Folks with character disturbances tend to be impulsive. That is, they act first and, if we’re lucky, they think about things afterwards. But generally, they think too little and too late to do much good.
Disturbed characters are not just impulsive actors. They’re also impulsive thinkers. By that I mean that when they do think, they don’t spend enough time contemplating the possible ramifications of what they have in mind. Something might appeal to them at the moment, and without thinking things through, they set out to make it happen.
Ramifications of Impulsive Thinking
Impulsive thinking inevitably leads to impulsive acting. And actions driven by impulse are almost always a prescription for disaster. Not so seriously disturbed characters can experience some after-the-fact regret when they finally stop to think about things. But the more seriously disturbed characters among us hardly ever regret their impulsive acts. Experience might have taught them the negative fallout that can accompany a particular choice. But they don’t think about that at the time. They think only about what they want and how to get it (this is called “end-game thinking”).
Habitual impulsive thinking eventually promotes a “devil-may-care,” lackadaisical attitude. It also promotes attitudes of indifference, uncaring, and nonchalance. Never stopping to think about the consequences of behavior or its impact on others is a surefire way to become callous and indifferent. And a person develops attitudes of indifference by default. You have to habitually stop and think about your behavior and its potential impact to develop any empathy, care, and concern for others. It’s how you develop a decent conscience.
The Sixth Command
The sixth “commandment” of sound character is to acquire mastery over your impulses. And it’s not enough to simply learn to think before acting. What you think and how you’re thinking matters, too. You have to think with social awareness. And your thinking has to be guided by sound principles. Disturbed characters operate on the pleasure principle (i.e. hedonistic thinking) and the self-serving principle (i.e. egocentric thinking). Healthy characters operate on a different principle. They answer to a “higher power.” So they think about others and the greater good before acting. It’s the antidote to impulsive thinking and acting. And it’s the way to build a healthy conscience and a noble character.
More on this topic in the wrap-up next week.
Character Matters is live this Sunday at 7 pm EDT (6 pm CDT). So I can take your calls at (718) 717-8296.
Learn more about impulse control problems and character in my book Character Disturbance. And there’s even more helpful information in the many articles on this blog and in my other books:
I’m doing workshops in Pittsburgh, PA, and Canton and Cleveland OH next week. And the week after I’ll be in Ann Arbor, MI, Toledo, OH, and Ft. Wayne, IN.
29 thoughts on “Impulsive Characters Are Impulsive Thinkers”
Never stopping to think about the consequences of behavior or its impact on others is a surefire way to become callous and indifferent. And a person develops attitudes of indifference by default.
My THE MOTHER
Just asking. Is kleptomania a result of this character deficit. My the mother was a thief.
Don’t you know she was entitled to whatever she wanted, whenever? I feel bad for you being raised by her. Children should never be subjected to those type of things, but they are.
It is always on my mind, it never goes away. But anyway.
“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get on with it”.
I learned that from a boxer. He teaches troubled inner city kids boxing. Some do really well. Not necessarily becoming champions, But better a person
Once you figure them out and realize they are such a crappy human being the easier it becomes to deal with, in my case anyway. But you never forget. I wish we could
Never forget, as there seems to be a whole society of these inhuman beings everywhere. I will never forget, but I believe I have the ability to feel out a genuine caring person. Sometimes I have a vivid picture of the perpetrator and their voice reverberates in my mind, sometimes I can feel their presence and their smell and then I catch myself and know I am not there any more I have broken the chains. I know I can never return.
As I look back and I mean the day I looked back for the last time and knew if I crossed this line I could never return. A difficult and lonely journey of sadness and immense grief, but I have succeeded I am free.
BOTV and Joey
The fools had someone to love them and squished us like a big under their foot. Thank goodness we had the strength to walk away and stay away. Other people see their ugliness but we were blinded from it for so long. These fools will not have love again I am sure of that. Do we all need love? I used to think so. But my STBX, he stomped on my pearls, love lost, and I don’t believe he is hurt by my leaving but is maddened by my leaving. He’s on the process of losing his daughter and grandson. They are the subject of his anger and ugly because she is not yet able too e out of that Hell House. She will be out soon. He’s losing everything in life that matters- all his own doing
I think SB is really going to go off the end when your daughter leaves. He’s going to rage and really act crazy, he doesn’t love her, she is just another form of supply and a doormat to step on. It will hit him the silence and the reality of aloneness. Perhaps, he will move his whore in, SB will be desperate and up the ante.
Just a thought if he gets abusive to your daughter, what may be good is if she calls the police. That SB needs to answer to someone and be put in his place. He really needs to go to jail. Your daughter and the baby don’t need this and little children really can feel all this negative turmoil and it is so unhealthy for them.
Perhaps, suggest to your daughter she shouldn’t let him know where she is moving too. I am really worried for her and the baby. SB is going to blame all this on you.
Hmm. Not sure being a kleptomaniac, equals being an inhuman being in every case. I suppose it depends on why they are doing it and what else goes with it. For instance, is klepto a side issue and the person is also a pedophile or peeping tom? Then they need to be locked up and forced into confrontational treatment.
I know someone who had so internalized her abusive father’s image of her as worthless and always bad and wrong, that she had an internal war going on. She had quite a compulsion to prove him right and bring punishment to herself, and so committing a shameful crime like getting caught shoplifting, was how she did. It served as both punishment to herself and one big middle finger to him for making her feel like crap and withholding love and value from her. She never stole anything of value; it was always useless stuff she didn’t need. The point was to get caught and bring disgrace to him and herself. Certainly I cannot say her behaviour was right, it wasn’t. It was understandable when you knew what was behind it, though it created a public nuisance, was vengeful, and brought trouble and distress to her family and to her. But not justifiable.
I am NOT suggesting that, therefore, we should all just feel so sorry for her and put up with her behaviour and be understanding. Hardly. One can administer appropriate consequences for wrongdoing with mercy just as easily as with condemnation. It is not mercy to withhold corrective action that might jolt her out of the destructive rut she was in. The idea that someone would say of this tormented soul that she was an “inhuman being” in my opinion, lacks balance and mercy. It should not be the go to reaction, although I wouldn’t be against her eventually being locked up if she refused to get help, refused to stop stealing and bringing emotional harm and distress to her family and problems for the community at large.
I appreciate your analysis of the shoplifter’s underlying motivations. I agree with you that it doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it helps understand it.
I think the way we choose our words, such as “inhuman”, to describe the people we are angry with or have been harmed by, is important. We might use negative or crude labels for convenience, or because we are in a hurry, feeling lazy, or because it just feels so damn good sometimes. In the long term though, I think that dehumanizing and demonizing other people does harm to one’s self. We hold on to that negativity internally, become less human ourselves.
Callous and Indifferent. That is how I was treated. I bothered to care. The mother when she came out of hospital, after her cancer surgery. I will never regret leaving. I may be alone, But I am happier, free to do what I wish. That was the problem. To do as I wish. You spend all this time trying to figure out what is going on. That’s the point. The figuring out. You stay and try and resolve things. This is a pointless task. It cost me two thirds of my life,I can Never ever get back
“You stay and try to resolve things “. Yes, that’s what a normal person does. And trying to figure it out – something that makes no sense. Yes I wasted a good portion of my precious life also giving love to one undeserving of it. But I am moving on NEVER to go back to a situation similar to that.
Yes he will blame it on me. He already blames the financial problems on me. He told her last week to start looking for an apartment because he can no longer afford the utilities because I won’t pay half.
I’m goongntonhave to help her out financially sonshenxan get away from him, but I’m struggling myself – this divorce has take. A financial toll, and I haven’t even had my hearing yet.
He is coming unleashed, texting her , badgering, bullying, yelling. She works overtime and before she even gets home he is texting her just on and on. He is losing it. I think we are close to losing the house. His “plan” isn’t working out because I am no longer his doormat
I’ll talk with her about safety, if she feels threatened to call the police. Poor baby – he’s two – I’m sure can sense the strain I that house. It’s sickening. This is what happens when a person cannot financially take care of oneself – you stay too long on abuse. You’re right – he’s going to lose it when she leaves. He will be alone. She will be able to block him on her phone. He will have no hold on her. Yes it’s gotten really ugly.
He’s obsessed with me, what I’m up to, where I am she. I’ve got the baby. Questions her about me. Just keeps worsening.
Where I am when I’ve got the baby. Boy I need to proof read.
He badgers and abuses and then plays “nice”. She is getting such mixed messages. Poor girl
Did The Mother and Grandmother treat your brothers and sisters equally, or did she pick more on one sex over the other? Just curious about what goes on in those minds.
My STBX (a/k/a SB) grandmother was mean to all the girls in the family, was awful and rude to his mom and sister. And his mom and sister were the kindest people. Me, knowing this, just stayed away from her. I ignored her. She only liked the boys, her son (STBX’s dad) and my STBX and his brother. She was a mean old lady.
I have just one brother. He is 4yrs older than me. He got the worst of it when we were young. The grandmother was very abusive to him. He fought back/answered back. I was the golden one. I was more easily manipulated. I accepted the abuse and conformed. I got an easier ride than my brother. He was pushed out by the grandmother. She disliked him. He fought back. He was sent away when I was 12yrs old, to live in london with the father. I now see the selection process. The power play, the position play. The predatory process. The same process that the grandmother had done before to her own daughter & son. Splitting them up. The daughter(my mother) was the golden one. The grandfather was violent,when drunk,he beat up my the grandmother many times.
How is your brother now? I know you’ve said you lost him. Do you two have no contact? I’d hope you could find comfort in each other being that you two went through tragic times together.
I’m happy to see that you’ve come out of it with a good understanding of what had happened to your family.
Did you ever feel like your parents wished you were a boy or a girl. My dad said he wished I were a boy and always bought me boy things. Took me fishing and taught me guy things. Did your parents ever do this to you. Joey, I know you talk about the mother a lot did you ever think she wished you were somebody you were not like buy you toys that were not for you. My dad did this and it was confusing. How about you Lucy. I know its strange isn’t it.
Many times I wished I were a boy to please my N dad , I do like guy things and am good at them, nonetheless it was wrong. I should call him the father but he was more like the sperm donor. In the end I took care of the father for a year before he died. I thought it was the right thing to do and am glad I did. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Mine did not do that. I loved playing outside , was a tomboy. My dad and I played a lot of catch. My sisters and brother and I played a lot of softball, as did the other neighbor kids. Us girls didn’t play much with dolls. We actually didn’t have much on the way of toys. We had balls and bats. We ran, played tag, wolf, outdoor games. We were pretty tough actually.
In high school I was a track “star” set records in the mile and the half mile. My dad was very proud. My mother said ” why don’t you do a more girlie sport”. I shrugged it off. I had the fifth and seventh fastest times in the state at the time. A generational thing I guess.
None of us girls were girlie girlie. My brother was feminine, In fact, gay. My other brother came along later and was kind of ignored.
Did you have a brother?
My brother is a parasite. He is no good,his daughter is the same. the son ,I might speak to him one day. But as for now, NO CONTACT EVER. They are GRIME filth ,scum.But I understand more forgivingly for them than I do for the mother. Thanks to Dr Simon. I now see the predatory aspect of the mother/grandmothers tactics.
The mother never wished I was a Girl. I had a very good childhood. Things when sour when I found my own feet. That’s when trouble occured, I was about 15yrs old when the first trouble started.
YOU WILL NEVER GUESS WHAT I DID?
” I started to to think and act independently”
Trouble started when you were a teen. The teen years are tough anyway, even with normal parents.
I can’t imagine what the M and GM did when they “lost control” of you. They’d had it for so long.
As a mother, I hated losing control of my kids’ behaviors, actions, whereabouts, etc. But I’d never abused them.
I wish I’d brought up my kids more to think for themselves, suffer their own consequences instead of constantly trying to save them. It’s makes for a strong, healthier person.
Wonder if the M and GM hated the male gender in general, because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of grandpa. Who knows. It’s still wrong, no matter what, to mistreat a person, especially a child. No excuse, nothing can make that okay to treat a person badly because they’ve had it done to them.
I am so glad you were able to find your way out and it is usually when you start to assert your own thoughts and desires when things really change. I am so sorry you had to go through all this, instead you became a strong productive person. You fought to be yourself, something they would have consumed, feeding on you until nothing is left but a shell of a person. I have seen this happen to so many people.
If you don’t mind my asking, did you find Dr. Simons site before you left or after? I know it sure took courage and fortitude to leave, something they never expected. I always thought what it would be like to be the fly on the wall when the MNCD realized they lost their prey.
It has been hard for me because I truly loved and at times will think how it could had been different, I know I have to let go. Always know there is more for us out there, we just have to find it.
I want to tell you again how much all the lovely poems have meant to me and getting to know you as much as I have. Thank you for sharing, it is exactly your sharing that has helped me and will help others to overcome and be free.
Hi AndyD, and Theresa K, Jeanne
Havent heard from you in for sometime unless I missed your post. How are you and how are things progressing. I hope you are well.
Have been thinking of you TheresaK and your little ones. How’s the new job, perhaps, you may meet a nice fellow. I hope you pop in now and then.
Hi Jean, you’re in my thoughts and prayers and I know Lucy asks about you too.
I am good.
Dealing with my own piece of CD, but doing well overall.
I get strength from others’ stories where they come out of an ugly situation still intact. Some of us make it through the rabbit hole.
Completely agree with you.
The way to overcome fear is to simply do the same thing that one fears. It helps a lot to first watch someone else overcome the same fear.
I remember reading about an experiment. The subject feared spiders, and experiment was to check if he will willingly put his hand in a jar containing a tarantula spider.
One of the participant claimed that he does not fear spiders and put his hand in jar. Subject refused to follow him and did not go anywhere near the jar.
Another participant faked the fear and after large deal of fake coaxing and encouragement put his hand in the jar. Now, subject needed very little encouragement to follow him and actually put his hand in the jar that had monster looking spider!
It does help a lot to SEE others overcome the same problem. If others that are like me can do it, so can I. It is just a matter of internal belief. Seeing reinforces the belief.
What helps me deal with the CD, with the constant incidents of unnecessary drama and ugliness and court petitions with falsities about me and abuse towards my daughter, the way I’ve found to deal with it all is to deal with the issue at hand at the moment, try to resolve it or lay it to rest, and be ready for the next onslaught. I cannot hold onto the past bad incidents, there is no reason to. I have to save my energy for the here and now.
Andy, with you and your CD I’m sure it’s the same. It just keeps coming and you just keep dealing. It at times becomes so exhausting. But there is usually somewhat of a rest period between flare-ups to regroup.
Frankly, I’m sick of it but I really see no end to it. He’s going to be a constant pain in my ass.