Review of Dorothy McCoy’s The Manipulative Man

(See radio broadcast featuring Dr. McCoy):

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Manipulative individuals say and do things to control and undermine others. In its extreme form, manipulation is a form of emotional abuse. The Manipulative Man by Dorothy McCoy, EdD, is essential reading for everyone who wishes to work on problematic relationships with flawed, manipulative individuals who are not full-fledged personality disordered. All human beings are flawed yet most of us still manage to have close relationships with our family members and romantic partners. Many have tendencies of personality disorders; few have full-blown personality disorders, however.

While as Sandra Brown, M.A. explains in How to Spot a Dangerous Man, personality disorders are not fixable and relationships with such individuals are very dangerous and damaging, what do we do about the rest: namely, our relationships with 90 percent of the population, who, like us, has human flaws that can be worked on and improved? This is where Dorothy McCoy’s book, The Manipulative Man: Identify His Behavior, Counter the Abuse, Regain Control, offers very useful coping strategies that can strengthen our ties to our significant others and mend our relationships.

Dr. McCoy first explains the manipulative personality types and his (or her) strategies of manipulation, which include: excessive flattery (especially at the beginning of the relationship), deceit, bullying, stonewalling, pity play, and projecting blame upon the victim, among others. She then offers a typology of manipulative men that women are likely to encounter and have problems with. These include: the Mama’s Boy (characterized by dependency and need for caretaking and adulation); the Workaholic (who is a perfectionist, often suffers from Obsessive Personality Disorder and defines himself in terms of his work); the Eternal Jock (who relives his glory days and can’t move on and deal with the responsibilities of his life); the Dependent Man (who can’t make decisions and defines himself excessively in terms of his relationship to his partner, thus draining her time and energy); the Antisocial (who engages in risk-taking, transgressive and even criminal behavior, with no remorse, for the thrill of it); the Womanizer (who is often a love or sex addict, whose appetite for new conquests can never be satiated); the Passive-Aggressive man (who wallows in self-pity and constantly  undermines his partner’s self-esteem and accomplishments); the Narcissist (who essentially worships his own altar and views others as a mirror that reflects his perfection and greatness); the Psychopath (the social predator who charms his way into women’s lives with flattery and deceit in order to use and harm them) and the Violent Manipulator (who engages in domestic violence).

The Manipulative Man explains each of these manipulative types by including not only descriptions, but also case studies that offer concrete examples and engage the reader. The book also offers coping strategies for such troubled relationships and outlines the difference between problematic traits and full-blown personality disorders. In other words, the author distinguishes between character deficiencies that can’t be fixed–the best one can do in such situations is escape the relationship with minimal harm–and tendencies that may be able to be improved by working together, as a couple, on the relationship.

Even in those situations that can be ameliorated, Dr. McCoy emphasizes that both partners have to be willing to make changes for the sake of their relationship  and sustain those improvements consistently, over time. The Manipulative Man makes an important contribution to the field of couples’ counseling and offers an excellent supplement to therapy. This book tells readers in a clear and engaging manner how to save salvageable relationships while not shying away from advising not trying to save unsalvageable relationships with personality disordered individuals.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Stringing Women Along: The Psychopath as Puppet Master

Since, as we’ve seen in previous discussions, psychopaths enjoy sex and power–especially when the two are combined–they’re great jugglers of women. They especially relish creating rivalry and jealousy among their partners. They instigate feelings of mutual disrespect and even hatred. Watching several women fight over them validates their ego. It also offers priceless entertainment. To offer one notable example of a famous psychopath, Pablo Picasso unabashedly confesses to his partner, Françoise Gilot, his delight in having women assault each other over him. He recounts how Marie-Thérèse and Dora Maar had an altercation over  who was his real girlfriend. Instead of diffusing the tension, he encouraged them to escalate from a verbal to a physical fight. Picasso tells Gilot, “’I told them they’d have to fight it out themselves. So they began to wrestle. It’s one of my choicest memories.’” (Life with Picasso, 211)

Jealous fights, as well as mutual insults and devaluation, offer an amusing spectator sport for psychopaths. It makes them feel in charge: like they’re the puppet masters manipulating all these women’s emotions. This rivalry also has the additional advantage of creating artificial barriers among the victims. The women’s aggression turns against one another rather than towards their real enemy, the psychopath who is using and mistreating them both, plus several others that they may not even know about.

Psychopaths tend to select trusting and trustworthy women whom they can manipulate and taint. They enjoy the thrill of getting them to collude in their lies and machinations against others, including family members and friends. They resort to emotional blackmail to get their victims, who are often decent human beings, to cooperate. This establishes a link of complicity in the psychopathic bond: something along the lines of, you lied to your family (or my family, or our friends, or your spouse) too, so therefore you’re just as bad and deceitful as I am. Furthermore, psychopaths need to have their sense of power over you constantly reaffirmed. Since they’re at core malicious human beings, the way you help confirm their power best is by colluding with their projects to deceive and hurt others.

By turning “their” women against one another, psychopaths make each of them simultaneously their co-conspirator and their dupe, the deceiver and the deceived. When she deflects her negative emotions towards other women, the psychopath’s wife or girlfriend remains blind to the real threat posed by her own partner. Emotionally, this perspective may be easier to accept than the truth: namely, that your supposed soul mate wants to destroy you and is using you as a weapon to hurt others and vice versa. Only when you’re strong enough to open your eyes and face reality do you begin to see the machinations of the psychopath as puppet master.

Françoise Gilot describes this strategy with incredible lucidity. She compares Picasso’s habit of stringing several women along to a Bluebeard complex and to a bullfight. Although these analogies may seem radically different, they describe the same phenomenon. In this process, the real enemy–the one who gores you in the end–is the man generating all the drama and rivalries among women in the first place:

“Pablo’s many stories and reminiscences about Olga and Marie-Thérèse  and Dora Maar, as well as their continuing presence just off stage in our life together, gradually made me realize that he had a kind of Bluebeard complex that made him want to cut off the heads of all the women he had collected in his little private museum. But he didn’t cut the heads entirely off. He preferred to have life go on and to have all those women who had shared his life at one moment or another still letting out little peeps and cries of joy or pain and making a few gestures like disjointed dolls, just to prove there was some life left in them, that it hung by a thread, and that he held the other end of the thread. Even though he no longer had any feeling for this one or that one, he could not bear the idea that any of his women should ever again have a life of her own. And so each had to be maintained, with the minimum gift of himself, inside his orbit and not outside. As I thought about it, I realized that in Pablo’s life things went on just about the way they do in a bullfight. Pablo was the toreador and he waved the red flag, the muleta. For a picture dealer, the muleta was another picture dealer; for a woman, another woman. The result was, the person playing the bull stuck his horns into the red flag instead of goring the real adversary–Pablo. And that is why Pablo was always able, at the right moment, to have his sword free to stick you where it hurt. I came to be very suspicious of this tactic and any time I saw a big red flag waiving around me, I would look to one side of it. There, I always found Pablo.” (Life with Picasso, 242-3)

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to turn even people who don’t know one another against each other through their egregious lies and smear campaigns. After slandering their ex partners to their new partners and vice versa, psychopaths sit back and enjoy the show. Aside from the entertainment value and the sense of being in charge, the psychopath gets something else out of generating conflict among his targets. He also gets back-ups to his back-ups. Given that he’s bound to mistreat every woman he’s involved with, he certainly needs them. It seems as if psychopaths know, through both intuition and experience, that the honeymoon phase won’t last long no matter how exciting and promising a given relationship may seem in the beginning.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction