The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

So far I’ve asked you to imagine a person who lacks empathy for others and the capacity to feel any emotion deeply. I’ve asked you to imagine a person who is plagued by restlessness and boredom and finds sole satisfaction in duping, manipulating and controlling others. A person who may simulate respect or politeness, but who fundamentally regards others with contempt, as objects to be used for his temporary diversion or satisfaction. A person who suffers from an incurable and absolute egocentrism.

But even this doesn’t even begin to give you a full picture of the extent of a psychopath’s emotional poverty. It may describe what a psychopath can’t feel, but to understand how and why the psychopath is driven to harm others, you need to also get a sense of what a psychopath does feel. Psychopaths can’t tolerate loneliness. Just as all human beings can’t survive physically without food and water, psychopaths can’t survive emotionally without victims.

Of course, psychopaths regard love with contempt. They view loving and loyal couples as an ugly, undifferentiated blob. Because they can’t experience or even understand love and loyalty, they see moral individuals as weak. They have nothing but disdain for the emotions that normal human beings feel. But at the same time, psychopaths can’t live without feeding upon the real and deeper emotions of people who care about them, of individuals who can love: in other words of the people they use, abuse, toy with, lie to and hurt.

Psychopaths are often sexual predators. But even more often, and certainly more fundamentally, they’re emotional predators. What they want from their victims is far more than possessing their bodies or sex. They need to feed their insatiable appetite for harm, as well as sustain their sense of superiority,  by possessing and destroying others inside and out, body and soul. A psychopath’s emotional framework is like a vacuum that needs to suck out the emotional energy from healthy individuals in order to survive. This is why I have called psychopaths real-life vampires, that we need to understand and worry about far more than their fictional counterparts.

A psychopath lacks much more than empathy for others in his emotional repertoire. He also lacks the capacity to experience any kind of emotion that requires deeper insight and psychological awareness. He experiences only proto-emotions, which are as short-lived as they’re intense. That doesn’t make them any less dangerous, however.  The evidence points to the fact that Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle preplanned their murders weeks in advance. But Mark Hacking seems to have acted more or less on impulse, after having fought with his wife. If we believe his confession to his brothers, Mark was in the process of packing up his things, ran across a revolver and shot Lori while she was asleep.

When angry or frustrated, a psychopath is capable of anything, even if his anger will dissipate a few minutes later. As Hervey Cleckley observes, “In addition to his incapacity for object love, the psychopath always shows general poverty of affect. Although it is true that be sometimes becomes excited and shouts as if in rage or seems to exult in enthusiasm and again weeps in what appear to be bitter tears or speaks eloquent and mournful words about his misfortunes or his follies, the conviction dawns on those who observe him carefully that here we deal with a readiness of expression rather than a strength of feeling.” (The Mask of Sanity, 349)

The proto-emotions experienced by a psychopath tie in, once again, to the satisfaction or frustration of his immediate desires: “Vexation, spite, quick and labile flashes of quasi-affection, peevish resentment, shallow moods of self-pity, puerile attitudes of vanity, and absurd and showy poses of indignation are all within his emotional scale and are freely sounded as the circumstances of life play upon him. But mature, wholehearted anger, true or consistent indignation, honest, solid grief, sustaining pride, deep joy, and genuine despair are reactions not likely to be found within this scale.” (The Mask of Sanity, 349)

For this reason, psychopaths don’t feel distress even when they land in jail. Even there they take pleasure in manipulating their fellow inmates and the prison staff. Even from there they write letters to people outside to use them for money, amusement and possibly even sex. Nothing ruffles a psychopath’s feathers for long. The same emotional shallowness that leads him to be unresponsive to the needs of others and to experience no remorse when he hurts them also enables him to feel little or no distress when he, himself gets hurt. So far, I’ve covered the emotions psychopaths can’t feel. I’ve also had the opportunity to witness up-close and personal the emotions a psychopath can feel, however. That’s what I’ll describe next.

The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

1) Glee. A psychopath feels elation or glee whenever he gets his way or pulls a fast one on somebody. I can still recall O.J. Simpson’s reaction to getting away with murder (at least in my own opinion and that of a lot of other people who watched the trial, if not in the eyes of the jury): his celebratory glee at pulling a fast one on the American public, on the system of justice and especially on the victims and their families.

2) Anger. Robert Hare notes in Without Conscience that since psychopaths have low impulse control, they’re much more easily angered than normal people. A psychopath’s displays of anger tend to be cold, sudden, short-lived and arbitrary. Generally you can’t predict what exactly will trigger his anger since this emotion, like his charm, is used to control those around him. It’s not necessarily motivated by something you’ve done or by his circumstances. A psychopath may blow up over something minor, but remain completely cool and collected about a more serious matter. Displays of anger represent yet another way for a psychopath to demonstrate that he’s in charge. When psychopaths scream, insult, hit, or even wound and kill other individuals, they’re aware of their behavior even if they act opportunistically, in the heat of the moment. They know that they’re harming others and, what’s more, they enjoy it.

3) Frustration. This emotion is tied to their displays of anger but isn’t necessarily channeled against a particular person, but against an obstacle or situation. A psychopath may feel frustrated, for example, when his girlfriend doesn’t want to leave her current partner for him. Yet he may be too infatuated with her at the moment to channel his negative emotions against her. He may also believe that his anger would alienate her before he’s gotten a chance to hook her emotionally. In such circumstances, he may become frustrated with the situation itself: with the obstacles that her partner or her family or society in general pose between them. Psychopaths generally experience frustration when they face impersonal barriers between themselves and their current goals or targets. But that’s also what often engages them even more obstinately in a given pursuit. After all, for them, overcoming minor challenges in life is part of the fun.

4) Consternation. As we’ve seen so far, psychopaths don’t create love bonds with others. They establish dominance bonds instead. When those controlled by a psychopath disapprove of his actions or sever the relationship, sometimes he’ll experience anger. But his immediate reaction is more likely to be surprise or consternation. Psychopaths can’t believe that their bad actions, which they always consider justifiable and appropriate, could ever cause another human being who was previously under their spell to disapprove of their behavior and reject them. Even if they cheat, lie, use, manipulate or isolate others, they don’t feel like they deserve any repercussions as a result of that behavior. In addition, psychopaths rationalize their bad actions as being in the best interest of their victims.

For instance, if a psychopath isolates his partner from her family and persuades her to quit her job and then, once she’s all alone with him, abandons her to pursue other women, he feels fully justified in his conduct. In his mind, she deserved to be left since she didn’t satisfy all of his needs or was somehow inadequate as a mate. In fact, given his sense of entitlement, the psychopath might even feel like he did her a favor to remove her from her family and friends and to leave her alone in the middle of nowhere, like a wreck displaced by a tornado. Thanks to him, she can start her life anew and become more independent.

To put it bluntly, a psychopath will kick you in the teeth and expect you to say “Thank you.” Being shameless and self-absorbed, he assumes that all those close to him will buy his false image of goodness and excuse his despicable actions just as he does. In fact, he expects that even the women he’s used and discarded continue to idealize him as a perfect partner and eagerly await his return. That way he can continue to use them for sex, money, control, his image or any other services if, when and for however long he chooses to return into their lives.

When those women don’t feel particularly grateful—when, in fact, they feel only contempt for him–the psychopath will be initially stunned that they have such a low opinion of him. He will also feel betrayed by these women, or by family members and friends who disapprove of his reprehensible behavior. Although he, himself, feels no love and loyalty to anyone, a psychopath expects unconditional love and loyalty from all those over whom he’s established a dominance bond.

This mindset also explains psychopaths’ behavior in court. Both Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle seemed outraged that the jury found them guilty of murder. Psychopaths believe that those whom they have hurt, and society in general, should not hold them accountable for their misdeeds. After all, in their own minds, they’re superior to other human beings and therefore above the law. How dare anybody hold them accountable and punish them for their crimes!

5) Boredom. This is probably the only feeling that gives psychopaths a nagging sense of discomfort. They try to alleviate it, as we’ve seen, by pursuing cheap thrills, harming others and engaging in transgressive behavior. Nothing, however, can relieve for long the psychopath’s fundamental ennui. He gets quickly used to, and thus also bored with, each new person and activity.

6) Histrionic flashes. I’m not sure if this is an emotion, but I know for sure that the psychopath’s dramatic displays of love, remorse and empathy lack any meaning and depth. If you watch the murder trials on the news or on Court TV, you’ll notice that some psychopaths convicted of murder often put on shows of grief, sadness or remorse in front of the jury. The next moment, however, they’re joking around and laughing with their attorneys or instructing them in a calm and deliberate manner about what to do and say on their behalf. The displays of emotion psychopaths commonly engage in are, of course, fake. They’re tools of manipulation–to provoke sympathy or gain trust–as well as yet another way of “winning” by fooling those around them.

I’ve already mentioned that Neil Entwistle engaged in such histrionic behavior. If you’ve followed crime features on the news, you may have noticed that Casey Anthony, the young woman accused of killing her toddler, behaves similarly. She was observed going out to dance and party at clubs with friends the day after her daughter, Caylee, disappeared. Casey’s lack of concern for her missing child doesn’t necessarily prove that she murdered her. But it reveals highly suspicious and callous behavior. It also casts doubt upon the brief and dramatic displays of grief or concern that she sometimes puts on in front of the media and for her parents.

7) Infatuation. When they identify someone as a good potential target, psychopaths can become obsessed with that particular person. In Without Conscience, Hare compares the psychopath’s focused attention upon his chosen target to a powerful beam of light that illuminates only one spot at a time. He also likens it to a predator stalking its prey. Because psychopaths tend to ignore other responsibilities (such as their jobs and their families) and have no conscience whatsoever, they can focus on pursuing a given target more intensely than multi-dimensional, loving men could. This is especially the case if their target presents an exciting challenge, such as if she’s rich or famous, or if she’s married to another man, which triggers their competitive drive. This single-minded infatuation, however, like all of their proto-emotions, is superficial and short-lived. Because for psychopaths such obsessions don’t lead to any genuine friendship, caring or love, they dissipate as soon as they get whatever they wanted from that person, which may be only the conquest itself.

8) Self-love (sort of). Since psychopaths only care about themselves, one would think that self-love would be the one emotion they could experience more deeply. In a sense that’s true, since their whole lives revolve around the single-minded pursuit of selfish goals. But this is also what makes psychopaths’ self-love as shallow as the rest of their emotions. Just as they’re incapable of considering anyone else’s long-term interest, they’re incapable of considering their own. By pursuing fleeting pleasures and momentary whims, psychopaths sabotage their own lives as well. Rarely do they end up happy or successful. They spend their whole lives hurting and betraying those who loved and trusted them, using and discarding their partners, disappointing the expectations of their families, friends, bosses and colleagues and moving from one meaningless diversion to another. At the end of the road, most of them end up empty-handed and alone.

9) CONTEMPT. I’ve capitalized this word because this is the emotion that dominates a psychopath’s whole identity and way of looking at other human beings. No matter how charming, other-regarding and friendly they may appear to be on the outside, all psychopaths are misanthropes on the inside. A psychopath’s core emotion is contempt for the individuals he fools, uses and abuses and for humanity in general. You can identify the psychopath’s underlying contempt much more easily once he no longer needs you or once his mask of sanity shatters. As we’ve seen, psychopaths hold themselves in high regard and others in low regard. To describe the hierarchies they construct, I’ll use an analogy from my literary studies. I was trained in Comparative Literature during they heyday of Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction as it was being applied to pretty much everything: cultural studies, gender hierarchies, race relations, post-colonialism and the kitchen sink.

Although looking at life in general in terms of “indeterminate” binary hierarchies hasn’t proved particularly useful, this polarized worldview describes rather well the mindset of psychopaths. For such disordered, narcissistic and unprincipled individuals, the world is divided into superiors (themselves) and inferiors (all others); predators (themselves) and prey (their targets); dupers (themselves) and duped (the suckers). Of course, only giving psychopaths a lobotomy would turn these binary hierarchies upside down in their minds. This is where the applicability of Derrida’s deconstructive model stops. Although psychopaths consider themselves superior to others, they distinguish among levels of inferiority in the people they use, manipulate and dupe.

The biggest dupes in their eyes are those individuals who believe whole-heartedly that the psychopaths are the kind, honest, other-regarding individuals they appear to be. As the saying goes, if you buy that, I have some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you. Such individuals don’t present much of a challenge for psychopaths. They’re usually quickly used up and discarded by them. The second tier of dupes consists of individuals who are lucid only when it comes to the psychopath’s mistreatment of others, not themselves.  Wives and girlfriends who are clever enough to see how the psychopath cheats on, lies to, uses and manipulates other people in his life, but vain or blind enough to believe that they’re the only exception to this rule form the bulk of this group.

This brings to mind an episode of a popular court show I watched recently. A woman testified on behalf of the integrity and honesty of her boyfriend. As it turns out, he had cheated on his wife with her (and other women as well). But his girlfriend nonetheless staunchly defended his character. She maintained that even though she knew that her lover was a cheater and a liar, because she herself was such a great catch and because they had such a special and unique relationship, he was completely faithful and honest to her. The judge laughed out loud and added, “…that you know of!”

Women who are cynical enough to see the psychopath’s mistreatment of others yet gullible enough not to see that’s exactly what he’s doing to them constitute his preferred targets. Such women are not so naive as to present no challenge whatsoever for the psychopath. But they’re definitely blind enough to fall for his manipulation and lies. A psychopath will wrap several such women around his little finger. Those who finally see the psychopath’s mistreatment as a sign of his malicious and corrupt nature occupy the third rung of the hierarchy. They’re usually women who have been burned so badly by the psychopath that they don’t wish to put their hands into the fire again.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


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Internet Predators: The Cyberpath and Cyberstalking

The internet offers fertile ground for psychopaths, who are constantly on the prowl for potential new victims while continuing to intimidate and harass their previous targets, sometimes years after the relationship is over. Psychopaths never experience true emotional bonding with anyone; however they sometimes experience intense attachments to certain targets. Just as they take perverse pleasure in hurting those close to them, they also take perverse pleasure in harassing previous targets from afar. 

This is easy to do with relative anonymity. New email addresses are easy to get; while anyone with minimal computer skills knows how to reroute IP addresses. While even rerouted IP addresses can be identified by the authorities, often it’s more trouble than it’s worth. This makes it more difficult for the victim to establish a pattern of stalking to the police.  

Even though the victim can’t control the psychopath’s obsessive stalking behavior, she can control her own reactions to it. Please find below an informative article on psychopaths on the internet (or “cyberpaths”) by a fellow blogger, Lisa (relentlessabundance.wordpress.com).

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

What is the cyberpath looking for?

by Lisa, relentlessabundance.wordpress.com

Like all psychopathic personalities, the cyberpath tends to get bored easily. He looks for ways to fill his boredom with exploits that will satisfy his need for personal gratification. The Internet provides a wide array of offerings – chatrooms and discussion groups, mailing lists, social networking sites, and many portals for interpersonal communication with a huge variety of people. The cyberpath tends to find someone that gratifies his need to feed his narcissistic desire for attention – whether with intrigue, argument, conflict or adoration and love. He may flit from one victim to another quite quickly, or may stay with a single victim for an extended period, depending on how long the victim continues to feed this endless need.

Dominance and power form recurrent themes in the social relations of psychopathic personalities. The cyberpath constantly seeks to dominate and control others. This takes a variety of forms:

  • in arguments and debates, he constantly needs to have the last word;
  • he attempts to silence others and close discussion with his point of view;
  • he will resort to insults and attacks in order to retain dominance;
  • if he seems to be losing his dominant position in an argument, he will abandon it, forget it and later deny it rather than face any sort of compromise of his dominance.

In his personal relationships, his bids for adulation and devotion will take on more subtle forms:

  • he will go to great lengths to elicit love and devotion from others;
  • he is only interested in the thrill of achieving or winning this, and once the relationship gets past its initial excitement phase, his boredom and need for further validation will lead him to seek out further victims;
  • he is highly adept at lying, and even as his lies get discovered, he will refashion his story to make himself appear credible, often using the stance of humility and remorse to get himself out of a corner. Gradually he will have to set up new online profiles and sites in order to clear away any previous evidence of his track record repeating itself.

Psychopathic personalities enjoy playing jokes and tricks on others in order to humiliate them or assert dominance. In other words, he is not necessarily looking for money or sex; he may simply be looking for the thrill of a new connection, a new game. This is not to say that the psychopath is necessarily aware of what he’s doing; he may not even realise or acknowledge that he is hurting or exploiting others in his quest for attention and narcissistic supply. Indeed, his own sense of need and lack may be so great that it may express itself in very genuine self-pity, heartfelt longing and sweeping declarations of love and desire.

A psychopath tends to play the same games over and over. He tends to have no real interest in your inner emotional state as he is incapable of actual empathy (although he may have a deep desire to feel empathy, and may indeed claim to feel it). Consequently, few psychopaths are actually stalkers. They do not connect emotionally to others, so once a relationship has run out of steam for them, they simply move onto the next person that piques their interest. For those who have found themselves at the end of a relationship with a psychopathic individual, one of the most frustrating aspects of the breakup can be the lack of any acknowledgement that the relationship even happened.

Gordon Banks, in his essay “Don Juan as Psychopath” points out that this personality “gives no real love, though he is quite capable of inspiring love of sometimes fanatical degree in others”. Of course, after the relationship is over, it means very little to the cyberpath, who tends to turn cold (and sometimes even vicious) but the victim may find themselves shocked, devastated or seriously traumatised. The perverse twist to this theme is that the psychopathic personality may take pleasure in “psychoanalysing” his victims, and casting them as crazy, obsessive and even delusional (and reinforcing his own power as the dominant “rational” figure in the relationship).

Most cyberpaths are not the kinds of hardened criminals that go as far as murder, rape and the other crimes we’ve come to associate with literary and filmic “psychos”. Rather, they tend to commit crimes of deceit, lying and infidelity. Their manipulation will go as far as seemingly heartfelt confessions, as well as successive revisions of their own narratives. Sadly, they will often actually believe their own stories.

A cyberpath will keep his victim hooked for as long as she keeps fuelling his narcissistic desire for devotion and approval. However, the charade will drop when this starts waning (typically the phase of a relationship where normal couples settle down from the initial infatuation into the normalcy of their relationship). Alternatively, it may drop when the cyberpath simply gets bored of his current victim and requires a more novel buzz.

What may attract you to a psychopath initially

  • he may appear extraordinarily articulate, impressive and charming
  • his provocative behaviour might initially seem attractively brave, daring or “true to self”; later when it makes you uncomfortable, you might well rationalise it by remembering that it’s part of what makes him “special”
  • he will “zone in” on you and make you feel like you are at the centre of something extraordinary
  • irresistibly, he will insist that your relationship eclipses and surpasses anything that went before – you are the first person that has truly seen or understood him; the best lover he has ever had; the first person with whom he has been truly honest or truly “himself” (indeed, he may believe this himself, as he does not have any emotional recall for previous relationships)
  • even if he has cheated on or betrayed someone else in the initial stages of your relationship, he will twist this to demonstrate that you are the special case – now that he’s found you, there can be no further dishonesty
  • he may overtly or subtly assert his dominance over you as a kind of private privilege
  • he may create a heightened sense of intimacy (a sort of “me and you against the world” in-club) by insisting that you alone understand him and share his unique perspective.

The sorts of things that might alert you to psychopathic tendencies

  • consistent failure to conform to social norms (e.g. a tendency to speak or behave to shock others, insistently provocative behaviour)
  • deceitfulness, lying, creation of multiple aliases
  • insulting or humiliating treatment
  • arrogance, a sense of entitlement, inflated sense of ego
  • a tendency to “psychoanalyse” others, especially previous exes, as insane or obsessive
  • coolly rationalising or “explaining away” previous incidents in which he has hurt, mistreated or lied to others
  • lack of empathy, guilt or remorse for previous misdemeanours and previous victims
  • a limited or nonexistent social circle, largely made up of people he sees rarely or online acquaintances, rather than close friends or confidantes
  • a pattern of serious mental illness or psychosis in his family; fraught or nonexistent family ties.

If you have been in a relationship with a psychopathic personality

  • get as far away from them as you can, as quickly as possible
  • don’t bother trying to communicate with them about the relationship – they will be unable to enter into a meaningful dialogue
  • if you seek to expose them, bear in mind they are likely to respond with vitriolic rage, threats, vicious and hurtful communication, or attempts to discredit you and smear your reputation
  • resign yourself to the fact that you are unlikely to retrieve anything from them unless you are fortunate enough to have a legally binding contract from before they turned cold on you
  • don’t beat yourself up about not recognising the signs earlier; just act as soon as you do
  • seek therapy as soon as possible; the trauma of these encounters can be long-lasting and profound
  • if possible, warn others of your experience
  • bear in mind he will be doing his best to cast you as irrational or downright crazy, so it might not be possible or worthwhile to warn his friends or his most recent victim
  • tempting as it is to try get him to hear your point of view, cut your losses and keep away from any further contact.

The other side of the coin

With around 4% of the general population displaying psychopathic traits, some psychologists readily regard psychopathy, like some forms of autistic traits, as “just another way of being”. The psychopaths that end up committing socially unacceptable crimes such as rape and murder are simply the ‘unsuccessful psychopaths’; the successful ones may actually exploit their tendencies to achieve great outward trappings of success. Intelligence, charm and uncompromising self-interest can be a recipe for high earnings and some degree of social (or at least sexual) success. That said, if you’re among of the 96% of the population that values a degree of empathy and compassion in your friends and partners, it’s worth knowing what to look out for.




A Vain Fantasy: His One True Love, the Exception that Confirms the Rule

In some cases, women stay with dangerous men not because they’re forced to, but because of a toxic combination of denial and wishful thinking. They believe that even if their partners have been abusive in the past, they will change for them and thanks to their influence. Somehow, they hope that they’ll break the pattern and be the one exception to the rule.

To illustrate the absurdity of such a belief, consider the following extreme scenario: you know that your partner has raped and killed other women. Be he promises he wouldn’t do that to you; that you‘re in no danger because he loves you. The other women were bitches; they provoked him; they deserved it. Only you are the love of his life; his dream come true. Would you believe him? Would you place your trust in him? By far most victims of psychopaths would say no. By far most psychopaths aren’t serial killers. But the process of thought should be the same even in the cases of ordinary, “charismatic” psychopaths.

While most women would clearly see through the holes in the logic of being the exception that confirms the rule in the extreme case of a psychopathic serial killer, they fail to see it when it applies to the emotional abuse and devaluation that’s part and parcel of every psychopathic bond. No victim of a psychopath, no matter what he promises her and what declarations of love he makes, escapes the mistreatment that his previous partners got. It may be a different form of abuse, targeting her specific vulnerabilities, but she will be harmed.

If you are the psychopath’s new partner, then you are next in line for emotional abuse. It’s that simple and predictable. To believe you will be his one true love, the exception that confirms the rule, is to engage in a wishful thinking that is not supported by reason or facts.  I’m pasting below a great article I found on this subject, by Annesthesia, published in September 2001 and called, appropriately enough, You think that you are so special:

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Because you’re so SPECIAL…

by Annesthesia

You two have a “connection,” a rapport that he didn’t have with his ex. You have more things in common, similar personalities. He’s pointed out all the ways that you two are so alike – it’s just uncanny. You are so lucky to have met him at this point in your life. He says that he really appreciates you for who you are – and he’s the first person to really do that, isn’t he? Sure, he said the same things to *her* when he got together with her (and then grew to hate so many things about her), but it’s different with you. He couldn’t possibly be operating from scripts anymore. And it’s so nice to finally have someone YOU can lean on, isn’t it? It’s hard being on your own, building a career, managing a household, and doing it all yourself. All of a sudden, here’s this guy offering to help in ways that no one ever did. Knowing all the things you have been longing for and wanting in a partner. He couldn’t possibly be hooking into your heart-felt desires and hurt places and pretending to be the answer, because he knows that’s where you are vulnerable. He couldn’t be pretending to like the things you like, and want the things you want, and be the person you have been looking for, because it’s part of his patterns. Just because he did that with the women that came before you, doesn’t mean he’s doing that with you. He’s really sincere this time.

He’s told you all his deep dark secrets (at least, all the ones he thinks can win him sympathy and attention). He’s acknowledged how he behaved badly in the past (even though it was brought out by who he was with). You two must have a very special connection for him to be so open and “honest”. And he seems to be remorseful, so that must mean he won’t do that kind of thing again, right? Not with you. You’re special. So what if he told his ex the same kinds of deep, dark secrets, opened up in the same way? So what if he exhibited the same kind of remorse for things he did to partners before HER? So what if he told her all the same sob stories and pretended to be working on his shit with her? So what if he lied to his therapist and others? He really means it this time, with you.

He says things are going to be different with YOU. Even though he SAYS he accepts responsibility for his actions, he also says that it was really things in HER that brought out his bad behavior. He’s not going to be like that with YOU. Sure, he said the same things to HER, but this time he’ll be different, because he’s told you how YOU are different from her. (So what if he’s told other people how you remind him of HER? That doesn’t mean he’s following the same old patterns, targetting the same types of women. That doesn’t mean that he’ll be turn abusive with YOU at some point…) He’s such a sweet, wonderful, helpful guy, it MUST have been something in HER that caused him to act badly, right?

So what if he was busy cutting her down behind her back with their mutual friends while he was telling her she was the “best thing that ever happened to him”, and that he had “never loved anyone as much as he loved her”? That doesn’t mean he still has the capacity to be manipulative and dishonest and cruel. He was just confused, the poor man. And besides, he won’t be like that anymore, with the right woman to love him and dote on him. She just didn’t give him the kind of attention he really needed. But YOU will. So he’d NEVER do that to YOU.

So what if it was less than a year after breaking off with his ex before he got together with you? It’s not like an abuser should spend a few years in therapy, and work on his stuff before getting involved in another intimate relationship, right? I mean, after over 4 decades abuse and being an abuser, he can get himself fixed up enough to stop harming others in a just few months, with the right woman to rescue, er, “help” him.

And those stories of how his ex-wife emotionally abandoned him… He’s just had it so ROUGH all his life! He told you how she didn’t even try to keep the marriage together or say that she wanted to try to salvage their relationship when he said he wanted to separate. She was just so unfeeling! The poor man – here he was trying so HARD and all – seeing a counsellor and everything! It couldn’t possibly be that SHE was so emotionally beaten down by his behavior that she was RELIEVED when he wanted to leave… He couldn’t have been emotionally abusive and dishonest with HER too! If his ex-wife didn’t trust him, it had nothing to do with HIM and his behavior – it must have been HER issues.

So what if he USED YOU to break a trust with a woman he was already seeing? It’s not like they were actually *partners* or anything! She was just convenient for hurting his ex (he set her up really nicely to do that a couple of times), getting attention, an ego stroke, and occasional sex while he was waiting for the *right* woman to show up. Since you came along, he doesn’t need her anymore. He’s got YOU to feed his ego. And breaking her trust was a convenient way to ensure that he wouldn’t have to bother with her anymore and could focus on YOU. He did it so carefully too. (He knows that it’s the series of “gentle” cuts that leave the most stinking wounds.) That way, SHE would be the one saying she didn’t want to have anything to do with HIM, and he could blame HER for why they can’t still be friends. Isn’t he clever? What a creative way to get rid of someone when they are no longer useful!

And if this most recent woman doesn’t want to see him anymore or even be friends with him, it must be because she is jealous of the wonderful relationship you and HE have! It must be because he dumped her for you, and she’s just not big enough to accept that. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the WAY he did things or tried to blame HER for his behavior. It couldn’t have anything to do with him LYING to her and using her, and having a hidden agenda of expectations that he told her she just wasn’t living up to. Nope. That would be his old M.O. playing out again, and he was a changed man by the time he met you. So it couldn’t be THAT.

Besides, even if she deeply cared about him, he didn’t have the same deep feelings for her, so that makes it ok to have sex with you, before talking to HER about it, right? He was just so TAKEN with you! Doesn’t that just make you feel all . . . oh, I don’t know – SPECIAL? She just wasn’t long term partner material, and he made that clear to her anyway. If she knew he didn’t have the same feelings, and was willing to continue to be used by him because she had fallen in love with him, who was HE to turn down that kind of attention and strokes? It’s not like he had any responsibility to not take advantage of someone who was emotionally vulnerable or anything. And he broke things off with her eventually. He just didn’t tell her about you and the sex stuff right away because he wanted to *protect* her from getting hurt. What a GREAT guy! See, he really did have amazing consideration for HER feelings! Withholding information isn’t the same as LYING or anything. That’s not dishonest, right? It couldn’t possibly be that he was deliberately stringing her along until he was sure YOU were hooked. No. He’s too sweet and charming and nice for that. He was just CONFUSED about his feelings, that’s all. Besides, it’s not like you two had UNPROTECTED sex before he told her about you, so that he could use you (the way he used HER) to break THAT trust as well… Even if he’s BROKEN A SACRED TRUST THIS SAME WAY, SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE (with other partners and lovers), he wouldn’t be repeating the same old abuse patterns with you.

You’re special.

And even if he WAS being dishonest at the start of your relationship, he lied to someone ELSE. It’s not like he was dishonest with YOU (that you know of, yet), so that makes it OK, right? (So what if ms-non-partner-material thought the same thing, and excused him, the first time she found out he was dishonest with her? This time, he will be different, because he really LOVES you.)

Of course, he told you how his last sex partner said she didn’t think it would last between you two (when he broke it off with her)… but he couldn’t be using THAT as a ploy to hook you further (wanting to prove her wrong). So what if he used exactly the same line on each new mark in the past, telling the next one in line that the previous one didn’t believe the two of you could last?  He wouldn’t be using LINES and PLOYS and subtle MANIPULATION on YOU…

Even if in his past, he DID say,

“Some of the problems I bring about by vamping, pumping up the  emotional content of a situation. Of course that’s easy to do with a  new friend. I have a stock of techniques and behaviors, tested. I’m  also inventive … so I pick up new techniques fairly quickly…

It’s just I’d rather enjoy the “romance”. It comes naturally to me. I  enjoy doing it. It’s also a head trip for me, with my poor self  esteem, to have someone so taken with me. I like the first results,  the joyous feelings, the elation, the euphoria, just not where it  leads.”

… he couldn’t possibly still have been doing that with her, or even YOU. He has REAL, deep feelings for you. You’ve even seen him cry and show his vulnerable side. That MUST mean he’s sincere, right? He couldn’t possibly be using YOU for an ego stroke. Not the man YOU know.

He’s just so caring and sensitive and considerate. He’s so sweet, rubbing cream into your hands and feet at night, sending you little cards, reading to you in the afternoon, doing all those romantic things. He really does seem too good to be true – cooking, cleaning, intelligent, literate, creative, affectionate. So what if he was like that for the first year or so with her too… before the subtle patterns of abuse started to creep in? So what if all that “wonderful” behavior shifted until he was telling her he loved her one day and then telling others how horrible she was behind her back the next? He wouldn’t do that to you too, down the road. She must have brought it out in him. He couldn’t possibly be playing the same game over and over again, with you as the next target. All those wonderful things he has done – all the romantic things, all the ways he has helped out and called, and done things for you, they couldn’t all be just scripts. “Stock Techniques” for hooking. No. This time, he’s sincere. This time he’ll be different, with you.

So what if he has been incapable of honesty and integrity all his life? So what if he actually admitted to his ex (just about the time you two met): “I am afraid of truth-tellers. I have so many lies in my past and present. The truth burns.” That couldn’t mean that he was telling lies to YOU. After all, he was so HONEST about his dishonesty so THAT’S got to count for something… It must mean he realizes his mistakes and won’t make the same ones again, right? The fact that he acknowledges things is so CONVINCING. If he acknowledges it, then he couldn’t possibly STILL do those sorts of things. Sure, sure. He had HER convinced too. But he couldn’t possibly be STILL lying to YOU. You’re special.

So what if two of the other women he was involved with wound up in the psychiatric ward? So what if he “helped” a vulnerable friend by encouraging her to break her marriage vows, exacerbating her marital problems, and then abandoning her when she asked if he could be there for her? He needed an ego stroke and she was conveniently there and conveniently vulnerable from a death in the family. So what if he undermined his ex’s support network and used a mentally ill woman’s attraction to him to try and hurt her further? So what if he used and hurt a dying woman so that he could feel needed and in control? He was just being HELPFUL to all those women. Maybe he LIED to them, sometimes, but that was only to PROTECT the fragile little dears. He’s SUCH a sensitive guy, you see. He couldn’t POSSIBLY have been USING people for ego strokes.

So what if he used and was abusive to his life-partner’s children in order to get back at his her? Hurting and using kids is excusable, right? (After all, she must have deserved it. THEY must have deserved it. Right? Because he really DOES love kids… or at least, that’s what he has said…) The guy YOU know could never be like that. And… well… even if he WAS, he’s obviously changed. He’s undergone a miraculous transformation in just one year. He’s just shed ALL those abusive patterns and become a NEW man. He’s going to be completely different, with you.

Yeah, sure, he might have done those kinds of things in the past, but the past is the past, right? It doesn’t have any danger of repeating itself with you. Just because all those other women were “damaged”, doesn’t mean that he will someday be telling people how damaged YOU are… Not YOU. You’re SPECIAL.

His love for you is so strong and your connection to each other is so different (at least, that’s what he has told you, and you know you can trust him, right?), he wouldn’t EVER do anything deliberately hurtful or malicious to YOU. He wouldn’t undermine YOUR support network and use your friends to hurt YOU. He’d never make snide remarks about YOU behind your back and then make sure you found out about it. No no no. SHE must have brought that out in him. But you, you’re special.

Besides, he’s been in therapy. That must mean he’s sincere, right? He wouldn’t possibly be using the whole “therapy” thing as a cover-up to make himself look better because his reputation got damaged after the fiasco with his ex. He couldn’t possibly be using contrition, and the “I feel so bad about myself”-line to get sympathy and support! He couldn’t possibly be looking for a person to hook into that is in a different town so that she has less likelihood of finding out his past. He couldn’t possibly be going after women who have a strong sense of personal responsibility because he knows how to manipulate that to try and get them to feel responsible for HIS sick feelings. He couldn’t possibly be seeking out active, intelligent, dedicated women, so that he can PUNISH them when they don’t direct all that energy to HIM. Just because he has engaged in such manipulative behavior in the past doesn’t mean he would be doing that NOW. Not with YOU. You’re SPECIAL.

He’s so contrite and sincere about “working on his issues”, he couldn’t possibly be lying about that. Just because he has a history pathological lying to himself and others, doesn’t mean he’ll be that way with you. Besides, if he has deceived himself so completely that HE doesn’t know it’s a lie, then he can’t be held accountable for it, right? He can always claim that he doesn’t have good “memory” for things in the past. But don’t worry. He won’t use that sort of deception and evasion with YOU. You’re special.

The poor guy just made bad choices before (you). Sure he made mistakes, but if most of his ex(s) don’t want to have anything to do with him, and some now think he is mentally ill, it must be because THEY are unstable – I mean, look at how amazing and kind and charming he is with you… He couldn’t possibly have been like that with them TOO… He wouldn’t be using stock romance “lines” on YOU.

This time, it’s REALLY love. You’re Special.

Sure, he did a *few* things in his past that were unkind, but he needs to be forgiven for HIS behavior, (after all, she drove him to it), but HER mistakes and reactions to his abuse, were unforgivable. But things will be different with you. He won’t think YOUR mistakes are unforgivable. He won’t apply a double-standard to YOU. He won’t expect YOU to be perfect and subtlely criticize you when you don’t measure up to his standards. You’re the one who is going to change his life. And, of course, you keep your kitchen immaculate, so he’ll have no reason to criticize THAT.

And speaking of unforgivable, of COURSE he can’t forgive her for doing things that *hurt* him (he’s so deeply sensitive, you see) – but he couldn’t possibly have lied about the things he said she did. He couldn’t possibly have “set up” situations so he could cry foul… He wouldn’t have ENCOURAGED her to do things so he could later claim that he was hurt by her… And, well, even if he DID, maybe do that, he certainly won’t do it with YOU. You’re too special for that. Any time he tells you he’s happy for you and he encourages you to do something, he’ll REALLY mean it, with YOU. He won’t create a revisionist fantasy of your past so that he can insist you did things to hurt him as a justification for his cruelty to you. He won’t secretly resent you for not devoting all your time to him. Even if he DID do that with her, he won’t do it with you. Especially after he makes all those sacrifices and moves in with you. He won’t secretly be dependent on YOU for all his attention. He won’t be more demanding of you and your time and resent you when you don’t give it all to him. Not THIS time. You’re SPECIAL.

He’s such a nice guy, he won’t “help” you (especially unsolicited) and then have an unstated hidden agenda like he did with all the others. He’s going to claim his right to be “selfish” now, because he’s been so USED from all the excessive GIVING he did in the past that nobody really appreciated. The poor guy. He’s never taken time to be selfish in the past – not even when he was sitting alone in his room, sucking off his hurts, or using other people. That wasn’t selfish – that was just “acting out”. But he’s better now. Don’t worry. He won’t use his new-found right to be “selfish” against YOU. No. He really is a changed man, with you. With you he will give unconditionally.

It’s no WONDER he behaved so badly! Look at how his ex was always hurting him, oppressing him with her refusal to live her life solely for him, expecting him to be honest with his feelings and actions, when he just wasn’t ready. And besides, he just can’t handle confrontation, you know? And like, she’s just so SCARY when she’s upset (it’s just so unbeCOMing when women display any anger!) that he HAD to act that way. She actually raised her voice at times! Can you imagine? He had this abusive childhood, so nobody else is allowed to have anger except HIM. Because, like, he can’t DEAL with it, and he shouldn’t be expected to! He couldn’t possibly have been projecting HIS issues on her so that someone else could have his anger FOR him, or so that he could get angry with someone other than himself! He couldn’t possibly have been DELIBERATELY hitting all her hot buttons to hurt and upset her so he could lay blame. And, well, even if he DID do that for years, he won’t do it anymore, with you.

And if somehow you accidentally do things that “trigger” his old abuse patterns, he’ll be so sweet in telling you how you are doing things that remind him of her, so that YOU can change YOUR behavior. After all, you wouldn’t want him to start acting abusive again because of something YOU did.

And you don’t have to worry about that, because you’ll never get upset with him, and you’ll never challenge him to be honest or to accept responsibility for his actions. SHE did that, and it was “controlling,” but it’ll be different with you, because you know better. And you won’t need to worry about calling him on his behavior anyway, because he’ll NEVER lie to YOU. He’ll always be completely honest and upfront with you. He won’t have to “forget” any promises he made to YOU. If he is inconsiderate, it won’t be DELIBERATE, with you. If he lied to her or anyone else, it was because they drove him to it. With you, he won’t withhold information, or distort the truth. He won’t break fundamental relationship agreements with YOU. He won’t HAVE to, because you’ll be right there validating him 24/7, supporting him and telling him how he’s so CLEVER and BRAVE to have escaped such a horrible relationship, and how wonderful it is that he is working so HARD to overcome his terrible past!

And it’s a good thing he’s not going to do any of those things he might have done in the past, because then you won’t have to worry about forgiving him. You see, she REPEATEDLY forgave him for the lies and the accidentally-on-purpose “mistakes”, and all that did was make him feel bad about himself – that she could forgive and he couldn’t. Wasn’t that AWFUL of her to make him feel so bad that way? So she DESERVED to be punished even more. And she should NEVER have shown any guilt when he manipulated her. It just caused him to hurt her more. He told her it was “like blood in the water for sharks” for him. She should have known better. YOU know better. But then, he won’t be manipulative and passive-aggressive with YOU.

He’ll be different with you. You’re SPECIAL.

And sure he made her work at the relationship when he wasn’t really trying, but that wasn’t being dishonest – he just didn’t know what he really wanted, so that made it OK to put the burden of the relationship responsibility on her. Sure he admitted that he wanted her to make him the first priority in HER life, but he wasn’t willing to afford her the same consideration. But that wasn’t one of his patterns. He won’t do that with YOU. Besides, he admitted his dishonest behavior after they broke up, so that makes it ok. It erases everything. His slate’s clean. He even said he was sorry, months later, so that shows how sincere he was. He couldn’t possibly still have been interlacing the apology with blame. He’s not STILL acting manipulative and projecting issues…. and well, if he is, he’s only doing that with HER because of their history – he wouldn’t do that with YOU.

And it’s so sweet how he still talks about how much he cared for his ex, how much he did for her out of love. Sometimes, he even talks fondly of his treasured memories of her, of how she “helped” him (when she wasn’t hurting him, the witch) – that must mean he’s a deep, sensitive guy, right? Maybe you can even “help” him to forgive her and heal from his terrible past… Just like SHE thought she could “help” him…

And besides, he did so many NICE things for her and all those other women. That should count for SOMETHING, right? It’s not like he was emotionally abusive or manipulative ALL the time. So it kind of cancels things out, right? It’s not like he HIT anyone or anything. At least the things he did didn’t leave any VISIBLE marks. Besides, he probably just made honest mistakes, that’s all. He couldn’t have actually got off on seeing them hurt and crying. He wouldn’t have LAUGHED condescendingly in someone’s face while she was crying. Not the man YOU are involved with. HE certainly doesn’t remember doing anything like that – and HIS memory is inviolate.

Even if he HAS been emotionally abusive and dishonest with others, he’s going to be different with you. Especially after you two move intogether. It IS especially hard on him having a long-distance relationship. He wouldn’t be talking about how hard it is to keep up the intensity and connectedness over such a distance. He wouldn’t be implying that the relationship might not last if you don’t move in together… He wouldn’t have some kind of hidden agenda around that. He wouldn’t be trying to subtley manipulate you, and get you worried about losing him, like he did with the others. He just REALLY CARES for you, and really wants the two of you to be together.

He’s told you how different he feels with YOU. How different he IS with you. How healing your love is. How much he NEEDS you. What a wonderful person he thinks you are. How important you are in his life. How much he values and appreciates you, and misses you when you are not together. How amazingly transformed he feels now that he has finally met someone as SPECIAL as YOU.

So what if he told her the same things? He really MEANS it this time, with you.

He’s a changed person, (this time, for REAL) with you. You’re special.

You don’t need to talk to any of his ex’s to find out what he was REALLY like, because the past is the past, right? You couldn’t possibly learn anything from their experiences, because he’s not going to be like that anymore. It couldn’t possibly be that they have anything valid to say. Besides, you trust him to tell you the WHOLE TRUTH about his past (as far as he can “remember” it), right?

And he’s such a sensitive, caring guy, he REALLY does wish he and his ex could be FRIENDS now. Even though he NEVER ONCE called her or emailed her and said, “Listen, I don’t want it to end like this. Can we please talk?” (Even when he was still living downstairs. Even when she was in tears, begging him to *please* leave. NEVER ONCE.) SHE is the one to blame for all the bad feelings. It was HER responsibility to rectify things with HIM. And he can’t understand why she would have NO desire to have any contact with him, NO desire to have anything to do with him – after all he did for her, after what they had. After all, SHE is the one who did unforgivable things. He’s so uncomfortable around her now, because of how much she hurt him.  He wouldn’t STILL be projecting HIS issues on her, and implying that they are HER issues… After all, he’s a changed man.

But you don’t have to worry. He won’t PUBLICLY divulge YOUR insecurities or deeply intimate things you told him in confidence – he won’t betray your trust – like he did with her. No matter what happens between you and him, you’ll ALWAYS BE FRIENDS. You and he will always be able to work things out. So what if he said EXACTLY THE SAME THING TO HER (and all the others) too? It’ll be different with you. You’re special.

He won’t wait a year or two before he starts in on YOU. He won’t then use his knowledge of YOUR insecurities and emotional hot buttons to deliberately hurt YOU. He won’t start using psychological warfare to couch his deliberately hurtful actions in social plausibility with YOU. He won’t flirt with your close friends and use any attraction they might have to him, against YOU. NO. He won’t tell you that you just weren’t meeting his needs or living up to his expectations. He won’t expect you to read his mind. He won’t try to make it look like YOU are the reason he is unhappy, and YOU are the cause of your relationship problems. He won’t set you up to get upset with him so that YOU are the one who breaks it off with him, (or you get so angry with him that he HAS to break it off with YOU) and HE looks like a martyr (AGAIN). So what if he made all the same promises to her? Just because he was following some of his old patterns when he got involved with you, doesn’t mean he’s going to follow through on the rest of them. He’s CHANGED now.

You’re special. Just like SHE was when he was with HER. Just like they ALL thought they were.

He’s so sensitive and compassionate, he couldn’t have talked coldly to them about killing animals or wanting to break someone’s legs. No. Not the man YOU know. He’s different with YOU.

And when he starts telling you how much he MISSES his adult son, it won’t be to deflect, and distract you from being upset with him because he has just said or done something really inconsiderate or unkind. It won’t be to evoke sympathy from you and get you thinking what a wonderful, caring parent he is. Just because he lived less than a mile away from his son and hardly ever SAW him doesn’t mean that the “missing” monologue is for attention and redirection.

He’s so nice right now, so supportive. So what if he was that way with her too at the beginning? He won’t revert back to his headgames of praising and encouraging one minute and subtlely criticizing how you keep the house, the way you do things, things you say, in the next. He wouldn’t yank YOUR chain like that.

He’s so attentive right now, so interested in everything you say and do! He won’t turn around one day and tell you he’s NOT INTERESTED in the things that interest you, and then accuse you of not paying enough attention to HIM. He won’t get mopey and upset because you get more attention than he does at social functions. He won’t resent you for your charisma. Just because he did that before doesn’t mean he’s going to do it again with YOU. As long as you make sure HE is the center of attention, and he’s getting his ego stroked, he probably won’t get nasty with you… Right? It couldn’t be that he is a bottomless pit, and that you can NEVER give him enough attention. Not the man YOU know. Not with YOU. You’re special.

And the fact that another woman’s experience was so terrible with him, his distortions and multiple personalities so devastating that she felt compelled to warn other people about him and the “type” of abuser he is – well that’s no consequence. It must have been *her* that brought it out in him. He’s so different now that he’s found YOU and your healing love. So what if he said the same kinds of things to her? You are going to ignore those nagging little doubts in the back of your mind, because you want to believe so badly in the sweet, helpful, romantic person he is portraying right now. You don’t want to believe there is a dark malicious side to him that enjoys seeing others suffer. You want to believe you are special, and he is right there encouraging you, building you up, telling you how nobody understands him the way YOU do. He’s telling you that he just wants to stop feeling BAD about himself (and she made him feel that way, the witch!). He’s telling you that if he can’t make it work with you, he’s afraid he can’t make it with ANYONE… It’s so tragic… (Yeah, he said that to her too, but so what?)

YOU are the one who can “fix” his wounded ego. Your relationship with him will be So Much Better than his last ones, because you’re special! With you, he’ll be honest and straight-forward for the first time in his life. He won’t become cruel or passive-aggressive. He won’t play headgames anymore. He’ll stop using and discarding people like old kleenex. He won’t be rude or unkind or disrespectful like he was with those other women. HE LOVES YOU SO MUCH, HE’S NOW A CHANGED MAN. (Changed for the better, of course.) Not because of therapy. Not because he’s removed himself from relationships and taken some serious time to get his shit together. Not because he REALLY apologized (without interlacing it with blame) to anyone he harmed in the past, or made amends. Not because he’s done any REAL work. Not because he’s actually admitted to his real motivations, or made a single sincere change.

He just needed to find the RIGHT woman to “save” him from himself and “help” him become a better man, and that’s YOU.

You just KNOW he’ll be different with you. Right?

Dangerous Mind Games: How Psychopaths Manipulate and Deceive

We’ve all been burned by psychopaths largely because we fell for their lies and their lines.  The better informed people are with their techniques of deception, the more they can recognize them and protect themselves against them. A psychopath gets you within his power largely through deception. As Cleckley noted in The Mask of Sanity, the main reason why people are easily taken in by their lies is not because the lies themselves are that convincing, but because of the psychopaths’ effective rhetorical strategies. What are those?

1. Glibness and Charm. We’ve already seen that these are two of the main personality traits of psychopaths. They know how to use them to their advantage. Psychopaths lie very easily and in a smooth manner. They often pass lie detector tests as well because such tests register emotion, not deception. Psychopaths tend to remain cool under pressure. They can tell you the most implausible stories–such as when they get a call from their girlfriend but tell you that it’s a random call from a jailbird–but do it so matter-of-factly that it makes you want to believe them. Sometimes they distract you from the content of their words with their charm. They look at you lovingly, stroke your hair or your arm and punctuate their speech with kisses, caresses and tender words, so that you’re mesmerized by them instead of focusing on what they’re actually saying.

2. Analogies and Metaphors. Because their facts are so often fabrications, psychopaths often rely upon analogies and metaphors to support their false or manipulative statements. For instance, if they wish to persuade you to cheat on your husband or significant other, they may present their case in the form of an analogy. They may ask you to think of the cheating (or breaking up with your current partner) as a parent who is sparing his drafted child greater harm by breaking his leg to save him from going to war. This analogy doesn’t work at all, of course, if you stop and think about it. Your significant other isn’t drafted to be dumped for a psychopath. You’re not sparing him any pain by breaking his leg or, in this case, his heart. You’re only giving credit to the psychopath’s sophistry and misuse of analogy to play right into his hands, thus hurting both yourself and your spouse.

3. Slander. A psychopath often slanders others, to discredit them and invalidate their truth claims. He projects his faults and misdeeds upon those he hurts. To establish credibility, he often maligns his wife or girlfriend, attributing the failure of his relationship to her faults or misdeeds rather than his own.

4. Circumlocution. When you ask a psychopath a straightforward question that requires a straightforward answer, he usually goes round and round in circles or talks about something else altogether. For instance, when you ask him where he was on the previous night, sometimes he lies. At other times, he tries to divert you by bringing up another subject. He may also use flattery, such as saying how sexy your voice sounds and how much you turn him on. Such distractions are intended to cloud your reasoning and lead you to forget your original question.

5. Evasion. Relatedly, psychopaths can be very evasive. When you ask a psychopath a specific question, he will sometimes answer in general terms, talking about humanity, or men, or women, or whatever: anything but his own self and actions, which is what you were inquiring about in the first place.

6. Pointing Fingers at Others. When you accuse a psychopath of wrongdoing, he’s likely to tell you that another person is just as bad as him or that humanity in general is. The first point may or may not be true. At any rate, it’s irrelevant. So what if person x, y or z–say, one of the psychopath’s friends or girlfriends–has done similarly harmful things or manifests some of his bad qualities? The most relevant point to you, if you’re the psychopath’s partner, should be how he behaves and what his actions say about him. The second point is patently false. All human beings have flaws, of course. But we don’t all suffer from an incurable personality disorder. If you have any doubts about that, then you should research the matter. Google his symptoms, look up psychopathy and see if all or even most of the people you know exhibit them. Of course, even normal individuals can sometimes be manipulative, can sometimes lie and can sometimes cheat. But that doesn’t make our actions comparable to the magnitude of remorseless deceit, manipulation and destruction that psychopaths are capable of. Furthermore, most of us, whatever our flaws, care about others.

7. Fabrication of Details. In The Postmodern Condition, Jean-François Lyotard shows how offering a lot of details makes a lie sound much more plausible. When you give a vague answer, your interlocutor is more likely to sense evasion and pursue her inquiries. But when you present fabricated details–such as when you are with your girlfriend in a hotel room but tell your wife that you were with your male buddy named X, at a Chinese restaurant named Y and ate General Gao chicken and rice which cost a mere $ 5 at a restaurant and discussed your buddy’s troubles with his girlfriend, who has left him because he cheated too much on her–your wife’s more likely to believe your elaborate fiction. Because they excel at improvisation, psychopaths are excellent fabricators of details. Even novelists have reason to envy their ability to make up false but believable “facts” on the spot.

8. Playing upon your Emotions. Very often, when confronted with alternative accounts of what happened, psychopaths play upon your emotions. For example, if his girlfriend compares notes with the wife, a psychopath is likely to ask his wife: “Who are you going to believe? Me or her?” This reestablishes complicity with the wife against the girlfriend, testing the wife’s love and loyalty to him. It also functions as a subterfuge. That way he doesn’t have to address the information offered by the other source. To anybody whose judgment remains unclouded by the manipulations of a psychopath, the answer should be quite obvious. Just about any person, even your garden-variety cheater and liar, is far more credible than a psychopath. But to a woman whose life and emotions are wrapped around the psychopath, the answer is likely to be that she prefers to believe him over his girlfriend or anybody else for that matter. Even in such a hopeless situation–if a psychopath’s partner doesn’t want to face the truth about him–it’s still important to share information with her. Psychopaths form co-dependent, addictive bonds with their so-called “loved” ones. They’re as dangerous to their partners as any hard drug is likely to be. If their partners know about their harmful actions and about their personality disorder, then at least they’re willingly assuming the risk. Everyone has the right to make choices in life, including the very risky one of staying with a psychopath. But at least they should make informed choices, so that they know whom they’re choosing and are prepared for the negative consequences of their decision.

Deception constitutes a very entertaining game for psychopaths. They use one victim to lie to another. They use both victims to lie to a third. They spin their web of mind-control upon all those around them. They encourage antagonisms or place distance among the people they deceive, so that they won’t compare notes and discover the lies. Often they blend in aspects of the truth with the lies, to focus on that small grain of truth if they’re caught. The bottom line remains that psychopaths are malicious sophists. It really doesn’t matter how often they lie or how often they tell the truth. Psychopaths use both truth and lies instrumentally, to persuade others to accept their false and self-serving version of reality and to get them under their control. For this reason, it’s pointless to try to sort out the truth from the lies. As M. L. Gallagher, a contributor to the website lovefraud.com has eloquently remarked, psychopaths themselves are the lie. From hello to goodbye, from you’re beautiful to you’re ugly, from you’re the woman of my life to you mean nothing to me, from beginning to end, the whole relationship with a psychopath is one big lie.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction



How can you win after the psychopathic bond?

Some of you have asked me how you can win with a psychopath. The simplest answer is: you can’t. The psychopathic bond is essentially a losing cause for the victim. There’s no question you will lose for as long as you stay involved with a psychopath: the only question is how much. Chances are that the longer you stay with him, the more you will lose. Furthermore, even after the breakup, you won’t win for as long as you perceive winning as relational to a psychopath and his standards.

Here’s why: You can’t win by seeing him lose, because psychopaths aren’t ashamed of their failures. They boast and dominate others even when caught for their crimes and in jail. You can’t win by seeing the psychopath regret what he did to hurt you and others because psychopaths lack a conscience. They gloat about their wrongdoings and take trophies to relive the pleasure.

You can’t win by persuading the psychopath that he’s a psychopath, since to him this will only mean that he’s more Machiavellian, intelligent, manipulative and dominant than you and others.  Whatever normal people perceive as horrible character flaws—pathological lying, manipulation, a quest for dominance, narcissism and sadistic tendencies—a psychopath perceives as being human qualities that he excels at, which only make him (in his own eyes) superior to others.

Earlier I have explained that for psychopaths winning means playing games with others, assuming fraudulent roles, and putting others down or slandering them (the psychopath’s smear campaign) in order to maintain dominance. They are narcissistic in that they need admirers, followers and people to worship them in order to feel like they exist. However, they use and put down even their followers, in order to play games at their expense. Psychopaths and malignant narcissists respect no one but themselves and love no one but themselves. They’d rather waste their lives playing games indented to make others lose than accomplish anything constructive with their lives, as I explain in the posts below:

https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/why-do-sociopaths-waste-our-time/

Obviously, you can’t win by playing the psychopath’s silly power games. You also can’t win by asking for or depending upon his approval. Keep in mind that he’s a completely worthless human being: a fraud masquerading human qualities. Consequently, showing him how true your love was, how loyal you were, how much you’ve done for him and what he has destroyed will accomplish nothing except reinforce the dominance bond over you. He latched on to you because of these qualities and destruction was his main goal. He will feel great that he was able to get you to love him so deeply. It means that the dupery worked: score!

For as long as you maintain the psychopath and his deviant standards as a frame of reference you can only lose.  Psychopaths view life and human relationships as a strategy game. For as long as you do as well, you are just one more game piece for a severely disordered individual.

You can only win after you sever the psychopathic bond. You will win by moving on, loving again, accomplishing your professional and personal goals and being caring to those who truly care about you. Living well (which  means a life free of the psychopath) is the best revenge.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction



Why do psychopaths target married or “taken” individuals?

Some of the readers of this blog have asked me: why do psychopaths target married or “taken” individuals? Why don’t they prefer people who are single and available? My first answer is a reminder that psychopaths target everyone. They are constantly performing in their heads a cost-benefit analysis that intuitively assesses how they can use and exploit each individual they meet.

For those psychopaths who are sex addicts and/or sexual predators, obviously the use-value that matters most has to do with domination through sex and romance. When a psychopath enters a room, he scopes out everyone and zones in on the prey that he intuits might be vulnerable or open to his advances. Psychopathic sex addicts have plenty of easy prey: one night stands, friends with benefits and flings. They do go after easy targets.

However, those targets are not enough because their domination and conquest are purely physical, not emotional. This is why psychopaths also latch on to more challenging prey. They promise them commitment and express (phony or superficial) love in order to sink their teeth deeper into them, body and soul. Feeling the love in someone else’s eyes gives psychopaths and narcissists a sense of power, almost omnipotence, that is very arousing, especially since they know that the love is based on a foundation of lies and false premises. The conquest and dupery of their victims is doubly intoxicating for them.

Choosing married or otherwise “taken” victims adds a third dimension to their sadistic pleasure. When they seduce a married woman, they are not only conquering that person’s heart but also “taking her” from another man. To psychopaths this represents a double conquest and therefore also a double defeat of their victims: both of the person they dupe into loving them and of the person they both cheat on. The thrill of seducing married individuals, to manipulate and hurt not only a given target, but also her significant other and family, often proves irresistible to psychopaths, fueling their false sense of superiority, power and invincibility.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

Reconciling with A Psychopath: The Dangerous Lure of the Honeymoon Phase

Many of the victims who are tempted to get back together with a psychopath have a nostalgia for the luring phase. They don’t dream of getting back with a serial cheater, a pathological liar and a controlling narcissistic individual. They long for the return of the seemingly loving person they first encountered. In other words, they want the psychopath to put his mask back on: only this time they want the mask to be real–his real self–not just a ruse.

During this honeymoon period the psychopath put on a very desirable front. He was helpful, attentive, respectful, flattering, generous, romantic and nice. He made promises that sounded great. He pledged  commitment, fidelity, loyalty and everlasting love. He looked into your eyes and told you he doesn’t need any other partners. You were the person he looked for all his life. Let’s face it: cheesy lines sound very truthful and romantic when they play on the chords of the tune you want to hear.

Psychopaths are good enough actors to make such cheesy lines sound plausible to their victims, not only because of what they say but also how they say it: looking into your eyes, speaking in a low, hypnotic voice, even blushing with emotion or shedding a tear or two at the right moment. For me, the Chris Rea music video below, called Looking for the summer, captures very well the nostalgia and the hope that you can return to the honeymoon phase of any romantic relationship  the second time around:

But the psychopathic bond is no ordinary relationship, as the one featured on this video. It’s an extraordinarily toxic relationship that involves predation. As seductive and appealing as the luring phase with a psychopath may be, as the victims who reconcile find out, this illusion only happens once. I’d like to analyze here some of the reasons why even those who make the grave mistake of returning to their psychopathic ex’s–and thus jeopardize their recovery, their happiness and perhaps even their lives–cannot recapture what they experienced with the psychopath in the beginning.

From the psychopath’s perspective:

1) You are no longer a new pursuit for him. Psychopaths are excited by novelty: by duping and seducing a new person. Within a few minutes, hours, or days of getting back together with a psychopath you will see that he considers you as familiar as a pair of old shoes.

2) You have demonstrated weakness in his eyes. A breakup with a psychopath happens because he has mistreated you: lied to you, cheated on you, stolen money from you, controlled you. Whatever form the mistreatment took, it was serious. You may have broken up with him as a result of the mistreatment or he beat you to it and broke up with you first. It doesn’t really matter. The relationship itself was at the very least emotionally abusive. If you get back together with a psychopath you’re letting him know that you are willing and ready to take abuse. And he will dish it out. To him, your willingness to accept the abuse will be an indicator of your weakness, not of your love and loyalty as you may believe. Rather than a more enduring rekindling of the old flame you can expect less respect and more mistreatment. The fundamental inequality of the psychopathic bond will deepen, creating an even bigger and more overt schism of double standards in his favor.

3) You are showing neediness. If you need him so much that you are willing to return to him even after the abuse, then he will continue to play catch and release games with you in the future. Psychopaths are psychological sadists and as such enjoy tormenting their victims. By engaging in a series of breakups and reconciliations you have proved yourself to be an excellent subject for these cat and mouse experiments.

4) Relatedly, you have also proven yourself to be a reliable backup. Psychopaths return to their former targets out of boredom and the compulsion to maintain control over you and your relationship. Usually, however, those targets don’t excite them as much as new pursuits. They therefore use them as backups, to return to them periodically, when they are bored with everyone else, when a newer and more exciting flame is busy or on vacation, or whenever they feel like it. By getting back together with him, you are showing that you think so little of yourself that you’re willing to be available for a psychopath on his terms, at his beck and call.

5) Last but certainly not least, the psychopath is getting back together with you to punish and destroy you. How dare you break up with him? Or, if he broke up with you, how come you didn’t grovel enough to get him back? If he didn’t finish you off the first time around, by destroying you emotionally and financially, he may this time. He has a good shot at it, thanks to your willingness to forgive him. At the very least, he will humiliate you by waving under your nose his wooing other women and the honeymoon phases with them, which are forever gone for you. Needless to say, this is not the foundation for the romantic reconciliation you envision. At best, it’s the groundwork for being friends with benefits. Only the psychopath isn’t your real friend, but your worst enemy masquerading as a friend to use and hurt you some more.

From the victim’s perspective:

1) You’re not blinded by novelty and love anymore. In fact, you’re not falling in love with the psychopath at all. You are returning to a relationship you now realize is deeply flawed, hoping that if you both work at it you can correct it.  You are therefore returning to the psychopath with a lost innocence (or blindness, more like it) expecting that he reform. It will not get better, however, it will get a lot worse. Which leads me to my next point.

2) Your expectations won’t be met. Psychopaths feign working at a relationship long enough to get what they want. If you already got back together with the psychopath, then he has pretty much lost the incentive to fool you, unless you have something else he wants, such as money. The more you see that the psychopath isn’t taking the relationship seriously again and willing to put in the work to improve it, the more you’ll express your frustration. In response, the psychopath will rebuff you and project the blame unto you. So what happens next?

3) You will either have to accept the fundamental inequality of the relationship or you will have to fight him tooth and nail on every issue. Either way, the result will not be particularly pleasant or romantic. You’ll either be reduced to the status of a subordinate in the relationship or you will continually fight for an equality and fairness that is impossible in a psychopathic bond. Such a relationship is predicated upon lies, inequality and dominance.

4) You are too aware of his deception. The original honeymoon phase was based on a huge pile of lies that you believed or at least wanted to believe. You believed that he loved you. You wanted to believe he could therefore be faithful to you. You wanted to believe he could care about you and your loved ones. You wanted to believe that he could consider your common interest rather than making purely selfish decisions. All these assumptions proved to be wrong. He was purely selfish. He loves no one but himself. He acted in such a way as to hurt you and your loved ones. They say that ignorance is bliss. But that’s not really true. Ignorance is vulnerability and what you didn’t know has hurt you. At any rate, it’s impossible to return to the original state of ignorance when you believed all his lies. You can’t even give him the benefit of the doubt anymore because he’s already proven to you that he doesn’t deserve it. Everything the psychopath tells you from now on will seem suspect.

So your relationship will be founded upon inequality, warranted suspicion and distrust,  wounded feelings and impossible expectations. Anyone who gives a psychopath a second, third, fourth or fifth chance based on the fantasy of the honeymoon phase will live a nightmare in reality. Real life with the psychopath will be filled with double standards in his favor, with jealousy and deceit, with constant tension and fighting, with higher expectations from him and fewer efforts on his part to meet you halfway and improve the relationship. Keep this reality in mind whenever the dangerous lure of the honeymoon phase haunts you.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Some content on this page was disabled on January 31, 2017 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from John Tisbury Photography. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

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