Strengthening New Habits with Self-Reinforcement

The Power of Self-Reinforcement

Self-Reinforcement is a powerful way to strengthen new ways of thinking and acting. How do I know this? For most of my professional career I’ve helped folks develop their character and empower themselves. At first, I worked mostly with survivors of toxic relationships. These folks were deeply emotionally bruised and sometimes nearly defeated. And I wanted to help these folks get back on their feet.

Eventually, I also turned my attention to disturbed characters. I wanted to help stem the tide of character dysfunction. And as anyone who’s undertaken this task can tell you, helping a character-impaired individual become a better person is particularly challenging work. But whether you’re trying to recover from a toxic relationship or trying to build your moral character one thing is certain: to break old patterns and solidfy healthier ones successfully you need reinforcement. And you simply can’t always depend on external sources of encouragement. So, self-reinforcement is a failproof way to solidify new learning.

Some Learning Basics

All advanced creatures have the capacity to learn. But we humans have an exponentially greater capacity to acquire new knowledge, skills, and habits. But learning anything new equires two things: our full attention to the tasks at hand and reinforcement for executing the tasks. And reinforcment is crucial if you are to retain any new learning. Nothing we’ve ever learned can be fully unlearned. That’s why old habits are so hard to break. So learning to do things differently usually requires monumental focus and commitment. Perhaps that’s why early on in my career I came to appreciate and  rely on two key tools of change: covert self-monitoring and covert self-reinforcement. (See: Personal Empowerment Basics.) (See also the chapter on charcter growth in Character Disturbance.)

Carving Out a New Life

You are your best single resource. That’s why growing and strenthening your character is the secret to empowered living. But first, you have to really get to know yourself. That means making an honest appraisal of your natural propensities. It also means facing and examining the many experiences that shaped your attitudes, outlook on life, etc. That can re-open some old wounds. But the goal is to take full ownership of all the things that have contributed to shaping your character.

Now, really knowing and understanding yourself is just the beginning of the character development process. Once you’ve gotten a fairly good read on the kind of person that nature and your life experiences predisposed you to become, you have to become intimately acquainted with the kind of person you genuinely are at the core. And you also have to reckon with the kind of person you sincerely want to be. That might mean uncovering, embracing and possibly re-committing yourself to core principles. Then you have to find the courage and strength to live up to your own ideals. Developing this kind of integrity is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s the path to real empowerment.

The Techniques of Covert Self-Monitoring and Self-Reinforcement

Covert self-monitoring is the process by which we train ourselves to be more aware of our interaction patterns as well as the “triggers” that prompt our reactions. It’s also a way to become more aware of the kinds of thoughts we entertain in our appraisal of situations, and the consequences that follow the behaviors that stem from our perspective. It’s a type of mental note taking and awareness heightening.

The tool of covert self-reinforcement seems relatively self-explanatory. Instead of being reinforced by an external agent for executing a new behavior, you give yourself an internal (mental) pat on the back. And this strategy has many, many payoffs. For one, the recognition and validation you give yourself is a rewarding experience that increases the likelihood that you’ll repeat your newly learned behavior. For another, being your own agent of reinforcement helps you build self-reliance. When you’re less reliant on external sources of support, you’re much less vulnerable to unhealthy dependency.

Next week I’ll go into more detail about these strategies, using some powerful illustrative examples.  making you less reliant on external sources of motivation and encouragement. As a helping professional, I have all too often witnessed the dangers inherent in a person becoming unhealthily dependent upon his or her therapist for affirmation and support. Giving yourself positive strokes for doing things differently is a potent motivational tool.

22 thoughts on “Strengthening New Habits with Self-Reinforcement

  1. This is where I think you go wrong, Dr. Simon. Perhaps if the character-disordered person is still an impressionable child, there might be some hope, but outside of that, such notions are dangerous pipe dreams.

    You’re Christian faith should tell you this, too. Children of the devil aren’t about to become children of God. Evil people remain evil. The only thing that changes is your impression of them and their supposed progress, all due to their impression management and practiced lying, deceit, manipulation, etc.

    This bad, dangerous teaching is common in churches, too. The idea is that Christians are to ‘love them to Jesus’ or otherwise encourage bad people to ‘see the light’ and cease being wicked and reform themselves. What isn’t told is how rare, if not impossible, such is. Sure, if a person is sitting on the fence, or otherwise deceived into persecuting Christians, like Saul was, in his zeal to serve God had it wrong and then was straightened out by God, Himself, and became Paul. But the chance of anyone actually reforming character disordered individuals is almost nil. And this reality should be very clearly told when pitching these ‘reforming bad people’ ideas.

    What is character-disordered in the first place? Are we not talking about evil? About wicked people? But most don’t wish to say “evil” and “wicked” and thus euphemistically say things like “character-disordered”. Same goes for the medicalization of evil, with diagnoses like anti-social personality disorder. Then, such evil people are treated as though they are disabled, medical patients, in need of treatment and compassion for their disorder. What nonsense! What further injustice to the victims of these devil’s children.

    Don’t delude yourself. Character-disordered persons aren’t about to be reformed by you or anyone else. If a person is prone to abusiveness due to inability to regulate their emotions via brain damage, trauma, etc., then such persons might benefit from learning some self-control techniques and anger management. But when we talk about character-disordered abusers, predators, and other evil, wicked ilk, there is no hope and to pitch such a false notion is dangerous and irresponsible. Nobody talks about reforming snakes into being non-carnivorous, predatory animals. If they do, they are either seeking to profit (snake charmers in the business of providing ‘entertainment’) or demented. And we don’t need to study snakes and theorize why they are fang-sinking, slithering predators. They just are. And eventually every snake charmer gets bit. Every animal trainer out there working with dangerous animals eventually is attacked, injured, or even killed. Human predators are to be avoided and shown as evil. Don’t play around with invented terminology like “character-disordered” as it only adds to evildoers’ damage. Desperate women read your blog. They don’t need to hear of your supposed “success” (which I absolutely doubt) with reforming character-disordered and stemming the tide of character-disorder. A leopard cannot change its spots. Snakes don’t become cuddly teddy bears. Evil doesn’t become good due to some psychologist’s encouragement, ‘therapy’ or wishful thinking. If you wish to delude yourself in thinking you’ve stemmed the tide of character-disordered, that’s one thing, but do so privately, so you don’t give false hope to victims of evildoers who might fall into the spell of believing it’s mere “character-disordered” instead of evil.

    That said, I am a fan of your blog because it generally does speak to victims in a nice, encouraging, supportive, empowering way. Knowledge is power and much truth is said concerning manipulations, control, deception, abuse, and the terrible destruction predators inflict on their victims.

    1. You paint with a very broad brush, here, which I think unfortunate. You are correct that some folks on the far end of the CD spectrum are as you describe, but years of experience and abundant research demonstrate that things are much different at the milder end of the spectrum. There is no delusion here, just not over-generalization. Believe me, I’ve seen plenty of the characters you describe.

      1. Perhaps my brush is broad. But I’d rather err on the side of caution than to sacrifice additional victims up to the almost invariably false notion that there is all this supposed gray and nuance. Those victims matter. Every additional victim is one more victim too many.

        Sure, not all are full-blown psychopaths, but garden variety abuser versus certifiable sociopath doesn’t really matter much for victims who are inevitably destroyed by these predatory folk. A snake is a snake is a snake.

        I think you’ve had better experiences in life and come to believe more lofty theories about character reformation possibilities due to your positional power and your maleness in a male dominated society and your desire to believe that reformation happens.

        Throw in a vulnerable, entrapped, powerless victim into the mix with one of your supposed success stories and we’ll see if the predation problem has truly been eradicated. I suggest that it is not. Too many experiences in life tell me that it’s not. Vulnerability and power differentials bring out the truest character of others. You have too much power and position to see the character disordered as they truly are.

        Character disordered individuals don’t need help. They need to be eradicated, permanently shipped off to a remote island where they can all play lord of the flies with other predators. Violence is about the only thing that works. Let them kill each other. Make sure they aren’t ever coming back into general society.

        A person is either for God or against God. Either a child of God or a child of the devil. The Holy Bible tells us that. My experiences tell me that.

        Predators abound. By their fruits they are known. Snakes don’t ever stop being snakes. Sometimes they blend better, depending on the terrain and their inclinations. But either way, given a target, they’ll strike if they so desire.

        Too many psychopaths present as benign, slightly character-disordered at max. Don’t be taken in. There is no change, only manipulation and impression management. How do you know whether or not the character disordered actually changed? You’re not a vulnerable, potential victim, at their (nonexistent) mercy. It’s the victims and prey who know predators best. And I say they don’t change. They only develop a better, more reformed game. Victims and potential targets everywhere should beware.

        Evil is all around us. All it takes is enough vulnerability and the predators will come out and show themselves. My contention is there is no reform, not even at the mild end. There is only better honed manipulation and impression management skills.

        Just like batterer intervention programs have a non-existent success rate, despite what they might otherwise claim, as the attendees simply refine their tactics and use less physical violence while on probation, but take away all sorts of tips and tricks as to better control via more severe (but not arrestable) psychological and emotional violence.

        1. Dissenter, I think you made some good points. I also wondered if the people who went to see Dr. Simon and were changed had just become more sophisticated manipulators. I would hope not, but I fear so. Dealing with someone in an office is much different than being the victim or target of an evil person. Some people can easily impression manage and fool someone for their own ends, and turn around and be completely sadistic to someone under their power. The psychologist can’t follow someone every day, into every area of life. They hear what the person tells them. And if one family member agrees they have changed, perhaps they are managing that person for now and have found a new, unknown target. I have never seen one change for the better. All the ones I know have gotten worse over time.

          1. You speak wisdom, Grace!

            And furthermore, for men to assure us, women, that male client A (“Larry” for example) is now being better, is suspect. So suspect.

            Men don’t usually abuse other men. They are their most charming selves with others, especially a male psychologist.

            20 year marriages don’t mean successful, loving, egalitarian, mutually beneficial, mutually supportive, partnerships. Could mean a kid was produced and the 4th wife was sufficiently entrapped by that.

            So many battered women talk of being 50 or 60 and married all their lives and housewives/stay-at-home moms and the cumulative toll has taken their health, all sorts of pain problems, injuries sustained over the years, the toll the extreme stress has taken on them. And so they stay entrapped. A slight few get to a point where they either would rather risk being murdered or homeless than stay another day. A slight few are emboldened by their abusers becoming enfeebled old men plagued with serious health problems and thus less able to stalk and pursue and raise heck for their fleeing wives.

            I’ve stopped listening to any sort of reformed abusers, reformed character-disordered testimonials. Doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t.

            Grace’s extra pearls of wisdom ring so true:
            “And if one family member agrees they have changed, perhaps they are managing that person for now and have found a new, unknown target. I have never seen one change for the better. All the ones I know have gotten worse over time.”

            Larry is an abuser. 4 marriages. Wifebeater father. Being “dragged” to counseling by three prior wives. No interest. Priding himself on control and being the superior, highest authority on his life. Blames the ex-wives for being the reason he divorced three times. And for adults, to control is to abuse. Larry sounds like quite the abuser. And abusers never cease being abusers. They only change tactics, increase or decrease the abuse to what suits them best, and ruin others’ lives. Let’s hope Larry didn’t reproduce, but I’d bet that wife number 4 was saddled with his offspring. Most abusers are very interested in impregnating their targets as it increases the dependency of the women and ties them to them for life. It’s a trapping technique. I bet Larry had at least one kid with wife number 4. I also doubt the success of the fourth marriage being that statistically, the chances of a person’s 4th marriage working is less than one percent. Is the poor woman a mail order bride? An impoverished woman from another country who is all the more entrapped and controlled? Most wifebeaters raise wifebeater sons. It’s extremely rare that abuser fathers have sons who aren’t abusers themselves. That Larry married 4 times and admitted the attitudes and pride that he did, tells me he is an abuser. He only found more entrapped, more powerless prey the 4th time around, and most likely had a child with wife number 4 to ensure she’s stuck. That’s not wholesome character reform, but a more polished predator who entrapped a more powerless victim the 4th time around. Maybe she’s held there by threats of murder and threats of murdering the child/children. Maybe he has so thoroughly brainwashed her and beaten her down, she stays because he made it impossible to leave and thus to keep her pain and fear dampened, she pretends that Larry isn’t an evil abuser.

            Anyone who burns through 3 marriages and is so disinterested he cannot recall any counselors’ names, isn’t a good person. It’s like a cake. Once the batter is baked in the oven, there’s no longer a chance to put in forgotten ingredients. Larry was baked by 20 years of age, 25 max. Assuming he’s about 60 now and started counseling with Dr. Simon at 40 or so, his cake was long ago baked. So telling with the blaming of the 3 ex-wives and Dr. Simon not picking up on that or a number of other things as being serious red flags. Abusers are abusers are abusers. They only stop being abusers when they die.

            How does Dr. Simon know what Larry did all the other hours of his life when not in session? How does he know how Larry actually treated women? How does he know how well Larry treated wife number 4? Has he evaluated wife number 4? Is Larry ensuring wife number 4 speaks only glowingly about him? That’s what almost ever abuser requires of his victim. Always make the abuser look and sound good.

            I don’t buy it. Although perhaps the technique will be somewhat helpful to victims.

            4 wives. To all the women out there, do not date any man who has 3 ex-wives. It will NOT go well. It will NOT end well.

          2. Dissenter, I am sad. Sad because you often make such valid points and have a lot to offer the readers with your comments. But you make conjectures here that are simply not founded, especially when you consider that much information about this “case” has been omitted and/or altered, and that the presentation is designed purely for illustrative purposes about how some folks, even folks with various levels and types of character dysfunction can use the methods I describe. And as has been the case before, you make some sweeping generalizations that may fit your experience and may well describe CD folks at the more disturbed end of the spectrum but are simply not fully accurate. I urge you to make your comments more mindfully, to avoid the intensity and certainty with which you appear to chastise and the only cursory read you appear to give the posts sometimes. It’s hard for me to imagine how you read this post with any openness and still believe I did not “pick up” on the blaming of ex-wives as a principal responsibility-avoidance matter with “Larry.” It’s the very reason I made sure to include it in the “story.” Perhaps a re-read with a different mindset would help. And there are several other issues in your comments that I have concerns about but which I don’t feel are best addressed in this forum. So let me appeal once more but more directly: please be more mindful, less quick to overgeneralize, less insistent about finding fault, and less ready to urge the readers to disregard my comments and heed your wisdom instead. The blog is full of articles, many of which talk about the intractibility of more seriously disturbed folks and the folly expecting change or buying into traditional notions that historically have only disadvantaged. Sometimes an article seems to push a button with you. And I empathize with the trauma that must be behind that. But I’m hoping you’ll heed my plea to be more cautious, mindful, and certainly less intense and certain in your casting of me and my expertise as simply wrong, inasmuch as it’s not the first time I’ve asked. You bring much to the forum. And if you have big issues with me or what you think is my misguided perpective or impoverished expertise, best to address that with me directly, using the contact feature. Again, thanks!

          3. Grace, indeed some folks who’ve come to see me were far more about the game of impression-managment than they were about the work of real change. And of course, there have been some, at the far end of the spectrum, for whom any kind of attempted empathy-enhancing counseling only risked making them smarter, more dangerous predators. But the character disturbance spectrum is broad. And the example I gave is deliberately vague on detail, as it’s only meant to illustrate how the methods I describe can work for those interested in change. I mention this in my reply to Dissenter as well.

          4. Okay, Dr. Simon. I just comment as I see it. My opinion is all it is.

            In case it’s not clear, I do value your expertise on most things. I read your blog with great interest. I think it’s fantastic that readers have the ability to comment and support one another via your blog. You could turn the comments off but you don’t .

            I was clearly triggered by the thought of vulnerable, desperate, abused women reading about 4 times to the altar, son of a wifebeater, “Larry” who has magically reformed after seeing you for counseling and thus is now happily married and such a darling husband he’s been with the last one for 20 years.

            No disclaimer is made. No warning is made. No little, “hey women, this case with “Larry” is exceptionally rare and is so uncommon you should consider it not applicable to you and your situation with your CD guy”. Desperate, in pain, abused women are going to read your Larry piece and get all sorts of false hope that their CD-man can change too and be a Larry as well.

            Not only my experiences but the experiences of probably 50 or more other abused women’s experiences inform my opinions. Abusers don’t change. They just don’t.

            You use Larry as an example of someone down on the milder end of the CD spectrum and yet he burned through 3 marriages and then took a 4th.

            Imagine if you had a daughter and she came home with “Johnny” who is looking to make your darling daughter wife number 4. You meet Johnny’s parents at the wedding dress rehearsal and see Johnny’s dad is a wifebeater and Jimmy’s mom is a clearly battered wife who has, long ago, had the will to live beaten out of her. Aren’t you going to try and have a talk with your darling daughter to not go through marrying Johnny and to find someone else, someone much more likely to be a good husband and give her a great, blissfully married life?

            I am for the women. I don’t want women being hopeful about their CD guy because they’re only wife number 3 and Larry married 4 and turned out okay by the 4th time around.

            I don’t discredit your expertise aside from dissenting every now and then for fear of vulnerable, desperate women reading and getting all hopeful about some abuser man in their life ceasing to be their abuser.

            And I’d give a more nuanced opinion or speak less forcefully if I knew how. Yes, I’m profoundly traumatized. But I also know abusers and have heard or read about probably 50-75 abused women telling of their lives. I’ve lived it myself. Abusers don’t change. They just don’t. They don’t stop being abusers.

            And I was wrong about saying you didn’t pick up on the shadiness of Larry claiming 3 wives were the problem, not him. As you said, that’s why you included such a relevant tidbit of info. Thanks for pointing that out. But it felt like you pussy-footed around with Larry about it and thus entertained his delusion and lie that it was his ex-wives’ fault, not his and perhaps he could at least concede that he at least had faulty selection skills then.

            Larry sounds like someone I’d never want my loved ones to marry. If a daughter of yours was thinking of marrying Larry and becoming his 4th wife, I suspect you’d caution her to not roll the dice and chance it with a thrice-divorced guy who prides himself on being in control.

            All in all, I’m glad you shared those techniques as I’ll try to employ them. I love reading your blog. But I also know abusers don’t change. Men who abuse women do not stop. They don’t see women as equal, fellow human beings. They are not husband material or even boyfriend material. Better for women to not take the chance. And it is very important to see how a prospective man’s father/stepdad and uncles and grandfather treat their wives or girlfriends.

            Marriage already benefits men more than women. And I don’t want any women being encouraged about a 4-time husband “Larry” the supposed reformed CD guy.

          5. I’ve been thinking, and it’s your blog, not mine, so who am I to be dissenting?

            And I did reread my comments and whoo! they are strongly worded and not carefully written either. Sorry about that.

            I just really care about women and they are eaten up and spit out by abusers every day, destroyed in a myriad of ways, and I want to encourage all women to not have any hope in their men reforming for the better and to run away from men who’ve divorced three or more times. Run away from CD-men. It’s not your job to fix them. They almost invariably won’t change. And your life will be surely damaged if you don’t treat them as though they are wild animals, dangerous animals, looking to devour you.

            Big cats don’t make good housepets and abusers don’t make good husbands, even if they have independently sought help and dug deep and done years’ worth of extremely hard work to reduce their abusiveness. Run away ladies. Marriage is probably one of the most defining decisions in a woman’s life and don’t chance it with Larrys, who may or may not have changed as the risk is too great.

            And now, I’m going to shut up and see if I can’t stop commenting, especially as I seem to only critique. Sorry again.

          6. I only ask that you be mindful. And I especially appreciate your insight into the moniker you have chosen and what it must mean. I hope you might consider changing it. I also empathize with the trauma likely to be underneath your passion, and I appreciate your concern for the welfare of the many survivors out there who come to this site and who seek out my books and expertise for support and resources. Just be more mindful. The stories are deliberately and sometimes significantly altered in their details. Sometimes, the men depicted are actually women. And sometimes the nature of formation-influencing trauma is different, too. “Larry” could just have easily been “Mary” whose trauma had to do with early sexual awakening at the hands of an abusive uncle who helped set her on a pattern finding her only value in being someone’s sexual object of desire and ruining 5 marriages with serial infidelity.

            Just be careful. That’s all I ask. Watch out for the sweeping generalizations. The CD spectrum is very wide in our character-impaired times, and for a lot of reasons. This blog is meant to be a resource for all – victims and those finally chosing to grow as well.


          7. I meant dissenter in terms of protesting, disagreeing. NOT the second part of the following.

            Wikipedia: “A dissenter is one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, and, by extension, Ireland, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the established church or any other kind of Protestant who refuses to recognize the supremacy of the established church in areas where the established church is or was Anglican.”

            From now on I’ll be Women Unite! in an encouragement for the women of the world to band together in solidarity with other women, as women still are second-class citizens, and seen as sub-human by a large amount of men.

            Thus, women need to stick up for and support other women and reject male control and male domination.

            You’re a man, so it’s hard for you to see your privilege and you also don’t want to rag on your own sex, thus you try to present the ‘women can be abusers and adulterers too’ kind of fake-fairness, as DV isn’t gender neutral but rather predominantly men perps and women victims. Same with so much other abuse. Same with the great disparity of male cheaters versus women. Research proves it. Ashley Madison leaks proved that. Practically the only females on the site were computer generated, yet millions of married men were looking to have affairs. I tire of the “not all men!” and “women do it, too!” fake-fairness cries. Doth protest too much. DV is largely wifebeating. Adultery is largely men cheating. Exceptions don’t disprove the rule.

          8. Dr. Simon knows his stuff. I’ve been very triggered and thus pretty outrageous in my comments. Awful!!

            Thankfully, Dr. Simon didn’t stomp on me in his response and was nice about things.

            I see the light. And I’m all about the three-step process for change. If Larry could become a better human being, surely there is hope for me to become less awful when triggered!

            It’s really sad how abusers mangle their victims and force them to live out profoundly traumatized, wholly damaged, mangled, triggered lives.

            Anyhow, Dr. Simon knows his stuff, is a professional, and is more than competent. Just look how excellently he handled me and my outrageousness without stomping on me!

  2. Dr. Simon,
    I have read your books and I have been following your work for awhile now, and recently there has been tragic news of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, Canada by a wealthy successful man who worked as a denturist. Investigation is on-going, but no one can determine the motive behind such a senseless act of violence. As Canadians, we are left devastated and mortified over what has happened.

    Could you write on mass shooters and mass shootings and the thinking and psychology behind why they may have done what they did? Why would a seemingly normal person with wealth and success commit a mass shooting? What may have triggered him?

    There are many who are emphasizing the importance of resources for mental health, however can these acts of violence be traced back to character disturbance?

    While authorities, media and society are talking about gun control, will we ever be able to be informed enough as a society as a whole to address the real root of the problem and stop pointing the finger and blame elsewhere and everywhere, but the real problem in our country?

    1. Plain and simple, it’s about evil, not mental health. The root of the problem is evil. Gun control works for the law abiding. Criminals don’t exactly follow the law, so gun control is a big waste of time. There are too many weapons already out there. Kind of like once you’ve flooded an area, pretty hard to undo it.

      Would you prefer stabbings instead of shootings? Acid attacks instead of shootings? Evil is the root. Weaponry may change, but evil is the root cause. Nothing about mental health. Although, some school shooters are bullied kids who funnel their oppressed, humiliated, powerless rage into one last act to assert oneself. Again, the bullies who drive some kid to snap and become a school shooter in one last act of supposed manliness, has to do with masculinity culture, and also the bullies that pushed the kid into snapping and aggressing outward. Other victims suicide.

      People are clueless about what the real problem is? It’s evil. Pure and simple.

    2. Sad news, indeed, Lyn. And I will definitely ponder this carefully. I actually talk about such things in my professional workshops and have written some articles on the topic for some other blogs. I’ll have to give it a whole lot of consideration, however, before I write anything. These days, for various reasons, it’s almost impossible to have an open, loving, sincerely truth-seeking discussion about anything because so many folks come to the table already intrenched not only in a viewpoint but sadly in the perceived superiority of the point of view they have adopted. Fear blocks openness. One thing I can tell you is that while all of the various explanations I’ve heard offered have some merit, they have all been around for many ages. What seems to be very different today is that for some reasons people increasingly act on urges no one would have thought even thinkable several decades ago. I think I might focus on that in an article.

      1. Hi,
        I heard your interview talking about the cultural shift – increasingly permissive society where terrible behaviour is publicized, permitted, encouraged – in politics and culture. Very interesting discussion – what’s driving that. I’d never say “violent films/video games are to blame” but an example of something where the medium is both informed by and informs the culture, and both just get more and more extreme until something happens to drive the change. Why are we being encouraged to condone unhinged violent behaviour? – I can think of about 10 netflix shows off the top of my head where there are central characters who behave pscyhotically but that we’re encouraged to admire.
        Increasingly sensationalist and monopolized news empires with their own agendas can’t help.
        I wonder about the rise of the internet and social media too. What might have been fringe, contained behaviour 50 years ago people can easily connect with each other online, that feeds it. I would be amazed if the Canada shooter’s internet search history didn’t give at least some clues. They usually do!
        To the comment about gun control being a waste of time. I understand your argument that the genie is out of the bottle but you have to start somewhere. In countries where there are less guns there are less mass shootings. Countries like the US/Canada must drastically cut the amount of guns being manufactured, used, in circulation. It won’t happen overnight but if you (citizens in countries where this happens) want mass shootings to stop you can’t let this continue, you can only do that by changing the legislation and the culture. The argument about the weaponry used – yes, the weapon in question IS relevant actually, though not the root cause. Lone person with a knife can do a certain amount of damage before taken down but nothing like what guns or other such weapons can. Unfortunately the gun lobbies as I understand it are incredibly powerful so not an easy fight but has to happen. It is absolutely unreal to see protesters in US out on the streets protesting restrictions to pandemic measures (what the hell) ….taking their GUNS with them>! What? Unbelievable. Unfathomable that’s permitted and encouraged (think US president commends it?). Scary. Now, why do you think Trump and his supporters might encourage that kind of behaviour? Who benefits?

        1. Oh. I just read the details of the Canada shooting. The shooter’s history: aggressive loan shark, calculating, tried to repossess his uncle’s house, charged with assaulting a minor. One of the people whose house he repossessed by lying about payments described him as “smiling”, enjoying screwing him over. Neighbours and friends are reportedly shocked, as by their accounts he was a nice helpful guy.

          So. History of predatory behaviour, calculating, violent past, public facing image that is the opposite of this. Fits the type of disordered characters described on this site.

          Not sure what to make about his reported interest (collecting memorabilia) with the canadian police – was he rejected by them in some way? – but sure this will come out.

        2. Sure, knives have their limitations. But bombs do a lot of damage. Ex-army guy proved that with the Oklahoma City bombing. The problem is that so many guns have been manufactured and sold for far too long. There are too many assault rifles already out there. Would be nice to put a stop to additional military-style assault rifles being sold, but there’s so many out there already, one shouldn’t feel too safe. If severely punished, with say a minimum 20 year prison term, for anyone who doesn’t turn in their assault rifles to the government (for cash) after a period of 1 year, then perhaps you might have a better regulatory effect.

          Where there is a will, there is a way. Evil will find a way. The guy wanted to go out with a bang. Make his name known. Have a blaze of “glory”. Pure speculation on my part, having glanced at one article saying he’d purchased the old cop vehicles at an auction years ago. So it suggests long-term plotting, planning.

          The internet does help people to connect with and learn about others similar to them. Incels feed off of each other like any other hate group.

          People aren’t ever going to stop being evil. I’m not sure why people seek to understand a particular criminal’s motivations. Doesn’t prevent the next one from happening.

          The practice of auctioning off police vehicles to the general public ought to be stopped. He isn’t the first to have bought one and then impersonated the police. Multiple men come to mind that impersonated cops, pulling over motorists. One targeted women. Wanted to sexually assault them. Another doing it as a power trip, and he was caught/stopped when he happened to pull over an off-duty cop.

          My views are not superior. They are my opinions. Everyone gets to have one.

  3. Dr.Simon I feel like such a failure.I have read books, your videos. I thought I had succeeded. I got out of situation that involved a malignent, ugly person. I met someone that I believed to be a friend, my best friend. I moved in with him bringing my autistic son. He slowly is that milignent, ugly person. I left I am called names in front, of my son and the smallest thing that sets him off. If I defend myself I am the problem. I am stuck with no options financially. I have no friends to talk..if i did I would be too ashamed. I am not close to my family either. I swear I am not playing the victim do not want to be one. If this virus took me today. I would not be sad. I think my son would be better off

    1. I’m thinking this is not the proper forum to respond. But if there’s something you’d like to consult with me about, feel free to contact me through the contact feature on the contact page.

  4. Dear Dr Simon,
    I want to encourage you. Your blog is so fantastic and I’ve read all your books. I’m now (unfortunately) an expert in dealing with difficult people. My husband is character disturbed and thanks to you I’ve got his number. I enact your advice everyday and for this I give myself a pat on the back. God bless you.

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