Senseless Violence and Character Dysfunction

The Rise of Senseless Violence

Senseless violence is on the rise. It actually has been for a few decades now. Understandably, people are desperately seeking answers. And they’re looking for solutions. Sadly, however, we’re largely looking for answers and solutions in all the wrong places.

True, passing new laws and imposing various restrictions can have an impact. But such solutions are often temporary and only partly effective. Why? Mainly because most decently-minded folks don’t behave well merely because of the rules. And wrongly-minded folks rarely let the rules deter them. Disturbed characters are notorious for finding their way around the rules – or ignoring them altogether!

Where the Answers Truly Lie

The real answer to all the senseless violence we increasingly witness lies where it always has: character. Feeling frustrated is not a new thing. It’s merely a reality of life. Being angry at the world and feeling so hurt and betrayed by it is also nothing new. And feeling so much at your wits end that you want to lash out or make others pay – also not new. What’s unique to our times is having so many folks among us who lack the internal resources and controls necessary to refrain from the unthinkable, especially when severely distressed.

As I have written before, and I’m more than happy to assert again: character is like a psychological immune system. It enables human beings to remain grounded in the midst of turmoil. It gives us the strength to do what’s unpleasant but still necessary for our own good and the good of others. And it gives us the strength to resist the appealing but ultimately harmful. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the only valid answer to all the senseless violence we’re witnessing these days.

Mobsters and gangsters have always played by a different set of rules. History shows they always could control their violent impulses. They selectively chose not to do so when, according to their alternate rule book, circumstances warranted. But folks lacking a solid, deeply internalized, and rightly formed internal governance system can do the unthinkable unpredicably. That’s why increasing the number of folks among us who have well-developed character represents society’s only genuine insurance against all types of senseless violence.

How We Get There

As I mention in Essentials for the Journey, the way we must restore character more universally is the same way we lost it: incrementally. Yes, one heart at a time, beginning with our own, that’s how we reclaim decency and civility.

I have a few other things to say on this topic on the latest Character Matters podcast.

25 thoughts on “Senseless Violence and Character Dysfunction

  1. I just watched the Episode 8 of the “Last Of Us”
    I cannot believe what I saw. This is the only episode I have seen. I will not watch any more.
    The level of violence shown in the last 20 mins ” BY A TEEN AGE GIRL” was extreme.
    Anyone who is lacking in morals would find such a thing as exciting

  2. As you name it; ‘character disorders’ you actually referre to ‘old school disorders’ that were deemed not basically treatable because of their inherited, born with, or aquired by somatic illness (encefalitis to name one cuasing psychopathy in many cases), character.
    You had the ‘Hystrionic character’, the ‘Psychopathic character’ , ‘Narcissitic charackter’ and some others back then.
    But they all referred to a basically not changeable/treatable state of their character.
    Later they turned ‘character disorders’ into ‘personality disorders’.
    This make a huge difference. For ‘personality’ is something that gets shaped during live. It’s open for change by experience and eduction/therapy.
    Character is not. This stays the same throughout live. It’s your genetical/biological make-up which cann’t be changed basically only slightly adjusted with tactics of classic conditioning or adverse experiences in life.
    You’ll never turn a wolve into a sheep. And a fox looses his hair but never his (decieving/smart) character (Dutch saying).

    So I argue ‘character disorders’ are a kind of mis-interpretation suggesting those people are ‘sick’ in a way that can be treated also.
    I think all you have is different ‘characters’. A minority are very self-absorbed, egocentric people who lack social/emotional empathy.
    That’s their ‘character’. It’s just who they are.

    Being a wolve or fox is not a disorder and being a sheep isn’t either.
    We just have to learn those wolves and foxes are around us.
    And that many of us are still unaware sheep.

  3. I would like to add that the overly materialistic/individualistic/ anti-social culture and politics in the U.S. since ~50 years drove this insane violence.
    In your society many people are reduced to ‘nothing’ if they don’t meet the superficial, materialistic standards your politics and culture put on them.
    This causes a lot of frustration and anger especially in the young.

    Then, with your almost unlimited rights to carry/buy lethal weapons your government/culture is giving all opportunity to use this weapons at will by the specific ‘characters’ you talk about all the time. Your culture and politics promote this behaviour with all means with their legislation and ‘view on life’.

    I also see this American ‘point of view’ return in many of your articles. It’s all about the ‘character-disturbed’ but not about the way your culture and politics breaded and enabled those people to act out their egocentric frustrations in lethal ways.

    1. I would also like to mention your continuing referrences to 12 steps programs. Who are solely based on Christian believe-systems. And in essence are victim-blaming for those who have endured the kind of abuse played out by your ‘çharacter disordered’.
      In those programs victims are indoctrinated to blame themselves for the abuse they suffered by only focussing on their own ‘behaviour’ which led the abuse to happen.. Pure victim-blaming.
      And then even to contact their abusers to ‘make up’ and excuse themselves for their ‘mistakes’.

      This is as sick as it can get. But you proclame the 12 steps programs in many of your articles.
      Nothing is more devastating/traumatizing as following a 12 step program after being abused by a ‘character disordered’ person. I know because I’ve tried it.
      You should know better.

      1. I’m very close to having to edit, restrict, or even block your comments, Ge, which is a most unusual occurrence for this blog and its commentators. So, let me appeal to any better sensibilities you might have. My work is grounded not only in years of professional training but also years of personal and professional experience. And I make no apologies for any of the many different traditions I borrow from (and they are far more numerous than you mention) because even the most flawed of systems often has something of value to offer. Your personal experience informs you, and clearly you bear some scars. But your experience, which you tend to generalize from, does not and cannot make you correct in all of your assumptions, some of which you assert here as if you have the professional credentials to speak with authority. This resource has to maintain its integrity, and, quite frankly, it belongs to me and those who find value in it. So, I appeal to you to temper the expression of your opinions. I will keep monitoring. And if you find the wisdom I draw from some traditions and systems as “as sick as it can get” and my advice so erroneous that I “should know better,” then I think you would serve yourself well to find another resource – one not so seemingly traumatizing to you and so at odds with current view of things.

        1. Dr. Simon I regard your basic insights a lot. I’ve always kept wondering about why they did the abusive things they did and tried to solve them in a ‘Christian’, desent way. Without any positive result.
          As a matter of fact, my ‘Christian’ approuch made it all even worse.
          You’ve opened my eyes finally to see those people knew exactly what they did so I could stop wondering about their disorders or motives.
          As you say; it doesn’t matter, only (abusive) behaviour counts.

          As you see; I’m still struggeling with ‘authorities’ who proclame to know all answers.
          My late experiences with three 12 steps groups have been very negative. They were all in essence victim blaming and demanding you should contact your abusers and ask them for ‘forgiveness’.
          This is what I meant with ‘how sick it can get’.

          Whatever you decide about blocking me is beyond my might ofcourse.
          In a way I rather would take it as a compliment if you did. For it will show to me your limitations in dealing with critical opinions.

          Your general views have great value to me but some don’t. That’s all to it, concerning me. But I like clear discussion.

          1. This will be my last direct response to you in this chain of discussion, Ge. The AA step you reference, (actually, both steps 8 and 9 involve the same issue) and that addresses making amends, contains the phrase (and I quote verbatim): “except when to do so would injure them or others.” This is a clear statement that not only is there no obligation to make amends to “abusers” but there is also a caution against making amends whenever there’s a chance of injury, and that includes injury to oneself. So, once again, I urge you to be cautious. Mindfully stated opinions are always welcome here (as the hundreds of comments on record clearly attest to), and you’re certainly entitled to your opinions, just not your own facts. So, when personal experience is overgeneralized and opinions rendered as both factual and authoritative, I have not only the right but also the obligation to chime in (with editing, commenting, deleting, etc.). The leaders and/or members of the group you had experience with might well have been misguided in their interpretations and instructions. But the steps I sometimes reference are clear and explained in detail in accompanying works, and I don’t want the readers to think I might endorse or draw upon traditions that are inherently abusive.

            I stand unabashedly behind my earlier caviats. And I will continue to monitor, as it has been an extremely rare necessity to block someone. I think I’ve had to do it only 3 or 4 times since the inception of the blog. And as for regarding my “basic insights a lot,” I would ask you to mindfully contemplate the material in In Sheep’s Clothing and the tenets espoused. An open-hearted read might cast an intriguing light on your comment above: “In a way I rather would take it as a compliment if you did. For it will show to me your limitations in dealing with critical opinions.”

          2. One has to use their own discretion in a 12 step group. I had a sponsor that kept insisting I owe an amends to my narc ex husband and I told her she did not understand narcissism. That I believe I owed an amend to myself for staying too long with him and one to my children for subjecting them to the chaos. But the sponsor is just one person and her take on things may be uninformed at times, or we just may disagree. Nobody is an expert and the 12 step groups are not suppossed to have “leaders” as everyone is supposed to be on equal ground.

  4. To add some more.
    ‘Autism’ isn’t regarded as a ‘Character disorder’ while it essentially is.
    Their genetic make-up causes a quite specific ‘character disorder’ compared with the majority of people.
    In essence it’s not a disorder but just the way they are differently wired in their brains.
    Like lizards and humans are completely different wired.
    The lizard has no disorder and the human either. They are just two different species.

    1. Can I point to a very good article in THE GURDIAN newspaper from 2015 linking


    2. Dr. Simon,

      You leave me no reply so I reply this way.
      I surely see my ‘entitlement’ in objecting some of your views. I get triggered.
      I’ve never been this way (so outproken) before. I’ve always been a laid-back person believing ‘love and understanding’ could solve all problems. I was raised this way and educated this way in psychiatry. To my regret many years later.

      I only have seen fairly recently this ‘atittude’ made me a sitting duck to all kinds of misuse and abuse. Mainly by your articles and your book ‘In sheeps clothing’.
      It has been such an eyeopener.

      But your ongoing advertising the ‘Christian morals’ about repenting your ‘sins’ instead of calling out and fight the abusers is making me doubt about your objectives. Sincerally I have no doubts about your motives. It’s probably just your indoctrinated Christian (American) view on live by your parents and further teachings.

      I get triggered when I hear someone promoting 12 steps-programms to abuse-victims.
      As an abuse-victim this is the worst program you can attend imo. Victimizing you even more by accepting ‘guild’ and making you ’emotional dependent’ like in a cult if you don’t take care enough about your self-respect.

      Your views and books overall promote ’emotional independency’ but certain other views of you advertise something completely different imo.
      It’s contradicting to me.
      But anyway, thanks for your insights. They have changed my way of thinking about those people.

  5. As I understand the article, since there is so much character disturbed people there now, that without that core foundation, they can do the unimaginable, which we are seeing more and more of. It’s become commonplace. The world is not a safe place. Very disturbing to me, to think it’s going to keep happening, the mass shootings.

    1. I think it’s important not to overstate this amount of ‘character disordered’ people. Maybe it’s about ~5% of the population who have clinical ‘anti-social’ personality-disorders combined (hystrionic, narcissistic, ASPD and BPD.
      And imo you can add Level 1 (or ‘high functioning’) Autism as an a-social disorder too (not primarially anti-social).

      And I believe ‘character disorders’ are not on the rise. Those people have lived among us throughout the ages.
      It’s only specific cultures and politics gave/give a lot more room to ‘legaly’ support this violent character disordered people.

      This is what happens in America since many years (decades really). It’s not because there are more ‘character disordered’ people but because your ‘sick’ political system and culture gives lots of room to disordered characters and even breads them in your overly materialistic, de-humanizing, superficial culture.

      None of your school-shootings and overall gun-violence happen on this scale in Europe or the rest of the World.
      That should make you think. Maybe their’s something wrong with your laws, politics and culture?

      1. Ge,

        Dr. Simon has repeatedly asked you to stop presenting yourself as an authority in stating your opinions. Your opinions are not backed by studies or data with any academic or scientific rigors to make them facts. Your history as a psychiatric nurse does not give you the credentials to speak as an expert in a very large subjective field of study.

        I would also expect someone in your field to show more empathy towards a developmental disorder such as autism. It is, quite frankly, ignorant to encompass a developmental disorder in which some may have callous and unfeeling elements with all. I would not expect someone educated and experienced within the psychiatric community to hold such a broad sweeping opinion.

        You are on Dr. Simon’s blog which is about character disorder. Those of us who choose to follow his blog find reason, comfort and support within this community and within his teachings. For many of the members of his blog, this is a comforting, grounding , supportive place for those who have been mistreated and victimized by ‘disturbed characters.’ We work on learning, growing and improving ourselves. Many of us, including myself , still struggle and are still dealing with deep emotional pain and are still trying to put our lives together after we’ve been used, abused and wrecked. You seem completely oblivious to our pain by insulting Dr. Simon’s work we believe in by being deliberately insulting and creating an inhospitable environment for us to share our thoughts and feelings.

        Many of us have disagreed with Dr. Simon (myself included) in the past and have found him to be kind and supportive as well as open minded and responsive to our thoughts, ideas and experiences. He get it. He gets us. We all work to create a safe space here so we can discuss, support and heal.

        This site and Dr. Simon is based in the U.S. as is many of this blog’s members. You are being deliberately provoking and offensive. This is not well done by you. And I’m wondering, are you bored that you need to enter a blog site and pick a fight with people who have been damaged as you claim to be. You are being deliberately offensive, unkind and demeaning. Your continual word choice of ‘sick’ can only be received as a demeaning put down. Right now you are putting down an entire nation that you are not part of to fully understand the complexity of the dynamics at play, as well as, Dr. Simon, his life’s work, those of us who follow and believe in him and his work as well as an entire group of developmentally challenged people.

        Why are you doing this? It seems ‘sick’ to me that you are working hard to harm people who have already been harmed and have found a healing place. If you are in disagreement, there are other places in the World Wide Web that be more suited to you. This is our place and it certainly suits us and I for one would like for you to stop messing it up.

        Please stop and get control of your thoughts and opinions so that they may harm none.

        And my apologies to the members of the blog and Dr. Simon for speaking for them and any mischaracterization I may have inadvertently spoken. It is not my intention to speak for the group as a whole. I’m just feeling very frustrated as I depend on and enjoy our discussions. Some weeks it’s the only conversation with any type of depth I have and the topics, thoughts and opinions here have helped me, helped heal my self confidence and sense of well being and have taught me a lot. I am continually grateful to be part of this group.

        1. Charlie,

          I sure don’t want to hurt anyone. I’ve been in the same place like many others on this blog. But just accepting Dr. Simon’s views for granted goes several steps too far for me.
          I really appreciate his insight that ‘character disordered’ people are very well aware of the misuse/abuse they are commiting.
          It has been an eyeopener to me.
          But we have to stay critical to any specialist explanations. Including Dr. Simon.

          He shimes in with his Christian/Bible views on what ‘character disorder’ is all about.
          In his view you are essentially ‘character disordered’ if you don’t live according the Christian dogma’s and the ‘Ten Commandments’ he states in his last article.

          The man started off well with some refreshing insights but then started to show signs of an overly inflated ego. Preaching his ‘truth’ like a new ‘Christ’.
          This is what bothers me the most.

          We, as victims of severe abuse, get in essence directed by him to accept our victimhood and to not adress/confront/fight our abusers. We get advised though to turn our other sheek to get hit more and dive into our own ‘failures’ in 12 Steps programs.

          You obviously fail to see this like many others.
          Dr. Simon might well be a respected psychiatrist for may years. But he obviously also has his ‘Christian/American’ limitations which bias his thinking profoundly imo.

        2. Charlie and All,

          Great response Charlie and thank you. I just read the posts by GE who definitely has serious issues. Rather than look deep inside her/himself,
          this person exudes extreme jealously and contempt for Dr. Simon and others which is uncalled for. Red Flags Flying

          This person seems to have lost their whipping person and thought they had a host of new others to direct their dysfunctional behaviour onto. Misery always needs company or otherwise they have only themselves to look at and it isn’t pretty.

          Dorian Gray comes to mind……

  6. Charlie,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment re Ge. I read a little of the posts and within a minute I discontinued reading. We’ve seen posts like this before, and I cannot waste my mind on such callous writings. Thanks for speaking up.
    Dr. Simon, we are ever so grateful to you for your efforts in helping us who are/were harmed.

  7. Kat and Lucy,

    Thank you! I debated about whether to say something. The minute I posted I got worried about the potential backlash of speaking my truth. Thank so much for your support!

    1. Charlie,

      Your comment to me has been with much respect and detailed explaining. You made no offence to me at all and I greatly respect your effort.
      My problems with Dr. Simon are certainly not the views he explained in ‘In Sheeps Clothing’.
      This book has been ground-breaking in my view. So he deserves all credit in shining a new light on the so called ‘character disorders’.

      The rest of the diatribe edited out by Dr. Simon.

      1. Okay. This is the end of you, Ge, on the blog. You have said the same things enough times already, namely that I have some things of value to offer, and which you’ve already given your approval to, but you have many bones to pick with me, my expertise, the background and motivation you presume applies to me, and you constantly assert the superiority of your perspective over mine and others. This blog is clearly not for you, because you already have all the knowledge you need. I hope you find a proper home elsewhere, if in fact you really have the need. I make no claim to being perfect, but this is in fact my forum and it’s meant for humble sharing and discussion, not constant bashing of the owner. I’ve only had to do this a few times before. But I have no qualms about doing this now. I’ll alert my webmaster to be on the lookout for any other IP addresses you might try to use to sneak back into the blog. It’s been my experience that banning some people can prove really difficult because of just how determined they can be to make this forum their own. Goodbye. And wishing you nothing but well.

        1. Dear Dr Simon,
          I just thought I’d update you on something Iposted in the past regarding my grandchild being abused and whether I should contact authorities.
          After much abuse he suffered from his step siblings my son and I hired an attorney and my grandson was assigned the best GAL money could afford. (He was formerly a family court judge!!)
          He had heard thousands of cases like ours. My son has full custody of our grandson since November with a strong order of protection in place.
          Bio mom has not complied with court ordered psych evaluation or to find a supervisor of visits within proximity of 2 homes. Just thought you might be glad to hear our situation has turned out well!!!
          Your hard work has helped our family more than you know!
          I believe one day you will be shown how all your hard work has paid off for those who adhered to your training!
          I for one am beyond grateful!!
          Thank you!

  8. I have been working as a psych nurse and I agree with Dr. Simon. Character disorders are definitely on the rise. Part of my job entails floating to the child/adolescent unit where I see (accurately) diagnosed children with character disorders who are younger than 12-while the DSM-5 does not diagnose them until a certain age, at the tender ages they are, these kids actually do meet the criteria.

    To focus on the adults, I see a lot of NPD and BPD. Not so much for APD, thankfully. I think as a society, we have gotten narcissistic as a whole.

    With respect to the 12 step program, I realized I needed to make an amends to my narc mother-not easy to do when someone plays the proverbial victim, but all I can do is keep my side of the street clean. Kat, sometimes the harm is so great (as was the case in my own step work, you don’t make an amends to that person, but there may be people harmed as a result of that resentment. I hope that makes sense.

    Good topic. I’ve witnessed so much violence in and outside of my home, that I avoid the news. Thirty years ago, I never would have thought mass shootings would become commonplace.

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