This article is part of a series of articles the thinking patterns common to individuals with disturbed or disordered characters (see “What Were They Thinking?” and “What Were They Thinking – Pt. 2”). We’ve already discussed Egocentric Thinking. The next distorted thinking pattern we’ll be talking about is possessive thinking. Disordered characters tend to view those that they have any kind of relationship with as possessions that they have rightful claim over and with whom they should be able to do as they please. This type of thinking most often accompanies a tendency to “objectify” others (i.e., view them as mere objects or pawns to manipulate, as opposed to individuals of dignity with whom one has to form a mutually respectful relationship). Possessive thinking also frequently accompanies “heartless thinking” in which no empathy is felt for the need or concerns of others.
Habitual possessive thinking promotes a dehumanizing attitude toward others. When the disturbed character views others as primarily an object of pleasure, a vehicle to get something he wants, or a potential obstacle in the way of something he desires, it becomes almost impossible for him to consider them as persons with rights, needs, boundaries, or desires of their own. Viewing others as objects or possessions also makes it virtually impossible to acknowledge them as individuals of independent worth.
I’ve counseled many disturbed characters over the years. All too frequently, they reacted with extreme malice when the person with whom they had a possessive relationship tried to declare emotional independence. Sometimes, there were disastrous consequences when they decided that if they couldn’t possess their partner, then no one else could. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the way we think is a big factor in how we act. One of the biggest reasons why disturbed characters form relationships frequently characterized by various forms of abuse and exploitation is because they think of others as objects to possess.
24 thoughts on “The Possessive Thinking of the Disturbed Character”
I personally experienced and encounter person with disturbed character, and as I’ve read this topic I completely understand the way they do in my personality.Thanks Doc for being a very talented psychiatrist.
I have the book In Sheep’s Clothing and found it helpful and informative. I like trying to understand myself and other people, and learn more about what we are doing and why. The most confusing part for me is that so many traits of the different disorders seem to overlap. For example, if one that has possessive thinking and makes objects of people, then could he/she be a psychopath? I have a friend who has displayed some very disturbed behavior towards another friend, and I want to identify what her problem is, and how to advise my other friend, the object of the first friend’s obsession, how to respond. There’s a lot of manipulation happening and I want to be able to help my friend. I haven’t thought about possessiveness in the way you described here, but I think that is definitely going on with my friend. I find it fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I think I have been the object possessed, at one point in my life. It was hard to get away but I did it.
Yes, it can be confusing when traits/characteristics overlap. All the “aggressive personalities” have much in common with one another, and share many features of the narcissistic personality as well. But “character disturbed” individuals, whatever their personality patterns, have much more in common with one another than they have differences. And manipulation is just one of the many dysfunctional behaviors disturbed characters engage in. My new book “Character Disturbance” explains this in more detail.
I’ll be posting more material from the new book in coming weeks.
I just ended an internet friendship with a man I was chatting with for close to two months. In the beginning of the friendship, all was good and dandy but as we went along I noticed his “strange” demanding expectations from me! I was like what! And I don’t even know this man!! He showed his true colors when he questioned everything I said and did, accused me of “not loving him” duhhh! I don’t even know you!! (is what I constantly said to myself). Finally, we ended in bouts of shouts which he began (and I reacted). Did not take me too long to figure out I was chatting with “CHATTING WITH THE ENEMY”. I eliminated him from my list. So!! Take note people–read the signs, they are loud and very clear! Thanks for this posting-great help for those of us seeking wisdom.
Additionally, I feel very much at ease I don’t speak with that individual anymore. Thanks Dr. Simon for your page.
I stumbled upon this site because of problems in a group of friends. This a group made up of fairly mature people. Everyone is over 45 but not older than 55. One member of the group exhibits narcissistic traits and is extremely possessive of group members. She is also abusive to people outside the group and tries to characterize people she wants to abuse as a threat or someone who is unworthy of friendship. I formed a very close friendship with C. R (possessive) noticed the that we were growing closer and started to question C. When C and I spent time together at a movie or whatever. If we mentioned it to R she would try to make us feel bad about having fun together, especially C. We all liked hanging together so we tried to overlook mild abuse from R. We were all going through family loss (parents, partners, cancers, caretaking of family and liked the support we gave each other). R acted caring and supportive at first but then became critical of others in a very negative and demeaning way but yet sought support for her issues. She would lend money to someone in a jam but then publicize that they owed her. I have left the group. I don’t consider R to be a true friend and I am able to socialize with other group members if and when I want. C is undecided but very uncomfortable with the possessiveness that R is showing. A few of the others need R financially and so they tolerate the abuse and interferance and go along with her. I don’t understand how some of them can go along with an abuser posing as a friend and not call R on her behavior. I have pointed out the problems I have with R. to her and she shuns me but knows to mind her manners. What makes people tolerate that kind of behavior?
I must admit that I stayed in that group to long because of my friendship with C. The friendship suffered but we have agreed to not include R in our activities. C has started to move away from that relationship but there is a sense of security in it for her. We were all close at one time so this has been painful.
actually um reali confused if he is having this possesive personality disorder..as he cares for my family n if i say that hes acting too much or if hes making a little problem big he’ll put the blame on him n becomes sad n he always says that he needs my love as he is having a big disease n no one knows abt it excluding us..so when ever i tell him that he is being too negative he says that i dont understand his situation he is really worried abt his disease n he is not able to get the disease thing out of his mind..and he always calls me he feels lonely all the time..he dnt like me making my frnds closer to me than him..he wants to be the most special person 4me than my family also..n he is always concerned if i really miss him o not..i dont want breakup..i want to continue with him..is he really being too possesive or is he normal?? if not i really need help to make him normal as i have tried a lot to make our relation really nice by giving my love n doing what ever he told me to do..even i am not allowed to login in to facebook as i might get closer to my friends..if i have to talk to my younger brother who is now been separated from me i have to sign in to facebook with his account n b4 loginout i have to deactivate it as he wants our IDs to be deactivated..but he really loves me he makes me happy n laugh..he is sometimes really childish n really cute but i dnt knw why we have so many issues if i go against him it becomes worse but he never hit me or tell bad things he just blame that i dont love him but if i agree with him and talk to him with so much love then the problem is solved :O i really need help 🙁
Actually, I’m really confused. If he has a personality disorder, it’s hard to put the blame on him. If I tell him he is being too negative, he will say that I don’t understand his situation and that he is only really worried about us. He always calls me all the time saying he feels lonely. But he doesn’t like me making any friends or getting anyone close to me other than him. He wants to be the most special person to me, even more than my family, and he’s always acting concerned about whether I really miss him enough or not. I don’t want to break up but I also don’t really know if he’s being too possesive or he is normal. If he’s not normal, I really need help to make him normal. I want to talk to my younger brother who is separated from me on Facebook but he wants me to deactivate my account. He wants us to have the same account ID. I think he really loves me and he makes me happy and laugh. Sometimes he is really childish and can also be really cute. But I also need friends and family. If I go against him it only makes things worse. He’s never hit me or said really bad things to me, he just blames me for not loving him enough if I don’t agree with him all the time. I really need help. 🙁 🙁
Sounds soooooooo familiar Lovely. It sounds to me, after I have read both of dear Dr. Simons books and many of the articles on this web site, like he wants to possess you and isolate you so he can be in control of the situation= you. I am just waking up from an almost two year relationship with a man who could be the poster child for Dr Simons work. Everything of his I’ve read, and I mean EVERYthing, is just another piece of what has been a puzzle to me. Nightmare!!!! This guy made me VERY happy in some ways. Made me laugh? He was a riot!!!! He wanted to be together all the time, was very affectionate, BUT…. That was all the sheepskin clothing, the rest was ugly and I mean UGLY!
Listen to your gut…..I wish I would have earlier.
Your uncomfortable feelings and sensing that something is wrong…are true and valid. But the situation is far more dangerous to your future well-being than you can imagine.
You’re in a relationship with a man who is in the beginning stages of victimizing you. He is setting you up, and planning on taking full control at some point. After that happens, you will be subjected to full blown, vicious and sadistic cruelty, from which it will be difficult to escape.
To quote you: “He’s never hit me or said really bad things to me”
This behavior would tip you off to his true character before he’s had a chance to get you fully committed and tied to him. But have no doubts: You will be subjected to all that and more AFTER he’s got the power.
I am the adult daughter/survivor of a psychopathic father.
The very tactics my father used on my mother while they were dating are now being used on you. The possessiveness… the attempts to distance you from friends and family members (i.e. your brother)… the incremental steps he is taking to police all your interactions with others (i.e. Facebook)… playing on your sympathetic nature to feel sorry for him and his problems…making you feel responsible for him (i.e. asking for “help to make him normal”)…
You cannot make him normal. He does not want to be normal. In fact, your desire to help him is a symptom that you are already falling under his spell, and sinking deeper into the trap.
Don’t be fooled by a few good times he currently allows you to have, his “childish and cute” manner, making you laugh.
A good man who really loves a woman, a man worth having…doesn’t stalk her every activity and relationship…he doesn’t try to control who she is…doesn’t try to get the woman to pity him…doesn’t act childish…doesn’t make incessant demands for reassurance and loyalty…
You are deluding yourself into thinking he loves you. I beg you to wake up and see that you are being manipulated by a man of low character and sinister motives, who has nothing but degradation planned for you.
I saw what my father did to my beautiful, talented, sensitive and trusting mother. He almost destroyed her. By God’s grace she got away from him after many years of marriage and terrible suffering.
She thought he loved her too. In reality, he hated her without cause, and enjoyed her pain and trauma.
Lovely, you asked for help, and I’m giving it to you now. You know something is wrong, and you are so right. Please get away from that man now and move on to a better, safer life.
What you’ve written has described my relationship. I was with him for a long time. While he never did get physically violent (threatened it once), he does have a past history of it, and he could be pretty cruel at times (it only got worse). You have described him to a “T”! Amazing…it is just amazing to me that so many people can be described as being so much alike. I am now going through divorce, but I wanted to tell you that what you wrote really hit home!
I realize it’s been over two years since you’ve made your post, but if you haven’t gotten out already, please do so! Listen to your gut…it’s what more of us need to learn….hugs to you!!
Carol, I am touched by your kindness. I hope Lovely sees your words. I too came from a family ruined by — well, not quite a P, but a serious narcissist manipulator, malevolent liar, etc. My mother finally did get away… via exiting this sweet old earth. Your mom was luckier. Here’s a virtual hug from one sufferer to another. Here’s to our hard-acquired wisdom.
I been going through in a relationship having same kind of extreme possessive disorder. I am very stressed about this situation, I left all my friends and other people because of this but even then he always have a reason to create a problem, I am not allowed to go out of home , I have to send my location and screenshot of apps every 5 minutes and many other things that I can’t mention here, this all happens when we are away but when we a together he is like every other normal person I love him and want to help him to be a normal person… Do you have any idea how to deal with him?
Hang around here for a while. I’m sure someone will have an answer for you. My simplistic answer would be to plan to leave this man safely. And from what I’ve read he will be one to stalk you and perhaps even harm you if you leave.
But you did not ask how to leave. You asked how can you help him be a normal person and how to deal with him.
Do you want a “project” or do you want a safe, secure, “normal” life? He sounds like a project that you won’t have success with. He thinks he’s fine. It’s you who he wants to possess. It would be much healthier and successful for you to make the tough decisions that need to be made. And I’m sure you know what they are. We all do. It just takes courage to face it and accept it then take action.
And you say you love him and I’m sure you do. Does he give you the kind of love you need? Sounds like he creates hell in your life. You and none of us deserve the sick twisted abusive treatment these people throw at us.
You still have strength and sense so I believe it is time to act, before you are completely beaten down. You say your friends and others are out of your life because of him. I’ll bet they will be there for you once you get away from the Possessor. They may even give you a safe haven to turn to.
Keep posting. We all care and do understand. We’re all dealing with it.
Most of all, be safe and smart.
“Do you want a “project” or do you want a safe, secure, “normal” life?”
That sounds like bit extreme case. It is nothing like a bit of jealousy or possessiveness people may show.
Hang around here, and read blogs. Try to judge if his behavior is rooted in character disturbance or insecurity. Depending upon the situation, you may try to drag him to counseling session, or try to figure out depth of his character disturbance and leave him.
And, agree with others, you don’t want a life long project whatever the case may be.
I hope you stay for awhile like Lucy and Andy suggested. I don’t have time now but what you describe is not good and I repeat not good. Please keep posting and we will help if we can. I would suggest reading all you can on the subject.
Sara, read Dr. Simons post, at the end of the Topic Dr. Simon has a live radio program on Sunday nights. Dr. Simon encourages call ins and I think your question would be a very good one for Dr. Simon to comment on.
The above Topic sounds like what you are describing. Please post to the newest topic so you don’t get lost.
I don’t know how to start and how to say it. I know the fast that there is something wrong and it’s really wrong and normal because its not a partner that I am experiencing being manipalted and controlled by. Its not my fiance but its the father of my fiance. There are ao many issues that I already stopped counting that he asked me to do. I cannot post this in facebook, I cannot use IG, I cannot be friends with this people because they’re bad influence, I cannot even invite them on my own wedding. I have to do a video call every sat and sun. Chat when I get home and before going to work, my viber status should always be online. I should say I love you back to him when he says it otherwise that means I don’t care and love. And so many things to list down. I even created a journal of it since I was introduced to him by my fiance. Now, we are getting married in a few months and this makes me think twice. I know my fiance loves and he tried his best to solve the issue, he is even willing to be disowned by his father because he sees how I suffer with all the controlling and manipulation happening. But I love my fiance so much and vowed that we will go through it together. I even told him directly to see a doctor, he was adamant at first telling that he is totally fine. Until another issue came out, he is calling off the wedding which is fine with me. For some reason I felt relief. We were like that for so long. One day we’re okay another day we’re not. Then he talked to me, realized his son’s happiness that he could’ve ruined. Agreed we will all see a doctor and seek for help after the wedding. But he is still possesive. Which just happened. The reason why I ended up in this website. I dont know until when I can take this. I need help. We need help.
I really hope following statement is true “realized his son’s happiness that he could’ve ruined”
Usually people are well set in their ways, especially older people. So, many times when we think “he realized…”, but reality is “he wants another easy chance, so he can repeat…”.
I really have no idea what business a father or mother has in their adult child’s life except maybe staying in touch (a short phone call or two once in few days) and general chitchat over small lunch/dinner periodically.
Trust your gut feeling. It usually tells you more about hidden motive of other person that what other person is verbally trying to convince you.
Watch action, not words. Words are cheap.
Thanks Andy for the reply. I didn’t think someone will still care to respond on my comments as the comments above were months back. I’m still in search of advise on how to say NO to what he asks in a way would help him too at least lessen his possessiveness. I noticed whenever I say NO he just become more agressive and more possessive. I read one of the articles related to this that the person whose manipulative will get softer for some time, but the truth is theyre just looking for another chance to start with this behavior again. How can I do reverse psychology to his actions?
“he wants another easy chance, so he can repeat…”. Exactly as you said.
When you want to say NO. Just say NO. End of story. Sometime do not even bother saying NO, just do what you like… “Just do it” style. 😀
On a more serious note. “NO” doesn’t mean that you will do whatever you like without any regards to moral right & wrong or socially acceptable behavior. After factoring in right/wrong, you’ll just make your own decent choice which happen to go against others’ choices. There is nothing wrong in that. It is a matter of personal choice within reasonable limits.
The kind of things you have listed, not even a father will set so many rules for his own daughter, though a father may love to do so. And he is your father-in-law who probably did not know you till a year or two back! That is a red flag. You probably should at least postpone the marriage for sometime till you can make up your mind. One key difference between you and your fiance is that he spent all his life in that kind of environment. So, what you see as odd and controlling behavior may simply be very normal for him. If I happen to meet him, my only suggestion will be to leave his father by his own choice, not because his to-be-wife is suffering, as her suffering is her problem that she needs to address, and cutting off father for her sake is not the right way. And if your finance must, he must give warning to his father first, and later cut him off, instead of just telling you. Anyway what does “he is even willing to be disowned by his father” means, he is conceding the decision to his father! What for?
In my opinion, a manipulative person will progressively become worse over time, especially if target resists. It is nothing but natural that one will bare his teeth, if a frown is no longer working. Same frown that used to work earlier, when suggestions stopped working.
If a manipulative person appears to be getting softer over time, then most probably he has become more insidious. Most often a manipulative person will go harder over time, and will escalate all the way to mortal threats. And if he cannot pull that one real/empty threat off, only then he will go softer. Kind of a fall from cliff. Actually he will not go softer, he will just give you respect the way a warrior gives respect to another worthy warrior.
I will suggest that you read some more blogs here. Look up categories that interest you.
I looked for information about a man who has stalked me, is narcisstic and extremely paranoid individual. Your website was just what I thought about him. He sees me as his possession and feels he can take whatever liberties with me such as forced mouth kissing and petting even though I have told him no and resisted his fondling. What must I do to protect myself against this person? He comes along in group events he knows I will attend. I can cut myself out of all these gatherings but fear he will figure it out and escalate. Thank you for listening. He scares me.