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

TheInnerWorldofthePsychopathBekcer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

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Why Sociopaths Win By Losing

In The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout raises the following excellent question: “If sociopaths are so focused on their goals and so driven to win, then why do they not win all the time?” She goes on to explain that, basically, sociopaths are losers: “For they do not [win or succeed in life]. Instead, most of them are obscure people, and limited to dominating their young children, or a depressed spouse, or perhaps a few employees or coworkers… Having never made much of a mark on the world, the majority are on a downward life course, and by late middle age will be burned out completely. They can rob and torment us temporarily, yes, but they are, in effect, failed lives.” (The Sociopath Next Door, 188)

I think that Martha Stout, Robert Hare, Steve Becker and many other experts on sociopathy are right to say that sociopaths play games in life and aim to win.  They’re also right to observe that sociopaths generally don’t win because they tend to sabotage every relationship and endeavor by cheating, lying and engaging in other destructive behavior. But all this assumes that psychopaths have the same conception of “winning” that normal people have. It’s true that psychopaths lose in life by normal standards. But, as we well know, psychopaths lack normal standards and perspectives in pretty much all areas of life. They don’t view “winning” in the positive sense of achieving success–be it successful long-term relationships or professional endeavors–but rather as causing others to lose.

To offer one noteworthy example, from a normal perspective, Hitler and Stalin are the Big Losers of history. They’re evil dictators who trampled over countless human lives in their march to absolute power. But keep in mind that their goal was not governing strong nations in general, as was arguably Napoleon’s goal. These two totalitarian rulers wanted to achieve total control over several nations: and the entire world, if possible. Total control can’t be achieved without the subjugation, and even the annihilation, of any dissenting voice; without the inculcation of fear; without violence.

Sociopaths would rather win by becoming notorious for their crimes rather than famous for their achievements. How else can one describe the motivations of serial killers like Ted Bundy and so many others, who take pride in violent crimes and the ability to get away with them (at least for awhile)? Fortunately for the rest of humanity, most sociopaths aren’t world dictators or serial killers. However, looking at these prominent examples helps us understand better the distorted logic of sociopathy. It’s an “I win if you lose” mentality. In their own warped perspectives, sociopaths win by destroying other human beings and their social institutions, regardless if that enables them to achieve anything in life or lands them straight in prison.

Perhaps a sociopath’s only fear is being unmasked as evil, because that exposes the nature of his game. As Harrison Koehli eloquently puts it, “[Psychopaths] hang on to their masks with such conviction because they are predators, and without them, they cannot survive… To let down that facade would reveal that they are little more than unfeeling intraspecies predators that feed off the pain and suffering of others and thus destroy their chances of feeding. Even a psychopath is aware of the consequences of such a revelation. His ‘dreams’ of a boot forever stomping on the face of humanity are crushed.” Unfortunately, for as long as there will be people protecting, colluding with, and covering for sociopaths, these parasites will continue to feed on us, even if it means the destruction of both predator and prey. Sociopaths play a very dangerous game, whereby they win by losing. 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Red Flags: How to Identify a Psychopathic Bond

The most important self-defense against psychopathic seducers consists of recognizing the initial warning signals so that you can escape the relationship early on, hopefully before you’re seriously harmed.  Dr. Joseph Carver has put together a helpful and instructive list outlining the early symptoms of a dangerous relationship with a psychopath, or as he puts it quite aptly, with “a Loser.” As we’ve already seen in the previous account of Drew Peterson’s behavior, not all the signs of psychopathic seduction are obviously negative.  But, as we’ll see, even the symptoms that seem positive (such as the instant attachment and over-the-top attention, flattery and gifts) are in fact negative. Similarly, Carver notes that the Loser doesn’t have to exhibit all of the symptoms listed below to be dangerous. The presence of even three of these symptoms indicates a potentially harmful relationship. Anything above this number points to not just probable, but certain harm. Carver begins by defining “the Loser”: “‘The Loser’ is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship… The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of ‘The Loser’ and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically.” (drjoecarver.com)

1.     The Loser will Hurt you on Purpose. “If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property even once, drop them,” Carver advises. As we’ve seen, Drew Peterson escalated the abuse of his partners. He began with criticism, went on to name-calling and moved on to physical violence and (probably) murder. It’s very important to get away from a Loser at the slightest hint of violence, including verbal aggression, since abuse usually increases in frequency and severity over time.

2.     Quick Attachment and Expression. “The Loser,” Carver notes, “has very shallow emotions and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to the Loser is how quickly he or she says ‘I Love You’ or wants to marry or commit to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating you’ll hear that you’re the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you. You’ll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures.” Drew Peterson and other dangerous seducers wouldn’t get any partners, much less attractive young women, if they showed their true colors from the very beginning. Psychopaths generally pour on the romance. They deluge their targets with flattery, promises and gifts at the beginning of the relationship. No matter how promiscuous they actually are, they focus their energies on their most desirable targets. Yet, Carver cautions, this seemingly positive sign is, in fact, also negative. It signals shallowness of emotions rather than strength of love. He elaborates, “Normal, healthy individuals require a long process to develop a relationship because there is so much at stake… The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions which later cause the Loser to detach from you as quickly as they committed.” Which is exactly what Drew Peterson  (and others like him) did after seducing each of his partners. As easily as he attached to them initially, he later detached from them to pursue his next conquest(s).

3.     Frightening Temper. Sooner or later the Loser reveals his hot temper. Carver states that Losers often begin with indirect violence—such as demonstratively hitting the wall with their fist or throwing objects—before they start pushing, punching or hitting their partners. The physical outbursts towards inanimate objects function as a form of intimidation. Through such behavior, Losers show their targets that they’re capable of doing the same thing to them.  Such outbursts also train the partners to become gradually habituated to acts of violence.

4.     Killing Your Self-Confidence. Losers generally prefer flings and short-term affairs, which provide constant new thrills. They also engage in long-term relationships, however, to gain more lasting control over certain more promising targets. It’s nearly impossible to control strong human beings who have clear boundaries and a healthy self-esteem. This is why psychopaths eventually move from the initial over-the-top flattery to scathing criticism. Once they have secured their chosen partners in their grasp, they put them down to erode their self-esteem. Carver states that, for instance, Losers “constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel ‘on guard’, unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something wrong… This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly–as though you deserved it.” According to Tracy’s and Stacy’s families and friends, after seducing them, Drew undermined both women’s self-confidence. His assertion that he pampered Stacy by indulging her obsession with plastic surgery rings false. By way of contrast, her friends’ and family’s claim that he criticized her to the point that she felt compelled to make constant “improvements” in her physical appearance sounds much more plausible. Stacy’s growing insecurity also placed her under Drew’s power to determine how she felt about herself.

5.     Cutting Off Your Support. In the wild, predators isolate their prey from the rest of the herd to better attack and devour it. That’s precisely what psychopaths do to their targets. Losers isolate their partners from their friends, colleagues and families. They may do so through overt criticism and by following them around when they meet with others, as Drew did to Stacy. Sometimes they opt for more subtle manipulation, such as by covertly turning the victim against her own family and friends (and vice versa).  As Carver observes, “The Loser feels your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their behavior… Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you’ll develop the feeling that it’s better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you.”

6.     The Mean and Sweet Cycle. As we recall, Drew Peterson bought his wife a motorcycle and expensive jewelry even during the period of time when he was criticizing her, throwing her up against the wall, isolating her from her loved ones, accusing her of infidelity and calling her pejorative names. If they were consistently mean or violent, psychopaths wouldn’t be able to hold on to their partners. Which is why, as Dr. Carver observes, “The Loser cycles from mean to sweet and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started dating.” The period of sweetness leads the partners of Losers to cling to the relationship in the misguided hope of finding what psychologist Susan Forward calls “the magic key” that will make the psychopath stay nice to them. That magic key, however, doesn’t exist. The psychopath invariably cycles back to his real, nasty self. Over time, the meanness cycle escalates in severity and increases in duration. It’s interspersed with increasingly fewer “nice” moments, which trap the victim in her own wishful thinking.  As Carver observes, “You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other purpose of the mean cycle is to allow The Loser to say very nasty things about you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence.”

7.     It’s Always Your Fault.  As we’ve seen, psychopaths never accept blame for anything they do wrong. They deny obvious facts and accuse their victims of wrongdoing. Their spurious logic goes something like this: I didn’t do it, but even if I did, you deserved it. When he didn’t outright deny the domestic abuse, Drew Peterson blamed it on each of his wives for provoking it. According to him, they lied about being hit by him. They also lied about his verbal abuse. They were the ones who were “on edge” and “disturbed,” not him. He never hit them, even if Kathy had to go to the emergency room to recover from his blows. Carver notes, “The Loser never, repeat never, takes personal responsibility for their behavior–it’s always the fault of someone else.”

8.     Breakup Panic.  Psychopaths need to maintain control of everything in their lives, especially their romantic relationships. When they get bored with one partner or find a replacement, they can leave her on the spur of the moment, heartlessly, often without even bothering to offer an explanation. But they get very angry when the tables are turned and their partners leave them. Drew Peterson didn’t mind cheating on his wives and abandoning them for other women. Yet when they wanted to leave him to escape the misery and abuse, he resorted to violence, threats, bribes and, when none of these strategies worked, (probably) murder. As Carver notes, “The Loser panics at the idea of breaking up–unless it’s totally their idea–then you’re dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten ending the relationship… Once back in the grasp of the Loser, escape will be three times as difficult the next time.”

9.     No Outside Interests. To further control their victims, psychopaths don’t just isolate them from other people. They also narrow the range of their interests and activities, leading their partners to focus exclusively on them. Drew Peterson discouraged Stacy from working outside the home. He gave her money and gifts, not out of any real generosity but to keep her financially and emotionally dependent on him. He also followed his wife around everywhere. He wanted to monitor if she was seeing other men. But his stalking made her feel on edge about any kind of activity or pursuit that was external to their relationship. Carver goes on to state, “If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they totally control.”

10.   Paranoid Control.  Notoriously, psychopaths stalk their principal targets. They suspect other people, including their partners, of being as manipulative, deceptive and unscrupulous as themselves. Although they routinely cheat on their spouses, often with countless sexual partners, they tend to be plagued by the fear that their spouses may be cheating on them as well.  Which is why, as Carver observes, “The Loser will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you don’t answer their phone call, you are ask where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc.” Drew Peterson worked as a detective not only in his job on the police force, but also in his dealings with his wife. He followed Stacy around to monitor her.

11.   Public Embarrassment. Psychopaths tend to put down their partners not only in private, but also publicly, to embarrass and isolate them. They want to build a psychological, if not physical, prison around their primary targets. They do everything possible to undermine their confidence, reduce their sociability, narrow the range of their interests and eliminate all positive human contact from their lives. Consequently, as Carver observes, “In an effort to keep you under control while in public, ‘The Loser’ will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing things about you in private or in front of people… If you stay with The Loser too long, you’ll soon find yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in public.” As we’ll see in the chapter on Pablo Picasso, psychopaths aim to transform strong and proud individuals into their doormats.

12.   It’s Never Enough. Psychopaths don’t want to have successful relationships. They want to assert dominance by destroying, at the very least psychologically and emotionally, their partners. In the long run, there’s nothing anybody can do to please a psychopath. Apparently, Drew Peterson flattered both his third and his fourth wives when they were still his girlfriends, which is to say, during courtship. But the honeymoon period ended once they decided to marry him. Nothing they did or failed to do henceforth pleased him for long. According to their families and friends, Stacy and Tracy constantly jumped through more and more hoops, while Drew lifted the bar higher and higher. Through this insidious process, a psychopath wears down his partner’s self-esteem. Eventually, she feels too insecure to leave the abusive relationship. As Carver puts it, “The Loser convinces you that you are never quite good enough. You don’t say ‘I love you’ enough, you don’t stand close enough, you don’t do enough for them after all their sacrifices, and your behavior always falls short of what is expected. This is another method of destroying your self-esteem and confidence. After months of this technique, they begin telling you how lucky you are to have them–somebody who tolerates someone so inadequate and worthless as you.”

13.   Entitlement. As we’ve seen, psychopaths feel entitled to do and have everything and everyone they want. Laws, ethics and other people’s feelings don’t matter to them. “The Loser has a tremendous sense of entitlement, the attitude that they have a perfectly logical right to do whatever they desire,” Carver continues.  “If you disobey their desires or demands, or violate one of their rules, they feel they are entitled to punish you in any manner they see fit.” In the case of Drew Peterson, even thought crime, or the intention to leave him, was punishable with (probably) murder. His interviews show that he felt entitled to mistreat each of his wives as he pleased. However, he believed that they didn’t have the right to object to his mistreatment or to leave him as a result of it.

14.   Your Friends and Family Dislike Him.  Psychopaths tend to be pleasant and charming, at least superficially, at the beginning of a relationship. But once they have their partner firmly in their clutches, they proceed to isolate her from her support system.  In so doing, they alienate her family and friends. Carver notes, “As the relationship continues, your friends and family will see what the Loser is doing to you. They will notice a change in your personality or your withdrawal. They will protest. The Loser will tell you they are jealous of the ‘special love’ you have and then use their protest and opinion as further evidence that they are against you–not him.” Drew Peterson stalked his wife even when she was visiting with her sisters. Initially, at least some of Stacy’s family members and friends liked Drew and considered him a good match for her. But as he began to isolate and abuse her, they became unanimous in their dislike of him. In the end, they all saw the relationship as seriously damaging for Stacy.

15.   Bad Stories.  They say that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. There may be exceptions to this general principle. Fortunately, some people can improve their character and behavior with genuine and consistent effort. A psychopath can never be one of those exceptions, however. Generally speaking, if a man cheated on every wife he’s ever been with, it’s highly probable that he’ll cheat on the next one as well.  Most likely, the problem isn’t the woman or women he was with, but his underlying lack of character. Similarly, if he abused his previous partners, he’s very likely to abuse the next ones as well. Stacy knew enough about how Drew treated his previous wife to see that he was a philanderer and potentially dangerous. But the intensity and perseverance with which he pursued her blinded her from seeing the same warning signals in their relationship. In addition, since psychopaths don’t find anything wrong with their harmful behavior, they’re likely to boast about it. This also sends out some glaring warning signals. As Carver states, “The Loser tells stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting others, etc… They brag about their temper and outbursts because they don’t see anything wrong with violence and actually take pride in the ‘I don’t take nothing from nobody’ attitude… Listen to these stories — they tell you how you will eventually be treated and what’s coming your way.”

16.   The Waitress Test. Just as how people behaved in the past tells a lot about how they’ll behave in the future, so how they treat others functions as a pretty good indicator of how you’ll eventually be treated. A person who’s uncaring and unethical towards others will most likely also be that way to you when you no longer serve his interests. Carver calls this “the waitress test.” In his estimation, how a Loser treats people who aren’t immediately useful to him reveals how he’ll treat you once your use has expired. “It’s been said that when dating, the way an individual treats a waitress or other neutral person of the opposite sex is the way they will treat you in six months. During the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship, you will be treated like a king or queen. However, during that time the Loser has not forgotten how he or she basically feels about the opposite sex. Waitresses, clerks, or other neutral individuals will be treated badly. If they are cheap–you’ll never receive anything once the honeymoon is over. If they whine, complain, criticize, and torment–that’s how they’ll treat you in six months.” Psychopaths lack consistency in their “good” behavior because for them “goodness” is only a façade. The manner in which they treat someone relates strictly to that person’s perceived use value. When people are useful to them they treat them (superficially) well. When they aren’t, they ignore or mistreat them. By way of contrast, genuinely nice people treat others well regardless of their perceived utility. Carver advises,  “If you find yourself dating a man who treats you like a queen and other females like dirt–hit the road.” Pretty soon, you’ll be the dirt he walks on, on his way to conquering other temporary queens.

17.   The Reputation. Psychopaths tend to have polarized reputations. Their victims often describe them, in retrospect, as Janus figures (since they’re two-faced) or as Jekyll and Hyde personalities (since they switch from nice to mean). We’ve seen that for a psychopath the Jekyll side is a mask he constructs to attract, fool and use others. The Hyde side represents his true identity, which becomes increasingly dominant over time. To his buddies, Drew Peterson appeared to be an easy-going, nice guy. But that’s because they only saw one side of him, the jovial facet he wanted them to see. To his wives and their families– which is to say, to anyone who had extensive intimate contact with him–Drew exposed another, much more menacing side of his personality. Any sign of independence from his partners meant escaping his control: something he couldn’t tolerate and which he punished through abuse and (probably) murder. Carver states, “As mentioned, mentally healthy individuals are consistent in their personality and their behavior. The Loser may have two distinct reputations–a group of individuals who will give you glowing reports and a group that will warn you that they are serious trouble.” In addition to paying attention to what others say, trust your own intuition and powers of observation. Pay close attention to how your partner treats you over time and in different circumstances. Be particularly attuned to how he responds when you express different needs or opinions. Psychopaths can’t tolerate any real assertion of independence from others. They also can’t treat those they’re intimately involved with well for long. Although some psychopaths may consistently maintain the mask of charm in superficial interactions with their buddies, colleagues and acquaintances, their real controlling, selfish and aggressive natures tend to show through in extended intimate contact.

18.   Walking on Eggshells. During the course of their marriages to Drew Peterson, at least two of his wives reported losing their self-confidence as a result of his emotional and physical abuse. While they both entered the relationship with Drew feeling desirable, in love and valued, by the end they were overpowered and intimidated by him. When involved with a psychopath, over time, his partner finds herself walking on eggshells. She fears that anything she does or says might trigger his emotional detachment, hostility or abuse. Carver observes that, “Instead of experiencing the warmth and comfort of love, you will be constantly on edge, tense when talking to others (they might say something that you’ll have to explain later), and fearful that you’ll see someone you’ll have to greet in public.”

19.   Discounted Feelings/Opinions. For psychopaths, their fundamental callousness and capacity for evil stems from their absolute selfishness and inability to respect other individuals, as fellow human beings with independent needs and desires. That’s why those involved with a psychopath, following the initial stage when he praises everything they do and say, come to realize that their feelings, needs and opinions don’t matter to him. The Loser’s narcissism is, as Hervey Cleckley’s study of psychopathy concluded, absolute. Carver elaborates, “The Loser is so self-involved and self-worshiping that the feelings and opinions of others are considered worthless… The Loser is extremely hostile toward criticism and often reacts with anger or rage when their behavior is questioned.” Narcissists and psychopaths flatter others only to use and manipulate them. They lack genuine consideration for others.

20.   They Make You Crazy. According to her friends, Kathy Savio felt overcome by rage, jealousy and anger when Drew cheated on her with Stacy. While her emotional response was perfectly understandable under the circumstances, Drew depicted Kathy to others as “insane” to justify his mistreatment of her.  In some ways, however, this statement isn’t far removed from the truth. Sometimes, psychopaths quite literally drive their partners crazy. They lie to them to the point where they start doubting their knowledge of reality. They discourage and belittle them to the point where they lose their self-confidence and become reclusive. They mistreat them to the point where they’re overcome with rage. As Carver goes on to explain, “The Loser operates in such a damaging way that you find yourself doing ‘crazy’ things in self-defense… You become paranoid as well–being careful what you wear and say… While we think we are ‘going crazy’–it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as ‘normal behavior’ in a combat situation. Rest assured that your behavior will return to normal if you detach from the Loser before permanent psychological damage is done.” When involved with a psychopath, you may, unlike Drew Peterson’s misfortunate wives, escape alive. But unless you end the relationship in its earliest stages, you’re not likely to escape unharmed.

What do these warning signs indicate? They show that psychopathic seducers can fake decency and love convincingly in the beginning of a relationship. That’s how they manage to attract so many potential partners. But they can’t sustain their mask of sanity over time in intimate contact, since it’s fake and instrumental.  If you remain vigilant, you’ll be able to see red flags early on in the relationship with a psychopath despite his veneer of charm and extravagant romantic words and gestures. As psychotherapist Steve Becker indicates on his website, powercommunicating.com, most of his clients recognized the warning signals in their relationships with exploitative partners. They just minimized those red flags or downright ignored them. They preferred to focus on their romantic fantasies rather than face an unpleasant reality. According to Becker, the most difficult challenge isn’t noticing the red flags, but actually heeding them. He states,

“I find that many of my clients were in fact cognizant of odd, disconcerting behaviors/attitudes that their exploitative partners were reckless enough to reveal (or incapable of concealing). They may have even felt troubled by them. But in their intense need to want the relationship, and the partner, to be the elusive fit they so hungrily sought, they found ways to suppress their uneasiness: to ignore and/or minimize the significance of these signals; and rationalize the alarms their instincts triggered.” (powercommunicating.com)

If you encounter a man who is aroused primarily by the circumstances surrounding your relationship—especially the perverse and forbidden ones—rather than by you, yourself, run. If you encounter a man who does a bait and switch to gain your trust only to violate his promises or raise the bar higher and higher, run. If you encounter a man who behaves in a despicable manner towards any other woman, no matter what he says about her, examine his behavior carefully since that’s how he’ll eventually treat you and, needless to say, run.

Truth is not a convenient fiction. Similarly, love is not a power game for anyone capable of this emotion. It’s the deepest and most significant bond human beings form with one another and the foundation of our lives. If you encounter a man who gives any signs that he regards love as a game and you as a “prize” to be won, fold your cards and quickly leave the table. Or, better yet, refuse to engage with him at all. Any intimate relationship with a psychopath is a gamble where you risk losing everything and from which you have nothing to gain.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Playing With Fire: Narcissists and Psychopaths as Players

Many of you have dated them: cocky men who seem to attract women like flies and change partners as frequently as normal people change underwear. They can be smooth, sexy, exciting and fun. Initially, they may seem harmless enough: just normal men looking for a good time. If you’re not seeking a serious relationship, you may even see them as a welcome escape when normal life presents so many challenges and entails so many responsibilities. But players are often not as harmless as they seem. They may be suffering from a serious and incurable personality disorder, of which their sexual addiction is only a symptom, or the tip of the iceberg.

Compulsive seducers tend to be extremely narcissistic. They use their conquests as mirrors to reflect back to them an aggrandized image of their own desirability. Steve Becker, a therapist specializing in psychopathy and narcissism and consultant for lovefraud.com, distinguishes, however, between the motives of narcissists and psychopaths. Of the two, he suggests that psychopaths present a greater danger to others. He explains that all psychopaths are highly narcissistic. But the converse isn’t true. Not all narcissists are psychopathic, in the sense of living for the thrill of duping and harming others.

In his essay, “Sociopath versus Narcissist,” Becker argues that both narcissistic and psychopathic seducers share a tendency to treat others as objects. He states, “Welcome to the world of the narcissist and psychopath. Theirs is a mindset of immediate, demanded gratification, with a view of others as expected—indeed existing—to serve their agendas. Frustrate their agendas, and you can expect repercussions, ranging from the disruptive to ruinous.” (powercommunicating.com)

Psychopaths and narcissists, however, have different motivations for why they seduce. Narcissists need an endless supply of validation. The more women they seduce, the more they feel reassured in their sex appeal. By way of contrast, a psychopath does it primarily for the pleasure of playing a game. The women he seduces, whether he’s involved with them for one evening or several years, represent nothing more than pawns, to be used for his personal pleasure and amusement. Becker elaborates:

The psychopath is less obsessed than the narcissist with validation. Indeed, his inner world seems to lack much of anything to validate: it is barren, with nothing in it that would even be responsive to validation. An emotional cipher, the psychopath’s exploitation of others is more predatory than the narcissist’s. For the psychopath, who may be paranoid, the world is something like a gigantic hunt, populated by personified-objects to be mined to his advantage.” (powercommunicating.com)

Just as they eventually tire of each game piece—be it a long-term girlfriend, casual lover or spouse—psychopaths also tire of each kind of game. Even promiscuous sex gets boring for them. Which is why they often feel the need to engage in acts of physical violence for additional thrills. However, their boredom is only temporarily relieved by each new addiction, transgression and act of depravity. For this reason, psychopaths sometimes move from promiscuity to rape (or worse).

The quest for validation leads a narcissist in an insatiable search for his narcissistic supply: new conquests, be they merely sexual or romantic, mean new sources of praise and validation for him. More dangerously, the quest for entertainment and domination–or pleasure through victimization–leads a psychopath to explore new and increasingly sadistic ways of hurting others. No matter how flattering and romantic such men may seem initially, playing with compulsive seducers–be they narcissists or psychopaths–is playing with fire. You will get burned. The only question is: how bad and for how long.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Voices of Violence Video

Dangerous men can be very romantic, at first. They flatter you, give you gifts and pretend to love you. But once the honeymoon phase ends, the abuse begins: the cheating, the lying, the manipulation, the criticism and, all too often, the physical violence as well. Abusive men frequently suffer from incurable personality disorders: particularly psychopathy and narcissism. I just made a video to raise public awareness to this problem, posted on my youtube channel, on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici

This video features paintings by the artist and social activist Michael Bell, from his series on domestic abuse, called Voices of Violence, found on the link:

http://mbellart.com

For more information about domestic abuse, personality disorders and dangerous men, please see the following websites:

More articles from this website:

https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com

My new novel about psychopathic seduction, The Seducer, found on:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/the-seducer/

Steve Becker‘s website on narcissism and psychopathy:

http://powercommunicating.com

and  Sandra L. Brown‘s website on personality disorders and therapy institute:

http://saferelationships.com

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness.com

Advance Praise for The Seducer: A Novel About Psychopathic Seduction

As a victim of psychopathic seduction who is also a scholar and novelist, I was highly motivated to learn all I could about psychopathy. I wanted to use my research and writing skills to help other victims who suffered at the hands of these dangerous men. My new novel, THE SEDUCER, traces the devastating effects of a psychopathic social predator posing as “Mr. Right” upon two women’s lives. If you’re going through a similar experience, I hope that reading sample chapters from The Seducerwill give you insights into what makes psychopaths tick and help you find the strength to free yourself from the psychopathic bond. You can preview my novel on the links below:

Advance Praise for The Seducer:

Like the best, most delicious novels, Claudia Moscovici’s psychological thriller, The Seducer, grips you in its opening pages and holds you in its addictive clutches straight through to its dramatic, remarkable conclusion. This is a fascinating novel, on every page of which Moscovici’s intimate understanding of the psychology of psychopaths and their victims gleams with a laser’s concentrated brilliance. The result is a narrative that builds with a patient, yet propulsive, force; a narrative whose intensity and suspense, in tandem, leave the reader eager to know, at every step of the way, what happens next? I encourage the reader to start this novel with a full set of nails, because it’s a nail biter in the most literal sense.

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

What is love in this seductive new novel? Hypnotic attraction or deadly trap? A dream come true or a world filled with obsessions in the absence of genuine feelings? The Seducer probes the chilling depths of alienation and selfishness as the heroine, Ana, is caught in the spider’s web of her narcissistic lover, Michael. No magic, just cruelty. Claudia Moscovici wrote a powerful novel about an unfortunate reality many women face: the unraveling of their romantic dreams as love turns into a cold and calculated game of chess.

Carmen Firan, author of Words and Flesh

The Seducer offers a thrilling look at the most dangerous men out there, that every woman is warned about and many encounter: the psychopathic predator. We’ve seen these men featured in the news for their gruesome crimes. But few would expect them to be the charming, debonair, romantic seducers that love stories are made of. When the heroine of the novel, Ana, met Michael, she was in for the roller-coaster ride of her life. In her exciting second novel, The Seducer, Claudia Moscovici depicts with talent and psychological accuracy the spellbinding power of these charming yet dangerous Don Juans.

D. R. Popa, author of Lady V and Other Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007)

Claudia Moscovici’s new psychological thriller, The Seducer, reminds us of classics like Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but with a  contemporary twist. The new seducer is a psychopath, a dangerous predator without genuine emotion. And yet, we remain fascinated as he charms two women: one of them utterly dependent, the other seduced but autonomous. The reader’s outrage toward the reprehensible Michael may feel neutralized by the author’s meticulous studies of the psychopath in action and by what I call “ethical irony,” an often hidden moral perspective. Moscovici’s epic of betrayal and self-deception draws the reader into the convoluted mind of sexual predators and their victims. The narrative is bold, vivid and lucid.

Edward K. Kaplan, Brandeis University

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Smooth Player or Sex Addict? Jersey Shore’s “The Situation”

Mike, a.k.a “The Situation” is one of the most popular cast members of the spectacularly popular MTV reality show, Jersey Shore. But he’s also known for having a Jekyll/Hyde personality: he comes across as a player with a soft side. The Jekyll side usually dominates. For example, Mike takes care of his buddies when they go out clubbing and cooks Sunday night dinners for the whole Jersey Shore gang.  But the Hyde side of Mike rears its ugly head whenever things don’t go his way. It’s especially obvious when the women he tries to hook up with are not “DTF”. That’s when The Situation’s claws come out. He gazes at women with a predatory stare and “pulls a robbery” on Vinny’s girlfriend, Ramona. Even the affable Snooki bore the brunt of Mike’s controlling nature one night, when he attempted to literally haul her and her best friend out of a club because he couldn’t find any willing partners there.

Perhaps even more disturbing than Mike’s lack of loyalty towards his buddy Vinny and sometimes aggressive behavior are his manipulation skills. Angelina may be known as the official trouble-maker of Jersey Shore, but it’s Mike who, behind the scenes, instigates most disputes. He sets his friends against one another to  watch them flip out “like pancakes,” as he once put it. Finally, Mike is not your average player. His impulse to seduce women every night–sometimes several women a night–appears to be the symptom of a rather severe sexual addiction.

Compulsive seducers tend to be extremely narcissistic. They use their conquests as mirrors to reflect back to them an aggrandized image of their own desirability. Just as rape is about violence and power, so compulsive seduction is about conquest and control. Dr. Steve Becker distinguishes, however, between the motives of narcissists and psychopaths. Of the two, he suggests that psychopaths present a greater danger to others. He explains that all psychopaths are narcissistic. But the converse isn’t true. Not all narcissists are psychopathic, in the sense of living for the thrill of duping and harming others. In his essay, “Sociopath versus Narcissist,” Becker argues that both narcissistic and psychopathic seducers share a tendency to treat others as objects. He states, “Welcome to the world of the narcissist and psychopath. Theirs is a mindset of immediate, demanded gratification, with a view of others as expected—indeed existing—to serve their agendas. Frustrate their agendas, and you can expect repercussions, ranging from the disruptive to ruinous.” (powercommunicating.com)

Psychopaths and narcissists have different motivations for why they seduce. Narcissists need an endless supply of validation. The more women they seduce, the more they feel reassured in their sex appeal. By way of contrast, a psychopath does it strictly for the perverse pleasure of playing a game. The women he seduces, whether he’s involved with them for one evening or for several years, represent nothing more than pawns, to be used for his personal pleasure and amusement. Becker elaborates:

“The psychopath is less obsessed than the narcissist with validation. Indeed, his inner world seems to lack much of anything to validate: it is barren, with nothing in it that would even be responsive to validation. An emotional cipher, the psychopath’s exploitation of others is more predatory than the narcissist’s. For the psychopath, who may be paranoid, the world is something like a gigantic hunt, populated by personified-objects to be mined to his advantage.” (powercommunicating.com)

Just as they eventually tire of each game piece—be it a long-term girlfriend, a casual lover or a spouse—psychopaths also tire of each kind of game. Even promiscuous sex gets boring for them. Perhaps this explains why Mike needs to make a play for other men’s girlfriends or to instigate  fights among his Jersey Shore friends. No doubt, Jersey Shore Season 3 will continue to reveal the two sides of Mike, smooth player or sociopathic sex addict, depending upon how you want to look at “The Situation”.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness