Poisoned Love: How A Psychopath Conditions His Victims

In previous posts I have shown how psychopaths camouflage their real evil identities and bad intentions, to appear normal and even better than normal partners to their victims. What may seem surprising to those who have not experienced personally the psychopathic bond is why their victims put up with it once the bait and switch occurs and Mr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde. There’s no simple answer to this question, since the motivations and personalities of the victims themselves vary. Some stay out of fear, others out of extreme emotional dependency and love addiction, others because they, themselves, suffer from a personality disorder that bonds them to a psychopath. Today I’d like to delve into the question of why even relatively normal and healthy women can stay with psychopathic men after the initial luring phase is over and the relationship becomes overtly toxic.

Psychopaths are extremely skilled not just at pretending to be decent men, but also at dosing. As early as the luring phase of the relationship, when they appear to be loving and normal partners, they make deviant requests, under the guise of romantic love. For instance, they isolate their new partners from those who care about them–family and friends–by claiming that they’re so in love with them that they wish to spend as much time as possible together. If the psychopath’s partner wishes to go out with friends, he spreads gossip about those individuals, claiming that they were critical of her or of their relationship. Or the psychopath may state that he’s so much in love with his partner that he can’t bear to spend time apart from her.

Couched in these positive terms, many women allow their other, healthy, social relationships with family members and friends to slowly but surely deteriorate. The less support they have from others, the more such women invest themselves wholeheartedly in the psychopathic bond. Once he senses his power over her, the psychopath becomes more openly possessive and controlling. Psychopaths have an intuitive relationship barometer that tells them when they have achieved dominance over others and can demand more (and more and more…) from them.

Another way in which psychopaths condition their partners to accept a toxic relationship is by gradually pushing the envelope of deviant requests. Since psychopaths are easily bored and need constant thrills, they may initially ask  their targets to make out in public, under the pretense that they’re so attracted to them that they can’t keep his hands off of them. In reality, however, psychopaths are not as attracted to their partners, even at the beginning of the relationship, as to the thrill of crossing the boundaries of public decency and demeaning their partners. Recall from my previous post that psychopaths are extreme narcissists who derive most pleasure from the dominance and victimization of others.

As soon as the victim complies with one perverse request, it becomes normative. After a short while, the psychopath will demand more indecent behavior from her, once again pretending that it stems from their great and special passion. Pretty soon, the victim finds herself complicit with his abnormal behavior, sometimes even addicted to it. Not surprisingly, this technique is often used by pimps to create loyalty and submission in the women and girls they ensnare into prostitution. What begins under the guise of romantic love and passion–something that most women yearn for–ends up being what it always was in reality and in the psychopath’s evil design: a form of sexual slavery.

Even partners who refuse to engage in the psychopath’s transgressive behavior–be it his scams, lies or sexual perversion–are inevitably poisoned by the toxic relationship if they continue to stay with him. The most common way in which a psychopath poisons his partner is to condition her to accept his abusive behavior as normal. This doesn’t have to be under the form of physical violence, although it can be. More commonly, however, any person who stays with a psychopath becomes gradually used to bigger and bigger doses of emotional abuse. When she catches the psychopath cheating on her for the first time, she may have a normal reaction and break up with him. But if she doesn’t have the strength to move on and later returns to him–since after bouts of promiscuity, a psychopath is likely to act repentant and romantic to lure back his main partner(s)–then the next times she discovers evidence of his cheating (or lying, or fraud), she puts up with it, or pretends she doesn’t know about it.

Denial becomes the shield that absorbs most of the emotional impact of his hurtful behavior. When denial is no longer possible, because his wrongdoings become too frequent and flagrant, she displaces her anger and resentment towards the other women in order to maintain the “integrity” of her relationship with him. If he cheated and lied, it’s the other women’s fault rather than his. She also blames those who point out the psychopath’s pathology rather than him for mistreating her. They’re the bearers of bad news, who expose the hollowness of the life she leads with him: a truth she can no longer face, after becoming so dependent on him. At some point, she becomes more invested in the false image of strength and of a wonderful relationship she has with the psychopath than in facing the dire reality and moving on, to achieve real strength in life and have the chance of having a non-pathological romantic relationship.

Eventually, after a long series of discoveries of infidelities and other kinds of bad behavior, she becomes used to it and finds some solace in the assumption that those flings mean nothing to him. In spite of his consistently unloving behavior, she convinces herself that the psychopath loves her and that she’s the most important woman in his life. His infidelity then becomes open and normative: what he used to do behind her back he does openly, before her eyes. What’s more, since psychopaths are sadists, he relishes seeing her suffer from a combination of jealousy, wounded pride and helpless love.

As Sandra L. Brown, M.A. explains in Women Who Love Psychopaths, any person intimately involved with a psychopath will be harmed. To offer an analogy, the cancer cells that are most dangerous are the few that resist the chemotherapy and multiply quickly in the body, to kill it. Psychologically, the most dangerous aspects of any victim of psychopathic seduction are the ones that survive and adapt to his mistreatment. Once she becomes inured to the constant lies, verbal abuse, cheating, etc, she allows those vices to multiply in the relationship and take over her life.

Just as the most pathological elements of a society adapt to and rise to the top of totalitarian regimes, and just as the most pathological individuals thrive in the life of crime of gangs, so the most pathological parts of a person adapt to and embrace the disorder of a psychopath. A psychopath trains his victim gradually into a form of submission–or acceptance of his deviant behavior–that annihilates everything that’s healthy about her personality and existence. Eventually, if she doesn’t find the strength to leave him, she’s reduced by the psychopath’s gradual poison to the shadow of the strong and healthy person she once was.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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How And Why A Psychopath Pushes Your Buttons

In an earlier post, entitled Relationship Boomerang, I explained that it’s very difficult to get rid of a psychopath even after you break up with him because such an individual rarely lets go of his dominance bonds. He’s usually in the beginning, middle and end phases of numerous relationships simultaneously. He recycles former relationships, to reclaim possession of previous partners. At the root of psychopathy is the most extreme and malignant form of narcissism. In The Mask of Sanity, Cleckley calls the psychopath’s egocentricity and incapacity to love “complete” and “absolute.” A narcissist often dominates others because he wants validation from them. A psychopath, however, carries this personality disorder to an extreme: he dominates others, and puts them down, in order to destroy them. For a psychopath, the ultimate ego trip is shattering the lives of others, not simply proving himself superior to them. He cannot derive pleasure from recognition by others unless it also causes them harm or humiliates them. This is why psychologists state that psychopaths suffer from the most dangerous, predatory and malignant form of narcissism that exists.

Today I’d like to go over how and why a psychopath pushes your buttons, to provoke some type of reaction from you long after your relationship is over. The why is easy: a psychopath regards his partners as his personal property, to use and dispose of as he pleases. Since eventually he gets bored with all relationships, he periodically revisits some of the previous ones, to harass former parters or to sink his claws into them once again.

He does so by testing out different strategies and seeing which ones get the desired reaction. Often, he alternates between nice and complicit interactions (or overtures) and insults, which correspond to the idealized or devalued mirror effects I went over in my previous post, The Psychopath’s Mirroring Effects. One message (or spam) he may praise you, the next one he’ll put you down. This is partly because a psychopath’s moods and attitudes arbitrarily oscillate between idealizations and devaluations of the same person. I call these fluctuations “arbitrary” because sometimes they may be motivated by your actions, sometimes not. For instance, a psychopath may idealize you when you comply with his wishes and regard him as an ideal partner (before you open your eyes, that is, and see him for what he is).

But even during the honeymoon phase, when you’re infatuated with him, he may at the same time devalue you: see you as a gullible individual whom he can use and dupe. This is why even during the honeymoon period, when a psychopath desires and pursues you, there are frequent moments of devaluation, at least in his own mind. Usually, however, during the seduction phase the psychopath hides those negative thoughts far better than when he’s grown tired of you and is ready to move on. As the psychopathic bond unfolds, the moments of devaluation necessarily become more frequent until they eventually set the tone for the entire relationship. At that point, the psychopath puts much less effort in maintaining the “mask of sanity” and shows himself more and more for the evil person he is.

Once the relationship is over, the psychopath will continue to periodically harass you and test the waters, to see if he can reestablish the dominance bond over you, or simply to annoy you. If his oscillations between nice and mean overtures leave you confused, just remember this: both are equally meaningless. They’re just the psychopath’s way of pushing your buttons. This process is not innocuous. Couple his lack of conscience, vengefulness and boredom and what you get is high risk of getting seriously harmed if you go back to the psychopath. Some women were lured to their deaths by giving their vengeful psychopathic ex-partners a second chance, even when those men claimed to still love them. Whether a psychopath is saying negative or positive things to you or about you to others, these claims are  both empty of genuine content.

For a psychopath language is purely instrumental, not a way of communicating his real and deep emotions. The psychopath lacks the capacity to feel such emotions. So whether he’s saying I love you or I hate you; you’re beautiful or you’re ugly; you’re smart or you’re dumb, it’s really all just various ways in which he tests the waters to see if he can get a reaction from you and relieve the boredom that plagues his daily life. Once again, the psychopath’s need to push people’s buttons by making contradictory statements  is related to the shallowness of his emotions and his purely instrumental use of language–completely disassociated from any meaningful understanding of truth and falsehood or concept of right and wrong–to get what  (and whom) he wants in life.

Since the early 1940’s, when Hervey Cleckley conducted his study of psychopathy, psychologists have tried to understand the physiological basis for this dangerous personality disorder. During the nineteenth century, psychopathy used to be called “moral insanity.” It could also be called “the malady of lovelessness,” since it’s caused by shallow emotions. Robert Hare shows that the root of the problem lies in the fact that for psychopaths neither side of the brain processes emotion properly.

To psychopaths, emotionally charged statements such as “I love you,” “I’m sorry that I hurt you,” “I’ll never do it again,” mean absolutely nothing. They’re just words they use to deceive and manipulate others. Of course, they’re not random words. Psychopaths see that other people attach a special meaning to them. They notice that when they say “I love you,” “I’ll always be faithful to you” or “You’re the woman of my life,” they get a positive reaction. These hollow phrases help them seduce others, establish their trust and use them for their own selfish purposes. Psychopaths lack the capacity, however, to experience, and thus to fully grasp, the meaning behind emotionally charged words. Hare observes:

“Like the color-blind person, the psychopath lacks an important element of experience—in this case, emotional experience—but may have learned the words that others use to describe or mimic experiences that he cannot really understand.” (Without Conscience, 129)

To verify these findings, Hare and his research team conducted experiments on psychopaths versus non-psychopaths. They connected their subjects to an EEG machine, which records the electrical activity of the brain. Then they flashed on a screen strings of letters. Some of them formed real words while others formed only gibberish. They asked their subjects to press a button as soon as they identified a true word. A computer measured the time it took them to make the decision. It also analyzed their brain activity during the performance of this task. They found that non-psychopathic subjects responded quicker to emotionally charged words–such as “death” or “love”–than to non-emotional ones, such as “tree.” By way of contrast, emotionally charged words had no effect whatsoever on psychopaths. Hare elaborates,

“For most of us, language has the capacity to elicit powerful emotional feelings. For example, the word ‘cancer’ evokes not only a clinical description of a disease and its symptoms but a sense of fear, apprehension, or concern, and perhaps disturbing mental images of what it might be like to have it. But to the psychopath, it’s just a word.” (Without Conscience, 133)

According to both psychological and physiological research, psychopaths function far below the emotional poverty line. They’re much shallower than what we generally call “superficial” people. This has a lot to do with the faulty wiring in their brains. Hare explains that in most people the right side of the brain plays a central role in processing emotion. By way of contrast,

“Recent laboratory evidence indicates that in psychopaths neither side of the brain is proficient in the processes of emotion. Why this is so is still a mystery. But an intriguing implication is that the brain processes that control the psychopath’s emotions are divided and unfocused, resulting in a shallow and colorless emotional life.” (Without Conscience, 134)

The shallowness of their emotions explains why psychopaths are so callous as to use and abuse even those closest to them: their partners, their children, their parents, their lovers and their so-called friends. It also clarifies why they can’t see anything wrong with their mistreatment of others. Even when they rape and murder, psychopaths feel no remorse. Their theatrical apologies and promises to reform are as empty as their vows of love. When they cry in court after having been sentenced to prison for their crimes, they either feign emotion to gain sympathy or cry about the fact they got caught.

While research shows that psychopaths are incapable of real emotional bonding with others, this doesn’t imply that they’re out of touch with reality. When they harm others, even when it’s opportunistically and in the heat of the moment, they’re cold-blooded and deliberate about their actions. They’re also aware of the fact that their misdeeds are considered morally wrong by society. But, fundamentally, they don’t care. In fact, breaking the rules (without suffering any consequences) is the name of their game. As Hare clarifies:

“As I mentioned earlier, psychopaths do meet current legal and psychiatric standards for sanity. They understand the rules of society and the conventional meanings of right and wrong. They are capable of controlling their behavior and realize the potential consequences of their acts. The problem is that this knowledge frequently fails to deter them from antisocial behavior.” (Without Conscience, 143)

Whenever any discussion of criminal or deviant behavior takes place, the age-old debate between nature versus nurture tends to come up. The question thus arises: are psychopaths bad because of their social environment or are they born that way? The simple answer to this question is: they’re born that way and they can be made worse by a bad environment. Unfortunately, they can’t be made significantly better by anything at all.

Psychological and sociological research shows that, in fact, psychopaths are much less influenced by their environment than non-psychopaths. This conforms with the general finding that psychopaths have rock solid egos, which are more or less immune to negative input. As we’ve seen, although they enjoy affirmation and praise, as all narcissists do, they don’t care when they’re criticized or punished. While a corrupt environment and abuse is unlikely to cause psychopathy, it can lead a psychopath to express his constitutive emotional callousness through violence. (Without Conscience, 175)

Martha Stout seconds Robert Hare’s conclusions that nature–or the physiological incapacity to experience and process emotion properly–has much more to do with psychopathy than nurture. Stout observes, “In fact, there’s evidence that sociopaths are influenced less by their early experience than are nonsociopaths.” (The Sociopath Next Door, 134). She elaborates,

“The sociopaths who have been studied reveal a significant aberration in their ability to process emotional information at the level of the cerebral cortex. And from examining heritability studies, we can speculate that the neurobiological underpinnings of the core personality features of sociopathy are as much as 50 percent heritable. The remaining causes, the other 50 percent, are much foggier. Neither childhood maltreatment nor attachment disorder seems to account for the environmental contribution to the loveless, manipulative, and guiltless existence that psychologists call psychopathy.” (The Sociopath Next Door, 134)

In other words, psychopathy constitutes a physiological deficiency that causes shallowness of emotions and all the negative implications which stem from it that we’ve explored so far. This deficiency is genetically inherited only half of the time. The other half of the time it may be caused by accidents, brain damage, drugs or other, unknown causes.

The saddest implication of the scientific research on psychopathy is the fact that there’s no cure for it. No medication or treatment has yet been discovered that can give a psychopath the neurological capacity to process emotion properly. Consequently, nothing can turn him into a functioning, caring human being. He will always remain an absolutely narcissistic and malicious human being.

It’s up to you to decide if you wish to sacrifice the rest of your life to a man who, at best, may become somewhat less impulsive and dangerous with medication, but who was, is and will always remain incapable of appreciating you and of reciprocating your love.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

The Psychopath’s Mirroring Effects

A psychopath will mirror your identity at the beginning, middle and end of a relationship, only in different ways at each stage. Initially, in order to win you over, he will pretend to be like you and to like everything about you. Robert Hare and Paul Babiak describe in Snakes in Suits how during the “assessment phase” of the relationship a psychopath will convey to his target four main messages: 1) I like you; 2) I share your interests; 3) I’m like you, and 4) I’m the perfect partner or soul mate for you.

This process constitutes the mirroring phase of the psychopathic bond. Granted, most romantic relationships entail some aspects of mirroring. After all, that’s how couples discover their points in common. But with a psychopath the reflection tends to be instant and total. It’s a simulated bonding that’s way too fast, too soon and too good to be true. This happens before any real emotional connection can take place. It occurs before the partners have gotten to know each other well, over time and in different circumstances. Instant bonding is usually a symptom of shallowness of emotions rather than of miraculous compatibility. It means that the psychopath will detach from you and latch on to another target as easily as he initially attached to you. Yet through their conversational glibness and innate charm, as well as through their extraordinary capacity to identify and reflect your deepest desires, psychopaths can initially make you feel like they’re your dream come true. They present themselves as the only partners who could possibly fulfill whatever’s been missing from your life.

During the course of the relationship, however, the psychopath reveals more and more his true colors. He becomes increasingly critical and controlling. What’s more, he also incites you to go along with his wrongdoings. That way you mirror his ugly personality and become his accomplice. His message switches from being “I’m just like you” (as moral, smart, kind, beautiful, ideal as you are) as it was during the luring phase to being “you’re just like me” (as deceitful, malicious, dishonest as you begin to see that he is). Keep in mind that, most likely, you’re not.  Even if you’ve engaged in some wrongdoings, unless you thrive on pathological lying, promiscuity as a means of domination of others, playing mind games, harming others and power games you’re not likely to be a psychopath, like him.

When you’ve finally had enough and leave the psychopath–or when he leaves you–he will see you as a devalued, distorted mirror image of himself and of your former, idealized, self as well. Every quality he initially saw in you–from beauty to brains–will be turned into its opposite. If he saw you as smart, you’re now stupid in his eyes. If he was attracted to your beauty, he now sees you as ugly. If he admired your hard work, he now views your efforts as a mindless submission to the system. As I’ve explained in the previous post about the process of idealize, devalue and discard, this negative mirroring at the end is a natural and inevitable unfolding of the psychopathic relationship.

Just as the idealized mirror image at the beginning of the psychopathic bond had little to do with your qualities–they were false compliments intended to lure you–so the de-idealized mirror image at the end has nothing to do with you either. These distorted mirroring effects have everything to do with the character deficiencies of the psychopath himself, who suffers from an incurable evil. Which, incidentally, is a good way to describe the middle mirroring phase as well: when he says you, or all human beings, are like him, remember that’s not true either.  A psychopath is different from–and far worse than–just about any human being you will ever know.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


How do Psychopaths Construct their Mask of Sanity?

The first very influential book about psychopathy was Hervey Cleckley’s groundbreaking The Mask of Sanity. Here Cleckley went over every major symptom of this dangerous personality disorder. What is most striking about psychopaths, as opposed to other disordered or deranged individuals, is how well they blend into the rest of society, to use, dupe and harm other human beings. Their glibness and charm, as well as their uncanny ability to lie convincingly, makes them the perfect wolves in sheep’s clothing. Cleckley observes, “More often than not, the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person. Nor does he, on the other hand, seem to be artificially exerting himself like one who is covering up or who wants to sell you a bill of goods. He would seldom be confused with the professional backslapper or someone who is trying to ingratiate himself for a concealed purpose. Signs of affectation or excessive affability are not characteristic. He looks like the real thing.” (The Mask of Sanity, 339)

Because they appear to be easy-going, friendly and genuine, psychopaths attract many potential partners. They tend to be great conversationalists, orienting the subjects of discussion around each of their targets’ personal interests. Scott Peterson, Mark Hacking and Neil Entwistle seemed true gentlemen and fun-loving guys not only to their wives, but also to their in-laws and friends. Generally speaking, they behaved appropriately for the circumstances before committing their gruesome crimes. They knew how to open the car door for their partners, how to engage in polite conversation with their in-laws and how to joke around with their buddies.

Not only do psychopaths tend to be extraordinarily charismatic, but also they can appear to be rational, levelheaded individuals. They usually talk in a way that shows common sense and good judgment. “Very often indications of good sense and sound reasoning will emerge and one is likely to feel soon after meeting him that this normal and pleasant person is also one with high abilities,” Cleckley continues. (338)

Psychopaths generally present themselves as responsible men. They seem to be in charge of their lives, their families and their careers. As we’ve seen, for several years Mark Hacking led his wife and her family to believe that he was a college graduate on his way to medical school. Only members of his own family knew (and hid) the truth. Similarly, Neil Entwistle convinced his entire family that he was a successful computer entrepreneur. In actuality, he was a bankrupt spammer. He also led Rachel to believe that he was a faithful, loving husband while actively seeking promiscuous liaisons on adult dating websites.

Although most psychopaths fail at their endeavors, it’s usually not due to a lack of natural intelligence. Cleckley notes, “Psychometric tests also very frequently show him of superior intelligence. More than the average person, he is likely to seem free from social or emotional impediments, from the minor distortions, peculiarities, and awkwardness so common even among the successful.” (338) Psychopaths succeed in fooling others not just because of what they say, but also because of how they say it. Their demeanor tends to be self-assured, cool, smooth and collected. Even though, at core, they’re more disturbed than individuals diagnosed with severe mental illnesses–such as psychotics or schizophrenics–their personality disorder doesn’t show through.

The fact that psychopathy tends to be well concealed beneath a veneer of normalcy makes it all the more dangerous to others:  “Although the psychopath’s inner emotional deviations and deficiencies may be comparable with the inner status of the masked schizophrenic,” Cleckley goes on, “he outwardly shows nothing brittle or strange. Everything about him is likely to suggest desirable and superior human qualities, a robust mental health.” (339)

Absence of Delusions and Other Signs of Irrational Thinking

Despite being capable of actions that we’d associate with insanity—such as killing their family members in cold-blood, then going out to party afterwards—psychopaths are in fact clinically sane. But what does it actually mean to be “sane,” in light of such severely disturbed behavior? It simply means being in touch with reality and aware of the legal, social and moral rules that govern one’s society. Sanity doesn’t imply processing this information normally or behaving normally.  Cleckley elaborates,

“The psychopath is ordinarily free from signs or symptoms traditionally regarded as evidence of a psychosis. He does not hear voices. Genuine delusions cannot be demonstrated. There is no valid depression, consistent pathologic elevation of mood, or irresistible pressure of activity. Outer perceptual reality is accurately recognized; social values and generally accredited personal standards are accepted verbally. Excellent logical reasoning is maintained and, in theory, the patient can foresee the consequences of injudicious or antisocial acts, outline acceptable or admirable plans of life, and ably criticize in words his former mistakes.” (339)

The psychopath constructs his mask of sanity by imitating the rest of us.  He mimics our emotions. He pays lip service to our moral principles. He pretends to respect us and our goals in life. The only difference between him and normal human beings is that he doesn’t actually feel or believe any of this on a deeper level. His simulation of normalcy functions as a disguise that enables him to fool others and satisfy his deviant drives. However, because of the psychopath’s extraordinary charm and poise, those perverse needs aren’t likely to be obvious to others.

For as long as a psychopath can hide his true nature, his real desires as well as the seedier aspects of his behavior, he appears to be the very picture of sanity: an upstanding citizen, a loyal friend, a loving husband and father. “Not only is the psychopath rational and his thinking free of delusions,” Cleckley pursues, “but he also appears to react with normal emotions. His ambitions are discussed with what appears to be healthy enthusiasm. His convictions impress even the skeptical observer as firm and binding. He seems to respond with adequate feelings to another’s interest in him and, as he discusses his wife, his children, or his parents, he is likely to be judged a man of warm human responses, capable of full devotion and loyalty.” (339)

Absence of Nervousness or Psychoneurotic Manifestations

Psychopaths display an almost reptilian tranquility. Their paradoxical combination of calmness and thrill-seeking behavior may render them, at least initially, more intriguing than normal individuals.  A psychopath can appear to be the rock of your life, promising a solid foundation for a lasting relationship. Cleckley observes,  “It is highly typical for him not only to escape the abnormal anxiety and tension fundamentally characteristic of this whole diagnostic group but also to show a relative immunity from such anxiety and worry as might be judged normal or appropriate in disturbing situations.” (340) While their general aura of coolness and calmness can be reassuring, psychopaths tend to be too calm in the wrong circumstances. Upon closer observation, their mask of sanity includes fissures, or attitudes and elements of behavior that don’t conform to their normal external image.

For instance, they may laugh when (and even because) others cry. They may remain too serene in traumatic circumstances. Or they may appear theatrical and disingenuous in their displays of emotion, as Neil Entwistle did in court. In those moments when they behave inappropriately, psychopaths reveal their underlying abnormality.  This shows through not only before they commit some crime but also afterwards, in their lack of genuine remorse, regret or sadness.

Neurotics feel excessive anxiety. By way of contrast, psychopaths feel too little anxiety. When they experience regret or pain, it’s for getting caught or for being momentarily inconvenienced, not for having hurt others. When they get frustrated, it’s for not getting their way or out of boredom, not because they’re troubled by what they did wrong. As Cleckley puts it, “Even under concrete circumstances that would for the ordinary person cause embarrassment, confusion, acute insecurity, or visible agitation, his relative serenity is likely to be noteworthy… What tension or uneasiness of this sort he may show seems provoked entirely by external circumstances, never by feelings of guilt, remorse, or intrapersonal insecurity. Within himself he appears almost as incapable of anxiety as of profound remorse.” (340) Empathy, fear of punishment, anxiety and remorse represent the main forces that prevent normal people from engaging in dangerous and harmful behavior. Psychopaths lack such restraints.  No matter how good their disguise, dangerous and harmful behavior is all they enjoy and desire to pursue in life.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

Confessions of an Incorrigible Sex Addict

Couple the fact that psychopaths are very impulsive and hedonistic with the fact that they seek to maximize their dominance over women and what you often get is sexual addiction. Sex is a psychopath’s preferred method of combining pleasure, deception, conquest and dominance. This is why, as we’ve seen in my previous post on the relationship boomerang, psychopaths tend to rotate and recycle women. They shift energy and prioritize one, then another; they return to former girlfriends once they get bored with the new ones. In a popular article, Dr. Gail Saltz responded to a letter from a married man who bragged about his duplicity and manipulation of countless women. He writes:

“Dear Dr. Saltz, I can’t get enough of women. I have to look at every woman who walks by. I watch porn, I flirt, I keep in touch with past girlfriends, I make new ones, I browse for women online. I get up to 30 e-mails a day from women. Once I have seduced them online, they are dying to meet me and usually sleep with me on the first date. Then I find the simplest flaw and use that against them to break it off. They are devastated. They feel I have used them sexually, and they are right. The kicker is that I am married. My wife is great, beautiful, intelligent and we have a good sex life. I am 41. We have been together for 25 years. I, however, still have a constant rotation of new women. I just can’t stop seducing other women and having sex with them. Nor do I want to, because I am having the time of my life.”

The only thing that bothers this man turns out to be the inconvenience it poses for his job. He claims that he takes three hours a day to write women. He also calls those “higher on the rotation.” He emails women again for three hours at night, after his wife goes to bed. Then he hunts on the Internet for new targets. Needless to say, he doesn’t feel guilty towards his wife or any of the other women he misleads. Nor does he believe that he has a problem or sex addiction. His reasoning is quite impressive: consuming what you enjoy can’t possibly be an addiction. He boasts:

“I have slept with an untold number of women. I would not call it an addiction because I like it so much and it makes me happy to meet them, seduce them, sleep with them and, yes, even break up with them. This week I will hit my all-time record of sleeping with 13 different women. They are all beautiful, intelligent and successful, and they all think we will live happily ever after. They have no idea that I am sleeping with so many other women, let alone married. I know hurting them emotionally is bad. I just can’t stop. To me it is all fair game as long as it is consensual.”

This man’s definition of addiction is only outdone by his impressive moral reasoning. According to him, lying to, misleading and cheating on women can’t possibly be wrong as long as it’s “consensual.” One wonders how many of those women “consented” to being used and deceived by him. Imagine your boyfriend kissing you, then looking into your eyes and telling you how much he loves you and that you’re the only woman for him. It sounds very nice and fills you with feelings of love and devotion. Then imagine him doing exactly the same thing with another woman an hour before meeting with you and with a third woman an hour afterwards. Somehow, his kisses and vows of love no longer seem quite as meaningful. In fact, once you see the whole picture of the psychopath’s behavior, all the so-called “positive” aspects of the relationship lose meaning.

Unfortunately, women involved with psychopaths don’t usually get to see the whole picture. Like the man in this scenario, their husbands or boyfriends carry on behind their backs and routinely deceive them. Yet, to return to my previous point, wouldn’t “consent” imply knowing all the relevant facts to reach an informed decision? Apparently, not according to this self-professed Don Juan. The only thing that matters him is the fact that he enjoys seducing, deceiving and dumping women. He elaborates:

“For me, it is not simply the sex, it is the seduction, and the mental games and pleasure I receive from this. To seduce a women to the point where she really wants to have sex with me is very stimulating to me. It is like I have scored a touchdown in the last few seconds of the Superbowl. I have gotten so good at the aftergame as well that I make only one call or e-mail. You are not what I was looking for, please don’t write me anymore. I never hear from them again. I find myself so manipulative it scares me sometimes. Can you please give me some insight into what is going on?”

Dr. Saltz hits the nail on the head when she responds:

“I think you are a sex addict and a sociopath. What you describe is sexual addiction. Like any addict, you have a feedback loop that provides you with positive reinforcement every time you make a conquest—hence your comparison to a winning touchdown in the big game… What is so very disturbing is your complete lack of guilt, remorse or empathy for the other parties involved. You know intellectually that this is bad behavior, because you are aware you are betraying your spouse and hurting all the other woman you deal with. Yet it seems that you understand this only on a purely observational level. It sounds as though you have no capacity for emotion. You lack any ability to hold yourself morally accountable for your dishonest and harmful actions. You are easily able to rationalize hurting and mistreating others, whether they are strangers or relatives. In fact, you take pleasure in it. Hence, I also think you are a sociopath, with an utter lack of concern and regard for others.”

I’m not sure what or if the psychopath answered her back. I suspect, however, that he couldn’t care less about her diagnosis or anyone else’s assessment of him, at least in so far as it’s negative. But I think it’s important to be aware of the whole picture: the lure of the psychopath as well as his pathetic reality. The bait he offers women is a picture of perfect romance, ideal love and happiness. A psychopath can be charming, fun, romantic, spontaneous, passionate and sweet in the beginning of a relationship. The reality, however, is a relationship without any genuine feelings–at least on the psychopath’s side–founded on deceit and plagued by countless lies and infidelities.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

The Psychopath Unmasked

What happens when a psychopath’s mask of sanity shatters? The result is rarely as spectacular as it was in the cases of Mark Hacking and Neil Entwistle. Fortunately, most psychopaths don’t commit gruesome murders. Even when they do, their crimes are rarely featured so prominently on the national news. But once you unmask a psychopath, the picture you come to see is very ugly and deeply disturbing.

As we’ve observed, on the outside, a charismatic, garden-variety psychopath appears to be charming, nice, helpful, loving, calm and collected: sometimes uncannily so, and in inappropriate circumstances, but even that may seem, at first, like a blessing. But on the inside, a psychopath is always a repulsive individual: completely self-absorbed, unreliable, unethical and unloving. A psychopath’s social and moral boundaries are almost entirely based on his ability to create a positive impression on those around him. Those moral boundaries, which he violates behind people’s backs, and his phony yet often compelling displays of emotion function as his disguise. Through them, he gains other people’s trust, respect, admiration and sometimes even love. He then uses them for his own selfish and destructive purposes.

A psychopath is unmasked in life over and over again. Because his disorder is so deeply engrained in his character, he uses, dupes and manipulates people everywhere he goes. When he gets bored with one location, job or set of acquaintances—or when he’s unmasked in that environment—he moves on to the next. There he has the opportunity to make a fresh start: to dupe and use new people; to charm and destroy a new set of unsuspecting victims.

Quite often, psychopaths also depend upon a few individuals with whom they’ve established their main dominance bonds: their life partners, their parents, their children or their closest friends. After periods of open transgression, they return to them acting repentant, declaring their love or promising to reform. Such individuals often forgive them and accept them back into their lives.

This is not just out of love, but also out of denial: accepting reality would be too painful to bear. They’re too emotionally invested in the psychopath and in the central role he plays in their lives. Often, the women who love psychopaths justify staying with their disordered partners because they have a child or children with them. But this can only be a rationalization, given the fact that having no conscience, psychopaths frequently abuse their own children. It’s never in the best interest of any child to be in close proximity to a psychopathic father. In fact, the psychopath can only be a very bad influence on his child or children and even put their lives in peril. Therefore, when a woman stays with a known psychopath “for the sake of the children,” it’s usually because he has gutted out her identity to such an extent that she feels empty and lost without him.

This logic applies to all family members who can’t let go of the psychopath even after they come to see him for what he is. Cutting ties with him and, by extension, coming to terms with his inherent and unchangeable evil would mean, to them, living the rest of their lives with an open wound. Keep in mind, however, that at least wounds have the chance to heal. Living with a psychopath, on the other hand, is like living with a growing gangrene which exposes the entire family–especially young and impressionable children–to his infectious evil.

Because he finds such receptive and forgiving targets, after bouts of promiscuity, drug use or other depravities, a psychopath periodically returns to the people closest to him. They’re the ones who protect him from the consequences of his wrongdoings and uphold his mask of sanity. But over time, this mask becomes less and less solid. Its fissures begin to show even in the eyes of those who love him most and have his best interest at heart.

The goal of maintaining a false image of human decency to his wife, girlfriends, parents and colleagues (in order to better manipulate them) motivates a psychopath to lead a more or less orderly existence: to come home at regular hours, have a job and behave sociably. When a crisis occurs and this fictional identity unravels, so does the psychopath’s life. Having lost his incentive to appear a decent human being because others finally see through his façade, he becomes consumed by his own penchant for meaningless diversion and limitless perversion.

Once a psychopath is unmasked, what he always was on the inside begins to manifest itself on the outside as well, in his overt behavior and in the eyes of others. Like the picture of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s famous novella, a psychopath unmasked presents a pathetic spectacle. It reveals a deteriorating individual whose depravity, ugliness and shamelessness take over his life and contaminate the lives of all those who remain close to him.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Voices of Violence Video

Dangerous men can be very romantic, at first. They flatter you, give you gifts and pretend to love you. But once the honeymoon phase ends, the abuse begins: the cheating, the lying, the manipulation, the criticism and, all too often, the physical violence as well. Abusive men frequently suffer from incurable personality disorders: particularly psychopathy and narcissism. I just made a video to raise public awareness to this problem, posted on my youtube channel, on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici

This video features paintings by the artist and social activist Michael Bell, from his series on domestic abuse, called Voices of Violence, found on the link:

http://mbellart.com

For more information about domestic abuse, personality disorders and dangerous men, please see the following websites:

More articles from this website:

https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com

My new novel about psychopathic seduction, The Seducer, found on:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/the-seducer/

Steve Becker‘s website on narcissism and psychopathy:

http://powercommunicating.com

and  Sandra L. Brown‘s website on personality disorders and therapy institute:

http://saferelationships.com

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness.com