Interview with Dr George Simon

Dr George Simon

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Dr George Simon, best selling author of 'In Sheeps Clothing - Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People.  He is also the author of his new book 'Character Disturbance'

During the interview Dr George Simon discusses the various ways in which people manipulate including looking at the role of the neurotic, the sociopath, the narcissist.  He also discusses why we need as a society to change the way thoerists have taught traditional therapy and how it does not apply to disordered personalities. In addition, George also looks at the role of the victim and why they need to have the lightbulb moment and stop trying to understand these people to move on and heal.

Dr. George Simon is the leading expert on manipulators and other disturbed characters.  He knows how they push your buttons and get the better of you and why despite all the thing you've tried, nothing seems to work.  Dr. Simon is not only an author, but a public speaker, consultant, professional trainer, and composer who has appeared on numerous national, regional and local television and radio programs.  Dr. Simon believes firmly in the vital inter-relationship between freedom and personal responsiblity, and is deeply concerned about the character crisis plaguing western civilizations and eroding the greatness of America.  

Dr. Simon has given over 300 professional and public workshops and/or training seminars and has consulted to professional agencies, institutions, and companies.  He is the principal composer of the stirring patriotic anthem most commonly known as American, My home which although composed over two years prior, gained popularity following the attacks of 9-11 and has been performed to audiences totalling over 1 million. 

You can find out more about George's books including his work at



To listen to the interview please to the Videos/audios page- Interview time approximately 45 minutes

The videos Audos are also available on Youtube 


Below is a Transcript of the interview with Dr George Simon - Author of 'In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People' and “Character Disturbance - The Phenomenon of Our Age”


Interviewer Sarah Strudwick - Author of 'Dark Souls – Healing and Recovering From Toxic Relationships'


Please note: Anyone who would like to use this interview please be kind enough to get permission from either Sarah Strudwick or Dr George Simon and link back. Many thanks.



Sarah Strudwick – Hi my name is Sarah Strudwick..... I have the pleasure of introducing Dr George Simon author of 'In Sheep's Clothing:  Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People' and your new book 'Character Disturbance - The Phenomenon of our age.' Perhaps you would like to tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.


Dr George Simon – Well I have worked for about 23 years in the area of personality and character disturbance both assessing and treating individuals with such disturbances as well as their victims. I have also consulted to the criminal justice system for many years and over the course of time came to learn some things about manipulative people and disturbed characters in general and felt that there was a need for a book that laid out some frameworks that were pretty much against the more traditional notions of what makes most people tick. At first that prospective didn't go over well well because it flew in the face of traditional assumptions and frameworks that had been out there for so long. But as people started to discover my work and it validated their experiences I began to feel validated myself. Based on the grass roots support of people who had been victimised by manipulators and other disturbed characters, I have continued this work for about 23 years.



Sarah Strudwick – You have obviously realised that people are starting to get round to the idea that there are manipulative people around ?


Dr George Simon – Oh yes, and I also know now that my book and my work is not the only thing out there on a similar theme. As a matter of fact there have been 5 or 6 best selling books by various authors especially on the topic of psychopathy and it seems now that we are finally starting to get it. In workshops - and I have done over 300 nationwide - people no longer walk out like they once did (laughs).


Sarah Strudwick - that's interesting – you mentioned that before You said people actually walked out . That's amazing.


Dr George Simon - Yes, mostly clinicians, who just couldn't give up their old models of why people acted the way they did. Most of them were very well versed in traditional models that saw everyone as frightened, insecure, hung-up, underneath it all – struggling with fears and insecurities and that's supposedly what always made them act in the ways that they did.   It's interesting, but you will never hear one of these traditional perspective advocates say something like: “You know that really shy, meek woman down the street?  Well, underneath it all she's just a ravenous wolf” (laughs) You will never hear anything like that.


Sarah Strudwick - That's quite amusing (laughs) but it's interesting because I notice that what these people portray and what they are underneath are quite different and that's why the title of your book 'In Sheep's Clothing' they always portray this mild charming meek kind of character, on the surface, or confident and likeable, but what you see isn't what you get.


Dr George Simon – I make a big distinction in both books, in both 'In Sheep's Clothing' and 'Character Disturbance' between the kinds of folks that we commonly consider “neurotic” to some degree and the folks that we consider disturbed or disordered in character and the difference are endless. I mean, you name any dimension of human functioning or you name any human mode of interaction and you will find that these two kinds of people differ about 180 degrees on just about every point your could you could think of.


Sarah Strudwick - That kind of leads me on to my first question because you describe a number of personality types and you put them into the neurotic type and the disordered type. In the disordered type there are various different categories, one of which is the “aggressive personality” which is relatively uninhibited and lacking in conscience, for example a sociopath or psychopath, which is what my interests are. You go onto say like many other professionals, that they may have many characteristics in common, for example, with those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


Dr George Simon - There are some theorists that actually think that the aggressive personalities, all of them, are just an aggressive variant of the narcissist.


Sarah Strudwick - That's interesting, I heard that there is not much difference between the two personalities, there's a very vague line. I am not a psychologist but there is a grey area between the two.


Dr George Simon – I find that it is helpful though to make a distinction because basically the narcissist is so self- absorbed that they don't really stop to consider anybody else. In other words because “its all about them”. They don't set out to necessarily victimise others but they don't think about others, anywhere near enough, to think about how their self-serving behaviour might impact someone else. Now the aggressive personalities on the other hand have it in mind to victimise, to exploit, to get the better of someone, right from the outset. This is one thing that potential victims just don't get. They can hardly image why a person is so hard-wired to take advantage of somebody else in EVERY encounter that they basically can't turn that mode of interaction off. Their entire modus operandi, if you will, is to “best” somebody else. Its very hard to imagine that.


Sarah Strudwick - Would you say that sociopaths and narcissists are both covert and predatory and does that make them more dangerous than other personality types?


Dr George Simon - Most narcissists are not all that covert. As a matter of fact, they are so self-absorbed and proud of it that they don't mind people knowing it. Its so “all about them” and they are so up front about it that there is really not very much covert about them. With respect to psychopaths or sociopaths, these are some of the most covertly aggressive people there are. Now I distinguish them from what you or I would term the “garden variety" covert aggressive because in addition to being manipulative, which they are, these folks are incredibly predatory. They generally speaking establish any relationship for the pure purpose of victimisation, and that's very different from other personality types. In other works they prey P R E Y upon the rest of us and they do it fairly consistently.


Sarah Strudwick: So for example a narcissist may do it but not necessarily do it consciously ?


Dr George Simon - Well only sometimes do they do what they do consciously. Often it is conscious. But they are not necessarily out to bamboozle you through covert means. They just don't really care about you., and they don't mind if you know that. (laughs) I mean there are few relatively benign narcissists. You might watch on television, where one of them has a show, he is a great real estate tycoon. Thinks a whole lot of himself, has this big show. He doesn't mind telling everyone how great he is or what he has in mind. He's got the power, he's got the ability, he has the influence and he doesn't mind anybody knowing it. He doesn't even mind you knowing what he's about, or what he is going to do, he tells you right to you face, so there's nothing particularly covert about that.


What it is about the predatory folks is that they will use covert means, or any means, at their disposal to victimise you. One of the reasons why covert tactics work so well is that you can't prevent victimisation unless you know its coming. So if you have no idea, it's kind of like getting whiplash, that's what I say in my book. If you have no idea what's happening until long after the damage is done, you're already through, basically. So covert tactics are just another tool to victimise people with these predatory folks.


Sarah Strudwick – They are pretty scary people aren't they (laughs) - well scary if you are not aware of them which is one of the reasons I liked your book because it makes you aware of these manipulative people.


You talk about the “neurotic” and to be honest I didn't like that term when I first read it. I thought hmmmm “I am neurotic” (laughs) .....


Dr George Simon - My response in workshops when anyone makes that confession: “Oh my gosh I must be neurotic” is “Bless You” (laughs).  I make a point my book that Freud said civilisation is the cause of neurosis. My own point of view is that neurosis is the reason for civilisation. Its the very fact that most of us are hung-up about doing just any old thing we please to anyone else that that enables us to have a civilised world. Whereas in Freud's days people were actually sick, sick with servere neurosis. These days neurotics are keeping everything together and making society work and I say “ Bless them”. We are seeing a phenomenon however, whereby that we have so many irresponsible people that the burden on neurotic folks is growing exponentially and it might in fact reach a point where in fact neurotics are so stressed that they might actually become pathologically neurotic like they were in Sigmund Freud's day. I'd hate to see that day come again (laughs)


Sarah Strudwick – That's funny. Like I said I just thought “I am a neurotic”...... on the plus side is that neurotics benefit most from Therapy


Dr George Simon – Yes, traditional therapy.


Sarah Strudwick – and one of the things I am most passionate about is getting victims of “Dark Souls” that they need to stop trying to understand disordered person and to look at their own their own reasons why their feel the need to be with in relationship with manipulative people.


Dr George Simon – Like I said “Bless you” That's identical to my view. Not only to look inside oneself for things that make you vulnerable but also to get an accurate framework about what really makes people tick. To rid yourself of those horrible preconceptions that came along with our old traditional models of psychology that had us viewing everyone as essentially the same and therefore everyone must be struggling with fears, insecurities, anxieties. In my book I make the point between the fact that somebody steeped in the really old traditional metaphors would see a person who craves excitement and who loathes monotony and who detests fidelity as someone who is quote “commitment phobic”. It's all in the way your frame things. If you just absolutely must see everything through an neurotics glasses your gonna get victimised. Those metaphors about insecurities, hang-ups, poor self-esteem, etc. apply to neurotics. They do NOT, I emphasise they do not, apply to the disordered characters in your life and if you have to accept that fact and if you don't your gonna find out way too late!


Sarah Strudwick – That's interesting because you said that for example the neurotic person might say “Oh well they are a commitment phobe”. Well being a neurotic type person myself you might for example think “OK if they are a commitment phobe I might be able to help them”


Dr George Simon – Absolutely, absolutely


Sarah Strudwick – or “in the long run maybe they might eventually get it “ but as you and I both know they don't ever get it.


Dr George Simon – of course, and you see Sarah this is why my model exculpates the victim. The only reason victims think that kind of thing you mentioned is because we were taught that's how everybody is, and it's simply not true!  Its a great Freudian fraud that's been perpetrated for years and people have bought into it just presuming it to be accurate and the kind of thing that you just described. If you see them as phobic then it's natural to think: “what can I do to ally their fears?” If they are afraid of me then “What have I done to offend them?” Naturally they are going to think that way of their belief system tells them that the other person is behaving the way they are because they are just as neurotic as they are. ...I swear to you as soon as someone gets it that these models are wrong and that many people just aren't like that, they start to think differently all of a sudden. They get it. They no longer think in those stinking ways that got them into trouble in the first place.


Sarah Strudwick – I am completely 110 per cent with you on that. I spent along time trying to get this other person to get it, when in fact I am the one that needed to get it. That is part of what I try and get across to the people that listen to my work or read the website.


Dr George Simon – I'll tell you how I stumbled on this. It was truly a gift and I outline this in a chapter in my first book “In sheep's clothing”. It was based on a real case. I was trying to help a victim work through a depression, a very significant depression and along the way she taught me the formula, the behavioural formula for depression and that is whenever our energy is invested in something that we haven't the power to control or change we are going to go through a process much like [Elizabeth] Kubler-Ross ( in On Death and Dying) describes, in which we grieve loss and in one of the stages we can turn our anger inward because we begin to see ourselves as our own worst enemy so to speak and become powerless which leads to feelings of helplessness, then  hopelessness, which is the "formula" for depression" And what happens in abusive relationships of any kind whether they are manipulative relationships, relationships with sociopaths or whatever, is that the victim spends all this time and energy trying to figure not only whats wrong with the other person but how to help them or how to change them, how to control their behaviour. They invest all this energy for nought. They don't have the power to effect anything of the sort.


Whereas the formula for joy turns out to be the complete opposite of that. As soon as they invest their energy in themselves with the tools of understanding about how to protect themselves from relationships with these people everything changes once again and they can be filled with joy instead sinking to the depths of a depression that results from them trying so hard to do what they haven't the power to do-which is to control the other person's behaviour, to make it right, to understand it, all of that.


Sarah Strudwick – I wish you could see me laughing right now,. Its literally a light bulb moment as you call it when the victim says “aha I finally got it!” I want to ask another question. You go on to talk about guilt-tripping as one of the tools that manipulators use to keep the victim off guard honing in on the victim's vulnerabilities. I know from the extensive research I did that sociopaths are notorious for being able to spot weaknesses in their victims. One of the examples you used was about Janet and Bill where Bill threatened suicide but didn't actually take enough pills to kill himself. I experienced a family member who did this and as a result the other family member stayed in the relationship for a further 10 years of marriage.


What advice would you give to a person who is listening now and who is currently having these tactics used on them who has not had the light bulb moment? (whether they be threatening them, or suggesting they might harm themselves)


Dr George Simon – Boy this is such a delicate issue and this is one of those things where in the early days traditionally minded therapists would get really upset with me when I was doing professional workshops because if you just look at what I have written on the surface you might conclude what Dr Simon is saying is never take a threat of suicide as serious, never regard it as a sign that someone might actually be depressed and just let them be ill and don't let them have any second thoughts about it. That's NOT what I am saying. What I am saying is that disturbed characters - and there are many other signs that you can look for that will tell you whether or not the person you are dealing with is a disturbed character - a disturbed character often knows us better than we know ourselves. They know all of our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and most especially they know our level of conscientiousness and sensitivity and what factors affect that conscientiousness. So if they know that we just can't stand to see somebody who looks like they are suffering, that's the tactic they are going to use when all else fails. If they have tried every other tactic and it doesn't work, that's the trump card they are going to play, because they know you and they know your vulnerabilities and many times they know those things about you better than you know yourself.


The experts on neurosis are not all the traditional theorists and therapists out there who studied it for years. The experts on neurosis are the disturbed characters. They know neurotics better than anybody else. They know how they think, they know how they feel, how they respond, what kinds of issues press their buttons. They know neurosis like the back of their hand. Any many especially the more psychopathic or sociopathic individuals, these folks not only know neurosis but they regard it as a sign of frailty or weakness that they are entitled to take advantage of. It gives them licence to prey P R E Y on other people as far as they are concerned.


Sarah Strudwick – Well if that last thing that you just said isn't enough to make victims have a light bulb moment (laughs) I don't know what is to be honest....


Anger is something I would like to ask you about. You talk a lot about victims feeling angry when they realise they have been duped or manipulated. So when someone is first realising that they have been in relationship they are very angry .... You mentioned the slot machine syndrome.... would you expand further on victims being angry with their abusive predatory manipulative partners behaviour.


Dr George Simon – Anger is such a misunderstood emotion anyway. Its one of those "bad emotions" that we are not supposed to have. All of our other emotions are good, and anger's a bad one. Anger is just as much an adaptive emotion as any of our other emotions and its there for good purpose. Its mean to propel us into action - to either right a wrong, or to remove a threat to our existence or our well-being.  But how we channel that anger and what action we take to take care of ourselves and to ensure our safety is really what it's all about. What victims in relationships with disturbed characters and manipulators etc. etc., what they frequently do is in their anger they either try futilely to play “get back” or they invest a lot of time or energy in trying to change their partner's or person they are in relationship with's behaviour. And this is futile. Over the years they end up investing a considerable amount of energy doing this and so when it finally becomes apparent that they have lost it's not just that they have to walk away from the abusive situation, they have a huge investment to walk away from. Anybody that has ever fed one of those “one-armed bandits” knows you're never going to walk away when you've got a chunk of change already in the machine and your think to yourself: “Well if I try just one more time, one more pull, Maybe I'll get at least some of it back” “Maybe I'll even get it all back, Maybe I'll still come out a winner”. And this is the kind of deluded thinking that many people in abusive relationships end up having.


Sarah Strudwick – (Laughing) I like that term the “one armed bandit” I had a question that someone asked d they said “how can we win with these people “ .....


Dr George Simon - Well I am going to give you the short answer first and then I'll expand upon it. The short answer is this, and there is really a lot in this. The easiest way to test for whether or not there is any degree of character disturbance in yourself as opposed to neurosis is to ask yourself this question -whether you can either conceive of the fact that winning in the long run could be best represented by conceding or giving up, or throwing in the towel in the short run. Disturbed characters are so hard wired to win that one of the reasons why many of them lead lives of crime that end up up in the slammer for much of their lives and why they never turn their behaviour patterns around, and why their lives are constantly a train wreck is because they just cannot stomach the idea of conceding or giving in, or submitting themselves to anything even if in the long run it would pay off for them.


There is winning with these people if your smart enough to know when to walk away, when to throw in the towel. If you're one of these people that just has to hang in there because you have enough vanity of your own to somehow think that your image is tarnished if you don't walk away with something then frankly you kind of deserve the bruising you are going to take.


Sarah Strudwick – I think I would agree with you. My view personally is that sometimes its just better to cut your losses and walk away especially if the relationship is causing you so much harm. I would always ask people. Why do you want to be with someone who is causing you so much damage?


Dr George Simon – You see its in the very nature of neurosis to want to take on too much responsibility and what goes on between neurotics and disturbed characters is this endless game of throwing the ball back into one another's court.  Every time you try and throw the ball of responsibility into their court they throw it to you. And the neurotic willingly takes it. My advice is to always throw the ball back in their court. Its like the situation I described and outlined in the chapter about Bill who threatened all that he did including suicide to keep his dependant wife under tow even when he never took any action that would really have resulted in any harm but he knew what cards to play. If you have even the slightest inkling that somebody is in that kind of psychological trouble, whose trouble is it?  Do you want the trouble? Is it now your problem ? Who's got the problem ? They are going to always try to throw the ball to you. Your job is to throw it back If they have that kind of problem, who needs to do something about it? – they do. But neurotics are always too willing, should I say, to embrace the problems of the world and to take the responsibilities of life on their shoulders including the responsibilities that belong rightfully to someone else.


Sarah Strudwick – We are literally hard wired to believe, and I had counselling years ago and the counsellor said “Well maybe if you change your behaviour ......and this was long before the counsellor found out that my ex was a psychopath and I am thinking that we have literally been programmed for years and years to enable these people. Like you say the whole model of therapy is like that. I even read an article which suggest that some psychotherapists were actually psychopaths themselves, which is even more scary.


Dr George Simon (Laughs) Let me tell you the incident, if you will, or the event that made me know that I had to write the first book. I won't mention the programme I was watching. Probably the most popular daytime informational programme on American TV and the host had on an ex-convict and his wife. The convict had served time in prison for battering the woman and for committing other violent acts. They actually showed pictures of this poor woman who had been battered a number of times. She was barely recognisable in one of the photos.  In the interchange both he and his wife were on stage and there were two mental health professionals, a psychologist and a social worker in the audience. This woman got up a little nerve to confront some of the horrible things that this guy had done and to state that's why she didn't want to have anything to do with him and didn't want to give him another chance because she wasn't willing to risk it. He (the husband) began verbally, in my opinion, assaulting her with “this is the way you are” “you never give a person an even chance”. Of course she had given him thousands. But he was brow-beating her with “you never have anything good to say about me” “I did my time, you don't think that's enough” “why isn't that enough for you” “nothing's enough for you”. He was BEATING her up on stage - verbally and emotionally, in front of America with a psychologist and a social worker standing by and not one person recognised that the true testament about whether he had changed or not was right there in front of them. Because he was doing what he does right then. He wasn't physically beating the woman, he but he was beating the crap out of her emotionally and verbally. It was a testament to the fact that he hadn't changed his ways and not one person could see it, not even the two mental health professionals who were there as “experts” to assist.


Right then I decided that whether or not it was going to be well-received or whether or not I could find a major publisher, the book was getting done.


Sarah Strudwick - So how long do you think its going to take for society as a whole to wake up to this new idea....


Dr George Simon – I feel more than validated now. I Goggled an issue, “psychological manipulation” even when the first edition of the book was independently published . I saw all of my colleagues and competitor book writers summarised in about a paragraph in the article and then about two pages from my own work and I thought well times have really changed. I feel more than validated and I may even be bragging a little.  But I think we are waking up very definitely even though there are still a lot of folks out there especially professionals who find it hard to move past their old models. And another thing, most professionals don't like to deal with disturbed characters. They basically see the issue as hopeless and it's not very attractive work anyway.  Besides, they are usually not trained for it. Their traditional tools don't prepare them for what they need to do. In my new book I have 5 therapeutic encounter vignettes that illustrate the radical difference between an encounter with a disturbed character an encounter with a neurotic. It's an entirely different approach. And for the first time I put it in vignette form so that some of my colleagues can see how different the whole enterprise is.


Sarah Strudwick - When is the book actually coming out?


Dr George Simon - The book is available for mass distribution on October 20th but advance orders will be ready for delivery on September 22nd and that anyone who has trouble getting it can dial 800 621 2736 and it's called Character Disturbance and its also available through normal distribution such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The new edition of “in Sheep's clothing” understanding dealing with manipulative people is already available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon and other online sellers in the US and the UK


Sarah Strudwick - You know what I do with my own work and my view is that once you have actually woken up and have the lovely light bulb moment you need to start looking at yourself and the reasons why you got into relationship with them in the first place and then when you have done that you will not have any relationships with these people. Would you agree with that?


Dr George Simon – I mostly agree with that. I think that people, got into their stinking thinking in the first place because they bought into these old worn out notions about why people are the way they are. I think they need to have a new framework . They not only need to have the light bulb moment about their own characteristics that made them vulnerable but they need to have a framework for understanding people in general that makes more sense than the old models do so that they can understand the world around them and the variety of people that they are likely to meet and have a framework for understanding people that doesn't make them vulnerable to misjudgements about the character of some of these people. So I think it's twofold. I think what you say absolutely essential, I agree 100 per cent, but I don't know that that is quite enough to make them suitably prepared to make good judgements about future relationships. I think they also need a different model for understanding human character which is the main thing that I try to accomplish with both of my books. I want them to get it.


Sarah Strudwick – Absolutely and they also need some tools to spot manipulative behaviour in the first place which is part of what your work is about.


Dr George Simon – yes


Sarah Strudwick – I found it very educational. Its just telling something the other day that my view is about getting people to wake up. I do spiritual work. I am not a psychotherapist but its literally about getting people to wake up. That's what I call it it and like “wakey wakey “and I spent my whole life I suppose I could call it asleep.


Dr George Simon – Sarah, if I might interrupt. Take heart, take heart. This is why we will necessarily wake up. The only question is how late it will be but this is why we will necessarily wake up . There is a most disturbing mega trend.  It's worldwide, in free societies . The trend is that the responsibility hoisted upon the backs of those who are already responsible grows exponentially daily. People who are relative neurotic, conscientious, and take their responsibilities seriously are asked to do more and more to make it all work every day. Those who do not take responsibility get away with more and have less actual responsibility placed on them every single day. This trend cannot continue ! It will not continue. Nature has built in safeguards against that kind of thing happening for very long. At some point the people who are carrying the world on their shoulders will say, Enough. They will say that. And they will say about those who will not take any responsibility, they will insist that they finally step up do their fair share. It will happen. The question is, the only question is, how bad is it gonna have to get before that happens? (Laughs)


Sarah Strudwick – Well hopefully its going to happen in my lifetime because I have kids. I want my children to grow up in a society that isn't like this. That was absolutely brilliant. I am happy now.


Dr George Simon - Well I am glad (laughs) kudos to you on your work I feel that there's a growing army out there now and I couldn't be more edified. A rabbi had written a book that was the topic of discussion in one of the groups that I attend and had suggested that there might be seven questions that we would be asked if we ever made it to heaven that would determine whether or not we were really eligible or not to get in. and one of the questions was “did you leave anything meaningful behind that would be helpful to others?” not just to mark your existence on the planet, because it's not all about you leaving a legacy but did you contribute anything?, basically. And I would like to feel that almost 16 years ago when I began to write this stuff that it made enough of a contribution that there is a slowing growing grass roots army of folks out there who now “get it” and are going to make a big difference eventually, and that's extremely humbling to think that I was at least even a part of it right from the beginning so kudos to you, kudos to any of the blog readers who have taking from reading anything or all of your material and do something positive with their life. Thankyou for the opportunity to share some of my ideas with you.


Sarah Strudwick - You too. Like I said its slowly slowly catchy monkey the message will get out there. Thank you very much George, its been a real pleasure chatting to you and I am glad you have the same sense of humour as me (laughs)


Close of interview .....