True “acting out” is the expression through actions of an emotional conflict a person can’t consciously own. Unfortunately, these days, even professionals erroneously use the term to describe all sorts of misbehavior. But most of the time, “acting-up” is NOT acting-out.
Narcissists love only themselves and all those things they see as “extensions” of themselves.
Harboring antiquated notions about who they are and how they got to be that way is exactly what leads people to get into relationships with narcissists, despite warning signs, and to remain in those relationships despite suffering emotional abuse and neglect at their hands.
Disturbed and disordered characters are often so married to their ways of seeing and doing things that they can’t give due consideration to other perspectives. They’re usually aware of how others want them to see and do things, but they’re also opposed. Naturally, this creates problems in their relationships.
The question of “awareness” is inherently confusing, partly because our understanding of it has been heavily influenced historically by traditional notions about the unconscious mind, and public acceptance of the idea that most human behavior is motivated by factors mostly outside of a person’s conscious awareness. But as most people who have been involved with a disturbed character already know, a person can be fully conscious of their behavior and motivations yet not necessarily particularly mindful, attentive, thoughtful, or considerate. And that’s perhaps at least in part why there always seems to be such debate about how “aware” disturbed character’s really are.
When the person in a relationship with you has a full blown Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder (PAPD), life with them can be a real nightmare. Why? Because it’s so hard to simply disengage with them when they’re doing their negativistic, whining, petulant, and vacillating “thing.” Tell them to simply go and do the shopping they said they really needed to do instead of whining that you’d rather go out to dinner and they’ll immediately retort that you just don’t want to be with them. Tell them that you’d love to have dinner if that’s what they’d prefer and they can do the shopping later and they’ll complain that you’re just saying that to make them feel better. There is never any “win” with them – only negativistic, vacillating, entanglements. You want to stay out of the traps, but they’re so easy to get into and awfully hard to get out of.
On balance, folks with obsessive-compulsive or passive-aggressive personalities tend to be more neurotic than character-impaired, especially if they don’t have other troubling characteristics in their personality structure clouding the picture.
Most personality styles are adaptive in the sense that they draw upon the person’s natural inclinations as well as their learned experience to form a distinctive and functional “strategy” on how to deal with life’s challenges, get one’s needs met, and prosper. But sometimes one’s distinctive way of coping can, in and of itself, present big problems.
Legitimate, genuine, potentially lasting change – always manifests itself in the here-and-now moment.
Traditional frameworks can be not only ineffective but also frighteningly enabling sometimes when it comes to understanding and dealing with character dysfunction.