Right Thinking Makes for Right Acting

Right Thinking

Right thinking is thinking is the key to right acting. Years of counseling experience has taught me how profoundly true this is. Of course, much research solidly backs up premise, too. Moreover, it matters not only what we think but how we think. Our core beliefs and attitudes exert great influence over our behavior. That’s the heart of cognitive-behavioral paradigm. (For more on this see: A Primer on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.)

The connection between thinking and behavior couldn’t be more intimate. In fact, if you want to know what someone really believes, pay close attention to their actions. People will say anything. Talk, as they say, is “cheap.” Actions better bespeak attitudes. I addressed this strongly in In Sheep’s Clothing. Skilled manipulators know what you want to hear. And they’ll tell you anything to have their way. Moreover, they’re expert at justifying conduct that hurts. That’s why one of tools of empowerment I outline is: “Judge actions, not intentions.”

What makes for right thinking? It’s thinking guided by principle. And not just any principle. The overriding principle has to be love. True love. Not romantic infatuation or over-idealization. Not passionate desire either. And certainly not the urge to possess. Rather, the willingness to honor and serve life. (For more on the importance of willingness, read The Judas Syndrome.) Giving oneself for the very cause of life. That’s love. It’s the mark of integrity. And once we’ve come to think rightly, we better know how to love. Likewise, when we’re truly loving, we necessarily think more rightly. So, it’s not just that right thinking leads to right acting. Right acting leads to right thinking, too.

Getting it Right in the Head

I’ve worked with disturbed characters for many years. What and how they think about things can be pretty appalling. In A.A. groups they talk about “stinking thinking.” That’s the twisted ways folks tend to think when inebriated. But all disturbed characters think in distorted, problematic ways. Accordingly, their behavior often follows suit.

Folks in relationships with disturbed characters instinctively try to reason with them. They tend to believe that if they could only get their bad actor to “see” what they’re doing and the harm it’s causing, they’d stop. Sadly, as I point out in all my workshops, this is futile. Besides, it’s totally unnecessary. Most of the time, they already “see.” There isn’t a thing you can tell them they haven’t heard many times before. The problem is, they see but still disagree. That is, they understand the principle at stake. However, in their  hearts, they’re at odds with it.

Most disturbed characters can grow out of their moral infancy. But that takes a lot of right thinking. More importantly, it takes a complete change of mentality. Philosophers have long called this metanoia. This Greek word means a change of heart and mind. Such a change is necessarily transformative. A person begins to act differently. And not just for show. They act differently consistently, across a wide range of situations. They’re no longer driven by impulse. Rather, they’re guided by principle. They no longer merely “see.” They’ve finally come to agree. As some 12-steppers understand, they’ve turned both their lives and their wills over to something bigger. (For more on this topic see: How to Spot a Converted Heart. ) Facilitating this process therapeutically is a true art. (See: Character Disturbance and the Art of Confrontation.) And sadly, it’s an art not widely known or practiced.

The Next Step

I’ll be summing up the “6th Commandment” next week. From there, we’ll launch into a discussion of the final steps toward solid character.

35 thoughts on “Right Thinking Makes for Right Acting

  1. I like what Dr. Simon has to say about right thinking and its primary guiding principle being love. Without love being a guiding principal there would be a scarcity of love in our lives because we would not know how to give out love and how to receive it. Its been a long journey but I am just learning this.

  2. I’ve mentioned that I’ve recently gone no contact with my grown child and DIL. Hadn’t heard from him in 6 weeks. Went through a major surgery in March. Couldn’t be bothered to visit and bring grandkids by even though I’ve been there for them for past 8 yrs as a new family. Baby sat 3 x’s a week for them for free during this time as well as hospital visits even out of state for kiddos.
    Got 2 texts from each of them and then 2 calls week of surgery???

    Talked to him on last phone call about his poor character since 8 yrs ago. Never apologized for anything. Said at one point yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said that. I said probably???
    Said we’ve always set aside birthday celebrations for you 2. DIL can’t be bothered with ours??? Just a lame text. Trying to cut grand kids out of our lives and more into her parents now they are not infants and almost in school full time.

    Parents would not babysit. Mom is cold towards kids. Never helps. She’s treated like a queen and me like Cinderella.
    So this Cinderella texted no one this time around for birthday for DIL. And probably never will again. Got a phone call for Mother’s Day at 6pm as he’s coming home from trip so I can hear all about their great time.
    Can’t wait to retire and move away. No phone calls to say when or where that’s for sure!
    Glad I sacrificed my whole life for what I thought was a wonderful relationship with my 2 kids only to have the one who always told me what great friends we were to him and how we were always there for him stab me in the face a 1000 times and laugh while doing it.
    Seriously still wondering why he called. Pretty sure it’s to make sure they get their piece of the pie when it’s our time.

    1. Wow it sounds like you have been through a lot of hurt. I am sorry for that. I hope you can find some comfort as your heart heals.

    2. Priscilla,
      I am sorry that your son and his wife have treated you so badly. I can see why you want to move away without saying anything. I hope your other grown child is different. At least you have the satisfaction of knowing you did what was loving, even though it turned out this way. Who knows, at some point in his life he may repent at the way he treated you, one can always hope. It particularly hurts on holidays, and especially Mothers Day. I hope you are taking good care of yourself and that you are healing well from surgery. When you raise your children you never think they will act like that, its a real disappointment to say the least.

  3. E.
    I have been through mountains of it in my life and today is just a bad day. Physical pain from surgery is also getting me down today. But so is hearing from my negligent child.
    He really did have pretty good and consistent character before he hooked up with some friends and now the dil.

  4. Thanks Kat. Yes, I almost felt like it was better to not hear from him, so when he called I guess it brings with it that glimmer of hope but also all the horrible memories he’s created since getting engaged and married.
    Last Mother’s Day we took our grand kids to the neighborhood little park they love to go to. My son literally sat there talking up a complete stranger and ignored all four of us the whole time. As soon as we walked towards home he went dark and silent and by the time we were at the pond across from our house we all saw a beautiful heron fishing!
    I pointed it out to my son and he wouldn’t answer me 3 x’s??? Finally barks at us yeah I see it. Oh you should’ve seen him at the park with a stranger??? NEW BEST FRIENDS!
    US??? Complete strangers?

    So much abuse he’s dished out… that’s really nothing compared to what we’ve endured.

  5. Priscilla, your son sounds angry to me, but he probably wouldn’t be honest about it if you asked him. My daughter did that towards me when my son was in the hospital getting surgery from a TBI, she talked up my daughter in laws mom, who for some reason was really cold towards me. I think she saw that and made the most of it.
    I can see why you have to go no contact, there comes a point when you can’t keep subjecting yourself to abuse. What is confusing to me is that he doesn’t sound like he was like that until he met up with the DIL?
    My narc ex did his best to turn my 2 kids against me when they were little, rewarding them with ice cream and happy meals when they lied to me. If I had known what was going on behind my back I would have known to leave, and I wouldn’t have left a trace. Instead I found out like 5 years after I had already left and it came up just in conversation kind of by accident.

    1. Kat,
      That sounds like what my son and dil are up to too. Rewarding the kids to do bad stuff here. The grandkids were always so well behaved. No like coloring on things or breaking things. No hiding stuff, just little skirmishes between the two. They always listen to me reason with them, they were such a joy I wish I knew back raising my kids what I know now.
      Ex husband also did those sabotage things with my sons as well so I really know that pain.
      He told them I was bad and not to listen to me. Oldest son got in so much trouble because of that. Yes, my married son is angry. He chose a girl who won’t take care of him and he resents it. He doesn’t want to harp about her too much as it makes him feel stupid for marrying her he says.
      So his solution is to hurt me and punish me. I couldn’t put up with it one more day.
      Since I didn’t do the grown up thing by calling or texting her for her birthday they knew I was disconnecting as I told my son I will no longer bother with anyone in my family who disrespects and hurts me. Life is too short and I want to be happy.
      I’ve been one of those dummies, too busy serving and loving my family that I ended up with no friends and no family. I read on fb today a saying, when they only want you for what you do for them and you stop doing it you’ll find they’re no longer around.

      That’s me! Big DUMMY!

      1. You are not a dummy because you loved and cared for your family, but I know the feeling. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t see the ex narc for what he was. I was only 19 at the time and had a lot of family of origin stuff going on, coming from a background of an alcoholic and dysfunctional family. My daughter who is most like the ex, because he groomed her to be behind my back, realized what her dad was later on but still wanted a relationship with him before he died a couple years ago. She didn’t want to let go of the daddy dream so there were many times she defended him and his behavior. I am glad she is on the lower end of the spectrum, he was a full blown narc. Talk about feeling like a dummy, for a long time I thought I must be mentally challenged to fall for it, but he was a really good liar and he sucked a lot of people in. If his mouth was moving he was lying I came to find out. Narcs are just destroyers, destroying whatever is in their path for their own self serving desires. I continue to pray for my daughter always and I always have hope that God will change her. Its so painful when you are put in the situation of protecting yourself from the ones you love because of the abusive behavior. What they have is not love though.

        1. Kat,
          We sure lived similar lives. I was blinded too and dismissed what were flags and always looked at the good things.

          I was thinking about your daughter, have you ever tried talking to her about get loud or about the way she talks to you. Like “I love you dearly and enjoy being with you, I not sure you realize the tone you are using with me. It makes me feel uneasy and discounted when you do raise you voice and use a demeaning tone, I am just trying to converse with you. You are entitled to your opinion just I as your mother just gave you mine. I respect your right to disagree as much as you have the right to disagree but can’t we talk to each other in a kind loving way showing dignity and respect for each other.”

          I know this isn’t easy by any means, as this is what my younger son does to me. I do correct him, I will say “I am sorry you feel that way but your are wrong, incorrect etc.” This is what I say to him when he distorts reality.
          He might huff off and I won’t see him for six months or maybe years.
          With this in mind I would much rather deal with him this way than he pops over and justs walks all over me and undermines everthing I say.

          I have gotton to the point if a person dosn’t treat me with dignity and respect I would rather they stay away. One who truly cares about you will do everything they can to lift you up not tear you down or every sentence of the conversation is diresected and taken the wrong way.

          See, I just said we think what we said was taken the wrong way. Absolutely not, again They Know What They Are Doing!!!!!

          When one is a CD they always want to be one up. Also, (both of our children are the same age) unfortunately, they think we are old people tii and they are know it alls and least of all can you tell them something that makes sense. Mine is a knower of all and knows nothing.

          It is up to you if you want to be around someone who make you uncofortable and is conflictual. For me, I would rather be alone and have pets. If I start talking about God this usually gets him on his way too.

          Hugs and we always keep them in prayer.

          1. BTOV, I know my daughter knows what she is doing too. She has only been married to this guy two years but sometimes she gets on him so bad that I really wonder how he sees that. I don’t see him as a pushover at all, he is an assertive person in his work. I like your idea about how to confront her. I have said many other things but not in that way. I will try anything, I have no hopes of changing her but I see that as changing me by being more direct and assertive. I like that and I will let you know how it goes next time she shows me disrespect. Sometimes I feel there has been so much time wasted feeling bad about myself and I wonder why I went thru these things, but I or you are not alone, many, many people have experienced bad starts in life. That sounds like a victim, but I see it as we were victimized, but now that we know better, its up to us to live a better life. It does do something to your sense of value and respect for yourself when you allow a person to walk all over you. I think I have been a people pleaser, always getting my “ok-ness” from outside myself, always fearing rejection. At least I know what to work on now. When I say anything at all about God to my daughter she usually gets very upset too and combative, and yeh, we know nothing because we have lived longer lives, lol. I always felt like I learned how to love from having my kids, but later on when I became a Christian I realized I learned what love is from God – I am so thankful for that. Yes prayers always and hugs back BTOV.

          2. Kat,
            I think if you assert healthy boundaries you will see the truth of your daughters character and how she respects you.

            My siblings treat my mother with disrespect and usely she very upset after talking with one of therm. I know I have reminded my mother many times about what the Bible has to say about this topic. “Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father.”

            I have to agree with much of what you said, it is time to be kind to ourselves and stop pleasing people who will walk all over us. It is especially painful when it is one of our loved ones. We teach them nothing by letting them continue to disrespect us. We in turn keep being hurt instead of taking the difficult route of enforcing healthy boundaries and accept nothing less than dignity and respect.

            One thing to remember, many CD individual can become even more difficult when we remain on course in taking a stand for dignity and respect, many will give up and leave. Truly, I think you will see her true color. As for her husband, you may find out he end up leaving her. Do they have children?

            I will keep you in my prayers, God knows who Kat is and your needs.
            God Peace and Blessings

    1. Pricilla,

      I was talking to E.

      I do have a question, I think I read in a post further back and correct me if I am wrong. Do you post as Lydia too?

  6. Kat,
    I am sorry you also went through all that you have. Guessing our compassion isn’t really a waste after all? I have compassion for you coming out of a dysfunctional family of origin as did I. I realized very young that I was literally set up by my family to be abused. I can’t tell you how many different things they did to abuse me but I can tell you this it was never ending. I’m trying to move what seems to be a slightly frozen shoulder last couple of days. Therapy in a few minutes now and it’s frightening. The pain is tremendous. Praying I can press thru though as I will not go thru another surgery for it. Talk to you soon.
    Praying you’re doing good! Take care.

    1. Priscilla, I don’t think compassion is a waste, I think you can never go wrong when you do things in love, I don’t mean letting people abuse us, but to be capable to still give love and receive it from those it is possible with, to me that’s victorious living, that we didn’t shut down and get bitter and hateful. I am hoping your therapy is good, I have found there are good therapists and not so good, I really hope they can help you get out of that much pain soon, I am hoping it eases up for you, pain is the worst. Take care.

      1. Kat,

        Kat said to Pricilla, Priscilla, I don’t think compassion is a waste, I think you can never go wrong when you do things in love, I don’t mean letting people abuse us, but to be capable to still give love and receive it from those it is possible with, to me that’s victorious living, that we didn’t shut down and get bitter and hateful.

        Kat, beautifully said. I think this is where we rise above and take our power back, we don’t stoop to their level, we let them see our and then it is their choice to rise above. Kat, I have to say a brilliant strategy and with it we always maintain our selfrespect and integrity.

  7. BTOV,
    I know you replied to Kat, but I agree. It’s better for me anyway to correct my son or I like to say to him, “I’d like to revisit a conversation we had about such and such”. Most CD’s don’t like to have their one up comments revisited so you can correct wrong thinking, but I don’t let that stop me.
    Also, my younger son knows EVERYTHING without knowing ANYTHING!!

    1. Pricilla,
      I think you are taking a good stand. Above all things they will learn they can’t walk all over you and you will stand up for yourself.

      Great strategy.

  8. Kat,
    Thank you for your kind words. I needed them! I did go to counseling to better understand myself and my family. As well as others. I’ve been concentrating on taking with God and my husband and my son who’s doing a great job of trying to understand himself, us and God. I’m sooo grateful he’s wanting to change and learn so late in his life. Prayers answered there for sure.
    I’m doing what you’re doing and that’s learning a whole new way of BEING!!!

    I’m grateful to God for all of you on here as it helps me to know how similar we all are and I’m not all alone working on myself!

  9. BTOV,

    I apologize I didn’t know you were talking to E. Yes, I used to post as Lydia won’t be anymore ok?
    I agree with you what you told Kat. I’m setting healthy boundaries and maintaining them with the last of the CD’s in my life. (son) I know exactly what I’ll say to him if next he chooses to try to run roughshod over me. I’m definitely not living the last of my years being treated this way by anyone.
    In fact I decided not to go to a get together yesterday because of the way I was being treated. I have to say as much as I wanted to be included (struggling with that since I was 4) I chose NOT to go and I’m very happy about it today!!!’

    Hope you’re doing well!

  10. Pricilla,

    Thank you for explaining about the Lidya, it clears things up and makes things easier for everyone ot follow.

    It truly is about healing and settting boundaries. Another thought, we empaths are always thinking of others and never really get to know who we are. I think in all this heaviness and heartfelt work we get to really know ourselves to the point we are never a target for the CD again.

    Bravo Pricilla, if you can do it so can I. Thanks for the uplift….and also you put your trust in God.


  11. Priscilla, how did your therapy go? I have gone for my back a few times, I also do exercises regularly that help it and manage it by not lifting heavy things. Its really helped, my back doesn’t go “out” anymore like it used to.
    BTOV, I know what you mean by not knowing who we are as empaths. I am having an identity crisis with my daughter and son moving away. I was what they define as the “lost child” in my family of origin, I just disappeared. Then going from there to being married to the ex narc. again I disappeared. My daughter will move in about a month and a half and she has never once told me she will miss me. I know she’s excited, and that’s good, but I get the feeling she purposely has never told me that, she just acts like oh this is great, won’t miss you at all. Bye, see ya. I have told her I will miss her but she just says, well move then. I need to find out who I am. I was thinking the other day that I was with my sister when I met my ex, he would never have sucked her in because she had a healthier sense of who she was, that’s protection against CD’s.

  12. Kat,

    I’m still going thru therapy for surgery it was 2 months ago now. It’ll take about 6-8 months for therapy I’m told.
    It’s painful again today. Sometimes can’t wait to go to therapy to move it.
    I’m sorry your daughter is behaving that way towards you. People are incredibly selfish I know like you do first hand.
    When I left home at 16 I didn’t hear from anyone in my family of origin for months.
    Super quiet and lonely.
    You can have a nice life without them if you get angry enough to motivate you to go outside of family and find what you like to do.

    1. Kat, Pricilla,

      So you both have back issues, so have I. I look at everything I have and think less is best. At one time it was fun to get things now I think to myself, what on earth was I thinking. I am tired of taking care of things, let alone cook most the time anymore. And yes, it does get lonely.

    2. Pricilla, Kat,

      Pricilla it sounds like you just had back surgery, so did I. Kat, it sounds like you have back problems. Oh, this is a difficult one to deal with. I am curious from you ladies, what exercises do you think are the most beneficial? to relieve pain? I know its important to staty active.

      Kat, I meant there were 8 children, my father was an alchoholic and was never there. My Mom was trying her best to take care of all these children and I being the 2nd born and a girl, I was used to take up part of the burden. I am not complaining as that made me who I am.

      Lost, oh do we get lost. Kat, reach out to that little you, be her mother and confidant, her protector and give her the attention and love little Kat never received. Its not easy but in many ways that is how I reparented myself and came to terms.

      Just know, at least for me, I will be a work in progress until Jesus takes me home.

      Hugs to All

      1. BTOV,
        I just had shoulder surgery, not back. However, I’ve had back issues most of my adult life. I agree with Kat on the yoga causing me more problems than it’s worth. I do leg lifts on my stomach to strengthen the back. You can start out with floor exercises and it’ll probably be enough.

  13. Priscilla, BTOV, when I left home I was angry at my parents and didn’t contact them for years, this was before cell phones. I thought I would make them miss me, I don’t know if they ever did, they never said, they never spoke about it when I moved back here, but then they never did involve themselves in my life at all. With a family of 10 kids I think they just liked the extra room in a small house.
    When I left the ex I was so busy with school, work and the kids there was no time for anything else, and being a single mom it was all about trying to keep everything together. That’s why its a problem for me now, I am still single and my kids were my world. I want to make a good life for myself now, its going to take a lot of work.

    1. Kat,
      We have that all in common. I was mostly hurt and confused when I left home. Abused while living at home and neglected all the time. Then neglected some more after I left. I had done most of the work at my house. Quickly became a single mother as the dink I was married to ran around with EVERYONE. I was never so sure of a decision in my life as DIVORCE!!
      My parents had us 7 and used to BRAG about how much we loooove kids????

      Did I mention the were terribly flawed and LIED constantly like 2 self entitled brats? Don’t get me wrong I loved my parents, just really short changed in that they seemingly could NEVER give me what I needed.

      My dad would keep the heat at 58 degrees in the winter. When as a bachelor lived at the beach after divorces he kept the heat at 80 Degrees???? I said dad it’s boiling in here? He giggled and said I keep it at 80 is it too hot? I must’ve had the WTF look on my face as I NEVER and I MEAN NEVER saw him look so guilty.
      He used to abuse my brother for wetting the bed when he not only constantly intimidated us all but picked on my brother relentlessly. My brother was always so cold. Ended up in the hospital for 1 1/2 months with a kidney infection. Not only did my dad blame him as a little boy of 3rd grade for the bill but put him down the rest of his life for having to fall back a grade??? It was way worse than this this is just a small synopsis.

  14. Kat,

    I came from a home of 8, lost in may ways like you. Then so alone and just wanting to be accepted and wanting love, well we both entered those paths look, hoping and searching. Well , yesterday is gone and all we have is today.

    Kat, I understand all of what you are expressing. I would rather be alone than deal with CD family for the rest of my life, life is to short for this and in all this it is a choice.
    I agree, hard as it may be we must find our way, I am glad I have a great church, small as it may be and the looking forward to the world to come is what gives me strenght to go forward.

    Kat, also, negate who God puts in our path to lift us up and keep us going. So my friend, stay here, as your are relished and loved more than I can ever tell you, you have lifted me up in your sheer humility.

    Blessings and Gods Peace and Grace to all………………….

    1. BTOV,
      Thank you for your kindness, I really appreciate it. I like what you have to say about setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them. And about finding out how my daughter deals with it. I think I have been trying to hold on to the relationship by not ruffling feathers, but I want to know the truth of the relationship. What would I be hanging onto? If theres nothing there I am fooling myself. I think my fear of rejection and desire to be loved made me a doormat. To find my way out of it, healthy boundaries will really help, so much to learn! I go to a small church too, but its a great church as well, I am thankful for the teaching I get there, God led me there and I was obedient and it has given so many blessings by following Gods direction. Thank you for your consideration and support! it really helps to sort out this stuff and make more sense of it.

      1. Kat,

        Thank you for the kind compliments. I am glad that what I said helps you. Truly, this is what this blog is about and what Dr. Simon’s message
        is. We are to love one another.

        You may find God will replace what you have lost with others such as your church brothers and sisters. You are sincere in your love and trust in God, never let go of the treasure you have in your grasp.

        I know and so do you, we all can share in this treasure, it is all a matter of choice.

  15. To All ,

    This new computer I purchashed continualiy makes changes to my wording which is something I never said. This is scary.
    Rereading I wil try to be more careful.

    Blessings to all.

  16. BTOV,
    There is a leading back expert I heard about, Dr. Stuart McGill, you can google him to see his core stability exercises, they are simple exercises but I have found them to be very helpful. They are probably exercises you have heard of before, but he narrows them down to a few core exercises. He has what he calls the big three. If you go on you tube you can see them being demonstrated. I do those as well as going to the gym and doing some classes there with light weights that build up muscle in the back, shoulders and all over. I got diagnosed with osteoporosis and rather than take Fosamax that my Dr. wanted me to take, I opted for bone supplements and weight workouts – I only use 2.5 to 5 lbs but I think that’s enough. Or the machines in the gym are good too. Yoga always put my back in spasms, I am better off doing just these exercises. Just start off slow and build up with Stuart McGills exercises, if you are not used to them you may need to build up the muscles. But if you don’t think you can do any of them without hurting yourself just do the ones that you feel comfortable with. If you check it out you can read a bit of his understanding of the back and what hurts it and what helps it. If you try it let me know what you think.

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