The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

So far I’ve asked you to imagine a person who lacks empathy for others and the capacity to feel any emotion deeply. I’ve asked you to imagine a person who is plagued by restlessness and boredom and finds sole satisfaction in duping, manipulating and controlling others. A person who may simulate respect or politeness, but who fundamentally regards others with contempt, as objects to be used for his temporary diversion or satisfaction. A person who suffers from an incurable and absolute egocentrism.

But even this doesn’t even begin to give you a full picture of the extent of a psychopath’s emotional poverty. It may describe what a psychopath can’t feel, but to understand how and why the psychopath is driven to harm others, you need to also get a sense of what a psychopath does feel. Psychopaths can’t tolerate loneliness. Just as all human beings can’t survive physically without food and water, psychopaths can’t survive emotionally without victims.

Of course, psychopaths regard love with contempt. They view loving and loyal couples as an ugly, undifferentiated blob. Because they can’t experience or even understand love and loyalty, they see moral individuals as weak. They have nothing but disdain for the emotions that normal human beings feel. But at the same time, psychopaths can’t live without feeding upon the real and deeper emotions of people who care about them, of individuals who can love: in other words of the people they use, abuse, toy with, lie to and hurt.

Psychopaths are often sexual predators. But even more often, and certainly more fundamentally, they’re emotional predators. What they want from their victims is far more than possessing their bodies or sex. They need to feed their insatiable appetite for harm, as well as sustain their sense of superiority,  by possessing and destroying others inside and out, body and soul. A psychopath’s emotional framework is like a vacuum that needs to suck out the emotional energy from healthy individuals in order to survive. This is why I have called psychopaths real-life vampires, that we need to understand and worry about far more than their fictional counterparts.

A psychopath lacks much more than empathy for others in his emotional repertoire. He also lacks the capacity to experience any kind of emotion that requires deeper insight and psychological awareness. He experiences only proto-emotions, which are as short-lived as they’re intense. That doesn’t make them any less dangerous, however.  The evidence points to the fact that Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle preplanned their murders weeks in advance. But Mark Hacking seems to have acted more or less on impulse, after having fought with his wife. If we believe his confession to his brothers, Mark was in the process of packing up his things, ran across a revolver and shot Lori while she was asleep.

When angry or frustrated, a psychopath is capable of anything, even if his anger will dissipate a few minutes later. As Hervey Cleckley observes, “In addition to his incapacity for object love, the psychopath always shows general poverty of affect. Although it is true that be sometimes becomes excited and shouts as if in rage or seems to exult in enthusiasm and again weeps in what appear to be bitter tears or speaks eloquent and mournful words about his misfortunes or his follies, the conviction dawns on those who observe him carefully that here we deal with a readiness of expression rather than a strength of feeling.” (The Mask of Sanity, 349)

The proto-emotions experienced by a psychopath tie in, once again, to the satisfaction or frustration of his immediate desires: “Vexation, spite, quick and labile flashes of quasi-affection, peevish resentment, shallow moods of self-pity, puerile attitudes of vanity, and absurd and showy poses of indignation are all within his emotional scale and are freely sounded as the circumstances of life play upon him. But mature, wholehearted anger, true or consistent indignation, honest, solid grief, sustaining pride, deep joy, and genuine despair are reactions not likely to be found within this scale.” (The Mask of Sanity, 349)

For this reason, psychopaths don’t feel distress even when they land in jail. Even there they take pleasure in manipulating their fellow inmates and the prison staff. Even from there they write letters to people outside to use them for money, amusement and possibly even sex. Nothing ruffles a psychopath’s feathers for long. The same emotional shallowness that leads him to be unresponsive to the needs of others and to experience no remorse when he hurts them also enables him to feel little or no distress when he, himself gets hurt. So far, I’ve covered the emotions psychopaths can’t feel. I’ve also had the opportunity to witness up-close and personal the emotions a psychopath can feel, however. That’s what I’ll describe next.

The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

1) Glee. A psychopath feels elation or glee whenever he gets his way or pulls a fast one on somebody. I can still recall O.J. Simpson’s reaction to getting away with murder (at least in my own opinion and that of a lot of other people who watched the trial, if not in the eyes of the jury): his celebratory glee at pulling a fast one on the American public, on the system of justice and especially on the victims and their families.

2) Anger. Robert Hare notes in Without Conscience that since psychopaths have low impulse control, they’re much more easily angered than normal people. A psychopath’s displays of anger tend to be cold, sudden, short-lived and arbitrary. Generally you can’t predict what exactly will trigger his anger since this emotion, like his charm, is used to control those around him. It’s not necessarily motivated by something you’ve done or by his circumstances. A psychopath may blow up over something minor, but remain completely cool and collected about a more serious matter. Displays of anger represent yet another way for a psychopath to demonstrate that he’s in charge. When psychopaths scream, insult, hit, or even wound and kill other individuals, they’re aware of their behavior even if they act opportunistically, in the heat of the moment. They know that they’re harming others and, what’s more, they enjoy it.

3) Frustration. This emotion is tied to their displays of anger but isn’t necessarily channeled against a particular person, but against an obstacle or situation. A psychopath may feel frustrated, for example, when his girlfriend doesn’t want to leave her current partner for him. Yet he may be too infatuated with her at the moment to channel his negative emotions against her. He may also believe that his anger would alienate her before he’s gotten a chance to hook her emotionally. In such circumstances, he may become frustrated with the situation itself: with the obstacles that her partner or her family or society in general pose between them. Psychopaths generally experience frustration when they face impersonal barriers between themselves and their current goals or targets. But that’s also what often engages them even more obstinately in a given pursuit. After all, for them, overcoming minor challenges in life is part of the fun.

4) Consternation. As we’ve seen so far, psychopaths don’t create love bonds with others. They establish dominance bonds instead. When those controlled by a psychopath disapprove of his actions or sever the relationship, sometimes he’ll experience anger. But his immediate reaction is more likely to be surprise or consternation. Psychopaths can’t believe that their bad actions, which they always consider justifiable and appropriate, could ever cause another human being who was previously under their spell to disapprove of their behavior and reject them. Even if they cheat, lie, use, manipulate or isolate others, they don’t feel like they deserve any repercussions as a result of that behavior. In addition, psychopaths rationalize their bad actions as being in the best interest of their victims.

For instance, if a psychopath isolates his partner from her family and persuades her to quit her job and then, once she’s all alone with him, abandons her to pursue other women, he feels fully justified in his conduct. In his mind, she deserved to be left since she didn’t satisfy all of his needs or was somehow inadequate as a mate. In fact, given his sense of entitlement, the psychopath might even feel like he did her a favor to remove her from her family and friends and to leave her alone in the middle of nowhere, like a wreck displaced by a tornado. Thanks to him, she can start her life anew and become more independent.

To put it bluntly, a psychopath will kick you in the teeth and expect you to say “Thank you.” Being shameless and self-absorbed, he assumes that all those close to him will buy his false image of goodness and excuse his despicable actions just as he does. In fact, he expects that even the women he’s used and discarded continue to idealize him as a perfect partner and eagerly await his return. That way he can continue to use them for sex, money, control, his image or any other services if, when and for however long he chooses to return into their lives.

When those women don’t feel particularly grateful—when, in fact, they feel only contempt for him–the psychopath will be initially stunned that they have such a low opinion of him. He will also feel betrayed by these women, or by family members and friends who disapprove of his reprehensible behavior. Although he, himself, feels no love and loyalty to anyone, a psychopath expects unconditional love and loyalty from all those over whom he’s established a dominance bond.

This mindset also explains psychopaths’ behavior in court. Both Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle seemed outraged that the jury found them guilty of murder. Psychopaths believe that those whom they have hurt, and society in general, should not hold them accountable for their misdeeds. After all, in their own minds, they’re superior to other human beings and therefore above the law. How dare anybody hold them accountable and punish them for their crimes!

5) Boredom. This is probably the only feeling that gives psychopaths a nagging sense of discomfort. They try to alleviate it, as we’ve seen, by pursuing cheap thrills, harming others and engaging in transgressive behavior. Nothing, however, can relieve for long the psychopath’s fundamental ennui. He gets quickly used to, and thus also bored with, each new person and activity.

6) Histrionic flashes. I’m not sure if this is an emotion, but I know for sure that the psychopath’s dramatic displays of love, remorse and empathy lack any meaning and depth. If you watch the murder trials on the news or on Court TV, you’ll notice that some psychopaths convicted of murder often put on shows of grief, sadness or remorse in front of the jury. The next moment, however, they’re joking around and laughing with their attorneys or instructing them in a calm and deliberate manner about what to do and say on their behalf. The displays of emotion psychopaths commonly engage in are, of course, fake. They’re tools of manipulation–to provoke sympathy or gain trust–as well as yet another way of “winning” by fooling those around them.

I’ve already mentioned that Neil Entwistle engaged in such histrionic behavior. If you’ve followed crime features on the news, you may have noticed that Casey Anthony, the young woman accused of killing her toddler, behaves similarly. She was observed going out to dance and party at clubs with friends the day after her daughter, Caylee, disappeared. Casey’s lack of concern for her missing child doesn’t necessarily prove that she murdered her. But it reveals highly suspicious and callous behavior. It also casts doubt upon the brief and dramatic displays of grief or concern that she sometimes puts on in front of the media and for her parents.

7) Infatuation. When they identify someone as a good potential target, psychopaths can become obsessed with that particular person. In Without Conscience, Hare compares the psychopath’s focused attention upon his chosen target to a powerful beam of light that illuminates only one spot at a time. He also likens it to a predator stalking its prey. Because psychopaths tend to ignore other responsibilities (such as their jobs and their families) and have no conscience whatsoever, they can focus on pursuing a given target more intensely than multi-dimensional, loving men could. This is especially the case if their target presents an exciting challenge, such as if she’s rich or famous, or if she’s married to another man, which triggers their competitive drive. This single-minded infatuation, however, like all of their proto-emotions, is superficial and short-lived. Because for psychopaths such obsessions don’t lead to any genuine friendship, caring or love, they dissipate as soon as they get whatever they wanted from that person, which may be only the conquest itself.

8) Self-love (sort of). Since psychopaths only care about themselves, one would think that self-love would be the one emotion they could experience more deeply. In a sense that’s true, since their whole lives revolve around the single-minded pursuit of selfish goals. But this is also what makes psychopaths’ self-love as shallow as the rest of their emotions. Just as they’re incapable of considering anyone else’s long-term interest, they’re incapable of considering their own. By pursuing fleeting pleasures and momentary whims, psychopaths sabotage their own lives as well. Rarely do they end up happy or successful. They spend their whole lives hurting and betraying those who loved and trusted them, using and discarding their partners, disappointing the expectations of their families, friends, bosses and colleagues and moving from one meaningless diversion to another. At the end of the road, most of them end up empty-handed and alone.

9) CONTEMPT. I’ve capitalized this word because this is the emotion that dominates a psychopath’s whole identity and way of looking at other human beings. No matter how charming, other-regarding and friendly they may appear to be on the outside, all psychopaths are misanthropes on the inside. A psychopath’s core emotion is contempt for the individuals he fools, uses and abuses and for humanity in general. You can identify the psychopath’s underlying contempt much more easily once he no longer needs you or once his mask of sanity shatters. As we’ve seen, psychopaths hold themselves in high regard and others in low regard. To describe the hierarchies they construct, I’ll use an analogy from my literary studies. I was trained in Comparative Literature during they heyday of Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction as it was being applied to pretty much everything: cultural studies, gender hierarchies, race relations, post-colonialism and the kitchen sink.

Although looking at life in general in terms of “indeterminate” binary hierarchies hasn’t proved particularly useful, this polarized worldview describes rather well the mindset of psychopaths. For such disordered, narcissistic and unprincipled individuals, the world is divided into superiors (themselves) and inferiors (all others); predators (themselves) and prey (their targets); dupers (themselves) and duped (the suckers). Of course, only giving psychopaths a lobotomy would turn these binary hierarchies upside down in their minds. This is where the applicability of Derrida’s deconstructive model stops. Although psychopaths consider themselves superior to others, they distinguish among levels of inferiority in the people they use, manipulate and dupe.

The biggest dupes in their eyes are those individuals who believe whole-heartedly that the psychopaths are the kind, honest, other-regarding individuals they appear to be. As the saying goes, if you buy that, I have some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you. Such individuals don’t present much of a challenge for psychopaths. They’re usually quickly used up and discarded by them. The second tier of dupes consists of individuals who are lucid only when it comes to the psychopath’s mistreatment of others, not themselves.  Wives and girlfriends who are clever enough to see how the psychopath cheats on, lies to, uses and manipulates other people in his life, but vain or blind enough to believe that they’re the only exception to this rule form the bulk of this group.

This brings to mind an episode of a popular court show I watched recently. A woman testified on behalf of the integrity and honesty of her boyfriend. As it turns out, he had cheated on his wife with her (and other women as well). But his girlfriend nonetheless staunchly defended his character. She maintained that even though she knew that her lover was a cheater and a liar, because she herself was such a great catch and because they had such a special and unique relationship, he was completely faithful and honest to her. The judge laughed out loud and added, “…that you know of!”

Women who are cynical enough to see the psychopath’s mistreatment of others yet gullible enough not to see that’s exactly what he’s doing to them constitute his preferred targets. Such women are not so naive as to present no challenge whatsoever for the psychopath. But they’re definitely blind enough to fall for his manipulation and lies. A psychopath will wrap several such women around his little finger. Those who finally see the psychopath’s mistreatment as a sign of his malicious and corrupt nature occupy the third rung of the hierarchy. They’re usually women who have been burned so badly by the psychopath that they don’t wish to put their hands into the fire again.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


Advertisements

The Lesson of Anna Karenina: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay

One of my favorite novels, and the inspiration in both theme and plot for my second novel The Seducer, is Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina. The nineteenth-century novel explores not only the pitfalls of falling prey to a seducer, but also shows what happens when one sees vengeance as the answer to unhappiness and injustice. The epigraph of Anna Karenina reads: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay (from Romans 12:19).

Ultimately, the heroine, Anna sacrifices her family, her son, her reputation to pursue the fantasy of happiness with her lover, Vronsky. She ends up unhappy, rejected by her family and social circle and alone with a man who quickly loses interest in her. Unlike the lead character, Michael, in my novel The Seducer, however, Vronsky is not a psychopathic predator. He’s more of a dandy; today we’d say a player. He doesn’t cause deliberate damage and has no malice towards Anna, as a psychopath would. However, like his mistress Anna, Vronsky can’t think a step ahead of his momentary passions and pleasures. In committing suicide, Anna believes she can make Vronsky pay for the unhappiness he has caused her. Not being psychopathic, Vronsky does suffer, but not as much as Anna’s family: especially the young son she has abandoned. Vengeance is not the answer for Anna Karenina, and it’s even less so the answer for victims of psychopaths.

As we’ve seen, psychopaths cause deliberate harm. They’re malicious social predators who target their victims in order to use, humiliate and destroy them. While Vronsky greets Anna’s death with sadness and even anger, a psychopathic seducer would experience glee and triumph at such news. He’d feel like he has won the match in completely obliterating his victim. Just as  suicide is not an answer, no act of vengeance is either. Psychopaths thrive in skirmishes, battles and all-out wars with their former victims. For instance, they enjoy drawn-out custody battles  and use their children as weapons against their ex-spouses or as leverage to get financial support. We have heard several heart-wrenching testimonials about such situations on this blog. Some victims lose, unjustly, all custody and visitation rights to see the children they love.

In these cases, it’s difficult for victims not to feel resentful and filled with thoughts of vengeance. It’s difficult to resist the impulse to seek justice and get involved in lengthy court battles with a disordered ex. Similarly, victims who have been conned out of a significant amount of money also rightfully try to retrieve their losses from the psychopath. Sometimes the efforts are successful; at other times the psychopath has money, luck or the justice system tipped in his or her favor.

One of the most painful lessons we learn in life as we mature is that life is not always fair. Victims can and should try to pursue justice and retribution against the illegal or wrong actions of the psychopath. However, when that process has run its course and failed, sometimes victims have to learn to cut their losses and abandon the fight before all of their financial resources and emotional energy are depleted in futile battles against the psychopathic ex. Don’t bang your head against a wall. Whenever possible, move forward and open the next door in life.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


The Wizard of Oz as Allegory of Psychopathic Seduction by Linda

The Wizard of Oz can be seen as an allegory of psychopathic seduction. The Scarecrow is already intelligent; he is the one among the group who figures out how to get out of bad situations. He’s awarded a brain by the Wizard, but that’s only an external symbol for what he already possesses. The idea here is that one has happiness and only needs to realize it, revealed through experience and the reservoir of self-sufficiency.

Is it childish to compare my personal encounter with a psychopath to a fairytale? Perhaps on some level it is, but in reality that’s what the psychopathic bond  is: a fairytale, an illusion. I find it beneficial for the most part to remember the psychopath for what he was: a fictional character who took me on a mysterious journey to nowhere.  In retrospect, it’s an even a bigger mystery to me how I could have possibly believed that a person who lacked all the qualities that make us human–a heart, empathy, the capacity to love, a conscience or moral compass–could help me find what I was missing in my life.

How can anyone who is so empty and deficient offer anything positive to anyone else? As the psychopathic fiction unfolds and the fairytale turns into a nightmare, we all realize that they can’t. Perhaps it took seeing the psychopath’s lack of humanity to make me more aware of my own humanity and of the qualities that I now value most in others.

In their quest to find “The Great Oz,” the characters of this allegory did not understand that they had found all the answers in their struggles and journey. They needed something “symbolic”; something that would give them “closure”. I would love to have something symbolic to represent what I have discovered on this dark journey: a medal, a diploma, or a degree. But what I took away from this negative experience was far more valuable than any symbol: a deeper understanding of who I am that no outside force can ever take away from me.

Evil was always the external force I had to battle on my journey with the psychopath. In the end, the best of me prevailed over the psychopath’s toxic influence. Now, there’s no turning back. Having contact with this evil force would be like going back into those woods: the talking evil trees who didn’t want to share their apples, the wicked witch that knew your weaknesses; if you were made of straw you would be burned to death. Why would I ever go back to a place of darkness and evil? Unlike Dorothy, I never had the ruby slippers to protect me. However, I had something greater on my side that took me home: I had courage, brains and the capacity to love. These human qualities were within me all along. Without them I could have never escaped the psychopath and made it on my own.

This is the way I want to remember the psychopath: through the allegorical journey of The Wizard of Oz.  My relationship with him was nothing more than a fantasy or fairytale. In turn, he was nothing more than a character that represented evil forces to test my own character and strength.  He was never “real” with me and he will never be “real” to anybody else. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can always choose to stay in the dark woods or step out into the light and see the psychopath for what he truly is.

A Note From the Heart by Kelli Hernandez

Sometimes those who have had the great misfortune of having had a relationship with a psychopath feel permanently tainted. They’re afraid they will never be healthy enough; all they can be is  a “second rate” partner. This attitude makes me angry and I will try to persuade you that it’s isn’t right.  All of us who had intimate relationships with a psychopath feel deeply wounded. None of us are or could find “the perfect partner.” But that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t become and find “a suitable partner”. The “perfect partner” doesn’t exist. You are not perfect; I am not perfect. While personality disorders are clearly defined–with a specific list of highly destructive symptoms and behaviors–“normalcy” or “perfection” are constructs, ideals. But just because none of us are perfectly “normal” or “perfect,” it doesn’t mean that we’d make second-rate partners. What we have, which personality disordered individuals don’t have, is the capacity to love. 

If there is one thing I’ve learned from having pathologicals my whole life is this: Without love, there is nothing. Without love, we wouldn’t survive as a species. Without love, we couldn’t have partners. Without love we could not have children. Without love, we couldn’t help the homeless or cats or dogs. Without love we couldn’t help the homeless, or a helpless human being dying from a terminal illness. All of those things derive from love.

Without love, what you have left is pathology, evil and suffering. You have the destruction that psychopaths bring into the world. The children in the orphanages in Romania…..they didn’t have LOVE…..they were sick, many died, they lived in their own urine and feces and suffered disease……but love flew in and adopted some of them. Love is simple. Love encompasses so many beautiful things. When we can love ourselves, we can love others, no matter what state they are in! Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

I was never given love, but I have the capacity to love and I want to be loved. Because without it, we would die and others would and do suffer. Without love we have psychopathy. With love, we can recover from the psychopathic bond. I don’t expect anyone to be ideal; I can’t offer perfection to anyone. I want someone to accept me for me and am ready to accept those I care about for who they are.  That is the best we can expect and offer in life.

Kelli Hernandez

How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To

Almost every victim of a psychopathic predator deals with the burden of anger and resentment. We feel betrayed by the lies, by the cheating, by the constant manipulation, by the entire mask of sanity. Everything about the relationship that we considered real and based on true love turned out to be a sham. The person we thought we knew and loved was not the person we thought we knew and loved. We ended up loving an illusion, a mask and ultimately only a fantasy of love, not a real person, not a real relationship. So feelings of anger and betrayal are natural in the aftermath of a toxic relationship with a psychopath. Natural, but burdensome. It’s difficult to carry around so much anger. We’re often advised to forgive, if not actually forget the experience. Forgiveness is presented as a religious and ethical ideal, akin in some ways to the equally ideal notion of unconditional love. Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To (HarperCollins, 2005), argues that forgiveness, like the notion of love, can’t be automatic. It is something earned, based on a reciprocity between a truly repentant person and the person who forgives. Since psychopaths cause intentional harm and lack conscience–and therefore also lack any meaningful sense of remorse–how applicable can the notion of forgiveness then be to a relationship with them, to what they did wrong? In the article below, How Can I Forgive You? as well as in her book and in her seminar (www.janisaspring.com), Dr. Abrahms Spring offers a more meaningful understanding of forgiveness: one that is earned. Please welcome her guest post below. 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Almost everything that has been written about forgiveness preaches to hurt parties as to why they should forgive: Forgiveness is good for us; and good people forgive, is the common refrain. But in my clinical practice of over three decades (mostly working with couples recovering from infidelity), I’ve found that when someone acts in a hurtful way and isn’t able or willing to make meaningful repairs, hurt parties choke on the mandate for them to forgive. This makes sense to me. Why are we preaching to the hurt party? Why not turn to offenders and ask them to earn forgiveness?

When hurt parties are pushed to forgive an unrepentant offender, I find they often react in one of three ways:

1)    They refuse to forgive and insist, “Forgiveness may be divine, but it’s not for me.” They’re then left not forgiving – hating and hurting and living in a grudge state – and we know this isn’t healthy.

2)    They’re taught to forgive, they try to forgive, but inside, they often feel cheated and disingenuous.

3)    They say they forgive, but often even those people who describe themselves as the forgiving type, actually forgive less in reality then they’d like to admit.

To me, there’s a missing option in the work of forgiveness, or in the work of healing from interpersonal wounds. Something the lies between the fluffy, inspirational concept of “pure” forgiveness (asking nothing in return), and the hard, cold-hearted response of not forgiving.

I’ve developed a radical alternative which I call “Acceptance.” Acceptance is not forgiveness. Acceptance is a healing alternative which hurt parties accomplish for themselves, by themselves. It asks nothing of the offender which is good because in this condition, offenders have nothing to offer. I say, when an offender is not sorry, when they are unable or unwilling to make meaningful repairs, it is not the job of the hurt party to forgive them. (I call this Cheap Forgiveness). But it is the job of the hurt party to heal themselves. This is the work of Acceptance and in my book, How Can I Forgive You?, I spell out 10 steps hurt parties can take to heal themselves. (One step involves choosing a level of relationship with the offender that serves their best interest. This can range from cutting off to full engagement. A second step would be de-shaming the injury).

What I call Genuine Forgiveness is reserved for those offenders who have the courage and character to make meaningful amends. Again, in my book, I spell out exactly what offenders must do to earn forgiveness, and what hurt parties must do to foster this process. Acceptance is intrapersonal; Genuine Forgiveness is interpersonal.

The work of Genuine Forgiveness operates like that of love. We can love someone alone. (We’ve all been in those relationships). But doesn’t it feel more genuine, more satisfying, more embracing, when we love someone who deserves our love, who treats us with tender regard?

The Two Phases of Mourning: The Rational and the Emotional

Almost everyone who reads about psychopathy is able to absorb this information on a rational level. We’re able to recognize the symptoms and red flags of this personality disorder, which helps us recognize other people’s psychopathic partners and offer support. But it’s much tougher to absorb this information on an emotional level and apply it to the psychopath in our lives: meaning the person we’re emotionally invested in. This is why weeks, months and even years after ending a relationship with a psychopath, victims still experience moments of doubt, or cognitive dissonance. This may take the form of self-blame, of jealousy towards the psychopath’s other victims or of remembering fondly the psychopath’s luring phase, when he made the greatest effort to hide his deviant acts and to lie to us. Those who stay in close contact with a psychopath risk never getting over the psychopathic bond.

Although nobody gets over a psychopath while still with him, it seems that once they look up the symptoms of his disorder, victims realize, at least intellectually, that they’re dealing with a sick man. The first impulse of a woman living with such a person, once she discovers that the totality of his symptoms comprise a dangerous personality disorder, is to attempt to cure him through her love or with the help of professional counseling.

Her need to change him means that she only has an intellectual understanding of his personality disorder. But she hasn’t yet absorbed the information on an emotional level as well. By “intellectual,” I mean that having done some research, the rational side of her brain has put together the symptoms of her partner’s behavior and seen them as signs of psychopathy. She may be horrified by this discovery. Perhaps a part of her wanted to believe that he was just a regular man, who made the mistake of cheating on her and is sorry about it, who lies sometimes, or who’s impulsive and somewhat childish, but that’s a huge part of his charm, after all. Once you do research on psychopathy you finally realize, on a rational level, the magnitude of his disorder. You also see how much more severe and damaging to others it is compared to “ordinary” cheating, lying or immaturity. You realize, rationally, that you’re not dealing with someone who’s extraordinary, as the psychopath encouraged you to believe. You’re dealing with someone who’s subordinary: with a person who lacks the main qualities that make us human.

When you finally reach this disheartening conclusion, instead of accepting or admiring the psychopath’s behavior as before, you disapprove of it. You also no longer see the problems in the relationship as he presented them to you, as largely your fault. You realize, rationally, that his sex addiction has nothing to do with the fact that you’re not sufficiently attractive or sensual. It has everything to do with his malady. You also see that his constant deception is neither harmless nor normal, as he would like you to believe. It’s pathological and self-serving. Once you realize that the problems in your relationship have much more to do with his personality disorder than with your own deficiencies, you begin to mourn the death of the idealized image of him and of the special relationship you thought you had with him. You also start to ruminate. You obsessively turn over and over in your mind all the lies and inconsistencies he’s told you. But this is not enough to get over the psychopath. You need to absorb this information on an emotional level as well in order to move on.

In her article “Do Psychopaths/Sociopaths Make Choices?” published on May 23, 2008 on lovefraud.com, Liane Leedom draws a distinction between intellectual disagreement with the psychopath’s actions, which is largely a rational process, and emotional disgust with his actions and with him. When you mourn the end of the idealized image of the psychopath only rationally, by disapproving of his behavior, you’re not likely to feel sufficiently repulsed by his identity to want to escape the relationship. You’re more likely to focus instead on improving him, the relationship with him and maybe even your own self (since for as long as you stay with a psychopath, he’ll continue to shift the blame unto to you). You therefore risk remaining under his spell and, therefore, under his thumb. Only once you pass to the second stage of mourning–that of experiencing visceral disgust–do you begin to get over the psychopath, escape his hold on you and move on with your life. Leedom states that you reach this stage once you realize that the sum of his actions is who he is. He is a pathological liar. He is malicious. He lacks empathy. He is completely narcissistic. His harmful actions aren’t normal human mistakes. They reflect the bad person that he is and that he’ll always be, no matter what false promises he makes and how much you may want to believe him.

Since the psychopath knows that, unlike him, you’re a loving person capable of empathy and forgiveness, he may look you in the eyes like a penitent puppy and tell you that the love you feel for him is unconditional. Even though he’s shown time after time that his own professed love for you is nonexistent. What he’s telling you about your own love is, once again, false. It’s a ploy intended to trap you in the toxic relationship with him.

When you go through the process of emotional mourning, you stop liking, respecting and loving the psychopath. After awhile, you no longer even experience anger towards him. Such an emotion still implies some traces of passion, a lingering attraction. He’s sunk so low in your eyes that it’s not even worth hating him. You finally see him as the trivial human being that he is. You’re repulsed by his actions, by all of his malicious lies, by his manipulation of others, by his fake niceness and conditional gifts, by his predatory and perverse sexuality, by everything he does and by everything he is. You reject him deep within your heart, as utterly and completely as one human being can reject another. At that point–and only at that point—are you finally ready to escape the psychopath and the harmful relationship with him that has been your prison.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


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


  • Calendar

    • October 2017
      M T W T F S S
      « Nov    
       1
      2345678
      9101112131415
      16171819202122
      23242526272829
      3031  
  • Search