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


Psychopaths are Inconsistent and Contradictory

It’s very difficult to spot a psychopath from the beginning. Even the international expert on psychopathy, Dr. Robert Hare, admits that it often takes him up to six months to identify a psychopath. As we’ve seen from earlier posts, psychopaths are glib, superficial and excellent pathological liars. They look you in the eye and lie to your face. They make up stories on the spot, with no second thoughts and no regrets. They manipulate other people into covering for them. They put up an excellent front: the mask of sanity. Underneath that mask, lurks a dangerous psychological world, filled with deception, manipulation, sexual deviance and predatory intent. How can you tell then when you’ve been targeted by a social predator? The answer is, only time will tell.

Why? Because psychopaths are unable to be consistent over extended periods of time. In time, they will forget that they told you one thing about their past and say something else, which directly contradicts it. They may tell you they were faithful to their wife until they met you, then weeks or months later boast that they were hitting on other women during that period of time. The more power they have over you, the fewer concessions they will make to keeping you happy, the more openly they will violate their (hollow) promises.

When they commit crimes, they lie to the police and the press with no compunction; however, they rarely keep their stories straight. I watched episodes of Forensic Files where the psychopathic criminals give different accounts of where they were during the time of the murder to different people. When you tell the truth, there’s only one set of facts to remember and tell. When you lie, it’s more difficult to recall on the spot what you said before and to keep all your stories straight.

Psychopaths are not only inconsistent over time, but also contradictory. The biggest contradiction you will notice is between what a psychopaths says and his behavior. He will say he supports you professionally yet do everything to undermine your reputation, sabotage your job or even insist that you quit your work altogether, to focus on the relationship with him. The fewer acquaintances and activities you have outside of the toxic relationship with the psychopath, the more power he will have over you. He will say that he values commitment and mutual fidelity yet chronically cheat on you. Even if you’re involved in an open relationship with him, he may say he loves only you and that the other sexual partners don’t matter, while treating you as a sex object and pimping you to others: actions that reveal his contempt and misogyny rather than his love, as he claims.

Psychopaths also show their inconsistency by stringing you along. They promise you things that they never deliver, without actually letting you know that they can’t or won’t do them. If you encounter someone who keeps postponing fulfilling his commitments or promises, it’s a big red flag. On psychopathy support groups I’ve read so many testimonials about victims who were strung along for months or even years with false promises of marriage, or jobs that didn’t pan out, or promotions that never happened.

People with integrity have a sense of responsibility. They do what they say and if they can’t do it, they tell you. Psychopaths, on the other hand, not only fail to fulfill their commitments over time, but also continue to string you along with false promises, to maintain power over you. When you encounter a person whose actions don’t match his words; who doesn’t fulfill his commitments over time, and who is contradictory in his stories and behavior, disengage immediately, because you’re most likely dealing with a dangerous pathological.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

A Better and Stronger You: Leaving the Psychopath for Good

Many of the women who love psychopaths intuitively know that they’re dealing with a sick man. Yet they feel like they have invested far too much for far too long into the relationship to give up on him. Their self-confidence and sense of reality have been severely undermined. They may tell themselves, hoping against hope, that their love and patience will fix the dangerous man. Or that after spending fifteen years with him, they can’t throw away the entirety of their youth, as if those years together were all for nothing.

As Sandra Brown M.A. puts it in Women Who Love Psychopaths, nobody escapes completely unscathed from such a toxic relationship. However, the harm is not linear: in other words, it’s not necessarily true that the longer you are with a psychopath the more you are harmed. Even short-term relationships with a disordered man can be very harmful. Conversely, even women who have spent 20 years with a psychopath can escape those toxic bonds and emerge better and stronger from them.

However, the damage seems to get worse from the time you realize you’re with a psychopath or disordered man and come to accept his abuse: the pathological lying, the gaslighting, the cheating, the putdowns, the threats and the relentless chipping away at your self-esteem. Women who stay with known psychopaths, or with men they know to be very bad, adapt to increasing dosages of harm. This can severely damage their own personalities and the way they interact with others, sometimes beyond repair.

On the positive side, even if you’ve spent many years with a psychopath, you can escape this toxic relationship. Chances are, you used to be a strong person. In previous posts we’ve seen that psychopaths prefer to seduce extraverted, accomplished and confident women. They could easily prey upon passive and weak women. But they prefer the challenge of destroying a strong person instead. We’ve seen how psychopaths use their partners’ strengths against them. They use women’s trust to deceive and cheat on them as well as, more generally, to play mind games. They isolate previously sociable women. They undermine the confidence of women with high self-esteem by focusing on their real or imaginary weaknesses. It’s not unusual to develop neuroses, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders while involved with a psychopath. He will even cultivate those maladies, and lead you to focus obsessively on them rather than on your strengths and achievements, to keep you under his thumb.

We’ve seen how psychopaths use women’s capacity to love and their tenacity–their high emotional investment in the relationship–to keep them on the hook. They lure them with strategic withdrawals and empty promises to improve, which are belied by consistent, though often hidden, abuse. They dangle whatever women want most in life before their eyes–true love, fidelity, commitment, a happy life together, returning to the romantic and exciting honeymoon phase of the relationship–only to make conditional demands, that erode their partners’ dignity and self-respect.

To counteract these strategies and reclaim your life, you need to reassert your agency, your strength and your boundaries. You need to recognize that you’re not just a passive victim of the psychopath’s control, even if you were, indeed, victimized by him. You have agency. You willingly began the relationship with the psychopath. You willingly stayed with him despite seeing red flags early on in the relationship. You may have willingly taken him back after discovering that he repeatedly cheated and lied. You may have also engaged in some immoral behavior to keep him in your life. You may have hurt or neglected those who loved you for his sake. Each step you took as a couple was not just his own doing. It was also yours. Sandra Brown points out that seeing yourself as an agent in your life decisions doesn’t imply denying the fact that the psychopath has hurt you or minimize the extent of your pain. It just shows you that you have the power to determine your life choices. Just as you chose to become involved and stay with a psychopath, you also have the power to disengage from him for good. (How to spot a dangerous man,  32)

To understand why you made such poor and self-defeating choices, you need to assess realistically both your strengths and your weaknesses. In earlier posts, I identified some of the potential weaknesses of women who get involved with psychopaths, which led them down a self-destructive path. The main one is an unrealistic and dichotomous view of themselves, which is narcissistically inflated (as better than other women) in some ways, and too weak (as less than other women) in others. You don’t need a psychopath to identify your qualities and flaws. You don’t need his manipulative criticisms that undermine your self-confidence. You don’t need his fake and conditional flattery to feel good about yourself. You know who you are. And, deep inside, after so much mistreatment at his hands, you also know that it’s clearly in your best interest to leave the dangerous man and end the sick relationship with him. Your self-preservation, not just your self-esteem, is at stake.

Exercising your agency also implies reasserting your strength and your boundaries. If you stayed with a psychopathic partner it’s because he undermined the strength that he originally admired in you and that drew him to you, like a parasite to its host, to destroy you. You can find that inner strength again to live your life free of him. The longer you will be away from his noxious influence, the stronger you will grow.

The psychopath has strung you along by eroding your boundaries: your moral sense of right and wrong, your sexual boundaries and your empathy. When you draw the line and say no more and mean it, the psychopath loses and you win. By way of contrast, each time you do what he tells you, each time you override your intuition to believe his lies, each time you violate your sense of right and wrong, each time you neglect or hurt those who care about you, each time you engage in perverse sexual acts just to please him, he wins and you lose.

The women who stay with psychopaths may be strong women, as Brown’s research indicates. Yet many of them lack sufficiently strong boundaries. They may be strong in other areas of life. But they become weak as far as their personal relations with the psychopath are concerned. These, unfortunately, become the fulcrum of their existence. Staying with a psychopath indicates that they’re willing to compromise their values, their relationships and their standards just to keep and please a disordered man.

To reclaim your autonomy and your strength, you need to reassert your boundaries. The negative experience with the psychopath has no doubt made you more aware than ever of what you stand for since you were repeatedly pressured by him to lower your standards and to violate your principles. Each time you did that it hurt because you lost not only part of your values, but also–and more importantly–part of yourself.

Asserting the limits of the person you are and of what you stand for constitutes an essential step towards rejecting the psychopath. Most likely, he won’t even stay with you if you assert yourself and don’t give in a single inch to him anymore. As a narcissist, he can’t tolerate any real equality in a romantic relationship. He has to be “top dog.” He constantly reaffirms this status through the power he exercises over you, his family and his acquaintances. Because he doesn’t regard you (or anyone else) as his equal, the psychopath can’t offer you genuine respect for your values, your activities, your needs and your identity. His fake charm, his controlling and possessive attention, his disingenuous and manipulative flattery and the empty romantic gestures he made (mostly in the beginning of the relationship) are not the same thing as genuine love, mutual caring and respect.

As we’ve seen, a psychopath is incapable of having a caring and equal relationship with anyone. For this reason, psychopaths seek women who are strong but exceedingly flexible; women whose boundaries they can erode and whose identities they can distort. If you regain your sense of identity and boundaries, you become much less vulnerable to psychopathic seduction and control. Psychopaths are parasites who want to suck the lifeblood–the emotions, the confidence and the strength–out of you. They violate your sense of self, through what psychologists call “enmeshment.” As your identity blends into his, your whole life revolves around meeting his ever-changing needs. The more you violate what you stand for and who you are to please the psychopath, the more you dissolve into the dangerous relationship with him. As Sandra Brown states,

“Boundaries are indicators of where we start and end, and where other people start and end. We set limits–or boundaries–in relationships to protect our bodily selves and dignity… Drawing your identity from a dangerous man… can have disastrous outcomes.” (How to spot a dangerous man, 201).

Not every misfortunate experience has a silver lining. Some, like fatal illnesses, may be purely tragic. Fortunately, overcoming a relationship with a dangerous man is one of those life experiences that does have a silver lining. After having been involved with a psychopath, for whom “love” means conquest, ownership and dominance, a normal relationship with a decent, respectful and honest partner will seem almost miraculous by comparison. Nothing about healthy human bonds can ever be taken for granted again after one has experienced the worst life has to offer.

Clearly, in choosing a psychopath you lost part of yourself and wasted part of your life. Such a destructive relationship came at a cost. Fortunately, you still have the power of choice as to how your life will continue. You don’t have to throw away the rest of your life to him. This experience may have weakened you in some respects.  But if you utilize it the right way, it can also make you a much stronger person. Whatever time, energy and emotion you spent on the psychopath weren’t completely wasted. They have taught you how to know and defend the limits of your identity and values. They have taught you who to appreciate and love in life and who to reject and keep out. They have revealed your strengths and your limitations. They have made you more independent, since you’ve seen how flattery and criticism by others can function as a form of mind control.

It’s now up to you to decide if you will allow the psychopath to continue to undermine your dignity and the quality of your life or if you will rely upon your strengths and true love bonds with others to live the kind of moral, honest and fulfilling life that you deserve. The psychopath has kept you under his control by narrowing and intensifying the range of your experiences. You consequently focused only on him and on how to twist yourself, like a fish on a hook, to please him.

You can reverse this process. You can broaden the sphere of your existence by expanding your interests and focusing on those who deserve your affection. In fact, you can do more than that by helping inform others suffering at the hands of psychopathic partners about this dangerous and camouflaged predator. Making a clinical diagnosis of personality disorders is, of course, only up to experts. But identifying potentially dangerous traits isn’t just for experts. Any of us can be adversely affected when we allow disordered individuals into our lives. Knowledge is the most essential form of self-defense.

Widespread information about physical and emotional abuse has saved millions of people from domestic violence. Spreading information about psychopathy may help save millions of additional lives from harm. Ironically, the disordered man who wanted to destroy you both morally and emotionally can give your life a higher, more other-regarding purpose. In the past, you may have relegated too many of your decisions to the psychopath. But, ultimately, the power of choice in what you do with the rest of your life lies in your hands, not his. May the new year bring you peace and happiness, free of the toxic relationship with a psychopath.

Happy New Year!

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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?

Psychopaths, Jerks and Triangulation

If you’ve fallen for a jerk, you may take some solace in the fact that you’re in good company. Even Hollywood stars and music icons, who have their pick among men, tend to go for bad guys. To mention just one of the latest scandals, LeAnn Rimes has left her husband, Dean Cheremet, for Eddie Cibrian, a man whom many describe as a “serial cheater”. This news caused a splash in 2009. It even led the editor of Shape Magazine to offer an apology to her readers for putting Rimes on the cover. Needless to say, LeAnn Rimes is no innocent victim. And yet, given the fact that Eddie Cibrian reportedly already cheated on her with his ex-wife and his ex-mistress, I predict that he’ll be the one to break her heart rather than the other way around.

For now, their blooming love affair appears all rosy. On Halloween last year, Eddie proposed to LeAnn as a prank, but recently they got married for real. The fact that she became obsessed with her looks, lost a lot of weight, and now looks anorexic seems like a very bad sign. However, still in the throes of the honeymoon phase, LeAnn has no time for regret. She states in an interview: “Nothing I’m going to say is going to change it. I do know that, and I have accepted that…but I do know how much I love him. So I’ve always said I don’t live my life with regret. I can’t.”

And yet, many women who leave decent partners for rakish lovers do, indeed, end up living with regret. What’s new gets old. After the initial conquest is over, the Casanova types quickly tire of their relationships and look elsewhere for new sexual thrills. Even giving in to their libertine lifestyle may not be enough. Speaking of  which, it seems like each of Charlie Sheen‘s “Goddesses” were eventually knocked off their pedestals, despite readily participating in his raunchy fantasies.

Psychopaths know how to identify each person’s specific weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If you’re okay with an open sexual relationship and look down upon the “bourgeois” notion of fidelity as too boring and conventional, don’t worry, the psychopath will identify other deliciously cruel ways to betray, hurt and punish you. After all, isn’t that what the libertine tradition is all about? Not just pleasure in itself, but pleasure through someone else’s dupery, misery and pain? Just take a look at Laclos and De Sade.

In fact, it’s worth rereading the eighteenth-century novel about psychopathic seduction after which I named my own book on the subject, Dangerous Liaisons, or at least seeing the excellent movie staring John Malkovich and Glenn Close. In a particularly poignant scene, whose image I’m including below, the psychopathic sex addict, Valmont, is writing love letters to one mistress on the naked back of another: a corruptible young woman he seduced and perverted very young, who relishes the perversion and colludes with him in his libertinage.

Predictably, she ends up destroyed as well. It’s not just sex psychopaths and other jerks want, nor just power. It’s power at the expense of another. For a disordered, control-driven individual, there’s no better way to exert power over others than through triangulation: flaunting new relationships to his ex’s; fostering enmity and jealousy among his various conquests.

Feeling flattered by the overflow of attention, newer targets often participate in these displays of cruelty, much like LeAnn Rimes willingly participated in a pretty disgusting PDA with her new husband Eddie, in front of his ex-wife, Brandi Glanville, according to this recent article in US Weekly Magazine:

As I’ve explained in my earlier post on manipulating women and turning them against each other (https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/stringing-women-along-the-psychopath-as-puppet-master/), such ostentatious make-out sessions aren’t about affection or love. They’re about using current targets to rile up and hurt former targets. Without causing pain to others, psychopaths and other jerks don’t enjoy their control over women. They use new victims to rub salt on former victims’ wounds, just as they’ll use future victims to try to hurt them in turn.

Their logic is the same as the song How You Like Me Now? by The Heavy, which I used in this art video to showcase the photography of postromanticism, the art movement I started in 2002.

The logic of this song is triangulation: How do you like me now, that you know I cheated and replaced you? The sadist in the song flaunts the new “love” to the former girlfriend and asks her: Does that make you love me Baby? Does that make  you want me Baby? The obvious answer to such stupid questions from anyone who is not disordered is: NO. I like you even less. Or, if you prefer, I dislike you even more!

A psychopath can’t understand that it’s him you reject, so it doesn’t matter what other women (or men) he attracts and what he does with his life, professionally or personally. Nothing and nobody can make a person entirely deprived of human qualities and character look good. Triangulation can only expose further the depth of his depravity.

Even those women who, like LeAnn Rimes, buy the psychopath’s smear campaign about his ex’s and relish being the new partner in his latest triangulation don’t usually enjoy when they’re the target of the psychopath’s newest “love of his life” or “soulmate,” as the process inevitably starts all over again. A psychopathic seducer cannot be happy with anyone, not even with his most ardent defender and worshipper. It doesn’t matter how much she herself loves him; what’s most relevant is that he is constitutionally incapable of real love. Sooner or later, he’ll find ways to humiliate and hurt her as well, as he’s done to every other woman before her.

Believe it or not, you reap what you sow in life. Each target will eventually be stabbed in the back by yet another target, whom the psychopath will use to machinate against her. This pattern, which we see played out over and over again, leads me to ask the inevitable question: Why do so many women go for jerks? Here’s my top five reasons, off the top of my head:

1. Jerks tend to be very romantic at first. Much more so than nice guys. Jerks are impulsive, thrill-seeking and experienced in the art of seduction. They know just what to do and say to sweep women off their feet.

2.  Jerks are smooth liars. They know how to tell women what they want to hear. A nice guy may tell you quite honestly when you don’t look so hot or have gained a couple of pounds. A jerk, however, will usually flatter you as if you’re the best thing since sliced bread (but he’ll cut you down behind your back, to the other women he’s trying to impress).

3. Jerks tend to be hyper-sexual. All too often women equate sexual attraction with love. But remember, attachment doesn’t equal bonding. Just because a man wants to make love to you all the time doesn’t mean that he actually cares about you.  Besides, sexual passion rarely stays intense once the relationship transitions from an affair to marriage.

4. Women flatter and fool themselves. We really want to believe that we’re the exception that confirms the rule. Sure, the man I love may have cheated on his ex-wife and dozens of OTHER women, but he won’t cheat on ME. Why not? Because our relationship is that UNIQUE and because I’m that SPECIAL. Chances are: no, you’re not. What he did to others for you he’ll eventually do to you for others. Mark my words LeAnn Rimes! You’ll see this behavior in a few years (at most!), when he’ll be using someone new to hurt you just as he used you to hurt his former wife.

5. Women enjoy a challenge. Taming a player is kind of like riding a wild horse. It may be dangerous and cause anxiety, but it’s also very exciting. One thing to keep in mind is that, sadly, excitement is fleeting. Dealing with your partner’s constant lying, cheating and rationalizations for his bad behavior gets tedious, predictable and boring real fast. Far more boring, in fact, than interactions with men who have good character and emotional depth.

Because women don’t always have impeccable judgment when it comes to falling in love, it may be true that good guys finish last. But if you choose a jerk over a nice guy (or even over being single), you’ll be the one ending up last. My advice? Choose someone sweet because a relationship with a psychopathic jerk is bound to sour. 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

Psychopaths and Pathological Lying: Why Do Psychopaths Lie?

Psychopaths lie pathologically to others about pretty much everything:  their past, their present and their future. Whatever lies you discover about the psychopath in your life are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Be prepared for the sinking of the Titanic. He could be telling you, or his family, that he has one kind of job while having another kind or being unemployed. He could be saying that he’s rich while being dirt poor. He could be preaching trust and fidelity to you while pursuing dozens of other women. He could be telling you that his partner is cold, frigid and uninterested in working on their relationship when he’s the one who neglects her, plays hot-cold games to manipulate her and does everything possible to violate her trust and undermine her confidence and well-being. He could be telling you that he’s looking for a job in your area, to be together, while leaving his options open and seeking employment all over the country, to separate you from your family and friends. He could be saying that he had no affairs while playing semantic games, since in his mind, all those other women were only friends with benefits. He could be telling you his ex cheated on him or left him, when he’s the one who cheated on every woman he’s ever been with, not just once, but innumerable times, and broke up with them after having used them. More ominously, he could be presenting himself as a decent person while secretly committing fraud, serial rape or even murder. What you don’t know about him, along with the false information he offers you, can and will hurt you. He’s got no friends, just people he uses and alibis for his lies. Lying feeds his underlying narcissism. Distorting other people’s perception of reality gives him the false sense of being smarter than them.

Since psychopaths wallow in seediness, cruelty and perversion, they enjoy not only lying, but also waving their lies under the noses of the people they dupe. They leave little trophies of their infidelities lying around, like a shampoo bottle or trinkets from their girlfriends. When they’re questioned about them by their partner, they get the additional thrill of offering a false explanation. You’ve no doubt heard of psychopathic serial killers who take objects from their victims, such as a bracelet, ring or a lock of hair, as “trophies,” to remind them of their criminal exploits. Signs of betrayal represent the sex addict’s little trophies. Such disordered individuals also enjoy living on the edge. Just as serial killers often play cat and mouse games with the media and the police, so philandering psychopaths play games of catch-me-if-you-can with their spouses and girlfriends. They may be sitting across from their wife on the computer and sending sexually explicit messages to a girlfriend, while claiming to be doing work or looking up some innocuous information. They may be in a hotel with a girlfriend while having a lengthy phone conversation with their wife. They may take a call from one girlfriend while being on a date with another and telling her that it’s a business call.

Psychopaths enjoy lying both because of the power it gives them over others and because of the risk of getting caught. The problem remains, of course, that the risk is always minimal and therefore never quite thrilling enough. To take a real risk in life, one has to value something or someone, so that one fears losing that thing or that person. Psychopaths can’t value anything but their immediate appetites and anyone but themselves. If they lose their jobs, there’s always another one just as good (even when there isn’t). If they lose their money, they can always mooch off or scam someone else. If they alienate their partner, there’s lots of other fish in the sea. Since the stakes are always so low for psychopaths, their thrills are also very fleeting.

Lying makes them feel more powerful and superior to others. Needless to say, in reality, engaging in deception and manipulation are not a sign of excess of intelligence. They’re a symptom of lack of character. Psychopathic dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Ceausescu weren’t particularly bright individuals. They were just particularly manipulative, opportunistic and ruthless. But it’s no use trying to persuade a psychopath that he’s much less, rather than more, than the people he dupes. Once you see through his lack of character, his reactions also become transparent. When he gets away a lie, he feels a cheap thrill.  When caught in a lie, he feels no shame. He simply covers it up with another lie or, when that’s not an option, blames you for his wrongdoing or accuses you of behaving in the same manner. Often, even when psychopaths believe that they’re telling the truth, they’re in fact lying. A psychopath can “sincerely” state that he’s being faithful to you right before his date with another woman. Psychopaths live in an Orwellian doublethink world. They believe the truth of the moment while actively seeking new opportunities. We might as well call it a “psychopath-think,” since such individuals have their own language.

For example, to a psychopathic seducer, “I love you” means “You give me a rush at this moment.” “You love me” translates as “you forgo your needs to bend to my will.” “Trust me” means “What a sucker!” “You’re the woman of my life,” translates into “You’re one of a long, indefinite sequence of women that’s also simultaneous” (Psychopaths have their own version of math as well). “Mutual fidelity” means “you need to be faithful to me while I cheat on you.” “Betrayal” means “You dared disapprove of something I did” or “You disobeyed me in some respect.” “Mutual commitment” translates into “You need to revolve everything in your life only around me while I do exactly what I want.” “Honesty” means “My truth,” or “Saying whatever gets me what I want at the moment.” “I miss you” means “I miss the function you played in my life because I’m a little bored right now.” “What my Baby wants, my Baby gets” means “I’ll give you attention, flattery and gifts only until I hook you emotionally and gain your trust. Afterwards, Mazeltov Baby! You’re on your own.” “I cheat because my wife/girlfriend doesn’t satisfy me” means “…and neither will you, in a few months, at most.” “We belong together” means “I own you completely while I remain free.” “If anything happens between us, it won’t be because of me” means “Nothing’s ever my fault. If I do something harmful, it’s because you (and others) weren’t good enough for me.” Unless you learn to decipher the psychopathic code, you’re likely to be “lost in translation.” If I put my mind to it, I could write a whole dictionary of “psychopath-speak” and its translation into regular human language.

Every so-called “truth” psychopaths utter is momentary and contingent upon their immediate gratification. Since their feelings are shallow, so is their truth-value. If you add “for now” to their declarations of love, they may sometimes ring plausible. For instance, during the euphoric seduction phase, psychopaths may believe when they tell a girlfriend that they love her and want to spend the rest of their life with her. But their passion isn’t grounded in any empathy, love or commitment. Since the euphoric state of “being in love” comes and goes even during the course of a single day, so does the truth-value of their statement. One minute they might tell a girlfriend with genuine emotion that they love her and will always be faithful to her. The next hour they might be pursuing another woman, just for the heck of it, because they’re bored. While psychopaths scheme and manipulate a lot, they’re short-term, or tactical, schemers. They can’t see more than two steps ahead of their noses, to chase the next temporary pleasure. Tactics, or short-term maneuvers, prove to be far less effective than strategy, or long-term planning, however. Over the long-term, the lives of psychopaths usually unravel in a sequence of failed careers, sordid crimes and disastrous relationships. While this fact doesn’t particularly bother the psychopaths themselves, who live by a Dionysian hedonism, it bothers quite a lot everyone who comes into close contact with them.

To explain further why and how psychopaths lie so glibly and compulsively, I’ll rely upon Dr. Susan Forward‘s When your lover is a liar. Her book addresses all kinds of liars. However, she devotes one chapter in particular to psychopaths. She describes this group as the most dangerous and predatory kind of liars. She also confirms that they’re the only ones who are completely unchangeable.  Psychopaths tell harmful lies, not mere white lies.  The lies that harm us, either by omission or by commission, involve the intent to deceive. Forward defines a harmful lie as a “deliberate and conscious behavior that either misrepresents important facts or conceals and withholds them in order to keep you from knowing the truth about certain facets of your partner’s past, present, and, often, future.” (When your lover is a liar, 6) She goes on to explain that when a man lies about important matters related to his identity, actions and intentions, certain implications follow: 1) he becomes the sole proprietor of the truth; 2) he acquires control over events in his partner’s life; 3) those he dupes lack important information that can drastically influence their lives; 4) consequently, those he dupes can’t make major life decisions based on this information, including whether or not to stay with him, and 5) most importantly, those he dupes don’t know who he really is. (16)

Psychopaths typically deny or minimize their deception once it’s discovered. This strategy, Forward maintains, constitutes a power game which has several negative implications for the person being duped: 1) she didn’t see what she saw; 2) she didn’t hear what she heard; 3) she doesn’t know what she found out; 4) she’s exaggerating, imagining things or being paranoid; 5) in holding the liar accountable for his deception, she’s the one creating problems in their relationship; 6) she’s to blame for the deception or her partner’s misbehavior; 7) other people, who are exposing the psychopath’s lies, are creating trouble in their relationship. (When your lover is a liar, 16) These techniques of denying and compounding the lies relate to “gaslighting.” They lead the victim to feel like she’s “going crazy” and imagining things that don’t exist or aren’t true. Gaslighting turns reality topsy-turvy. It replaces truth with falsehood. It also shifts the balance of power between the honest person and the liar. The liar takes charge of the relationship and of his honest partner’s perception of reality.

Given that, as we’ve seen so far, harmful lies constitute a power game, it’s not that surprising that psychopaths, who live to dominate and manipulate others, end up being the most irredeemable pathological liars of the human species. As mentioned, Forward devotes an entire chapter to psychopathic liars. By way of contrast to the rest of her book, which focuses on how to improve relationships tainted by deception, in this case she advises people to leave their psychopathic partners for good. She states,

“This chapter is about scorpions in human form, and continuous, remorseless lying is what they do. They lie to the women they’re with, and to just about everyone else. They cheat repeatedly on the women they’re married to, they steal from the woman they profess their love for. Their greatest thrill, their greatest high, is pulling the wool over the eyes of the women who love and trust them, and they do it without a moment of concern for their targets. This chapter is about the one kind of liar you must leave immediately. It is about sociopaths.” (When your lover is a liar, 66)

Forward goes on to explain that since psychopaths regard life as a power game, they suffer from an incurable addiction to deception as a way of life. All the experts on psychopathy and sociopathy state that such individuals lie even when the truth would make them look better or would sound more plausible.  In addition, unlike normal human beings, psychopaths don’t change their deceitful ways. The simple and short explanation for why not is that they don’t want to change and aren’t even capable of changing. As we’ve seen, psychopaths lack the emotional and moral incentives that motivate normal people to improve themselves. No matter how much suffering they cause others and no matter how much they, themselves, get into trouble as a result of their lies, psychopaths remain pathological liars and frauds throughout their lives.

Forward breaks down the main reasons why psychopaths don’t change their fraudulent ways1) they don’t experience the pain and shame that motivates people to become honest; 2) they don’t play by the rules and thus they never feel that they’ve done something wrong; 3) they lack the emotional depth to want to improve their character; 4) in their relentless search for excitement, they live to break, not follow, moral and social rules; 5) they believe that they’re superior to those they dupe. (When your lover is a liar, 71) I would add one more related point to this list: 6) they believe that the rest of humanity is just like them, i.e., manipulative and deceitful, only less intelligent or less adept at it than they are. Forward concludes that if anybody tells you a psychopath can become an honest, loyal and faithful individual, they’re lying to you. Which is also why the person most likely to tell someone such a lie is the psychopath himself: especially if he still has something to gain from his target.


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