As I described in my last post (see “What Were They Thinking? – Part 2”), persons with disturbed characters don’t act the way we do largely because they don’t think the way we do.
Stanton Samenow was among the early researchers to catalog the distorted thinking patterns or “errors in thinking” which some of the most severely disturbed characters (those with criminal records) display. Over the years, I’ve adapted and modified several of the erroneous thinking patterns he and other researchers brought to light and added several of my own that I came to realize played a crucial role in the problems created by the disordered characters I have treated. The first erroneous thinking pattern I’ll be discussing is one I label “Egocentric Thinking”.
The disordered character thinks so much about himself that it’s second nature. His concerns are almost always with himself and for himself. Whatever the situation or issue initially is, somehow it ends up about him. Disordered characters so frequently think about things that they want because that’s what’s important to them. They hardly ever think about what someone else might want or need, because they attach such little importance to that. Because he thinks the entire world revolves around him, he often thinks that others should care primarily about what he desires and what interests him.
When the disturbed character wants something, he doesn’t think about whether it’s right, good, legal, or whether his pursuit of it might adversely affect anyone — he only cares that he wants it. His incessant concern for himself and the things that he desires creates a pattern of thinking which embodies an attitude of indifference to the rights, needs, wants, and expectations of others. This attitude of indifference fosters a complete disregard for social obligation, and in some cases, as Samenow notes, an ardent disdain for and refusal to accept social obligation. As self-centered as he is, the disturbed character believes the world owes him everything and that he owes the world nothing. He has extremely high expectations for everyone else, but feels no concomitant sense that he should subjugate himself to the expectations of others or society in general. His thinking patterns, attitudes, and their resultant behaviors prompt him to lead an extremely self-centered lifestyle.