Wising Up To Character Disturbances . . . And My Own Struggles
Some of you may have read my posts that speak of facing up to the giants in my life. I have a distinct and strong belief that we must face all the little nudges of our hearts . . . all the question marks. Whenever I react strongly, I ask myself “why?” and then take steps to remedy the issue. I am 100 percent FOR change and healing. I want to be restored and I will do my part. I am grateful for a brother or sister who will lovingly point out an old habit, a lie I may believe about myself or others, or perhaps a reason for why a dark shadow is still hanging out in my heart and mind. This week, my “aha! moment” came through reading Dr. George Simon’s book, Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age [*Affiliate link].
Dr. Simon lays a hefty foundation straightaway regarding the differences between a neurotic person and a character-disturbed person. A neurotic person is marked by anxiety, worry, fear and (often) has abandonment issues. There is a lot of insecurity in a person who struggles with neurosis. And, usually, the deeply-imbedded insecurity is largely unknown to a person who is neurotic. A disturbed character, on quite the other hand, does not seem to even have much of a conscience. He just takes what he wants and has no qualms about stepping all over others. Anxiety is absent all together. Writes Simon:
Character-disordered individuals are notoriously nonchalant about the things that upset most other people. . . . They don’t get apprehensive enough about their circumstances or their conduct. They’re not unnerved enough at the prospect of conflict, and they readily leap into risky situations when others would hesitate. (Loc 247)
Can you imagine? It seems Character-disordered individuals see . . . and conquer. They must have the upper-hand. Ironically, if they are called out on their behavior, they play a “pity card”. I thought for YEARS that my ex husband’s behavior was due to his own abusive upbringing . . . that he was just hurting over his father-issues . . . perhaps, he was just THAT insecure that he needed to bully others. He loved when I bought into that baloney.
It is common for a neurotic person to ask themselves, “Why do I feel this way? Why am I so afraid?” Conversely, the disordered person is “fully conscious of his problem behaviors. He not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but also is fully aware of his motivations for doing it.” (Loc 316)
When I took the leap from the page over into my own heart, what I found was disturbing. Although the neurotic person is rare these days (due to a general cultural attitude of entitlement), I fall directly into that category. Or, at least, I used to. I still have tendencies of being easily discouraged, a bit anxious and over-conscientious. However, two years ago, I was a full-blown, purebred neurotic. (sniff) And my ex was (is still?) a disordered character. It was a perfect storm. And he knew it. Read this:
They [character-disordered individuals] know very well how neurotics tend to think. They know the attitudes neurotics hold, and the naiveties that make them vulnerable to tactics of manipulation and impression management. They often know the neurotics in their lives better than those neurotics know themselves. (Loc. 340)
That scared me. This was the scenario in which I found myself.
The abuse was his fault. However, I recognize that every relationship I had was unhealthy because every relationship was driven by my fear: Fear of failure; fear of abandonment; fear of rejection; fear of repercussion. That was me. And the ongoing emotional manipulation took a 20-something, somewhat insecure girl who had just experienced loss . . . and plunged her down, feeding on her neurosis . . . until she was a complete wreck. Sometimes I wonder if he thought I would ever escape. Surely, he didn’t.
According to Dr. Simon (and common wisdom), the best way to overcome a fear is to face it. If one is afraid of snakes, go check them out at a local petting zoo. Fear of the dark? Plant yourself in a dark room every night until you recognize that nothing is going to happen to you. Fear of abandonment . . . that was my greatest neuroticizing, paralyzing fear. My parents died when I was too young. My family controlled me with their disdain or jealousy or hatred or whatever it was. I was never good enough for my ex and his family. And, when I left . . . guess what happened? I was completely abandoned by all of them. Crazy thing is . . . I survived it.
I asked Jeff Crippen once, how you get thick-skinned. I desperately did not want to freak out when someone was rejecting me . . . which happened for a good 18 months after I left my ex. Jeff said, “God just does it.” And, it is true. I survived rejection from 80% of those in my circles. And . .. I’m still living. In fact, I’m thriving. A chunk of that neurosis just recently fell off.
Like so many of our readers, I am still on the path to healing and understanding. Reading this book has brought a great deal of awareness to why I have allowed myself to be in positions of subservience. . . why I have allowed myself to be pushed down . . . or held back. There is simply no reason for it. There really isn’t. God has given me and you and all of us the tools and characteristics that help make a Body strong. Saying it is easy; learning to bloom is not. I wonder how many of our readers might find themselves in the pages of George Simon’s book. Or in the descriptions above. Hopefully, I am not alone. ‘Cause I don’t want to feel abandoned here.
Just kidding. 🙂