It’s not me, it’s not happening, it’s not fair:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

What do you think of a person whose first instinct, whenever there is a problem, is to look for someone to blame it on, yell their head off, and then sit and do nothing to solve it? The person I refer to is a family member, I’ll call him Carl.

Carl also lets simple health problems go that could easily be solved if he made an effort. For instance, he had an impacted wisdom tooth for years and let it fester until his breath was so bad he actually got fired from a job because clients didn’t want to work with him. When he finally developed an abscess and needed emergency dental surgery, he felt much better and his breath stopped stinking. But did he learn? Nope. He has another minor problem now that he is also refusing to seek attention for.

His attitude about everything seems to be: I shouldn’t have to deal with this, so I won’t. His wife (my sister) is ready to divorce him. I feel bad for her, but nothing any of us does seems to make a difference. He gets up and leaves the room if you try to talk to him about any of this stuff.

I don’t get this. What suffers the most from his neglect is his own life- he can’t seem to get anywhere. But don’t suggest that he seek help- he’ll just snarl and ignore you.

What gives with people like this? And can anything change them?

Fed Up Fred

Dear Fred,

I have met many people who have this form of magical thinking. They don’t open their mail, somehow believing that as long as they do not open the mail, the bills just do not exist. This is the sort of thinking your friend is displaying.

Studies in behavioral economics have proven that humans are naturally irrational beings; some people are simply more irrational than others. Your friend is displaying a personality problem that has it’s roots in narcissism- it all revolves around “me,” and childlike magical thinking: if I ignore it, it doesn’t exist. These people are all about themselves. They have a strong need to be right, and in many ways they can be a challenge to live with.

There is nothing you can do directly, but Carl might listen to an authority figure (such as a doctor) if it is someone he likes and respects. Personality disorders are still amenable to pecking order.

It’s a little less common, but the behavior you describe can also be caused by bipolar disorder, Aspergers, and some concrete perceptual learning disorders. In all of these, a person is poor at assessing the intent of others and is likely to have communication problems.

Many people are out of sync with the world at large. It’s usually a lack of common sense, and a lack of intent based thinking, that fuels the “what were they thinking” type of behavior you hear about on the news  and in the tabloids  every day.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says:

In the old days, before we had all those fabulous names for personality disorders, there was a simple term for people like Carl: assholes.

I don’t know what to tell ya. Your sister sure knows how to pick ’em, and I have to wonder what it was that made her pick him to begin with- I doubt if he was ever any different. Perhaps she was just hoping he’d mellow with age. But that usually only happens gracefully with cheese. Or wine.

My suggestion is that you have some wine and cheese and try to forget about Carl. He has already forgotten about you. May your sister some day forget about him.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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