10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 3

Life is unquestionably a most remarkable gift.  Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, you’d have to regard life as one of the most fortuitous “accidents” of nature ever to occur.  And if you’re in any way spiritually-minded, you might perceive it as a most precious endowment from a truly wondrous “higher power.”  But no one could ever make a legitimate case that he or she is responsible for this miracle we call life or “earned” existence or the many resources that make existence possible.  Any way you look at it, we are inherently indebted creatures.  Life is simply not something any of us is entitled to but rather blessed with.  And appreciation for the many blessings we have received, starting with life itself, is critical to sound character formation.  Gratitude also helps instill in us a sense of obligation to do our part to honor and preserve our many blessings for ourselves and our posterity.  And there’s abundant research that attests to the fact that a person’s willingness to accept obligation is the cornerstone of responsible social functioning. That’s why I included in my book Character Disturbance this “second commandment” of character development:

Remember, you are NOT ENTITLED to anything.  Your very life is an unearned gift.  Strive to be truly grateful for the many gifts you’ve received.  Regard life and the miracle of creation with appropriate awe and appreciation.  Gratitude will enable you to develop a sense of obligation to value, preserve, and promote life and to respect all aspects of creation. Knowing how inherently indebted you really are will keep you from feeling entitled (p.140).

Feelings of entitlement naturally impair sentiments of gratitude and and indebtedness.  The entitled person says in his or her heart and mind:  “Why should I?” as opposed to ” I owe a debt of gratitude, and feel obliged.”  Only gratitude inspires us to do our part to cherish, preserve, and make good use of the blessings we have.  This leads to a sense of obligation.  It all goes together.  That’s why the many features of today’s culture that foster attitudes of entitlement have dealt such a death blow to the sense of obligation necessary to help folks develop characters of integrity and responsibility.

Stanton Samenow has written extensively how a lack of a sense of obligation is at the heart of most serious character disturbances. he makes the case that the most severely impaired characters not only feel no sense of obligation but also are intensely adverse to the notion of feeling indebted. They simply HATE to feel obliged.  Rather, they prefer to see themselves as inherently deserving or entitled. This leads them to some truly troubling attitudes and ways thinking.  For example, when they’re in a relationship, they tend to resist feeling obliged to respect others’ feelings and rights or to do their part in making things work. Instead, they view their partners as objects they already own and have a right to treat in any manner they please.  They don’t see the need to answer to anyone or anything or to “earn” the good things they want in life because they already feel (albeit unjustifiably) deserving.  Even the most dangerous criminals will justify their heinous actions toward others by claiming they felt “disrespected.”  And they won’t tell you overtly what they feel in their hearts:  that they’re entitled to respect without doing anything to merit it and they have every right to demand instantly from others what they feel absolutely no obligation to work for.

The second “commandment” of sound character development urges folks make a conscious effort to be grateful.  Early in my work with disturbed characters I saw how important this was.  And interestingly enough, in recent years, research has begun to bear out how important gratitude in and of itself is for a person’s mental health.  A prominent researcher in the area of gratitude, Robert Emmons from the University of California at Davis presents in his book The Psychology of Gratitude some very solid empirical findings demonstrating not only how positive an emotion gratitude is, but also how instrumental it is in promoting an overall sense of well-being and happiness.  Emmons also points out that taking frequent mental note of the many things we have to feel thankful for can play a highly constructive role in the development of our world view as well as our overall character.   He admits that achieving a positive and grateful frame of mind is quite difficult sometimes, especially during times of trial.  So we actually have to train ourselves to recognize the good things we have or that do come our way and then remind ourselves to be thankful for them. And in another book, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Emmons makes the case for how important it is for us to find some things to feel grateful about, no matter how difficult, disappointing, or stressful our lives might be at times.  I posted an article on Emmons’ research titled Gratitude is Good for You – Really! on another blog that you might find worth the read.

So it seems that time and empirical research has validated the importance of two things my character-impaired clients have been demonstrated to me for a long time:  we have to feel blessed and grateful in order to be moved to feel obliged to do our part in the stewardship of life.  And being willing to accept our obligations an absolutely essential requirement for forming a character of integrity and responsibility.  But it all has to start with gratitude and a sense of indebtedness – the very opposite of the feelings of entitlement so rampant in our culture today.  Before moving on to an in-depth discussion of the third “commandment” next week, I hope to examine some of the key factors about modern culture that foster the destructive attitudes of entitlement so prevalent these days.  Hopefully, the readers will provide their own thoughts on this, also.

59 thoughts on “10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 3

  1. The country is continuing to shed more jobs than it creates. Some of us are in strong health yet feel we won’t make it another two years, simply because we’re running out of money.

    It’s kind of strange to advise gratitude at a time when appropriate mobilizing anger might be the more natural emotion.

    It’s often financially secure people who advise the struggling middle class to pray and connect to God and take antidepressants.

    1. Claire, righteous anger over injustice that mobilizes one to take constructive social action is completely compatible with the kind of gratitude that nurtures our souls and helps us develop and strengthen our character. And I dare say that many of our economic woes can be traced directly to the character issues plaguing everyone from our corporate CEOs to our government officials to even some of our workers. And those “neurotics” among us who for so long have done their best to be responsible and to carry the heavy burden of making society work are understandably demoralized. Still, this article is about the sentiment and kind of thinking that helps shape and maintain integrity of character. We’ll be touching on righteous anger, constructive action, etc. when we get to some of the other “commandments.”

      1. I like the discussion. This is one I’ve been puzzling out for years, is what I was saying.

        I think it is on the right track.

  2. Interesting, good to know it’s good for you. My CA always said she had gratitude and then shamed me for not being grateful for everything I had.

    Anytime I had to attend to my own needs she would shame me and guilt me and say I should have gratitude for what I already had, implying I should not feel entitled to reach for more in life.

    So this is a tough one to sort out…

    1. For example, I had to get some necessary medical treatment. She shamed me and said I should be grateful for what I already have.

      1. Claire………that’s just “beyond the pale”. That was one of Spathtards ways of invalidating me……how if I look out globally things could be much worse. Right….like not only could I be an emotionally and mentally abused woman but I could be wearing a burka? And your point?

        1. Puddle, I just thought o something: I have gratitude for what I have, and I have gratitude for the opportunity to reach for more.

          1. Yes Claire! Where does it say that just because you “have” something, you can’t keep striving to achieve?
            Her comment doesn’t even make sense! Especially in regards to a medically necessary treatment! Does not compute!

        2. Yes I know that one! If you try to address something, they counter with “it could be worse.”

          Are you bleeding to death? Well it could be worse, couldn’t it?

        3. Puddle, when she shamed me for seeking necessary medical treatment, she was “leveling” which Dr. Simon has talked about.

          She had not had the treatment (it was less necessary for her) so she was sort of shaming me as “indulgent” for seeking it and spending my money in that direction.

          I am thirty eight years younger than her!

          It feels so good to hear an objective person say “that doesn’t make any sense”.

  3. How very very apropos. This morning I am grateful for this blog, and for it being run in such a way that people feel free to be honest here.

    My two cents. I grew up with people who felt absolutely entitled to yell and order me around and be mean if they wanted me to do something, and I was not immediately so inclined.

    They also felt entitled to have me read their mind and “do the right thing” (which often meant: I am unwilling to deal with the kid, I am too lazy to figure out what is going on with her, I am not sure how to deal with her) and so they took the short-cut: guilt tripping, and blaming.

    It was a very painful way to grow up because I really wanted to do right, much of the time. And when I was older, I became a ready target for peers who found me an emotional simpleton, a ready target.

    I still feel bitter about many of the tomes out there under the rubric of ethics. They speak much of duty and obligation, and reinforce the victimization of those who need another sort of advice, because “duty and obligation” are code words of being had.

    Claire, keep in mind that Dr Simon is speaking toward the CAs. In fact, it ought to be perhaps clearer that you are, Dr Simon. Neurotics need a different kind of exhortation altogether, eh? 🙂

      1. Hm. I don’t think so.
        I have bullied people in the past, but it never sat well with me. It’s what I was taught.

        Real CAs love doing it to others. It’s their main modus vivendi…

  4. This one really strikes a cord with me.

    Actually, for me, the involvement with CAs is what showed me how incredibly true this is. I am not well off, and many of the CAs I’ve known are, some very much so. And they were miserable. I knew very poor people who were so much happier. Almost to the point that I began to fear that money actually made people miserable (it doesn’t). Around the same time, I had to take financial stock and make changes. In 2004 I was 25k in debt and had only made 12K in 2003. This was really not much at all as I live in Los Angeles. So began a long road that started with changing careers ( which led multiple jobs until I found the right place in 2007 where I remain, thankfully to this day. I am enormously grateful to have avoided layoffs during this recession). I had basically been a ‘starving artist’ before that and my plan was to still live as a starving artist while working and earning more but putting it all toward my debt. Some may have advised bankruptcy, but that idea left a bad taste in mouth and I wanted to fulfill my obligations to the credit card companies, even though they made a considerable profit off of my financial ignorance. My way of ‘getting back’ at them was not to file BK but to educate myself on how this works and do everything in my power not to let it happen again. I now feel no guilt in happily enjoying the cashbacks bonuses and free miles I get from my card while never carrying a balance and never giving them a dime. (I hear they refer to people who do that ‘deadbeats’ which I find pretty funny.)

    Looking back over the years I was paying off my debt (I made my last payment in October 2008, which I find ironic because that’s when the stock market went nuts), I learned to be so frugal. It became almost like a game to see how far I could stretch my dollars. I learned to cook and use the library not just for books but for DVDs and I found ways to barely drive my old beat up car. I became more in tune with the earth, the changing seasons and I discovered how gratifying simple pleasures were and how they are so plentiful and so much more…reliable than, well, I guess pleasures that are obtained in exchange for money and the gratitude that grew in me was immense and permanent.

    And I am so much happier now. I feel like the process of paying off my debt was an important one and I am so glad, so incredibly glad I did not take the advice of filing BK. I was lucky to have been able to be employed most of the time during the process, and I realize that I I had not, BK may have made sense (I don’t want anyone struggling to find work to happen upon this post and feel bad about having to make some difficult financial decisions because of that). But as long as I was lucky enough to be employed, I felt an obligation to find a way to pay my debt myself. This made me happy and I feel bad for those who do not get a sense of satisfaction from honoring obligations. No wonder they keep trying to buy satisfaction. It just doesn’t work, though.

    I do feel compelled to make one point: without access to affordable medical care for everyone, I don’t think true well being and gratitude, and the character development, is possible.

    So this ended up being a rather long winded way of saying, yeah, Dr. Simon, I totally agree! 🙂

  5. Dr. Simon, I want to learn more about influencing the character of young children, so I plan to tune into this series on the 10 commandments. My oldest is 11 and I’m very happy to say that she has an empathetic, kind and responsible character. The personality is largely formed by this age, right? I actually stumbled across your book because we encountered a teammate of hers (and the teammates parent) who are definitely character disordered and possibly sociopathic. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from your work.
    Now I’m interested and motivated to focus on the character of my younger children-2,5, and 7. I want to know more specifics on what parents can do.
    This disordered youth my family encountered was downright socially dangerous. Parents need to really take note of the character crisis..to train their own children and be on the watch for the disordered types so that they can protect and avoid. My gut feelng is that parents today are distracted and somehow socially detached. Perhaps this is contributing to the character crisis.

  6. Dr Simon, there is a popular show out now called “Kevin” which is a comedy-drama made by the creators of “The Office”.

    “Kevin” seems to be a show about character development. It is a show about a old-peoples’ home and the people who work there. It ridicules the narcissistic characters or even the ones who took the easy way out in life.

    Maybe the popular culture is opening up and becoming receptive to this kind of message.

    1. Indeed, I think there’s evidence that the pendulum has been swinging back for some time now, just as it always does. Even the great researcher Martin E.P. Seligman, whom I quote in my book Character Disturbance had to admit after years of denial that “character really does matter after all” and that character deficiencies were the real culprits in many mental health problems we once attributed solely to environment or biochemistry. As the word spreads and awareness grows, the pendulum swing will be greater.

      1. quiz: what leader said this recently:

        “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”


        The leader has a point. But considering the source … scary!! 😉

  7. We talk about entitlement and gratitude, but what about self-pity? Character Disturbance says that one of the habitual thinking patterns of deficient characters is that hard-luck thinking.

    My intention is not to be contentious or contest any point Dr Simon has ever made. I simply think self-pity might make for another discussion. After all, isn’t self-pity way easy? Doesn’t it make for a deceptively delicious dish?

  8. Alright, my wording was off in that one.

    I think we could have more discussion on self-pity. If there has been discussion about it here, then I just haven’t seen it.

    After all, isn’t self-pity something that even many non-vile people engage in? Isn’t self-pity also one enemy of gratitude, so to speak?

    1. J, how does one differentiate between self pity and feeling bad about something that’s been done to you? If you are on the receiving end of cruel treatment, to feel sad or hurt or disregarded……is that self pity? These things confuse me.

    2. I don’t think that’s self-pity. Self-pity, I think, is when one bemoans how life has been hard to them. Some less aggressive folks can dwell in self-pity about how they’re not just up for anything and how trying feels futile.

      When we suffer, we don’t want that. We want to get it over with. We want it to stop and for things to be well again. Self-pity, on the other hand, involves getting a perverse satisfaction from dwelling on how things haven’t gone right for oneself.

      1. Personally I feel unable to pull myself out of the hole this relationshi* with Spathtard has left me in. So many complicating factors……Yes, I do feel “sorry for my self” because I seen how hard I am struggling and it seems to me that there are so many holes in the bottom of the boat that the bilge pump is loosing ground. I have PTSD and have no CLUE how to get through this mess. I’m loosing ground in my life, with my priorities, can’t catch up with the mess I lost ground with when we were together because I was ALWAYS with him/ or I should say, he with me. It IS a mess and I don’t have the tools to fix it . Self Pity?

        1. mind boggling damage. My psychiatrist said I am seriously depressed and definitely not well, traumatized. So exhausted and defeated. Im loosing ground not gaining. My Psychiatric care is out of pocket…….all of my mental health is out of pocket actually and I’m loosing ground not gaining. I’m scared of meds but am on low dosage Prozac now, went up to 20 mg and ……did not do well. Med? Circumstances? who knows.

          1. Puddle, please don’t’ let that person shame you for taking care of yourself. You’re taking it a step at a time and you’re connecting with people and helping them while you help yourself.

          2. Claire, which person is shaming me? Sorry, Im not understanding. ;-/
            My psychiatrist seems genuinely concerned. I don’t think he realized how much this has affected me. I have had a couple people tell me I should move on and get over him…………ummmmmmmmm……….Im still trying to put together what I’m trying to get over!! I am having a hard time swallowing the truth……..on top of that? I don’t even KNOW what the truth IS! honestly, I just want to crawl in bed for two months and Winter is just around the corner and there is so much to do that i can’t. I’m struggling to even keep up. well, I’m NOT keeping up, pulled in so many directions………just going to see the psychiatrist is a half a day gone! So far away.
            I can’t seem to get people to understand how disturbing and life changing it is to feel/ know that this guy is someone I really don’t have a clue who he is now! How violating that feels, how much anxiety that has caused me. I’ve done several things over the last half year to try to get to the truth of who or what he really is and they are things hat have made him angry. maybe he will feel justified in retaliating and it’s pretty obvious to me at this point that he never truly loved OR cared about ME so who knows what he is capable of.

          3. There are new therapies for PTSD that focus on bodywork. Sometimes the issues lodge in the tissues. I hope you find something that works for you. I’ve been in that hamster wheel on the edge of a cliff, myself. Somatic Experiencing helped me. My heart goes out to you.

  9. And yet,,,,, I am genuinely grateful for so many things in my life and It seems pretty clear that this has taken away my ability to enjoy the things I am grateful for. I feel like a hamster on a wheel.

    1. whoa, I wrote the above before reading this post. I can’t believe we both said “hamster on a wheel” independently!

      That suggests to me that I expand on it!

      I believe that Karma gives us really hard lessons, like “Dwell in Gratitude, no matter how much suckitude life dishes out.” The first time this lesson dawns on our lives, we have a full runway to the Existential Cliff, where we are supposed to run as fast as we can and fling ourselves into uncertainty (“faith”, “authenticity”, you name it.) But we are like young horses refusing our fences, we turn away from the leap out of “Fear and Trembling” (in too many cases, terrified by mistreatment.) Karma sets the cliff before us again, this time with a more intense wallop and a shorter runway. Refuse the Leap enough times, and eventually the runway is a hamster wheel, at the edge of the cliff. And Karma still goads us. Our task is still to Leap in the Unknown, with no running start now.

      You can do it! You can Trust the Universe to build a bridge under your feet as you step into the void, or feel wings sprout from your back to carry you over the abyss.

      Namaste, Pudddle. <3

      1. Cat, that is WEIRD!! Hamster on a wheel! I LOVE IT when things come together like that!
        I couldn’t even begin to type how many truly bizarre similarities my Spathtardx and I had woven through our lives. It seemed like a slam dunk that we really were meant to be together…………..um…………….so much for that!

        I’m afraid I’m not following your karmic analogy though! 🙂

        1. I love synchronicity, too. 🙂

          Have you read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho? “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. That’s the ticket to leaping out of the hamster wheel: positive self definition.

          It’s extremely hard to switch gears from catering to an abuser’s crazy whims to catering to one’s own! But I think that’s the lesson they teach us via suffering: We have to know ourselves, love ourselves, define ourselves, and honor ourselves–NOT THEM! It’s a leap of faith. Some add faith in a higher power, spirituality, or religion at this point. Whatever it takes to inspire a leap out of the hellish aftermath you’re in now.

          I’ve gotten in touch with a whole lot of self sabotaging tendencies within myself. It’s a tough job rooting them out, tenderly, compassionately. I was the scapegoat of the family, so taking on other people’s issues comes as second nature to me and often tries to control me subconsciously. I have to hold that person inside me and remind her that we don’t have to act out of fear. I have to tell her again and again that I am not the worthless scapegoat, I am a wonderful person creating a wonderful life of my choice in the world.

          We can act out of Love, which originates from self love–what a concept for a “neurotic”, eh? We don’t have to run our lives out in a hamster wheel. We can be the amazing creative godseeds we were born to become by figuring out who we really are, what our purpose is. I find “The 4 Agreements” simplifies it down: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t take anything personally. Always do your best.

          Do what YOU love, what makes you the unique person you are!

          Trust in yourself and the Universe will take care of the rest. <3

    2. whoa, I wrote the above before reading this post. I can’t believe we both said “hamster on a wheel” independently!

      That suggests to me that I expand on it!

      I believe that Karma gives us really hard lessons, like “Dwell in Gratitude, no matter how much suckitude life dishes out.” The first time this lesson dawns on our lives, we have a full runway to the Existential Cliff, where we are supposed to run as fast as we can and fling ourselves into uncertainty (“faith”, “authenticity”, you name it.) But we are like young horses refusing our fences, we turn away from the leap out of “Fear and Trembling” (in too many cases, terrified by mistreatment.) Karma sets the cliff before us again, this time with a more intense wallop and a shorter runway. Refuse the Leap enough times, and eventually the runway is a hamster wheel, at the edge of the cliff. And Karma still goads us. Our task is still to Leap in the Unknown, with no running start now.

      You can do it! You can Trust the Universe to build a bridge under your feet as you step into the void, or feel wings sprout from your back to carry you over the abyss.

      Namaste, Pudddle. <3

  10. I’m challenged by these articles. I see the potential in me to behave like this. In fact, I know now that I have had this sense of entitlement in some areas. I felt entitled to a peaceful life – “everyone leave me alone and no challenges or problems please!”

    Now I realise that isn’t real life. Life DOES pose challenges and we DO have to deal with problems. That’s not something to feel hard done by about. It’s life.

    It’s also character developing. I realise that a lot of the bible is about our development as people. Sanctification, growing the ‘fruits of the spirit’, learning to live alongside one another without sin. It’s a tough challenge but it’s necessary.

    I realise now the sort of peace I was wanting was not life-giving, it was hiding. (Understandable in the circumstances, bearing in mind what was going on and how badly I was being treated!) But still not good for me.

    Now I choose LIFE in all it’s fulness – yes, even including challenges and problems. Most of the time now when I feel like hiding I can remind myself of this gratitude thing and what LIFE in all it’s fulness has to mean. Take the rough with the smooth and learn to LIVE!

    Random comment – I just bought an outrageously colourful blouse yesterday – and didn’t even think whether my husband would like it! I just fell in love with it as it reflected my mood (and it was very reasonably priced!). I love colours! I make costume jewellery now and love the colours and combinations of that too.

    I will pursue LIFE and be grateful for it!

    Rose

    1. Rose, you sound so healthy! Great attitude and good for you to get yourself something that not only makes you feel good but expresses who you are, bright…colorful….alive and growing not hiding. Everything is a cycle…….EVERYTHING! Nothing is static. Up with the sun, down with the sun…..the moon comes up, then goes down.
      Even this experience I’m struggling with is growth ideally. It’s just so frustrating because I feel like a tree who has been attacked by a parasitic insect and weakened terribly.

      1. You’re so right Puddle! About everything going in cycles.

        I just had the bummest day!

        I felt like ending it all – no really! And just after the last comment I made too!

        Now, after some time with my special spiritual friend and my sister, I feel stable again.

        What a roller coaster this recovery business is!

        Rose

  11. Dr. Simon, how do you define a healthy sense of obligation? As you mentioned in your article, lack of a sense of obligation was at the heart of most serious character disturbances. The flip side of that, there are some people who use obligation to manipulate others. When we dare not to comply them, they will start reminding “good things” that they have done in the past to us.

    Cloud (in his book Boundaries) suggests that anything which causes us to feel obligated (the love we receive, money, or time) should be accepted as a gift. We only owe thanks to those who have given them. Do you agree with this view? I thought about it in the last few weeks, but I’m still not sure about that.

    1. Rei, in a reciprical relationship, the giving goes both ways and is done with love and joy and not to manipulate someone for your own gain. When things are out of balance in this area and one person feels like they are the one making all the sacrifices and being taken advantage of…..there can be serious trouble. That is what happened to me. i felt, and now I know, that I was being used by him. He never had any intention of walking on even ground beside me. I was in a down position from the start only I didn’t realize it.
      I did bring up things I did for him as examples of how I felt that things were very out of balance, not to manipulate him but to show him that I was giving way more than I was receiving, The sad thing is……if I would have SEEN that he really cared about me and that he WANTED to make me happy and that he APPRECIATED the things I brought to the table in the relationshi*, There is no end to what I would have done for him as long as I felt respected, loved, honored and wasn’t compromising my morals and values.
      So I guess, in my mind, it depends on WHY someone is pointing out the good things they have done in the past. Is it really to manipulate you and get what they want or is it because they feel taken advantage of? Or like they are not being met half way? Or blown off or toyed with?

      1. Puddle, I often read your comments in this site and I can feel the pain you suffered in that relationshi* (as I too have ever involved in toxic relationship for years). Hopefully you can recover emotionally and find your happiness as soon as possible.

        I understand giving that is done with love is very different from giving to manipulate someone. However, what makes me curious is: if someone gives us something, do we only owe thanks to him? Is that a healthy sense of obligation? Or do we need to do more than saying ‘thanks’ to him?

        1. Rei, thank you for your kind words! 🙂 I never thought something could do as much damage to me as this has. Ive never felt anything like it. I apologize if it’s getting old or I’m taking too much space on here, I don’t mean to…..

          You ask………”I understand giving that is done with love is very different from giving to manipulate someone. However, what makes me curious is: if someone gives us something, do we only owe thanks to him? Is that a healthy sense of obligation? Or do we need to do more than saying ‘thanks’ to him?”

          I think it really depends on the nature of the relationship you have with that person. So say, you are at a store somewhere and the owner gives you something as a gift because they just want to,,,,,,they see and know you really appreciate that type of item or plant or whatever it is. I personally think that is just something you say thank you for,,,,,, I love it! How thoughtful, or kind, etc…
          If it were a friend of mine that gave me the same item…..for what ever reason…..I would also be grateful for the gift but it might prompt or motivate me to give her something I saw somewhere that reminded me of her or that I knew she liked and made her happy or had a use for.
          So I THINK it really depends. I think a sincere thank you and acknowledgment of the gesture is ok in most cases, kind of letting the spirit move you?
          I used to have trouble accepting gifts. I felt uncomfortable, maybe unworthy? I really had to learn to accept a gift and learn that I was honoring the person’s kindness and generosity by graciously accepting the gift.
          Same goes with compliments. It used to be so difficult for me to receive a complement without negating it. I have learned not to, yet still find myself start to, push it away. I have to take a deep breath and “take in” the complement and say THANK you!

          1. Then a sincere thanks would be enough. If we give back to people who are kind to us, then the motivation should come from ourselves (not from other people’s demands or coercion), right? I mean we don’t have obligation to give back (or be nice) to them.

            Many times in my life I encountered people who ‘give to get’. Initially they looked kind and caring (by giving supports, money, etc.), but after that they started demanding many things. Try not to follow their domination and they would say that you lacked sense of obligation and try to make you guilty. Sometimes I wonder whether I really lack sense of obligation or not.

        2. Rei………have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day”? I have not but I do know what it is about, repeat day over and over and over,,,,,,,,
          That is where I am stuck and I don’t know how to get past it or unstuck. So again, my apologies if what I say is getting old…..maybe I need to tone it down. I don’t seem to be getting over the jaw dropping shock feeling, like i’ve entered into a world and reality that i didn’t mean to….got on the wrong plane and ended up in India instead of France!

          1. Never see that movie, but if I were you, I would try to redirect my thoughts to things that I have control. That may not provide instant result and require constant practice (I’m also still in the process of emotional recovery), but after some months it reduces my frustrations significantly. I learned about it from Dr. Simon’s article here: http://counsellingresource.com/features/2011/09/08/moving-on-after-toxic-relationship/.

            It’s also helpful for me to think bad experience as a part of learning process. If we take the lesson, I’m sure that can help us to protect ourselves from further abuse and manipulation in the future.

            No need to apologize for that. Sometimes it’s better to talk to others about what really annoy you instead of stuffing them in your head. I believe many people in this site are happy to give kind words and encouragement to you.

          2. REI……….thanks so much. The people here are WONDERFUL and Dr. Simon is,,,,,,I can’t even find words for how highly i think of him and his mission of help and education.

            I just can’t seem to get my feet back under me. I’m suposed to start EMDR therapy very soon. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD by three different doctors now and severe depression. I am super sensitive to medication and can slip into hopelessness and utter despair with the wrong med or dosage.
            more later…….

          3. REI……One of the problems for me is how utterly disturbing it is for me to now have absolutely NO idea who this person is. I have NO idea what he is capable of, he could be a monster for all I know, and I mean more of a monster than i already know he is! It has left me feeling…..so disoriented and unsafe. It’s hard to really find the words….

          4. Puddle, is it possible to disengage from him? I remember Dr. Simon often advises to set personal limit when dealing with disordered characters.

            Or have you tried bibliotherapy (reading therapy), by reading book like Feeling Good (written by David Burns)? Many people found that helpful and it may be as effective as treatment with antidepressant drugs.

            Anyway, I wish you good luck on your therapy. 🙂 Hopefully it could speed up your recovery process.

          5. If we are to talk about books that could help in healing process, I could point to Albert Ellis’ Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better. The book is great and is neatly organized into sections. It is a bit repetitive, but it does offer many techniques. Ellis doesn’t even ask a reader to agree with everything he offers, but does encourage a reader to think for oneself as well while reading, so that’s why I feel confident recommending this book.

            There’s another book I’ve thought about ordering. Has anyone here read The Stormy Search for the Self by Stanislav Grof?

          6. Rei, I am totally disengaged from him…….we broke up at Christmas, had two brief interactions in email and the last was when I found out from a mutual “”friend”” (not) that he had beed using me and playing games. That was end of May and I told him to f’off among other things. Told him that I knew that he had played me and that he was the biggest POS I’d ever encountered. He will NEVER know what he has done to me or already knows and has accomplished his pathetic goal, doesn’t care and if anything is happy his game resulted in distorting me on multiple levels.
            So I’ve never heard of Bibliotherapy! BUT, I do have a lot of positive things in my life. I am supposed to start seeing an EMDR therapist next month. I think I’ve had PTSD my whole life and this was the icing on the cake, the ultimate injury. I drew a big red circle around my vulnerabilities by telling him so much about myself, thinking it would HELP us get along better if he only understood me better. Well, I had drawn him a road map and he went straight for the juggler with a scaple blade……no, dull scissors . my heart has been ripped in two in the most painful torturous way I could imagine. He’s a monster.

          7. J, I have not read or heard of either book you mention but if I can keep this all straight I will look for them on line. Thank you for recommending!
            I honestly feel that FASD really hinders me in getting over this looser Spathtardx.
            My mind feels like a juggler trying to keep 100 bowling balls in the air. I wish so much I had the practical help I know I need with every day things that need done. I just can’t seem to keep all the balls in the air, not even two some days.

    2. Of course, the “ideal” situation is where all “gifts” are “freely” given (i.e. without expectation of return) and obligations aren’t imposed upon people in a manipulative or coercive way. But it’s the willingness to recognize and accept obligation that distinguishes the person of character from the character-deficient. The fact that unscrupulous types will take advantage of this willingness (which is why it’s so crucial to enforce reasonable boundaries and limits) is really irrelevant to the issue of how important it is to character to have this capacity. Does this make sense?

      1. Thanks for your reply, Doc. So if someone has the capacity to recognize and accept obligation (even only say ‘thanks’), then he does not lack of sense of obligation. Is this true?

      2. Kind of makes sense but…………I did try to enforce boundaries and ask for what I wanted (so he didn’t have to mind read…..another excuse). I was made to feel demanding because I wanted to be respected and treated well and then there were the promises and declarations of desire to change for himself and the relationship,,,,,,,it was always something different something that kept hope alive in me. AND…..I know I’M on a learning curve when it comes to relationships………..just so much confusion I couldn’t sort it all out and grew weaker and weaker.
        I think if I were ever to find myself in the initial stages of one of these losers games again, God forbid, i would be able to be more proactive but given that I really didn’t understand any of what i do now,,,,,I didn’t stand a chance.
        I don’t KNOW what is reasonable to expect from anyone. I’m ALWAYS guessing, wondering, questioning. What IS normal? What IS reasonable? when am I expecting too much? I just don’t get those types of things. What is reasonably of someone to expect of me?? It makes me SO ……. frustrated? Confused?

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