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


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?

Do Psychopaths Fall in Love?

Victims often wonder: do psychopaths fall in love? So far I have explained that psychopaths can’t love in the normal sense of having genuine empathy for others. But they can, and do, fall in love. Now I’d like to delve more deeply into the subject of how they fall in love and with whom. As we’ve seen, because of their ability to charm people, their seductive skills, their penchant for pleasure and their intense focus on their most desired targets, psychopaths can be (for a short while) extraordinarily passionate lovers. Their passion, however, finds itself in a constant race against time. The time usually runs out when the balance of power in the romantic relationship shifts dramatically in the psychopath’s favor.   Picasso describes this process quite poetically when he tells his mistress, Francoise Gilot:

“We mustn’t see each other too often. If the wings of the butterfly are to keep their sheen, you mustn’t touch them. We mustn’t abuse something which is to bring light into both of our lives. Everything else in my life only weighs me down and shuts out the light. This thing with you seems to me like a window that is opening up. I want it to remain open. We must see each other but not too often. When you want to see me, you call me and tell me so.” (My Life with Picasso, 53-4).

Basically, in a relationship with a psychopath, the sheen wears off when you’re dominated by him. When you accept to engage in demeaning sexual (or any other kind of) acts or behavior. When you readily buy into his lies because they preserve the rosier, yet false, version of reality you want to believe. When you accept unfair double standards, where he enjoys important privileges you do not. When you need or want him far more than he needs or wants you. Psychopaths may begin romantic relationships on an equal footing with their partners. But, ultimately, they aim to end up on top. For themselves, they tend to adopt a pseudo-Nietzschean attitude towards conventional morality. They violate, with an air of entitlement and superiority, all moral principles. At the same time, they generally expect an almost fundamentalist prurience from their main partners.

Even those psychopaths who enjoy demeaning their partners by asking them to violate moral and sexual values—such as by dressing or acting like a “slut”—do so only on their terms. If a psychopath’s partner cheats on him out of her own volition with someone she cares about or desires, he’s likely to explode in self-righteous indignation and defile her public image.  At the same time, however, he will proudly proclaim his right to fall in love with and date whomever he wants. He will lack the self-awareness to see the inconsistency of his attitude towards conventional morality and the emotional depth to care about its unfairness to others. You can’t be above the moral norms of good and evil yourself while demanding that those you interact with abide by them. That’s called hypocrisy, not transcending conventional values or being independent. Also keep in mind that even if a psychopath appears to respect his partner while regarding and treating other women as “hoes,” his attitude reflects a deep underlying misogyny that touches every woman he encounters.

As mentioned, sometimes a psychopath may prefer to humiliate his own partner by “sharing” her with others: but, once again, only at his bidding and on his terms. By way of contrast to the scenario where she cheats on him by choosing her romantic partners, this kind of violation of conventional values is likely to be acceptable (and even highly desirable) to a psychopath. He enjoys her degradation. Of course, abiding by such grossly unfair double standards can only lead to humiliation and disaster for the victim. “Pimping” one’s wife or girlfriend, as it’s crudely but accurately called, represents the very opposite of granting a woman sexual freedom. Moreover, such self-abasement can never achieve the desired effect of winning the psychopath’s interest and affection. For, as we’ve seen, although psychopaths enjoy dominance, easily dominated individuals don’t attract them for long.

So then what kind of person can keep the sheen on the wings of the butterfly for a longer period of time (to borrow Picasso’s metaphor)? Only a person who does not agree to demeaning or unfair conditions in the relationship and only for as long as she does not accept them. As the study conducted by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. in Women Who Love Psychopaths reveals, like most people, psychopaths tend to fall in love with individuals who manifest self-respect not only in their professional conduct and with acquaintances, but also–and most importantly–in the context of the romantic relationship itself.  That is where one invests most time and emotional energy. Consequently, that is also where one’s true character is tested and revealed. This applies to romantic relationships in general, not just to psychopathic bonds. It stands to reason that if you don’t see yourself as equal to your partner, he won’t regard you as an equal or give you the respect you deserve.

To be more specific, I’ll offer two examples. As we know, psychopaths derive great pleasure from brief sexual liaisons. But those are not likely to spark their passion for two main reasons. The first one is that an unending series of sexual encounters make the psychopath himself jaded to physical and psychological pleasure. Sexual addiction resembles other addictions. Any kind of addiction, which necessarily implies excess and sheer volume (of a substance or number of partners), dulls one’s sensibilities, including the sensory and aesthetic ones to which sensual individuals are so highly attuned. Sex addicts become increasingly jaded to both sexual activities and partners. Contrary to the modern connotations of the term “hedonism,” the ancient hedonists practiced moderation, to better savor their pleasures. Recall how poignant even a simple kiss can be with a person you desire and respect. I’m not making a moral argument here, but an aesthetic and psychological observation, which is quite obvious. Thousands of sexually explicit images and acts can’t replace the stimulation offered by real chemistry with a single person, which you cultivate, focus upon and appreciate.  When you disperse your sexual energy and attention on numerous partners, you also reduce the chances of experiencing a more lasting and exciting pleasure in any of those so-called “romantic” relationships. Since sexual addiction is so central to psychopathic behavior, I will explore this subject further in the next section.

The second reason has to do with the partners psychopaths are likely to encounter in promiscuous settings. Because our culture remains “sexist” in the sense that promiscuous women are looked down upon more so than promiscuous men, the kind of women one casually hooks up with on adult websites, clubs and bars are unlikely to establish the balance of power that even psychopathic passion depends upon. Some truisms are true. If you don’t treat yourself and your body with respect, chances are, neither will anyone else.

As one would expect, the issue of a balance of power is even more pertinent in long-term relationships. Any wife, girlfriend or lover who accepts glaring double standards in the relationship–relating to important issues such as fidelity, honesty and trust–is not going to hold a psychopath’s interest for long. The relationship will turn into a toxic attachment that combines a strong psychological enmeshment, mutual utility and convenience. The dominated partner will oscillate between false hope, intense neediness, despair and resentment at the unfair conditions. The dominant partner will fall back upon a sense of entitlement that quickly turns into boredom. He’s also likely to play catch and release games with his partner–essentially, engage in a series of break-ups and reconciliations–depending on whether he’s more bored with her and their family life or with his other girlfriends at any given moment.

Ideally, in a loving relationship, passion entails a deeper bond that comes from being both physically and emotionally excited by each other’s personalities and having an enduring mutual respect. In a psychopathic bond, however, passion translates into an intense physical attraction, an equally strong attraction to each other’s personalities and–in lieu of any genuine empathy and mutual respect–a balance of power. Without these components, even physical pleasures become bland for the psychopath. In turn, life for his partner turns into a series of humiliating concessions that can’t bring her happiness or reignite his interest.  When you give up your pride and self-esteem for somebody else, you also lose your power and sense of identity. And, needless to say, any man who expects you to violate your self-respect and values for him doesn’t really love you and never will.

I suppose this is one way of saying that even psychopathic passion requires more than just physical attraction to last more than a few days. It also depends upon chemistry, balance and equality in the relationship, for as long as these can be sustained. In a psychopathic bond, however, they can’t last long. A psychopath needs to dominate, dupe and demean even the women he initially desires and admires. Once these elements are gone, as Picasso eloquently states, the window that used to allow light into the relationship closes for good.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Red Flags: How to Identify a Psychopathic Bond

The most important self-defense against psychopathic seducers consists of recognizing the initial warning signals so that you can escape the relationship early on, hopefully before you’re seriously harmed.  Dr. Joseph Carver has put together a helpful and instructive list outlining the early symptoms of a dangerous relationship with a psychopath, or as he puts it quite aptly, with “a Loser.” As we’ve already seen in the previous account of Drew Peterson’s behavior, not all the signs of psychopathic seduction are obviously negative.  But, as we’ll see, even the symptoms that seem positive (such as the instant attachment and over-the-top attention, flattery and gifts) are in fact negative. Similarly, Carver notes that the Loser doesn’t have to exhibit all of the symptoms listed below to be dangerous. The presence of even three of these symptoms indicates a potentially harmful relationship. Anything above this number points to not just probable, but certain harm. Carver begins by defining “the Loser”: “‘The Loser’ is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship… The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of ‘The Loser’ and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically.” (drjoecarver.com)

1.     The Loser will Hurt you on Purpose. “If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property even once, drop them,” Carver advises. As we’ve seen, Drew Peterson escalated the abuse of his partners. He began with criticism, went on to name-calling and moved on to physical violence and (probably) murder. It’s very important to get away from a Loser at the slightest hint of violence, including verbal aggression, since abuse usually increases in frequency and severity over time.

2.     Quick Attachment and Expression. “The Loser,” Carver notes, “has very shallow emotions and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to the Loser is how quickly he or she says ‘I Love You’ or wants to marry or commit to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating you’ll hear that you’re the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you. You’ll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures.” Drew Peterson and other dangerous seducers wouldn’t get any partners, much less attractive young women, if they showed their true colors from the very beginning. Psychopaths generally pour on the romance. They deluge their targets with flattery, promises and gifts at the beginning of the relationship. No matter how promiscuous they actually are, they focus their energies on their most desirable targets. Yet, Carver cautions, this seemingly positive sign is, in fact, also negative. It signals shallowness of emotions rather than strength of love. He elaborates, “Normal, healthy individuals require a long process to develop a relationship because there is so much at stake… The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions which later cause the Loser to detach from you as quickly as they committed.” Which is exactly what Drew Peterson  (and others like him) did after seducing each of his partners. As easily as he attached to them initially, he later detached from them to pursue his next conquest(s).

3.     Frightening Temper. Sooner or later the Loser reveals his hot temper. Carver states that Losers often begin with indirect violence—such as demonstratively hitting the wall with their fist or throwing objects—before they start pushing, punching or hitting their partners. The physical outbursts towards inanimate objects function as a form of intimidation. Through such behavior, Losers show their targets that they’re capable of doing the same thing to them.  Such outbursts also train the partners to become gradually habituated to acts of violence.

4.     Killing Your Self-Confidence. Losers generally prefer flings and short-term affairs, which provide constant new thrills. They also engage in long-term relationships, however, to gain more lasting control over certain more promising targets. It’s nearly impossible to control strong human beings who have clear boundaries and a healthy self-esteem. This is why psychopaths eventually move from the initial over-the-top flattery to scathing criticism. Once they have secured their chosen partners in their grasp, they put them down to erode their self-esteem. Carver states that, for instance, Losers “constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel ‘on guard’, unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something wrong… This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly–as though you deserved it.” According to Tracy’s and Stacy’s families and friends, after seducing them, Drew undermined both women’s self-confidence. His assertion that he pampered Stacy by indulging her obsession with plastic surgery rings false. By way of contrast, her friends’ and family’s claim that he criticized her to the point that she felt compelled to make constant “improvements” in her physical appearance sounds much more plausible. Stacy’s growing insecurity also placed her under Drew’s power to determine how she felt about herself.

5.     Cutting Off Your Support. In the wild, predators isolate their prey from the rest of the herd to better attack and devour it. That’s precisely what psychopaths do to their targets. Losers isolate their partners from their friends, colleagues and families. They may do so through overt criticism and by following them around when they meet with others, as Drew did to Stacy. Sometimes they opt for more subtle manipulation, such as by covertly turning the victim against her own family and friends (and vice versa).  As Carver observes, “The Loser feels your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their behavior… Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you’ll develop the feeling that it’s better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you.”

6.     The Mean and Sweet Cycle. As we recall, Drew Peterson bought his wife a motorcycle and expensive jewelry even during the period of time when he was criticizing her, throwing her up against the wall, isolating her from her loved ones, accusing her of infidelity and calling her pejorative names. If they were consistently mean or violent, psychopaths wouldn’t be able to hold on to their partners. Which is why, as Dr. Carver observes, “The Loser cycles from mean to sweet and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started dating.” The period of sweetness leads the partners of Losers to cling to the relationship in the misguided hope of finding what psychologist Susan Forward calls “the magic key” that will make the psychopath stay nice to them. That magic key, however, doesn’t exist. The psychopath invariably cycles back to his real, nasty self. Over time, the meanness cycle escalates in severity and increases in duration. It’s interspersed with increasingly fewer “nice” moments, which trap the victim in her own wishful thinking.  As Carver observes, “You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other purpose of the mean cycle is to allow The Loser to say very nasty things about you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence.”

7.     It’s Always Your Fault.  As we’ve seen, psychopaths never accept blame for anything they do wrong. They deny obvious facts and accuse their victims of wrongdoing. Their spurious logic goes something like this: I didn’t do it, but even if I did, you deserved it. When he didn’t outright deny the domestic abuse, Drew Peterson blamed it on each of his wives for provoking it. According to him, they lied about being hit by him. They also lied about his verbal abuse. They were the ones who were “on edge” and “disturbed,” not him. He never hit them, even if Kathy had to go to the emergency room to recover from his blows. Carver notes, “The Loser never, repeat never, takes personal responsibility for their behavior–it’s always the fault of someone else.”

8.     Breakup Panic.  Psychopaths need to maintain control of everything in their lives, especially their romantic relationships. When they get bored with one partner or find a replacement, they can leave her on the spur of the moment, heartlessly, often without even bothering to offer an explanation. But they get very angry when the tables are turned and their partners leave them. Drew Peterson didn’t mind cheating on his wives and abandoning them for other women. Yet when they wanted to leave him to escape the misery and abuse, he resorted to violence, threats, bribes and, when none of these strategies worked, (probably) murder. As Carver notes, “The Loser panics at the idea of breaking up–unless it’s totally their idea–then you’re dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten ending the relationship… Once back in the grasp of the Loser, escape will be three times as difficult the next time.”

9.     No Outside Interests. To further control their victims, psychopaths don’t just isolate them from other people. They also narrow the range of their interests and activities, leading their partners to focus exclusively on them. Drew Peterson discouraged Stacy from working outside the home. He gave her money and gifts, not out of any real generosity but to keep her financially and emotionally dependent on him. He also followed his wife around everywhere. He wanted to monitor if she was seeing other men. But his stalking made her feel on edge about any kind of activity or pursuit that was external to their relationship. Carver goes on to state, “If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they totally control.”

10.   Paranoid Control.  Notoriously, psychopaths stalk their principal targets. They suspect other people, including their partners, of being as manipulative, deceptive and unscrupulous as themselves. Although they routinely cheat on their spouses, often with countless sexual partners, they tend to be plagued by the fear that their spouses may be cheating on them as well.  Which is why, as Carver observes, “The Loser will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you don’t answer their phone call, you are ask where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc.” Drew Peterson worked as a detective not only in his job on the police force, but also in his dealings with his wife. He followed Stacy around to monitor her.

11.   Public Embarrassment. Psychopaths tend to put down their partners not only in private, but also publicly, to embarrass and isolate them. They want to build a psychological, if not physical, prison around their primary targets. They do everything possible to undermine their confidence, reduce their sociability, narrow the range of their interests and eliminate all positive human contact from their lives. Consequently, as Carver observes, “In an effort to keep you under control while in public, ‘The Loser’ will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing things about you in private or in front of people… If you stay with The Loser too long, you’ll soon find yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in public.” As we’ll see in the chapter on Pablo Picasso, psychopaths aim to transform strong and proud individuals into their doormats.

12.   It’s Never Enough. Psychopaths don’t want to have successful relationships. They want to assert dominance by destroying, at the very least psychologically and emotionally, their partners. In the long run, there’s nothing anybody can do to please a psychopath. Apparently, Drew Peterson flattered both his third and his fourth wives when they were still his girlfriends, which is to say, during courtship. But the honeymoon period ended once they decided to marry him. Nothing they did or failed to do henceforth pleased him for long. According to their families and friends, Stacy and Tracy constantly jumped through more and more hoops, while Drew lifted the bar higher and higher. Through this insidious process, a psychopath wears down his partner’s self-esteem. Eventually, she feels too insecure to leave the abusive relationship. As Carver puts it, “The Loser convinces you that you are never quite good enough. You don’t say ‘I love you’ enough, you don’t stand close enough, you don’t do enough for them after all their sacrifices, and your behavior always falls short of what is expected. This is another method of destroying your self-esteem and confidence. After months of this technique, they begin telling you how lucky you are to have them–somebody who tolerates someone so inadequate and worthless as you.”

13.   Entitlement. As we’ve seen, psychopaths feel entitled to do and have everything and everyone they want. Laws, ethics and other people’s feelings don’t matter to them. “The Loser has a tremendous sense of entitlement, the attitude that they have a perfectly logical right to do whatever they desire,” Carver continues.  “If you disobey their desires or demands, or violate one of their rules, they feel they are entitled to punish you in any manner they see fit.” In the case of Drew Peterson, even thought crime, or the intention to leave him, was punishable with (probably) murder. His interviews show that he felt entitled to mistreat each of his wives as he pleased. However, he believed that they didn’t have the right to object to his mistreatment or to leave him as a result of it.

14.   Your Friends and Family Dislike Him.  Psychopaths tend to be pleasant and charming, at least superficially, at the beginning of a relationship. But once they have their partner firmly in their clutches, they proceed to isolate her from her support system.  In so doing, they alienate her family and friends. Carver notes, “As the relationship continues, your friends and family will see what the Loser is doing to you. They will notice a change in your personality or your withdrawal. They will protest. The Loser will tell you they are jealous of the ‘special love’ you have and then use their protest and opinion as further evidence that they are against you–not him.” Drew Peterson stalked his wife even when she was visiting with her sisters. Initially, at least some of Stacy’s family members and friends liked Drew and considered him a good match for her. But as he began to isolate and abuse her, they became unanimous in their dislike of him. In the end, they all saw the relationship as seriously damaging for Stacy.

15.   Bad Stories.  They say that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. There may be exceptions to this general principle. Fortunately, some people can improve their character and behavior with genuine and consistent effort. A psychopath can never be one of those exceptions, however. Generally speaking, if a man cheated on every wife he’s ever been with, it’s highly probable that he’ll cheat on the next one as well.  Most likely, the problem isn’t the woman or women he was with, but his underlying lack of character. Similarly, if he abused his previous partners, he’s very likely to abuse the next ones as well. Stacy knew enough about how Drew treated his previous wife to see that he was a philanderer and potentially dangerous. But the intensity and perseverance with which he pursued her blinded her from seeing the same warning signals in their relationship. In addition, since psychopaths don’t find anything wrong with their harmful behavior, they’re likely to boast about it. This also sends out some glaring warning signals. As Carver states, “The Loser tells stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting others, etc… They brag about their temper and outbursts because they don’t see anything wrong with violence and actually take pride in the ‘I don’t take nothing from nobody’ attitude… Listen to these stories — they tell you how you will eventually be treated and what’s coming your way.”

16.   The Waitress Test. Just as how people behaved in the past tells a lot about how they’ll behave in the future, so how they treat others functions as a pretty good indicator of how you’ll eventually be treated. A person who’s uncaring and unethical towards others will most likely also be that way to you when you no longer serve his interests. Carver calls this “the waitress test.” In his estimation, how a Loser treats people who aren’t immediately useful to him reveals how he’ll treat you once your use has expired. “It’s been said that when dating, the way an individual treats a waitress or other neutral person of the opposite sex is the way they will treat you in six months. During the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship, you will be treated like a king or queen. However, during that time the Loser has not forgotten how he or she basically feels about the opposite sex. Waitresses, clerks, or other neutral individuals will be treated badly. If they are cheap–you’ll never receive anything once the honeymoon is over. If they whine, complain, criticize, and torment–that’s how they’ll treat you in six months.” Psychopaths lack consistency in their “good” behavior because for them “goodness” is only a façade. The manner in which they treat someone relates strictly to that person’s perceived use value. When people are useful to them they treat them (superficially) well. When they aren’t, they ignore or mistreat them. By way of contrast, genuinely nice people treat others well regardless of their perceived utility. Carver advises,  “If you find yourself dating a man who treats you like a queen and other females like dirt–hit the road.” Pretty soon, you’ll be the dirt he walks on, on his way to conquering other temporary queens.

17.   The Reputation. Psychopaths tend to have polarized reputations. Their victims often describe them, in retrospect, as Janus figures (since they’re two-faced) or as Jekyll and Hyde personalities (since they switch from nice to mean). We’ve seen that for a psychopath the Jekyll side is a mask he constructs to attract, fool and use others. The Hyde side represents his true identity, which becomes increasingly dominant over time. To his buddies, Drew Peterson appeared to be an easy-going, nice guy. But that’s because they only saw one side of him, the jovial facet he wanted them to see. To his wives and their families– which is to say, to anyone who had extensive intimate contact with him–Drew exposed another, much more menacing side of his personality. Any sign of independence from his partners meant escaping his control: something he couldn’t tolerate and which he punished through abuse and (probably) murder. Carver states, “As mentioned, mentally healthy individuals are consistent in their personality and their behavior. The Loser may have two distinct reputations–a group of individuals who will give you glowing reports and a group that will warn you that they are serious trouble.” In addition to paying attention to what others say, trust your own intuition and powers of observation. Pay close attention to how your partner treats you over time and in different circumstances. Be particularly attuned to how he responds when you express different needs or opinions. Psychopaths can’t tolerate any real assertion of independence from others. They also can’t treat those they’re intimately involved with well for long. Although some psychopaths may consistently maintain the mask of charm in superficial interactions with their buddies, colleagues and acquaintances, their real controlling, selfish and aggressive natures tend to show through in extended intimate contact.

18.   Walking on Eggshells. During the course of their marriages to Drew Peterson, at least two of his wives reported losing their self-confidence as a result of his emotional and physical abuse. While they both entered the relationship with Drew feeling desirable, in love and valued, by the end they were overpowered and intimidated by him. When involved with a psychopath, over time, his partner finds herself walking on eggshells. She fears that anything she does or says might trigger his emotional detachment, hostility or abuse. Carver observes that, “Instead of experiencing the warmth and comfort of love, you will be constantly on edge, tense when talking to others (they might say something that you’ll have to explain later), and fearful that you’ll see someone you’ll have to greet in public.”

19.   Discounted Feelings/Opinions. For psychopaths, their fundamental callousness and capacity for evil stems from their absolute selfishness and inability to respect other individuals, as fellow human beings with independent needs and desires. That’s why those involved with a psychopath, following the initial stage when he praises everything they do and say, come to realize that their feelings, needs and opinions don’t matter to him. The Loser’s narcissism is, as Hervey Cleckley’s study of psychopathy concluded, absolute. Carver elaborates, “The Loser is so self-involved and self-worshiping that the feelings and opinions of others are considered worthless… The Loser is extremely hostile toward criticism and often reacts with anger or rage when their behavior is questioned.” Narcissists and psychopaths flatter others only to use and manipulate them. They lack genuine consideration for others.

20.   They Make You Crazy. According to her friends, Kathy Savio felt overcome by rage, jealousy and anger when Drew cheated on her with Stacy. While her emotional response was perfectly understandable under the circumstances, Drew depicted Kathy to others as “insane” to justify his mistreatment of her.  In some ways, however, this statement isn’t far removed from the truth. Sometimes, psychopaths quite literally drive their partners crazy. They lie to them to the point where they start doubting their knowledge of reality. They discourage and belittle them to the point where they lose their self-confidence and become reclusive. They mistreat them to the point where they’re overcome with rage. As Carver goes on to explain, “The Loser operates in such a damaging way that you find yourself doing ‘crazy’ things in self-defense… You become paranoid as well–being careful what you wear and say… While we think we are ‘going crazy’–it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as ‘normal behavior’ in a combat situation. Rest assured that your behavior will return to normal if you detach from the Loser before permanent psychological damage is done.” When involved with a psychopath, you may, unlike Drew Peterson’s misfortunate wives, escape alive. But unless you end the relationship in its earliest stages, you’re not likely to escape unharmed.

What do these warning signs indicate? They show that psychopathic seducers can fake decency and love convincingly in the beginning of a relationship. That’s how they manage to attract so many potential partners. But they can’t sustain their mask of sanity over time in intimate contact, since it’s fake and instrumental.  If you remain vigilant, you’ll be able to see red flags early on in the relationship with a psychopath despite his veneer of charm and extravagant romantic words and gestures. As psychotherapist Steve Becker indicates on his website, powercommunicating.com, most of his clients recognized the warning signals in their relationships with exploitative partners. They just minimized those red flags or downright ignored them. They preferred to focus on their romantic fantasies rather than face an unpleasant reality. According to Becker, the most difficult challenge isn’t noticing the red flags, but actually heeding them. He states,

“I find that many of my clients were in fact cognizant of odd, disconcerting behaviors/attitudes that their exploitative partners were reckless enough to reveal (or incapable of concealing). They may have even felt troubled by them. But in their intense need to want the relationship, and the partner, to be the elusive fit they so hungrily sought, they found ways to suppress their uneasiness: to ignore and/or minimize the significance of these signals; and rationalize the alarms their instincts triggered.” (powercommunicating.com)

If you encounter a man who is aroused primarily by the circumstances surrounding your relationship—especially the perverse and forbidden ones—rather than by you, yourself, run. If you encounter a man who does a bait and switch to gain your trust only to violate his promises or raise the bar higher and higher, run. If you encounter a man who behaves in a despicable manner towards any other woman, no matter what he says about her, examine his behavior carefully since that’s how he’ll eventually treat you and, needless to say, run.

Truth is not a convenient fiction. Similarly, love is not a power game for anyone capable of this emotion. It’s the deepest and most significant bond human beings form with one another and the foundation of our lives. If you encounter a man who gives any signs that he regards love as a game and you as a “prize” to be won, fold your cards and quickly leave the table. Or, better yet, refuse to engage with him at all. Any intimate relationship with a psychopath is a gamble where you risk losing everything and from which you have nothing to gain.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Why Psychopathy is Incurable: Nothing Can Fix a Psychopath

Psychopathy, along with borderline personality disorder and malignant narcissism, is an incurable personality disorder. Personality disorders are character deficiencies that are so deeply ingrained in one’s personality that they are, for all practical purposes, unchangeable. Most websites and books on romantic relationships tell readers what steps to take to get them or improve them. By way of contrast, I tell you bluntly and in detail why and how to disengage for good from the psychopathic bond. If there’s one kind of relationship that’s not worth saving, it’s one with a psychopath. You can’t change a psychopath. Consequently, you also can’t improve your relationship with him.

Psychologists call psychopathy “pathological.” They state that psychopaths suffer from a severe “personality disorder,” not just normal human flaws that can be worked on and ameliorated. Sandra L. Brown, M.A. underscores in How to spot a dangerous man before you get involved that “Pathology is forever.” (23) It’s the result of a faulty brain wiring, sometimes coupled with emotional trauma that occurs during childhood development, which can’t be altered in any significant way once the psychopath reaches adulthood.  Brown doesn’t mince words when she describes a psychopath as “an emotional predator” who represents “the pinnacle of poisonous and pathological dating choices.” (179) When involved with such an individual, she cautions, “You will never change his physiology or his bad wiring. You will never love him into safety, sanity, or sanctity.” (21)

Women involved with psychopaths have been conditioned by their partners to assume most of the blame for the problems that occur in the relationship. They’re often deeply in love. They hope that the psychopath will magically improve and grow to love them more meaningfully. Often, they seek therapy, counseling or support groups. They grasp at any straw that can help them salvage the pathological relationship. As time goes on, they focus on the increasingly fewer positive aspects of the relationship. They cherish the memories of how well they were treated in the beginning. They go into denial so that they don’t have to face the deliberate malice of the person they love, to whom they may have devoted their entire lives.

When faced with the vast discrepancy between the psychopath’s nice words and his malicious actions, they feel lost, disoriented and alone. They stubbornly cling to the psychopath and to the fantasy of romantic love he initially created. They believe the psychopath has a good side, which reflects his real positive qualities, and a bad side, which they often take the blame for. Psychopaths don’t have a good side. That supposedly good side—made up mostly of fake charm, manipulation and lies–is only a mask they put on in order to establish dominance over other human beings and use them for their selfish purposes. Because we want to believe there’s some good in every human being, it’s difficult to accept that psychopaths are, at core, evil. Unfortunately, that’s the case. As Liane Leedom puts it, psychopaths are “driven to do evil”. Their compulsion to harm others and their predatory desires are physiologically rooted in their personality structure. This is what I’ll explain next.

Since the early 1940’s, when Hervey Cleckley conducted his study of psychopathy, psychologists have tried to understand the physiological basis for this dangerous personality disorder. During the nineteenth century, psychopathy used to be called “moral insanity.” It could also be called “the malady of lovelessness,” since it’s caused by shallow emotions. Robert Hare shows that the root of the problem lies in the fact that for psychopaths neither side of the brain processes emotion properly. To psychopaths, emotionally charged statements such as “I love you,” “I’m sorry that I hurt you,” “I’ll never do it again,” mean absolutely nothing. They’re just words they use to deceive and manipulate others. Of course, they’re not random words. Psychopaths see that other people attach a special meaning to them. They notice that when they say “I love you,” “I’ll always be faithful to you” or “You’re the woman of my life,” they get a positive reaction. These hollow phrases help them seduce others, establish their trust and use them for their own selfish purposes. Psychopaths lack the capacity, however, to experience, and thus to fully grasp, the meaning behind emotionally charged words. Hare observes:

“Like the color-blind person, the psychopath lacks an important element of experience—in this case, emotional experience—but may have learned the words that others use to describe or mimic experiences that he cannot really understand.” (Without Conscience, 129)

To verify these findings, Hare and his research team conducted experiments on psychopaths versus non-psychopaths. They connected their subjects to an EEG machine, which records the electrical activity of the brain. Then they flashed on a screen strings of letters. Some of them formed real words while others formed only gibberish. They asked their subjects to press a button as soon as they identified a true word. A computer measured the time it took them to make the decision. It also analyzed their brain activity during the performance of this task. They found that non-psychopathic subjects responded quicker to emotionally charged words–such as “death” or “love”–than to non-emotional ones, such as “tree.” By way of contrast, emotionally charged words had no effect whatsoever on psychopaths. Hare elaborates,

“For most of us, language has the capacity to elicit powerful emotional feelings. For example, the word ‘cancer’ evokes not only a clinical description of a disease and its symptoms but a sense of fear, apprehension, or concern, and perhaps disturbing mental images of what it might be like to have it. But to the psychopath, it’s just a word.” (Without Conscience, 133)

According to both psychological and physiological research, psychopaths function far below the emotional poverty line. They’re much shallower than what we generally call “superficial” people. This has a lot to do with the faulty wiring in their brains. Hare explains that in most people the right side of the brain plays a central role in processing emotion. By way of contrast,

“Recent laboratory evidence indicates that in psychopaths neither side of the brain is proficient in the processes of emotion. Why this is so is still a mystery. But an intriguing implication is that the brain processes that control the psychopath’s emotions are divided and unfocused, resulting in a shallow and colorless emotional life.” (Without Conscience, 134)

The shallowness of their emotions explains why psychopaths are so callous as to use and abuse even those closest to them: their partners, their children, their parents, their lovers and their so-called friends. It also clarifies why they can’t see anything wrong with their mistreatment of others. Even when they rape and murder, psychopaths feel no remorse. Their theatrical apologies and promises to reform are as empty as their vows of love. When they cry in court after having been sentenced to prison for their crimes, they either feign emotion to gain sympathy or cry about the fact they got caught. While research shows that psychopaths are incapable of real emotional bonding with others, this doesn’t imply that they’re out of touch with reality. When they harm others, even when it’s opportunistically and in the heat of the moment, they’re cold-blooded and deliberate about their actions. They’re also aware of the fact that their misdeeds are considered morally wrong by society. But, fundamentally, they don’t care. In fact, breaking the rules (without suffering any consequences) is the name of their game. As Hare clarifies:

“As I mentioned earlier, psychopaths do meet current legal and psychiatric standards for sanity. They understand the rules of society and the conventional meanings of right and wrong. They are capable of controlling their behavior and realize the potential consequences of their acts. The problem is that this knowledge frequently fails to deter them from antisocial behavior.” (Without Conscience, 143)

Whenever any discussion of criminal or deviant behavior takes place, the age-old debate between nature versus nurture tends to come up. The question thus arises: are psychopaths bad because of their social environment or are they born that way? The simple answer to this question is: they’re born that way and they can be made worse by a bad environment. Unfortunately, they can’t be made significantly better by anything at all. Psychological and sociological research shows that, in fact, psychopaths are much less influenced by their environment than non-psychopaths. This conforms with the general finding that psychopaths have rock solid egos, which are more or less immune to negative input. As we’ve seen, although they enjoy affirmation and praise, as all narcissists do, they don’t care when they’re criticized or punished. While a corrupt environment and abuse is unlikely to cause psychopathy, it can lead a psychopath to express his constitutive emotional callousness through violence. (Without Conscience, 175)

Martha Stout seconds Robert Hare’s conclusions that nature–or the physiological incapacity to experience and process emotion properly–has much more to do with psychopathy than nurture. Stout observes, “In fact, there’s evidence that sociopaths are influenced less by their early experience than are nonsociopaths.” (The Sociopath Next Door, 134). She elaborates,

“The sociopaths who have been studied reveal a significant aberration in their ability to process emotional information at the level of the cerebral cortex. And from examining heritability studies, we can speculate that the neurobiological underpinnings of the core personality features of sociopathy are as much as 50 percent heritable. The remaining causes, the other 50 percent, are much foggier. Neither childhood maltreatment nor attachment disorder seems to account for the environmental contribution to the loveless, manipulative, and guiltless existence that psychologists call psychopathy.” (The Sociopath Next Door, 134)

In other words, psychopathy constitutes a physiological deficiency that causes shallowness of emotions and all the negative implications which stem from it that we’ve explored so far. This deficiency is genetically inherited only half of the time. The other half of the time it may be caused by accidents, brain damage, drugs or other, unknown causes. The saddest implication of the scientific research on psychopathy is the fact that there’s no cure for it. No medication or treatment has yet been discovered that can give a psychopath the neurological capacity to process emotion properly. Consequently, nothing can turn him into a functioning, caring human being. In other words, nothing can transform a psychopath into a non-psychopath.

Anybody who tells you that a psychopath can be significantly improved does NOT understand the nature of pathology and does NOT have your best interests in mind. If you’ve hired such a therapist, you’re paying him or her just to bolster your own unrealistic expectations and confirm your wishful thinking. Sandra L. Brown, M.A. offers the best advice in How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved (a book that I reviewed on this blog): stay away from such men. Rather than persisting in trying to save them, save yourself and those who are capable of empathy and love. Medication and therapy can’t transform an emotional cipher into a caring man.

Moreover, unlike mental retardation and autism, psychopathy and narcissism are NOT harmless deficiencies. On the contrary, they are very dangerous emotional deficiencies. The individuals who suffer from mental deficiencies like autism and mental retardation are often reduced to a debilitating and life-long dependency upon others to function. By way of contrast, individuals suffering from emotional deficiencies–or personality disorders–can have very high intelligence and they use it to cause harm to others. If any trained professional tells you that mental and emotional deficiencies are comparable–in any respect other than that neither can be significantly altered–I strongly advise you to seek another therapist because that person is (at the very least) incompetent. To see the implausibility of such a comparison, just imagine someone suffering from mental deficiencies machinate the kind of carnage caused by psychopathic dictators like Hitler or Stalin; the predatory murders caused by serial killers like Ted Bundy; the senseless murders carried out by someone like Neil Entwistle, or even the more banal evil caused by your garden-variety psychopath, who continually lies to, cheats on, scams, dupes and manipulates those around him. Psychopaths’ capacity for evil actions is only limited by their malicious imaginations and desires. This means that, for all practical purposes, there are no limits.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Voices of Violence Video

Dangerous men can be very romantic, at first. They flatter you, give you gifts and pretend to love you. But once the honeymoon phase ends, the abuse begins: the cheating, the lying, the manipulation, the criticism and, all too often, the physical violence as well. Abusive men frequently suffer from incurable personality disorders: particularly psychopathy and narcissism. I just made a video to raise public awareness to this problem, posted on my youtube channel, on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici

This video features paintings by the artist and social activist Michael Bell, from his series on domestic abuse, called Voices of Violence, found on the link:

http://mbellart.com

For more information about domestic abuse, personality disorders and dangerous men, please see the following websites:

More articles from this website:

https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com

My new novel about psychopathic seduction, The Seducer, found on:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/the-seducer/

Steve Becker‘s website on narcissism and psychopathy:

http://powercommunicating.com

and  Sandra L. Brown‘s website on personality disorders and therapy institute:

http://saferelationships.com

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness.com

The Psychopath’s Relationship Cycle: Idealize, Devalue and Discard

Because they suffer from incurable personality disorders, psychopaths repeat over and over the same relationship cycle, no matter whom they’re dating or for how long. Relationships with them are always castles–or, sometimes, marriages–built on sand. Today I’ll describe the entire process of psychopathic seduction, from its seemingly ideal beginning to its invariably bitter end.

In their book on psychopaths in the workplace, entitled Snakes in Suits, Babiak and Hare state that the psychopathic bond follows certain predictable stages: idealize, devalue and discard. This process may take several years or only a few hours. It all depends on what the psychopath wants from you and whether or not you present a challenge to him. If the psychopath wants the semblance of respectability–a screen behind which he can hide his perverse nature and appear harmless and normal–he may establish a long-term partnership with you or even marry you. If all he wants is to have some fun, it will be over within a couple of hours. If he wants the stimulation and diversion of an affair, he may stay with you for as long as you excite him. Despite the differences in timeline, what remains constant is this: eventually, sooner or later, you’ll be discarded (or be led by the psychopath’s bad behavior to discard him) as soon as you no longer serve his needs.

Babiak and Hare explain that although psychopaths are highly manipulative, the process of idealize, devalue and discard is a natural outgrowth of their personalities. In other words, it’s not necessarily calculated at every moment in the relationship. Overall, however, whether consciously or not, psychopaths assess and drain the use-value out of their romantic partners. (Snakes in Suits, 42) During the assessment phase, psychopaths interact closely with their targets to see what makes them tick. They ask probing questions, to discover their unfulfilled needs and weaknesses. They also commonly lure their targets with promises to offer them whatever’s been missing from their lives. If you’re recovering from a recent divorce, they offer you friendship and an exciting new romantic relationship. If you’ve suffered a death in the family, they appear to be sympathetic friends. If you’re going through financial difficulties, they lend you money to seem generous.

During the manipulation phase, Babiak and Hare go on to explain, psychopaths construct the “psychopathic fiction.” They pour on the charm to hook their victims emotionally and gain their trust. They present themselves as kind-hearted individuals. Of course, in order to do so, psychopaths resort to outrageous lies since, in reality, they’re just the opposite. In romantic relationships in particular, they depict themselves as not only compatible with you, but also as your soul mate. While seeming your complement, they also present themselves as your mirror image. They claim to share your interests and sensibilities. Babiak and Hare observe: “This psychological bond capitalizes on your inner personality, holding out the promise of greater depth and possibly intimacy, and offering a relationship that is special, unique, equal–forever.” (Snakes in Suits, 78)

Because psychopaths are great manipulators and convincing liars, as we’ve seen, many of their victims don’t heed the warning signals. During the early phases of a romantic relationship, people in general tend to be too blinded by the euphoria of falling in love to focus on noticing red flags. Also, during this period, the psychopaths themselves are on their best behavior. Yet, generally speaking, they get bored too easily to be able to maintain their mask of sanity consistently for very long. The honeymoon phase of the relationship usually lasts until the psychopath intuitively senses that he’s got you on the hook or until he’s gotten bored by the relationship and moved on to other targets. He shows his true colors when he’s got no incentive left to pretend anymore. As Babiak and Hare note, “Once psychopaths have drained all the value from a victim—that is, when the victim is no longer useful—they abandon the victim and move on to someone else.” (Snakes in Suits, 53)

This raises the question of why a psychopath idealizes his targets in the first place. Why do psychopaths invest so much effort, time and energy into giving the illusion of intimacy and meaning in a relationship, given that they never really bond with other human beings in the first place? One obvious response would be that they do it for the sport of it. They enjoy both the chase and the kill; the seduction and the betrayal. They relish creating the illusion that they’re something they’re not. They also enjoy observing how they dupe others into believing this fiction. Moreover, whenever a psychopath expresses admiration, flattery or enthusiasm for someone, it’s always because he wants something from that person. I think, however, that this explanation is somewhat reductive. Many psychopaths experience powerful obsessions that resemble intense passions. Besides, this explanation doesn’t distinguish conmen, who fake their credentials and interest in a person, from psychopaths “in love,” who are pursuing their targets for what initially seems even to them as “romantic” reasons.

A broader explanation, which would include both kinds of psychopaths, might look something like this: as research confirms, all psychopaths suffer from a shallowness of emotion that makes their bonding ephemeral and superficial, at best. When they want something–or someone–they pursue that goal with all their might. They concentrate all of their energies upon it. When that goal is your money or a job or something outside of yourself, their pursuit may appear somewhat fake. You’re a means to an end. You were never idealized for yourself, but for something else. But when their goal is actually you–seducing you or even marrying you–then their pursuit feels like an idealization. Temporarily, you represent the object of their desire, the answer to their needs, the love of their life and the key to their happiness. But this feeling of euphoria doesn’t last long because it’s empty to the core. As we’ve observed, once psychopaths feel they have you in their grasp—once your identity, hopes and expectations are pinned on them—they get bored with you and move on to new sources of pleasure and diversion. We’ve also seen in Cleckley’s study that the same logic applies to their other goals as well. Psychopaths tire rather quickly of their jobs, their geographic location, their hobbies and their educational endeavors. But it hurts so much more, and it feels so much more personal, when what they get tired of is you, yourself.

Their loss of interest appears as a devaluation. From the center of their life, you suddenly become just an obstacle to their next pursuit. Since psychopaths are intuitively skilled at “dosing,” or giving you just enough validation and attention to keep you on the hook, you may not immediately notice the devaluation. It’s as if the psychopath intuitively knows when to be charming again (in order not to lose you) and when to push your boundaries, further and lower. Your devaluation occurs gradually yet steadily. One day you finally notice it and wonder how you have allowed yourself to sink so low. Occasionally, he throws you a bone–takes you out, plans a romantic evening, says kind and loving things—to lead you to dismiss your healthy intuitions that you’re being mistreated. If the psychopath allows himself to treat you worse and worse it’s not only because you’re much less exciting in his eyes. It’s also because he’s conditioned you to think less highly of yourself and to accept his dubious behavior. Because you want to hold on to the fantasy of the ideal relationship he cultivated, you go into denial. You accept his implausible excuses. You put up with your growing fears and doubts. You rationalize his inexplicable absences, his increasingly frequent emotional withdrawals, his curt and icy replies, his petty and mean-spirited ways of “punishing” you for asserting your needs or for not bending to his will.

But at some point, when he sinks to a new low or when you catch him in yet another lie, you slip out of the willful denial which has been your way of adjusting to the toxic relationship. Because he has lowered your self-esteem, you ask yourself why this has happened and what you did wrong. If he cheated on you, you blame the other woman or women involved. The psychopath encourages you to pursue such false leads. In fact, he encourages anything that deflects attention from his responsibility in whatever goes wrong with your relationship. He leads you to blame yourself. He also inculpates the other women. He implies that you were not good enough for him. He claims that the other women tempted or pursued him. But that’s only a diversionary tactic. You have flaws and you made mistakes, but at least you were honest and real. The other women involved may have been decent human beings, the scum of the Earth or anything in between. Think about it. Does it really matter who and what they were? You are not involved with the other women. They are not your life partners, your spouses, your lovers or your friends. What matters to you most is how your own partner behaves. He is primarily accountable for his actions. Not you, not the other women.

Also, keep in mind that psychopaths twist the truth to fit their momentary goals and to play mind games. When you actually pay attention to what they say instead of being impressed by how sincere they may appear, their narratives often sound inconsistent and implausible. What they say about other women, both past and present, is most likely a distortion too. Psychopaths commonly project their own flaws upon others. If they tell you they were seduced, it was most likely the other way around. If they tell you that their previous girlfriends mistreated them, cheated on them, got bored with them, abandoned them, listen carefully, since that’s probably what they did to those women. Their lies serve a dual function. They help establish credibility with you as well as giving them the extra thrill of deceiving you yet again.

So why were you discarded? you may wonder. You were devalued and discarded because you were never really valued for yourself. As we’ve seen, for psychopaths relationships are temporary deals, or rather, scams. Analogously, for them, other human beings represent objects of diversion and control. The most flattering and pleasant phase of their control, the only one that feels euphoric and magical, is the seduction/idealization phase. That’s when they pour on the charm and do everything they possibly can to convince you that you are the only one for them and that they’re perfect for you. It’s very easy to mistake this phase for true love or passion. However, what inevitably follows in any intimate relationship with a psychopath is neither pleasant nor flattering. Once they get bored with you because the spell of the initial conquest has worn off, the way they maintain control of you is through deception, isolation, abuse, gaslighting and undermining your self-confidence.

That’s when you realize that the devaluation phase has set in. You do whatever you can to regain privileged status. You try to recapture the excitement and sweetness of the idealization phase. You want to reclaim your rightful throne as the queen you thought you were in his eyes. But that’s an impossible goal, an ever-receding horizon. Every women’s shelter tells victims of domestic violence that abuse usually gets worse, not better, over time. For abusers, power is addictive. It works like a drug. The dosage needs to be constantly increased to achieve the same effect. Control over others, especially sexual control, gives psychopaths pleasure and meaning in life. To get the same rush from controlling you, over time, they need to tighten the screws. Increase the domination. Increase the manipulation. Isolate you further from those who care about you. Undermine your confidence and boundaries more, so that you’re left weaker and less prepared to stand up for yourself. The more you struggle to meet a psychopath’s demands, the more he’ll ask of you. Until you have nothing left to give. Because you have pushed your moral boundaries as low as they can go. You have alienated your family and friends, at the psychopath’s subtle manipulation or overt urging. You have done everything you could to satisfy him. Yet, after the initial idealization phase, nothing you did was ever good enough for him.

It turns out that he’s completely forgotten about the qualities he once saw in you. If and when he talks about you to others, it’s as if he were ashamed of you. That’s not only because he lost interest in you. It’s also the instinctive yet strategic move of a predator. If your family, his family, your mutual friends have all lost respect for you–if you’re alone with him in the world–he can control you so much easier than if you have external sources of validation and emotional support. Psychopaths construct an “us versus them” worldview. They initially depict your relationship as privileged and better than the ordinary love bonds normal people form. This is of course always a fiction. In fact, the opposite holds true. An intimate relationship with a psychopath is far inferior to any normal human relationship, where both people care about each other. Such a relationship is necessarily one-sided and distorted. It’s a sham on both sides. Being a consummate narcissist, he loves no one but himself and cares about nothing but his selfish desires.

If and when he does something nice, it’s always instrumental: a means to his ends or to bolster his artificial good image. Dr. Jekyll is, in fact, always Mr. Hyde on the inside. And even though you may be capable of love, you’re not in love with the real him–the cheater, the liar, the manipulator, the player, the hollow, heartless being that he is–but with the charming illusion he created, which you initially believed but which becomes increasingly implausible over time. From beginning to end, all this phony relationship can offer you is a toxic combination of fake love and real abuse. He constructs the psychopathic bond through deception and manipulation. You maintain it through self-sacrifice and denial.

But pretty soon, when you find yourself alone with the psychopath, you see it’s not us versus them, your couple above and against everyone else. It’s him versus you. He will act like your worst enemy, which is what he really is, not as the best friend and adoring partner he claimed to be. If he criticizes you to others–or, more subtly, fosters antagonisms between you and family members and friends–it’s to further wear you down and undermine your social bonds. Once he tires of you, he induces others to see you the same way that he does: as someone not worthy of him; as someone to use, demean and discard. Before you were beautiful and no woman could compare to you. Now you’re at best plain in his eyes. Before you were cultured and intelligent. Now you’re the dupe who got played by him. Before you were dignified and confident. Now you’re isolated and abject. In fact, right at the point when you feel that you should be rewarded for your sacrifice of your values, needs, desires and human bonds–all for him–the psychopath discards you.

He’s had enough. He’s gotten everything he wanted out of you. Bent you out of shape. Taken away, demand by demand, concession by concession, your dignity and happiness. As it turns out, the reward you get for all your devotion and efforts is being nearly destroyed by him. Ignoring your own needs and fulfilling only his–or fulfilling yours to gain his approval–has transformed you into a mere shadow of the lively, confident human being you once were.

He uses your weaknesses against you. He also turns your qualities into faults. If you are faithful, he sees your fidelity as a weakness, a sign you weren’t desirable enough to cheat. Nobody else really wanted you. If you are virtuous, he exploits your honesty while he lies and cheats on you. If you are passionate, he uses your sensuality to seduce you, to entrap you through your own desires, emotions, hopes and dreams. If you are reserved and modest, he describes you as asocial and cold-blooded. If you are confident and outgoing, he views you as flirtatious and untrustworthy. If you are hard working, unless he depends on your money, he depicts you as a workhorse exploited by your boss. If you are artistic and cultured, he undermines your merit. He makes you feel like everything you create is worthless and cannot possibly interest others. You’re lucky that it ever interested him. After the idealization phase is over, there’s no way to please a psychopath. Heads you lose, tails he wins. But remember that his criticisms are even less true than his initial exaggerated flattery. When all is said and done, the only truth that remains is that the whole relationship was a fraud.

The process of the psychopathic bond is programmatic. It’s astonishingly elegant and simple given the complexity of human behavior. Idealize, devalue and discard. Each step makes sense once you grasp the psychological profile of a psychopath, of an (in)human being who lives for the pleasure of controlling and harming others. 1) Idealize: not you, but whatever he wanted from you and only for however long he wanted it. 2) Devalue: once he has you in his clutches, the boredom sets in and he loses interest. 3) Discard: after he’s gotten everything he wanted from you and has probably secured other targets.

For you, this process is excruciatingly personal. It may have cost you your time, your heart, your friends, your family, your self-esteem or your finances. You may have put everything you had and given everything you could to that relationship. It may have become your entire life. For the psychopath, however, the whole process isn’t really personal. He could have done the same thing to just about anyone who allowed him into her intimate life. He will do it again and again to everyone he seduces. It’s not about you. It’s not about the other woman or women who were set against you to compete for him, to validate his ego, to give him pleasure, to meet his fickle needs. He wasn’t with them because they’re superior to you. He was with them for the same reason that he was with you. To use them, perhaps for different purposes than he used you, but with the same devastating effect. He will invariably treat others in a similar way to how he treated you. Idealize, devalue and discard. Rinse and repeat. This process was, is and will always be only about the psychopath for as long as you stay with him.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

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