Tag Archives: disturbed character

Demeaning as a Lifestyle: The Sadistic Aggressive

Over the past few weeks we’ve been discussing the various “aggressive personalities” (see, for example:  Antisocial Personalities:  The Unbridled Aggressive Pattern and Powers to be Reckoned With:  The Channeled Aggressors).  And because they are the most seriously character disordered of all the various personality types, I’ve attempted in these posts not only to provide as much information as possible but also to encourage discussion and contribution from the readers, who undoubtedly have stories to tell that can benefit others.  In this week’s post, we’ll be discussing a relatively rare but still significantly problematic aggressive personality sub-type:  the sadistic aggressive.

The sadistic aggressive personality (see my categorization in Character Disturbance) is a most unique aggressive personality sub-type.  All of  the aggressive personalities hurt people.  That’s because in their relentless, thoughtless, and undisciplined pursuit of their self-serving agendas, they’re quite willing to run over those whom they perceive as standing in their way.  They’ll do whatever it takes to “win,” secure the dominant position, or get something they want.  Still, for most of the aggressive personalities, causing pain and injury to others is not their primary objective.  Triumph is their ultimate aim, even if someone has to get hurt in the process.   Sadistic-aggressive personalities, however, are primarily interested in hurting, degrading, demeaning, and inflicting agony upon others.  And making someone else grovel is not only the major way sadists secure the dominant position their relationships but also an activity they truly enjoy.  

Now, I must reiterate that there are no real clear, distinct lines between these various aggressive personality sub-types.  In fact, all the aggressive personalities have many more features in common than they do attributes that separate them.   And sometimes a person’s overall interpersonal operating “style” can contain a few of the features of other personality types and sub-types.  Still, it’s helpful to categorize these folks because, for the most part, every individual typically develops a unique and relatively unchanging style of relating that best fits within one of the categories I outline in my books Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing and the better you’re able to both recognize and understand how to deal with each type, the more empowered you’re going to be in your relationships.

In my first post of this most recent series (see:  Aggressive Personalities:  An Upcoming Refresher Course), I mentioned that early in my clinical studies I’d encountered a businessman who I would categorize as having traits of both the channeled-aggressive and sadistic-aggressive personality.  My experience with this person taught me quite a bit about the nature of character disturbance in general as well some of the key aspects of character disturbance that differentiate it from what had historically been seen as the universal human psychological dysfunction: neurosis.  For one thing, this person knew the kind of person he was  and what motivated him (remember, neurotics are supposed to be unconscious of their underlying motivations and the true nature of their actions), and he wasn’t at all afraid to acknowledge any of these things.  In fact, he was proud of all his unsavory attributes and told me so on numerous occasions.  He once told me completely unprompted that he knew that if he weren’t successful as a ruthless businessman, he would certainly have ended up in prison for most of his life because of his aggressive, defiant ways.   Society’s rules were barriers meant for the weak or insecure.  And he knew that he was made to defy rules and authority since the day he was born.  Fortunately, he happened into a circumstance that allowed him to make a great deal of money and amass a lot of power legitimately, and that’s what kept him out of jail.  Over time, this man would tell me a lot more about himself, demonstrating one of the more important axioms I’ve mentioned about character disturbance:  how much insight he already had (even though the insight itself provided no impetus for him to consider changing his behavior).   But perhaps an even greater teacher than this man’s self-revelation to me was the frequent opportunity I had to watch him in action.  And witnessing on many occasions how he terrorized and demeaned others as well as how much he enjoyed such behavior was a real eye-opener.

One day, while I was still present, the man I will call Vince called one of the female support staffers into his office.  He began to berate her in a most vicious fashion.  And he insinuated many times what little worth this person would have elsewhere on the job market and how fortunate she was to have her well-paying job at his company.   The degree to which he brandished rage had me shaking a bit in my own boots.  And the degree to which he seemed to make this woman feel small and to cower unnerved me.  After he finished berating her, he warned her of the dire consequences that would ensue if she didn’t pay heed to his demand for greater diligence on her part then summarily dismissed her.  But to my great surprise, as soon as the woman left the room, he looked at me and began to chuckle and grinned. He then told me plainly that he had pre-planned his expression of rage and that it was meant to instill fear in the woman, to make her feel like she’d have no value anywhere else but working for him, and that he was sure that as a result she would be more conscientious about doing what he expected of her in her job.

This man’s deliberate use of rage when in fact he was in an upbeat mood made me aware  how rage can be used as a manipulation and control tactic.  Moreover, it doesn’t have to arise out of genuine anger or hurt.  Rather, it can simply be used as just another tool in one’s arsenal to bring someone else to their knees and to get something you want (I discuss the use of rage as a manipulation tactic in In Sheep’s Clothing).   This man was also very adept at spotting really conscientious individuals who happened to be in one-down positions in their lives and were in dire need of support.  These were the kinds of folks he sought to hire because he surmised they’d be willing to put up with his bullying behavior.  And this man took not only took pride in his ability to reduce a person to minuscule size with his demeaning and berating but also truly enjoyed doing so.  It was one of his favorite pastimes.

I’ve encountered many sadistic personalities over the years.  They seem to be an increasing percentage of the aggressive personality types in prison settings these days.  And while they’re not very common in the general population, they can cause  an inordinate amount of distress in the lives of those who happen to become entangled in some kind of relationship with them.  

Traditional personality development theories have always viewed individuals like the sadistic personality as becoming the way they are because of deep-seated (and unconscious) feelings of inferiority stemming from being themselves subjected to severe abused or debasement as children. And while it sometimes turns out that such things might be factors, there’s plenty of evidence not all such personalities come from that kind of background.  Some sadistic characters I’ve encountered have even lied about or exaggerated adverse circumstances in their background it to engender sympathy and to make their innate heartlessness seem more understandable and even palatable.  And most of these individuals actually come from unremarkable backgrounds and simply see themselves as superior to those whom they perceive as weaker.  In their disgust of weakness and desire to feel superior, they take a sordid delight in belittling, demeaning, and torturing others. It simply makes them feel good to make someone else feel bad.  And to make other feel small and ineffectual makes them feel large and powerful.   All of the research over the past several years on bullying in schools bears out all I’ve been saying here.  Within the traditional models, bullies used to be seen as “cowards underneath” compensating for feelings of low-esteem by bullying only the weak and steering clear of the strong.  I always thought such views were flawed, and now, thanks to some good research, we now know better.  Bullies simply like to hurt people and target those they perceive as weaker, not only because such folks make easy targets but also because bullies have a natural internal revulsion to such personalities.  And when a young bully gets chronologically older but still hasn’t grown any emotionally, what you’re likely to get is a sadistic-aggressive personality of one degree of severity or another.

It’s dangerous to think there’s any way to be truly safe in any kind of relationship with a sadistic-aggressive personality or immune from the effects of their abuse.  Some folks tell themselves they have sufficient strength to endure the torment they experience.  Others allow themselves to think that as long as they’re appeasing their sadist, they’re safe.   But even though sadists have much more respect for strength than they do for perceived weakness, there’s really no way to be completely safe with them or to be unaffected by the psychological damage they can inflict.  And sometimes sadists develop a special fascination with a particular “target,” taking a sense of “ownership” over that target and exacerbating the risk associated with trying to break free of their grip.  Moreover, sadists can have other aggressive personality traits as well, making them even more dangerous (sadistic predatory aggressives [alt: sadistic psychopaths] are without question the most dangerous people on the planet).  So it’s very important to recognize these personalities early on and do your very best to stay clear of them.

In next week’s post we’ll be talking about the covertly-aggressive personalities and the tactics they use to manipulate and control others.   We’ll round out the series with an article on predatory-aggressives (i.e. psychopaths, sociopaths) that will include some examples from high profile cases that have been in the news in recent months.

 

Comments from a Reader of “In Sheep’s Clothing”

I get mail from readers of my first book In Sheep’s Clothing several times a week.  The comments are frequently quite similar but every now and then one stands out and inspires me to continue the work I’ve done for many years.  Recently, someone wrote:
Dear Dr. Simon,
I just finished reading your book, In Sheep’s Clothing. No words can express the gratitude that I have for this obvious manifestation of your love and hard work.  From your introduction onward, I sensed that you were, not only enlightened about this subject, but that you had a sound, moral and ethical motive for writing the book.  That’s what drew me to you.
I’ll spare you the details of my life, but as you have probably heard thousands of times, I am a victim of a covert-aggressive, manipulating person.  And to make matters worse, I now realize that I am a very neurotic individual.  I didn’t know that before seeing myself in your book.  And I’m not ashamed of it, but I see how it made me vulnerable all my life.  Now, I think I am on the way to reclaiming my life, and finding self-respect and confidence.  Your book has equipped me to do that and to take on the challenges that still lie ahead.
The person who manipulated me for years was incarcerated last year for a serious crime that came to light 2 years ago.  At first, I played my typical role of the sympathizer/empathizer, and offered to get this person “help” him and to support him.  But I finally realized that I’d been enabling him to be irresponsible all his life and to get away with all the things he’d done to cause me pain throughout my life!  When I finally drew the line, he used all the tactics you explained in your book.  In the past these tactics have left me completely depressed and my family and business suffered.   But now I am aware of the tactics and also aware of myself enough to know that I need to be more assertive and rid myself of the burden of his irresponsibility.
To the point:  Your book helped me understand why I am such an “approval junkie,” how I got manipulated, why I always hated confrontation, and why I had so little confidence and self-respect – even though I have done so many good things in my life and achieved a measure of success in my pursuits.  I intend to spend many days meditating on the new perspectives your book offers and connecting them to my life experiences with people of all different characters.  And I will strive to no longer sabotage myself by allowing the disturbed characters I encounter to manipulate me.
You may not ever fully know the overwhelming feelings your work is helping people like me to experience.  But I wanted to let you know how much your work has meant.  I wish you the best, and thank you again.
M.K.  Virginia
Notes like this are why I continue my primary mission despite health issues that have forced me to cease active practice.  And the need for more information prompted me to strike a deal with Parkhurst Brothers Publishers to release a brand new edition of In Sheep’s Clothing (hitting stores March 31st) and to distribute a new, more in-depth book based on material compiled some years ago, Character Disturbance, set for wide distribution on June 30th.
My sincerest thanks to all the patrons of my books, blogs, website and other works.

Prideful Thinking

I’ve been posting a series of articles on the erroneous ways disordered characters tend to think. Prior posts have covered such “thinking errors” as possessive thinking, combative thinking, and egocentric thinking.  All of these erroneous ways of thinking lead to attitudes that predisopose disordered characters to behave in socially irresponsible ways.  Many disturbed characters engage in so much prideful thinking that they can’t learn from their mistakes, primarily because they have such a hard time admitting those mistakes in the first place.

There was a television commercial some years ago that featured a flashy sports personality hawking a fancy camera and touting its superior picture-taking qualities with the slogan: “After all, image is everything.” Disordered characters adopt this axiom as a core belief and often carry it to a most pathological extreme.  As a result, they think in such prideful ways that their ability to develop relationships based on mutual regard is extremely impaired. Disturbed characters think there’s nothing worse than admitting a mistake, backing down in a conflict, or giving in to someone else — because it makes them look inadequate or “weak.” They place their image above everything else, and the image they want to maintain is that of an all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable force to be reckoned with. Even when they know very well that they are in error, they frequently won’t admit it because of how they think it would make them look to others to do so.

Because they’re so incessantly concerned about the image they project, disordered characters often engage in a wide variety of behaviors designed to manage the impression other people form or keep of them. One important reason they engage in this relentless impression management is because they don’t want anyone to really know who they are or to “have their number” so to speak. This would level the interpersonal playing field and take them out of the position of advantage they always seek to maintain in their relationships with others. 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 a person can really correct a problem pattern 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.

How You Get Manipulated – Part 1

Manipulators and other disturbed characters use a variety of tactics to control and manipulate others.  I’ve been posting on some of these in the past few weeks.  But in this post, I wanted to outline some of the main reasons why manipulation tactics work.  I also wanted to speak to issues about how people get themselves trapped in situations in which disordered characters of all types manipulate, abuse, or exploit them.  

I’ve been posting a series of articles on a wonderful international blog:  Psychology, Philosophy, and Real Life.  In some of those posts, I’ve talked about how some longstanding principles of traditional psychology have become unfortunately so unquestionably accepted by both professionals and lay persons that they cloud a person’s judgement when trying to make sense of the behavior of an abuser or manipulator.  Along the way, I’ve gotten some very interesting comments from readers.  

In one of my posts, I made the point that “traditional” psychology paradigms tend to view EVERYONE as struggling with fears and insecurities.  If we buy into that notion, trying to understand someone’s behavior always boils down to trying to figure out what fears and insecurities must be prompting the behavior.  I further pointed out that how we “frame” a problem can often be as important as what we do to try and solve it.  I lamented that counselors who are overly-immersed in traditional mindsets can inadvertantly do great damage when trying to help someone in an abusive, exploitive, or manipulative relationship simply be framing the problem incorrectly.  A wonderful comment came from Sarah, who quoted me in one of my posts saying:

“For example, some disordered characters have such a passion for novelty and such a craving for excitement that they constantly seek shallow, intense, and short-lived high-risk sexual involvements and other interpersonal titillations. But this characteristic thrill-seeking behavior is sometimes framed as necessarily stemming from a “fear” of intimacy or commitment. I think this mistake is often made because it’s difficult for neurotic individuals (or traditionally-minded therapists) to imagine why a person wouldn’t necessarily prefer a stable and intimate relationship over multiple risky encounters unless they were in some way “afraid” of something deeper.”

Sarah commented that she has also come to be a believer in how holding onto outdated notions about why some people do the hurtful things they do only enables people to continue being abused or manipulated.  

Another reader, Diane, voiced her agreement with my concerns about how traditional perspective can be a setup for abuse and exploitation:  

“I agree if the therapist does not catorgorize (the true nature of the abusive party) and get a clear picture (of the abusive situation) he or she could damage their patient or patient! That’s why in a abusive relationship marriage counseling often times ( more so then not ) creates more damage. I am learning that they’re really aren’t very many therapists out there who can handle the job of (working with) a character disorder. They seem too afraid to judge it (character disturbance) as such!  Funny that an expert actually fails the client under these circumstances. Right now I just talked to a women and her counselour is clueless… actually has been highly rated in the state.. But it is not a shock to me…Easily wrapped up for the controller manipulater type.. Actually it was a slam dunk. It is disappointing since so many seek help and don’t recieve it..”

These comments have been edifying for me to get.  The point of this discussion, however, is that one of the principal reasons people get manipulated, abused and exploited by disturbed or disordered characters is because the legacy of traditional psychology has many of us (therapists and lay persons alike) thinking about the behavior of others and their motivations for that behavior in a manner that actually sets people up to be victimized!   

Disturbed characters and skilled manipulators are not easily understood or effectively deal with using traditional frameworks.  As I have posted about before both on my blog and other blogs, disturbed characters are very different from neurotics and the traditional frameworks were all developed to deal with the phenomenon of neurosis.  So, step number one to overcoming all types of abuse, exploitation, and especially manipulation is to start questioning or even ridding yourself of all of the outdated notions traditional psychology promoted about why people do the things they do and adopt a new framework for understanding those individuals whose defects of character are the main reasons for the problems they cause.  

 

 

Bullying (Overt Intimidation) – Manipulation Tactic 7

Manipulators and other disturbed characters sometimes like to openly threaten or brow-beat someone else into giving-up or giving-in to their demands.   They like to terrorize others into submission.  They use fear as a weapon, whether it’s fear of the known or unknown.  People in relationships with disturbed characters are generally familiar with their track record of behavior, thus they know what the disturbed character is not only capable of but also what they have been willing to do to get their way in the past.  

Disturbed characters who bully manipulate others by keeping them on the defensive and making them so afraid of possible negative repercussions that they don’t dare go against their wishes.  Sometimes, manipultors will brandish intense anger and rage, not so much because they’re really that angry, but because they want their victims to be so terrorized that they dare not do anything but cave in to their demands.  That doen’t mean that victims should take the rageful behavior of their tormentors lightly, it simply means that they have to recognize that their probably in a relationship with a person who will stop at nothing to get his or her way.  

Individuals who frequently use bullying as a manipulation tactic are among the least likely to change their modus operandi.  That’s because in addition to being an effective tactic of manipulation, such hard-headed combativeness is also a primary way the disturbed character avoids any kind of submission to a higher authority or standard of conduct.  Those who refuse to subjugate themselves to anything wage a constant war against the internalization of standards and controls that make most of us civilized.  Suffice it to say that the best idea is to not remain in any kind of relationship with a person willing to engage in such behavior.  

Covert-Intimidation – Manipulation Tactic 6

The most severely disordered characters will often make direct threats or even carry them out as a way of keeping others in line.  Skilled manipulators, however, are expert at making more subtle, implied or veiled threats to intimidate others into seeing or doing things their way.  Sometimes a veiled threat can be no more than a particular “look” or a glance.  Sometimes it’s imbedded not so much in what someone says or does, but the manner or tone they employ when they do or say it.  The message is always the same.  The disturbed character subtly implies that some sort of “holy hell” will break out if he doesn’t get his way or if someone dares to challenge or confronts his dysfunctional behavior.  

Folks who are quick to go on the offensive in this very calculated way whenever they face resistance are not likely to take a good look at themselves or the healthiness of their way of doing things.  Their combative stance also blocks any chance that they will internalize a more pro-social a standard of self-conduct. 

Individuals who are in relationships with persons who use the tactic of covert-intimidation often are at high risk that the relationship will be abusive, exploitive or both.  I’ve been posting on some of the more frequent tactics disturbed characters use to manipulate and control others.  Observing the frequency with which a person uses these tactics should give you some good insight into the nature of their character and how likely you are to have any kind of healthy relationship with them.  

Minimizing – Manipulation Tactic 5

The disturbed character is forever trying to trivialize important matters.  He tries to convince folks that the wrongful thing he did wasn’t really that bad or harmful.  He might admit part of what he did wrong, but usually not the most serious part.  Disordered characters use the tactic of minimizing to manage the impression others have of them.  It’s a way to manipulate others into thinking they’re not so bad despite the horrible things they’ve done.  

But minimizing serious transgressions is also the way the disordered character lies to himself about the full extent of his character deficiencies and behavior problems.  As long as he continues to minimize, he won’t take seriously the problems he needs to correct.  As with all the other manipulation tactics, this behavior obstructs the internalization of values and standards of conduct.  It’s the way disturbed characters resist accepting responsibility.  As long as a person trivializes important matters related to their conduct, they won’t take seriously the need to change that conduct.  

Seasoned manipulators are good at making the case for discounting the seriousness of their wrongdoing.  Anyone who accepts their minimizations is therefore successfully manipulated.  So, when it comes to important matters, minimizations like “I only did it once,” or “she wasn’t hurt that bad,” should never be accepted.  

Individuals best described as “neurotic” are very different from those with significant disturbances of character.  In contrast to disturbed characters who tend to manipulate, avoid responsibility, and bring undue stress to others through minimizing, neurotics tend to bring undue stress upon themselves by catastrophizing.  They’re so overly conscientious, that any little thing they do wrong is magnified in their own mind as a calamity.  I’ve been posting on another blog about the various and significant differences between neurotics and disordered characters.  I’ve also posted on this blog about other manipulation tactics such as externalizing, rationalizing, and lying.  I’ll be posting on several other manipulation tactics in the coming weeks.

Externalizing – Manipulation Tactic 3

Disordered characters are forever blaming their misbehavior on someone or something else, and skilled manipulators can make you think that somehow it’s your fault that they did whatever they did to hurt you.  Confront them on how hurtful it was that they cheated on you and they will blame your lack of attentiveness, your failure to be avaiable and responsive whenever they felt in the mood, etc.  Confront them on their lack of rapport with their children and they will berate you for turning the children against them.   They’ll always claim that some person or circumstance made them do what they did instead of accepting responsibility for a making a bad choice about how they responded. 

Sometimes counselors have called this tactic projecting the blame.  Projection is another one of those automatic mental behaviors traditionally thought of as an ego defense mechanism.  The rationale behind that notion is that sometimes individuals unconsciously “project” onto others motivations, intentions, or actions that they they are far too unnerved over or feel such overwhelming guilt about that they can’t acknowledge them as their own.  But disordered characters know what they are doing.  They are fully conscious about the what others would see as the wrongfulness of their behavior and they’re perfectly comfortable with the behavior nonetheless.  They don’t have enough guilt or shame about they’re doing to change course.  So, when they attempt to justify their position by casting themselves as the victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate others into thinking that they’re really a good guy who had no choice but to respond the way they did.  It’s an effective tactic to manage the impression of others.  The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as a victim.  It’s an effective tactic that gets others to pay attention to everyone or everything else except the disordered character himself and his harmful behavior patterns as the sources of a problem.  I’ve been posting a series of articles for the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog about individuals with a character disorder and how they differ from other personality types.  I’ve also posted on other manipulation tactics such as rationalizing and lying.  

Externalizing the blame (i.e. blaming others and circumstances for personal shortcomings) is a particularly insidious manipulation tactic and responsibility-aviodance habit.  A person who won’t acknowledge his or her bad choices and repeatedly blames others for his failures will never correct his erroneous thinking, attitudes, or problem behavior.  Whenever you hear an excuse, you know the disturbed character has no intentions of changing his ways.  And whenever you confront someone on their bad behavior, don’t be tricked into thinking it’s somehow your’s or someone else’s fault that they did what they did.  I’ve written on how to avoid being taken in by this tactic in my book In Sheep’s Clothing. 

Neurotic or Character Disorder? Criterion 5 Awareness

The “problems” neurotics experience often stem from emotional conflicts that rage deep within their unconscious minds.  They’re typically unaware of what’s at the root of the “symptoms” they report.  If a woman already knew that the unexplained funk she’d been in lately was related to her suppressed feelings of grief and loss that just happened to be re-surfacing on the “anniversary” of her mother’s death, she might not even need to see a therapist to help her sort out why she was suddenly feeling so blue.  If the man with an ulcer already had awareness that his obsessive worry over losing his job, which was in turn fueled by his deep-seated mistrust of authority figures based upon his experience with his abusive father, he might never have needed to knock on the therapist’s door.  In short, neurotics often have little awareness about the reasons for their problems. 

  

The problems associated with disturbed characters might be so engrained that they occur “automatically,” but the disordered character is fully conscious of them.  He knows exactly what’s going on, what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and even why others consider his behaviors problematic.  Lying is one of the more common of his problem behaviors.  Sometimes the disordered character lies so “automatically” that he lies even when the truth would have done just fine.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know he’s lying.  He knows – he just does it so often and readily that he does it without even thinking about it.

   

A fair amount of the time, when disturbed characters are confronted about why they did something hurtful, they will reply:  “To tell you the truth, I don’t know.”  In my experience, this is most always a lie designed to manipulate and impression-manage others as well as to evade responsibility.  “I don’t know” doesn’t  really mean that the disordered character is oblivious to his motivations (i.e. has no conscious awareness of his intent).  Instead, it often means “I’ve never really thought about it;” or “I don’t want to talk about it now;” or “I don’t want to tell you because they you’ll have my number, the con game will be over, and you’ll start holding me more accountable.”  I get weekly testimonials from readers of my writings and former workshop attendees that often attest to how much their lives changed once they stopped taking “I don’t know” for an answer when confronting the disordered character they’d been dealing with.  In contrast to neurotics, disturbed characters do the hurtful things they do intentionally, albeit habitually. 

 

Disturbed characters are ever so different from most of us.  I’ve posted on how they differ from neurotics on issues like anxiety, conscience, and the ability to experience genuine shame and guilt.  In the coming weeks I’ll highlight more of their key differences. 

Neurotic vs. Character Disorder? Criterion Three – Guilt

People often get manipulated because they misjudge the character of their manipulator.  We have a tendency to want to see everyone else as basically pretty much like us.  We want to think that they think the same way, care about the same things, and feel the same way we do.  But individuals with disturbed characters are very different from most people, especially those who tend to be neurotic. 

 

In prior posts, I’ve highlighted how different character disorders are from neurotics when it comes to matters of conscience and the degree to which they experience anxiety.  The third major criterion on which these two personality types differ involves their capacity to experience genuine guilt.  Having the well-developed consciences that they do, neurotic individuals are quick to feel badly if they think they’ve done something wrong or harmful.  They beat themselves up internally and pledge to themselves that they will do better or try harder.  In contrast, disturbed characters don’t feel guilty enough when they hurt someone else or engage in wrongdoing.  When others point out the error of their ways, they shrug it off.  They don’t beat themselves up but rather they often attack their accusers. 

 

In emotionally abusive relationships, the disordered character will often use “guilt-tripping” as a manipulation tactic.  This is because neurotic individuals are easily swayed when their guilt button is pushed.  So the task for the manipulator is simple:  make the other person feel guilty and you’ll be able to have your way with them.  On the other hand, when the conscientious person tries to lay guilt upon the disordered character, it has no impact.  This is one way to tell if the person you’re in a relationship with is for the most part neurotic or character disordered.  

In my book, In Sheep’s Clothing, I outline all the major tactics disordered characters use to manipulate others.  In a soon to be released book, I present an in-depth look at what makes disturbed characters so different from most of us and how we have to approach relationships with them.