Surviving and Thriving in a Character-Disordered World

Photo by Dr George Simon

If you’ve ever tried to understand what went wrong in a toxic relationship, or struggled to find a way to heal and move on after one, my latest book is for you.

We live in some very challenging times. Relationships that once seemed to hold great promise somehow turn out to be painfully toxic. Marriages imagined to be everlasting fall to pieces, leaving the once loving partners at odds with each other and the children they brought into the world deeply wounded and scarred. Backstabbing and manipulation abound in the workplace, making already stressful jobs even more tension-filled. Unrestrained greed in the business sector wreaks economic havoc and threatens the financial well-being of many. And sinister characters with a dangerously warped view of the world commit unspeakable atrocities while convincing themselves they’ve done the world a favor. At some level, we all know something truly deplorable has happened to us. While we may have some intuitive inklings as to why, we mostly scratch our heads wondering just how things got the way they are.

As the subtitle of my book Character Disturbance [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?) asserts, disturbances of character represent the defining problem of our age — the age of entitlement, indulgence, permissiveness, and moral relativism. So many of our problems — from our relationship problems to our economic ones — have their roots in the character crisis. And now, my new book How Did We End Up Here? [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?) addresses the question all too many folks find themselves asking these days. It’s the question they ask in the midst of or in the aftermath of a toxic relationship. Survivors want to understand what happened to them and why. They especially want to know how to heal, pick up the pieces, and move on. They want to understand how to minimize the chances they’ll be victimized in the same way in the future. The book also addresses how we got to where we are as a society. It explains how we have all inadvertently “enabled” — sometimes even promoted — a rise in the number of narcissistic, self-indulgent, empathy-deficient, manipulative, and irresponsible individuals among us — the folks who somehow seem to satisfy themselves while making everyone else around them suffer.

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How Did We End Up Here? was co-written by Kathryn Armistead, herself an accomplished writer and a trained psychotherapist. It was her idea to craft a practical guide to “surviving and thriving in a character-disordered world.” As seasoned clinicians who long ago realized how inadequate our traditional perspectives and methods are when it comes to dealing with character related problems, we both thought it important to provide the average person a handbook of sorts for understanding and dealing effectively with the people who can leave you feeling confused, betrayed, frustrated, and wounded — even “crazy.” While these folks may indeed make you feel crazy, they are not themselves crazy. Nor are they typically suffering from unwanted psychological diseases that make them act the way they do (although many times misguided professionals attempting to intervene will confer upon them just about every diagnostic label except the character impairment at the root of their problems). In short, they’re not so much sick as they are underdeveloped in moral fiber. It’s not necessarily true that bad things happened to them that stunted their character growth. Many times, they’ve simply found little reason to become interpersonally sensitive and responsible, which is a major reason why folks who’ve had to deal with them end up wondering if they’ll ever grow up.

How Did We End Up Here? is available in both paperback and Kindle format. Readers of this blog will find many things in the book that expand upon the themes of some of my more popular articles available on the site. And as an added bonus, there’s a section of the book that helps clarify some of the common misconceptions people have about why the problem people in their lives do the hurtful things they do — misconceptions that are unfortunately sometimes perpetuated even within the professional helping community. Another book with Dr. Armistead is in development now and should be available for release in a few months. It will deal with the all important question of what we need to do to help stem the rise of character disturbances and nurture in our young people the values, attitudes, and internal controls that will enable them to weather the character degrading influences of modern culture and enter adulthood with the desire, the personal resources, and the social conscientiousness to lead a life of integrity.

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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