This article is part of a series of articles the thinking patterns common to individuals with disturbed or disordered characters (see “What Were They Thinking?” and “What Were They Thinking – Pt. 2″).  We’ve already discussed Egocentric Thinking.  The next distorted thinking pattern we’ll be talking about is possessive thinking. Disordered characters tend to view those that they have any kind of relationship with as possessions that they have rightful claim over and with whom they should be able to do as they please. This type of thinking most often accompanies a tendency to “objectify” others (i.e., view them as mere objects or pawns to manipulate, as opposed to individuals of dignity with whom one has to form a mutually respectful relationship). Possessive thinking also frequently accompanies “heartless thinking” in which no empathy is felt for the need or concerns of others.

Habitual possessive thinking promotes a dehumanizing attitude toward others. When the disturbed character views others as primarily an object of pleasure, a vehicle to get something he wants, or a potential obstacle in the way of something he desires, it becomes almost impossible for him to consider them as persons with rights, needs, boundaries, or desires of their own. Viewing others as objects or possessions also makes it virtually impossible to acknowledge them as individuals of independent worth.

I’ve counseled many disturbed characters over the years. All too frequently, they reacted with extreme malice when the person with whom they had a possessive relationship tried to declare emotional independence. Sometimes, there were disastrous consequences when they decided that if they couldn’t possess their partner, then no one else could. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the way we think is a big factor in how we act. One of the biggest reasons why disturbed characters form relationships frequently characterized by various forms of abuse and exploitation is because they think of others as objects to possess.

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12 Responses to The Possessive Thinking of the Disturbed Character

  1. Remelinda
    Nov 14, 2010

    I personally experienced and encounter person with disturbed character, and as I’ve read this topic I completely understand the way they do in my personality.Thanks Doc for being a very talented psychiatrist.

  2. Mystery
    Nov 23, 2010

    I have the book In Sheep’s Clothing and found it helpful and informative. I like trying to understand myself and other people, and learn more about what we are doing and why. The most confusing part for me is that so many traits of the different disorders seem to overlap. For example, if one that has possessive thinking and makes objects of people, then could he/she be a psychopath? I have a friend who has displayed some very disturbed behavior towards another friend, and I want to identify what her problem is, and how to advise my other friend, the object of the first friend’s obsession, how to respond. There’s a lot of manipulation happening and I want to be able to help my friend. I haven’t thought about possessiveness in the way you described here, but I think that is definitely going on with my friend. I find it fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I think I have been the object possessed, at one point in my life. It was hard to get away but I did it.

    • Dr. Simon
      Nov 23, 2010

      Yes, it can be confusing when traits/characteristics overlap. All the “aggressive personalities” have much in common with one another, and share many features of the narcissistic personality as well. But “character disturbed” individuals, whatever their personality patterns, have much more in common with one another than they have differences. And manipulation is just one of the many dysfunctional behaviors disturbed characters engage in. My new book “Character Disturbance” explains this in more detail.

  3. Dr. Simon
    Nov 23, 2010

    I’ll be posting more material from the new book in coming weeks.

  4. MarBella
    Jun 06, 2011

    I just ended an internet friendship with a man I was chatting with for close to two months. In the beginning of the friendship, all was good and dandy but as we went along I noticed his “strange” demanding expectations from me! I was like what! And I don’t even know this man!! He showed his true colors when he questioned everything I said and did, accused me of “not loving him” duhhh! I don’t even know you!! (is what I constantly said to myself). Finally, we ended in bouts of shouts which he began (and I reacted). Did not take me too long to figure out I was chatting with “CHATTING WITH THE ENEMY”. I eliminated him from my list. So!! Take note people–read the signs, they are loud and very clear! Thanks for this posting-great help for those of us seeking wisdom.

  5. MarBella
    Jun 06, 2011

    Additionally, I feel very much at ease I don’t speak with that individual anymore. Thanks Dr. Simon for your page.

  6. Kali
    Dec 10, 2011

    I stumbled upon this site because of problems in a group of friends. This a group made up of fairly mature people. Everyone is over 45 but not older than 55. One member of the group exhibits narcissistic traits and is extremely possessive of group members. She is also abusive to people outside the group and tries to characterize people she wants to abuse as a threat or someone who is unworthy of friendship. I formed a very close friendship with C. R (possessive) noticed the that we were growing closer and started to question C. When C and I spent time together at a movie or whatever. If we mentioned it to R she would try to make us feel bad about having fun together, especially C. We all liked hanging together so we tried to overlook mild abuse from R. We were all going through family loss (parents, partners, cancers, caretaking of family and liked the support we gave each other). R acted caring and supportive at first but then became critical of others in a very negative and demeaning way but yet sought support for her issues. She would lend money to someone in a jam but then publicize that they owed her. I have left the group. I don’t consider R to be a true friend and I am able to socialize with other group members if and when I want. C is undecided but very uncomfortable with the possessiveness that R is showing. A few of the others need R financially and so they tolerate the abuse and interferance and go along with her. I don’t understand how some of them can go along with an abuser posing as a friend and not call R on her behavior. I have pointed out the problems I have with R. to her and she shuns me but knows to mind her manners. What makes people tolerate that kind of behavior?

    I must admit that I stayed in that group to long because of my friendship with C. The friendship suffered but we have agreed to not include R in our activities. C has started to move away from that relationship but there is a sense of security in it for her. We were all close at one time so this has been painful.

  7. lovely
    Jan 01, 2012

    Actually, I’m really confused. If he has a personality disorder, it’s hard to put the blame on him. If I tell him he is being too negative, he will say that I don’t understand his situation and that he is only really worried about us. He always calls me all the time saying he feels lonely. But he doesn’t like me making any friends or getting anyone close to me other than him. He wants to be the most special person to me, even more than my family, and he’s always acting concerned about whether I really miss him enough or not. I don’t want to break up but I also don’t really know if he’s being too possesive or he is normal. If he’s not normal, I really need help to make him normal. I want to talk to my younger brother who is separated from me on Facebook but he wants me to deactivate my account. He wants us to have the same account ID. I think he really loves me and he makes me happy and laugh. Sometimes he is really childish and can also be really cute. But I also need friends and family. If I go against him it only makes things worse. He’s never hit me or said really bad things to me, he just blames me for not loving him enough if I don’t agree with him all the time. I really need help. :( :(

    • Puddle
      Dec 31, 2012

      Sounds soooooooo familiar Lovely. It sounds to me, after I have read both of dear Dr. Simons books and many of the articles on this web site, like he wants to possess you and isolate you so he can be in control of the situation= you. I am just waking up from an almost two year relationship with a man who could be the poster child for Dr Simons work. Everything of his I’ve read, and I mean EVERYthing, is just another piece of what has been a puzzle to me. Nightmare!!!! This guy made me VERY happy in some ways. Made me laugh? He was a riot!!!! He wanted to be together all the time, was very affectionate, BUT…. That was all the sheepskin clothing, the rest was ugly and I mean UGLY!
      Listen to your gut…..I wish I would have earlier.

    • Carol
      Mar 09, 2013

      Dear Lovely,
      Your uncomfortable feelings and sensing that something is wrong…are true and valid. But the situation is far more dangerous to your future well-being than you can imagine.

      You’re in a relationship with a man who is in the beginning stages of victimizing you. He is setting you up, and planning on taking full control at some point. After that happens, you will be subjected to full blown, vicious and sadistic cruelty, from which it will be difficult to escape.

      To quote you: “He’s never hit me or said really bad things to me”

      This behavior would tip you off to his true character before he’s had a chance to get you fully committed and tied to him. But have no doubts: You will be subjected to all that and more AFTER he’s got the power.

      I am the adult daughter/survivor of a psychopathic father.

      The very tactics my father used on my mother while they were dating are now being used on you. The possessiveness… the attempts to distance you from friends and family members (i.e. your brother)… the incremental steps he is taking to police all your interactions with others (i.e. Facebook)… playing on your sympathetic nature to feel sorry for him and his problems…making you feel responsible for him (i.e. asking for “help to make him normal”)…

      You cannot make him normal. He does not want to be normal. In fact, your desire to help him is a symptom that you are already falling under his spell, and sinking deeper into the trap.

      Don’t be fooled by a few good times he currently allows you to have, his “childish and cute” manner, making you laugh.

      A good man who really loves a woman, a man worth having…doesn’t stalk her every activity and relationship…he doesn’t try to control who she is…doesn’t try to get the woman to pity him…doesn’t act childish…doesn’t make incessant demands for reassurance and loyalty…

      You are deluding yourself into thinking he loves you. I beg you to wake up and see that you are being manipulated by a man of low character and sinister motives, who has nothing but degradation planned for you.

      I saw what my father did to my beautiful, talented, sensitive and trusting mother. He almost destroyed her. By God’s grace she got away from him after many years of marriage and terrible suffering.

      She thought he loved her too. In reality, he hated her without cause, and enjoyed her pain and trauma.

      Lovely, you asked for help, and I’m giving it to you now. You know something is wrong, and you are so right. Please get away from that man now and move on to a better, safer life.

      • Pat
        Sep 02, 2014

        What you’ve written has described my relationship. I was with him for a long time. While he never did get physically violent (threatened it once), he does have a past history of it, and he could be pretty cruel at times (it only got worse). You have described him to a “T”! Amazing…it is just amazing to me that so many people can be described as being so much alike. I am now going through divorce, but I wanted to tell you that what you wrote really hit home!

        I realize it’s been over two years since you’ve made your post, but if you haven’t gotten out already, please do so! Listen to your gut…it’s what more of us need to learn….hugs to you!!

  8. vera
    Mar 09, 2013

    Carol, I am touched by your kindness. I hope Lovely sees your words. I too came from a family ruined by — well, not quite a P, but a serious narcissist manipulator, malevolent liar, etc. My mother finally did get away… via exiting this sweet old earth. Your mom was luckier. Here’s a virtual hug from one sufferer to another. Here’s to our hard-acquired wisdom.

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