Breaking the Love Addiction: Disengaging from the Psychopath

Several readers of this blog mentioned feeling addicted to the psychopath. Today I’d like to repost an article I wrote a year ago, when psychopathyawareness was just getting started and building a readership. Addiction–both physical and emotional–is the right term to describe the hold the psychopath has on his victims. After the relationship is over, many victims feel lost or empty without the psychopath. They need the excitement the psychopath brought into their lives: even if it indicated his emotional shallowness and need for entertainment rather than passion. They need the constant attention, even if they learn that it came from the psychopath’s desire to control them rather than love. How do you escape from these obsessive thoughts and need for the psychopath?

The psychopathic bond resembles any other kind of powerful addiction. Nobody and nothing can save an addict unless she’s willing to save herself. Others can only offer her emotional support, information and help. That’s what I do here.  Most books on romantic relationships tell readers what steps to take to get them or to improve them. By way of contrast, I tell you bluntly and in detail why and how to disengage for good. If there’s one kind of relationship that’s not worth saving, it’s one with a psychopath. You can’t change a psychopath. Therefore, you also can’t improve your relationship with him. Psychologists call psychopathy “pathological.” They state that psychopaths suffer from a severe “personality disorder,” not just normal human flaws that can be worked on and ameliorated. Sandra Brown underscores in How to spot a dangerous man before you get involved that “Pathology is forever.” (23) It’s the result of a faulty brain wiring, sometimes coupled with emotional trauma that occurs during childhood development, which can’t be altered in any significant way once the psychopath reaches adulthood.  Brown doesn’t mince words when she describes a psychopath as “an emotional predator” who represents “the pinnacle of poisonous and pathological dating choices.” (179) When involved with such an individual, she cautions, “You will never change his physiology or his bad wiring. You will never love him into safety, sanity, or sanctity.” (21)

Women involved with psychopaths have been conditioned by their partners to assume most of the blame for the problems that occur in the relationship. They’re often deeply in love. They hope that the psychopath will magically improve and grow to love them more meaningfully. Often, they seek therapy, counseling or support groups. They grasp at any straw that can help them salvage the refuse of a pathological relationship. As time goes on, they focus on the increasingly fewer positive aspects of the relationship. They cherish the memories of how well they were treated in the beginning. They go into denial so that they don’t have to face the deliberate malice of the person they love, to whom they may have devoted their entire lives. When faced with the vast discrepancy between the psychopath’s nice words and his malicious actions, they feel lost, disoriented and alone. They stubbornly cling to the psychopath and to the fantasy of romantic love he initially created.

After spending months or even years with a psychopathic partner, after building a family or dreaming of a bright future together, it’s very hard to accept the fact that everything good about the relationship was an illusion. It’s difficult to see that every one of his qualities, words and gestures were manipulative and fake, intended, as is everything a psychopath does, to get you under his spell and undermine your dignity and strength. It’s extremely painful to realize that the psychopathic partner has never cared about you, no matter how vehemently or how often he may have professed his devotion. It’s infuriating to realize that you’ve been duped and used for his selfish and destructive purposes. It’s frustrating to see that most other people, who aren’t well informed about psychopathy, won’t understand the degree of deception, brainwashing and betrayal you’ve gone through.

To give you an idea about how difficult it is for this highly abnormal experience to translate into a normal frame of reference, I’ll offer an example. When I watch episodes of the History Channel on Adolf Hitler, he looks to me, as he probably does to many other viewers who didn’t experience the mass indoctrination at the time, like a ridiculous looking madman, screaming and flailing his arms about. Quite honestly, I can’t see anything appealing, much less mesmerizing, about this man. In watching Hitler’s dramatic gestures and listening to his unappealing shouts, I find it hard to believe that he exercised such a powerful and destructive mind-control over an entire nation. But, clearly, he did. Not just over one nation, but over several. Those who have not fallen under a psychopath’s spell are not likely to identify with the experience or to comprehend it viscerally. They will remain sufficiently objective to find attachment to a psychopath puzzling, perhaps even incomprehensible. But such unhealthy attachments aren’t rational, to be examined from a distance, with hindsight and full information in one’s hands.  Psychopathic bonds are largely emotional in nature. They’re also based upon a steady flow of misinformation and powerful mind control.

Consequently, if you’ve experienced the psychopathic bond, not many people will understand what you’ve been through and what kind of disordered human being you’ve had to deal with. It may be upsetting to witness that even (most of) the media coverage of criminal psychopaths doesn’t grasp the nature of their personality disorder. Journalists often mistakenly attribute their crimes to more easily comprehensible and common motives (such as greed, sex, financial or emotional crises or substance abuse) rather than the psychological profile that makes these social predators so dangerous to others. It may be saddening to see that in therapy, if you fall upon someone unfamiliar with this personality disorder, you and your psychopathic partner are assumed to be equally at fault for the turmoil in your lives. Worst of all, it will be painful to face the truth that no amount of love or patience or therapy or medication or anything at all can save a psychopath and your relationship with him. He will always remain what he is: an irredeemably selfish, shallow and heartless human being. If you’ve been involved with a psychopath, this truth will hurt. But ultimately, as one of the contributors to lovefraud.com wisely stated, it will also help heal your pain and set you free.

People tend to say that, as far as problems in romantic relationships are concerned, there are two sides to every story. This assumption doesn’t apply at all to relationships with psychopaths. In those, one person deliberately damages the other. What remains true, however, is the related popular adage that it takes two to tango. A relationship with a psychopath represents a macabre dance that hurts only one partner, but that takes two partners to participate in and continue. If you’ve been involved with someone who exhibits psychopathic traits, you have the power to take back your life. You can choose to disengage from that disordered individual, learn from your mistakes and make far better choices in the future.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 


Moving On: Life After the Psychopath

Most of my posts have been about how to identify psychopathic traits and patterns of behavior and about understanding what drew the psychopath to you–and you to him–originally. I have also written several posts emphasizing the importance of no contact of any kind, passive or active, in being able to recover from the toxic relationship. But let’s say you now can recognize the features of psychopathy and narcissism. You are maintaining no contact. Yet you still ruminate obsessively about the relationship and you still feel trapped, somehow, inside of it. What do you do then?

My answer may sound somewhat circular: you’ve got to do everything possible to move on with the rest of your life. Fill your life with interests and activities other than thinking about the psychopathic ex. Focus on the relationships with people in your life who genuinely care about you and support you. Make new, genuine, friends. Find renewed energy in your job or in life goals, even those you might have given up on during the toxic relationship. Coming to terms with the truth about the psychopath and your relationship with him is essential to being able to let go of that person and your past together. But staying trapped in your past and ruminating endlessly about it–at the expense of other relationships or life goals–can become just another prison.

It can also foster negative personality traits that you may not wish to have, like paranoia or extreme distrust of all other human beings. In my last post, the review of Robert Conquest’s book on Stalin, I alluded to the atmosphere of mutual distrust cultivated under by a totalitarian dictatorship, where people started accusing family members and friends of deviationism–or of being traitors to the communist society and principles–and turning against each other. This phenomenon can happen anytime and anywhere, even if it’s more acute in dictatorships led by psychopathic tyrants.

Yes, it’s important to be cautious. Yes, it’s important to be aware of red flags in new relationships, or even older ones. Yes, it’s important to be aware of the signs of personality disorders. Yes, it’s important to cut off pathological individuals from your life. But what you want to avoid is you, yourself becoming pathological and living in an atmosphere of paranoia, pointing fingers at others left and right, and becoming consumed by the underlying hatred and distrust that characterized your relationship with the psychopath.

Moving on means, as Aristotle and other Greek philosophers urged, leading a well-rounded life. It means finding support and information about what you’ve gone through, both here and elsewhere, without neglecting all the other aspects of your life–family, friends, job, goals, exercise, enjoyment–that can free you from your painful past and help you escape the mental prison in order to live again.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 


The Psychopath’s Mirroring Effects

A psychopath will mirror your identity at the beginning, middle and end of a relationship, only in different ways at each stage. Initially, in order to win you over, he will pretend to be like you and to like everything about you. Robert Hare and Paul Babiak describe in Snakes in Suits how during the “assessment phase” of the relationship a psychopath will convey to his target four main messages: 1) I like you; 2) I share your interests; 3) I’m like you, and 4) I’m the perfect partner or soul mate for you.

This process constitutes the mirroring phase of the psychopathic bond. Granted, most romantic relationships entail some aspects of mirroring. After all, that’s how couples discover their points in common. But with a psychopath the reflection tends to be instant and total. It’s a simulated bonding that’s way too fast, too soon and too good to be true. This happens before any real emotional connection can take place. It occurs before the partners have gotten to know each other well, over time and in different circumstances. Instant bonding is usually a symptom of shallowness of emotions rather than of miraculous compatibility. It means that the psychopath will detach from you and latch on to another target as easily as he initially attached to you. Yet through their conversational glibness and innate charm, as well as through their extraordinary capacity to identify and reflect your deepest desires, psychopaths can initially make you feel like they’re your dream come true. They present themselves as the only partners who could possibly fulfill whatever’s been missing from your life.

During the course of the relationship, however, the psychopath reveals more and more his true colors. He becomes increasingly critical and controlling. What’s more, he also incites you to go along with his wrongdoings. That way you mirror his ugly personality and become his accomplice. His message switches from being “I’m just like you” (as moral, smart, kind, beautiful, ideal as you are) as it was during the luring phase to being “you’re just like me” (as deceitful, malicious, dishonest as you begin to see that he is). Keep in mind that, most likely, you’re not.  Even if you’ve engaged in some wrongdoings, unless you thrive on pathological lying, promiscuity as a means of domination of others, playing mind games, harming others and power games you’re not likely to be a psychopath, like him.

When you’ve finally had enough and leave the psychopath–or when he leaves you–he will see you as a devalued, distorted mirror image of himself and of your former, idealized, self as well. Every quality he initially saw in you–from beauty to brains–will be turned into its opposite. If he saw you as smart, you’re now stupid in his eyes. If he was attracted to your beauty, he now sees you as ugly. If he admired your hard work, he now views your efforts as a mindless submission to the system. As I’ve explained in the previous post about the process of idealize, devalue and discard, this negative mirroring at the end is a natural and inevitable unfolding of the psychopathic relationship.

Just as the idealized mirror image at the beginning of the psychopathic bond had little to do with your qualities–they were false compliments intended to lure you–so the de-idealized mirror image at the end has nothing to do with you either. These distorted mirroring effects have everything to do with the character deficiencies of the psychopath himself, who suffers from an incurable evil. Which, incidentally, is a good way to describe the middle mirroring phase as well: when he says you, or all human beings, are like him, remember that’s not true either.  A psychopath is different from–and far worse than–just about any human being you will ever know.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


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