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.




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Why don’t psychopaths let go of their victims?

Several readers have indicated in your comments that the psychopaths you broke up with (or who broke up with you) don’t let you go. They can’t accept that the relationship is over. They still try to contact you even though you told them in no uncertain terms you wish to break all contact with them. Despite this finality, they still harass you with unwelcome emails or phone calls. Sometimes they use your child or children as intermediaries, making the situation even more painful and complicated. So the question arises: Why can’t psychopaths take no for an answer and let former relationships go?

I’ve offered one answer to this question in the post Relationship Boomerang. Psychopaths juggle many relationships at once. Some are in the idealization/luring phase; others are in the devalue phase; yet others are in the discard phase and finally many are in the discarded phase, to which the psychopaths return when they get bored with all of the above.

Since, fundamentally, psychopaths engage with other human beings only because they need idolaters and subjects to use and dominate, an insatiable and obstinate need for control is the main and most fundamental reason why psychopaths can’t let go of their victims. Letting go would mean that they lose ownership over former targets. They no longer can get them to do their bidding. They can no longer lie to and manipulate them. They can no longer use them for supply, be it an ego boost, sex, money, or power. Those targets are out of their reach, out of their hands.

This also means that those former targets can move on and have the opportunity to lead much healthier and better lives without the psychopaths. This is the one thing that a psychopath can’t tolerate: the idea that you are far better off without him. The idea that you can find love again, or regain control of the finances he decimated, or find a better career that he destroyed.

To move on, you need to sever all contact with the psychopath. The psychopath may not release you, but you can free yourself. If he emails you, keep all the emails and once you establish a pattern of cyberstalking turn them in to the authorities. Even rerouted IP can be identified by the police. If he calls, don’t answer. If he leaves messages on the phone, let the answering machine record them and keep them as evidence to show the police. A restraining order may not offer much protection, but proving a pattern of stalking could land the psychopath in jail. Keep all the evidence against him but never engage directly with him (or her) in any way.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 


A Painful Incredulity: Psychopathy and Cognitive Dissonance

Almost everyone involved with a psychopath goes through a phase (and form) of denial. It’s very tough to accept the sad reality that the person who claimed to be your best friend or the love of your life is actually a backstabbing snake whose sole purpose in life is humiliating and dominating those around him. Rather than confront this reality, some victims go into denial entirely. They aren’t ready to accept any part of the truth, which, when suppressed, often surfaces in anxiety, projection and nightmares.

At some point, however, the evidence of a highly disturbed personality shows through, especially once the psychopath is no longer invested in a given victim and thus no longer makes a significant effort to keep his mask on. Then total denial is no longer possible. The floodgates of reality suddenly burst open and a whole slew of inconsistencies, downright lies, manipulations, criticism and emotional abuse flows through to the surface of our consciousness.

However, even then it’s difficult to absorb such painful information all at once. Our heart still yearns for what we have been persuaded, during the luring phase, was our one true love. Our minds are still filled with memories of the so-called good times with the psychopath. Yet, the truth about the infidelities, the constant deception, the manipulation and the backstabbing can no longer be denied. We can’t undo everything we learned about the psychopath; we cannot return to the point of original innocence, of total blindness. The result is a contradictory experience: a kind of internal battle between clinging to denial and accepting the truth.

Cognitive dissonance is a painful incredulity marked by this inner contradiction in the victim’s attitude towards the victimizer. In 1984, perhaps the best novel about brainwashing that occurs in totalitarian regimes, George Orwell coined his own term for this inner contradiction: he called it doublethink. Doublethink is not logical, but it is a common defense mechanism for coping with deception, domination and abuse. Victims engage in doublethink, or cognitive dissonance, in a partly subconscious attempt to reconcile the contradictory claims and behavior of the disordered individuals who have taken over their lives.

The denial itself can take several forms. It can manifest itself as the continuing idealization of the psychopath during the luring phase of the relationship or it can be shifting the blame for what went wrong in the relationship from him, the culprit, to ourselves, or to other victims. In fact, the easiest solution is to blame neither oneself nor the psychopath, but other victims. How often have you encountered the phenomenon where people who have partners who cheat on them lash out at the other women (or men) instead of holding their  partners accountable for their actions? It’s far easier to blame someone you’re not emotionally invested in than someone you love, particularly if you still cling to that person or relationship.

Other victims project the blame back unto themselves.  They accept the psychopath’s projection of blame and begin questioning themselves: what did I do wrong, to drive him away? What was lacking in me that he was so negative or unhappy in the relationship? Was I not smart enough, virtuous enough, hard-working enough, beautiful enough, sexy enough, attentive enough, submissive enough etc.

When one experiences cognitive dissonance, the rational knowledge about psychopathy doesn’t fully sink in on an emotional level. Consequently, the victim moves constantly back and forth between the idealized fantasy and the pathetic reality of the psychopath. This is a very confusing process and an emotionally draining one as well. Initially, when you’re the one being idealized by him, the fantasy is that a psychopath can love you and that he is committed to you and respects you. Then, once you’ve been devalued and/or discarded, the fantasy remains that he is capable of loving others, just not you. That you in particular weren’t right for him, but others can be. This is the fantasy that the psychopath tries to convince every victim once they enter the devalue phase. Psychopaths truly believe this because they never see anything wrong with themselves or their behavior, so if they’re no longer excited by a person, they conclude it must be her (or his) fault; that she (or he) is deficient.

Because you put up with emotional abuse from the psychopath you were with and recently been through the devaluation phase–in fact, for you it was long and drawn-out–you have absorbed this particular fantasy despite everything you know about psychopaths’ incapacity to love or even care about others. But with time and no contact, the rational knowledge and the emotional will merge, and this last bit of illusion about the psychopath will be dissolved.

Cognitive dissonance is part and parcel of being the victim of a personality disordered individual. It doesn’t occur in healthy relationships for several reasons:

1) healthy individuals may have good and bad parts of their personalities, but they don’t have a Jekyll and Hyde personality; a mask of sanity that hides an essentially malicious and destructive self. In a healthy relationship, there’s a certain transparency: basically, what you see is what you get. People are what they seem to be, flaws and all.

2) healthy relationships aren’t based on emotional abuse, domination and a mountain of deliberate lies and manipulation

3) healthy relationships don’t end abruptly, as if they never even happened because normal people can’t detach so quickly from deeper relationships

4) conversely, however, once healthy relationships end, both parties accept that and move on. There is no stalking and cyberstalking, which are the signs of a disordered person’s inability to detach from a dominance bond: a pathetic attempt at reassertion of power and control over a relationship that’s over for good

Cognitive dissonance happens  in those cases where there’s an unbridgeable contradiction between a dire reality and an increasingly implausible fantasy which, once fully revealed, would be so painful to accept, that you’d rather cling to parts of the fantasy than confront that sad reality and move on.

Relatedly, cognitive dissonance is also a sign that the psychopath still has a form of power over you: that his distorted standards still have a place in your brain. That even though you may reject him on some level, on another his opinions still matter to you. Needless to say, they shouldn’t. He is a fraud; his opinions are distorted; his ties to others, even those he claims to “love,” just empty dominance bonds. Rationally, you already know that his opinions and those of his followers should have no place in your own mental landscape.  

But if emotionally you still care about what he thinks or feels, then you are giving a disordered person too much power over you: another form of cognitive dissonance, perhaps the most dangerous. Cut those imaginary ties and cut the power chords that still tie you to a pathological person, his disordered supporters and their abnormal frame of reference.  Nothing good will ever come out of allowing a psychopath and his pathological defenders any place in your heart or mind. The schism between their disordered perspective and your healthy one creates the inner tension that is also called cognitive dissonance. To eliminate this inner tension means to free yourself– body, heart and mind–from the psychopath, his followers and their opinions or standards. What they do, say, think or believe –and the silly mind games they choose to play–simply does not matter.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Why Do Sociopaths Waste (Our) Time?

In reading Donna Andersen‘s book Love Fraud, I was struck by how much time  and energy her sociopathic ex-husband spent inventing phony business schemes which were doomed to failure. Given his intelligence, charisma and powers of persuasion, he could have created enough successful businesses to last him several lifetimes. But he chose not to create a single successful business venture during his predatory scams of so many trusting and loving partners. So the question arises: Why? Why do sociopaths waste (our) time?

The main answer I’ve given before is that sociopaths don’t have any constructive goals in life. On the contrary, they aim to destroy people and their lives however they can: emotionally, physically and sometimes also financially. Their behavior fits into a pattern that destroys human life and its meaning largely by wasting our time. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to who has been involved with a sociopath expresses one main regret: I wasted my life, for x number of months or years, on a fantasy, on a total fraud.

The feelings of “love” a sociopath expresses are never real. At best, they express need for you (or, more precisely, for using you for their purposes) or sexual desire. The  so-called “truths” a sociopath shares with you are largely lies or manipulative bits of truth, intended to sway you in some way that serves his purposes. Often a sociopath will invest an enormous amount of time and energy to construct a web of lies. He will repeat to you the same false information, to lead you to believe that he’s trustworthy; that he shares your life goals; that he loves you. He will even get others to corroborate those lies or half-truths. He will pretend to be interested in your interests. Not only that, but he will mirror you consistently enough and for a long enough period of time to gain your trust. He will sometimes go so far as to ingratiate himself with your family and friends, to gain their confidence as well. He will also take great pains, for as long as you’re useful to him, to hide his bad behavior, including the cheating, web of lies, crimes and/or financial scams. He will put in his best effort to brainwash you into accepting his false version of reality. Even the energy sociopaths invest in demeaning their targets is enormous, given that to be effective they do it gradually, insult by insult, demand by demand, over time. If they became abusive upfront and at once, their victims would be much more likely to be shocked by the mistreatment and reject them.

Because they find no inherent meaning in human life–no higher purpose, no real feelings of loyalty and love–sociopaths perceive life as an empty stretch of time that they must somehow fill up with diversions, schemes and games at other people’s expense. Even most sociopaths who are well-educated and intelligent waste their natural abilities and their lives, on playing constant mind games, pursuing a string of vacuous and ultimately unsatisfying sexual relationships, manipulation, and often pointless deceit. Sociopaths lie to attain their short-term goals, of course. But they also lie when it doesn’t serve any obvious useful purpose, just for the fun of it. Deception fills their empty lives with sadistic entertainment and ephemeral pleasure. As Janis Joplin sings in Me and Bobby McGee, for them “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In that sense, sociopaths are free.

Normal people, however, have everything to lose in becoming involved with sociopaths. For us, time is very precious and life is not something to be wasted. It’s filled with positive desires and goals, with the meaning we find in fulfilling emotional bonds with those we care about, with what we can accomplish for both ourselves and others. Because of the vast difference in our concepts of time, a sociopath has nothing to lose in engaging in empty diversions while we have nothing to gain from them. This is why victims involved with sociopathic predators describe their time together as wasted time: as months or even years that can never be recaptured and were essentially thrown away. Most sociopaths don’t commit actual murder. Wasting our time with their lies, intimidation tactics, manipulation and mind games is the most common way in which sociopaths waste our lives.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Relationship Boomerang: Why It’s Hard to Get Rid of a Psychopath

Relationships with a psychopath are usually like a boomerang. Even after you toss him as far away as possible, he may still swing back into your life. Years after breaking up with a psychopath, women commonly report that they’re still cyber-stalked or somehow harassed by him, or that he’s still testing the waters to see if he can worm his way back into their lives. So the question is: Why is it so hard to get rid of a psychopath?

Psychopaths are hoarders of women, even those they tired of and cast aside. They break up easily with their partners, of course. Psychopaths throw away old relationships with as little emotion or regret as normal people toss away their old shoes. But they rarely completely disappear from the radar, even years after the relationship with them is over. As they’re pursuing their newest flames, psychopaths continue to keep tabs on their former girlfriends, sink their claws deeper into the current ones, put a few more women, which are on their way out, on the back-burner as they slowly simmer, wondering what they did to lose their attention and love. Hoarders accumulate junk; psychopaths accumulate broken relationships. Since possessing women (and men) reminds psychopaths of their dominance, the more ex-partners, current partners and potential future partners they can juggle, the more powerful they feel.

In her phenomenal study, Women who love psychopaths, Dr. Sandra L. Brown describes the relationship cycle of psychopaths, as they juggle multiple partners in their tireless pursuit of their top goals: pleasure, dominance and entertainment.

1. The Pre-stage. During the early phases, a psychopath trolls for potential partners everywhere: at work, at clubs and bars, on the internet, in the neighborhood, anywhere where he can meet sexual partners. Just because he has a wife, several girlfriends and a few casual relationships on the side doesn’t mean the psychopath has stopped looking for other victims. Whatever his actual job may be, pursuing new and exciting partners (or “opportunities”) is a psychopath’s main occupation. He reads everyone’s signal: from eye contact, attitude and what they verbally reveal about their lives. He zeroes in on those who express neediness, vulnerability, or just plain sexual willingness.

2. The Early Stage. A psychopath commonly has multiple email addresses (most of them using aliases), several cell phones, various means to juggle several partners and effectively hide that fact from his more “serious” pursuits. He tests the waters with dozens of individuals, but focuses his energies most on those whom he believes he can take to the next level.

3. The Middle Stage. He chooses to have full-blown relationships with multiple women and men (even psychopaths who claim to be straight commonly experiment with homosexual relationships, for variety). During this stage he woes more seriously the most promising targets: with romance, dinners out, exciting sex, loving words, etc. Many of these women believe they found their soul-mate in him, the love of their lives. But while wooing and duping them, the psychopath keeps very busy. He still maintains a firm hold on a few relationships he’s thinking about ending; keeps an eye out for fresh prospects; plus has innumerable sexual encounters on the side. Because your typical psychopath juggles so many relationships simultaneously, even during the honeymoon period women start to experience some doubts. The psychopath may get calls from other girlfriends in the middle of their dates. He may be late to appointments or leave, inexplicably, for unaccounted periods of times. Usually, however, the wooing phase with a psychopath is so intense, fast-paced, sexually-charged, flattering and romantic that women don’t stop to think about those red flags or prefer to accept the psychopath’s rationalizations and lies.

4. The End Stage. Once the excitement of the honeymoon period and the novelty of the conquest is over, the psychopath usually no longer invests much time and energy into a given relationship. He ends  several relationships at the same time, just as he pursues multiple new ones simultaneously. Relationships with a psychopath typically end when the initial excitement and fun diminish; when the woman begins to see cracks in his mask of sanity and their fantasy love; when the relationship becomes too high-maintenance and requires too much time and energy to sustain; or simply when he’s found new relationships which are momentarily more exciting and entertaining. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the psychopath moves on and out of your life forever!

5. The Post++ Stage. Because psychopaths can’t relinquish power over anybody, they usually keep tabs on former girlfriends and periodically circle around them, like vultures, long after the relationships are dead. Even in the cases where they don’t maintain physical contact, they may still send you nasty emails thinly disguised as spam or other unwanted communication. As Dr. Brown puts it, “Given both his boredom and excitement seeking, women must know that they, nor any other lover, ever really flies off his radar–for long.” (201)

This is why it’s so hard to get rid of a psychopath, long after you leave him. Because he’s egotistical and controlling, a psychopath can’t get dumped by his girlfriends and move on, the way any normal, self-respecting man would. In fact, to maintain dominance, he usually lies to others about past relationships as easily as he deceives them about current ones. He may falsely claim that he initiated breakups or portray his ex-girlfriends as disturbed. The web of lies woven by the psychopath embraces everything and everyone in his life, past, present and future. And so the relationship cycle repeats itself, as the psychopath continually trolls for new partners, tires of current relationships, ends some of them, begins others, only to find his way back, like an unwanted boomerang, into his ex-girlfriends’ lives.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction