Because neurotic individuals tend to have fairly well-developed and sometimes even “overactive” consciences, they’re often all-too-ready to accept the blame for things when a disturbed character uses the manipulation tactic of blaming.
There is an inextricable relationship between the symptoms of psychological ill health a person is likely to display and their basic character structure. Correctly assessing someone’s character is not only crucial for professionals trying to make sound judgments about prognosis and the most appropriate intervention, but also important for individuals evaluating the prospects for a relationship.
It can be particularly difficult to tell just where someone lies on the character disturbance spectrum. All too often in troubled relationships the extent of a person’s character disturbance only becomes evident long after much damage has already been done.
Knowing where someone truly lies on the character disturbance spectrum is not only important for professionals engaged in assessment and treatment but also for individuals trying to make sound judgments about a potential relationship partner. Without a good sense of what to look for and how to evaluate what you find, you run the risk of learning far too late and after much unnecessary heartache how character impaired a partner might be.
Research evidence has been mounting for some time that the concept of “personality” is not as well-defined as we have long tended to think. And the evidences also suggests that the patterns of behavior that define our personality are not nearly as stable or as immutable as many still believe.
Insight is a wonderful thing, but without challenging dysfunctional thinking and behavior patterns, and reinforcing efforts to do things differently, most people stay stuck.
To care enough about the welfare of others to want to work on their behalf requires empathy, and is the essence of genuine love. Disturbed characters lack the capacity to love in this way because they lack empathy, and the warning signs are always in the attitudes they display toward accepting obligation.
Learning to be responsible is largely a matter of accepting burdens for the greater good, and folks lacking in empathy rarely have the motivation to bear such burdens. The willingness to do so can only arise out of love, which is why a person’s incapacity to genuinely love is always reflected in their shirking of responsibility.
Disturbed characters will expend all kinds of energy in self-serving pursuits. But they simply detest work they perceive is primarily on someone else’s behalf, or working for something that’s not clearly and intentionally self-serving, despite the potential benefit they might derive in the long run. That’s why they tend to give assent or “lip service” to the natural demands of a relationship (Assenting is one of the responsibility-avoidance tactics I outline in In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance), while resisting the real work of making amends.
There was a time in psychology when therapists were held in low esteem for passing any type of judgment on the beliefs or attitudes their patients held. But in the age of character disturbance, no self-respecting therapist can avoid not only recognizing but also confronting the dysfunctional beliefs that inevitably damage relationships.