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.