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


Fifty Shades of Sadism: Psychopaths as Lovers

Some of the women who comment about their experiences with psychopaths,  as well as many of those interviewed by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. in Women Who Love Psychopaths, state that psychopaths make good lovers. When you read their comments, however, you see that while superficially that may be true, fundamentally it is false. Psychopaths have low impulse control and are generally very promiscuous. Since they need transgression, risk and variety in their lives, they’re likely to have tried a lot of sexual positions in many locations with numerous partners. Initially, their ample sexual experience can appear exciting even to a normal person. In the honeymoon phase of the relationship, a psychopath is generally hypersexual with you. He’s excited by the chase and the “conquest,” by the novelty, by the fact that he’s (most likely) cheating on other women and on you, as well as by the increasing control he’s exercising over you.

Analogously, from your perspective, the aura of romance, excitement and spontaneity can be very seductive. Initially, it may seem flattering, even if a bit disconcerting, to have a man who seems unable to keep his hands off you anywhere and everywhere, including in public. As social predators, psychopaths tend to stalk their victims, overwhelming them with attention at first. The movie 9 1/2 weeks, staring Kim Basinger and Mickey Roarke, has been interpreted as a superficial erotic movie. But it’s actually a psychologically insightful film about the process of psychopathic seduction. What starts out as a romantic relationship progressively turns into a menacing dominance bond. The man in the movie stalks the heroine and makes her feel desirable and special. He showers her with attention and gifts. But those don’t come free. For instance, he gives her an expensive watch and tells her to look at it and think of him every day at a certain time. He ends up controlling her thoughts, her feelings and her sexuality. He begins by being very sensual and affectionate, but eventually induces her to engage in perverse sexual acts that she feels uncomfortable with. He pushes the envelope further and further to the point where she becomes just a puppet in his hands. Fortunately, she realizes this and escapes his control before she’s seriously damaged. In real life, however, many women aren’t so lucky.

It may seem exciting to play erotic games or to talk in a raunchy manner. But, over time, this behavior begins to feel strange and uncomfortable. What’s worse, it also becomes normative, since psychopaths enjoy controlling you. They tell you how to dress and what to do or say to please them. They tell you what make-up to wear or to wear no make-up at all. Some psychopaths instruct women to dress very modestly, to cover themselves practically from head to toe, so that they won’t tempt other men. Others, on the contrary, prefer that their women dress provocatively even in public, to demean them and satisfy their penchant for transgression. Many psychopaths engage in rape and other forms of domestic violence. Even giving you pleasure gives them a sense of power.

Eventually, psychopaths need more transgression, more depraved and sadistic acts, harder pornographic material, more sleazy places, more sexual partners and configurations, more everything, to derive the same degree of enjoyment from sex. You begin to feel like a sex toy, nothing more than an object, rather than the cherished, attractive human being you thought you were in your partner’s eyes. It’s no news that most women prefer to be both. We want to be desired as sex objects but also loved and appreciated as individuals. Unfortunately, psychopaths can’t deliver both. Of course, they often convincingly fake feelings of love in the beginning. But, fundamentally, they can only view and treat you as a sex object that increasingly loses its appeal over time. After the honeymoon phase ends, there’s no real sense of individuality with psychopaths. Sexual partners are interchangeable to them. You’re placed in constant competition with other women. As we know, psychopaths constantly seek new “opportunities” to fulfill their insatiable desires. They’re always ready to “upgrade.” To compensate for the fact that you may be exchanged for a newer, younger, hotter, richer or simply different model at any point in the relationship, you need to do more and more things to satisfy the psychopath. Which is exactly what he wants from you in the first place: a total capitulation to his will.

Psychopathic lovers project upon their partners the fantasy of what psychologists call the “omniavailable woman.” They envision a partner who’s always turned on, always at their beck and call, always sexually available to them anytime and everywhere. They want a woman who makes love to them as easily in the privacy of their bedroom as in the public space of a movie theater or a parking lot. Men’s magazines play upon this fantasy as well. But in real, loving, relationships your moral and sexual boundaries are respected without the fear (or the implicit threat) that you’ll be punished for having such restraints. That doesn’t happen in psychopathic bonds. In those, it’s guaranteed that you’ll be punished–with infidelity, emotional withdrawal, abandonment, divorce, psychological and sometimes even physical abuse–if you don’t comply with the psychopath’s requests. Of course, this emotional blackmail is itself only a sordid joke. The psychopath betrays you whether or not you meet his demands. The only question is: does he do it openly, to torment you, or behind your back, to deceive you?

Although being a plaything may seem initially exciting, a woman who becomes a psychopath’s sexual partner loses her autonomy in a relationship where she’s supposed to be, like some wound-up inflatable doll with holes, always available to that man for his sexual gratification (or else…). In time, she realizes that she isn’t loved in any meaningful sense of the term. That, in fact, her needs and desires don’t really matter to him. That just about any other woman could have been used in the same manner and for the same purposes. That many others already are. She’s neither unique nor irreplaceable in her lover’s eyes, as he initially made her feel. She’s generic and disposable to him. She then sees that the multidimensional man she thought cared about her is nothing but an empty shell. His charming exterior masks a completely hollow interior. He can’t love her. He can only own her. Not even exclusively, but as part of his collection.

With a possession, one can do anything at all. An object has no independent will, no separate needs, no sensibilities. Over time, sex with a psychopath begins to feel contrived, cold and mechanical. It becomes an exercise in obedience rather than a bond based on mutual pleasure and affection. Because psychopaths grow easily bored of the same acts, places, positions and persons, the sexual experience becomes tainted by perverse acts at her expense. The bottom line is that psychopaths are lovers who don’t care about their partners. If they give them pleasure, it’s only to make themselves feel more powerful and potent, not because they consider another person’s needs. In addition, since psychopaths get a rise out of harming the people they’re intimately involved with, they’re sadistic lovers: always emotionally, often physically as well. Once they’ve “conquered” you, they start asking you to do things that are degrading or that hurt. What you may do as a fun experiment once or a few times becomes a “non-negotiable” element of your sexual repertoire. You’re asked to do it over and over again, whether or not you enjoy it.

For psychopaths, the games normal people play to spice up their sex lives constitute their whole existence. There’s no other reality, a world of empathy, compassion and caring outside of or even within the context of the sexual relationship. Psychopaths live and breathe in the realm of fantasy. They have no concept of standing by you during difficult times or of coping with your bad moods, illnesses, sadness or disappointments. You’ll often feel alone and abandoned with a psychopath whenever you aren’t satisfying his immediate needs. Moreover, when psychopaths listen to your troubles, it’s usually to draw them out and make you feel weaker and more dependent on them. It’s never because they genuinely care; never because they want you to overcome hardships and become a stronger person. On the contrary, psychopaths cultivate your weaknesses (they make them feel superior by comparison) and prey upon your vulnerabilities. The games they play, both sexual and emotional, are the only reality that counts for them; the only reality they know.

Psychopathic lovers may initially appear to be oceans of raging passion. However, once the honeymoon phase is over, you come to realize that they’re only dirty little puddles. The chemistry between you is as shallow as their so-called love. Compare how the psychopath treated you in the beginning of the relationship to how he’s treating you later on. You’ll notice a drastic reduction in excitement, in interest, in affection, in pleasure and in romance. You’ll sense a mechanization of the sex acts.  You’ll observe an escalation in control, demands, humiliation, domination and perhaps even violence. You’ll see that for a psychopath affection, communication and tenderness become transparently instrumental as the relationship unfolds. At first, he was “nice” to you almost all the time. Later in the relationship, however, he’s attentive and affectionate mostly when he wants something from you. Affection becomes his tool of conditioning you like an animal. He gives out little pellets of nice words and tenderness to get you to do what he wants. Conversely, he doesn’t give you any positive reinforcement when you don’t comply with his wishes. The rest of the time– which is to say, in regular day-to-day life–you feel neglected, ignored and unwanted. You struggle like a fish on land to recapture the magical attraction you experienced together in the beginning.

As lovers, psychopaths represent a contradiction in terms. They’re lovers who can’t love. This contradiction may not be obvious at first, when the psychopath is smitten with you and pursuing you intensely. But it becomes painfully apparent over time. If you don’t grow numb to the mistreatment or take refuge in denial, you come to realize that everything that counts is missing from the relationship that seemed to have it all.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Psychopaths and Stalking

Paradoxically, psychopaths are egomaniacs without pride. Their shamelessness, lack of boundaries and hunger for control often leads them to relentlessly pursue individuals who don’t want them, and who repeatedly reject them. Normal human beings not only don’t desire to stalk others because they have boundaries, but also they would feel too deeply embarrassed and humiliated to continue pursuing individuals who have rejected them over and over again.

This common sense logic does NOT apply to psychopaths. In fact, like in the movie Fatal Attraction and many other films about disordered creepy individuals, psychopaths ESPECIALLY pursue those who don’t want them. Not only directly, through stalking and cyberstalking, but also indirectly, by manipulating other individuals under their control to stalk and harass the targets who have rejected them.

Being social predators driven by the need for power and control, psychopaths can’t take rejection. Like with any predatory behavior, observing, following and stalking the prey is part and parcel of what psychopaths do. Sometimes their harmful behavior is opportunistic, as is the case with serial killers who seize the moment–and their victims–without observing them for an extended period of time in advance. But very often psychopaths plan their actions cold-heartedly and methodically in advance: and not only as they pertain to violent crimes, but also as they pertain to getting anything they want: your money, your body, your heart and/or your life.

At the beginning of the relationship stalking behavior may seem romantic. It’s presented under the guise of not being able to be away from you; needing you all the time, wanting you. However, this constant attention masks the predator’s main intent: to control you and isolate  you from others. Consequently, even in the most pleasant and blinding phase of a relationship with a psychopath–the honeymoon phase–dangerous individuals exhibit predatory behavior and traits.

After the victim ends a relationship with a psychopath, this behavior is likely to escalate into downright stalking. This happens for the reasons I have explained in previous articles:

1) psychopaths, being control-driven individuals, can’t take rejection

2) psychopaths, being control-driven, also don’t like to relinquish control over their targets

3) psychopaths, being control-driven, want to WIN. To them, winning means catching their targets into their spider’s nets and destroying them

4) psychopaths, being control-driven, want to exact vengeance and intimidate those who no longer worship them, want them, or obey them blindly.

Notice that the common denominator that explains psychopathic behavior is the fact that psychopaths need to be IN CONTROL. They are principally motivated by the need to exercise power over others. Stalking behavior is a common strategy that psychopaths use to intimidate their non-compliant victims and an effort to punish them and regain control. For their victims, this is particularly difficult to deal with because stalking laws vary from state to state and because stalking–particularly cyberstalking–is very difficult to establish under the current laws. Generally speaking, one must establish a pattern of stalking as well as harmful intent and threat to safety: all from the same source/stalker. Since stalkers can be very stealthy and know how to erase their traces, reroute their IP address and easily get new email addresses, it’s not easy to take legal action against a psychopathic (cyber)stalker.

However, I’d advise victims to keep all the emails and evidence of (cyber)stalking and share it immediately with the authorities, their therapist, their friends and others. The more evidence is out there which pertains to the harassment, the better your chances become for taking effective legal action against the psychopath and even putting him in jail for his crime. I’m including below some additional helpful information about stalking laws from the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Analyzing Stalking Laws (information from the National Center for Victims of Crime)

http://www.ncvc.org/src/AGP.Net/Components/DocumentViewer/Download.aspxnz?DocumentID=41531

Stalking is generally defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a

reasonable person fear.  The crime of stalking is defined differently, however, in all 50 states, the

District of Columbia, and on tribal and federal lands.* When analyzing your stalking statute, please

consider the following elements and issues:

 Course of Conduct

A course of conduct is typically defined as one or more intentional acts that evidence a continuity of 

purpose.

• Is your state’s law “course of conduct” language inclusive of all behaviors that stalkers employ,

such as using surveillance technology (e.g., GPS-equipped cell phones) or enlisting third parties

(e.g., family and friends) to stalk on their behalf?

• How many acts are required to satisfy the course of conduct element?  Would a single,

threatening posting on a social networking Web site satisfy the element?

Intent Requirement 

States categorize the crime of stalking as either general intent crimes or specific intent crimes.  A stalker

commits a general intent crime when the stalker intends the actions in which he engages.  In states

categorizing stalking as a general intent crime, the prosecution does not have to prove that the stalker

intended the consequences of his actions.  Conversely, when stalking is a specific intent crime, the

stalker must intend to cause the result of his actions (typically the victim’s fear) to commit the crime of

stalking.  Specific intent stalking statutes may be more difficult to prosecute.

• Is your state stalking statute a general intent or specific intent crime?

 Standard of Fear 

Some states require that the defendant’s behavior cause the victim actual fear (which usually requires

the victim to testify as to her feelings or change in lifestyle due to the stalking).  Some states only

require that the behavior would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.  Some states require both actual

fear on the part of the victim and proof that a reasonable person would also feel fear.

• What standard of fear does your stalking statute require?

Copies of all state criminal statutes (as well as the federal statute and some tribal codes) can be found at http://www.ncvc.org/src.

Our Strongest Chains: The Power of Denial

The Powers of Denial

Sometimes we become involved with disordered personalities because they have a compelling mask of sanity: they hide effectively their deviant natures and abnormal behavior. But we’ve also seen that psychopaths and other personality disordered individuals can’t maintain that mask on over extended periods of time for three main reasons:

a) they can’t keep straight all the lies and half-truths they tell us and other people, so inconsistencies and contradictions in their false stories start to become obvious in time

b) they don’t put as much effort into maintaining the false front since our value to them diminishes once the newness wears off and once they’ve gotten some of what they want from and

c) psychopaths form relationships in order to exercise control over others, which inevitably turns into  increasingly abusive and unequal relationships

It stands to reason that, after the honeymoon phase, something else blinds us to the truth about the psychopath’s increasingly obvious personality disorder: the power of denial. Sigmund Freud coined the term “denial” to describe a situation when a person is faced with an uncomfortable or difficult to accept fact and denies or rejects it despite all rational evidence that it has occurred. How often do people involved with psychopaths turn a blind eye to clear evidence of their lying and cheating? How often do they rationalize the psychopath’s wrongdoings, blame it on others, find excuses for it or accept the psychopath’s lies, projection of blame and (false) justifications? The more emotionally invested a victim is in the psychopath and the relationship with him, and the more he has succeeded in isolating her from others, the stronger the power of denial becomes.

As the Wikipedia explains, denial can take many forms, but all of them are a kind of willful blindness to an unpleasant reality:

a) simple denial: bracketing or failing to see the psychopath’s wrongdoings and bad character

b) minimisation: rationalizing away the importance of the psychopath’s wrongdoings (for instance, by attributing it to his immaturity, or human fallibility, or a simple mistake, or someone else’s bad influence upon him, etc.)

c) projection: accepting the fact of the wrongdoings, but blaming them on someone or something else

In her book Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, Susan Forward also explains denial in terms of forgrounding and backgrounding of information. When people become invested in a toxic relationship, no matter how much they suffer as a result of their love addiction to a disordered personality, they foreground every quality they see in the psychopath and the relationship and relegate to the background all the information that contradicts that rosier picture of reality.

What ends up being in the foreground are subjective, fleeting and superficial impressions: such as the fact the psychopath occasionally makes you feel good through flattery or gifts; the fact that, when he wants (something) he  can be charming; the fact that he seems to cast a spell over you and others; the fact he excites you.

All of these “qualities” have nothing to do with what truly counts in a relationship: character. For those who stay long-term with a psychopath or any other personality disordered individual, character becomes relegated to the background precisely because psychopaths lack character. The only way to put up with the psychopath’s constant lying, cheating, manipulation, and exercise of dominance over you is to deny the importance of facts that show what the psychopath IS and focus instead on the superficial impressions and fleeting feelings related to the small (and fake) acts of kindness he sometimes DOES. False image becomes more important than real substance.

Psychopaths do everything in their power to maintain hold over their victims: by lying to them, by isolating them from others, by intimidating them and by rendering them dependent on them. However, the power of denial is the strongest chain that keeps people stuck in a toxic relationship with a person whose evil nature is undeniable.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Review of Donna Andersen’s Red Flags of Love Fraud: Information and Insight

Red Flags of Love Fraud

Donna Andersen, the author of Love Fraud the book  and the website/support group Lovefraud.com, has recently published a new book, called Red Flags of Love Fraud: Ten Signs You’re Dating a Sociopath, which I’d highly recommend for anyone who suspects (or knows) they are with a pathological individual. Psychopaths are extremely dangerous because they lack a heart and conscience but they camouflage that fundamental lack so well. They construct a “mask of sanity” by lying to others and hiding their real motives and identities. With their extraordinary glibness and charm, they come on strong to their potential victims, love bombing them, flattering them, mirroring their interests and personalities–essentially, seducing them–then use them for their selfish and malicious purposes. Since they can’t bond emotionally with others and have no conscience, there’s no limit to the devastation they can cause in people’s lives. Experts estimate that between 1 and 4 percent of the population is psychopathic. Since psychopaths are very sociable and promiscuous, this means that millions of psychopaths in this country alone adversely affect hundreds of millions of lives.

As its title suggests, Red Flags of Love Fraud teaches victims and the general public how to recognize the red flags of the psychopathic bondwhich are far from obvious in the beginning. This book draws upon Donna’s own personal experience (she was married for several years to a psychopathic conman and bigamist named James Montgomery); testimonials and research from lovefraud.com readers (conducted with her lovefraud partner, Dr. Liane Leedom), and–last but not least–a lot of her own analyses of psychopathic behavior and insights about the mindset of victims.

Most books about psychopathy focus primarily on explaining what this personality disorder is, the list of symptoms of the psychopath, and persuading readers why it’s very important to get away from such pathological individuals and establish no contact. This information is essential to what I’d call the first phase of escaping the psychopathic bond: realizing you’ve been conned, emotionally and/or financially, by a dangerous social predator and understanding his pathology. Donna’s book does this as well, with characteristic clarity and conciseness. She also includes anecdotes by victims telling their life experiences which make her book that much more interesting and offer concrete examples that readers can relate to.

But  as a professional writer myself, I’d say that the most distinctive feature of Red Flags of Love Fraud is the quality of the writing, both in content and form. Donna’s writing is well-documented and informed, engaging and psychologically insightful. Insight is when a writer manages to probe deep within, to explain analytically what may be only a vague intuition in the minds of readers. Good writing encourages readers to explore  their psyches, motivations and lives. Insight and introspection are especially important for victims of psychopaths.

It’s not enough to identify the traits of psychopaths and see how they behave and how they manage to manipulate and use us. Victims must also be able to look within in order to recognize some of the qualities and patterns of behavior that left them vulnerable to psychopathic seduction in the first place, so that it won’t happen again. This process isn’t about assuming responsibility for all the evil things the psychopaths did, which are unjustifiable and inexcusable. It’s about owning our power of discretion and choice in the future in seeing that, at least to some extent, we also had it in the past. There were red flags in the relationship early on that we chose to minimize or ignore. This book urges us to explore the reasons why we did that.

To offer an important example, one of the most common way psychopaths initially lure victims, Donna explains, is by a combination of 1) love bombing and flattery; 2) persistence, and 3) mirroring our identities and values, to reveal (a false) sense of compatibility. Love bombing is a process commonly used by cults, such as the Moonies, in the initial phases of attracting new members. It’s highly effective for cults–that are often run by psychopathic leaders–and it works just as well for individual psychopathic seducers.

Donna not only explains each strategy used by the psychopath, but also insightfully analyzes the reasons behind victim response. Love bombing is effective because unless you’re very famous, rich or some kind of celebrity, this kind of over-the-top attention is very rare. Few people are likely to tell you you’re the smartest, most attractive, most accomplished person in the world: first of all because you’re not; secondly because it’s rare to encounter another human being who appreciates you so completely. During the luring or idealization phase, therefore, psychopaths often set themselves apart from other people you’ve dated or befriended through a wooing and romancing that borders on worship.

They are also highly persistent, sometimes persevering for years until they catch and hook you emotionally.  Only once you’re emotionally invested in them they gradually–or, in some cases, abruptly–drop the pretense of love and begin the devaluation and abusePersistence pays off, Donna elaborates, because people tend to associate it with love and commitment. If someone persists in proclaiming their love and pursuing us for month after month, or sometimes even year after year, we’re likely to believe that it’s because they truly care about us. Why else would anyone waste so much energy on a romantic pursuit? As far as psychopaths are concerned, the answer, unfortunately, is because they want power and control.

Psychopaths engage in a game-like hunt or pursuit of the individuals they momentarily desire, hyperfocusing on them like predators upon their prey. That’s also why they commonly engage in cyberstalking and stalking, both before and after a relationship is over. Sometimes, the more you evade their grasp, the more interesting the hunt becomes for them. But they never pursue victims because they love or care about them. Their persistence is about the pleasure of the hunt, to possess, consume and destroy their prey.

When you examine, as this book does, both the psychopath’s behavior and the predispositions and vulnerabilities that led you into this dangerous game, you are more likely not only to recognize the red flags of pathological relationships, but also the qualities that predisposed you to ignore them. Knowledge is a process of acquiring  accurate information and processing it with insightRed Flags of Love Fraud offers both information and insight. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn how to identify the danger signs in others as well as to confront the vulnerabilities within. You can purchase this book on Donna Andersen’s lovefraud website, on the link below.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

The Psychopath’s Bait and Switch

Psychopaths notoriously promise you the moon and deliver… nothing. They target victims who are vulnerable: feeling vulnerable as well as being vulnerable to flattery. They love bomb their new targets: showering them with attention, loving words, promises and gifts. They’re ready to commit instantly, saying that they finally found the soul mates they had been looking for all their lives. Although such behavior may seem positive, as I explained in my earlier article about the red flags of a psychopathic bond, it is actually, all too often, a predator’s lure.

This is how psychopaths attract new victims and make them feel wanted, loved and safe. If this behavior were genuine and consistent, psychopaths would be ideal partners. Unfortunately, it’s not. The flattery, attention, affection, sex and sensuality, gifts, promises of commitment all constitute the psychopath’s bait. Wait a few months, and you’ll begin to notice the switch.

As Sandra Brown M.A. notes in Women Who Love Psychopaths, the switch happens precisely when the victim begins to trust the psychopath and has emotionally bonded with him. Once the psychopath intuitively senses that you have fallen in love with him, believe his lies and false promises, need him and have begun to organize your daily life around the relationship with him, he begins to switch his behavior and enters the manipulation phase of the relationship. By then the idealization phase is over–forever–and you’ll only see again brief glimpses of it, especially when he senses that you are withdrawing from him.

He will start to demand more and more from you and reward you less and less with the phony romantic behavior you enjoyed in the beginning of the relationship. He will ask for more sacrifices of your emotional energy and time (isolating you from loved ones and discouraging your professional endeavors), more commitment, more sexual transgressions, or more money: all depending on what he wanted from the relationship. But the bottom line is that psychopaths enter relationships to use others and to gain control.

So even if what he wanted initially was money, or sex–or whatever else–ultimately he wants nothing less than to control and destroy you. That is, psychopaths use the bait and switch to get everything from you and leave you a shell of the person you once were. If you leave when you begin to notice red flags and inconsistent behavior, you have a chance to escape from the psychopathic bond more or less intact. If you don’t, you risk losing everything you hold dear and, more importantly, who you are.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Psychopaths are Inconsistent and Contradictory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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