The Psychopath’s False Sense of Omnipotence

Psychopaths aren’t just after control over others. By controlling others, they aspire to a sense of omnipotence. This attitude is the result of the combination of their traits: low impulse control; the intent to harm others (predatory nature); and absolute narcissism (a pervasive sense of superiority to all other human beings and of being above all the rules and laws that govern the rest of humanity). The combination of these qualities, it turns out, is greater than the sum of the parts. What you get is a human being who believes he has the right to deceive, manipulate, use, abuse and discard others solely for the pleasure and power such control give him.

Psychopaths worship their own altar. They feel smart enough to fool anyone and to get away with anything. This sense of ultimate power and superiority–omnipotence–also leads them to lie so brazenly, to play cat and mouse games with their victims and, when they commit crimes, to taunt the media and the police. Drew Peterson notoriously taunted the media, the public and the police, demanding a dating show on the radio when interviewed about the murder of his fourth wife. Psychopathic sexual predators take trophies of their victims, pose them, stage the crime scenes.

All these deviant acts create  for them a false sense of omnipotence: the power of life and death over others and, what’s more, of getting away with anything they do. Even “subcriminal” psychopaths leave obvious signs of their infidelities, fraud and other wrongdoings, to see if those they duped will catch on; to enjoy their transgressions even  more when they can get away with them, right under their victims’ noses.

What’s more, psychopaths tend to keep closely around them a set of individuals who worship them: be it family members or spouses they have thoroughly brainwashed and/or a set of acquaintances who are only exposed to their charming, “good side”. Such individuals live in what could be called a narcissistic bubble, whereby they feel “special,” important and superior to others by virtue of their association with the psychopath. This too feeds the psychopath’s illusion that everyone adores him; that he can get away with anything: even if, in truth, psychopaths alienate most individuals around them and have, at best, ambivalent Jekyll/Hyde reputations.

If there’s any consolation for their victims, in reality, psychopaths always lose in the end. They lose jobs, relationships and the trust and loyalty of others. With each new victim they feel invincible. As the victim starts to catch on, they move on to another that gives them the same rush of power. Psychopaths cheat on, lie to, steal from, hurt and manipulate others from a position of omnipotence. Their greatest strength is seeing other people’s weaknesses. Their greatest weakness is not seeing other people’s strengths.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

How to Recognize a Psychopath

Unlike Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, psychopaths don’t usually come across as socially awkward, reclusive and bizarre. On the contrary, they often seem charming, outgoing and normal. That’s a big part of their lure, or “mask of sanity.” Consequently, it’s very important that we inform ourselves about the symptoms of psychopathy in order to protect ourselves from these dangerous individuals.

The main experts on psychopathy, Hervey Cleckley, Robert Hare and Martha Stout provide, essentially, the same list of personality traits to describe psychopaths. They state that such individuals exhibit superficial charm and intelligence. They use these qualities to attract people and to control them. Contrary to other kinds of pathological individuals, psychopaths don’t experience delusions or manifest any “other signs of irrational thinking.” For that reason, they appear to be, and actually are, “sane.” When they commit crimes, psychopaths know exactly what they’re doing. They realize that it’s wrong and know why society considers it wrong. They just happen to make exceptions for themselves and for their outrageous behavior, which, in their estimation, lies above the rules that govern the rest of humanity.

Similarly, psychopaths lack nervousness or any “psychoneurotic manifestations.” Not only are they unlike Woody Allen’s comical antiheroes, but also they stay cool and collected even when a normal response would be to experience distress. Although they sometimes engage in histrionic displays of emotion to gain sympathy, psychopaths remain unflappable during a crisis, such as a break-up or divorce from their significant other (because no other is significant to them), a death in the family, when they’re caught for committing a crime or even when they’re being punished for their illegal activities. A psychopath’s motto in life is: “Bad men do what good men dream.” Psychopaths can’t grasp the idea of conscience and feelings for others except as a form of weakness. They don’t understand that their dreams are normal people’s nightmares.

Such individuals are very impulsive and can fly off the handle with little or no provocation, but nothing rattles them for long. Analogously, they can fulfill their obligations for a short period of time to win their targets’ trust, but are unreliable over the long haul. No matter what promises they make and how important their commitment to fulfill them may be to others, they’ll eventually let people down. In fact, they go out of their way to hurt and betray those who trust them.

Psychopaths pursue short-term goals. They say whatever they need to say in order to get what they want at the moment. Their minds function like a GPS system where they’re constantly punching in a new destination. Whatever direction they take changes upon a whim, as soon as they spot anything or anyone they momentarily perceive as a better or more exciting opportunity. That’s not just because psychopaths are shallow, but also because they’re envious, greedy and power-hungry.  They want whatever other people have that they find desirable. That may be a new partner, a good job, prestige, wealth or a family. They want successful relationships without offering love, honesty or fidelity. To bolster their sense of superiority–without having much to show in terms of personal qualities, talents or accomplishments–they put their partners (and others) down and cultivate their weaknesses. To succeed in their jobs, without doing much work, they charm, intimidate, manipulate and bully their coworkers and staff.  To acquire wealth, they commit fraud or engage in scams. But, generally speaking, psychopaths can’t hold on to anything and anyone because their interests and needs change constantly. Sooner or later, they become dissatisfied with everything they have in life and want something more, or someone different.

Psychopaths are unpredictable even in their unpredictability. Nobody can tell in advance when they’re going to sabotage your life and happiness, or even their own, for that matter. Psychopaths can be highly believable pathological liars. Most people may lie sometimes.  Psychopaths, however, tell harmful lies for the sport of it and with malice. To them, lying functions as a means of controlling others by manipulating their perception of reality. It’s also a form of free entertainment. Because of their shallow emotions, psychopaths get easily bored. Their psychological hollowness propels them into a perpetual quest for new people to use, new sexual encounters, the newest business ventures as well as new and exciting ways to transgress social rules.

Psychopaths manifest poor judgment and fail to learn from experience. Epicurus defined pleasure as the absence of pain. By that standard, psychopaths aren’t Epicurean. They seek positive pleasures: highs, thrills and the sensation of constant euphoria. But they aren’t particularly bothered by pain or by negative consequences in general. They sabotage their own futures and harm others in momentary flashes of anger or for the sake of short-lived fun. A lot of their problems stem from their fundamental narcissism, or what Cleckley calls their “pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love.” To psychopaths, people are objects whose needs and even lives don’t matter except in so far as they can use them.  After using people, they toss them away.

Psychopaths can’t feel anything, not even joy or happiness, very deeply. They exhibit, Cleckley indicates, a “general poverty in all major affective reactions.” Hare states that psychopaths experience “proto-emotions” rather than the full range of human feelings. They feel momentary pleasure, glee or delight when they do or get what they want. By way of contrast, they feel fleeting frustration or anger when their desires are thwarted. But they can’t experience the deeper emotions, such as other-regarding love, empathy, remorse, sadness, regret or even anxiety and depression.

Their main emotion is contempt for other human beings, which they often mask underneath a thin layer of sociability and charm. Upon meeting new people, psychopaths perform an intuitive cost-benefit analysis, to classify them as targets, accomplices or obstacles in the pursuit of whatever they want at the moment. Targets are used as accomplices, and then discarded as obstacles once their usefulness has expired.

Since psychopaths eventually alienate all those around them with their unscrupulous and callous behavior, the only people who continue to find their mask of sanity plausible over time are those who don’t know them well, those who suffer from a similar personality disorder, or those who have an unhealthy emotional investment in them. Those who refuse to face the truth about the psychopath in their lives often become his alibis, sticking by him despite all rational evidence of his personality disorder and his wrongdoings.

Due to their shallowness, psychopaths suffer from what psychologists call “specific loss of insight.” Not only are they incapable of understanding how others function on a deeper emotional level, but also they lack an understanding of their own motivations and behavior. They intuitively know how to deceive and manipulate others. But they can’t grasp why they feel compelled to do it. Because they don’t see anything wrong with themselves and their actions, they also fail in therapy. Improving one’s behavior requires having the insight to see your flaws and the desire to change for the better, especially for the sake of those you care about. Psychopaths lack such incentives. They live only for their own pleasure.

To entertain themselves, they engage in what Cleckley calls “fantastic and uninviting behavior.” This is made worse by various addictions—to sex, drugs and/or alcohol—that are quite common for them, largely because of their low impulse control and need for constant excitement.  Psychopaths thrive on depravity and transgression. After behaving more or less normally for a period of time, they can all of a sudden become boisterous and unruly, pull their pants down in public, hit their spouse or start a brawl without provocation. Cleckley also notes that for psychopaths, “suicide is rarely carried out.” Just as they’re incapable of experiencing a deeper form of happiness which for most people results from leading an orderly life and loving one’s family and friends, they’re also incapable of experiencing a deeper form of unhappiness, which drives some individuals to suicide.

Cleckley and Hare both observe that for psychopaths “sex life is impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.” Psychopaths can, however, sometimes experience intense attachments without emotional bonding. Some of them have such obsessive infatuations that they may even stalk their targets for an extended period of time. This behavior, however, is not tied to any genuine feelings of love or even to “being in love.” Rather, it stems from a sense of entitlement and ownership. Psychopaths believe that it’s their right to possess the women they momentarily desire and to discard them as soon as they no longer want them. Generally speaking, for psychopaths sexual relationships function as a release and as a form of exerting control over others. They’re not a means of connecting, which, over time, implies shared emotional ties and mutual moral obligations.

Finally, psychopaths are noted for their “failure to follow any life plan.” A few psychopaths may be very ambitious. Yet fewer become powerful or famous. However, most lack the patience to pursue far-reaching goals that require dedication and hard work. Instead, they move from one temporary–and usually destructive–diversion to another, in search of something to alleviate their pervasive sense of boredom.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


The Seducer: A novel about psychopathic seduction


The Seducer, my new novel about psychopathic seduction, is now in print, available for purchase on amazon.com and other bookstores.

http://www.amazon.com/Seducer-Novel-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0761858075/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326297451&sr=1-1

Advance Praise for The Seducer:

Like the best, most delicious novels, Claudia Moscovici’s psychological thriller, The Seducer, grips you in its opening pages and holds you in its addictive clutches straight through to its dramatic, remarkable conclusion. This is a fascinating novel, on every page of which Moscovici’s intimate understanding of the psychology of psychopaths and their victims gleams with a laser’s concentrated brilliance. The result is a narrative that builds with a patient, yet propulsive, force; a narrative whose intensity and suspense, in tandem, leave the reader eager to know, at every step of the way, what happens next? I encourage the reader to start this novel with a full set of nails, because it’s a nail biter in the most literal sense.

Steve Becker, MSW, LCSW LoveFraud.com feature columnist, Expert/Consultant on Narcissism and Psychopathy

What is love in this seductive new novel? Hypnotic attraction or deadly trap? A dream come true or a world filled with obsessions in the absence of genuine feelings? The Seducer probes the chilling depths of alienation and selfishness as the heroine, Ana, is caught in the spider’s web of her narcissistic lover, Michael. No magic, just cruelty. Claudia Moscovici wrote a powerful novel about an unfortunate reality many women face: the unraveling of their romantic dreams as love turns into a cold and calculated game of chess.

Carmen Firan, author of Words and Flesh

The Seducer offers a thrilling look at the most dangerous men out there, that every woman is warned about and many encounter: the psychopathic predator. We’ve seen these men featured in the news for their gruesome crimes. But few would expect them to be the charming, debonair, romantic seducers that love stories are made of. When the heroine of the novel, Ana, met Michael, she was in for the roller-coaster ride of her life. In her exciting second novel, The Seducer, Claudia Moscovici depicts with talent and psychological accuracy the spellbinding power of these charming yet dangerous Don Juans.

D. R. Popa, author of Lady V and Other Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007)

Claudia Moscovici’s new psychological thriller, The Seducer, reminds us of classics like Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but with a  contemporary twist. The new seducer is a psychopath, a dangerous predator without genuine emotion. And yet, we remain fascinated as he charms two women: one of them utterly dependent, the other seduced but autonomous. The reader’s outrage toward the reprehensible Michael may feel neutralized by the author’s meticulous studies of the psychopath in action and by what I call “ethical irony,” an often hidden moral perspective. Moscovici’s epic of betrayal and self-deception draws the reader into the convoluted mind of sexual predators and their victims. The narrative is bold, vivid and lucid.

Edward K. Kaplan, Brandeis University

 

New Support Group: The Path to Peace, Recovery from Psychopathic Abuse

photo by Richard Calmes

I  hope that everyone had a pleasant holiday season. The new year is an opportunity to look forward to many positive developments in our lives, one of which, for victims of psychopaths, is Kelli Hernandez‘s newly launched support group on Facebook, called The Path to Peace, Recovery from Psychopathic Abuse. It includes information about psychopathy–including, but not limited to, articles from the blogs psychopathyawareness and saferelationshipsmagazine–as well as inspirational pictures and discussions among its growing number of members. I hope that you will take a look at Kelli’s new support group and delve right in, for the information, comaraderie and lively conversations. Please find below link to The Path to Peace and part of its Facebook wall.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


Review of Dorothy McCoy’s The Manipulative Man

(See radio broadcast featuring Dr. McCoy):

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2474626187239&id=1299968029&ref=notif&notif_t=wall#!/profile.php?id=1299968029

Manipulative individuals say and do things to control and undermine others. In its extreme form, manipulation is a form of emotional abuse. The Manipulative Man by Dorothy McCoy, EdD, is essential reading for everyone who wishes to work on problematic relationships with flawed, manipulative individuals who are not full-fledged personality disordered. All human beings are flawed yet most of us still manage to have close relationships with our family members and romantic partners. Many have tendencies of personality disorders; few have full-blown personality disorders, however.

While as Sandra Brown, M.A. explains in How to Spot a Dangerous Man, personality disorders are not fixable and relationships with such individuals are very dangerous and damaging, what do we do about the rest: namely, our relationships with 90 percent of the population, who, like us, has human flaws that can be worked on and improved? This is where Dorothy McCoy’s book, The Manipulative Man: Identify His Behavior, Counter the Abuse, Regain Control, offers very useful coping strategies that can strengthen our ties to our significant others and mend our relationships.

Dr. McCoy first explains the manipulative personality types and his (or her) strategies of manipulation, which include: excessive flattery (especially at the beginning of the relationship), deceit, bullying, stonewalling, pity play, and projecting blame upon the victim, among others. She then offers a typology of manipulative men that women are likely to encounter and have problems with. These include: the Mama’s Boy (characterized by dependency and need for caretaking and adulation); the Workaholic (who is a perfectionist, often suffers from Obsessive Personality Disorder and defines himself in terms of his work); the Eternal Jock (who relives his glory days and can’t move on and deal with the responsibilities of his life); the Dependent Man (who can’t make decisions and defines himself excessively in terms of his relationship to his partner, thus draining her time and energy); the Antisocial (who engages in risk-taking, transgressive and even criminal behavior, with no remorse, for the thrill of it); the Womanizer (who is often a love or sex addict, whose appetite for new conquests can never be satiated); the Passive-Aggressive man (who wallows in self-pity and constantly  undermines his partner’s self-esteem and accomplishments); the Narcissist (who essentially worships his own altar and views others as a mirror that reflects his perfection and greatness); the Psychopath (the social predator who charms his way into women’s lives with flattery and deceit in order to use and harm them) and the Violent Manipulator (who engages in domestic violence).

The Manipulative Man explains each of these manipulative types by including not only descriptions, but also case studies that offer concrete examples and engage the reader. The book also offers coping strategies for such troubled relationships and outlines the difference between problematic traits and full-blown personality disorders. In other words, the author distinguishes between character deficiencies that can’t be fixed–the best one can do in such situations is escape the relationship with minimal harm–and tendencies that may be able to be improved by working together, as a couple, on the relationship.

Even in those situations that can be ameliorated, Dr. McCoy emphasizes that both partners have to be willing to make changes for the sake of their relationship  and sustain those improvements consistently, over time. The Manipulative Man makes an important contribution to the field of couples’ counseling and offers an excellent supplement to therapy. This book tells readers in a clear and engaging manner how to save salvageable relationships while not shying away from advising not trying to save unsalvageable relationships with personality disordered individuals.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction