Partners in Evil: The Psychopath and Malignant Narcissist Combo

You probably have heard on the news about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Duguard, when she was only 11 years old. The young girl was kidnapped on June 10, 1991 from a school bus stop near her home and held hostage for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Garrido raped and imprisoned Jaycee. They had two girls together (age 11 and 15 at the time they were discovered by the police), whom Garrido and his wife also imprisoned in unsanitary tents in their backyard.

At the time they kidnapped Jaycee, Garrido had already been convicted of a sex crime. Despite the fact that parole officers checked regularly the house, they didn’t bother to look in the couple’s backyard, behind a fence. Nancy Garrido is shown on one tape interfering with the police inspection, harassing the inspector in order to distract him and prevent him from finding Jaycee and the girls. She is a partner in her husband’s crime; a fellow abuser. The couple pled guilty to kidnapping and other charges on April 28, 2011 and were convicted on June 2, 2011. Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years of imprisonment while Nancy received a lesser sentence of 36 years to life.

We see this phenomenon of dangerous duos, or partners in evil, on the news over and over again. What kind of women stay with male psychopaths, enable their wrongdoings, participate in them and then cover them up? Sometimes it’s female psychopaths who partner in crime sprees with their male counterparts. The most notable example of this is Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the young Canadian couple who kidnapped and killed several young women, including Karla’s younger sister. They were convicted in 1993 and are perhaps the inspiration behind  Oliver Stone‘s controversial movie, Natural Born Killers (1994). Usually, however, two psychopaths together can’t last long. Each has to outdo the other in wrongdoings; each wants to be top dog; each looks out for number one and, at the slightest provocation, turns against the other (as, in fact, happened in the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka).

The partnership between Phillip and Nancy Garrido reflects a different dynamic: the equally dangerous yet usually far more enduring combination between a psychopath and a malignant narcissist. In this combination, there is a clear top dog who guides the relationship: the psychopath. However, the malignant narcissist helps him carry out his wrongdoings and covers up for him. What is in it for a malignant narcissist when she teams up with a psychopath? How does this dynamic play out and why does it last? These are the questions I’d like to address next.

I have explained at length the features of a psychopath and why his lack of conscience and empathy, combined with an underlying psychological sadism (enjoyment at causing others pain) would lead him to commit the kinds of crimes Phillip Garrido was found guilty of. But what kind of woman stands by such a man? My hypothesis is: a malignant narcissist. All narcissistic personalities–even those who appear to have high self-confidence and to consider themselves superior to others–crave constant validation. An insatiable need for validation forms the core of unhealthy, excessive narcissism. I say “excessive narcissism” because we all have egos or selves and thus we all have some narcissistic tendencies that are healthy–in moderation–and make us the individuals we are.

Psychopaths are very adept at identifying individuals who suffer from unhealthy, excessive narcissism. Why? Because such individuals appear to be vulnerable and insecure. Caring too much about what others think and pinning one’s self-esteem on the opinions of others is, indeed, a weakness and a vulnerability. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a weak and relative sense of self that needs constant validation. They need to feel better than others or superior to others in order to have an identity and feel good about themselves.

Psychopaths form a symbiotic relationship with such highly narcissistic individuals by holding out the promise of becoming a superior and very special couple. Because psychopaths have an inherent sense of superiority and because they’re thrill seekers who consider themselves to be above the rules and laws, they often manage to convince such narcissistic partners that together they make an unbeatable power couple: closer than other couples, better than them, smarter than them, more cunning than them, hotter than them. During the honeymoon phase of the relationship, there are no words in any language to describe this superlative superiority.

The problem is, as we know, that psychopaths inevitably pass from the idealization phase to a devaluation phase in all of their relationships. This is part and parcel of their personality disorder: to become bored with and emotionally detach from every person they are with. Since a narcissistic partner requires constant reassurance of her superiority to other women–especially since the psychopath,with his constant flirting and cheating, gives her plenty of reasons to be jealous of them–she will feel threatened during the devaluation phase, when he no longer finds her hot, virtuous, brilliant, practical, wise, and all the other qualities he formerly (and all too briefly) ascribed to her.

That’s when the most dangerous and pathological aspect of their relationship begins. During the devaluation phase, the malignant narcissist begins to be rewarded almost exclusively by the punishment of other women the psychopath hooks up with, uses, devalues and abuses. She may no longer be as wonderful as she seemed in his eyes in the beginning. However, there’s this reward left in their “special” and “superior” relationship: by staying with her; by needing her as an alibi and cover for him; by harming other women jointly, she proves her (sick) love and loyalty to him while he, in turn, acknowledges her superiority to all the other women he uses and abuses worse than he does her.

The worse other women are treated by the psychopath–in more commonplace cases, used and disposed of like dirty condoms; in extreme cases, raped and murdered–the more this abuse confirms her special status in his eyes. Such women are without conscience, without remorse, without empathy just like the psychopaths themselves. They are manipulative, deceptive and abusive like psychopaths. The main difference between such malignant narcissists and the psychopaths is that the narcissists are in some respects weaker and more vulnerable.

They tend to be followers rather than leaders because of their excessive need for validation, which puts them at the mercy of others and makes them especially appealing to psychopaths: as their partners in life and allies in wrongdoings. If you read about other similar cases to that of Phillip and Nancy Garrido or about the psychology of cult followers, you will see this psychological dynamic at play. There are few more enduring and dangerous duos than these partners in evil: the psychopath and malignant narcissist combo.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Psychopath’s Emotions: What Does He Feel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


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

New Support Group: The Path to Peace, Recovery from Psychopathic Abuse

photo by Richard Calmes

I  hope that everyone had a pleasant holiday season. The new year is an opportunity to look forward to many positive developments in our lives, one of which, for victims of psychopaths, is Kelli Hernandez‘s newly launched support group on Facebook, called The Path to Peace, Recovery from Psychopathic Abuse. It includes information about psychopathy–including, but not limited to, articles from the blogs psychopathyawareness and saferelationshipsmagazine–as well as inspirational pictures and discussions among its growing number of members. I hope that you will take a look at Kelli’s new support group and delve right in, for the information, comaraderie and lively conversations. Please find below link to The Path to Peace and part of its Facebook wall.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness


Should You Warn the Other Victims of the Psychopath?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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

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

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erased But Not Forgotten: Psychopaths and Emotional Memory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Pacitti   

  • Calendar

    • August 2017
      M T W T F S S
      « Nov    
       123456
      78910111213
      14151617181920
      21222324252627
      28293031  
  • Search