It is important to understand that emotionally imbalanced people are kind-hearted. Their imbalance is easily fixed whenever they become aware of it and commit to doing their homework— rewiring their subconscious program. Their style of interacting with their environment is predominantly influenced by their fears, insecurities, and the defenses they mount to protect themselves from any emotional pain. Their insecurities’ nature is healthy. They are coming from some pure willingness to be better human beings in all circumstances.
But, because they don’t know, in most cases, how to heal their emotional scars, unbecome the filter and reconnect again with this great original being they are craving so much— basically because of denial & lack of knowledge, they frequently feel bad about themselves; typically, when something reflects negatively on their character; being very connected to their “conscience”— the principles— even if it is not their center yet. Being empathetic people is also a main criterion involved in how they feel about themselves when screwing things up. Thus, they can be too quick to self-loathing
Most of the time, they are unable to process their feelings in a healthy way; simply because their self-talk comes from a place of shame, not guilt. I will not be able to explain the difference better or even closer to how the brilliant Brené Brown did:
“The difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” and “I did something bad.” Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad. For example, let’s say that you forgot that you made plans to meet a friend at noon for lunch. At 12:15 P.M., your friend calls from the restaurant to make sure you’re okay. If your self-talk is “I’m such an idiot. I’m a terrible friend and a total loser”—that’s shame. If, on the other hand, your self-talk is “I can’t believe I did that. What a crappy thing to do”—that’s guilt. Here’s what’s interesting—especially for those who automatically think, you should feel like a terrible friend! or A little shame will help you keep your act together next time. When we feel shame, we are most likely to protect ourselves by blaming something or someone, rationalizing our lapse, offering a disingenuous apology, or hiding out. Rather than apologizing, we blame our friend and rationalize forgetting: “I told you I was really busy. This wasn’t a good day for me.” Or we apologize half-heartedly and think to ourselves, Whatever. If she knew how busy I am, she’d be apologizing. Or we see who is calling and don’t answer the phone at all, and then when we finally can’t stop dodging our friend, we lie: “Didn’t you get my e-mail? I canceled in the morning. You should check your spam folder.” When we apologize for something we’ve done, make amends, or change a behavior that doesn’t align with our values, guilt—not shame—is most often the driving force. We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against our values and find they don’t match up. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but one that’s helpful. The psychological discomfort, something similar to cognitive dissonance, is what motivates meaningful change. Guilt is just as powerful as shame, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive.”
In a trial to regulate their moods and self-esteem level, emotionally imbalanced individuals engage in quick fixes such as positive affirmations mapping, exercise, food, hanging out with friends with a preference for shallow talks instead of real and vulnerable soul ones— pretty much any kind of instant gratification; you name it! In some cases, though, they can experience toxic and unwarranted levels of shame. Their psychological baggage could reach some extremely high levels. They could have been abused by character-disordered individuals for a long period of time (narcissistic parents or partners for instance). Their “defenses” mechanisms (i.e. denial) could become increasingly inadequate or begin to break down, letting the emotional pain underneath them rise to the surface. Consequently, they could experience some chronic and persistent depression; sometimes even commit suicide when it becomes impossible for them to cope with the seemingly unbearable pain…
What about the ‘Character Disturbance’?
Character-disturbed individuals are aware of what they are doing. Like for everything in psychology, the mental disorders are a spectrum. In the darkest extreme, shamelessness and guiltlessness are the main attributes. They don’t feel badly enough about themselves when they fail to measure up to reasonable expectations, and they don’t feel guilty enough when they do things hurtful or harmful to others. Their insecurities’ nature is unhealthy. It is not coming from their will to do better– since they are almost not connected to their conscience. The root cause is rather the constant phase-shift between their delusional grandiosity & entitlement and their reality & how the world is treating them.
Their guiltlessness explains how they can do the same hurtful thing over and over again, but they can be really embarrassed when uncovered or exposed. It is all about protecting the illusional image they create for themselves.
Saying they are ashamed of their behavior, at some point, is only a manipulative strategy. They make use of such a lie because they know their victim (an emotionally imbalanced person) is likely to find it plausible. With character-disordered manipulators, what we commonly perceive as unconscious defenses (e.g., denial) are more often deliberate tactics of impression-management and responsibility-avoidance.
Let’s explore together a real-life sample, shall we?
The depressed guy looking for some support
The guy is someone I barely know from high school. He contacted me to say “thank you” for the positive content I was posting on Facebook during the lockdown, how much it helped him since he was not feeling good lately. We talked for hours, and I openly shared my heart & mind as well as my articles—which he promised to start reading immediately— thinking he was really willing to help himself.
A while later, he came back to ask me about details which are already explained in my work. Every time, I was orienting him to where he can find his answers. But he obviously prefers taking advantage as all narcissists do. Unfortunately for him, he lied and said he was in the middle of his readings, while the answer to his question exists in the very first essay he was “supposed” to have read. I pointed it out openly. He apologized. His excuse every time was that he was not being himself and couldn’t really read. He promised (again) he would come back and talk to me only when he would be done.
The last time we talked, he said “hey, what’s up?”, to which I didn’t even pay attention. A few minutes later, he added “You were supposed to be present for the people who are in need of advice, no? Am I wrong? Anyway, that was supposed to be the new you that you bragged about!”.
He is using here two strategies: victimization and covert aggressiveness— the subtle, hard to detect, but yet deliberate, calculating, and underhanded tactic that manipulators use to intimidate, control, deceive and abuse others.
An ignorant person would feel bad for him even if he aggressed them and called them an imposter. His goal here is to gain power over me. Seeking the dominant or superior position in any relationship is such a standard pattern in all aggressive personalities.
When I saw his messages a while later, here was my answer: “Excuse-me! Alright, that was the most aggressive message I have received in a while. I will definitely not answer this. It is not even worth it. I can witness how foolish I was from the very beginning to spend hours talking to you while I don’t even know you, I’m not your therapist, and that I don’t owe you a thing. That was simply a generous choice you clearly can’t even understand. Best of luck anyway.”
So, now that his first strategies aren’t working as expected, and since he still wants to take advantage, he moves to a new technique. “Come on! You took it the wrong way. I just screwed up expressing myself. Sorry for real. I honestly didn’t mean to harm”
The first part of the message is a tactic we call ‘gaslighting’: making the person doubt their reality. An unconscious and good person would start questioning their reaction and whether it was not exaggerated, especially when the apology comes so quickly. That’s exactly the aim of the stratagem. He might have apologized; still, his apology was shallow, and he betrayed himself by saying the words “honestly” and “for real”.