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


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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

Should You Warn the Other Victims of the Psychopath?

One of the questions victims of psychopaths ask themselves after they learn about personality disorders is: Should I warn the other victims of the psychopath? If this question is largely motivated by the need for vengeance my answer is definitely: NO. It’s not that I don’t support the idea that the psychopath, who harms others so gleefully and remorselessly, get what he deserves in life. But I can think of several good reasons why if you’re motivated primarily by vindictiveness, ultimately you won’t feel much satisfaction from warning the psychopath’s newest batch of victims.

1. It means that you’re stuck in a negative emotion, that will keep you angry and ruminating rather than focusing on moving on with your life.

2. It means that you’re still keeping up with what the psychopath is doing and with whom, when, once again, the focus should be on healing and moving on with your life.

3. Psychopaths usually have numerous simultaneous victims, at different cycles of the relationship–idealization phase, manipulation phase and devalue/discard phases–as I explain in the article Relationship Boomerang: The Psychopath’s Relationship Cycle. It would be a full-time job to keep up with the psychopath’s victims and warn all of them.

4. It’s likely to cause drama in your life, when what you need is calmness and healing. When they can’t get positive attention from you, psychopaths love getting negative attention from you. As extreme narcissists, they need to be at the center of attention, regardless what kind. 

5. Even passive contact–meaning reading the psychopath’s communication without responding to it or finding out on the internet or from mutual acquaintances what he’s doing–can set back your recovery.

6. It’s likely to be a very thankless task. Psychopaths, particularly “socialized” or “charismatic” psychopaths, tend to carefully select victims who idolize them. Such victims sometimes stand by the psychopath even in those extreme cases when they’re convicted of rape and murder. The psychology of individuals brainwashed by cult leaders, who are often psychopathic, also applies to some victims of charismatic psychopaths. Even in less extreme cases, most victims pass through a honeymoon phase–filled with lies, flattery, mirroring of their values, phony declarations of love and false promises–which bonds them to the psychopath. During that phase many victims will not listen to anybody’s warnings, even in the face of compelling arguments and evidence. Just ask yourself: Did you or would you have listened to such a warning? I know that my friends tried to warn me early on about the psychopath’s true nature, but during the honeymoon phase I couldn’t see the lack of character, superficiality and malice they saw in him. Only during the much less pleasant devalue phase, which occurred during the final few weeks of our relationship, did I start to open my eyes and recall the red flags they had spotted much earlier than me. I suppose it’s better late than never!

7. A small minority of the victims of psychopaths are disordered and dangerous themselves.

However, if you’re motivated by the other-regarding desire to warn the current victims for their sake–to help them avoid the pain you felt–regardless of whether they’re grateful for the information you gave them and regardless of the fact this will keep you at least indirectly associated with the psychopath and his current life, then it may be worth assuming the risks I enumerated above.

I’ve shown in a previous post, called  Stringing Women Along: The Psychopath as Puppet Master,  how psychopaths use women against one another to string them along as back-ups and to play puppet master. The more subtle psychopaths also use them to keep their hands clean, so to speak. If a psychopath criticizes his wife to the girlfriend (to justify his cheating and prove his trustworthiness to her) and, once discovered, the girlfriend to his wife (to exculpate himself), then the two women are too busy fighting each other to focus on his wrongdoings. Aside from the entertainment value of jealous women fighting over him, the psychopath gets the additional advantage of not having to engage directly in a smear campaign. He allows the women, who now disrespect and maybe even hate each other, to do it for him. They can spread false or selective information to family members and friends, thus sparing him the dirty job of doing it himself. He’s lied to them both and cheated on them both. In a just world, he certainly deserves to be exposed.

The tricky part is how to do it most effectively. Because such manipulative men antagonize women against each other, it becomes difficult to share information in a civil manner. Once she realizes that she’s been mistreated and that something’s seriously wrong with this man, how does the wife tell the girlfriend about it (and why would she do her rival such a favor?) or the girlfriend tell the wife? Both are likely to suspect the other of ulterior motives, such as wanting to get the man for herself or petty revenge against him. Moreover, the wife, or the psychopath’s main partner, has been morally wronged most. The girlfriend with whom the psychopath cheated on her has wronged her almost as much as her own partner (except more impersonally). She’s therefore not likely to respect the girlfriend (or girlfriends) enough to even want to communicate with her (or them).

A few years ago, I followed with interest the discussions on lovefraud.com on this subject. Numerous women have shared their experiences of trying to tell the other women about the psychopath and his personality disorder, once they have opened their eyes. The contributors reported mixed results. Some of them were able to get through to their “rivals,” which were really fellow victims. Others received further insult and abuse, only now from the woman or women they were trying to help. Obviously that didn’t ameliorate the situation. The main reason, however, why some women reacted so negatively to the truth about the psychopath was not the rivalry he created between them, but the power he exercised over them. Victims of psychopathic seduction don’t all awake from their spell simultaneously, like in a fairy tale. They don’t all realize at the same moment that they’ve been duped and used, just as their rivals were. In addition, as we’ve seen, psychopaths generally undermine the boundaries and self-esteem of their long-term partners in a more profoundly damaging manner than they do those of their short-term girlfriends.

Trying to awake the girlfriend(s) from the psychopathic bond presents a different sort of challenge. Those women are probably being treated “better” than his long-term partner because the relationship is newer, because they don’t have to live with a psychopath day-to-day and because they’re being maintained for sex, entertainment and romance: meaning the most pleasant and light aspects of a relationship. Even psychopaths who are so stingy that they won’t spend a dime on their wives often spend lavishly on their newest girlfriends. A woman who’s been treated like a “princess”–wined, dined, pampered and romanced—is likely to be deeply under the haze of the psychopathic bond. How do you tell a girlfriend who’s apparently treated well the sad truth? How do you let her know that she’s only a temporary pampered pet who’ll soon be devalued and discarded?

In my opinion, it’s important to tell other women about what happened, but only in a way that doesn’t hurt you or tarnish your reputation further. After having suffered the trauma of being involved with a psychopath, the last thing you need is more people insulting you or machinating against you. To determine whom to tell and how, follow your intuition. Timing is key. Obviously, you can’t tell anyone about the psychopath unless they’re willing to listen. If you catch them still in the honeymoon phase of the relationship, when the psychopath’s acting like Prince Charming, you’re not likely to convince them. If you catch them after they’ve been so severely psychologically damaged by their psychopathic partner that they’re too weak or dependent to face reality, you won’t get through to them either. You’ll only get through to a person who retains enough autonomy and strength to face such devastating facts and who’s been through enough unpleasant and disconcerting experiences with the psychopath to understand what you’re talking about.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Erased But Not Forgotten: Psychopaths and Emotional Memory

Please welcome a post on psychopaths and emotional memory by our guest blogger, Michael Pacitti, who writes both from his personal experience with a psychopath and from his experience as a mental health professional. This article explains a seeming paradox:  how psychopaths can simultaneously move on from previous relationships and discard their partners so unfeelingly, as if their memories of the relationships were erased, yet still continue to harass and stalk some of their previous targets, in a kind of perpetual relationship boomerang. Hence the title we chose: Erased but Not Forgotten. 

I listened to a song playing on the radio quite recently, a U2 track from their album “how to dismantle an atomic bomb”; the song is called A Man and a Woman. As I listened it took me back to a time early in the relationship with my ex when her idealisation of me was in full swing. I remember playing this song for her when we first met, and I had one of those cognitive dissonance moments as feelings of loss, sadness and melancholia came crashing over me. I had another similar moment looking at some photos of the Lake District, and one of the photos reminded me of a camping trip my ex and I went on in mid July of 2009.

We all experience many of these moments throughout our lives when we encounter a stimulus, it could be a piece of music, a place, a smell, a photo, it could be anything that triggers memories of days gone by, and the people who were or are significant in our lives. In those moments of recall a flood of emotion washes over us and it as though we relive those bittersweet moments all over again; we may experience feelings of joy, happiness, contentment, sadness, grief and so on. These are our emotional memories at play.

There is a biological basis for this mechanism that combines and connects emotion with the storage and retrieval of our memories. Psychologists who have researched memory function have noted that recall involves specific memory pathways within the brain and that these pathways interact at specific neurological locations. Pathways that give rise to the experience of emotion work in tandem with memory storage pathways, in that they are woven together, which is why recall of unpleasant events produce unpleasant emotions; likewise recalling memories of pleasant experiences produces pleasant emotions. We are far more likely to be able to access and recall memories that are associated with strong emotions, than events that are emotionally neutral or are lacking in emotional significance.

What is interesting is that our memories are by and large draped over our experience of emotion, and are stored in these pathways accordingly, with neurological cognitive recall pathways running alongside and working hand in hand with emotional memory pathways.  Our emotional memories can be thought of as a little like an internal journal that charts our growth and development as we move through life. Our emotional life forms the core of our own inner narrative and our narrative with others, whether it is family members, friends, or loved ones who have come and gone. Our experience of emotion determines how we store our memories which helps map, organise, and structure our experiences into a narrative or personal story that gives us a sense of internal temporal continuity. This also gives others a sense of temporal continuity of, and with us. Imagine the chaos and instability we would experience in our lives if it were not for this sense of continuity?

And yet this lack of continuity is precisely one of the defining characteristics of a pathological relationship, where contradictions, dichotomies, and non sequiturs continuously keep us off balance. The psychopathic personality construct is comprised of traits that fall along and make up the Cluster B continuum, and central to all of these variations of psychopathy is a poverty of emotional experience. Neuro-imaging has revealed that psychopaths have anatomical differences in the paralimbic systems of the brain which deal with the processing and experience of emotion. What this means is that psychopaths only experience a narrow, primitive, and primordial spectrum of emotion; and what emotions they do experience are very short lived. They are in other words lacking in an emotional memory, which is one of the reasons why psychopaths are notorious for having poor or selective, and contradictory recall; their neurological pathways are not working in tandem. They actually store memories quite differently to the rest of us due their lacking the emotional pegging neccesary for organising their inner experience of events and people. They are limited to stroring memories in small encapsulated packages, or what Robert Hare refers to as “small thought units” in Without Conscience.

They have no true or real consistent depth of emotional experience that provides them with an emotional temporal inner story with either themselves or others; they are quite literally empty black holes. Their own inner experience of themselves falls through them in much the same way that their experience of others does. They may be capable of cognitive complexity, but rest assured if they are disordered there is little or no sign of emotional intelligence or nuance that enabled you to follow and keep track of their emotional story with us. Their script continually changes, or is rewritten and flips in a manner that is severely emotionally disorientating for the victim, leaving us feeling as though we are plucking a never-ending daisy.

Because they are lacking a core self at the helm of their own experience there comes a point when you realise that there is no consensual narrative or consensual reality. They are in a sense lacking in a personal story when it comes to emotional relating, bonding, attachment, and intimacy. We as their partners believed of course that we were living a narrative with them. What we did not comprehend is that everything we shared with them (or thought we shared), no matter how significant has absolutely no currency with them whatsoever. I found it helpful to think about it like this: Imagine you are thirsty and take a glass, you place the glass under the tap and fill it with water, you put the glass to your lips and realise the glass is empty; I could have sworn I just filled the glass under the tap. In an erratic and dramatic manner, their stories are forever changing and lack a smooth seam that charts their transition from emotional position a, to contradictory emotional position b. Their ever changing scripts to us as victims, made us feel like we had a central role in a very important plot, only to find that the plot had suddenly changed and we were never consulted about it. Our role in the plot suddenly ends and the script we were reading suddenly and abruptly no longer apply.

One of the hallmarks that you have experienced a pathological relationship is that you can recall numerous disagreements, when all previous context, history, and emotional narrative were deleted by your partner. Welcome to the bait and switch. Their behaviours that have caused huge damage to the relationship doesn’t form part of their dialogue and narrative, or enter into the equation during such disagreements. Even to the point of talking in the third person as though they have somehow divorced themselves from themselves and their own behaviour. Psychopaths cannot sustain any consistent position over a period of time; they are quintessentially unstable of feeling, emotion and insight. While they are seemingly able to demonstrate insightfulness in the here and now, they are unable to demonstrate insight into their lack of consistent or longitudinal insight or see the bigger picture. They have no bird’s eye view of their behaviour or how their behaviour has impacted upon us. This is one of the encrypted, crazy making, and puzzling conundrums of these personality disordered people that we can become forever lost in trying to the fathom. How is it that they can appear to have such sound insight in the here and now, and yet have no insight at all into their lack of consistency around their ever changing and dichotomised insights across time?    

 The past seems to somehow miraculously disappear, along with their declared feelings for us, and commitments to us, all in the blink of an eye. In the end, we come to realise that any feelings they said they had for us were nothing more than a primitive expression of emotion designed to have whatever needs they wanted us to meet in that precise here and now moment. Once they are done with us and have secured their next victim, they can delete us as though the past never happened and we never existed.  And yet, periodically, they pop up to harass and stalk some of their previous victims, not because they miss them, but because they need those dominance bonds to feel empowered and alive. 

Michael Pacitti   

Dangerous Liaisons: How To Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Dangerous Liaisons by Claudia Moscovici

I’m happy to report that my nonfiction book about psychopathy, on which I’ve been working for the past few years, Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction, is out in print. You can find it on online bookstores, including amazon.com, on the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Liasons-Recognize-Psychopathic-Seduction/dp/0761855696/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318095970&sr=1-1 
http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici?feature=mhee#p/a/u/0/B0B0QYah9ZE
I wrote Dangerous Liaisons based not only on my own terrible personal experience with a psychopath, but also on years of gathering information about psychopathy, from the leading psychology books and websites. Developed from this blog and incorporating some new chapters as well (on psychopaths in literature and art), Dangerous Liaisons includes:
1) information about psychopaths and their victims;
2) a clear and indepth explanation of their techniques of luring victims and
3) a discussion of strategies of escaping from their clutches and moving on with one’s life.
Making a clinical diagnosis of personality disorders is, of course, only up to professional therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. But identifying potentially dangerous traits isn’t just for experts. Any of us can be adversely affected when we allow disordered individuals into our lives. Therefore, knowledge is the most essential form of self-defense for all of us.
Please find below the book’s Advance Praise and Table of Contents.

Advance Praise 

As a clinical specialist in the narcissistic spectrum personality disorders, I find that nobody addresses this subject matter more trenchantly, and with more penetrating insight, than Claudia Moscovici does in her consistently illuminating work. Hers is a clinically keen, lucid mind, indeed. In Dangerous Liaisons, Moscovici presents the reader with the rare opportunity, if he or she dares, to enter and understand the mind and twisted machinations of psychopathic personalities. With dangerously deficient consciences, psychopaths are highly inclined to perpetrate sundry disturbing violations against others, remorselessly. In her examination of the dynamics of this puzzling, chilling personality, and in applying her insights to real-life, modern examples of classic psychopaths, Moscovici has written a book from which anyone (curious lay person or seasoned clinician) interested in how psychopaths insinuate themselves into others’ lives, leaving trails of often hard-to-imagine devastation, will benefit immensely. With Dangerous Liaisons, Moscovici makes an invaluable, genuinely distinguished contribution to the literature on psychopathy.

Steve Becker, MSW, LCSW LoveFraud.com feature columnist, Expert/ Con­su­ltant on Narcissism and Psychopathy 

The Institute has long said that what is shocking is not that pathology exists, but that there is so little public and survivor education about the most dangerous relationships on the planet. Claudia Moscovici’s Dangerous Liaisons is a needed perspective about the invisible tyranny and death grip of pathological love relationships and what they do to those who love psychopaths. We can’t avoid what we can’t spot, and we can’t heal from what we don’t identify. This book helps to highlight the unique strength and lure of pathology, the devastating outcomes to the survivor, and an understanding of what pathology is and does. Not merely another ‘I-Fell-In-Love-With-A-Psychopath’ memoir, Dangerous Liaisons dives into recent information by the leading experts about the most disordered and dangerous person alive.”

Sandra L. Brown, M.A. is a psychopathologist, the CEO The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education, and author of Women Who Love Psychopaths (2nd Ed.), How to Spot a Dangerous Man, and Counseling Victims of Violence.

“I don’t want my past to become anyone else’s future.” – Elie Wiesel

Contents

Introduction

Part I. What is a Psychopath?

1. Charismatic Psychopaths: Mark Hacking and Neil Entwistle

2. What is a Psychopath? Close Readings of Hervey Cleckley’s The Mask of Sanity

3. Psychopaths and Pathological Lying

4. The Psychopath’s Antisocial Behavior

5. Psychopaths as Lovers

6.  Psychopaths and Failure

Part II. The Process of Psychopathic Seduction

1. The Case of Drew Peterson

2.  Red Flags: How to Identify a Psychopathic Bond

3.  The Process of Psychopathic Seduction: Idealize, Devalue and Discard

4.  Artistic Psychopaths: The Case of Picasso

5. The Psychopathic Seducer in Literature: Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe                                                                                            

6.  The Women Who Love Psychopaths

7.  Coping Mechanisms for Staying with a Psychopath

Part III. How to Save Yourself from Psychopathic Seduction

1. Escaping the Psychopath

2. Understanding the Science Behind the Disorder

3. The Two Phases of Mourning: The Rational and the Emotional

4.  Sharing Information with Others

5. Resisting Family/External Pressure to Stay with the Psychopath

6. Know your Worth: A Healthy Self-Esteem is the Key to a Good Life

7. Conclusion: Reclaiming Your Life

Notes

Bibliography

Additional Resources: Websites

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


The List of Psychopathy Symptoms: Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare

“I knew in my heart something was wrong with him (or with her)”. This is what nearly every victim of a psychopath has felt, usually early on in the relationship. The over-the-top flattery. The quick pace of the relationship and demands for instant commitment. The lies and inconsistencies. The callousness towards others. The disregard for social norms. The sense of superiority (absolute narcissism), without having much to show for it or justify it. The aimlessness and lack of responsibility. The random oscillations in mood and behavior, to exert power over others. The demands for isolation from loved ones and friends. The sexual deviancy. The control and possessiveness. There are always very disturbing signs in the psychopathic bond, signs that we tend to ignore or rationalize until the toxic relationship, like a disease, takes over to destroy our lives. 

I’d advise anyone who feels this way to start researching on the internet the symptoms they see wrong because this information about psychopathy, and finally paying attention to the red flags and our intuition, has saved each and every one of us. The first –and last–step in recovery from the psychopathic bond is getting information; recognizing the nature of the problem. This is why knowing how to identify the symptoms of psychopathy is so important. Information can save us from denial, false hope, gaslighting and the illusion that a psychopath is likely to foster in victims. It can give us the strength to leave the toxic relationships, substantiated by facts as opposed to just feelings. Psychopaths can manipulate our feelings. But the symptoms of this personality disorder are clear as psychology–which is, after all, a social rather than “hard” science–can identify.

Today I’d like to repost a list of the symptoms of psychopathy, offered by two of the main experts on psychopathy, to whom I’ve often alluded so far: Hervey Cleckley (author of The Mask of Sanity) and Robert Hare (author of Without Conscience, Snakes in Suits and The Psychopathy Checklist). Obviously, their lists are very similar since Robert Hare built upon Hervey Cleckley’s ground-breaking research.

Hervey Cleckley’s List of Psychopathy Symptoms:

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.

2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.

3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.

4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.

5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.

6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.

7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior.

8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.

9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.

10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.

11. Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.

12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.

13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.

14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.

15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.

16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way  (unless it is for destructive purposes or a sham).

Robert Hare’s Checklist of Psychopathy Symptoms:

1. GLIB AND SUPERFICIAL CHARM — the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. He can also be a great listener, to simulate empathy while zeroing in on his targets’ dreams and vulnerabilities, to be able to manipulate them better.

2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH — a grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.

3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM — an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING — can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative and dishonest.

5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS: the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.

6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT:  a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.

7. SHALLOW AFFECT:  emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness and superficial warmth.

8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY:  a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE: an intentional, manipulative, selfis, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline and the inability to carry through one’s responsibilities.

10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS:  expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.

11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR: a variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of numerous, multiple relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity (rape) or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits and conquests.

12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use and running away from home.

13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS: an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.

14. IMPULSIVITY: the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations and momentary urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic and reckless.

15. IRRESPONSIBILITY: repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS: a failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.

17. MANY SHORT-TERM RELATIONSHIPS: a lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including in marital and familial bonds.

18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY: behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE: a revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation or failing to appear.

20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY: a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes or wrongdoings.

These lists have been compiled by angelfire, on the link below:

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


See no Evil: Why is there so little Psychopathy Awareness?

It seems like people tend to research psychopathy and other personality disorders after they’ve been burned. I have decided to repost an entry from last year that examines some of the reasons why there is so little psychopathy awareness in the general public. Ideally, this information can reach the general public, so people can spot the symptoms of dangerous personality disorders before they get harmed.

Perhaps because they’re so dangerous and destructive—the closest approximation to metaphysical evil that human beings can embody–the general public has a morbid fascination with psychopaths. We see them featured frequently on the news. The media seems to be intrigued by men like Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle, who remorselessly murder their wives so that they can fool around more easily with other women. The public eats up this sordid information. True crime books about psychopathic killers tend to be best sellers. Similarly, biographical works about Hitler and Stalin continue to sell well. Yet, paradoxically, as fascinated as the general public may be with psychopaths and their evil deeds, they’re far less interested in what makes these people tick and how to recognize and avoid them in real life. As mentioned, there are a few highly informative studies of psychopathy, some of which–Stout’s The sociopath next door, Babiak and Hare’s Snakes in Suits and Brown MA’s The women who love psychopaths–are written for a general audience. These books describe clearly and without unnecessary jargon the psychology of evil individuals. Unfortunately, however, such informative works tend to be less popular than the dramatic news coverage of psychopathic killers or the horror stories we read in true crime and thrillers. Why so?

The first answer I’ll offer is in the form of an analogy. When I (and probably most other people too) shop for a car, I don’t need someone to explain to me in great detail the mechanics behind how the car functions. I may read Consumer Reports online to see how the car’s rated in various relevant categories, such as overall quality, safety and gas mileage. Then I look at it in person, to see if I like it and if it’s the right size to suit my family’s needs. In other words, a superficial knowledge of the car suffices for me. That’s how most people feel about the psychopaths featured on the news, in history or true crime books and in the movies. They grasp the phenomenon superficially: that evil people exist and do horrible things to others. But they don’t feel like they need to understand these people on a deeper psychological level. Which brings me to my second reason. We tend to view psychopaths as a form of titillating, if morbid, entertainment. We may disapprove of their horrific crimes, but their capacity for evil fascinates us. Third, and perhaps most importantly, we hold psychopaths at arm’s length, so to speak, in our own minds. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people interviewed on the news about a violent murder say that they can’t believe it happened to their families or in their neighborhood. We believe that the great misfortune of being the victim of a psychopathic killer, rapist, conman, spouse or lover only befalls others. Somehow, we assume that our families and we are immune to such terrible things happening to us. Perhaps we believe that we’re too wise, too well educated and live in too good of a neighborhood to fall into the hands of social predators.

If you think about it rationally, however, you come to realize that this belief rests upon an illusion. It may be true that you and your loved ones are not statistically likely to fall prey to a psychopathic serial killer. Experts estimate that there are only about 50 to 100 serial killers circulating in the country at any given moment. It’s therefore rational not to live your life in the fear that you’ll be attacked by one of them. But it’s not statistically likely that you’ll avoid any intimate involvement with a psychopath for the rest of your life. As mentioned, psychopaths constitute roughly 4 percent of the population. This is significant, given the number of lives they touch and the kind of damage they can inflict. Psychopaths are exceedingly sociable, highly promiscuous, have many children, move from location to location and, generally speaking, they get around. Their malady is technically called “antisocial personality disorder” not “asocial personality disorder.” An asocial person avoids human contact. An antisocial person, on the contrary, seeks others in order to use, con, deceive, manipulate, betray and ultimately destroy them. That’s what psychopaths do. They feed, like parasites, upon our lives. They live for the thrill of damaging healthier, more productive and more caring human beings.

Statistically speaking, there are decent chances that you have a psychopath in your extended family. There are even better odds that at some point you ran across one or will encounter one in your life. Perhaps it was a boyfriend who seemed perfect at first but turned out to be an abusive sex addict. It may be a difficult boss who makes work unbearable for his employees. Or maybe it was a manipulative professor who became a minor despot in the department. Perhaps it was a teacher who got too chummy with his students and even seduced some of them. Or perhaps it was a friend who appeared to be kind and loving, only to repeatedly backstab you. Maybe it was a conartist who took your elderly mother’s life savings, or a portion of her hard-earned money, and vanished into thin air. Moreover, any psychopath can cause you physical harm and endanger your life. It doesn’t have to be one predisposed to rape and murder. Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle were not sadistic serial killers. They were your garden variety charismatic psychopaths who found marriage a bit too inconvenient and incompatible with the new, wilder paths they wanted to pursue in life. Their incapacity to regard others as fellow human beings renders all psychopaths extremely dangerous.

Since empathy, moral principles and the capacity to love don’t play a role in any psychopath’s decision-making process, the transition from sub-criminal to criminal psychopath can be fluid and unpredictable.  Just about any psychopath could easily engage in violent behavior. My main point here is the following: learning about psychopathy is not a matter of technical psychology research or of abstract theories that are largely irrelevant to the general public. This information is highly pertinent to all of us. It’s far more useful than learning all the technical details about how your car works, to return to the analogy I offered earlier. You will never need to rebuild your car from scratch. At most, you may need to learn how to change a spare tire. But it’s likely that you’ll need to defend yourself, at least emotionally and psychologically, from a psychopath who touches your life and aims to undermine your wellbeing. A basic knowledge of psychopathy can save you years of heartache at the hands of a spouse or lover whom you can never please, who never stops lying and cheating on you and who keeps you dangling on the hook. It can spare you a lifetime of struggles to save an incorrigibly bad child from his or her own misdeeds. It can help you avoid being scammed by con artists who are great at their game. It can give you the strength to move on from a job where your boss keeps everyone in terror by constantly oscillating between sugar-sweetness and abuse.

Obviously, such knowledge can’t protect you from all harm caused by evil individuals. Even if you’re informed about psychopathy, you may still have the misfortune of becoming the victim of a random crime or of being part of a society ruled by a psychopathic dictator. But at least a basic knowledge of psychopathy can help those of us who are fortunate enough to live in free societies determine that which lies largely within our control: whom we choose to associate with and whom we choose to avoid or leave. It can help us recognize the symptoms of this dangerous personality disorder so that we don’t invite a bad person into our lives with open arms. It can give us the strength to end a toxic relationship with an emotional predator for good, once his disorder becomes obvious to us. In other words, knowledge about psychopathy constitutes the best defense that the general public, not just those who have been personally harmed, can have against evil human beings: to avoid them whenever possible and to escape them whenever we become ensnared into their webs. Needless to say, even those of us who become well informed about psychopathy won’t be qualified to clinically diagnose them, unless we acquire professional training in this domain.  But we can become capable of recognizing them well enough in real life to want to get away from them. For all practical purposes, that’s what matters most.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction