Sometimes we become involved with disordered personalities because they have a compelling mask of sanity: they hide effectively their deviant natures and abnormal behavior. But we’ve also seen that psychopaths and other personality disordered individuals can’t maintain that mask on over extended periods of time for three main reasons:
a) they can’t keep straight all the lies and half-truths they tell us and other people, so inconsistencies and contradictions in their false stories start to become obvious in time
b) they don’t put as much effort into maintaining the false front since our value to them diminishes once the newness wears off and once they’ve gotten some of what they want from and
c) psychopaths form relationships in order to exercise control over others, which inevitably turns into increasingly abusive and unequal relationships
It stands to reason that, after the honeymoon phase, something else blinds us to the truth about the psychopath’s increasingly obvious personality disorder: the power of denial. Sigmund Freud coined the term “denial” to describe a situation when a person is faced with an uncomfortable or difficult to accept fact and denies or rejects it despite all rational evidence that it has occurred. How often do people involved with psychopaths turn a blind eye to clear evidence of their lying and cheating? How often do they rationalize the psychopath’s wrongdoings, blame it on others, find excuses for it or accept the psychopath’s lies, projection of blame and (false) justifications? The more emotionally invested a victim is in the psychopath and the relationship with him, and the more he has succeeded in isolating her from others, the stronger the power of denial becomes.
As the Wikipedia explains, denial can take many forms, but all of them are a kind of willful blindness to an unpleasant reality:
a) simple denial: bracketing or failing to see the psychopath’s wrongdoings and bad character
b) minimisation: rationalizing away the importance of the psychopath’s wrongdoings (for instance, by attributing it to his immaturity, or human fallibility, or a simple mistake, or someone else’s bad influence upon him, etc.)
c) projection: accepting the fact of the wrongdoings, but blaming them on someone or something else
In her book Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, Susan Forward also explains denial in terms of forgrounding and backgrounding of information. When people become invested in a toxic relationship, no matter how much they suffer as a result of their love addiction to a disordered personality, they foreground every quality they see in the psychopath and the relationship and relegate to the background all the information that contradicts that rosier picture of reality.
What ends up being in the foreground are subjective, fleeting and superficial impressions: such as the fact the psychopath occasionally makes you feel good through flattery or gifts; the fact that, when he wants (something) he can be charming; the fact that he seems to cast a spell over you and others; the fact he excites you.
All of these “qualities” have nothing to do with what truly counts in a relationship: character. For those who stay long-term with a psychopath or any other personality disordered individual, character becomes relegated to the background precisely because psychopaths lack character. The only way to put up with the psychopath’s constant lying, cheating, manipulation, and exercise of dominance over you is to deny the importance of facts that show what the psychopath IS and focus instead on the superficial impressions and fleeting feelings related to the small (and fake) acts of kindness he sometimes DOES. False image becomes more important than real substance.
Psychopaths do everything in their power to maintain hold over their victims: by lying to them, by isolating them from others, by intimidating them and by rendering them dependent on them. However, the power of denial is the strongest chain that keeps people stuck in a toxic relationship with a person whose evil nature is undeniable.
Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction