Playing With Fire: Narcissists and Psychopaths as Players

Many of you have dated them: cocky men who seem to attract women like flies and change partners as frequently as normal people change underwear. They can be smooth, sexy, exciting and fun. Initially, they may seem harmless enough: just normal men looking for a good time. If you’re not seeking a serious relationship, you may even see them as a welcome escape when normal life presents so many challenges and entails so many responsibilities. But players are often not as harmless as they seem. They may be suffering from a serious and incurable personality disorder, of which their sexual addiction is only a symptom, or the tip of the iceberg.

Compulsive seducers tend to be extremely narcissistic. They use their conquests as mirrors to reflect back to them an aggrandized image of their own desirability. Steve Becker, a therapist specializing in psychopathy and narcissism and consultant for lovefraud.com, distinguishes, however, between the motives of narcissists and psychopaths. Of the two, he suggests that psychopaths present a greater danger to others. He explains that all psychopaths are highly narcissistic. But the converse isn’t true. Not all narcissists are psychopathic, in the sense of living for the thrill of duping and harming others.

In his essay, “Sociopath versus Narcissist,” Becker argues that both narcissistic and psychopathic seducers share a tendency to treat others as objects. He states, “Welcome to the world of the narcissist and psychopath. Theirs is a mindset of immediate, demanded gratification, with a view of others as expected—indeed existing—to serve their agendas. Frustrate their agendas, and you can expect repercussions, ranging from the disruptive to ruinous.” (powercommunicating.com)

Psychopaths and narcissists, however, have different motivations for why they seduce. Narcissists need an endless supply of validation. The more women they seduce, the more they feel reassured in their sex appeal. By way of contrast, a psychopath does it primarily for the pleasure of playing a game. The women he seduces, whether he’s involved with them for one evening or several years, represent nothing more than pawns, to be used for his personal pleasure and amusement. Becker elaborates:

The psychopath is less obsessed than the narcissist with validation. Indeed, his inner world seems to lack much of anything to validate: it is barren, with nothing in it that would even be responsive to validation. An emotional cipher, the psychopath’s exploitation of others is more predatory than the narcissist’s. For the psychopath, who may be paranoid, the world is something like a gigantic hunt, populated by personified-objects to be mined to his advantage.” (powercommunicating.com)

Just as they eventually tire of each game piece—be it a long-term girlfriend, casual lover or spouse—psychopaths also tire of each kind of game. Even promiscuous sex gets boring for them. Which is why they often feel the need to engage in acts of physical violence for additional thrills. However, their boredom is only temporarily relieved by each new addiction, transgression and act of depravity. For this reason, psychopaths sometimes move from promiscuity to rape (or worse).

The quest for validation leads a narcissist in an insatiable search for his narcissistic supply: new conquests, be they merely sexual or romantic, mean new sources of praise and validation for him. More dangerously, the quest for entertainment and domination–or pleasure through victimization–leads a psychopath to explore new and increasingly sadistic ways of hurting others. No matter how flattering and romantic such men may seem initially, playing with compulsive seducers–be they narcissists or psychopaths–is playing with fire. You will get burned. The only question is: how bad and for how long.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction