If you watch shows like Forensic Files, or any true crime shows on Investigation Discovery, you will notice a pattern of criminal behavior: the psychopath usually kills his partner in a calculated, cold and cruel manner if she breaks up with him after discovering a mountain of lies. Psychopaths are great at devaluing and rejecting others, but can’t tolerate devaluation and rejection. They cultivate not only a “mask of sanity” as Hervey Cleckley aptly puts it, but also more than that: an image of perfection. They deceive partly for the power and sport of it partly to maintain a facade: as cultivated, desirable, sweet, moral, or whatever other qualities they want to project. This facade functions as their disguise, enabling them to become wolves in sheep’s clothing.
It also has the advantage of bolstering their narcissistic egos as perfect and superior to others. When a woman leaves her psychopathic partner after discovering his wrong-doings and his lies, she not only rejects him, but also shatters the disguise that enables him to maintain a sense of superiority to others and a mask of decency. Almost every time a psychopath murders his ex, friends and neighbors state: “They seemed like the perfect couple”.
If you read interviews about Scott Peterson or Neil Entwistle–men who callously murdered their wives–everyone expressed surprise and described their marriages as perfect. But their behavior during and after the crimes was, of course, shocking and incongruous with that perfect picture. Fortunately, few psychopaths murder. But even those who don’t undergo a process of devaluation–if not degradation–of their partners once they begin to see them as the frauds they are. For a psychopath, his false image of perfection is both fantasy and disguise. Fantasy because psychopaths believe the illusion of their ideal nature and superiority to others. Disguise because this false image enables them to dupe, use and abuse others.
To become critical of a psychopath means to chip away at his mask, which is his only true identity. He will defend it with all his might in three ways: 1) by undermining and, in rare cases, even eliminating the former target; 2) by replacing that target with other individuals who temporarily idealize him, and 3) by assuming a new persona, a new disguise. Nothing a psychopath does, no role, new partner or transformation, however, can change the inner hollowness that defines him and all of his human bonds.
Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction