I’ve been posting a series of articles on the ways persons with disturbed characters tend to think. Prior posts have addressed their penchants for egocentric thinking and possessive thinking. (See: Egocentric Thinking and The Possessive Thinking of the Disturbed Character). Disordered characters also tend to perceive things in terms of black-and-white or all-or-none. They might take the position that if they can’t have everything they ask for, they won’t accept anything at all. If someone doesn’t agree with everything they say, they will frame it as not being valued or listened to in any way. If they don’t see themselves as completely on top of a situation and in total control, they will cast their circumstance as being on the bottom and the victim of someone else’s oppression.
This all-or-none and black-and-white type of thinking is what prompts the disordered character’s behavior of carrying things to extremes. In other words, extreme thinking leads to extreme behaviors. Such thinking interferes with a person’s ability to develop any sense of moderation. It also promotes an uncompromising attitude that causes untold problems and fosters abusive, controlling relationships.
Now, extreme thinking is not the same as the manipulation tactic of deliberate exaggeration. Sometimes disturbed characters deliberately make mountains out of molehills in a manipulative attempt to make others feel guilty or to cave in to their demands. Rather, extreme thinking is a mindset reflecting an unwillingness to compromise, find middle ground, or develop any sense of balance. It’s rooted in an inherent stubbornness, inflexibility, and extraordinary demandingness. It’s also a hallmark feature of the disturbed character that this ridigness is mostly applied to expectations from others. Disturbed characters rarely place the same demands on themselves that they do for others.
Dealing with individuals prone to extreme thinking can be truly exasperating. You try to reach some amicable middle ground with them, but it’s next to impossible. Somehow you always end up feeling like they’re saying: “It’s my way or the highway.” There’s no room for negotiation or compromise, and it leaves you feeling like there’s no way to win. The aggressive personalities (See: Aggressive Personalities) are among the most prone to display this kind of thinking error.
Extreme thinking and the uncompromising attitude promoted by it are at the root of the obstinate and unyielding behaviors disturbed characters display that can easily decimate a relationship. A person who thinks in extremes will not be prone to give ground, and giving some ground is essential to reaching compromises in life’s many conflicts.
In any kind of attempt at counseling the disturbed character, extreme thinking needs to be challenged directly and openly. The purpose of this is not to get the disturbed character to “see” what he’s doing (he already “sees”), but to challenge him to find a more balanced perspective.