George Simon: Character Disturbance

Laura

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Some very important observations from George Simon's new book "Character Disturbance". This book puts a lot of things about psychopathology into very plain terms with useful examples to make the points perfectly clear. It is useful not only for detecting pathological thinking in others, but for observing the self and inferring things about one's own core beliefs by one's behavior.

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Here's one of the central tenets of the cognitive-behavioral paradigm: An inextricable relationship exists between a person's core beliefs, the attitudes those beliefs engender, the patterns of thinking various beliefs and attitudes predispose, and the ways the person will tend to behave as a result of his thinking.

How we think greatly influences how we act.

Disturbed characters don't act the way most people do largely because they generally don't think the way others do. They often don't hold the same values, harbor the same attitudes, share the same core beliefs... Their way of thinking is marked by a "distorted" view of reality and an impoverished sense of accountability.

How disturbed characters think is always reflected in the ways they act. Their ways of thinking can also be discerned from the things they say, but to a much lesser extent. That's because the things they say don't necessarily reflect beliefs they hold with genuine conviction. This is a very important fact to remember. {The Mask of Sanity}

The cognitive distortions of disordered characters can represent actual but erroneous beliefs. Sometimes, they have developed these beliefs with total obliviousness to the ways that most other people think about things. But my experience has taught me that disturbed characters can also entertain their twisted views with full awareness of how most people might think about the same situation.

I'm also struck by how often the research literature will categorize the types of thinking errors disturbed characters engage in based simply on the things they frequently say. This is problematic because: What they say does not necessarily reveal how they really think!

Sometimes they say things to make other people believe that they think a certain way, as a manipulation technique. In reality, their behavior is a much more reliable indicator of their true thoughts and attitudes.

Some disordered characters were truly raised in environments so impoverished in multiple dimensions that their beliefs about the nature of the world, and how to operate within it, understandably, became quite skewed. So, they developed patterns of thinking and attitudes that most responsible people don't share. {For example, the problems of Adult Children of Alcoholics. They really do NOT know what "normal" is.}

Ask such people what they were thinking when they engaged in some troublesome behavior, and what they tell you is actually what they believe, as irrational as it might sound. But with many disordered characters, the things they tell you, as well as the things they tell themselves, are nothing more than part of an elaborate "con game." Such folks are very aware of how most people tend to think, and how out of step their purported way of thinking is. But they tenaciously protest their contrary point of view to justify themselves and their actions. They try to manipulate others into the notion that their behavior had some rational basis other than the simple intent to victimize.

Sometimes, after lying so often they might even succeed in duping themselves about the distorted perspectives they advance; but they will often back off their ridiculous contentions when firmly challenged. For example, a repeat wife beater might very well know how society at large feels about abusive spouses' violence toward women. Nonetheless, he might try to justify his behavior by constantly complaining that his wife is a vindictive "bitch" who constantly eggs him on. So she rightfully "had it coming" when she finally heaped more "disrespect" on him than anyone could possibly stand. This type of offender might very well know how most people would look at his situation. And he probably also knows full well who the victimizer is and who is the real victim. Nevertheless, such a person might do all he could to convince another to adopt the point of view that he was a victim of sorts and therefore "justified" in his actions; not so much because he needs or wants validation, but because if he can get you to buy into at least part of his argument, he succeeds in casting himself in a slightly more favorable light. You might then see him as an ignorant and perhaps misguided soul who simply "doesn't get" how to view women; he needs only to learn better. He's not really a person who already "gets it" just fine yet vehemently resists adopting the standards he knows society wants him to accept. In reality, he doesn't want to be correctly pegged by others for the dangerous person such an attitude makes him.

I can't overstate the importance of being skeptical about what disordered characters say. Remember, a great deal of the time they're engaged in a game of manipulation and impression management.

Early in my work, I interviewed several child molesters who tried to advance the notion that their inappropriate touching of their victim was not motivated by aberrant sexual desire; rather it was a foolish or misguided attempt to "teach" the child about sexual behavior. I asked myself, "Do they really believe what they're saying?" The treatment manuals I had read seemed to regard this type of thinking as a truly held belief, needing correction by "illuminating" the offender. Adopting this perspective, the goal of treatment became to educate him about the damage caused the child and help him overcome the "denial" he was experiencing about other motives, such as his deviant urges. But I eventually learned that most of the time, child molesters that said such things didn't really believe what they were saying. They hoped that I would believe they did, so that I would neither ascribe the appropriate degree of malevolence nor the correct motivation (e.g., sexual interest in a child) to their behavior. If I bought their excuse, I might, for example, see them as an undereducated, poorly guided soul who made a stupid mistake, instead of as a predatory pedophile or a heartless psychopath. So, the thinking they reflected with their talk was not truly a belief. More importantly, their misrepresentations weren't based in "denial," shame, or guilt. In fact, genuine guilt or shame would likely have kept them from offending in the first place. Rather, the "twisted" justification they were providing was merely an attempt to manipulate and impression-manage others.

A child molester enrolled in a required treatment program readily volunteered to me that he knew his thinking process was "twisted." He told me that prior to treatment, he had the erroneous belief that his actions were actually okay. Incestuous behavior, he said, was so common throughout his extended family that he truly believed it was normal." This made some rational sense. But being the skeptic I've learned to be, I did some digging. I learned that not only was such behavior not "normal" in his family, but, because of the outrage and suspicion of family members, he'd gone to great and elaborate lengths to keep his actions under the radar. After I confronted him, he reluctantly reported that he knew very well that it "sounded better" to cast himself as the product of an abnormal environment who simply didn't know better. Once again, his actions (the things he did to guard against discovery) were the more reliable indicator of his true thinking.

Some Major Thinking Errors


In the various character-disturbed personalities, some thinking errors are more common than others and some tend to cluster with others. The major problematic thinking patterns are:

Egocentric Thinking — The disturbed character is almost always concerned with and for himself. Whatever the situation, it's always about him. He frequently finds himself thinking about things that he wants, because that's what's important to him. He hardly ever thinks about what someone else might want or need, because he attaches so little importance to that. Because he thinks the entire world revolves around him, he believes it's the duty of others to place what he desires or what interests him above everything else.

When he wants something, the disordered character also doesn't consider whether it's right, good, legal, or if his pursuit of it might adversely affect anyone; he only cares that he wants it. His constant concern for himself and the things he desires promotes an attitude of indifference to the rights, needs, wants, or expectations of others. Such an attitude fosters a complete disregard for social obligation. In some cases, as Samenow notes, there's an ardent disdain for and total refusal to accept obligation. As self-centered as he is, the disturbed character believes the world owes him everything and that he owes the world nothing. Such thinking is the reason the disturbed character develops an attitude of entitlement. He has extremely high expectations for everyone else, but feels no sense that he should submit himself to the expectations of others or society in general. His egocentric thinking patterns, attitudes, and their resultant behaviors prompt him to lead an extremely self-centered lifestyle.

Possessive Thinking — Disturbed characters tend to view their relationships as possessions that they rightfully own; they should be able to do as they wish with these people. This type of thinking frequently accompanies Heartless Thinking: The disturbed character tends to objectify others (i.e. view them as mere objects or pawns to manipulate as opposed to individuals of worth with whom one has to form a co-equal relationship). Possessive and heartless thinking promote a dehumanizing attitude. This makes it more likely that the disturbed character will view others, not as human beings, but as objects of pleasure, vehicles to get things he wants, or simply potential obstacles in his path that must be removed.

Possessive and heartless thinking make it all but impossible for the disturbed character to view others as individuals with rights, needs, boundaries, or desires of their own, and beings of dignity worthy of respect and consideration. Such thinking is carried to a most pathological extreme in the Predatory Aggressive or "Psychopathic" personality.

Extreme (All-or-None) Thinking — Disturbed characters frequently see things in terms of black and white, all-or-none. They might take the position that, if they can't have all that they ask for, they won't accept anything. If someone doesn't agree with everything they say, they will frame it as not being valued or listened to at all. If they don't see themselves completely on top and in total control, they will cast themselves as being on the bottom and under someone else's thumb. This erroneous way of thinking makes it virtually impossible for them to develop a reasonable sense of give and take in their relationships. It promotes an uncompromising attitude that impairs their ability to develop any sense of moderation in their behavior patterns.

Inattentive Thinking — Some researchers describe this thinking error as the "mental filter"" because disturbed characters selectively "filter" what goes on around them, paying attention to and heeding only the things they want to, and disregarding all the rest. They hear what they want to hear, remember what they want to remember, and learn what they want to learn. They invest themselves intensely in the things that interest them; but they actively disregard the things they don't care about, even though they may be quite aware that others want them to pay more attention to these things. They use the responsibility-avoidance tactic of selective attention (discussed later): They "tune out" someone who's trying to teach them a lesson, or only half-listen whenever they hear something they don't like. They do this most often when others are urging them to submit themselves to pro-social values and standards of conduct. So this erroneous way of thinking is a major reason they develop both lackadaisical antisocial attitudes. In turn, their devil-may-care and antisocial attitudes predispose them to chronic and unyielding behaviors that conflict with major social norms.

Deceptive (Wishful) Thinking — Disturbed characters are prone to seeing things as they want instead of as they really are. Two of their core characteristics — the ease with which they lie, and their resistance to demands placed on them by their environments -prompt them to distort the reality of most situations. It's not that they don't know the truth, but they simply don't want reality to get in the way of what they want. They lie to themselves with the same ease that they lie to others. They alter their perceptions and distort the reality of situations so they don't have to alter their stance, change their point of view, or question their usual way of doing things. Sometimes they live in a world of their own fantasy, adhering to the belief that "thinking makes it so." Their determination to make reality what they want it to be breeds a pervasive attitude of disregard for the truth.

Self-Deceptive thinking is not the same thing as the "defense mechanism" of Denial. The latter is an unconscious defense against unbearable emotional pain. Deliberate, self-serving twisting of facts and misrepresentations are bad habits for sure, as well as ways to avoid responsibility; but they're not the result of an altered psychological state.

Many times, self-deceptive thinking accompanies the responsibility-avoidance and manipulation "tactic" of denial (i.e. deliberate denial of responsibility or malevolent intent for the purpose of manipulating or impression-managing others). We'll discuss this in the next chapter. But again, that's an entirely different kind of denial.

When doing the research for my first book, In Sheep's Clothing, I counseled many individuals of disturbed character who initially balked at the notion that they had any real problems. For example, a person referred for Anger Management Training (which, by the way, I always translate into aggression-replacement training) might assert, "I've really thought about this, doc. If you want to know the absolute truth, I really don't think there's a problem here." He might make this assertion despite a virtual mountain of evidence to the contrary presented by those who pushed him to seek counseling in the first place. He might even maintain the assertion despite a litany of problems in relationships dating back many years that testify to his lack of emotional self-control. This kind of thing always raises the question in the minds of others: "Does he simply not see the problem?"

Actually, most of the time he sees it just fine; but he isn't really motivated to deal with it or change it, so he tries to justify himself and get others off his back by suggesting there is no problem. Other times, he's lied to himself so long and so often that he has begun to believe his own lies. Then again at other times, he has so twisted and so distorted so many aspects of life's realities, it's become hard for him to tell what's real anymore.

Here's one of the benefits of counseling disturbed characters within the Cognitive-Behavior Therapy paradigm: By focusing on behaviors that can be objectively verified as issues of concern, a person's distorted beliefs automatically become evident. Once the problem behaviors are identified and out in the open, attention can be given to the erroneous ways of thinking that led to those behaviors in the first place.

Impulsive Thinking — Disturbed characters think primarily about what they want at the moment. They don't bother to think long-range or about the likely eventual consequences of their behavior. They don't think before they act. They act first and sometimes think afterwards. Some disturbed characters never regret their impulsive acts. Some, however, do experience some after-the-fact regret. They might even know from past experience that they'll end up regretting making an impulsive choice; but that's never a serious consideration at the time they want something. They don't spend time thinking about the potential impact of their behavior before they act. They think only of what they want and how to get it now. This type of thinking predisposes them to think short-range and to ignore potential long-term consequences. It also promotes a "devil-may-care," lackadaisical attitude, and attitudes of indifference, uncaring, or nonchalance.

Egomaniacal Thinking — Disturbed characters think far too much of themselves. At times they think they're so smart, clever, or "special" that they can do what most others wouldn't even dream of trying and somehow get away with it. They tend to think of themselves as so important or superior that they deserve things others don't deserve. They often consider it a testament to their greatness if they can use their wits or manipulative skill to take things as opposed to really earning them. This erroneous way of thinking about themselves, along with their pathologically grandiose sense of self-importance, inevitably engenders attitudes of arrogance, superiority, and most especially, entitlement. In some extreme cases, their sense of entitlement can predispose them to commit acts of unspeakable cruelty toward others.

In recent years, big changes in cultural norms have reinforced the tendency toward egomaniacal thinking. It's not uncommon for young persons to be bombarded with messages that they're "special" simply because they have a heartbeat. That's because well-meaning individuals (e.g., teachers, parents, and even mental health professionals), steeped in old-school psychology, thought it simply wasn't possible for a person to have too much self-esteem, and that everyone would be emotionally healthier if they got frequent messages of validation. But what these well-intentioned folks probably haven't considered is this: When we heap praises upon people for what they are as opposed to what they do, we do them a great disservice insofar as developing a healthy sense of self-worth.
 

Laura

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Continued:



Prideful Thinking — A television commercial some years ago featured a flashy sports personality hawking a fancy camera, and touting its superior picture-taking qualities with the slogan: "After all, image is everything." Disturbed characters adopt this axiom as a core belief, and often carry it to a most pathological extreme. Disturbed characters tend to think that there's nothing worse than admitting a mistake, backing down, or giving-in because it makes them look inadequate or "weak." They place their image above everything else. They think in such prideful ways that their ability to develop relationships based on mutual regard is extremely impaired. Instead of acknowledging shortcomings or errors and correcting course, they resist change while engaging in a wide variety of behaviors designed to manage the impression others have of them. They often won't concede, even when they know full well that they're off base.

Here's one important reason they engage in this relentless impression management: They don't want anyone to really know who they are or to "have their number." This would level the interpersonal playing field, taking them out of the position of advantage they always seek to maintain in their relationships. They think they will not only lose leverage but also prestige if they honestly self-reveal, or if they admit normal human shortcomings or failures.

Habitual prideful thinking promotes the development of vanity and attitudes of haughtiness, arrogance, and pretentiousness. Thinking he can never really acknowledge a mistake prevents the disturbed character from profiting from experience, especially when life is trying to teach him a lesson. Before people can really correct problem patterns of behavior, they have to humbly admit they have the problem. And, to admit a problem is to acknowledge a shortcoming. Prideful thinking is a major barrier to recognizing or correcting any of the many problematic social behaviors common in the disturbed character.

Hedonistic Thinking — Disturbed characters place a premium on the pursuit of pleasure. They don't do things unless there's something in it for them, and they want that something to be pleasurable. They tend to crave stimulation and excitement, and have an inordinate distaste for what they regard as boring, tedious, or mundane. They value their comfort and hate being inconvenienced. They think that life owes them a good time, and that a life without a steady stream of "highs" is a life not worth living. This is a most serious error in thinking that sometimes propels them to engage in reckless, thrill-seeking behaviors. It also leads them over time to develop an attitude of extreme intolerance for any kind of potentially constructive pain or discomfort.

Unreasonable Thinking — Disturbed characters are very unrealistic in their thinking about life and the world around them. They also tend to harbor excessive expectations. But their unreasonable views and expectations are usually very one-sided. They tend to set virtually unattainable standards for everyone else, while feeling no concomitant sense of obligation to meet the general social expectations most of us would like them to accept.

Disturbed characters expect a whole lot from their government, their bosses, their spouses and children, and anyone else who has any kind of relationship with them. And those expectations are most always ridiculously irrational. They expect others to trust them long before they've established a track record that proves they might actually be trustworthy. They expect others to be attentive to their wants and needs and to cater to their whims. They expect things to go their way — all the time. They expect a lot of everyone, usually putting considerable stress on a relationship.

If the most disturbed characters expected themselves to measure up to the same standards they set for everyone else, they wouldn't be nearly as difficult to live with or work with. What's more, if they imposed the kinds of standards on themselves that they try to impose on others, they wouldn't engage in so many of the antisocial and other problem behaviors they so frequently display.

Disturbed characters have no sense of balance, fairness or compromise. Thinking so unreasonably eventually leads them to develop a rigidly demanding attitude. The unreasonable demands they bring to a relationship are a most frequent source of conflict and relationship distress. A partner might try to reason with them to no avail. Their thinking is too focused on their own expectations of others to be refocused on what they might do differently to get their wants and needs met.

Irrelevant Thinking — Disordered characters will often focus on the small, petty aspects of situations, but ignore the most important things, or the "big picture." They'll take issue with their boss, the government, or with their partners on trivialities while not paying attention to the things that really matter. When someone is confronting them on their behavior, they'll get hung-up on a "technicality" or small inaccuracy while ignoring the larger truth. For example, they might complain that a highway patrolman claimed they were exceeding the speed limit by a much greater degree than they actually were, while totally ignoring the fact that they were driving recklessly and endangering others. Their habitual attention to things not really relevant leads them to develop attitudes of pettiness and thoughtlessness. Irrelevant thinking also tends to co-occur with external and hard-luck thinking.

External Thinking — Disturbed characters will often focus on things outside of their control. They will brood about the actions or opinions of others, and invest a lot of emotional energy in things they can't realistically exercise power over. I call this kind of thinking external thinking. When things go wrong, disturbed characters don't spend nearly enough time or energy thinking about changes they can make in their own behavior to make things better. Rather, they focus on external circumstances. They make what mental health professionals call external attributions with respect to the causality of events. That is, they ascribe the causality of (i.e., blame for) events to external sources. This fuels their penchant for blaming others and circumstances — when they should be taking a hard look at themselves. This kind of thinking is frequently involved in the responsibility-avoidance tactic of blaming others (more about this in the next chapter). Focusing on external events and external factors breeds an attitude of irresponsibility as well as pessimistic and negative attitudes about the world. It also fuels a tendency toward hostile and accusatory behaviors toward others.

"Hard-Luck" Thinking — Disturbed characters often portray, and sometimes even see, themselves as victims of circumstances instead of persons responsible for their own actions and the consequences of those actions. They frequently sit on their "pity-pots," feeling sorry for themselves and the "raw deals" they imagine they have been dealt in life. This kind of thinking leads to attitudes of bitterness and resentment. It is one of the reasons why disturbed characters enter relationships with a fairly substantial chip already on their shoulders.

End-Game Thinking — Some disturbed characters are forever thinking about outcomes. The aggressive personalities in particular are very goal-oriented individuals. That in itself is not so bad. The problem is that they don't give much thought to how they're going about getting the things they want. They tend to feel so entitled to have whatever they desire, they believe the ends always justifies the means they employ to secure their wishes. End-game thinking is like tunnel-vision. If a person confines his thinking solely to achieving a goal or ensuring a certain outcome, he's likely to give insufficient attention to the right or wrong way to go about it.
Because of their other traits, disturbed characters will often con, cheat, steal, and manipulate to reach their objectives. The way they see it, if others are so gullible or so weak that they can be easily taken advantage of, it'd a fair victory. After all, for the disturbed character, it's all about winning. What it takes to win and what it might end up costing are not considered.

End-game thinking is just one of the mental errors that over time promote the development of an antisocial attitude. Thinking only about what one wants, and not giving enough thought to how it's best to go about getting it or who might be impacted, is a sure prescription for socially irresponsible behavior.

Quick and Easy Thinking — This is perhaps one of the most insidious yet pervasive ways of thinking that disturbed characters frequently engage in. The disordered character is forever looking for shortcuts. That's because such characters detest labor and effort, most especially the kind commonly referred to as labors of love (i.e., investing time and energy in an endeavor primarily for the benefit of someone else or the long-term benefit of all). So, when they want something, disturbed characters frequently think about how they'll get it the quick and easy way. Sometimes, they even think of it as a badge of honor if they manage to "con" somebody out of something instead of securing it legitimately through hard work. The disturbed character would much rather cheat than earn.

Always wanting something for nothing, disturbed characters expect to pay the least for the things in life that are worth the most. The most disordered characters among us will attempt to command "instant respect" at the point of a gun; but they won't lift a finger to earn others' genuine respect by developing their own characters and making a meaningful contribution to society. They want trust without being willing to habitually do the things that engender trust. In short, they want all sorts of things that have value, but they're simply not willing to pay for them.

Even though they detest work and effort, disturbed characters will sometimes expend energy, especially when they think (1) there's something in it for them, (2) the payoff will be relatively quick, or (3) their effort will allow them to take advantage of others. However, as I've stated numerous times in my workshops, in general, their attitudes toward labor and their desire for immediate reward only lead them to regard W-O-R-K as the most distasteful "four-letter word." Their habitual ways of thinking and behaving engenders a pervasive attitude of disrespect for the value of work and effort. Such attitudes allow them to view others who have worked hard and achieved as just plain "lucky" and unworthy of respect. These attitudes also make it easier for them to justify trying to take something they haven't rightfully earned.

Mistrustful Thinking — Disturbed characters often have a poor concept of how to honestly gain others' trust or judge the trustworthiness of others. Just as researchers such as Samenow have noted, they have no idea about what trust is or how to earn it. They also tend to think that everybody else is as dishonest as they are. So, they think they have to outwit others before others outwit them. When others make an insignificant error or innocently misspeak, they frame it as lying. Yet when they themselves lie — even egregiously — they trivialize it, reasoning that everybody else does it. They think they shouldn't have to earn the trust of others by firmly and repeatedly demonstrating honesty, a commitment to principle, and a willingness to respect the truth. They also think if they tell the truth once, others should believe them implicitly and for all time. Yet if someone else does or says even the slightest thing that doesn't ring true for them, they'll mistrust them forever. This kind of thinking leads to attitudes of guardedness, suspiciousness, and caginess.

Opportunistic Thinking — Disturbed characters don't think about the rightness or wrongness of something when they see an opportunity for personal gain or profit. Their main concern is how they can exploit the weakness of a person or take advantage of a situation for their own gain. They are quick to recognize an opportunity whenever it presents itself. They're also adept at subtly creating opportunities to abuse or exploit others.

To be sure, we can't be successful in life unless we're prepared for and willing to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. But always looking for opportunities to profit personally without considering the impact on everyone else can be a very big problem. One only needs to look at how greedy Wall Street executives took advantage of opportunities to reap spectacular profits while knowing that the "bubble" would eventually burst. They left the economic well-being of the country in shambles.

Habitual, opportunistic thinking is another thinking error that promotes the development of antisocial attitudes.

Combative and Defiant Thinking — The most disturbed characters, especially the various aggressive personalities, tend to view the world as a combat stage. They see most situations as a contest they have to win. They expend a lot of mental time and energy planning battles they want to wage and stances they want to take against the demands society places on them. From the first moment they think someone wants something from them, they start thinking about how they will resist acceding to those expectations. The aggressive personalities are always thinking about ways to fight, even when it would be far more appropriate or in their best interest to cooperate. They so abhor the idea of backing-down, conceding, or giving ground, that even when it would be advantageous for them to do so, their thinking is dominated by contentiousness and intractability. Habitual combative thinking promotes unnecessarily hostile, confrontational, and defiant attitudes. Many a relationship has been destroyed by the "my way or the highway" stance taken by some disturbed characters.

Undaunted Thinking
— Disturbed characters don't allow adversity to lead them to question how they look at things or the ways they tend to conduct themselves. Even though most of the problems they experience are the natural and logical consequences of their dysfunctional attitudes and behavior, they rarely allow themselves to think of their predicaments that way. Rather, they take pride in their determination to keep doing things as they prefer to do them, no matter what happens as a result. If a relationship falls apart, they simply blame the other person and move on. If they run afoul of the law, they fault the "corrupt system," and become more resolute in their determination to beat it. They don't allow themselves to think that maybe there's something about the way they go about viewing and handling the trials of life that needs correction. Instead, they dig in their heels and harden their stance, despite all objective evidence that their stance is ill-taken. Their habitual undaunted thinking leads to attitudes of belligerence and stubbornness.

Disordered characters think they shouldn't have to do anything they don't want to do. They want to make their own rules. They understand very well the rules most people think we should all live by. And they'll do things others want or expect them to do, but only if they agree with it. They never really subordinate their wills to a higher authority. Samenow notes how some disordered characters have deep disgust for accepting obligation and possess no real sense of duty. Habitually defiant thinking breeds the disordered character's attitudes of rebelliousness, disdain for authority, and refusal to recognize or accept obligation.

Shameless Thinking — Disturbed characters generally have a deficient sense of shame. They almost never think of how some action might negatively reflect the kind of person they are. This is an important point. A key feature of the most disordered individuals is often that they neither care enough nor think enough about how their patterns of behavior reflect on their character. What's more, when disturbed characters do perceive that someone is judging them in a negative manner, instead of feeling ashamed, they go into impression-management mode; they try to convince the other person that they have a problem.

Some of the most severely disturbed characters might even consider it a badge of honor that they are not affected by others' opinions. They hold on to 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.

Guiltless Thinking — An immature or impaired conscience is a hallmark feature of the disturbed character. Therefore, such characters have a diminished capacity to experience genuine guilt over actions or intended actions that injure others. When they're thinking about doing something, disturbed characters rarely consider 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 seriously contemplating how to get something they want. Not caring enough about how their behavior might impact someone else, they simply give rightness or wrongness no serious consideration in their thought processes. They might very well know that others would view their behavior as wrong, but they can still make excuses and "justify" their wrongful acts with ease. Over time, this guiltless way of thinking promotes a pervasive attitude of social irresponsibility.

Circumstantial Thinking — Disturbed characters like to think that things in life "just happen" to them or others. They don't like to think in terms of cause and effect relationships with respect to the decisions people make about how to manage their lives. So, when people of good character manage to earn good fortune, the envious, disturbed character attributes it to "blind luck." And when the consequences of his own irresponsible conduct fall upon the disturbed character, he attributes it to "just one of those things," the corrupt system, or the ill motives of others. Disturbed characters don't like to focus on the fact that behavior has consequences, and they certainly don't like to examine their own motives. In the mind of the disturbed character, "shit happens." Among criminal personalities, there is an acronym: "OTLTA." It reflects their common protestation that One Thing simply Led To Another whenever they're challenged about their motivations for committing criminal acts. Such protests reveal that they don't give much focus to the series of choices they've made, but rather see their behavior and its consequences as the inevitable result of a snowball rolling out of control, and becoming too massive to stop.

There are indeed some times when fate plays the major role in life's circumstances. Sometimes, things simply happen. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes happen without warning. But such events are rare occurrences. Responsible people know that, for the most part, when it comes to the major issues of life, circumstances are shaped by the choices a person makes. Paying attention to those choices, and taking care to make the best possible choice regardless of the circumstances, is what sound character is all about.

Circumstantial thinking means not thinking about one's motives for engaging in behaviors, one's internal decision-making process, and the consequences of one's choices, but rather telling oneself that things simply happen. That is the thinking error most responsible for the development of a socially irresponsible attitude.
 

Ennio

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Some very important observations from George Simon's new book "Character Disturbance". This book puts a lot of things about psychopathology into very plain terms with useful examples to make the points perfectly clear. It is useful not only for detecting pathological thinking in others, but for observing the self and inferring things about one's own core beliefs by one's behavior.
I couldn't agree more. I am about half-way through reading CD and find it be a great continuation in our study of behavior as it relates to narcisstic and psychopathic types. As a kind of teaching tool though, CD is also especially good at making a distinction between the neurotic type and the character disordered and character disturbed types. Since neurotic types tend to self doubt, sometimes to their own detriment, they (probably many of us) are at a common disadvantage when dealing with those who fall into the other categories.

The other night I read a passage which describes how Simon dealt with some character disordered and probably character disturbed individuals in a therapeutic setting. He first describes how he does this - without going on the assumption that his clients (some of which were convicted of serious crimes) are 'wounded' and acted out of those wounds - a common mistake among many therapists. He is then armed to deal with his clients in a far more effective way - addressing behavior - instead of any stories he may be given that would otherwise misinform or manipulate the perception he has of his client. What this does, I think, is help the reader work towards 'character building' within oneself. Knowing enough about how one has been programmed to think as a neurotic - in order to know how to handle at least some situations with the character disturbed. It's somewhat like a template for how to respond - if not specifically in what to say or do, then in the approach or mental stance that should be undertaken. In this way, and others too, Simon's "Character Disturbance" is a really valuable addition to the must read list of books we have on narcissism and psychopathology.
 

bngenoh

The Living Force
Ennio said:
The other night I read a passage which describes how Simon dealt with some character disordered and probably character disturbed individuals in a therapeutic setting. He first describes how he does this - without going on the assumption that his clients (some of which were convicted of serious crimes) are 'wounded' and acted out of those wounds - a common mistake among many therapists. He is then armed to deal with his clients in a far more effective way - addressing behavior - instead of any stories he may be given that would otherwise misinform or manipulate the perception he has of his client. What this does, I think, is help the reader work towards 'character building' within oneself. Knowing enough about how one has been programmed to think as a neurotic - in order to know how to handle at least some situations with the character disturbed. It's somewhat like a template for how to respond - if not specifically in what to say or do, then in the approach or mental stance that should be undertaken. In this way, and others too, Simon's "Character Disturbance" is a really valuable addition to the must read list of books we have on narcissism and psychopathology.
Couldn't agree more Ennio,

The way he approaches things from what i have read in Laura's post, that is not assuming anything, letting actions speak for themselves, and in terms of The Work, letting thoughts "speak" for themselves, then applying knowledge & experience to go to the heart of the matter, is very useful. Another great tool discovered.
 

Voyageur

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Laura said:
Some very important observations from George Simon's new book "Character Disturbance". This book puts a lot of things about psychopathology into very plain terms with useful examples to make the points perfectly clear. It is useful not only for detecting pathological thinking in others, but for observing the self and inferring things about one's own core beliefs by one's behavior.

*****************Quote Excerpts****************


In recent years, big changes in cultural norms have reinforced the tendency toward egomaniacal thinking. It's not uncommon for young persons to be bombarded with messages that they're "special" simply because they have a heartbeat. That's because well-meaning individuals (e.g., teachers, parents, and even mental health professionals), steeped in old-school psychology, thought it simply wasn't possible for a person to have too much self-esteem, and that everyone would be emotionally healthier if they got frequent messages of validation. But what these well-intentioned folks probably haven't considered is this: When we heap praises upon people for what they are as opposed to what they do, we do them a great disservice insofar as developing a healthy sense of self-worth.
Important things being said here about the new "cultural norms" amongst the other valuable considerations mentioned. Generational norms sure have changed and these norms are so embedded in our present advertizing and other messages.
 

Oxajil

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
It's shocking to read these things which I've seen in my own behavior, usually thanks to the feedback I've gotten and get from others. Much food for thought and something to think and write about. Thanks for posting.
 

Esote

Jedi Council Member
Oxajil said:
It's shocking to read these things which I've seen in my own behavior, usually thanks to the feedback I've gotten and get from others. Much food for thought and something to think and write about. Thanks for posting.
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
 

Maat

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Esote said:
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
Yes, I immediately think about it too, as we did for The Adaptative Unconscious
 

Esote

Jedi Council Member
Maat said:
Esote said:
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
Yes, I immediately think about it too, as we did for The Adaptative Unconscious
Well, whatever, I'm taking care of the translation in French...
 

Maat

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Esote said:
Maat said:
Esote said:
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
Yes, I immediately think about it too, as we did for The Adaptative Unconscious
Well, whatever, I'm taking care of the translation in French...
Sorry, but as I wrote to transgroup earlier today, I've also begin with it... Transgroup is the main place for that and to avoid such situations. Let's see there what we do. ;)
 

truth seeker

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Maat said:
Esote said:
Maat said:
Esote said:
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
Yes, I immediately think about it too, as we did for The Adaptative Unconscious
Well, whatever, I'm taking care of the translation in French...
Sorry, but as I wrote to transgroup earlier today, I've also begin with it... Transgroup is the main place for that and to avoid such situations. Let's see there what we do. ;)
Perhaps you can both work on it together as it can make lighter work - each one taking a post? How far have each of you gotten?
 

anart

The Living Force
Maat said:
Esote said:
Maat said:
Esote said:
Laura's excerpts could be published as a SOTT article and be translated ?..
Such a clear and concise knowledge on character disturbance is worth sharing widely, OSIT
Yes, I immediately think about it too, as we did for The Adaptative Unconscious
Well, whatever, I'm taking care of the translation in French...
Sorry, but as I wrote to transgroup earlier today, I've also begin with it... Transgroup is the main place for that and to avoid such situations. Let's see there what we do. ;)
Yes, that is why the translation groups exist. This discussion should go there, and it's a good lesson to network before starting anything, Esote, since there are many people working on things. :)
 

Esote

Jedi Council Member
Yes, a good lesson... Actually I didn't think it would be that quick !
These networkers are really weaving a huge fabric without wasting time :knitting:
 

sandrabrownma

The Force is Strong With This One
Discussion on the book Character Disturbance by Dr. George Simon

I have loved this book, am rereading it now and just thought it would be a good book to discuss. I think he challenges the therapy community thinking about a number of things and just think it's one of the best books on personality disorders I've ever read--including mine!!

Anyone interested in talking about the book?
 

anart

The Living Force
Re: Discussion on the book Character Disturbance by Dr. George Simon

Hi Sandra, it's being discussed here - http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,26987.msg327274.html#msg327274 - I'll merge the threads.
 
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