Tag Archives: narcissist

Dr. George Simon, internationally recognized authority on manipulators and other disturbed characters.

Trust and Relationships – Pt. 2

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. But it’s absolutely crucial to a marriage. Without trust, it’s not possible to safely give yourself away. And when the parties to a union can’t give themselves away, there’s really no marriage. Marriage is about the melding of hearts and minds. But  when someone entrusts their heart to another, only to have it crushed, the damage done is not only substantial but also can take years to repair, even under the best of circumstances.

I’m sorry to say that over my many years counselling troubled couples I’ve witnessed very few cases where the disturbed character in a relationship was truly willing to “own” all the damage they’d caused by their breaches of trust and then commit themselves to repair the damage. What follows is an example of one of the more unfortunate cases (as always, any potentially identifying details or circumstances in the vignette have been altered to preserve anonymity and confidentiality):

Looking back on things, “Jane” realized the warning signs were there all along. She should have trusted her gut but took the risk of trusting “Ted.” There was that time, for example, early in their engagement when Ted had a rendezvous with his former girlfriend and didn’t tell Jane about it until she confronted him after learning about it from a friend.  And she chose to believe him when he insisted “nothing happened,” that he was only doing the right thing by affording this woman the “closure” she desperately needed to “move on” with her life, and that he kept quiet about the encounter purely out of concern it would only unnecessarily worry her to know about it.  She chose to believe him despite the fact that by all appearances, this woman didn’t appear to be “moving on” all that much, frequently contacting Ted at odd times, prompting Jane to finally put her foot down.  It would be a few years into their marriage before Jane learned that something indeed “did happen” between Ted and his ex, and as much as it hurt for her to learn the truth, she chose to accept Ted’s explanation that “it was a stupid mistake” that occured only happened once (it didn’t) and only because he felt sorry for an emotionally vulnerable person with whom he was once close. And he insisted it would be wrong to dwell on something that happened in the past and over and done with anyway, so it was time to “forgive and forget.” But it was only a year or so later that Jane, while taking Ted the cell phone he’d forgotten on the kitchen counter, found a truly unnerving text message from one of his female co-workers. Her heart sunk. And she confronted him as soon as she got to the office. But somehow he made her feel guilty for adopting an “accusatory tone.” Again, he insisted, “nothing happened” and there was nothing to really worry about. He admitted that he’d “probably let a harmless flirtation get a little out of control” but promply promised it “would never happen again.” He even offered to leave his job (which would certainly hurt them financially) “if it would make [her] feel better.” But it’s what happened next that should really have clued her in to the kind of person Ted really was. After he’d made his so-called apology, Ted launched into a diatribe about how “paranoid” Jane was “because of that one little mistake” he made years ago with his ex girlfriend and how sad it was to think she might be checking his phone all the time now, when all she really need to do was “just get over it.” At the time, however, she wasn’t seeing things clearly. In fact, she remembers only feeling guilty herself for finding it so hard to trust. But looking back, Jane realized how many red flags had been raised not only about the kind of person Ted really was but also about the kinds of heartless actions he was capable of because of his apparent lack of honesty and empathy.

So here they were, in a therapist’s office (at Jane’s insistance, of course), trying to salvage some semblance of a relationship after the sudden revelation that Ted and yet another co-worker had been having an affair for several months. Just going to therapy with Ted was hard enough, but when, on only the second visit Ted dared to suggest that she had “some part in this too” because her “paranoia” and “emotional distance” probably “drove him” into someone else’s arms, and then on top of that the therapist appeared to agree that “there’s always two sides to any infidelity story,” Jane had her epiphany. How could she have been so blind, she wondered?  Who was this person she had married, anyway? Could he really be such a selfish, heartless fraud? And if he was, as she had now come to believe, why couldn’t the therapist see it? Moreover, how could any reasonable person think a marriage to someone so deceitful and untrustworthy could ever work?

Now, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this story and the hundreds I’ve seen very much like it. When people of decent character “make a mistake,” they not only take responsibility for it but they’re also willing to do what it takes to repair any damage they may have done.  And even when folks with significant character impairments deliberatly do bad things, if they have any shred of decency in them (i.e. any modicum of empathy and conscience) they certainly don’t add insult to injury by blaming the vicim of their trust violations and chiding them to “get over it” (for more on this topic, see the relevant articles on remorse and contrition, especially, Shame, Guilt, Regret, Remorse, and Contrition). A decent person who violates trust, works both diligently and unbegrudgingly to earn some trust back. Disturbed and disordered characters feel no obligation to do so, content to put the burden on others to “forgive and forget.” That’s the lesson Jane unfortunately didn’t learn until it was too late to save a heartbreak. If she’d only known the signs that would have revealed the kind of character Ted really was, she might not have married him in the first place. But she didn’t know what to look for and she trusted Ted instead of her gut. Worse, she entrusted her heart to him. Ted knew very well the wound he’d inflicted on Jane’s heart. And his actions testify to the fact that he was never really sorry (i.e. never had genuine remorse) for anything he’d done. As I assert in my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance and The Judas Syndrome, the truly contrite person hurts precisely because they’ve hurt the other person. Jane didn’t see it early on but she saw it clearly now: Ted was all about Ted – a narcissist lacking in conscience, empathy, shame, guilt, or remorse, and he always had been. He could never give himself over to her or to anything other than his own selfish desires, which made him an untrustworthy partner from the very beginning. And because of all the damage he’d inflicted on her heart by his betrayal of the trust she’d placed in him, it would be a very long time before Jane could allow herself to even think about trusting anyone again.

There will be at least one more post in this series, as trust is one of the more important topics.

Changes will continue to the blog over the coming weeks and information about the upcoming webinar and advance registration details will be posted in just a couple of weeks.  Details are being worked out for some regional seminars for professionals and some of those workshops may also be open to the general public.

There will be a lot to talk about on Character Matters this Sunday evening (7 pm EDT, 4 pm PDT), which will again be a live program, so tune in, and if you have a mind to, call in and join the discussion.


Character Spectrum Disorders

In recent years, we have come to realize that conditions like autism are not singular entities but rather part of a broader spectrum of conditions.  As a result, we now have a much improved ability to detect the various manifestations of developmental delays such as Asperger’s Disorder and to provide the most appropriate early interventions for those conditions.  But we have been much slower to recognize the broad spectrum of character dysfunction.  And largely as a result, there has been a lot of confusion in people’s minds about how to correctly label and deal with those persons in their lives who behave so irresponsibly.

Several years back, books were coming out every day about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  And for some time, many folks thought that the descriptions of narcissistic behavior adequately explained the problems they were having with the dysfunctional persons in their life.  As a result, it suddenly appeared that there were narcissists everywhere.  More recently have come all the books on psychopathy and sociopathy, and for some time following, the internet blogs were full of stories of psychopathic ex-spouses and the “sociopath next door”  And when it was announced that the official diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association is probably going to remove Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a definitive classification (for years it has not included psychopathy as an official condition, either), some people were up in arms while others were left scratching their heads.  For a lot of reasons – mostly media hype and lots of misinformation – there’s now more confusion than ever about the nature of character disturbances.

I was among the first to propose that character disturbance exists along certain continua or spectra and that we needed to take a fresh look at our ways of conceptualizing character-impaired individuals.  It went against all convention when I suggested that it’s a mistake to see all personality types as different “neurotic” styles (there’s still a popular and long-selling book with a title asserting that they are) and that and that there’s a continuum upon which everyone rests that runs from primarily neurotic to primarily impaired in character.  I also suggested that there’s a continuum of character dysfunction – based on the nature and severity of symptoms – that ranges from having certain undesirable character traits to having a full-blown character “disorder” or marked impairment in a person’s social functioning.  And in my book, Character Disturbance, I took great care to present a framework that can help almost anyone understand the entire spectrum of character dysfunction and where someone they know might lie along that spectrum.

Given the nature of our times, it’s a safe bet that the person causing you grief in your life has a character impairment of one type or another.  And despite all the recent hype, the likelihood they’re a full-blown psychopath is fairly low (not saying here that you can’t be dealing with one).  More recently, the authors of the book Almost a Psychopath have acknowledged that there are folks who are empathy deficient and tend to manipulate in relationships but who lack the level of cold-blooded callousness to warrant a formal clinical diagnosis or the label of psychopath.  Such folks often fit much better under the covert-aggressive formulation that I first introduced in my book In Sheep’s Clothing.  And you can read the confession of one such individual, who recognized himself when reading the book, in one of my prior posts (the link to Confessions of a Covert-Aggressive Personality is broken right now but will soon be fixed).  And the very fact that he was distressed enough about what he knew to be true about himself and wanted to work at becoming different argues against the notion that he was a psychopath.

The main thing I’ve tried to do with both of my books is to present a framework that the average person can understand that explains the wide range of impaired characters they’re likely to encounter in their lives and to offer practical suggestions about how to deal with such folks.  And over the years, In Sheep’s Clothing morphed from a small independent publication to an international bestseller (entering its 17th year in print).  That’s mainly because of strong word-of-mouth recommendations of readers to family members and friends.  Most gratefully, the very same thing is happening with Character Disturbance.  As its readers gain better insight into the broad spectrum of character dysfunction, as they are empowered to improve their life circumstances as a result, and as they spread the word to others about the benefits of the perspective I offer, Character Disturbance will most likely eventually enjoy the same if not better success than In Sheep’s Clothing.  No fancy promotion, outrageous claims, or hyperbolic commentary on the trendy labels of the day, just simple, practical ways to understand and deal with the character impaired individuals in your life.  And because I know that such individuals exist along a continuum, if there’s a person in your life making you miserable, I know you’ll find them somewhere among the descriptions I provide in Character Disturbance.

Dr. Simon’s New Book on Disturbed Characters Now Available

Now you can finally learn the truth about the manipulative, aggressive, narcissistic, and other responsibility-challenged people in your life.  These are the people who are content with themselves but who make everyone around them miserable.  After several unavoidable delays, orders can now be placed for Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of our Age.

The international success of my first book, In Sheep’s Clothing:  Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, told me that people were hungry for understanding not only about manipulators, but also about all the problem characters in their lives.  In Character Disturbance, I present a framework by which almost anyone can understand all the major personality types, what makes them the way they are, how they think, how they conduct their relations with others, and what a reasonable person has to do to avoid being abused or exploited by life’s most unsavory characters.  I even give examples of therapeutic encounters with such types to illustrate the futility of traditional intervention methods and what really has to happen to make a difference in the disturbed character’s modus operandi.

Advance orders for the book should be filled in a couple of weeks.  So order early because demand will be high.

Bullies Manipulators Narcissists and other Problem Characters

I’ve been getting more mail than usual lately from across the globe from people who have found my book In Sheep’s Clothing, workshops I have done, this blog, other blogs for which I write helpful to them in understanding some of the difficult characters they’ve had to deal with in their lives.  As always, this kind of feedback is both edifying as well as informative.  One dedicated woman in Sweden used her experience with a bully in the workplace as an inspiration to develop her own site devoted to informing people about the repercussions of dealing with such persons.  Recently, she wrote to inform me that she has had In Sheep’s Clothing featured on her site for several years because she believes it “to be  of immense help to everyone who has ever had to deal with manipulative individuals.”  She had similar kind comments for the blog, expressing the hope that information on it it will help many understand the most difficult characters in their lives and how to deal effectively with them.  I promised her that I would provide readers of this blog a link to her blog.  So, here it is:  http://www.evah.org/.  

I’ve also recently received an email from a gentleman who along with his wife has come through a remarkable ordeal with a family member with significant disturbances of character.  Because my current book on disturbances of character is not yet ready for release, I advised him to get a “sneak peek” so to speak at much of material that will be included in the book regarding narcissists, antisocial personalities, and indeed all sorts of problem characters by visiting this blog, my website: http://www.drgeorgesimon.com/ and some of the international blogs for which I regularly contribute articles, most especially:  http://counsellingresource.com/features/