Elie Wiesel’s Night: Shedding Light upon the Darkness

 

Elie Wiesel’s Night: Shedding Light upon the Darkness

 by Claudia Moscovici

Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night (New York, Hill and Wang, 2006, translated by Marion Wiesel), is one of the best-known and most highly acclaimed works about the Holocaust. The New York Times called the 2006 edition “a slim volume of terrifying power”. Yet its power wasn’t immediately appreciated. In fact, the book may have never been written had Wiesel not approached his friend, the novelist Francois Mauriac, for an introduction to the French Prime Minister Pierre Mendes France, whom he wanted to interview. When Mauriac, a devout Catholic, mentioned that Mendes stated that France was suffering like Jesus, Elie Wiesel responded that ten years earlier he had seen hundreds of Jewish children suffer more than Jesus did on the cross yet nobody spoke about it. Mauriac appeared moved and suggested that Wiesel himself write about this difficult subject.

The young man followed his advice. He began writing in Yiddish an 862-page manuscript about his experiences of the Holocaust. The Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina published an abbreviated version of his book, under the title And the World Remained Silent. Wiesel later translated the text into French. He called it, more simply and symbolically, Night (La Nuit) and sent it to Mauriac, who helped Wiesel find a publisher (the small and prestigious publishing house Les Editions de Minuit) and wrote its Preface. The English version, published in 1960 by Arthur Wang of Hill and Wang, received strong critical acclaim despite initially modest sales. Over the years, Elie Wiesel’s eloquent books and informative interviews helped bring the difficult subject of the Holocaust to the center of public attention. In 2006, Oprah Winfrey selected Night for her high-profile book club, increasing its public exposure.

This work is autobiographical—an eloquent memoir documenting Wiesel’s family sufferings during the Holocaust—yet, due to its literary qualities, the text has also been read as a novel or fictionalized autobiography. The brevity, poignant dialogue, lyrical descriptions of human degradation and suffering, and historical accuracy of this multifaceted work render Night one of the most powerful Holocaust narratives ever written.

Elie (Eliezer) Wiesel was only 15 years old when the Nazis entered Sighet in March of 1944, a Romanian town in Northern Transylvania that had been annexed to Hungary in 1940. At the directives of Adolf Eichmann, who took it upon himself to “cleanse” Hungary of its Jews, the situation deteriorated very quickly for the Jewish population of Sighet and other provincial towns. Within a few months, between May and July 1944, approximately 440,000 Hungarian Jews, mostly those living outside of Budapest, were deported to Auschwitz aboard 147 trains.

Wiesel’s entire family—his father Shlomo, mother Sarah, and sisters Tzipora, Hilda and Beatrice—suffered this fate. Among them, only Elie and two of his sisters, Hilda and Beatrice, survived the Holocaust. However, since women and men were separated at Auschwitz upon arrival, Elie lost track of what happened to his sisters until they reunited after the end of the war. In the concentration camp, father and son clung to each other as the only family they had left.

Night recounts their horrific experiences, which included starvation, forced labor and a death march to Buchenwald. Being older and weaker, Shlomo becomes the target of punishment and humiliation. He’s abused by SS officers as well as by other prisoners who steal his food. Weakened by hunger and fatigue, he dies after a savage beating in January 1945, only a few weeks before the Americans liberate the concentration camp. Throughout their tribulations, the son oscillates between a filial sense of responsibility towards his increasingly debilitated father and regarding his father as a burden that might cost him his own life. Elie doesn’t dare intervene when the SS officer beats Shlomo, fearing that he himself would become the next victim if he tries to help his father.

In the darkness and despair of Night, the instinct of self-preservation from day to day and moment to moment counteracts a lifetime of familial love. Even when Elie discovers the death of his father in the morning, he experiences a sense of hollowness: not only his father’s absence, as his bunk is now occupied by another inmate, but also the lack of his own human response: “I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I was out of tears. And deep inside me, if I could have searched the recesses of my feeble conscience, I might have found something like: Free at last!” (112)

Night offers a stark psychological account of the process of human degradation in inhumane conditions. Even the relatively few and fortunate survivors of the Nazi atrocities, such as Elie Wiesel, became doubly victimized. They are the victims of what they suffered at the hands of their oppressors as well as the victims of what they witnessed others suffer and were unable (or unwilling) to help. Although Night focuses on the loss of human dignity in the Nazi concentration camps, the author’s life would become a quest for regaining it by writing and talking about the Holocaust. As Wiesel explains to his audience on December 10, 1986 during his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize in Oslo, his message to his son–and to the world at large—is about the empathy required to perpetuate Holocaust memories. He declares, “I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. … We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” (118).

Claudia Moscovici, Holocaust Memories

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

 

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How Bulgaria avoided the Holocaust

Bulgaria and the Holocaust

 

After WWI, Bulgaria had territorial aspirations: it wanted to regain Macedonia, Thrace and southern Dobrudja, provinces it had lost after the war. These territorial grievances led the Bulgarian government to become closer to the Nazi regime. In order to rejuvenate its economy, Bulgaria traded heavily with Germany, which accounted for 70 percent of the country’s foreign trade. (See Holocaust: A History, Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt, New York: Norton, 2002, 180). Once Bulgaria’s economic interests brought it within Germany’s orbit, it became obliged to align its political interest with Fascist ideology. King Boris III appointed Professor Bogdan Filov, a Germanophile, as prime minister, who in turn appointed the leader of the Bulgarian Ratnik (Fascist) Party, as minister of interior. Hitler rewarded Bulgaria for its loyalty by forcing Romania to give back southern Dobrudja. This in turn made the Bulgarians even more receptive to the Nazis. This rapprochement between Bulgaria and Germany did not bode well for the country’s Jews.

In the fall of 1940, the Bulgarian minister of interior proposed a law modeled after the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, called the “Law for the Defense of the Nation,” which discriminated and disenfranchised Bulgarian Jews. King Boris III himself signed this law. However, remarkably, the feelings of the Bulgarian citizens prevented the regime from falling into step with the harsh measures that would destroy the Jews of Nazi-controlled and Nazi-allied Europe. Apparently, the Bulgarian people never considered the 50,000 Jews in the country—a very small percentage of its population—as a problem. According to historian Deborah Dwork, the Bulgarian Lawyers Association wrote an open letter protesting the anti-Semitic laws. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church also took a stance against discrimination, stating that the people of Bulgaria “shouldn’t admit injustice and violence against others” (Holocaust: A History, 181). At this point, the government of Bulgaria heeded the predominant views of its people and did not enact the discriminatory measures against its small Jewish minority. Bulgaria is a wonderful case study of how the just views of a population can make a big difference in preventing government-mandated injustice and even genocide.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

 

A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian genocide and The Promise

 

As Peter Balakian points out in the Preface of his book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian genocide and America’s response (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), the Holocaust had a significant historical precedent: one which, unfortunately, is all too often ignored. The Armenian genocide, he states, “has often been referred to as ‘the forgotten genocide,’ ‘the unremembered genocide,’ ‘the hidden holocaust,’ or ‘the secret genocide’” (xvii). He adds that many historians—including Yehuda Bauer, Robert Melson, Howard M. Sachar and Samantha Power–rightfully consider the Armenian genocide to be “the template for most of the genocide that followed in the twentieth century” (xviii).

Over a century later, Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the systematic and premeditated mass killings of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Turks, even though this genocide, officially recognized as such by 29 countries, is well documented: “In the past two decades, scholars have unearthed and translated a large quantity of official state records documenting the Committee of Union and Progress’s (Ottoman Turkey’s governing political party) finely organized and Implemented plan to exterminate the Armenians” (xxi). Balakian himself studied “hundreds of U.S. State Department documents (there are some four thousand documents totaling about thirty-seven thousand pages in the National Archives) written by American diplomats that report in-depth the process and devastation of the Armenian Genocide. The extermination of the Armenians is also illuminated in British Foreign Office records, and in official records from the state archives of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey’s World War I allies. The foremost scholar of the Armenian Genocide, Professor Vahakn Dadrian, has made available in translation the body of Turkish sources both primary and secondary” (xxi).

The genocide involved the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during WWI. The extermination started on April 24, 1915 with the deportation and execution of a few hundred Armenian intellectuals from Constantinople. It progressed to the forced conscription, imprisonment in labor camps and murder of able-bodied males. Soon thereafter, it led to the mass murder of women, the elderly and children, who were herded by Turkish military escorts for hundreds of miles across the Syrian desert, without sufficient food, water, medical care or sanitary facilities. The Turks butchered entire villages and communities mercilessly driven on these death marches. Women and young girls were often subjected to rape and torture before being killed. Sometimes the victims were loaded on cattle trains for days, without any provisions, in a manner similar to the Nazi transportation of Jews to concentration camps almost three decades later.

Similarly to the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian Holocaust didn’t happen out of the blue. Like the Jews in many European countries, the Armenians were considered second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. Even during relatively Enlightened times, when the Ottoman rulers granted the Christian and Jewish minorities some autonomy and minority rights, non-Muslims were still considered to be “gavours”: meaning “infidels” or “unbelievers”. In the Eastern provinces, Armenian villages found themselves subject to higher taxation and often invaded by their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors. Moreover, like the Jews in the Pale of Settlement region, the Armenians fell victim to periodic pogroms.

However, discrimination and subjugation don’t necessarily lead to wide-scale genocide. Consequently, just as the Jews couldn’t have anticipated the extermination of their people by the Nazis, nothing prepared the Armenian communities living under Ottoman rule for their ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Turks. In both cases, world wars were used as an excuse—and incitement–for genocide. The Ottoman Empire entered WWI on August 2, 1914, when it signed a secret treaty with Germany to fight on the side of the Axis powers. The Turkish leadership wanted the local Armenian population to act on their behalf, demanding their insurrection against the Russian Army. The Minister of War, Enver Pasha, launched an attack on the Russians. He attempted to encircle and destroy the Russian army at Sarikamish in order to reclaim the Turkish territories occupied by the Russians since 1877. However, his plan failed and his troops were defeated. The Turks blamed their loss on the local Armenian population, viewing them as traitors who helped the Russians. Subsequently, able-bodied Armenian men living in the Ottoman Empire were discharged from active military service, disarmed, and sent to forced labor battalions, where many were executed by the Turks.

In a move that would prefigure the Jewish genocide in the Eastern Territories during WWII, on May 29, 2015, the Turkish Central Committee passed a law of deportation (called the “Tehcir Law”) that gave the Ottoman Empire the right to deport anyone they considered a threat to “national security,” which, in their estimation, included women and children. The mass deportation—in grueling death marches–of the elderly, women and children soon followed. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died from starvation, disease, and mass shootings. To carry out the genocide, the Turks formed a paramilitary organization that has been compared by historians to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen. The Turkish Committee of Union and Progress founded a “Special Organization”, comprised mostly of Turkish criminals released from prisons, who were put in charge of the deportations and massacres of the Armenians. They killed countless helpless civilians, decimating their numbers through forced marches, shootings, mass burning, drowning and even poisoning. Like the Nazis, the Turks experimented with toxic gases and biological warfare (by inoculating healthy Armenians with the blood of typhoid patients). After the Allies defeated the Axis powers, on November 3, 1918 Sultan Mehmet VI was ordered by the Allied administration to hold war trials for the Turkish leaders of the Armenian genocide, which included Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha and about 130 high officials of the Ottoman Empire.

The film The Promise (2016), directed by Terry George, captures the trauma of the Armenian genocide in an epic drama reminiscent of War and Peace. The movie traces a love triangle between Mikael, an Armenian medical student, and Ana, an Armenian tutor educated in France, who is in turn engaged to Chris, an American journalist covering the war for the Associated Press. A small town boy from a poor family, before meeting Ana, Mikael himself becomes engaged to a wealthier neighbor, whose family gives him a dowry (400 gold coins) to cover his expenses for medical school in Constantinople. At a party held by his wealthy uncle, Mikael is introduced to Ana, his nieces’ tutor, as well as Emre, the son of a Turkish official, whom he befriends. He’s smitten with Ana as soon as he meets her. The young woman captivates him with her beauty, culture and sophistication. But the beginning of WWI nips their romance in the bud. Mikael is sent to a labor camp, from which he manages to escape.

In one of the most harrowing scenes of the film, Mikael rides on top of a cattle train, hoping to elude the Turkish army and make it back to his native village to help his family. Suddenly it starts to rain. He hears strange sounds: terrible moaning and cries. Hands emerge between the grates of the train, trying in vain to cup the drops of water. To his shock, Mikael discovers that hundreds of Armenian civilians are trapped inside, dying of thirst and hunger. Before jumping off the train, the young man manages to pry open the lock to one of the doors and save the trapped prisoners. He finally makes it to his parents’ house, where the family has an emotional reunion. However, realizing that it would be too dangerous to stay with his parents, Mikael and his fiancée get married in great haste and move to a remote location, where they live together in a rustic cabin. A few months later, his wife becomes pregnant and experiences health complications.

Meanwhile, his friends, Ana and Chris, visit Mikael’s parents trying to locate him. They are helping a group of orphans escape from the murderous Turkish troops. As Mikael joins them on the back roads to lead the orphans to a safer area, he watches helplessly as a group of Turkish soldiers carry off his own family and other inhabitants of his little village, Sirun. He runs to their aid but arrives too late: most of his family and neighbors lie murdered in a ditch. Only his young niece and mother have (barely) survived, left for dead by the Turks. The rest of the beleaguered Armenian community decides that it’s better to fight to the death rather than be butchered like sheep by the Turks. Armed with rudimentary tools and a lot of courage, the refugees fight valiantly and manage to hold off the Turkish onslaught until a French ship, le Guichen, comes to their rescue. As Mikael takes a lifeboat of orphans to safety, Ana drowns when her boat is capsized by the Turkish artillery. Despite their rivalry for her love, both Mikael and Chris mourn her death together. This tragedy resolves the tension of the love triangle that had divided them.

The Promise follows in the footsteps of War and Peace in depicting war on an epic scale through the optic of a personalized family drama and love story. While viewers seem to rate the film highly, its critical reception has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, reports that, so far, The Promise received an average rating of 5.7/10. Benjamin Lee, the film critic for The Guardian, found the film “soapy” but well intentioned. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times concurred, calling it “corny” and “a derivative of better war romances”. The Nation’s film critic, Pietro A. Shakarian, rated it more highly, claiming, “The Promise captures the magnitude of this history (of the Armenian genocide) that no prior film on the genocide has done before.”

I agree in part with both perspectives. Like Shakarian, I find The Promise to be a moving epic drama that tackles an important and often overlooked subject. At the same time, I feel that the film sometimes privileges the love triangle at the expense of offering viewers more necessary background about the Armenian genocide. For instance, when depicting the friendship between Mikael and Emre (the son of the Turkish official, who is eventually killed because he didn’t turn against his Armenian friend), the movie may give viewers the false impression that Turks and Armenians peacefully coexisted before the beginning of the war. But, as I previously indicated, the status of the Armenians living under Ottoman rule was similar to that of the Jews in many European countries: they were considered (at best) second-class citizens and (at worst) enemies to be wiped out in pogroms. In both cases, the sociopolitical conditions were ripe for mass extermination. World wars were a catalyst for rather than the cause of genocide.

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

Therapeutic value or endless rumination?

DangerousLiaisonsCoverCampos

I have spent five years of my life, from December 2007 to January 2012, reading about, researching and writing on the subject of psychopathy. To write my own books about psychopaths, the nonfiction Dangerous Liaisons and the novel The Seducer, I read hundreds of books on the subject: both specialized books by authorities in the field, such as Robert D. Hare’s Without Conscience and Martha Stout’s The sociopath next door, and victim testimonials. I also regularly read blogs about pathological relationships, therapy advice columns and comments by victims. This blog, Psychopathy Awareness, contains articles that reflect these readings as well as my own processing of this information from a personal perspective, as a victim of a psychopath myself.

After five years of intense focus on the subject of psychopathy and toxic relationships, however, I began to feel like I was digging myself into a hole. By this I mean that psychopathy started to color my perspective of the world; it became a filter through which I read pathology in life. It also triggered painful memories and obsessive rumination about my past. It was as if I were seeing the world through a monochromatic optic, which was very dark. Perhaps worse than that, I felt that my thoughts became repetitive and my worldview became narrower. To write about psychopathy, I dug over and over into a well of painful memories that part of me wanted to forget. Because of this, aside from the occasional interviews I have posted here, I have taken a long, seven year, break from writing about psychopathy. I felt like I needed to shift focus to other subjects and to reboot aspects of my life that had been damaged by the toxic relationship.

This made me think about an issue that is relevant to many victims of psychopaths or of any PTSD or serious trauma in life, for that matter. My question was: Is focusing on that painful event or period of your life healthy or does it, at some point, become a form of endless and self-defeating rumination? This question is also relevant for family members who have been traumatized themselves by those who have fallen victim to psychopaths and other dangerous individuals. Often the victims, while under the influence of a psychopath, in turn behaved in a cruel or unethical manner to those around them. For instance, there are hundreds if not thousands of websites dedicated to those who have been cheated on, such as Surviving Infidelity and dozens of relationship comment and advice sites. It is so tempting to dwell on the painful events of our past day after day. It is also possible to relive our pain, hoping that the therapeutic process of accepting and understanding our past will bring us some relief. Part of us seeks illumination: learning about personality disorders certainly explains a lot of the toxic behavior that may have seemed contradictory or incomprehensible at the time. Part of us seeks solace in the comments and advice offered by experts and fellow victims. Perhaps what we seek most, however, is a sense of closure: a way of coming to terms with the painful past and finally putting it behind us so that we can move on with our lives.

And yet, in continuing to dwell on that painful period or event day after day and year after year, closure is precisely what we may never reach. It’s difficult to prescribe to anyone how much focusing on their particular trauma is too much; how long seeking therapy or solace via psychology professionals and fellow victims is too long. The answer is individual. At some point, we may find that we are going round and round in circles over the same traumatic events or problems, without acquiring much further illumination or solace. At that point, even helpful therapeutic information begins to feel like an endless process of rumination. As mentioned, I began to reach that sense five years into my nearly daily focus on the subject of psychopathy. Some people, however, never come to that conclusion. They may, for instance, find new ways of helping others that give them a constant sense of satisfaction and growth. I also found immense personal satisfaction in knowing that my research and painful experience gave me some insight and experience that could help others. But after five years, I felt it was time to take that interest in a new direction, about which I’m going to tell you in my next post.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Interview with the Savvy Shrink about Psychopaths and Toxic Relationships

 

Please find below the link to my interview with Andrea Schneider (the Savvy Shrink) about Psychopaths and Toxic Relationships (Dangerous Liaisons)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thesavvyshrink/2017/11/20/psychopathy-awareness-with-claudia-moscovici

 

 

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Answers to common questions about psychopathy

DangerousLiaisonsCoverCampos

Recently the translator of my psychopathy blog in Italian, Relazioni Pericolose (www.relazionipericoloseblog.wordpress.com), has conveyed to me some of the questions that Italian readers have about psychopathy. Since I think that these questions are equally relevant to English-speaking readers, I’m including below their questions and my answers:

 

QUESTIONS/ANSWERS ABOUT RELAZIONI PERICOLOSE/DANGEROUS LIAISONS by Claudia Moscovici

    Has the psychopath a sort of addiction from emotions? Is his obsession for his prey similar to the obsession that a victim experiences toward him?

Yes and no. The psychopath is, above all, an emotional predator. He (or she, if the psychopath is a woman) gets high on the sense of power that controlling others, and seeing them addicted to him, creates. He also becomes obsessed with hooking new victims, and can invest a lot of energy in getting them to believe the fictions he creates: that he loves them, cares about them, and will give them everything that they want (be it happiness, love, wealth, etc.). However, the psychopath’s emotions are at the same time very shallow. A psychopath is incapable of forming real, caring and deep attachments to others. So even his obsessions—and thus the “highs” he experiences when he hooks new victims–tend to be shallow and fleeting. He moves from one victim from another; from one high to another.

       What determines boredom?

A psychopath’s boredom is created by the fact he (or she) has no emotional depth. He can’t care much about others; he has no enduring bonds that aren’t based on mutual interest, or mutual using. Every human contact for the psychopath is a power game, one that he plans to win. Normal people avoid boredom by finding meaning in their personal relationships, caring about those close to them, caring about their jobs and endeavors. Nothing of the sort can root a psychopath, so he’s constantly looking for new relationships, new jobs and places, new sources of diversion and pleasure. But sooner or later they all bore him.

       What determines the duration of the three different phases of the relation?

There are many variables in how the process of idealize, devalue and discard plays out in  a relationship with a psychopath: such as whether the psychopath is charismatic enough to find many victims; whether the victim proves a challenge to him or is easy to get; for how long the victim is useful to the psychopath; and how much a victim accepts the eventual mistreatment. Some victims never leave the psychopath no matter how much he abuses them. The toxic bond becomes too strong; their self-esteem has been worn down; they feel like they are nothing without the psychopath. There are also some victims who begin to adopt psychopathic traits (lack of empathy, shallowness of emotions, pleasure in hurting others) either because they had such tendencies or because the psychopath encourages such behavior.

     Can he feel happiness? What does it mean for him?

If happiness implies depth of emotion, caring about others, then no, the psychopath can’t feel that. But a psychopath often feels emotional thrills or highs when he gets his way, succeeds at a new conquest or endeavor, or wins some kind of battle with someone.

     Why do psychopaths repeat the same mistakes relationship after relationship and why don’t they ever learn from them?

Psychopaths never learn because they don’t want to learn from their mistakes. They don’t consider them to be mistakes. Psychopaths are highly narcissistic and amoral individuals who take no responsibility for their wrongdoing. If something goes wrong, they blame it on others. If they hurt their victims, they blame their victims. Often they take great pleasure in hurting others. Sometimes psychopaths do go to therapy to “improve” a relationship, but that occurs only when it’s in their perceived self-interest to stay in that relationship and it’s always a ruse (they fool their partners, the therapist, their family into believing they can and want to change for the better).

      Do psychopaths remember their protoemotions after the end of the relation or are they able to delete them completely?

Psychopaths may recall the sense of the excitement they felt at the beginning of a relationship, but they don’t feel any real, deeper attachment for the person who provoked it. In other words, they remember fondly their excitement, not their partner or relationship. This is why psychopaths tend to search for a new person or, more likely, persons, that can provoke in them the same excitement while forgetting about the past person or persons they felt excitement with.

      You’re always talking about psychopaths. Are there deep differences between them and malignant narcissists?

There are differences between psychopaths and narcissists in that all psychopaths are narcissistic (self-absorbed, selfish) but not all narcissists are psychopathic (engage in game-like behavior, are pathological liars, etc.). However, malignant narcissists have such high narcissism that they’re very close to psychopaths on the psychological spectrum.

     What does a psychopath feel after his prey escapes?

Very often, anger. Rage. This is why the most dangerous period of time for a victim is right after she’s escaped from a psychopath or any kind of abuser, when he’s likely to be very angry that his possession, or someone he controlled, has dared to leave him.

      When he’s hovering is he always in bad faith? Does he hope to change?

 A psychopath may feel that it’s in his immediate interest to make some changes to please his spouse, his family, his friends, etc. But those changes are momentary, and always based on short-term, perceived self-interest. They’re not other-regarding in any way. So my answer is that psychopaths won’t make any positive difference for the sake of others in an enduring manner.

      During the idealization stage is he aware of the dramatic end of the relationship for his fault or could he hope to have found Mrs. Right?

 Psychopaths have only fleeting feelings, so at some moments a psychopath may feel so excited by a partner that he may feel he found “Mrs. Right.” But, at the same time, psychopaths are always strategic and manipulative and their feelings are always very shallow. So the “Mrs. Right” of one day, or one month, or one year isn’t going to be the same one as the next day, month or year. The concept of “Mrs. Right” or “true love” has no real meaning for a psychopath because he can’t really love.

      What is the exposure effect? What does he feel when a girlfriend expose him?

Anger and derision. In fact, often a psychopath will preemptively smear his victim—try to destroy her reputation to acquaintances and friends—so that when the victim exposes his behavior to others they won’t believe her.

      The Italian blog Relazioni Pericolose has reached almost 20.000 hits in one month. It seems that Italian women need advice and counseling. Why is psychopathy is so little known?

Psychopathy is a big problem—affecting tens of millions of lives—all over the world. Although psychopaths constitute a small percentage of the human population—between 1 to 4 percent, depending which statistics you rely on—they are very sociable and promiscuous and therefore touch (and destroy) many lives. The popular perception about psychopaths is that they’re serial killers or murderers. So most people feel relatively safe, like they won’t run into a psychopath. The reality is that few psychopaths murder. So most people don’t realize that they have very high chances of interacting with more “ordinary” psychopaths: serial cheaters, serial frauds and serial liars, rather than serial killers. The blogs on psychopathy that are informed by research, such as this one, and now the blog in Italian translation, Relazioni Pericolose (www.relazionipericoloseblog.wordpress.com), can reach millions of readers because they bring the reality of psychopathy home. Pathological relationships can touch your life. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, it may have been with a psychopath. Few people are immune from harmful relationships. Information can help all of us to identify dangerous relationships, or as the name of my book on psychopathy indicates, Dangerous Liaisons. Because, let’s face it, the most toxic relationships are romantic relationships with predatory individuals. They can cause unbelievable harm, but with knowledge we can heal and move on with our lives.

       Today Italian Blog Relazioni Pericolose is one month old. We have already had thousands and thousands of visits. It seems like Italian women need help, through therapy, specific books and finding each other on recovery forums on the Internet. What  is your first advice for a fast and safe healing?

My advice to Italian women is first of all to find well-researched information on abusive relationships, psychopathy and narcissism, in reliable blogs and books. Without such information it’s easy to “normalize” abuse. In the case of charismatic psychopaths, it’s easy to remember the excitement of the honeymoon phase, attribute it to “romantic love”, and then find reasons for its dissipation and later abuse in themselves instead of their disordered partners. In Latin cultures, such as Italy, France and my native country Romania, it’s easy to mistake even negative traits, such as jealousy, possessiveness and the controlling nature of psychopaths, for passion. But Don Juan is appealing only in opera and fiction. In real life, such personalities spell disaster. Accepting that the romantic phase of a pathological relationship was never about love or even passion, but about conquest, dupery and a new thrill for the psychopath is very important. Then, once victims seek information and establish that they’ve been roped in by a pathological partner, escape and go “no contact”. Each contact with a psychopath offers him an opportunity for him to rope you in, manipulate you and harm you again, usually even worse than before. This doesn’t mean living in fear of him. It means leaving him behind and never engaging again with others that share his personality traits.  

Getting over a relationship with a psychopath can be difficult when children, even adult children, are involved. How can one protect them from manipulation and abuse from their father? How can one reduce the risk that they will grow up like him?

Psychopathy can be genetic, in which case there’s little that can be done. One sees some children who grow up beloved, and still turn out psychopathic as adults. However, it’s more common that psychopaths are made: by abuse, trauma, or bad examples. If one parent identifies a personality disorder in the other parent, the best solution for the safety of the children is to divorce the pathological parent and gain full custody so that the children have as little contact as possible with the pathological. Nothing good can come out of contact with a pathological parent. The risk of abuse is high and even if the pathological doesn’t sexually or physically abuse the child or children, he or she subjects them to manipulation and brainwashing which are also harmful.

        How do you stop the psychopath’s devastating effect upon the society? Wouldn’t it be necessary to increse people’s awareness not only with books such as yours, blogs and the media, but also through the involvement of schools and legislative recognition of this social phenomenon?

Yes, certainly increasing awareness of this psychological phenomenon in schools and through laws   would be very helpful. In the United States we’ve seen the success of such measures in the anti-bullying campaigns that have gained currency in public schools. The emphasis should be on the harmful actions of psychopaths, just as they are on the harmful actions of bullies (some of whom are psychopathic in fact). Actions are easier to identify than a diagnosis of psychopathology. Rather than labelling people as “psychopaths” we should be aware of the symptoms but above all focus on their harmful actions.

       The sales of books about psychopathy and the popularity of blogs about personality disorders would indicate that psychopaths are far more numerous than the statistics indicate (that they are between 1 and 4 percent of the population). What does this discrepancy mean? The phenomenon is more alarming then the percentage would suggest. Maybe simple “assholes” are misread by psychopaths?

Sometimes they may be, indeed, just assholes. However we have to keep in mind that psychopaths tend to be very sociable and sexually promiscuous. One single psychopath can have hundreds of sexual partners, and feign romance and love to many of those. So a few psychopaths can touch many lives. Similarly, when psychopaths acquire political power—as in the case of Stalin, Hitler, Mao and other evil dictators—their policies can influence the behavior of the entire population, degrading and even destroying human ethics. So sometimes it only takes a few psychopaths to adversely affect tens of millions of lives.

         One of the main problems is the victims’ attitudes. Many victims choose to stay in the relationship even once they discover the pathology. They know perfectly well the cause, the pathology. They are perfectly aware that the psychopath is not going to change but they don’t leave him. Often when they’re left by him they still miss him. Is the main problem psychopathy or the love addiction? Which are the weaknesses that victims must work on to escape from the next predator?

This is a very good question, since we have no control over a psychopath, but we can have some control over whom we choose to be with and how we deal with the trauma that the psychopath causes. Psychopaths create love and sexual addictions. They come on strong, shower us with flattery, promise us whatever we wish. They tend to be far more romantic and sexual and tender initially than normal men. But it’s all an act to acquire power over us to do as they please with our lives, our property. So once we come to this realization, we must learn to let go of the past as well as examine what in our natures needed what the psychopath offered. Why do we need the exaggerated romance, or sex, or gifts, or flattery? Why do we fall for the individuals who offer it? Escaping the psychopathic bond involves identifying the pathological traits in the psychopath and our own propensity to be attracted to some of those pathological traits.

       Is it possible to have a double personality: one, a psychopath with mistresses and lovers—cold, cunning, deceptive and uncaring—and another with the wife and kids—caring, a good husband and father.

 A psychopath shows his true self—the cold, manipulative, cunning side—to those he needs less. If a psychopath feels he needs his wife and children for his image, he will put more effort in creating the mask of a good father and husband. When he wants to divorce his wife, he’ll show his true ugly self. Either way, a psychopath is “good” only as a fake act with those he feels he needs at the moment. None of his good—and by that I mean other-regarding–qualities are real.

       What is the effect of his public exposure: shame, missing the victim or revenge?

Usually anger, revenge and ridicule of the victim. A psychopath doesn’t feel shame. He may fake shame in certain circumstances, when convenient for him, but he doesn’t feel it. And a psychopath misses using certain people at times. But he doesn’t miss people in themselves, for who they are rather than what they can offer him.

        It’s very common for victims to feel a hunger for revenge. What is the best revenge and, above all, how can a victim get over it?

The desire for justice is well-founded. The desire for revenge, however, is self-destructive. It eats victims alive, makes them dwell on the painful past and, ironically, keeps them emotionally attached to the psychopath, even if in a negative sense. So victims must do what they can to get legal justice, when appropriate, but not foster feelings of revenge. Living well is the best revenge.

        How should the victim behave in case he or she meets the psychopath by chance?

If the victim has been successful at implementing no contact, I would continue that policy and, if possible, act as if she never knew the psychopath and like he or she was never a part of one’s life.

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Partners in Evil: The Psychopath and Malignant Narcissist Combo

You probably have heard on the news about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Duguard, when she was only 11 years old. The young girl was kidnapped on June 10, 1991 from a school bus stop near her home and held hostage for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Garrido raped and imprisoned Jaycee. They had two girls together (age 11 and 15 at the time they were discovered by the police), whom Garrido and his wife also imprisoned in unsanitary tents in their backyard.

At the time they kidnapped Jaycee, Garrido had already been convicted of a sex crime. Despite the fact that parole officers checked regularly the house, they didn’t bother to look in the couple’s backyard, behind a fence. Nancy Garrido is shown on one tape interfering with the police inspection, harassing the inspector in order to distract him and prevent him from finding Jaycee and the girls. She is a partner in her husband’s crime; a fellow abuser. The couple pled guilty to kidnapping and other charges on April 28, 2011 and were convicted on June 2, 2011. Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years of imprisonment while Nancy received a lesser sentence of 36 years to life.

We see this phenomenon of dangerous duos, or partners in evil, on the news over and over again. What kind of women stay with male psychopaths, enable their wrongdoings, participate in them and then cover them up? Sometimes it’s female psychopaths who partner in crime sprees with their male counterparts. The most notable example of this is Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the young Canadian couple who kidnapped and killed several young women, including Karla’s younger sister. They were convicted in 1993 and are perhaps the inspiration behind  Oliver Stone‘s controversial movie, Natural Born Killers (1994). Usually, however, two psychopaths together can’t last long. Each has to outdo the other in wrongdoings; each wants to be top dog; each looks out for number one and, at the slightest provocation, turns against the other (as, in fact, happened in the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka).

The partnership between Phillip and Nancy Garrido reflects a different dynamic: the equally dangerous yet usually far more enduring combination between a psychopath and a malignant narcissist. In this combination, there is a clear top dog who guides the relationship: the psychopath. However, the malignant narcissist helps him carry out his wrongdoings and covers up for him. What is in it for a malignant narcissist when she teams up with a psychopath? How does this dynamic play out and why does it last? These are the questions I’d like to address next.

I have explained at length the features of a psychopath and why his lack of conscience and empathy, combined with an underlying psychological sadism (enjoyment at causing others pain) would lead him to commit the kinds of crimes Phillip Garrido was found guilty of. But what kind of woman stands by such a man? My hypothesis is: a malignant narcissist. All narcissistic personalities–even those who appear to have high self-confidence and to consider themselves superior to others–crave constant validation. An insatiable need for validation forms the core of unhealthy, excessive narcissism. I say “excessive narcissism” because we all have egos or selves and thus we all have some narcissistic tendencies that are healthy–in moderation–and make us the individuals we are.

Psychopaths are very adept at identifying individuals who suffer from unhealthy, excessive narcissism. Why? Because such individuals appear to be vulnerable and insecure. Caring too much about what others think and pinning one’s self-esteem on the opinions of others is, indeed, a weakness and a vulnerability. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a weak and relative sense of self that needs constant validation. They need to feel better than others or superior to others in order to have an identity and feel good about themselves.

Psychopaths form a symbiotic relationship with such highly narcissistic individuals by holding out the promise of becoming a superior and very special couple. Because psychopaths have an inherent sense of superiority and because they’re thrill seekers who consider themselves to be above the rules and laws, they often manage to convince such narcissistic partners that together they make an unbeatable power couple: closer than other couples, better than them, smarter than them, more cunning than them, hotter than them. During the honeymoon phase of the relationship, there are no words in any language to describe this superlative superiority.

The problem is, as we know, that psychopaths inevitably pass from the idealization phase to a devaluation phase in all of their relationships. This is part and parcel of their personality disorder: to become bored with and emotionally detach from every person they are with. Since a narcissistic partner requires constant reassurance of her superiority to other women–especially since the psychopath,with his constant flirting and cheating, gives her plenty of reasons to be jealous of them–she will feel threatened during the devaluation phase, when he no longer finds her hot, virtuous, brilliant, practical, wise, and all the other qualities he formerly (and all too briefly) ascribed to her.

That’s when the most dangerous and pathological aspect of their relationship begins. During the devaluation phase, the malignant narcissist begins to be rewarded almost exclusively by the punishment of other women the psychopath hooks up with, uses, devalues and abuses. She may no longer be as wonderful as she seemed in his eyes in the beginning. However, there’s this reward left in their “special” and “superior” relationship: by staying with her; by needing her as an alibi and cover for him; by harming other women jointly, she proves her (sick) love and loyalty to him while he, in turn, acknowledges her superiority to all the other women he uses and abuses worse than he does her.

The worse other women are treated by the psychopath–in more commonplace cases, used and disposed of like dirty condoms; in extreme cases, raped and murdered–the more this abuse confirms her special status in his eyes. Such women are without conscience, without remorse, without empathy just like the psychopaths themselves. They are manipulative, deceptive and abusive like psychopaths. The main difference between such malignant narcissists and the psychopaths is that the narcissists are in some respects weaker and more vulnerable.

They tend to be followers rather than leaders because of their excessive need for validation, which puts them at the mercy of others and makes them especially appealing to psychopaths: as their partners in life and allies in wrongdoings. If you read about other similar cases to that of Phillip and Nancy Garrido or about the psychology of cult followers, you will see this psychological dynamic at play. There are few more enduring and dangerous duos than these partners in evil: the psychopath and malignant narcissist combo.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction