Character Disturbance is arguably the phenomenon our age. And years ago I wrote my landmark book on the subject because I had encountered so many folks suffering its effects. To this day, it remains one of our foremost problems. And it will likely remain so until we collectively restore personal character to the prominence it once enjoyed.
Times were when people mostly sought out mental health counselors for very different reasons than they do today. True, some folks still seek help to better understand and relieve their unconscious fears and insecurities. And some folks still suffer unusual ailments closely tied to inner emotional conflicts they haven’t resolved. But for the most part, in our times, the folks we call “neurotic” don’t suffer the bizarre and debilitating symptoms they once did. Most of today’s neurotics are actually quite functional. And they form the backbone of civil society. They may make themselves a little miserable because of their over-conscientiousness, worry, and concern. But they rarely wantonly inflict misery on others or make life a shipwreck.
Most relationships these days experience trouble because one or both parties lack sufficient integrity of character to embrace the burden of real love. And instead of being overly conscientious, too many folks these days aren’t conscientious enough. They don’t care enough. Some don’t care at all. Others simply can’t care. Too many are simply unwilling to respect the rights of and tend to the just needs of others. Self-centered, entitled, dishonest, manipulative, and in so many other ways deficient in moral compass, character-impaired individuals inevitably bring pain into relationships. And that’s why I’ve spent my whole career trying to ameliorate the pain wrought by character distubance. That’s also why I’ve spent so much time training professionals about how to properly help.
A Spectrum Phenomenon
Pop psychology seems to have caught up with the times somewhat. And there’s a plethora of books and online articles claiming to understand and have the answers to the problem of character disturbance. But unfortunately there’s just as much misinformation out there as there is helpful guidance. And sadly, many labels and terms are thrown about quite loosely and inaccurately.
It’s relatively easy to describe the troubling behaviors that accompany character disturbance. But it’s not so easy to correctly identify and label those behaviors as well as the underlying character issues responsible for them. And it’s even more difficult to correctly advise what can or should be done to improve things.
The two most important things to remember about character disturbance are that it’s widespread and is truly a spectrum phenomenon. It exists along spectra of both type and degree. Some folks lack empathy. But doesn’t make everyone deficient in empathy a psychopath or sociopath. And some folks are incredibly self-centered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic traits can be present in several character disturbances, each having it’s own special features and carrying its own prognosis. Moreover, even true narcissists come in significantly different major and minor varieties, each with their own unique characteristics and posing different problems for relationships.
Having the Necessary Discussion
I re-launched Character Matters in podcast form because we’ve long needed a robust discussion about character disturbance. And I’ve also been laboring over a new book that I pray will help us turn the tide. I’m happy to report that my work is nearly 80 percent complete at present. And I talk about the book and continue a discussion on the “first commandment of character on the most recent Character Matters Podcast.
While the “New” Character Matters program is a podcast, we all know how audience participation can enhance the discussion of important topics. So I’m also pleased to announce the first live stream edition of Character Matters. This first one hour live program will be a Facebook Live event, and will air Wednesday June 30 at 4:30 pm. It will subsequently post to the YouTube channel. Follow this link to sign up.
You can also access my most recent interview with Pi Venus Winslow on YouTube. There will be other live editions of Character Matters but the broadcast platform may change until the best option becomes clear.
4 thoughts on “Character Disturbance is a Spectrum Phenomenon”
“Some don’t care at all. Others simply can’t care. Too many are simply unwilling to respect the rights of and tend to the just needs of others. ”
I don’t see how a couple’s therapy could work in a case where one partner is the kind of person described above…
Bur it’s tricky dealing with such person in any relationship because he or she is capable of pretendubg to care in order to get what s/he wants, or when watched by others.
I agree. It can’t and won’t, it’s a lesson in futility and they will likely twist everything around on you to get the therapist to side with them.
So true! That type is the toughest one because they are so good at pretending to care (acting) when it serves their means (and also serves to protect their image and others will likely not believe you when you say otherwise).
At this point, when I see that (it’s funny how you are able to spot it in new people pretty quickly after being burned a time or two by others) I just keep them at arms length and don’t fall for the make believe or just stay away completely if that’s an option.
My daughter is like your description. She is great at pretending to dote on me in public/when others are around, in private she tears me down and kicks me while I’m down. It’s a sick game.
She recently asked me again to go to therapy with her. Not a chance. She has smeared me since she was a teenager and lies about even the silliest thing to make me look bad. I told her I’d be happy to speak with her therapist directly if I can provide insight/my perspective (I do want her to get help). Doubt that will be palatable to her. It’s taken me a very long time to wrap my head around these behaviors and, most importantly, accept that it is who she is and likely always will be.
Hope you are free from these folks in your immediate circle.
Thank you Mindful. It is comforting to find people who understand in this blog environment.
typo “pretending” *