Perhaps one of the most unnerving experiences I’ve ever had in my life came during a stint I did establishing treatment programs for some of the most seriously disturbed characters among us. Many of these individuals had served time for criminal offenses. I overheard one such person (whom I’ll call “Ed”) bragging to several others about how many women he’d been able to take advantage of sexually over the years in his position as a “duly ordained minister.” And as he bragged further about a wide variety of exploits, he provided me with firsthand instruction on the very nature of malignant narcissism and psychopathy.
Ed had figured out early in life that everybody has their vulnerabilities. And he had nothing but disdain for those vulnerabilities and the people who had them. To Ed, vulnerability means weakness, and weakness is a sign of inferiority. Now, one could speculate that his despising of weakness might have its origins in a traumatic childhood from which he “learned” the hard way that it’s not safe to show weakness (Traditional psychology paradigms always assumed something like this to be the case.). But Ed had come from both a nurturing and a privileged background. Still he’d long harbored an innate distaste for the weaknesses he perceived in others and a strong sense that he was inherently superior to others. And harboring this attitude, this unsavory future “minister” felt entitled to prey.
Ed found that certain women, especially inherently trusting, kind-hearted women who had undergone some rough times or had been poorly treated in in the past and were therefore both hurting and hungry for love, were particularly vulnerable, and he set out on a plan to stalk these prey. He found a less then reputable outfit that offered ministerial courses online and conferred valid degrees, paid the bargain price for his brief training and credentials, and set up shop in his neighborhood. And he was very good at all the rubrics of ministerial life: From preaching an inspiring message (He made it a point to memorize a handful of the most potent passages in the Bible and could give one heck of a sermon) to saying just the right comforting words when someone had suffered a loss, to providing outreach to those in need, he knew how to cultivate a devoted following. But what he was best at was scouting out the most vulnerable women who’d come into the congregation and then slowly, methodically, seducing them and otherwise manipulating them into sexual relations. He “groomed” them by appearing to afford them an understanding ear and by stroking their severely damaged egos. He was also good at other forms of manipulation, especially getting them to part ways with whatever financial resources they had managed to secure (all for the “glory” of God and the honor of “doing His work”). Over the years, he satisfied his sexual appetite and his lust for material things quite handily, always at the expense of those most vulnerable. Ed is a classic psychopathic predator – a true “wolf in sheep’s clothing” manipulator. But he was perhaps too grandiose for his own good, and as some grandiose predators sometimes do, he finally went far enough (and became brazen enough) to attract the attention of the authorities and ended up getting put out of commission for awhile.
When I first wrote In Sheep’s Clothing, I hadn’t yet met Ed or I might have included him in one of the altered exemplifying stories (There are a few stories in The Judas Syndrome, however, that depict predators as seriously malignant as Ed.). Ed and others like him have made big impressions on me, to be sure. But as tragic as the more egregious cases like the one involving Ed are, my experience taught me that the greater tragedy is the extent to which scenarios similar in character but which play out at milder and subtler levels occur in relationships every day. People use and abuse others with alarming frequency these days. It’s an outgrowth of the culture of narcissism – a culture that promotes at least indifference to if not outright disregard for the welfare of others. And largely because most exploitation and abuse occur so subtly and because the folks on the receiving end of such behaviors are, for various reasons, unsuspecting (I address the reasons for this in Character Disturbance), the victims (like whiplash victims) rarely see it coming or realize the degree to which they’ve been mistreated until long after substantial damage has already been done. And that’s why I was inspired to write In Sheep’s Clothing.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about the subtle ways abuse and exploitation gets played out in relationships. I’ll be talking about the inherent malignant narcissism at work in all such relationships. I’ll also be talking about the personality types most prone to such behavior and the types of abuse and exploitation each type seems to prefer. I’ll also be talking about the damage the various forms of abuse do to a person’s sense of self and why the road to recovery and empowerment for victims can be so challenging. And toward the end of the series, I’ll be devoting some special attention to those cases where abuse gets taken to a physical or emotional extreme. About that time, I’ll also be featuring a special guest on the Character Matters program – an abuse survivor who’s become both a true hero and champion for other survivors. I’ll have more to say on this in the coming weeks.
A special note about the Character Matters program: As many of you already know, technical difficulties have plagued the program the past several weeks. I’m happy to report that one of the major sources of the difficulty has been isolated and corrected. Hopefully, there will be no more problems with audio dropouts or dropped calls. And the producers will continue the quest to improve not only the technical aspects of the program but also the programming itself.
62 thoughts on “Abuse And Exploitation Can Take Many Forms”
That sounds like a fabulous series of articles. I will be looking forward to reading them. My first ex was a similar CA within the Church and people who weren’t Christians tended to trust him more when he told them he was. He could be so pious. His main agenda was wheeling and dealing in second hand things like a conman, so that he didn’t have to work and pay child support and exploiting vulnerable people for his needs. Also so that he could get up at whatever time, eat whenever..do what ever he wanted, when he wanted because…well he just felt entitled to. Mustn’t forget all the good Christians who let him use their properties to kill things and play with his guns. Before I even came across your work Dr Simon, I used to say he was a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing that prays with an ‘e’. He also hung around drug rehab type services to find himself attractive, damaged and vulnerable females trying to get off drugs. They were never good enough for him to be a potential partner though, only the best for him. So he bought himself a camera worth about the same value as most peoples cars then would transform his clothing and go backstage at A list events and get himself admitted as a photographer. Then take photos of himself with famous people and drag them out when ever he wanted to manipulate someone and manage their impression of him. The whole time he was just a complete fake that lots of people fell for.
Myths inspired the conceptual framework of neurosis while myths and stories that demonstrate character disturbance have been left with less attention than they deserve.
I heard from a comparative literature studies course that Freud got inspiration for his theories from, among others, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Shakespeare wrote another play that demonstrates malignant pettiness well: Othello, in the character of Iago.
My intention here is to further help dissect where some of these ideas have come from.
I remember one time from when I was a very young child. I heard some teacher claim that if someone teases, harasses or bullies another person, they are actually scared and “You must be courageous”. In my mind I said: “What? That doesn’t make sense.”
I don’t hear anyone saying that scorpions or black widows deep inside want to be cuddled.
J, this might sound picky but I am so clear about the “intention” component of a malignant psychopathic manipulator and how it sets them apart from from the rest of society that I have to say something here about scorpions and black widow spiders. There is no hurtful intention behind what a scorpion or a spider does, they are just surviving in the way nature set in front of them and they HAVE to do what they do in order to survive. They HAVE to do it……..not that I would want to cuddle with either one of them!
A manipulative Spathtard does not have to do what they do, they do it for amusement, or personal gain and because they feel that they have the right to unnecessarily manipulate, use and abuse others.
Sorry!! 🙂 I understand why you are said what you said and I hope you understand why I said what I said!
Also, there are those who believe that the thing that draws the controversial line between a sociopath and a psychopath IS intention to do personal harm to someone. So, take me Sociobro for instance…….he is a real piece of work and a very sad case. Manipulative, deceitful, a pathological liar, drug addict, alcoholic……..and a felon. CLEARLY he is a sociopath and sadly it’s the only thing he has ever excelled at in his life but does he have an intention to personally hurt someone? no. There are “casualties” that result from his behavior and choices but he does not intentionally harm or try to control people, twist their minds and hearts just because he can and he somehow feels entitled to. Believe me,,,,,,it is a very fine line with him but it certainly has clearly shown me that Spathtard is a psychopath.
Puddle, what you describe is passive disregard. I don’t know how he thinks, I haven’t known him, but I guess that might be because he doesn’t care about anyone except himself.
Sociopath, psychopath, I don’t think there’s an actual difference.
As for malignant pettiness, Iago is a quintessential example. Somehow traditional psychologists missed that. Othello is an example how even one Iago is too much.
J, there is a difference between a Sociopath and a Psychopath. Please read this brief article and in addition, Psychopathy can be measured .
So who would want to tangle with either one but there is a difference. I’ve spoken to my councilor at length about this and she is an associate of Dr. Robert Hare who is one of, if not THE, leading experts in the field of Psychopathy.
Passive disregard? Which one? Sociobro or Spathtard?
Puddle, I have two posts on this topic as well. Even the Psychology Today article has some shortcomings because it doesn’t address the issue of the terms “sociopath” and “antisocial” often being equated, just as “sociopath” and “psychopath” have been equated at times. These errors are common not just because of misinformation and public unawareness but also because of frequent confusion and misuse among professionals. The articles I’ve written on this tend to be a bit laborious but I do my best to clarify the issues. I have some posts on the issue on the http://www.counsellingresource.com site as well.
Dr. Simon, I’m not sure I’m understanding your reply about the Psychology Today article. Are you simply saying that the article just didn’t go far enough in it’s explanation OR that they “gipped” the Sociopath side by not making the distinction between “antisocial” and sociopath? How about the rest of the comparison? Based on my experience with my sociobro, and not being familiar with the traits of an “antisocial” character, I would have to say my brother is a Sociopath but man,,,,,,he could be a psychopath. I’ve seen him display emotion though and it was real…..not the soap opera version that Spathtard put on. But he scores something like 36 or 38 in the PCL-R! It’s so hard to say……..my brother is under the influence most of the time. I’m not sure his brain even works normally any more if it ever did. 🙁 It’s a tragic situation because even though he was raised in what outwardly appeared as a stable, caring home……..my father was 100% not even remotely able to be a good father to him and my mother came with a whole other set of issues. We got hit hard in our childhood, adopted for starters and then raised in a very unstable environment by parents who weren’t BAD people, just ill equipped to be good parents. It was a disaster.
I’ll try to find your articles and thanks for your reply.
Have you ever seen one blush? Psychopaths can’t blush.
Thank you for your ongoing work in revealing this horror and predators patterns. Survivors of adult clergy sexual abuse may want to check out http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com. They have helped my wife and me immensely. Keep up the great work you do, Dr. Simon!
Dr Simon I will look forward to reading these upcoming articles they will be invaluable. Unfortunately I can’t get to listen to your Character Matters program at present due to internet issues which is a shame as I have enjoyed the shows I have had an opportunity to hear. Hopefully soon I will be able to rectify that. 🙂
Thanks, Tori. FYI: You can listen to and download mp3s of all the broadcasts in the archive by visiting the link I place in the posts: http://ucy.tv/Default.aspx?PID=96&T=Character+Matters
Hi J and Puddle, I’ve come to a kind of observation that…. (apart from the fact we need to remember the continuum of lack of empathy exists in character disturbance) the lack of empathy that paths feel or rather don’t feel is extended to every object in their life, including themselves. I believe it goes to self object relations. The poverty of feelings apart from base desires, that paths have doesn’t allow them to recognize the humanity of others. All 3 of these nuts I have now had relationships with did not experience their feelings unless they were related to power, lust or cold/hot. All 3 would need to go to the toilet when they ‘felt’. They would get that bodily reflex to poo at strange times either when they were excited or for want of a better word unsettled. BB gets this all the time at times of either excitement or stress. The ex that prays with an ‘e’ used to get it as soon as he entered my house and when he went hunting. The PPD had it too, except he would hold it in for ages then run to the toilet when he was in pain. They don’t feel but their body reacts. They are wired wrong from the beginning of development. Paths just don’t realize, just how differently everyone else actually experiences emotion. They know we all have these ‘weaknesses’ and vulnerabilities to emotional states, they just think that they are ‘stronger’ than us. They objectify everything. Like you said a while back Puddle, ‘look Mommy its broken’. They don’t actually get it when they break us. They are fascinated all the same, like when they torture animals or people or light fires. They like adreneline too, they feel it as a bodily sensation, moreso even than normal people do. The wiring is different and they feel ‘power’ in their whole body. They think this is ‘feeling’.
A bit like how your dog needs to bog as soon as he gets to the park.
Nicely put Juliette. It’s inconceivable yet in my mind absolutely no excuse for what they CHOOSE to do but I suppose doing what they do is like a drug to them, an urge too powerful to turn away from.
Juliette, I don’t have a pooping contribution. there was nothing unusual noted. but lack of care…..yes, for himself,,,,,,,? I’ve never met someone who was just, I guess…..just OFF. I picked up on it, noticed it, asked him about it in so many words, but i couldn’t name it because I had never encountered it. So many things like that got a “free” pass because they were so foreign I just didn’t understand them and everyone is different so, I didn’t WANT to be judgmental or accusatory without KNOWING what was the truth and that of course wasn’t going to come from him. It just makes me sick now…..who or what he really is/ was and he knew it. Doesn’t that just negate the word love right there? So each and every “I love you sweetheart” was a covert slap in the face, a punch in the gut. I was NOTHING and NO ONE to him………..EVER! Tears.
It’s so mind numbing to know that i felt what I felt for him and that what he felt was the exact opposite. Talk about putting a spin on the notion “opposites attract”?
Hi Puddle, (hug and a tissue from me), they use the word love as if they knew what it was, that’s the bottom line. We assume they do know, when in fact it’s just a label for them for something they desire. They learn it’s a powerful tool/word and use it for the tool it is. For us it’s a truth, an expression something sacred, we mistakenly assume the spoken word is indicative of the heart-space of the path, when it’s really not what we think and perceive it to be at all. They do think they love us, I’m convinced of that. They also think they are ‘loveable’, in fact they want to be ‘loved’. Somehow I’m also sure that they know that our model of love is different to theirs but perhaps they think that is because we are women and not because they are ‘deficient’. It’s difficult to comprehend that you have been utilized and not loved in the true sense.
All this doesn’t excuse the lack of character I believe. I’ve been taking part in some discussions with trauma survivors, who all talk of their lack of proper feelings and ability to give and receive love. I do hear some objectification of themselves and others occasionally though. This seems to be a coping mechanism for the trauma and I see it more often in the men and combat veterans. What I also get the impression of, is that they carry a huge deal of empathy, understanding and compassion for each other. They want to soothe and encourage each other and take great care not to hurt or ‘trigger’ people in their conversations and emotional tone. There is great respect and empathy among these survivors, very little selfishness and a lot of vulnerability with honesty. So my point is that you can have screwed up feelings, even have a diminished capacity for empathy and still have the humanity and self discipline to display good character. I think that we have to look at ourselves and ask what is good character in a survivor? There are legal precedents in law that define good character I have heard today. I would like to find them and report back. Sounds interesting.
Yes, Juliette, character comes forward in action.
Another, completely different, example: Dr Simon actually once answered to a question I asked. There are many individuals, who would otherwise make for psychopaths, but lack the predatory modus operandi and can be fully expected to stay proper.
J, It’s my understanding that it IS the predatory/ aggressive(covert or overt) “modus operandi” that qualifies the label “Psychopath”. I’m not sure I understand how someone could have the makings of a Psychopath and not BE a psychopath. Maybe I’m not understanding or missing your point. I apologize if that is true. Are you saying that there are psychopaths that choose not to be psychopaths?
Sort of Puddle, in the case of BB’s only sis, she does have a belief in the spiritual realm, although not a practicing Christian. She was brought up Catholic with all the corresponding ritual and with a very religiously superstitious mother, so perhaps the religion has given her some internal inhibitors to control her behaviour or her development as a child. She was cruel to children when she was young, violently so. She is definitely a psychopath, with no capacity whatsoever for empathy. I’m sure of it.
Juliette, I don’t think it’s primarily the lack of empathy that would qualify her as a psychopath. Are you familiar with the PCL-R and have you scored her? To really do the test correctly involves a professional assessment unless you have personal, experiential knowledge of the person. My brother is a slam dunk as I grew up around him and witnessed his behaviors but I’m still unsure. My counselor and I are going to do the test next week together on the phone but she off the top of her head scored him 36-38.
Thanks for the tissue by the way! 🙂 I’m loosing track of the posts, lots going on here!
I agree J, I know a person like that. She has failure to empathize, she is reasonably adept at imitating it but it’s not there. She has a husband, children and complete lack of insight into how she comes across. She has a highly controlled and controlling personality, she can be very critical, intrusive, blunt, she is non compassionate to others as well as herself but definitely not neurotic. She makes no apologies for having no compassion, she treats everyone as an object, their value to her is in their object value. Very self preserving and covertly manipulative, as well as passive aggressive. She gets pleasure from the suffering of others but coats it in an imitated form of ‘not my problem, not my concern, it’s their own fault, get over it’ type of attitude. Interestingly she was brought up by the same parents as Bambam. I would even go so far to say that she deliberately stresses her ageing parents by neglect in order to facilitate their demise which is to her huge financial advantage, despite the fact she is already very financially advantaged. However, she displays the traits of ‘good character’ such as fidelity, community service, working, self discipline and obligation even though she has no passions for any of those things. I do believe she is a psychopath who has chosen the path of sticking to good character qualities as a rigid sense of controlling her fate.
Btw, the book came! yaye!
As per my councilor, in conversation today….psychopaty is measurable so a person is either a psychopath or not. You have to score above 35 on the PCL-R to be considered a psychopath. It’s just so confusing to me. No mater how many times she explains this to me I still don’t get it entirely.
Oddly my brother scores a 36-38 but I have never seen in him any conscious intent to do personal harm to some one. It’s not that he hasn’t harmed people but there is no plotting or intent or seeking out to harm someone. No toying with, no violence other than resisting arrest or cocky behavior when drinking but he is a thief, pathological liar, manipulator, etc. very confusing.
Not much is black in white in the world of paths Puddle, even in the world of professionals where Dr Hare’s assessment tool is the widely accepted criteria. On top of that you add the fact that even just assessing one means negotiating a litany of manipulation to get to the truth. It is no wonder there is confusion. They are all just paths to me, on a continuum of narcissism, inability to feel or act in a pro social manner. I think that like fas, something, (entirely different to fas though) didn’t connect and form in their brains at an early developmental age and can’t be repaired because it’s not there, the critical time for it to connect has been and gone. The environment (family, community, culture, education etc) then has an effect throughout the developmental years and is moderated by the child’s innate nature and personality. The end result is always a unique blend of factors that result in the path. We all think of the psychopath as this high functioning glib, charming, sharp, educated predator Ted Bundy stereotype but in reality I think there are plenty of uneducated, low functioning, offensive, dull people out there who are psychopaths too, the Ed Gein stereotype. They just don’t have as many tools at their disposal to manipulate but they make do with what they have and get what they want all the same.
Yeah, Juliette, that is why the test is a measure. There are records to prove that my brother for instance can’t follow the law or abide by the corrections when they are administered. He goes to jail, gets released, on probation,,,,,,and can’t even wait until he’s off probation to get busted again. That was a repeat scenario. His felonies are still on the book but the other “filler” stuff he has done is probably the size of a phone book. AND, those are the things he’s been caught for! Unreal. I’m very curious to do this test WITH her and see what score we come up with. He is an amazing manipulator,,,,,,,,I don’t know how he does it but he wraps people up in his stories without even coming close to breaking a sweat…..its amazing. And even since this stuff with Spathtard and learning what I’ve learned, he “got me” a month or so ago with one of his stories. BUT, the thing I have learned to do with him is to fact check things with his “handlers” and sure enough…………..surprise surprise………..there was a LOT more to the story than his version.
But yeah, someone gets up into the 30’s on the PCL-R…..it’s best to …………..RUN!!!
now, take Spathtard…..what is in B&W?(that I do know now)……married and divorced 4 times. In bankruptcy, many little scrapes with the law but nothing “in your face”, like no felonies……….oh,,,,,,except DOMESTIC BATTERY,,,,,,but that was also a misdemeanor charge, SHE was not seriously injured. But, as my councilor said yesterday……psychopaths are all abusive, it’s just that some don’t become batterers, they abuse emotionally and mentally, financially and professionally’…… and then God only knows what they are doing behind the scenes to someone else. I’m pretty sure Spathtard was into S&M but only showed me a small side of that until I said no thanks, not my cup of tea. I’m sure there was much more to his sexual depravity. I know he is parasitic, glib and charming, Obviously a pathological liar and manipulator… My point being, that a lot of the criteria used to asses someone as a Spathtard IS measurable and the test continues to evolve as more and more is known about the disorder.
Puddle, your brother may not have learned from his mistakes because he felt no remorse other than the fact he had some painful consequences to himself. If he is a psychopath, he has no contrition. He has no true feelings of overwhelming sorrow for what he has done to himself, his family and his other victims. He may be able to say so when being glib but this doesn’t mean he has true contrition. True contrition is a life altering awakening. Even psychopaths on death row feign contrition near the end and find God but I don’t believe a word of it. They’re just covering their bases because they think they might be going to hell possibly. They are finally not in control and err on the side of caution. Have you ever seen your brother blush, go red in the cheeks with embarassment? For me, that’s a high probability sign of a psychopath if they don’t blush. There is just no shame or guilt there, ever.
No,,,,,,my brother does not blush……I was the HUGE blusher in the family. But I’ know plenty of people who are not psychopaths who don’t blush so I don’t think I agree with the blushing aspect. No one else in my family blushed (like horribly) but i was the only light complexion and blond haired person. my brother, mother and father, my father’s brother and both of his daughters……….all dark haired, no blushing. I was very shy and have always leaned more towards the introverted side. My brother also does a version of the predator stare but not towards someone…..he just does it and I think it’s his mine turning some newly hatched wacked out idea over.
Contrition is akin to admission and neither my brother or spathtard would ever truly admit to squatola unless it was just in passing, a brief “I’m sorry” and only to get you off their back and change the subject, rope you back in. My brother is still my brother in other words,,,,,,,he is only a tamer version in his older age and hasn’t had a driver’s license for who knows how long. That has been a forced condition that limits him somewhat but even as recently as 2009(?) I KNOW he was driving (and wrecked slightly) my mother’s car. NO DRIVERS LICENSE but because it was a fairly minor wreck he got away with it. Because I rarely see him or speak to him, the true nature of his life these days is not well known to me. He is an alcoholic and a drug addict and a pathological liar, the full extent of that I don’t know.
Check out this site – Sandra L. Brown … maybe you already know about it though.
See Video Here
Jenna Stauffer and Sandra L. Brown on Psychopathy and Pathological Love Relationships
Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is the founder of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education. She is a former psychotherapist, community educator ..
Also SOTT Talk Radio show #8: Women Who Love Psychopaths – With Sandra L. Brown
Our guest will be Sandra L. Brown. Sandra holds a master’s degree in counseling with a former specialization in personality disorders/pathology. She is a program development specialist, lecturer, community educator, and award-winning author.
Sandra is also a writer for Psychology Today and has been interviewed in magazines such as Seventeen. She has appeared in more than 50 television shows including Anderson Cooper’s daytime show, Anderson. She has provided consultation to film producers regarding pathological love relationship dynamics based on her books.
Sandra’s books include the award-winning Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of inevitable Harm With Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists
and How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved
>> Excellent Books – extremely helpful to me dealing with a Cluster B/Axis II former spouse.
Great to hear, Juliette! That book’s an interesting view into the destructive potential of unconscious.
Juliette and Puddle,
It’s my recall of what Dr Simon said. Some have the makings of a psychopath, but they don’t choose to act abusive or manipulative at all. They can be expected to stay proper. I don’t know how many those are.
Dr Simon, assuming I recall correctly, can you confirm what I remember you having said?
J,Juliette , I have two thoughts rolling around in my mind on this today. They came to me spontainiously, one last night and one just now.
I think there is a certain compulsion aspect to a psychopath that makes a true psychopath someone different than the type you may be talking about. I honestly don’t think that the true psychopath could stop himself even if he wanted to and of course they do not want to. If they did stop them self it would only be to further their agenda in some way.
And then there is this other aspect that I saw VERY strongly in my brother and that Spathtard said about himself on several occasions and it has my mind going for some reason. It’s “CURIOSITY”. My brother didn’t have to say it, it was dripping off of him, he was VERY curious. He wanted to see what would happen when he blew things up of lit a fire, etc. he didn’t take any of that to the extreme but he had a fascination with it.
Spathtard told me in several occasions that he was a very curious person. IF he was telling the truth, who knows what that even means!
J, so what are the makings of a psychopath if it is measured in their actions? Unless he is referring to the people with the same brain abnormalities or anomalies who do not follow a psychopathic life style?
“the people with the same brain abnormalities or anomalies who do not follow a psychopathic life style”
That’s what I’m talking about.
OK, I see. what would also be interesting to know is if there are psychopaths who do not have these brain characteristics. Could someone with a “normal” brain be a copy cat psychopath, like if they were raised by a psychopath. A so raised by a psychopathic father for instance takes on the life traits of the father who raised him but the son’s brain is normal? It’s all very interesting but i suppose the proof is in the pudding. “Stupid is as stupid does”. I would imagine such a person would be at serious odds with themselves.
OR, another possibility is that someone was born with a normal brain but raised by a psychopath or otherwise deprived of certain healthy developmental criteria and it developed into a psychopathic brain because the empathy centers and connections were starved in a sense.
The psychopath always chooses, the entitlement comes before acting on the impulse. Like the rapist who decided to let me go. He carried on for ages deciding whether or not to rape me, having conflicting thoughts about doing it while I got in his head about things. In the end he thought, “stuff it, I’m doing it, I’m entitled and I’m having the impulse there for I will”. It wasn’t until I lied and told him I had Hiv that he decided not to.
He/She always chooses to act on the impulses and compulsions. Sometimes they wait when necessary for the right moment to pounce though. Further evidence of choice. Covert manipulation is also proof of this. They want something, they know how to delay the gratification momentarily, like the predator waiting in the grass at the ready. They are always in control. It’s the entitlement that allows them to take what they want and make choices that other people wouldn’t dream of. The impulsivity I believe, is where their higher brain functions that normally inhibit bad behavior do not stop them acting on their wants/impulses but this isn’t an instant acting out always, which shows that they don’t totally lack control or choice. They just feel superior to and above the expectations of society.
Juliette, I see all of that. Maybe compulsion isn’t the right word. Drive? The entitlement part is SO right on and I see this in my brother but not separate way that in his criminal activity…………….but there is that underlying attitude of entitlement.
I don’t know, maybe “choice” is different for them than for us.
Sorry!! Huge typing error! Yikes!
” The entitlement part is SO right on and I see this in my brother but not separate way that in his criminal activity…………….but there is that underlying attitude of entitlement.”
What I meant is, I see this in my brother but in a separate way than in his criminal activity…………
To all who’ve been a part of this discussion train: This discussion has been full of some really good stuff as well as a few small misconceptions. I think I’ll be posting on the topic again soon, incorporating many of the issues you’ve all raised.
Thanks Dr Simon, I was hoping you would have something to say about our ideas and misconceptions. You’ve given me a much better narrative to describe some of what I see so far.
“The impulsivity I believe, is where their higher brain functions that normally inhibit bad behavior do not stop them acting on their wants/impulses but this isn’t an instant acting out always, which shows that they don’t totally lack control or choice.
But the compulsion to do what they do is still there. the drive, the impulse. I’m not by any means saying that they don’t make choices or can not delay gratification to a certain degree, but that even when they do there is an objective behind doing so, they have not let go of their desire to attack, destroy, manipulate, use or abuse, they have just pulled back to regroup but the wheels are still turning, the plot thickens, the strategy morphs.
Like the man who tried to rape you……….that is so hard to read. you know that the desire to do that was there long before you were then the opportunity presented it’s self(you) and he took it. Had you not said what you said, and gotten into his head (thoughts of how it could affect him…..not feelings of it’s wrong to do this) the outcome would have been much different. Uhg…..what a horrible experience Juliette.
I don’t know why but I got a very VERY creepy feeling from this guy who came to do an estimate the other day…..really bad and when I read your story about that attempted rape scenario…….that is what I correlate the feeling I got from him with. Scary, and now this person, if he is a bad man, knows exactly where I live, the layout of my home and property and that I live alone. And stupidly I let him “make up to” my big protection puppy when he was here……no more of THAT. This kind of vulnerability makes me just want to cry because I don’t know how to assure that I am safe from people who really want to harm another person.
Wrong wording. PROVIDED that I recall correctly, can you, Dr Simon, confirm what I recall?
This does indeed sound like a very interesting series of articles! Just want to check in although I am too hot and tired to say anything very useful! I’ve been having the recurring dreams again about the psychopath who targetted and hurt me (sounds quite like “Ed” in the sense of being a professional predator). I’m worn out by it!
Hi Angela, that’s no good, having horrible dreams is tiring in itself. Have you been able to get access to some therapy?
Not yet – I will try again. I had a consultation with a therapist last year but didn’t go back as it didn’t seem that he really understood about the character disturbance business. I felt as if I was just doing a lot of talking and nothing was coming back. But I’ll try to get an appointment with another.
I have a question for Dr. Simon about CBT: in one of your books you mention one of the traits that can make someone a “mark” for aggressives is the tendency to “over-intellectualize”.
Surely there must be a safeguard built into CBT to bring the client back down from the intellectual plane and re-integrate their gut feelings.
I had one CBT who was great *at first* but would challenge my strong gut feelings about people in my life who I should stay away from.
Just happened to be working on tomorrow’s post when I came across your question, Claire. One of the tenets of CBT is to challenge folks on their beliefs and to force them to externally validate their conjectures as a way of correcting erroneous and dysfunctional attitudes and thinking patterns. So it’s not really the fault of CBT but rather a short-sightedness on the part of the therapist likely at play here. Folks who’ve been in a relationship with a CD person would have done well to have trusted their gut over their intellectualizations. But in the absence of full awareness on the part of the therapist about the nature of character disturbance, the big differences between mostly neurotic and mostly character disturbed people, and the value of trusting instincts when character disturbance is involved, the principles of CBT can be misapplied. As always, when any therapist engages in “treatment” in the absence of full and correct diagnosis and appropriate methods to match the diagnosis, it’s always tantamount to malpractice.
I’ve read elsewhere where say that CBT was a traumatizing experience.
At first I thought it was the therapist himself who was being covertly aggressive, and I am sure you can see why.
Claire, I can say from experience……that the CBT therapist I went to was not covertly aggressive, she was overtly aggressive. This was very early, just after the break up and i was already traumatized and had been for months and months as it turns out and she was very confrontational and did a semi- spathy spin back on me after I questioned her about seeming irritated because I was talking about Spathtard. You know, there is the trauma of going through all the trauma that is inherent when you have been targeted by a spath but on top of that I was retraumatized BADLY just trying to find help. I was looking for someone to throw me a lifesaver and I felt like my head just kept getting pushed under water. I have NO idea how I made it through all of that Claire…..I honestly do not know and still get tears in my eyes just typing that. It was horrible but I was so desperate.
Puddle that is it isn’t it? “I was retraumatized BADLY just trying to find help.” First we go to friends and family and they do not understand what we’re talking about. Then we turn to therapists and they too do not know what we’re talking about but they want to address our “anxiety” and get that all cleared away – um no! My anxiety is there for a reason, so please don’t just wipe out every emotion I have thank you very much! And then when we find the answer, the books and the concept of aggression, it’s like really, therapists of the world, was it so hard, could you not have just pointed me to this book? And myself I’d seen the book many times and recognized the title and cover but never bothered to look into it more. I don’t want to dwell on the negative but that is a huge point!
Absolutely Claire. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in the office of a therapist or a councilor or just here at home and thought…..but you don’t understand. The image in my mind is of me sitting there staring at the ground with eyes fixed just shaking my head slightly in disbelief and resignation. I knew…..I knew they were not even in the same zip code as what I was trying to explain to them. The one, the CBT therapist, just blew my mind because she did NOT know most of the background info,,,,,,she was responding to one particular incident and ……………… even this is hard to describe for me………….. but at a certain point it is just too exhausting to even try to explain it all to someone who clearly does not get it. Contrast that experience with the councilor I have now who deals with these types ALL THE TIME. SHE, it explaining it to ME rather than having to try to explain it to her.
Also, in the earlier stages…..I didn’t really know what he was or that I had PTSD or fill in the blank. I knew but I didn’t KNOW………..AND I was still so hooked on him, still had at least one foot tangled in his web so I was very vulnerable to thinking there was something I could have done differently. OMG!! It’s just all like a bad dream to me now,,,,,very surreal and almost unbelievable?
At some point the therapist bears responsibility. Anyone now who mentions they’re about to start seeing a therapist, I try to talk them out of it. The governing bodies who license therapists have shown zero interest in reform or in tightening their standards.
Claire, I so very easily could have gone off the edge at that stage of the situation, I was SO fragile and worn down. The winter months were upon us here,,,,,short days, long nights…….She did not know what was going on and I had only seen her a couple of times so naturally I was trying to explain things to her, I still didn’t really KNOW what he was. She had a very dominant personality…..I needed safety and compassion…..I needed to be held in a sense. AND I needed educated and informed.
Dr Simon, you say neurotics are those struggling with unconscious fears, insecurities, anxiety, hang-ups, concerns and all that stuff. At the danger of sounding like a hairsplitter(which I could very well start looking for an occupation for), I have questions.
Doesn’t the unconscious also include lots of destructive potential?
Does neurosis result from an ego-attitude that’s too rigid? Is psychosis all those blocked and unregulated energies from the unconscious overpowering the conscious mind?
Can we say that even aggression, originates in the unconscious(we are all born self-centered, after all, and let’s not forget sexual and aggressive impulses), to become conscious?
J, Great article…….
“At the most basic level, the conscious mind stands as a gatekeeper between the unconscious mind and behavior. The unconscious is usually busy coming up with impulses and feelings that rise to conscious awareness as urges. The conscious mind serves as an editor, preventing some impulses from becoming actions and allowing others. The key is to manage the behavior, not necessarily the thinking. Most people have had aggressive urges which they resist converting into action.”
And a Spath acts only on their urges and impulses, either on his own or in cooperation with others he has manipulated or who might actually support his mis behavior.
Maybe this is where the brain formation issues come in, connecting the unconscious with the conscious, and in a Spath there are limited or weak or absent connections.
??asking a Spath to be anything more than a Spath may be like asking a person with a broken leg not to limp?? Because even when they “choose”” to not to do evil hurtful things, it’s not for the reason that someone with a more normal brain would choose and always supports their own agenda. So when they make a “choice” it’s coming from an entirely different motivation that what we might understand the worn choice to mean. I don’t know… As I said before, there was something OFF about him, as in not ON. Maybe that was it……no conscious presence,,,,nothing that connects him with anything other than himself. “More conventionally, we call the respect for things outside ourselves and for the nature of time “values” and “plans,” respectively.”
Very interesting article J…..thanks! SOmething about “mindfulness” mentioned in there too which one of my friends kept saying DURING the relationshi*…….She kept saying, he’s not being mindful and it was her response to several issues we were having. Of course, being unaware of Ppaths and Spaths, she didn’t take her observation to the necessary level.
Unconscious, to me, seems to contain not just neurotic troubles. It seems, to me, to also contain destructive potential that then manifests. After all, a human being has been an aggressive animal form the beginning of time. Some are that destructive potential personified.
That destructive potential also comes toward in wars, where there are people on both sides fighting for what they see as a higher cause. There are, of course, undisciplined brutes, schemers, power seekers and screaming fanatics somewhere in the mix. It seems some people fighting for a greater cause, with honor, can still consume demonic energies. It’s a shame.
J, I tried to make a point a long while back with Dr. Simon and it was in regard to something Eckhart Tolle had said about conciseness. I never felt like I really got my point across but this article and out discussion of it explains an aspect of what my point was.
There is being conscious of what you are doing and why and then there is another form of consciousness which connects you in a sense to others, and nature, and morals, and right living, etc. It requires a person TO be mindful and to watch their thoughts and behaviors and character because the connection you feel is something spiritual for lack of a better word. It’s like a knowing…..you just know——right from wrong, good from bad, etc. The conscious MIND is almost like a tool used to get to spiritual consciousness because it allows you to make choices that benefit others as well as yourself. I don’t think that a Spath has this connectedness with life, people, nature, themselves,,,,,,,,the universal life energy. In a sense they are switched OFF and I sensed this emptiness in both my brother and in Spathtard. Something significant is missing. It’s all smoke and mirrors, all imitation.
The war topic is way too complex for me J. There are just so many aspects to war that I do not understand….positive and negative. it’s another one of those things that I wish didn’t exist but it does in reality….no getting around it but mostly does not make sense to me. 🙁
I was that perfect victim, although not to priests, but to every other type of abuse out there. I was an alcoholic by the age of 16 with zero emotional or spiritual support; verbally abused by my father and completely ignored by my “positive” mother; raped the first time I had sex and it just went on from there. I am figuring it all out finally, at age 56 and am blogging about my “self-psychoanalysis” real time. I got to the root just this month, and the windows are beginning to open as to why all of the men – and women – emotionally abused me…I had believed that I was really evil and believed that all human beings were cruel (except for those who I really liked, but were too afraid to talk to)…but it was only the people that I was choosing. It destroyed my life. https://christinemakela.com/2016/07/14/mommy-dearest/ gets to the root.
Thank you so much for this and all your other articles: the internet saved my life; it has empowered me by showing me I’m not the freak I always believed I was.