10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 2

In last week’s post, we began a discussion of the essential life lessons my experience has taught me must be mastered during the socialization process for a person to develop a character of integrity (see: Building Character: The 10 Commandments of Socialization).  And as I have mentioned in prior articles, (see, for example:  Disturbances of Character, Part 2:  Socialization is a Process), socialization is inherently an arduous, lengthy process for us humans. Both nature and nurture play key roles but certain dominant features of modern culture can really hamper the nurture side of things and impede sound character development.  And it’s precisely because the kind of world we live in today is so hostile to healthy socialization that the mastery of what I like to call the “10 commandments of character development,” though particularly challenging, is so crucial.  Although I have written about these “commandments” before (see: The Ten Commandments of Character), in the present series we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at each of these character-building imperatives, using actual examples to illustrate their importance.

The “first commandment” of effective socialization is to be ever mindful of one’s impact on others and the world.  From our earliest days we have a natural tendency to view ourselves as the center of the universe, so to speak.  Overcoming this natural mindset is no easy task.  As I illustrate through several of the vignettes in Character Disturbance and have written about in a prior blog post (see Egocentric Thinking), individuals who do not master this task have a lifelong penchant for self-centered or egocentric thinking.  Egocentric thinkers don’t give pause to think about others and rarely contemplate the consequences their behavior might bring into the lives of others.  They’re simply too self-focused for that.  Becoming more mindful of others’ legitimate wants and needs and the impact of their actions on others is not only essential for adaptive social functioning but also essential for developing that all-important sense of empathy for the experience of others.

These days we know a lot more about how crucial empathy is for functioning in a pro-social manner.  We’ve also learned that the capacity for empathy is strongly influenced by biology.  So, learning to think of others and the impact of our behavior on others can be infinitely more challenging for those among us biologically predisposed not to feel empathy all that easily.  That’s why it’s so important to give ardent attention to this first commandment of character development early on in the socialization process.

I’m often reminded of some things I observed with my two beautiful grandchildren, who my wife and I have had the pleasure to care for one day a week for several years.  There was a time when I actually wondered whether my grandson (the older of the two grandchildren) might not have a real empathy deficit signalling big trouble ahead.  On more than one occasion, when he was 3 or 4 years old I witnessed him deliberately doing things hurtful to his younger sister, and then not only grinning about it but seemingly unashamedly relishing in the dastardly thing he had done.  I even wondered if he would ever learn to not only empathize with her pain but also come to any willingness to be more mindful of the world around him and not so overly-focused and intent on immediate self-gratification.  But that was the discipline challenge:  You don’t have to have everything you want – It’s not just about you – You share space in this world with others – Others have wants, needs, and rights, too – You have to think about what others might be feeling when you mistreat them and how you’d feel if someone treated you so adversely, etc.  It took a LOT of work.  But blessed with good, patient, parents, informed caretakers, and, of course, his doting yet resolute grandparents, by the time he started Kindergarten my grandson’s teachers were all saying what a “gift” it was to have him in the classroom because of how “mindful” he appeared to be socially.

Children can’t just be “lectured” not to be selfish and to consider others.  They need to be shown precisely how to do that, rewarded when they self-initiate caring and considerate behavior, and experience swift and firm consequences when they let selfish interest override all other concerns.  And you can expect them to kick and scream the whole way.  It’s simply not natural to think outside ourselves.  We are not born civilized.  Socialization is a process.  And the amount of 24 hour a day, 7 days a week guidance it takes to socialize a human being dwarfs that for any other creature on the planet.  What’s even more sobering to consider is that as difficult a challenge socialization is by nature, the rampant excess, excessive self-absorption, and self-aggrandizing promoted in so many aspects of modern culture makes the mastery of this first crucial life lesson extremely difficult.

I’m sure the readers will have some comments not only reflecting their experiences with the socialization process but also on those aspects of modern society they see as potentially obstructive to the development of good character.  And next week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the second “commandment” of sound character development:  overcoming entitlement tendencies and cultivating gratitude.


60 thoughts on “10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 2

  1. While this doesn’t directly relate to this post, I’ve been wondering this and perhaps discussion spins more into the direction of ego-centrism.

    Anyways: Since someone can have high self-esteem yet no self-respect, is the reverse possible? Can someone have low self-esteem yet good self-respect?

    1. Yes, quite possible. Primarily because a significant part of self-esteem arises out of an intuitive sense of our natural gifts, talents, abilities, etc., a person can be quite legitimately proud of the hard, conscientious work they’ve done while still not thinking they have much inherent “desirability.” Folks who are used to not being valued for many of the superficial things modern culture “worships” often suffer from this.

      1. And here’s one for you Dr. Simon………I do have several of the superficial traits and qualities that our modern culture worships and as a result I am very insecure about a man’s true intentions and desires. My values contrast drastically what other’s might be after in me. I HATE that…… It is a terrible feeling because I am so much more than some of my superficial qualities.
        Spathtardx swore up and down that he valued me for the real qualities i have but his treatment and actions said just the opposite. I find it impossible to believe that if someone truly loves you they would also intentionally try to dismantle you and decieve you all the while.

  2. J, it strikes me that would be called humility?
    I don’t know………it seems like self esteem, at least a healthy self esteem, would be a natural by product of respecting yourself and others. But unhealthy self esteem (to high and grandiose) is almost a compensation for low self respect and disrespect of others.

  3. Thanks, Puddle. I read it again. Pretty interesting stuff, especially inner judge or inner cheerleader.

    Integrity-deficient people need a non-corrupt inner judge.

        1. That reminds me… been ruminating on how ineffective the programs that deal with abusive me are. I mean, I am grateful that they are finally trying to deal with them, but what they have is this.

          1. jail; how is that gonna change anyone’s behavior? Some men intensify their abuse trying to frighten their partner from calling the cops ever again, “because if I end up in jail for 2 years next time, I’ll kill you when I come out.”

          2. anger management – barking up the wrong tree

          3. abusive men’s therapy — whether in groups or singly, focused on consequences, this is what George Simon and Lundy Bancroft pioneered. It works, but not many men will stick with it, and commit themselves to this hard and long path.

          4. Well, there is always the tribal option. Get him alone, beat him up good, and tell him this is his last chance to straighten up.

          1. #4 is the winner. My one “fantasy” revenge scenario involves a choice few of my male buddies walking into the bar he frequents and me pointing at Spathtardx,,,,,,them saying “Him”? and me saying “Yep”! They would not be there to beat him up or anything violent or physical………just a good public dressing down.
            They really know how to roll the dice. If I had one or two older brothers that actually cared about me and saw through the game that he has chosen to play at my expense, he would be toast. As it is, there are several men in my life who are chomping at the bit to have a “talk” with the loser. They are like big brothers to me and are very displeased…..AND men know more about what other men do to women than they let on. Sadly there really is a sort of code of dishonor among men………not all but certainly more than one would imagine. Wink wink, nudge nudge… disgusting. All cloaked under the guise of humor most of the time. This is something I’ve learned over the years observing men in close proximity on a buddy buddy friendship level. I’ve seen more than I care to but it has been educational……………….and disheartening.
            Having said that, I also believe there is a female version of this type of attitude but IMO, the male version is way more disrespectful.

          2. That’s it, Puddle. The culture of wink wink, nudge nudge is the one that allows the perp to hang onto his entitlements, and pretend to all and sundry he is a decent guy. Even cops used to do it when called to a home.

          3. Vera, in my mind……the ONLY punishment for these losers is shunning and public humiliation. but they definitely fall into the group of “don’t get mad, get even”. It would become a shoot out. it’s a game to them and one they do not want to end up on the losing end of. It’s so strange……..in a way, many of them humiliate themselves! I mean seriously! Spathtardx is 48, lives in his mommys basement, in bankruptcy, has been married four times, is a slob, an alcoholic, looks like he stepped out of a bar on a week bender most of the time, can’t keep a woman happy……….gives people the creeps, ……and honest to G, doesn’t seem to mind himself one bit in fact seems to think and act like he’s IT and a bag of chips. It’s just shake your head unreal!

  4. Too much style with no substance (or “character”) is a passing fad…its like junk food, people suddenly get sick of it and to scare kids into developing character, we have to show how they’ll get dumped in a flash.

    Think of the pop stars, one is parading around nekkid, the other is writing her own songs. One will be around for a while, the other will be abandoned en masse.

    We have to answer the question “why develop character? What’s in it for me?”

  5. Dr Simon… been thinking. I am running into quite a few parents or grandparents with young children who are rampant manipulators and even bullies. Maybe your next book is one parents could use to socialize children properly, esp. the ones who resist? That would indeed be a blessing, a love letter to the future.

    1. Dr Simon, I want to suggest a few books that may help as references. I’m aware you may have heard of these from someone else and already have read them.

      Also, a caveat, these books do have a semblance of old psychological lingo left in them(e.g. “abusive defences”, “bullies are frightened, insecure individuals”, “Insecurity and a lack of confidence cause the bully to…”), but otherwise they are great books.

      One is Bully in sight by the late Tim Field and another one is what Puddle recommended at one point: Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity by Marie-France Hirigoyen.

      While those books handle adult relationships, I think they can hep us understand how these inner dynamics are born. For example, about lying(“when – a child makes up an excuse on the spur of the moment”): “If it seems to suffice, the tendency is reinforced” (Bully in Sight, pg. 7) The quote is incomplete, because there are bits demonstrating that old psychological lingo, like “perhaps genuinely unaware” and “truly seems unable to differentiate between the two”. If you can ignore those bits, I think Buly in Sight can be a great reference to help in analysing the development of a bully mindset.

      1. I’m familiar with the Bully in Sight book but I have more than a few reservations about some of the implied shaping dynamics, just as you also allude to. Still, it’s an okay book. But I’m not at all familiar with the Abuse and Erosion of Identity book, although the title itself bespeaks a reality that makes it a potentially intriguing read, so I’ll familiarize myself with it. There’s tons of information on bullying these days, and actually one of the greatest resources is the U.S. government which has several top-notch publications and up-to-date research that validates the true causes and dynamics. Best of all, the publications are free (of course, we’ve already paid for them)! You can find the information and resources online, and a good place to start is at stopbullying.gov and an even better place is the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

    2. Also, Bully in Sight does have a lot handling other matters than just the mindscape of bullies(for instance, effects of bullying on victims, costs of bullying and options for the bullied) and it’s a relatively thick book of about 300 pages, so I’m not sure how much you may feel you have to skim over. Better warn in advance.

  6. Dr. Simon, Could someone actually be neurotic but use the same manipulative tactics a CA uses? Not sure how to put this. I guess I’m trying to sort out the sheep from the wolf.
    I’m certainly not anywhere near perfect but I KNOW that I have no ulterior motives. I have in the past done some “manipulative” things but they seemed more like evasive things rather than manipulative. Possible passive aggressive but i was aware I was doing them but at the same time not sure what else to do. This was during my situation with the XSpath. Like a couple of times I didn’t answer my cell phone when he called but I had told him I would call when I got home…….and he had made it almost impossible to discuss ANY problem I had with anything to do with my needs in the relationship. I literally felt like i was between a rock and a hard place. I never said things in the right way, at the right time……..but it seemed like there WAS no right time and if I did say something in an irreproachable way, he just gave lip service to my contention with no sustained effort to match. So I became passive……..not so much to be aggressive but more out of feeling defeated and resigned…………I don’t know.

    I wonder if he could appear neurotic (perhaps by way of his mask), believe himself to not be CA but actually be a CA!

    1. The answer to your question is YES, absolutely! Perhaps I didn’t do as good a job as I might have liked clarifying this in ISC and CD. And, as I mention, a person can even be CA and be more neurotic than CD, but that’s very rare. The big difference between isolated, manipulative acts and perhaps even unconscious and not purposeful repeat manipulative acts by a neurotic and the actions of a more character-disordered covert-aggressive has to do with the degree of the person’s conscious awareness about what they’re doing and their free choice of the CA behaviors as a preferred way of interacting, willfully employing an arsenal of tactics habitually to dominate, exploit, and control others. Because the behaviors always look the same on the outside, however, it’s sometimes hard to make the right judgment call. Two giveaways, however, are the constancy of a person’s interpersonal “style” and the degree of comfort they appear to have with it.

      1. Yes Dr. Simon….. SO much of this is subjective. I would say that my behaviors were more in response to his lack of integrity in the relationshi*. Without KNOWing I was being exploited and manipulated I FELT it but didn’t KNOW that is what it was. So there was this underlying thread of feeling insecure, uncertain, confused, anxious, disregarded, unimportant, expendable……no need to go on there, but then I was also being held, force fed “I love you’s and flattery(that always had a weird ambiguous feeling to it).
        I know I loved him……but I now think the person I loved wasn’t real…..so of course, I WANTED to believe the words, the touch……”I love you’s” and physical holding are like kriptonite for me because I had such a lack of both in my upbringing. To this day, I am 54 and my father is 88………he has NEVER, EVER once said “I love you Puddle”. I’ve never heard the words come out of his mouth to anyone. In a way I feel as expendable to him as I did to Spathx. And Spathx was not expendable to me. As sad as it is, and possibly hard to believe as it may be………I truly did love “him”, and loved him more than i have ever loved anyone including my parents. What an idiot I feel like now. It’s like I swallowed battery acid but have to keep living the rest of my life with my insides melted away.
        So, the point is I really see that my poor choices were a defensive in nature but technically some were a little on the dramatic manipulative side as well. I lashed out at him at times like a dog lashes out in pain. My instincts were saying one thing, that something wasn’t right, but what they were saying was impossible to prove! My mind and heart wanted things to work out. HE was saying he loved me and that someday I would know how much he really loved me (I wonder what THAT really meant now), and acted offended that I didn’t KNOW that he loved me. It was just so conflicting in so many ways……………

        By the way, just because I don’t “get” some of this doesn’t mean you didn’t wrote it well. It’s probably me just not able to really grasp things

        1. By the way, just because I don’t “get” some of this doesn’t mean you didn’t write ( ! ) it well. It’s probably me just not able to really grasp things

  7. Like someone wrote…..that they feel terrible when they hurt someone they love or care about. Well wouldn’t a person who really felt terrible DO something to change their hurtful behavior IF they really did love and care about the person they were hurting?

    And in my frustrated position with this XSpath, reading the lip service but not seeing the actions behind the lip service, I KNOW I did and said some less than healthy things. I also tried to change my behaviors yet was fighting a losing cause because my efforts were being thwarted by his covert manipulation or resistance at best.

    1. Amen. That’s what I’m trying to get across in several of the articles on contrition, remorse, etc. Regret is not necessarily remorse. And just “feeling bad” is not enough. Carl Jung said that neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering. Alfred Adler went a step further and said that guilt, especially surface-level guilt, is sometimes a “cheap” substitute for legitimate suffering. What he meant by that is that it’s one thing to feel bad when you’ve hurt someone, and it’s quite another thing to feel bad enough and to CARE enough to do the extremely hard work it usually is to make of yourself a better person so you don’t inflict the same hurt again! The suffering that comes along with that kind of arduous self-development work is much more substantial than merely “feeling bad” for a minute.

      1. Let me throw this into the ring Dr. Simon…. I have a legitimate diagnosis of pFAS. I see SO many of the features I read about in my self but I’m not an “in your face” FAS person.
        My facial abnormalities are literally unnoticeable to the untrained eye but able to be seen by people who know what they are looking for. Of course I’m 54 and a lot of FAS people loose the facial characteristics by the time they are teenagers. ANYhow……I am sure this has affected me my entire life and just because I’m on the high functioning side of the FASD continuum intellectually does not mean that I don’t have many areas that I struggle, particularly with processing incoming information..short term memory in some areas, math (forget it! LOL), emotional regulation under stress, mental overload, sensory overload, perseveration, depression and enormous frustration and isolation. other areas as well are difficult for me but anyhow, my point is this, I know I am affected in many ways by this and I know it makes communicating difficult for me at times. Asking for what you want when your brain is overloaded to the point that you don’t know what you want presents a problem…….I don’t see that I stand a very good chance of being able to make HUGE changes in some of these areas . Just trying to find someone who is familiar enough with FAS to help me has been unsuccessful in spite of how hard i’ve tried.
        How do I know in my heart that I mean well and when I say I’m sorry I mean it but know that it could happen again because I don’t know how to sort through the whole mess of me? It just doesn’t seem like the help I’m looking for is available and it’s not for lack of trying to find it I can assure you. How can a therapist who is unfamiliar with FASD (for me) help you if they don’t KNOW what kinds of limitations you have because of something like FASD? I did CBT and it was a disaster, then read that CBT is not a recommended avenue of therapy for people with FAS!
        It’s like being in a relationship with a CA and trying to go to an average couples councilor, which by the way I did try and he did go. It just didn’t fit! I was overwhelmed because of the threesome and too much information shooting back and forth and there was no way of explaining all the subtle things I was experiencing with him! SO much of the relationshi* with a CA is almost beyond being able to put into words! It’s COVERT!

        My apologies for the ramble here. I hope something coherent can be gleaned from it!

        1. Not sure what reliable information indicates that CBT is neither appropriate nor effective. My best guess would be that the “disaster” experienced with CBT had more to do with the poor attention so many clinicians pay to the all-important “B” part of the equation. All behavior can be shaped, even in FAS folks. The challenges are greater, but the general method is the same – just the fine nuances of the modality are different.

          1. Can you see the futility of attempting to change my behavior in a relationship with someone who is covertly sabotaging it? That is my honest impression of the situation i was in. I MAY be wrong but the general impression I get is that what I have seen in his behavior (actions) was more than likely just the tip of the CA iceberg. There are not words to describe how much I do not want/ did not want that to be true. I would give anything and swallow my pride for it not to be true but I don’t see any evidence to the contrary.
            Anyhow,,,,,,I try my best to be a better person to the best of my ability and certainly know that i have made improvements from when I was younger.
            Having said that, being in therapy CBT or otherwise……when it comes to being with a CA, and a therapist is assuming that your CA partner is not a CA but neurotic,,,,,,You will be accused of making up your own stories and interpreting their behavior.
            I couldn’t even describe what I was going through with him……..there were so many subtle “issues” happening at one time that i couldn’t even keep track let alone describe it to someone who doesn’t have familiarity with these types.
            “oh, he probably didn’t mean to sound harsh” or “maybe you need to be clearer in what you want and need from him”. He blocked me at every turn but led me to believe he loved me. It didn’t matter how many ways i explained to him that his 24hr beard growth hurt my face…..that it abraded my skin…….that when we are “together” I would like his face to be smooth or a couple days old growth (soft& sexy). He did just the opposite but pretended to not understand. Bare in mind this man is VERY intelligent. If he CARED……and just didn’t understand……could he have expressed an sincere desire for me to really explain what I wanted(again)? I tried to be nice about it….asking, explaining…….I tried to be more of a B about it…….nothing, for over 6 months made a difference except every once in a while he WOULD do it and I would thank him and tell him I appreciated it but then back to the not doing it…..
            Then, the piece(sp) de la resistance……he comes over one friday evening and had only shaved around his mouth! He asked me, “is this good enough”? I, so taken back said, it’s better then nothing. I should of said NO! it’s not good enough, are you serious”?
            Every person I told that story to just was dumbfounded!

          2. CBT for me was very effective in the beginning, then its very strengths made it backfire.

            Emotional abuse divorces your thoughts from your feelings and you lose your instincts. After some improvement with my CBT therapist, I noticed he would minimize some of my instincts, just as they were wobbling back to life. He would say I was “catastrophizing”.

            The CBT advised, suddenly after months of therapy and much improvement, several actions that were in direct opposition to my best interest. He started dispensing financial and medical advice. I confronted him and reminded him he was not an MD, or a Financial Advisor, but some of his advice I followed and it set me back years, really, it set me back a lifetime.

            I confronted both of those therapists and neither would admit to having betrayed me. I now know not to focus on things I cannot control and not to waste time chasing down an apology I will not get. But when people suggest I see a therapist for all I am going through, I just shake my head. There is no accountability in that profession, and the entire structure just begs the therapist to abuse power over the recovering neurotic, in order to keep them disabled and paying to seek the therapist’s help.

            There needs to be a “consumer’s guide to therapists” because that profession is going down the tubes, and fast, and for good reason.

          3. Conscientious, ethical, and skilled conduct is an issue in every profession. And CBT is a tool, not a cure-all. But it’s a very good tool – probably one of the finest we have. Still, you have to know how to use it and as well as the ways to conduct yourself to be faithful to its principles. That caveat applies both to the therapist supposedly employing the CBT techniques as well as the client trying to implement the techniques known to facilitate change. One of my biggest peeves is that because so many clinicians are well aware of CBTs well-earned reputation, they’ll often say they’re using it even if they don’t really understand it well enough or employ it correctly enough to rightly claim they’re doing CBT. They only give it a bad name. Also makes people who’ve been on the receiving end think either that they got bad CBT or they got CBT and it simply proved itself ineffective. Can’t count the number of times in workshops I’ve asked folks to give me examples of their use of CBT only to be horrified when hearing their examples by the reality that they really didn’t “get it” with respect to what good CBT is all about. Ugghhh! And as for stepping over ethical lines and crossing boundaries…. that’s a whole other unfortunate matter!

          4. J, Dyer simply sounds out of date and his theories turned my N-leaning CA parent into a full-blown CA monster. I will not waste time on a single book of his.

            Anytime I would say it’s wrong of you to take my money, CA parent would counter with “you’re choosing it. You’re choosing to feel bad. You choose how to feel.” “You’re choosing to make me wrong.”

            CA parent was mired in that rationalizing self-indulgent psychobabble and as it says in In Sheep’s Clothing, over-intellectualizing can make one a target to CA manipulations.

          5. Pretty much anything can be used as manipulation.

            Definitely understandable that you wouldn’t warm up to Dyer after something like that. Some people think they can do anything they please and if there’s something they can get validation from, all the better.

            I take it the idea is that we don’t get stuck in thinking that we are at others’ mercy.

            Perhaps the real thing would be to take feelings and emotions as messages.

        2. “SO much of the relationshi* with a CA is almost beyond being able to put into words! ”

          This was my problem with my CBT therapist while I was fending off my CA parent. The CBT therapist, when hearing my descriptions of what the CA was doing, said “I’m sure it’s not as severe as you’re describing.”

          It turns out, it was MORE severe than what I was describing.

          I think the “Consumer’s Guide to CBT Therapy” should read: the goal of CBT (for the neurotic patient) is to get your instincts back and strong, and to enable you to stop emotionally depending on others to the severe degree that you are. To get to where you seek less validation from others to what you are doing, to get you to a point where you ask for help from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness.

          Something like that.

          But with instincts back in shape and back to life, at this point seeking therapy would slow me down as you’d have to slow down and explain things to the CBT as they are happening so quickly. Then the CBT would insert doubt at a time when you’re running for your life. There is no time for this!

          In short, I am pretty sure my CBT therapist was a CA himself. Many CA’s like to hold their underlings in this immobilizing “tractor beam” and keep them from moving, growing and changing. I was getting ready to move to a more affordable place to enable me to save more money and he said he didn’t think I should do that. I asked why and he just repeated it just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

          Wow, how is he adding value to my life? It became overwhelming, he helped at first but he did not want me to move on.

          The Consumer’s Guide needs to emphasize that – the goal of therapy is to enable you to move on from the therapist.

          1. Another one my CBT therapist said to me was, when I expressed distress that my network of people I socialized with and interacted with for years was now alienated from me, he said “well you shouldn’t need people, you have yourself to rely on.”

            Excuse me? That’s a shock to the system when your entire family and network of friends disappears. That was so invalidating.

            All I can say is, CBT is helpful for a while. But then after enough improvement, the (neurotic client) needs to quickly wean themselves off of seeking validation from the CBT therapist, and do as Dr. Simon says: take on action at a time to improve one’s life and reinforce yourself for taking that act. Then repeat.

          2. Perhaps this therapist of yours had read Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones and thought it’s the Bible of cognitive therapy.

          3. It has have great points, for example that we get subtle and perverted payoffs from habits that do us no good, and encourages the take-charge -attitude. It does, however, also have its faults, some of which I harp on.

            Dyer takes into account that changing takes effort. “Remind yourself what you’re doing at the moment you’re doing it. New thinking requires awareness of the old thinking. You have become habituated in mental patterns that identify the causes of your feelings as outside of yourself. You have put in thousands of hours of reinforcement for such thinking, and you’l need to balance the scale with thousands of hours of new thinking, thinking that assumes responsibility for your own feelings.” (pg. 17)

            Dyer hasn’t neglected the behavioral element, either, since he offers many strategies for doing something about common zones where we may limit ourselves.

            It’s rather liberal with the word ‘neurotic’, which he uses frequently when talking about habits. Many of the erroneous zones he talks about(like sticking rigidly to familiar instead of trying new things, the need to keep up an imaginary standard for fairness, procrastination) aren’t what I think would involve actual anxiety. Perhaps the right word would be ‘compulsive’.

            Also, he operates from ‘feelings come your thoughts and you can control your thoughts, thus you can control your feelings’ -premise, which to me seems a little too simplistic. “You know that you cannot bypass your think-center and experience any feelings in your body.” I’m not sure about this. Don’t some emotions, like fear, come from natural instincts, for example when we have to run from the way of an oncoming truck?

            “There is burgeoning amount of evidence – people even choose things like tumors, influenza, arthritis, heart disease, ‘accidents’ and many other infirmities, including cancer” (pg.22) Excuse me, Dyer, isn’t that egregious? There’s no reference given to support this claim. Dyer seems to claim this, because, as me mentions a few paragraphs later, “It’s not uncommon for individuals to become mysteriously sick when confronted with some kind of difficult circumstance, or to avoid illness when being sick is simply ‘impossible’ – and so postpone the effects – until the big event is over and then collapse.” Okay, perhaps we may improve or worsen the symptoms by thinking, but doesn’t the physical compotent, not straining ourselves too much or finding some upcoming task so intolerable we make ourselves feel sicker, also factor into the equation? If Dyer’s exaggeration really was the case, then the most hard-working of us would never fall ill, anyone could cure themselves magically by the force of will at convenient times and only those with the most toxic attitudes would die from illnesses.

            In a chapter where Dyer handles how people can get unhappy from approval-seeking(, he handles growing up in families and this is where he goes too far in one direction. “(Approval) should be given to a child freely, not bestowed as a reward for proper conduct.” (pg. 60) Hello? Wouldn’t approving anything a child does freely send a wrong message?

            In one chapter Dyer handles many societal and familial factors fostering unhealthy, neurotic guilt. However, one example Dyer offers in a chapter is senseless. Dyer tells of a client, who felt guilt about committing an extramarital affair. (pg. 109) “I pointed out to him that the guilt he spoke so much about was a totally futile emotion. It did not improve his marriage” No kidding. “and even prevented him rom enjoying his affair.” ?! “He had two choices. He could recognize that he was devoting his present to feeling guilty because it was easier than examining his marriage closely and going to work on it – and himself.” In this kind of instant guilt is a message that you’ve done wrong and need to correct things. Although it could be understood that someone can wallow in an emotion without understanding it’s delivering a message. Except Dyer continues: “Or he could learn to accept his behavior. He could admit that he condoned extramarital sexual exploration and realize that his value system encompassed behavior which many people condemn. In either case, he would be choosing to eliminate the guilt and to either change or accept himself.” Apparently, certain standards don’t exist in Dyer’s world.

            “There is nothing to worry about! Absolutely nothing!” (pg. 112) I guess this one is open to conversation.

            There may be some egregious pieces that I’ve forgotten about, but the book, if one can read it with enough critical sense, goes to show how principles can be interpreted too literally.
            I recommend, with some reservations. Preferable to seek to loan it from a library first.

          4. J, thank you so much for that write-up, I will definitely be skipping that book.

            You are spot-on that we do not always choose our emotions. I see the value in directing our thoughts and steering them, but enougf already.

            Its quite possible the therapist was one of those hippies from that era. Yuck and yuck.

          5. This is without adding that Dyer has ever since gone to write some New Age-y books. I loaned one, The Power of Intention, from a library. It seemed okay at first, even with some typical fallacious “it’s all in your mind” -exaggerations. Got tired after a few chapters from repetitive writing, “power of intention this, power of intention that, grab the power of intention yadda yadda”. Don’t know of his other books, but many of them seem to be about all the same with essentially nothing new brought to the table.

            I can only recommend one book of Dyer’s without any reservations, one that is actually great. Pulling Your Own Strings handles everyday situations where we often feel victimized. It’s a shame many other books of his don’t have the same sense of lucidity Pulling Your Own Strings has.

            Sometimes common sense is just forgotten in therapy as well.

  8. http://come-over.to/FAS/Neurobehavior.htm

    That link, which says,
    “Consequently, any language and cognition based treatment, intervention or parenting program will fail. Belief that the adult {or child, for that matter} with FAS/E – or one who remains undiagnosed and/or unsuspected – is cognitively aware and comprehending of conditions and circumstances and able to make changes based on his/her statements to that fact, will cause one to make critical errors in case planning, case management and case dispensation.”

    is somehow tied in with another FASD source:

    which this woman Teresa Kellerman is very involved with:


  9. All I can say is that this woman was clearly not helpful…….I had only seen her maybe 3-4 times, and was (still am) very traumatized but the whole situation with Spathtardx. She became very impatient and said I was over focusing on him…..I was trying to explain to her what I had been through! Then she backed his position on this one thing without knowing the ongoing nature/ background of the whole issue! AND she got very defensive with me and was borderline hostile. It was not a good fit at all, she came across as very pushy, domineering…..I was literally just shut down. She talked over me, seemed to think she knew more about what I meant by what I said than I did…..bad experience.

    1. Puddle, before we learn there is a term for the CA, we over-focus on them for a good reason. There is something odd about these CAs, and our instincts are telling us just that.

      Once we learn the term and how to protect ourselves, THEN we can move on, focus on our own behavior and our own life.

      1. Claire, If an animal is allerted to potential danger (i just watched my cat do this last week) it will look and look and look in the direction it got the signal from. My cat sat on the back step last week with his tail all puffed up and eyes dilated and didn’t take his eyes off this spot for like 5 minutes. He knew there was potential danger but he needed further information before he made a move. What a PERFECT analogy! He didn’t just immediately up and run……he didn’t know what he was running from yet so he sat tight but kept his eyes glued on the area where something had caught his attention.
        So, I think I did the same thing BUT, I never did figure out what the danger was because so many things kept changing. Sometimes it seemed safe and felt good, other times it felt bad and like i had to get away…….sometimes I ran away.
        I keep telling people, I had no frame of reference! no book to look up the meanings in. Sure, he violated my boundaries from the get go but I didn’t KNOW that’s what it was! Before this happened, I would have never thought it was a form of boundary violation to give someone a very expensive gift in the first couple weeks of knowing them. But, that’s what just happened to a friend of mine and I see clearly that it’s a test. I smell a rat and so she thinks as well but…….it’s not a conclusion yet. Still,,,,,my point is that the three biggest things going against me were loneliness (companionship is a human need folks), ignorance of CA’s and my desire to love and be loved.

  10. Claire, AMEN to the consumers guide idea for therapists. Im am jaded at this point…..
    I’m sure the limited selection where I live isn’t helping but I have all but given up. I see my psychiatrist every other week for med management and he’s fun to chat with but………….um…………..

    1. I know one thing…..once i’m in emotional or mental overload, my brain locks up and I can’t think my way out of a paper bag. Sometimes that happens quickly but with the Ex…..I think I was in constant emotional overload either being showered with physical nurturing or showered with conflicting confusing messages and words vs actions. I SO wish I was wrong.

    2. I think it might be effective if a “Consumer’s Guide for Therapy” or even CBT were printed in a pamplet, published by the APA, and given to the client by the therapist at the very beginning.

      One should be “entertain the possibility that you’re minimizing” instead of just taking the therapist’s word for it.

      I only say this because a good therapist can do a patient a load of good and I don’t want to tarnish all therapists as I sometimes do.


      1. Claire, When I went to see a DBT therapist, she gave me 4 pafes of information about DBT therapy. I was way too early on in my recovery from Spathtard at that point to be doing anything except talking and crying. But she was a very kind woman.

        1. Puddle Well that’s great. I think? Was it a help?

          Specifically a therapist is not supposed to tell you what to do. I did not know that, or I only know that when towards the end he said “I can’t tell you what to do”.

          I googled guidelines or “how to know when you have a good or bad therapist” and there really isn’t anything out there published by the APA (I think that’s the governing body.)

      2. Hi all,
        there is a lot of disagreement in the psychotherapy ‘industry’ about what is good therapy – but maybe some agreement as well!
        You might be interested in this – though I suppose not all therapists would agree… Not sure if Dr Simon would agree?

        Effective counselling & psychotherapy checklist
        It is a good idea to use the following checklist (prepared by the ethical committee of the European Therapy Studies Institute, ETSI) to protect yourself, or someone you know, from ineffective or even harmful types of counselling and psychotherapy:

        An effective psychotherapist or counsellor:

        — knows how to build rapport quickly with distressed people

        — understands depression and how to lift it

        — helps immediately with anxiety problems including trauma or fear related symptoms

        — is prepared to give advice if needed or asked for

        — will not use jargon or ‘psychobabble’ or tell you that counselling or psychotherapy has to be ‘painful’

        — will not dwell unduly on the past

        — will be supportive when difficult feelings emerge, but will not encourage people to get emotional beyond the normal need to ‘let go’ of any bottled up feelings

        — may assist you to develop your social skills so that your needs for affection, friendship, pleasure, intimacy, connection to the wider community etc. can be better fulfilled

        — will help you to draw and build on your own resources (which may prove greater than you thought)

        — will be considerate of the effects of counselling on the people close to you

        — may teach you to relax deeply

        — may help you think about your problems in new and more empowering ways

        — uses a wide range of techniques as appropriate

        — may ask you to do things between sessions

        — will take as few sessions as possible

        — will increase your self confidence and independence and make sure you feel better after every consultation.

        Source: http://www.hgi.org.uk/register/checklist.htm

        1. Great guidelines, written, however, as is so often the case, BY, FOR, and ABOUT “neurotics.” Traditional “psychotherapy” for basically decent but neurotically-conflicted individuals needs to observe all these guidelines to be sure. What’s missing here is the special guidelines that must apply and the modifications of some of these guidelines that must be made when attempting to intervene with someone with a significant character disturbance.

  11. Claire, I’m not sure I’m understanding your question. Was what a help? DBT? Or the information she gave me? I just posted that because I thought it was very professional of her to give me written information, kind of an outline of what to expect in DBT.
    I have spent SO much money trying to find a therapist and I have gotten nowhere!

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