We know that empathy capacity varies in human beings. But we also know that the mere capacity for empathy does not make a socially conscientious human being. Empathy must be nurtured. That’s often a very challenging task for individuals who lie somewhere on the character disturbance spectrum. And there’s mounting evidence that it’s most likely an impossible task for those at the extreme end of the spectrum.
The most disastrous relationships I’ve witnessed over the years all began with a “con” of some sort. Sometimes the deception was both knowing and deliberate but other times the wool was not so calculatingly pulled over the eventual victim’s eyes. There are times in all of our lives when we simply don’t trust our better judgment – when we won’t let ourselves see what we’re afraid to see – or when we simply can’t accept what seems too unsettling or unimaginable to believe.
There’s actually method to the “pathological liar’s” apparent madness, and once you understand why some people simply prefer to lie – even when the truth would do just as well, you’ll have a better idea of what goes on in the mind of life’s most manipulative and seriously disturbed characters.
Manipulative people are among the most skilled liars. As masters of deception, they know each and every little way to lie. Perhaps the biggest single reason their tactics of manipulation and control work is because their surface-level behaviors can easily have you believing one thing while underneath the surface something else is really going on.
Subscribing to traditional beliefs about human nature actually played a large role in how victims were lured into and subsequently remained in abusive relationships.
Shame, a sense of defeat, mounds of doubt, conflicting thoughts about blame, mistrust – all these emotions are par for the course for survivors of toxic relationships.
When it comes to understanding and dealing effectively with disturbed characters, it’s hard for helping professionals who still embrace traditional models of viewing human behavior to get things right. And those who’ve been in relationships with disturbed characters and sought help through counseling often ended up feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and not validated. Even worse, sometimes, the “monster” they dragged into therapy is so good at impression-management that the therapist appeared swayed. Seeing the disturbed character’s behaviors and tactics for what they really are is a prerequisite for facilitating real change.
A little anxiety or apprehension would go a long way toward inhibiting disturbed characters from doing that hurtful thing to their co-worker or saying that hateful thing to their partner. But alas, these folks are very different from neurotics in many ways, especially on the dimension of anxiety.
If you’re dealing with someone in your life who fits the description I offer of the disturbed character, despite the fact that you might feel tempted to believe otherwise, they’re probably quite aware of the behavior that’s driving you nuts.
Whether you happen to struggle with anxiety or you’re in a relationship with a difficult person, it’s important to recognize the vicious cycles that fuel your difficulties and commit to breaking them at their earliest, weakest point.