Review of “The Inner World of the Psychopath” by Steve Becker, LCSW

TheInnerWorldofthePsychopathBekcer

Psychopathy is the psychological root of evil. Understanding what makes psychopaths tick can offer us invaluable emotional protection from those who intend to harm us. It can also help us understand better complex and mystifying historical phenomena. Written for a general audience, psychotherapist Steve Becker’s new book, The Inner World of the Psychopath: A definitive Primer on the Psychopathic Personality, deciphers the psyche of the psychopath, making a significant contribution not only to the fields of psychology and self-help, but also to history and sociology as well.

Psychopaths, Becker contends, constitute only one percent of the human population. Despite being relatively few, they cause enormous damage. When they rise to power in dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, they can wreak havoc on entire populations. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were no doubt psychopathic individuals. It is difficult to assess which one hurt humanity most; which one was the most evil. All of them killed tens of millions of people. Yet, as historian Timothy Snyder rightly argues in Bloodlands, “Discussion of numbers can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death”. (Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Basic Books, 2012). While numbers can’t capture the scale of emotional suffering, they do give us a sense of the magnitude of damage psychopaths can cause.

Hitler was bent on eradicating the Jewish people from the face of the earth. He also planned—and nearly succeeded—in enslaving entire Slavic and Baltic nations throughout Nazi occupied regions in the East (Poland, the Ukraine, Lithuania, etc.). Snyder indicates that the numbers of civilians killed by the Nazis under Hitler’s regime reached well over 11 million people, of which nearly 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust. Although Stalin didn’t target a particular race as systematically as Hitler did, he deliberately starved to death five million people during the famine of 1930-1933, which began in Soviet Kazakhstan and spread to Soviet Russia and the Ukraine. A few years later, during the Great Terror, launched upon a pretext (Kirov’s assassination) in August 1937, Stalin sent millions of innocent people to gulags on false charges. This led to the murder of about 680,000 individuals. Mao’s Cultural Revolution—a cultural and agricultural policy that showed no regard for human life and suffering–led to the deaths of 30 million Chinese.

Stalin, Hitler, and Mao: these are some of the most notorious psychopaths that fill the pages of history. We are also used to reading in the news about psychopathic serial killers, such as Ted Bundy, Charles Ng, Charles Manson, or, more recently, members of the terrorist organization ISIS: sadists who take great pleasure in harming others or in directing their minions to destroy lives.

While these are the kinds of psychopaths we’re most likely to read about, Steve Becker emphasizes that these are not the kinds of psychopaths we’re most likely to encounter in our personal lives. Most psychopaths are not influential dictators or serial killers. In fact, he points out, most of them aren’t even behind bars because they don’t get caught in criminal or violent acts. Yet, in many respects, the “ordinary” psychopaths we’re likely meet are also the most dangerous to us. We can find them in our neighborhood or at our work place; we may even date or marry them. Invariably they will harm us, at the very least emotionally, but often also financially or physically. Invariably, they will exploit us. Reading The Inner World of the Psychopath—a succinct, clearly written and psychologically insightful book–can help us identify not only the psychological traits of psychopaths but also their techniques of luring us as potential victims.

Who are these heartless human beings? Psychopaths, Becker argues, are “consciously violating” individuals. We may all, at some point in our lives, hurt others: sometimes out of momentary anger, at other times without even meaning to. Usually we regret the harm. Psychopaths, on the other hand, take great pleasure in causing deliberate harm. All human beings have some selfish qualities; selfishness, however, is the number one trait of a psychopath. This quality becomes all the more dangerous when it’s combined with charisma and sexual appeal. While psychopaths may profess love, they regard their sexual partners as objects to be preyed upon. Becker explains, “The sexualized psychopath uses sex manipulatively and seductively. Of course, the flip side is much darker; the psychopath can be sexually degrading and abusive because, at bottom, he will relate to you as a sexual object” (118). Rape or murder constitute the most extreme manifestations of objectifying another human being. While few psychopaths rape and even fewer murder, all psychopaths use and manipulate others with no regard whatsoever for their feelings and needs.

Control over other human beings—be it in the form of the spell they cast over some of their partners or in the form of menace and abuse—gives them a sense of near omnipotence and—quite simply–entertains them. “Let us not forget,” Becker reminds us, “you exist to satisfy him. Thus it might entertain him to entertain you, in which case, to the best of his ability, he may want to leave you feeling swoons of rapture. Conversely, it might entertain him to degrade and abuse you, or otherwise leave you feeling humiliated. Regardless, his entertainment will supersede everything” (118). Often the psychopath will start out by idealizing a victim. During the luring phase he’s likely to entertain himself by simulating and inspiring romantic love. During the course of the relationship, however, the psychopath generally grows tired of that victim or moves on to others. He then begins exercising control in more negative and menacing ways. Why do psychopaths objectify others?

Psychopaths, Becker continues, lack empathy, perhaps the most essential quality that makes us human. Consequently, they’re unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to register their suffering as something negative that should be avoided, to care about their welfare meaningfully.

There’s some debate in the field of psychopathology whether psychopaths are born or bred. Becker believes the answer to this question depends on the case. Sometimes it can be a combination of both. Sadly, what remains crystal clear is that psychopathy is incurable, particularly past adolescence. Trying to make a psychopath feel your pain through therapy, medication or any other kind of treatment would be like trying to make a completely deaf person hear your voice. Psychopathy is, by definition, a constitutive emotional deficiency that has far more serious implications than any other human deficiency. The psychopath’s lack of empathy translates into the incapacity for love and, even worse, the propensity to harm others.

Sure, Becker grants, psychopaths can act like they care about some individuals. They can put on convincing displays of devotion. However, their actual experiences of those emotions are always egocentric and shallow. They can convey contrition when they do something to harm you, but they won’t mean it, or even when they do, at the moment, it won’t mean much to them and it won’t change their negative behavior in the long run.

Because some psychopaths compartmentalize their lives with great efficiency, they may seem to care about some people while harming others. Some psychopaths may target certain victims while acting “lovingly” to others: such as the serial rapist who attacks strangers at night but returns home to his family and acts perfectly “normal” in the morning. Becker draws the only logical conclusion from the psychopath’s capacity for compartmentalization: “This means that not all psychopaths are ‘acting out’ their psychopathy on those closest to them. But this does not mean that he’s a psychopath toward his victims and nonpsychopathic toward his nonvictims. The psychopath is a psychopath all the time, even if he’s not exhibiting his psychopathy all the time. He is psychopathic because (with the psychopathic mentality we’ve been exploring) he victimizes and exploits anyone, not because he doesn’t exploit and victimize everyone. This last assertion is important. A bank robber is a bank robber if he robs any bank, not because he doesn’t rob every bank” (95-96). He goes on to explain by analogy that just like the bank robber may select particularly vulnerable banks, so the psychopath selects the most vulnerable victims. Yet any human being can be vulnerable—or appeal to a psychopath–at certain times for various reasons. This is why, truly, nobody is safe around a psychopath.

Because of their lack of conscience and inhibitions, psychopaths can be very convincing liars. Often they lie without any embarrassment. In fact, fooling their victims presents an entertaining challenge for them. Victims also state that one of the key the features of psychopaths is charisma, at least during the initial encounter, when they’re trying to lure their prey. Becker underscores that not all psychopaths are particularly charismatic, but those who are can inflict much greater damage. Even psychopaths who aren’t particularly charming individuals, however, initially seduce their victims. They flatter them, love bomb them, sweep them off their feet: whatever expression you choose, psychopaths use any means at their disposal to gain influence and control over their victims, so they can use them for whatever purposes suits them at the moment. As Becker explains, “They size people up, to evaluate their targetability.” Psychopaths therefore are, at core, dangerous social predators. They can be predators that attain historical significance—with disastrous effects upon humanity—or, much more commonly, predators that take advantage of their victims financially and emotionally. Either way, informing yourself about psychopathy by reading Steve Becker’s The Inner World of the Psychopath can help protect you and those you care about from future harm. You can find this book on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Inner-World-Psychopath-psychopathic/dp/1508525110

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

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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


Instead of the Cult of Self-Improvement Cultivate Self-Respect

Self-respect is essential for survival. It is a form of self-love that solidifies our identities and protects us from dangerous pathologicals. Self-respect gives us definition and boundaries. Unlike the absolute narcissism of toxic indviduals, self-respect (and self-love) does not entail the exploitation of others nor is it a total self-absorption.  It is also very different from the idolatry that psychopaths commonly engage in during the luring phase of the relationship, when they flatter and love bomb you, in order to manipulate and control you.

In earlier posts I explained that a psychopath controls those who need him for a sense of self-worth and meaning in life. Any woman may be initially hooked by a psychopath during the seduction phase of the relationship. But those who stay with him of their own volition once his mask of charm comes off often suffer from an extreme form of dependency. They have little or no independent self-worth and need the psychopath’s periodic validation to feel sexy or attractive or brilliant or like a good mother and wife: whatever form of validation they need depends upon him.

 “Willing” victims of psychopaths and other control-driven individuals are not necessarily suffering from low self-esteem in a conventional sense of the term. In fact, they may have a very high opinion of themselves. But they do suffer from a highly dependent or mediated self-esteem. They need a “special” person’s control to feel good about themselves and to get a sense of meaning in life. These are the most loyal and promising  long-term victims for psychopaths, who stand by the disordered individuals no matter what they do wrong.  They give their psychopathic partners a kind of absolute power over the lives in a similar manner that cult followers do to their pathological leaders.

In so doing, they relinquish agency and control over their lives. Such highly susceptible individuals may stay with a psychopath even once he stops validating them on a regular basis, and offers only tokens of praise or fake “respect” from time to time. By that time, they’re already trauma bonded to the psychopath, which may keep them emotionally and mentally enslaved to him for life.  The psychopath uses such dependent personalities for his own destructive purposes. He never offers them any genuine love, though he may offer them the false validation they so desperately need.

In life, you gain peace and fulfillment from your own healthy self-esteem and from cultivating a respectful attitude towards others. This sense of balance is largely internal. Nobody else can give it to you. There are literally thousands of “how-to” and “self-help” books on the market. They claim to help people find their inner balance in all sorts of ways: through yoga, Pilates, other mind-body exercises, improving their looks or increasing their sexual stamina. I suspect that most of them work about as well as the perennial miracle diets. They may produce some immediate results. But they rarely fundamentally change a person or improve the quality of his or her life in the long run. Some of them, such as the retreats run by James Arthur Ray, a very popular self-help guru, are extremely dangerous, bordering on cults run by disordered leaders who enjoy controlling others, milking them of their money, and pushing their limits even to the point of death:

http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/r/james_arthur_ray/index.html

To improve yourself more enduringly, you need to cultivate a healthy perception of who you are and know what you want from lifeDysfunctional lives and relationships often stem from character distortions, such as the ones I’ve described so far, which leave you dependent upon the perceptions of others to gain a sense of self-worth. Those most likely to exploit such neediness or vanity are not those who have your best interests in mind. They’re likely to be individuals who want to use and control you. There’s no magical step-by–step procedure that can give you a healthy self-esteem. Just as losing weight depends upon having a healthy, moderate attitude towards your body, so improving your self-image depends upon having a healthy attitude towards your mind. “Know thyself,” the ancient Greeks advised. This, like so much of their practical wisdom, is very good advice.

This is not to say that moderation, or what Aristotle called the mean between two extremes, is always the answer to everything. Nobody can be equally good and equally bad at everything. We all have a combination of weaknesses and strengths. Knowing yourself, in my estimation, means using your strengths to improve your life and the lives of others rather than to appear superior to them or to gain their approval. Being an artistic or mathematical “genius,” or being very popular and beautiful–however exceptional you may be in some respects–doesn’t entitle you to special treatment. It also doesn’t justify you mistreating others in any way. In other words, your strengths shouldn’t feed your vanity, as they do for narcissists and psychopaths, just as your weaknesses shouldn’t cripple you.

Reaching an inner balance also requires having the right motivation for your endeavors. For instance, don’t create art to impress others or to become famous. Create to offer yet another instance of beauty and meaning to enrich your life and perhaps also the lives of others. Don’t write books to become rich or consecrated. Write to express a talent that makes you happy and that may contribute some human wisdom that is best expressed more creatively. Don’t give to charity or behave nicely to others to be considered generous and kind. Help those in need and be a genuinely decent human being.

If you have a healthy self-image, your strengths and talents will radiate primarily from within. They will give energy to others rather than being absorbed from without, by depending upon their external validation. Similarly, having a healthy self-esteem entails working on your weaknesses without allowing them to haunt you, to become deep-seated insecurities that malicious individuals can exploit. Such a healthy attitude towards yourself and your life therefore implies some detachment from the views of others: from how they perceive you, what they expect from you and what they say about you.

Of course, none of us live in a vacuum. We’re all partially influenced by the views and expectations of our partners, our families, our colleagues, our friends and society in general, as we well should be. But those with a healthy self-esteem are not determined primarily by others. For as long as they behave decently to other human beings, they don’t fold under when their partners, family members, friends or peers criticize them. They also don’t lose their self-esteem when they fail at some of their own goals. Conversely, they don’t feel superior to others just because some people praise them or because they attain some level of success or even fame. Success and fame, like the criticism and praise of others in general, comes and goes. Knowing who you are and what you have to contribute can last a lifetime.

The main thing that can save you from a psychopath–or from any other manipulative person who wants to take over your life–is cultivating a healthy self-esteem. This may seem like a truism. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of common sense that many know but fewer actually practice. Any therapist will tell you that he or she stays in business largely because of people’s unrealistic perception of themselves. Character distortions not only damage our self-confidence, but also taint our relationships. They make us excessively vain, or needy, or inflexible, or too willing to bend over backwards just to please others. More seriously, character disorders, such as psychopathy and malignant narcissism, are unfixable in adults.

Fortunately, however, most people don’t suffer from such constitutive emotional and moral deficiencies. More commonly, we suffer from distorted perceptions of ourselves. This puts us at risk of falling into the clutches of controlling individuals. To find your compass you need to look within, as the Greeks wisely advised. Ultimately, nobody else can save you. You can save yourself by living well, which depends upon knowing your worth–neither underestimating nor overestimating it–and pursuing with a mostly internally driven self-confidence the path you want to take in life.

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.

The Psychopath’s Poison Containers

image by Christian Coigny

As everyone who has been involved with a psychopath knows, building a romantic relationship with such a pathological person is like building a house on a foundation of quicksand. Everything shifts and sinks in a relatively short period of time, usually within a year.  Seemingly caring, and often flattering, attention turns into jealousy, domination and control. Enjoying time together becomes isolation from others.

Romantic gifts are replaced with requests, then with demands. Apparent selflessness and other-regarding gestures turn into the most brutal selfishness one can possibly imagine. Confidential exchanges and mutual honesty turn out to be filled with lies about everything: the past, the present as well as the hollow promises for the future. The niceness that initially seemed to be a part of the seducer’s character is exposed as strategic and manipulative, conditional upon acts of submission to his will. Tenderness diminishes and is eventually displaced by a perversion that hints at an underlying, and menacing, sadism.

Mutuality, equality and respect—everything you thought the relationship was founded upon—becomes replaced with hierarchies and double standards in his favor. You can bet that if you’re involved with a psychopath, particularly if he’s also a sex addict, the fidelity he expects of you is not what he’s willing to offer you or any other person. Fidelity becomes nothing more than a one-way street, as he secretly prowls around for innumerable other sexual conquests. If you accept an open relationship, he will treat you as a sex toy or a prostitute whom he pimps to others in a humiliating fashion that reveals his underlying contempt. As the relationship with the psychopath unfolds, Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde.

Because psychopaths need to constantly lure new partners in order to escape boredom as well as to feel excitement and a sense of power over others, they are always in the idealization phase of relationships with several people at the same time. Those are the targets whom they momentarily woe, flatter, collude with, plot against others with and appear to love. Appear is the key word here, since psychopaths can’t love anyone. They simulate love in order to manipulate others, to intoxicate them even, with the potent mixture of flattery, complicity and lies.

Because psychopaths are filled with contempt for human beings, they are also at the same time in the devalue and discard phases with several individuals at the same time. Those are the people they conspire against, criticize, engage in smear campaigns to ruin their reputations, stalk, and sometimes physically threaten or attack. My article on Drew Peterson illustrates this cycle. Each time Drew Peterson was luring a new mistress, he was at the same time treating his current wife as a poison container, upon which to heap blame, insults, threats, slander, and abuse. Then once the new mistress became his current wife, he was seeking new mistresses and treating the wife–or the former mistress–as a poison container for his venom and abuse. As we now know, for him this cycle culminated in murder several times.

Because for psychopaths the image of niceness, caring, true love is always fake–a mask of sanity–they absolutely need to channel their underlying anger and contempt, which are their real, core emotions, upon the targets they have tired of, already used, or who are waking up and starting to realize the horrible individuals they’re involved with. Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde are different facets of the same psychopath: Mr. Jekyll is only a false image used to lure and manipulate targets in the honeymoon phase, and the real psychopath is Mr. Hyde.

Mr. Hyde may be temporarily hiding from casual acquaintances, colleagues, new targets or old allies, but he will always reveal himself in how he treats those he’s already used up and tired of: his poison containers, meaning all the targets that are no longer in the idealization phase. Such poison containers are absolutely necessary for a psychopath who, in reality, can’t stand his own mask of sanity and the effort it takes to fake niceness, to simulate love, or to do things for others in order to get what he wants. 

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

How the Psychopath Manufactures Our Emotions by Peace

* Note: This article is written by a friend who goes by the pseudonym “Peace”

During a relationship with a psychopath, we are likely to experience a range of emotions that we’ve never felt before: extreme jealousy, neediness, rage, anxiety, paranoia, etc. After the inevitable devalue and discard, many of us blame ourselves. If only I hadn’t been so jealous, then maybe he wouldn’t have left me… If only I hadn’t been so needy, then maybe he wouldn’t have left me… If only I hadn’t been so—

Stop.

Those were not your emotions. I repeat: those were not your emotions. They were carefully manufactured by the psychopath in order to make you question your good nature. Victims are often of the mentality that they can forgive, understand and absorb all of the problems in a relationship. Essentially, they checkmate themselves by constantly trying to rationalize the abuser’s completely irrational behavior.

For example, most us probably didn’t consider ourselves to be jealous people before we met the psychopath. We might have even taken pride in being exceptionally easy-going and open-minded.  The psychopath sees this and knows how to exploit it. During the idealize phase, he draws us in by flattering those traits—he just can’t believe how perfect you are. The two of you never fight. There’s never any drama. You’re so relaxed compared to his crazy, evil ex!

But behind the scenes, something else is going on. Psychopaths become bored very easily, and the idealize phase is only fun until he has you hooked. Once that happens, these strengths of yours become vulnerabilities that he uses against you. He begins to inject as much drama into the relationship as he possibly can, throwing us into impossible situations and then judging us for reacting to them.

Most people would agree that jealousy is toxic in a relationship. But there’s a huge difference between true jealousy and the psychopath’s manufactured jealousy.

Take the following two conversations:

Case 1:

Boyfriend: Hey, my old high-school friend is coming into town if you’d like to meet her!

Girlfriend: No! Why do you need other female friends? You have me.

In this case, the girlfriend truly seems to have some jealousy issues that need to be addressed. Assuming he hasn’t abused her in the past, this is an inappropriate display of jealousy.

Case 2:

Boyfriend: My ex is coming into town. You know, the crazy abusive one who’s still completely obsessed with me.

Girlfriend: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!

Boyfriend: We’re probably going to meet up later for drinks. She always hits on me when she drinks.

Girlfriend: I’m confused. Could we talk about this in person?

Boyfriend: You have a problem with it?

Girlfriend: Nope! No problem. I guess I was just a little confused since you said she abused you. But I hope things go well! It’s nice when exes are able to be friends.

Boyfriend: Jesus Christ, you’re so jealous sometimes.

Girlfriend: I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be jealous. I was just confused at first. Maybe we could talk about it in person?

Boyfriend: Your jealousy is ruining our relationship and creating so much unnecessary drama.

Girlfriend: I’m sorry! We don’t have to talk about it in person. I really didn’t mean to come across that way.

Boyfriend: It’s fine, I forgive you. We’ll just have to work through your jealousy issues.

 In this case, the psychopath did three things: 1) Put the victim in an impossible situation that would make any human being jealous, especially after talking about how crazy the ex is. 2) Accused the victim of being jealous, even though the victim tried to respond reasonably. 3) Played “good guy” by offering to forgive her for a problem that he created in the first place. This places him in his favorite role of teacher vs. student.

The longer this abuse occurs, the more we begin to wonder if we actually have a jealousy problem.

And it’s not just limited to jealousy. To offer another example, many of us may begin to feel needy and clingy during the relationships with the psychopath. But again, it’s all manufactured. Who was the one who initiated the constant conversation and attention in the first place? It was him. Once he’s bored, he will start to lash out at us for trying to continue practices that he initiated.

Again, most people would agree that neediness is toxic in a relationship. But there’s a huge difference between true neediness and the psychopath’s manufactured neediness.

Case 1:

Boyfriend: Hey, I won’t be around tonight because my grandmother wants to get dinner. Sorry!

Girlfriend: Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in three hours. This is getting ridiculous. You better text me the entire time.

In this case, the girlfriend truly seems to have some neediness issues that need to be addressed. Assuming he hasn’t abused her in the past, this is an inappropriate display of neediness.

Case 2:

Girlfriend: Hi, I haven’t heard from you in three days. Just want to make sure you’re doing okay.

Boyfriend: Jesus Christ, I have a life outside of you, you know.

Girlfriend: I know, I was just sort of confused because I’m used to hearing from you every day.

Boyfriend: You’re so needy. I have important things to do and I can’t just drop everything to text you.

Girlfriend: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound needy. It was the first text I’ve sent in three days.

Boyfriend: I can’t deal with this. I’ve never met someone so needy in my life.

Girlfriend: I’m really sorry! I won’t bother you again.

Boyfriend: It’s fine, I forgive you. We’ll just have to work through your neediness issues.

Once again… In this case, the psychopath did three things: 1) Put the victim in an impossible situation that would make any human being needy, especially after the constant attention in the idealize phase. 2) Accused the victim of being needy, even though the victim tried to respond reasonably. 3) Played “good guy” by offering to forgive her for a problem that he created in the first place. This places him in his favorite role of teacher vs. student.

The longer this abuse occurs, the more we begin to wonder if we are actually needy people.

We must understand that in loving, healthy relationships, no one would ever put us in these situations in the first place. Our boundaries were put to the test, and we did the absolute best we could, given the circumstances. In the future, we should never allow someone to tell us who we are or what we feel. Happy Healing to all!

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