The Psychopath’s Bait and Switch

Psychopaths notoriously promise you the moon and deliver… nothing. They target victims who are vulnerable: feeling vulnerable as well as being vulnerable to flattery. They love bomb their new targets: showering them with attention, loving words, promises and gifts. They’re ready to commit instantly, saying that they finally found the soul mates they had been looking for all their lives. Although such behavior may seem positive, as I explained in my earlier article about the red flags of a psychopathic bond, it is actually, all too often, a predator’s lure.

This is how psychopaths attract new victims and make them feel wanted, loved and safe. If this behavior were genuine and consistent, psychopaths would be ideal partners. Unfortunately, it’s not. The flattery, attention, affection, sex and sensuality, gifts, promises of commitment all constitute the psychopath’s bait. Wait a few months, and you’ll begin to notice the switch.

As Sandra Brown M.A. notes in Women Who Love Psychopaths, the switch happens precisely when the victim begins to trust the psychopath and has emotionally bonded with him. Once the psychopath intuitively senses that you have fallen in love with him, believe his lies and false promises, need him and have begun to organize your daily life around the relationship with him, he begins to switch his behavior and enters the manipulation phase of the relationship. By then the idealization phase is over–forever–and you’ll only see again brief glimpses of it, especially when he senses that you are withdrawing from him.

He will start to demand more and more from you and reward you less and less with the phony romantic behavior you enjoyed in the beginning of the relationship. He will ask for more sacrifices of your emotional energy and time (isolating you from loved ones and discouraging your professional endeavors), more commitment, more sexual transgressions, or more money: all depending on what he wanted from the relationship. But the bottom line is that psychopaths enter relationships to use others and to gain control.

So even if what he wanted initially was money, or sex–or whatever else–ultimately he wants nothing less than to control and destroy you. That is, psychopaths use the bait and switch to get everything from you and leave you a shell of the person you once were. If you leave when you begin to notice red flags and inconsistent behavior, you have a chance to escape from the psychopathic bond more or less intact. If you don’t, you risk losing everything you hold dear and, more importantly, who you are.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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

Shattering the Psychopathic Disguise

If you watch shows like Forensic Files, or any true crime shows on Investigation Discovery, you will notice a pattern of criminal behavior: the psychopath usually kills his partner in a calculated, cold and cruel manner if she breaks up with him after discovering a mountain of lies. Psychopaths are great at devaluing and rejecting others, but can’t tolerate devaluation and rejection. They cultivate not only a “mask of sanity” as Hervey Cleckley aptly puts it, but also more than that: an image of perfection. They deceive partly for the power and sport of it partly to maintain a facade: as cultivated, desirable, sweet, moral, or whatever other qualities they want to project. This facade functions as their disguise, enabling them to become wolves in sheep’s clothing.

It also has the advantage of bolstering their narcissistic egos as perfect and superior to others. When a woman leaves her psychopathic partner after discovering his wrong-doings and his lies, she not only rejects him, but also shatters the disguise that enables him to maintain a sense of superiority to others and a mask of decency. Almost every time a psychopath murders his ex, friends and neighbors state: “They seemed like the perfect couple”.

If you read interviews about Scott Peterson or Neil Entwistle–men who callously murdered their wives–everyone expressed surprise and described their marriages as perfect. But their behavior during and after the crimes was, of course, shocking and incongruous with that perfect picture. Fortunately, few psychopaths murder. But even those who don’t undergo a process of devaluation–if not degradation–of their partners once they begin to see them as the frauds they are. For a psychopath, his false image of perfection is both fantasy and disguise. Fantasy because psychopaths believe the illusion of their ideal nature and superiority to others. Disguise because this false image enables them to dupe, use and abuse others.

To become critical of a psychopath means to chip away at his mask, which is his only true identity. He will defend it with all his might in three ways: 1) by undermining and, in rare cases, even eliminating the former target; 2) by replacing that target with other individuals who temporarily idealize him, and 3) by assuming a new persona, a new disguise. Nothing a psychopath does, no role, new partner or transformation, however, can change the inner hollowness that defines him and all of his human bonds.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

If you have children with a psychopath

You may experience the mixed blessing of having children with the psychopath. Bringing a child into this world can be one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences in human life.  But having a child or children with a psychopath carries with it great risk. Since antisocial traits are partly genetic, your child or children can inherit those negative characteristics. Moreover, as we’ve seen, a psychopath is incapable of loving anyone. He regards all people, including his children, as tools to get what he wants and as his personal possessions. Like you, they represent objects he will manipulate and control. Like you, they confirm his virility and personal power.  As he got tired of you and of every other woman he played with, he will quickly tire of your child, his newest toy.

No change in circumstances can ever alter a psychopath’s underlying bad character for long. He is what he is and that’s what he’ll remain. Think back to the many second chances  you’ve given him. Think back to all the times he shattered your hopes and abused your trust.  You hoped that he’d change his cheating ways after you got engaged, but he didn’t. You then believed that he’d take your commitment more seriously once you married, but he didn’t. He just hid his perversions better and mastered the game of deceit. You hoped that a change of job or location would improve him, but it didn’t. Instead, your repeated concessions to his will and willingness to swallow increasing doses of mistreatment made him more confident that you’d take whatever abuse he dished out. He turned your life into a game that has no rational or moral rules.

You played along with his arbitrary power games. You played along because you love him and because you want to believe that he loves you as well: in his way, on some level, you feel compelled to qualify. Sure, he left you for other women and he will leave you again. But you interpret the fact that he returns to you time after time as evidence of his love. In other words, you engage in wishful thinking and reject the obvious reality. He doesn’t leave you because he loves anyone else more than you. Conversely, he doesn’t return to you because he realizes how much he loves you, after all. He comes and goes as he pleases to whoever lets him because he’s bored.

Power over others fills his empty days. He’s like one of those magicians that spin plates on poles. He wants to see how many women he can spin around at once and for how long he can cultivate for each one the illusion of perpetual motion, or of real love. Each time a plate falls to the ground and shatters, he enjoys it. Each life he destroys represents a personal triumph for him. With you and every other woman in his life he plays this sordid game. There’s nothing inside of him that can love you or anybody else.

The same logic applies to having a child or children with him. If he cheated on you and wasn’t there to support you meaningfully during the emotional and physical challenges of pregnancy, he’ll remain equally unreliable and unsupportive as you raise your child. If he treated you with disrespect and even contempt before you had a child together, that’s how he’ll continue to treat you afterwards. If he shirked his professional and personal duties before, he won’t be able to handle the most important responsibility of all, which is raising a child. And if he abused you, he will abuse your child, at the very least emotionally. The Loser will remain a loser no matter whom he attaches to because his evil actions reflect his true identity. He deliberately hurts others not because they’re not right for him, as he claims to shift the blame, but because he’s not right for anybody else.

Consequently, if you have a child or children with a psychopath, it’s doubly important for you to protect not just yourself from his noxious influence, but also your children. Dr. Liane Leedom wrote a very informative book on this subject, called Just Like His Father. Her message is not purely cautionary, but also one of hope. She emphasizes that there’s no chance whatsoever of having a mutually loving and respectful relationship with a psychopath. But there’s a lot of hope for raising your child to be a healthy and empathetic individual who is not just like his father.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Why you should proceed with caution in new relationships

We tend to be enamored with instant bonding, both in friendships and romantic relationships. We tend to believe that becoming “close” to someone quickly is a good sign: of deep compatibilities; love at first sight; or being kindred spirits. Whirlwind romances are exciting and sweep us off our feet. And, in the internet revolution that created an explosion of online dating, clicking with new partners is only a few taps of the keyboard away.

Unfortunately, instant compatibilities rarely turn out to be as promising as they initially seem. More frequently, they fade away and sometimes they are signs of danger. There are two main reasons why this happens: one from your perspective, the second from the point of view of the new person you encounter.

From your perspective, this instant bonding is a sign of your intuition. You sense a vague but compelling emotional intimacy with your new friend or romantic partner. That intuitive sense, you wish to believe, is an emotional insight that defies reason (after all, you don’t know the new person well) and is deeper than rational knowledge. Right? Well, no. This intuition is usually wrong because its insights are not usually based on some sixth sense deeper than reason, but on your own fantasy or wishful thinking.

When you meet a new person, particularly a new romantic partner, both of you are on your best behavior. You undergo a mutual idealization phase during which each of you projects upon the other one’s desires for love and fulfillment; what one wishes to see in each other. The same logic can apply to new friendships as well, where you look for someone who understands you, cares about you and knows you without you even needing to explain yourself. It’s even easier to make such idealized projections in virtual reality, when you communicate via the internet and don’t see each other in person.

In both romance and friendship, however, true intimacy comes from knowing each other over time, in different circumstances, throughout the many tests and challenges life has to offer. The sense of instant bonding is therefore often a sign of projecting one’s desires upon the new person and, sometimes, of shallow emotions and predatory intentions. This brings me to the other perspective: that of the new person you’ve encountered, who appears to be your new soulmate.

As we’ve seen in previous articles, people who instantly mirror your personality and desires; who flatter you; who seem too eager, initially, to please you can be, in reality, not just incompatible with you, but downright dangerous. These are the strategies of social predators; how they initially attract new victims and get them hooked on their (false) “love” and approval. In some cases, such instant bonding is, indeed, a positive sign of compatibility, just as you wanted. In others, however, it’s a warning signal that you’re being targeted by a social predator, who intends to use you and harm you.

This is why the best thing to do is to proceed slowly in new relationships, with CAUTION. While it’s very easy to get excited by what looks like instant compatibility, keep a cool head, observe the new person’s behavior, and be attuned not only to the qualities you (desire to) see in him or her but also to inconsistencies, signs of deceit and implausible behavior. Dangerous predators are very adept at wearing a “mask of sanity” and appearing ideal; however, they are not good at maintaining it consistently in closer relationships.

There is a second advantage to proceeding with caution: if you don’t become too warm too soon with a new person, it’s far less noticeable when you cool off after discovering they’re not who you initially thought they were. This may help you pass under the radar of a vengeful social predator, who may pursue and stalk you if, after a rapid warmup, you decide to cool it off. Keep in mind that real life is rarely a fantasy. When a person or relationship seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

The Psychopath’s False Sense of Omnipotence

Psychopaths aren’t just after control over others. By controlling others, they aspire to a sense of omnipotence. This attitude is the result of the combination of their traits: low impulse control; the intent to harm others (predatory nature); and absolute narcissism (a pervasive sense of superiority to all other human beings and of being above all the rules and laws that govern the rest of humanity). The combination of these qualities, it turns out, is greater than the sum of the parts. What you get is a human being who believes he has the right to deceive, manipulate, use, abuse and discard others solely for the pleasure and power such control give him.

Psychopaths worship their own altar. They feel smart enough to fool anyone and to get away with anything. This sense of ultimate power and superiority–omnipotence–also leads them to lie so brazenly, to play cat and mouse games with their victims and, when they commit crimes, to taunt the media and the police. Drew Peterson notoriously taunted the media, the public and the police, demanding a dating show on the radio when interviewed about the murder of his fourth wife. Psychopathic sexual predators take trophies of their victims, pose them, stage the crime scenes.

All these deviant acts create  for them a false sense of omnipotence: the power of life and death over others and, what’s more, of getting away with anything they do. Even “subcriminal” psychopaths leave obvious signs of their infidelities, fraud and other wrongdoings, to see if those they duped will catch on; to enjoy their transgressions even  more when they can get away with them, right under their victims’ noses.

What’s more, psychopaths tend to keep closely around them a set of individuals who worship them: be it family members or spouses they have thoroughly brainwashed and/or a set of acquaintances who are only exposed to their charming, “good side”. Such individuals live in what could be called a narcissistic bubble, whereby they feel “special,” important and superior to others by virtue of their association with the psychopath. This too feeds the psychopath’s illusion that everyone adores him; that he can get away with anything: even if, in truth, psychopaths alienate most individuals around them and have, at best, ambivalent Jekyll/Hyde reputations.

If there’s any consolation for their victims, in reality, psychopaths always lose in the end. They lose jobs, relationships and the trust and loyalty of others. With each new victim they feel invincible. As the victim starts to catch on, they move on to another that gives them the same rush of power. Psychopaths cheat on, lie to, steal from, hurt and manipulate others from a position of omnipotence. Their greatest strength is seeing other people’s weaknesses. Their greatest weakness is not seeing other people’s strengths.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Review of Dorothy McCoy’s The Manipulative Man

(See radio broadcast featuring Dr. McCoy):

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2474626187239&id=1299968029&ref=notif&notif_t=wall#!/profile.php?id=1299968029

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

A Better and Stronger You: Leaving the Psychopath for Good

Many of the women who love psychopaths intuitively know that they’re dealing with a sick man. Yet they feel like they have invested far too much for far too long into the relationship to give up on him. Their self-confidence and sense of reality have been severely undermined. They may tell themselves, hoping against hope, that their love and patience will fix the dangerous man. Or that after spending fifteen years with him, they can’t throw away the entirety of their youth, as if those years together were all for nothing.

As Sandra Brown M.A. puts it in Women Who Love Psychopaths, nobody escapes completely unscathed from such a toxic relationship. However, the harm is not linear: in other words, it’s not necessarily true that the longer you are with a psychopath the more you are harmed. Even short-term relationships with a disordered man can be very harmful. Conversely, even women who have spent 20 years with a psychopath can escape those toxic bonds and emerge better and stronger from them.

However, the damage seems to get worse from the time you realize you’re with a psychopath or disordered man and come to accept his abuse: the pathological lying, the gaslighting, the cheating, the putdowns, the threats and the relentless chipping away at your self-esteem. Women who stay with known psychopaths, or with men they know to be very bad, adapt to increasing dosages of harm. This can severely damage their own personalities and the way they interact with others, sometimes beyond repair.

On the positive side, even if you’ve spent many years with a psychopath, you can escape this toxic relationship. Chances are, you used to be a strong person. In previous posts we’ve seen that psychopaths prefer to seduce extraverted, accomplished and confident women. They could easily prey upon passive and weak women. But they prefer the challenge of destroying a strong person instead. We’ve seen how psychopaths use their partners’ strengths against them. They use women’s trust to deceive and cheat on them as well as, more generally, to play mind games. They isolate previously sociable women. They undermine the confidence of women with high self-esteem by focusing on their real or imaginary weaknesses. It’s not unusual to develop neuroses, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders while involved with a psychopath. He will even cultivate those maladies, and lead you to focus obsessively on them rather than on your strengths and achievements, to keep you under his thumb.

We’ve seen how psychopaths use women’s capacity to love and their tenacity–their high emotional investment in the relationship–to keep them on the hook. They lure them with strategic withdrawals and empty promises to improve, which are belied by consistent, though often hidden, abuse. They dangle whatever women want most in life before their eyes–true love, fidelity, commitment, a happy life together, returning to the romantic and exciting honeymoon phase of the relationship–only to make conditional demands, that erode their partners’ dignity and self-respect.

To counteract these strategies and reclaim your life, you need to reassert your agency, your strength and your boundaries. You need to recognize that you’re not just a passive victim of the psychopath’s control, even if you were, indeed, victimized by him. You have agency. You willingly began the relationship with the psychopath. You willingly stayed with him despite seeing red flags early on in the relationship. You may have willingly taken him back after discovering that he repeatedly cheated and lied. You may have also engaged in some immoral behavior to keep him in your life. You may have hurt or neglected those who loved you for his sake. Each step you took as a couple was not just his own doing. It was also yours. Sandra Brown points out that seeing yourself as an agent in your life decisions doesn’t imply denying the fact that the psychopath has hurt you or minimize the extent of your pain. It just shows you that you have the power to determine your life choices. Just as you chose to become involved and stay with a psychopath, you also have the power to disengage from him for good. (How to spot a dangerous man,  32)

To understand why you made such poor and self-defeating choices, you need to assess realistically both your strengths and your weaknesses. In earlier posts, I identified some of the potential weaknesses of women who get involved with psychopaths, which led them down a self-destructive path. The main one is an unrealistic and dichotomous view of themselves, which is narcissistically inflated (as better than other women) in some ways, and too weak (as less than other women) in others. You don’t need a psychopath to identify your qualities and flaws. You don’t need his manipulative criticisms that undermine your self-confidence. You don’t need his fake and conditional flattery to feel good about yourself. You know who you are. And, deep inside, after so much mistreatment at his hands, you also know that it’s clearly in your best interest to leave the dangerous man and end the sick relationship with him. Your self-preservation, not just your self-esteem, is at stake.

Exercising your agency also implies reasserting your strength and your boundaries. If you stayed with a psychopathic partner it’s because he undermined the strength that he originally admired in you and that drew him to you, like a parasite to its host, to destroy you. You can find that inner strength again to live your life free of him. The longer you will be away from his noxious influence, the stronger you will grow.

The psychopath has strung you along by eroding your boundaries: your moral sense of right and wrong, your sexual boundaries and your empathy. When you draw the line and say no more and mean it, the psychopath loses and you win. By way of contrast, each time you do what he tells you, each time you override your intuition to believe his lies, each time you violate your sense of right and wrong, each time you neglect or hurt those who care about you, each time you engage in perverse sexual acts just to please him, he wins and you lose.

The women who stay with psychopaths may be strong women, as Brown’s research indicates. Yet many of them lack sufficiently strong boundaries. They may be strong in other areas of life. But they become weak as far as their personal relations with the psychopath are concerned. These, unfortunately, become the fulcrum of their existence. Staying with a psychopath indicates that they’re willing to compromise their values, their relationships and their standards just to keep and please a disordered man.

To reclaim your autonomy and your strength, you need to reassert your boundaries. The negative experience with the psychopath has no doubt made you more aware than ever of what you stand for since you were repeatedly pressured by him to lower your standards and to violate your principles. Each time you did that it hurt because you lost not only part of your values, but also–and more importantly–part of yourself.

Asserting the limits of the person you are and of what you stand for constitutes an essential step towards rejecting the psychopath. Most likely, he won’t even stay with you if you assert yourself and don’t give in a single inch to him anymore. As a narcissist, he can’t tolerate any real equality in a romantic relationship. He has to be “top dog.” He constantly reaffirms this status through the power he exercises over you, his family and his acquaintances. Because he doesn’t regard you (or anyone else) as his equal, the psychopath can’t offer you genuine respect for your values, your activities, your needs and your identity. His fake charm, his controlling and possessive attention, his disingenuous and manipulative flattery and the empty romantic gestures he made (mostly in the beginning of the relationship) are not the same thing as genuine love, mutual caring and respect.

As we’ve seen, a psychopath is incapable of having a caring and equal relationship with anyone. For this reason, psychopaths seek women who are strong but exceedingly flexible; women whose boundaries they can erode and whose identities they can distort. If you regain your sense of identity and boundaries, you become much less vulnerable to psychopathic seduction and control. Psychopaths are parasites who want to suck the lifeblood–the emotions, the confidence and the strength–out of you. They violate your sense of self, through what psychologists call “enmeshment.” As your identity blends into his, your whole life revolves around meeting his ever-changing needs. The more you violate what you stand for and who you are to please the psychopath, the more you dissolve into the dangerous relationship with him. As Sandra Brown states,

“Boundaries are indicators of where we start and end, and where other people start and end. We set limits–or boundaries–in relationships to protect our bodily selves and dignity… Drawing your identity from a dangerous man… can have disastrous outcomes.” (How to spot a dangerous man, 201).

Not every misfortunate experience has a silver lining. Some, like fatal illnesses, may be purely tragic. Fortunately, overcoming a relationship with a dangerous man is one of those life experiences that does have a silver lining. After having been involved with a psychopath, for whom “love” means conquest, ownership and dominance, a normal relationship with a decent, respectful and honest partner will seem almost miraculous by comparison. Nothing about healthy human bonds can ever be taken for granted again after one has experienced the worst life has to offer.

Clearly, in choosing a psychopath you lost part of yourself and wasted part of your life. Such a destructive relationship came at a cost. Fortunately, you still have the power of choice as to how your life will continue. You don’t have to throw away the rest of your life to him. This experience may have weakened you in some respects.  But if you utilize it the right way, it can also make you a much stronger person. Whatever time, energy and emotion you spent on the psychopath weren’t completely wasted. They have taught you how to know and defend the limits of your identity and values. They have taught you who to appreciate and love in life and who to reject and keep out. They have revealed your strengths and your limitations. They have made you more independent, since you’ve seen how flattery and criticism by others can function as a form of mind control.

It’s now up to you to decide if you will allow the psychopath to continue to undermine your dignity and the quality of your life or if you will rely upon your strengths and true love bonds with others to live the kind of moral, honest and fulfilling life that you deserve. The psychopath has kept you under his control by narrowing and intensifying the range of your experiences. You consequently focused only on him and on how to twist yourself, like a fish on a hook, to please him.

You can reverse this process. You can broaden the sphere of your existence by expanding your interests and focusing on those who deserve your affection. In fact, you can do more than that by helping inform others suffering at the hands of psychopathic partners about this dangerous and camouflaged predator. Making a clinical diagnosis of personality disorders is, of course, only up to experts. 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. Knowledge is the most essential form of self-defense.

Widespread information about physical and emotional abuse has saved millions of people from domestic violence. Spreading information about psychopathy may help save millions of additional lives from harm. Ironically, the disordered man who wanted to destroy you both morally and emotionally can give your life a higher, more other-regarding purpose. In the past, you may have relegated too many of your decisions to the psychopath. But, ultimately, the power of choice in what you do with the rest of your life lies in your hands, not his. May the new year bring you peace and happiness, free of the toxic relationship with a psychopath.

Happy New Year!

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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.

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