. However, I’ve come to realize that the only thing I can do is hope that life will run its course and he will improve on his own.
    Thanks again.

    1. You’re welcome, Jane. And I really like your comment about it being ultimately dangerous and disrespectful to chase after a person who is not really asking for change. Not only do people in abusive relationships make this mistake, but helping professionals are guilty of it, too.

      A social worker friend of mine told this joke at a regional conference: “Two social workers were walking along a New York street when a purse snatcher whisked by and snatched their purses right out of their hands. They gave chase, shouting loudly to passers by: ‘Stop that man! Stop that man! He’s obviously troubled and in dire need of our help’!”

      It wouldn’t be so funny if there weren’t a kernel of truth in it. : )

  7. Dr. Simon, hello again…
    I want to start by saying that I’m not proud of returning to post a comment here. But I can’t seem to be able to shake off that relationship I was telling you about. I’ve been trying to keep away but all efforts have been useless as my ex contacted me trying to get back together and although I have denied seeing him I do respond to emails and I do answer his phone calls. I just feel responsible in some way to warn him about his condition and maybe this will trigger something and push him in the direction of seeking professional help. I have found myself reading a lot about it online… I have even started to think I might not be all that different! (I’ve stumbled over a book called “Malignant Self-love” which describes women who fall in love with narcissistic men as “inverted narcissists”… which I have to admit does seem to explain the strange “we’re meant to be together” feeling I’ve had since the beginning of this relationship despite all the red flags…) That has really thrown me off for a loop… So now I have no idea what to do. On the one hand it is definitely over. On the other hand, I want to at least give him some clues so that maybe he’ll do something about it eventually.
    Do you think it’s a decent idea to make him visit websites on this topic? Could that have any sort of positive impact??

    Thanks again for reading my posts and for being kind enough to answer them.

    1. Hi, Jane. Sorry to be just responding. You do yourself a great service by remaining civil while enforcing limits. You would do yourself a great disservice by taking any burden whatsoever that is the rightful duty of your ex to get his act together. In an earlier part of the series on character disturbance, I contrasted the huge difference in characteristics as well as therapy needs between individuals best described as “neurotic” to some degree and those struggling with character disturbance. You might find that particular part of the series helpful.

  8. Dr. Simon,
    Thank you for your answer and suggestions. I will read through your website. For the time being I seem to have managed to stay away, although I’m not sure the way I did it was the best way (I pretty much told him what I thought as decently as I could. I can only hope it’ll do him more good than harm supposing he can take it constructively. I’m still fighting my conscience (who am I to judge after all), but I did the best I could under the circumstances. The whole experience taught me a lot, yet it has left a bitter taste in my mouth that I just have to live with.

    Dr. Simon, all the best to you and your readers.

  9. Dr. Simon,
    I was so glad to find your term “covert-aggressive” as well as your book, “In Sheep’s Clothing.” In recent years, I have discovered that I am dealing with THE poster child for covert-aggressive personalities. This family member is slick. Everything is under the guise of ‘helping’ when you didn’t want or need help in the first place. Every interaction involves a “good us…bad them” story (if only these people she badmouths knew, when they think the sun rises and sets with her … as I did … as we all have.) I want desperately to give you 10 years worth of in depth detail, but there isn’t enough room for that. I will TRY to sum it up.
    Since having kids, I have felt a constant tug-of-war with her. She started bulldozing and undermining me…with a smile, of course. It was nothing you could make sound bad if you tried to tell someone. She also started taking the kids without asking, only to feign surprise and innocence, saying, “you mean she [the daughter maybe 5 years old] didn’t tell you?” when my husband finally told her she needed to ask us before she could take them. Then she became patronizing, “You have to ask the BOSS….Mommy’s the BOSS..did you ask her?”
    Apparently, everything with her is calculated. In recent years of having some inside information and being able to compare stories and notes and current events, I learned why she hums to babies. When I had my first baby and she (MIL) was actively involved..at our house all weekend every weekend, stopping by after work during the week, helping us pick out baby furniture etc during the pregnancy..when I thought we were closer than ever, she was whining to people that we were going to cut her out of our lives. That blew me away! So she once told someone that that is why she hums to babies now. It wasn’t just because they’re so sweet and you enjoy them like most people, but because she wanted the poor little baby to have warm feelings about her if she ever heard her name or saw a picture, I guess, because we were going to cut her out. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth at that point, and she knew it. She had TOTAL control over us at that point. It’s only NOW, 10 years later and a MUCH wiser me, that I desperately want to cut her out.
    We could’ve written the book, “In Sheep’s Clothing!” Nothing in there surprised me. It was GREAT to be professionally validated, but luckily, I had already found proof and validation with another family member, and we had already defined all the tactics.
    What I needed was to know HOW to deal with this CA personality. The book lays it out. Be direct, set limits, judge actions, not intentions etc. Very difficult stuff for me. I WANT to belive there’s good in people. I am not comfortable being assertive. I could do it for myself, right? But HOW do I protect my kids? I can set limits in what she does and the time she spends with them. I CAN’T control what she she says to them or how she manipulates them. They can’t see it for themselves.

    1. Hi, Diane. You have no idea how much your thoughtful comments mean to me. The validation you experienced reading my works is the very reason I persist in them. Hopefully, you’ll experience the same thing when my new book on character disturbance becomes available in late July. It’s the culmination of all my most recent efforts at helping overly conscientious folks who want to see only the good in folks understand all of the various responsibility-challenged people in their lives. : )

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