In my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome, I make the point that character disturbance is always a matter of degree. Just as we’ve come to learn that autistic conditions exist along a continuum (the official classification now carrying the label Autism Spectrum Disorder), character disturbances exist not only on a continuum of intensity and severity but also on a spectrum that reflects the relative presence of what has been long called “neurosis” as opposed to pure character pathology. Very few individuals are virtually devoid of any neurosis or are severely character disordered. Most folks lie somewhere along a continuum that reflects varying degrees of neurosis vs. character disturbance. I’ve written about this topic before (see, for example: Character Spectrum Disorders). But in lieu of the widespread confusion that still exists about the spectrum of character disturbances, I though it best to introduce a new series on the topic.
The nature and severity of a person’s character disturbance are big factors in determining how amenable they are to various professional interventions as well as what kinds of interventions are most likely to be effective. And getting it right when it comes to assessing where someone is on the character disorder – neurosis spectrum can be really tricky at times. I can’t count the number of occasions a person another professional had deemed “nearly impossible” to work with was referred to me because of my reputation for dealing with highly disturbed characters only to find the person to have considerable neurosis (giving me a lot, therefore, to work with). Similarly, I’ve come across my fair share of individuals who’d made the rounds of helping professionals and managed to receive just about every diagnostic label in the book except the severe character disturbance that was truly responsible for their problems.
Knowing where someone truly lies on the character disturbance spectrum is not only important for professionals trying to properly assess and treat 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 your partner might be. So, in the coming series, I’ll be presenting some vignettes designed to illustrate the behaviors, attitudes, and other warning signs that might indicate the person you’re thinking of getting involved with or have become involved with has serious character issues or is even, perhaps, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” And because so many of the commentators possess the wisdom of their own experiences, I hope many will be willing to share their insights, especially anything they did in fact notice on the front end of their relationships that might have served as “red flags” if they’d only given greater credence to their gut instincts and paid more serious heed to their reservations.
Next week’s article will feature an in-depth look at two of the biggest red flags for serious character pathology, and, therefore, big potential problems for a relationship.
I’ll be traveling over the next several days, so Character Matters this Sunday evening will again be a rebroadcast of an earlier program. But we’ll be back live Sunday, June 7 and I can take your calls then. Also, look for details to be posted in the next 3 weeks or so on the upcoming Webinar in September as well as information on registration and early registration. We’re still working on the best platform and format that will provide the most interactive capability as well as affordability but hope to have all those issues resolved soon.