Archives for October 2010

Managing Anxiety Through The Butterfly Method

Pathological Love Relationships leave an aftermath of problems of which the most bothersome are all the anxiety symptoms. These include racing heart, racing mind, intrusive thoughts. obsessional thinking, adrenaline rushes, and cognitive dissonance. Part of recovery is symptom management and finding tools that bring relief to the some distressing of symptoms.

The Butterfly Hug is a form of bilateral stimulation that I suggest my client use in between EMDR sessions or even during a therapy session to relax and calm them self when they need to do so.

The Butterfly Hug was originated and developed by Lucina Artigas, M.A., M.T., and Ignacio Jarero, Ed.D., Ph.D., M.T.  Ignacio graciously gave me permission to share this with you.  They used this process with survivors of hurricane Pauline in Mexico, in 1998.  Since then, it has been used with adults and children who have experienced various forms of trauma.

The process is simple and can be done anytime, anywhere you choose.  It can help you induce a sense of safety and calm and empower you to self-comfort and self-soothe.  It can also foster your resilience and to allay any disturbing feelings that come up.   Most importantly, it can help to ground your awareness in the present moment. Anxiety symptoms are always related to future worrying so any symptom management that helps to ground people to the present moment also helps to manage anxiety.

Here is how it’s done:

  • Sit with your back straight.  Do abdominal breathing. Imagine you have a little balloon in your stomach that you inflate and deflate, slowly, deeply, smoothly.
  • Observe what is happening in your mind, emotions and body as you would observe clouds in the sky.
  • Cross your hands over your chest so that the middle finger of each hand is placed below your collarbone.  The rest of your fingers will touch your upper chest.  Your hands and fingers are as vertical as possible (pointing more toward your neck than your arms.  You can interlock your thumbs.
  • Alternate the movement of your hands, right, left, simulating the flapping wings of a butterfly.
  • Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, observing whatever is going through your mind and body (thoughts, images, sounds, odors, emotions and physical sensations) without changing, avoiding or judging anything.  Observe it like clouds passing by.

The butterfly is an ancient symbol of transformation.  As you use this simple tool, you are facing, rather than avoiding conflict.  Whenever you stop avoiding, you raise your level of consciousness (awareness).  As you do this, you are strengthening your inner radar detector by becoming more of who you really are, empowering yourself and calming yourself all at the same time.

Successful and Unsuccessful Psychopaths: A Neurobiological Model

by Yu Gao, Ph.D., and Adrian Raine, D. Phil.

Despite increasing interest in psychopathy research, surprisingly little is known about
the etiology of non-incarcerated, successful psychopaths. This review provides an
analysis of current knowledge on the similarities and differences between successful
and unsuccessful psychopaths derived from five population sources: community
samples, individuals from employment agencies, college students, industrial psychopaths,
and serial killers.

Read more here.

Not All Abusers Are Created Equal

Just as not all victims are the same, not all perpetrators of harm are the same either. There is a temptation to ‘lump’ them all together–making ‘who’ they are that makes them abuse others the same as other abusers and what they ‘do’ as abusers the same as other abusers. Perhaps this is where Domestic Violence theory and Pathology theory walk different paths.

Pathology is often the missing piece when looking at the domestic violence or abuse scenario. Pathologicals are part of the continuum of abuse–but usually hover at the upper end of the continuum. They represent those who relapse into abusive behavior (emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, and/or financial) no matter how many batterer intervention groups they are forced into. Their biology and hard wiring is often overlooked by the court system that mandates these groups and over looked by the organizations who offer batterer programs. But it is exactly their pathology that distinguishes them from other abusers.

I have suggested repeatedly that those who run Batterer Intervention Programs need to personality-disorder test those who entering anger management, batterer groups, and other similar programs. That’s because we need to weed out those who will not only not be helped by the program, but as Robert Hare says, will only learn how to use the information in the groups against the victims, the system, and other organizations running similar programs. There’s also no use in wasting taxpayers money on treatment for those who don’t benefit from treatment.

Pathologicals (those with the ‘Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorders of Cluster B/Psychopathy) are those most likely to abuse the group by gathering info and becoming a slyer abuser. They are the ones most likely to use the information they learned in group later on the judge, their attorney, court evaluators, child evaluators, etc. If Hare didn’t think pathologicals should be given treatment in prison, why do we think they should be given similar treatment information outside of prison like groups that end up being ‘pre-prison’ routes for many pathologicals?

Pathologicals are also those most likely to get sent to intervention groups over and over again. There is a danger in ‘graduating’ the pathologicals for having ‘successfully’ completed their weeks in batterer intervention and/or anger management. They return to the victim with a certificate in hand by an organization that says ‘They have completed the program’ when what really occurred was that they did not benefit in a long-term way from what they were taught. But the certificate helps the abuser get in the door again.

Many victims think they are protecting themselves by mandating the abuser has to go through intervention to be able to come home again. It’s a mirage that we offer when we give a pathological a certificate of completion. Batterer groups and court ordered anger management need to be offered for those who can truly ‘complete’ the program because they have the capacity to sustain the positive change that the program says they need to change. I have known many a case in which the victim was killed after the batterer intervention program when they let the new ‘graduate’ back into their home.

Pathologicals are those most likely to convince others that they are not the problem–that she is, or the world, their job, their childhoods, their attorneys, etc.

Pathologicals are those most likely to stalk. They don’t take no or go away as answers–they take it as a challenge. When programs like DV are helping women with stalking, they need to understand that by nature of what causes most stalkers to behave the way they do they are either personality disorders/pathology or they are chronically mentally ill as in schizophrenia and often unmedicated bipolars. Your run-of-the-mill unhappy husband who has been dumped doesn’t stalk.

Pathologicals are those most likely to abandon children and bolt. Giving partial custody or unsupervised visitation is to invite the natural outcomes of a pathological with poor impulse control.

Pathologicals are those most likely to expose children to abuse, neglect, and their pathological lifestyles. They are those most likely to program children against the protective and non-pathological parent.

And last but certainly not least, pathologicals are those most likely to kill or attempt to kill. Without conscience, empathy, guilt, remorse or insight—someone so ‘inconvenient’ like an ‘abuse tattler’ is likely to be seen as a swarming gnat and killed with the same amount of forethought.

Clearly, not all abusers are pathological. I have seen many people go through batterer intervention and ‘get it,’ go home, change their behaviors, positively impact their marriages and families and never do it again. But in pathology, there’s ‘nothing wrong with them’ so why change? In pathology, it’s always someone else’s problem–it’s never about their behavior. In pathology, it’s not merely about the Power & Control Wheel that explains their abuse of power. In narcissism and psychopathy, power is food. It’s not ‘a way of looking at relationship dynamics’ — it just ‘is.’ It is biological not dynamic. The new information out on the neuroscience of chronic batterers and other pathological types show us the parts of the brain that are impacted and prevent them from change. This is not merely willful behavior, this is his hard wiring.

All abuse is an abuse of power. But not all abuse of power is treatable or curable. It is not that there aren’t similarities in the abuse or even the abuser–but in pathology the abuse of power has no cure. Abuses, addiction, mental health issues all have the hope of treatment when there is insight and the ability to sustain change. But in pathology, the inability to grow, sustain consistent positive change, or develop insight about how their behavior negatively affects others precludes them from the benefit of treatment.

That IS what pathology is–the inability to be helped by medication, counseling, spiritually, or even love. Abusers who are not pathological have the ability to grow, change, and develop insight about how their abuse of power and control harms others. Pathologicals can never do that.

That is why all abusers are not created equal.

Caution: Relationship Lane Changes – Part 1

Susan Powell was a stockbroker, a devoted mother to two young sons, married to Josh. As a stockbroker, she brought home a larger paycheck than her husband.  As time passed in their marriage, Josh reportedly turned controlling. He insisted Susan tell him what she was doing when not under his radar. Josh probably demanded she tell him how much she spent—on herself and for household goods and services. In this type of scenario, as the tension mounts, the disagreements build up. The arguments escalate from yelling to shoving; bedroom doors are slammed with greater frequency, and the couple drifts apart.  It’s like they are racing cars in parallel lanes—each accelerating, abruptly changing lanes, ducking emotional traffic and fearing a collision.

Women sometimes hope having children will change an abusive mate’s behavior. They hope the abuser will turn his/her life around for the sake of the children, resulting in a happy home life.

For Susan Powell, that didn’t happen. Pregnant, perhaps under circumstances beyond her control (she could have been forced as some are in marriage), Susan brought her second child into the world three years after her first.  By that time, anger and violent outbursts had become commonplace in her marriage. Susan likely announced “The marriage is over.”

In the majority of abusive marriages such as this one, making statements such as, “we need to divorce” or “this is not fair to the children and I can no longer go on living this way” can be potentially lethal.  For the safety of both the woman and her children, it is vital to have a plan in place before making such an announcement.

There is a stage for women, abused or not, when they verbally announce they are taking steps to end their marriage. This action lays the foundation for a scorned and angry abuser to consider their own course of action. At this stage, women begin confiding in coworkers or close friends. As I later learned from her friends and coworkers, this is exactly what Susan did.

To understand more about how alleged offenders think, I will use Josh Powell as an example. He began formulating a plan no different from the plans of other violent persons—one born of anger and desperation:

  • Anger because the person is leaving and ending the relationship.
  • Desperation over what he (the abuser) will be forced to carry out if he cannot persuade his partner to remain in the relationship.

Part 2 will appear next month…

A Special Note from Susan…

Before you announce your thoughts about how unhappy you are or that the relationship simply is not working for you any longer, have a solid plan in place. Women often fail to plan ahead in leaving; the underestimate what the abuser can and actually does ends up doing. The Institute offers exit planning strategies to prevent you from becoming an abuse statistic or the victim of Intimate Partner Homicide. If we can help you strategize to get ready for disconnection,* please let us. Most of all, be safe.

* You can learn more about this service here.

Denial and Its Power

Acknowledging Domestic Violence/Pathology Awareness Month with the POWER of Information!

Every once in awhile you need to be reminded that not everyone thinks you know diddly squat. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you that think you really don’t have a clue. It’s not that it’s new to me. It reminds me that not everyone believes me when I tell them I think he’s pathological and it reminds me that denial is a mighty force like a tidal wave.

My girlfriend’s daughter could have been in my ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ book–that is, her traits, her background, the men she chooses, the father of her child–is identical to the women in the book EXCEPT she hasn’t broken through her own denial yet. The women in the book broke through theirs long enough to at least answer the survey. “E” hasn’t come that far yet no matter how many of my books I give her, how many times I have pounded this into her head when I see her.

“E’s” daughter she had with the pathological is a whopping 5 years old and he’s been out of jail probably less than 1 year of her short life in small increments of months at a time until he does something else and goes back to jail. He has no empathy, no insight about his behavior, he lives a parasitic life off of others, he deals drugs for his full time employment (when he’s out of prison), he never learns from his consequences and he expects others to cater to his pitiful life. In short, he meets the criteria for a psychopath.

I have known “E” since she was about 7 or 8 years old and she grew up with my children. She’s now 27. This week “E” told her mother “Sandy doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She may write books but she doesn’t realllyyy know what she thinks she knows. She assumes these people can’t change but I am the hopeful type that believes anyone can change, especially if ‘they want to’ and with God’s help. You can’t be a Christian and believe that people don’t change.”

Did you sigh a big sigh reading that? That’s how I feel day in and day out as I see the mixed effects on women from both a lack of public psychopathy education in this country and a whopping dose of denial. Denial is often an under-rated defense belief system in terms of the devastation it can cause people. Over and over I watch just one defense mechanism–DENIAL–kill women, harm their children, lose their career over, go into financial bankruptcy because of it, become spiritually bankrupt as well, and emotionally harmed and scarred because of one simple highly defensive belief system: Denial.

Denial is a defense mechanism’ postulated by Freud that when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept they will reject it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. In “E’s” case that would be, he doesn’t work, he lives 10 months out of every year in jail, doesn’t pay child support, lives with his parents or other women, lies/steals/cheats/deals and has never done anything different. This is the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of psychopathy that denial is based on. And I’m sure, in “E’s” defense, it’s uncomfortable to accept that he’s never going to help her and her child’s dad will live most of his life in jail or prison.

Denial is different than ignorance. Ignorance doesn’t have the information to make an informed choice. “E” has the information in the form of previous experience with him, his consistent behavior that never changes, and a lot of info she’s gotten from me and refuses to use it to develop honest insight about his traits, behaviors, outcomes, and ultimately his mental health. She needs the illusion that he isn’t pathological, that one day he will somehow ‘just be different.’ It’s magical thinking at best and sad, sad, sad denial at worst.

It will cost her everything to stubbornly cling to the belief that he won’t live the rest of his life in jail, live off of others, and do nothing for his child. It may cost her a child abduction when he doesn’t bring her back when he’s suppose to (oh yeah, she already went through that). It may cause her serious financial struggles when he doesn’t pay child support and she must do it all (oh yeah, she’s already living that–she has to live with her mother because he doesn’t pay support).

It may cost her child constant attachment and detachment problems when she goes for long periods of time and doesn’t see him and is told ‘Daddy is in time-out.’ (What a way to put it!) Oh yeah, the 5 year old is already in mental health counseling according to mom because “It’s important she has a relationship with her dad.” No child deserves to have exposure to a psychopathic parent.

With denial “E” does see that she doesn’t have a relationship with her dad! And since he is incapable of true attachment, empathy, love, consistency, or insight, what in the world can he give to her? He deals drugs with her in the car and she stays 90% of the time with his parents. But denial lets her believe that ‘something’ other than drug dealing is happening in those sparse moments in between jail/prison time she has with her dad.

The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Freud’s daughter Anna. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind because it conflicts with the ‘ability to learn from and cope with reality’. Learning from reality is what the path of recovery is all about–accepting what is–his diagnosis, his incurable disorder, his pathology. You can’t learn from something that you don’t accept and you will never cope with something you don’t believe.

There are so many forms of denial, no wonder it is so prevalent–denial of facts, denial of responsibility, denial of impact, denial of awareness, denial of cycles, even denial of denial! With so many forms to get entangled with, is it any wonder it can take a woman years to ‘come to believe’ that her life with a pathological is unmanageable, dangerous, and deadening.

The last time I looked in the face of this kind of scary denial where I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about in explaining possible lethality to a mom, she was shot in the head and died in front of her young children by him. Now parent-less AND traumatized, the children are the byproduct of his deadly pathology and her deadly denial.

I hate denial because I saw someone die because of it and all to protect and defend an illusory concept of a relationship that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST the way she believed it did simply because she didn’t want to face reality.

Reality is a gift. It’s the only truth. Truth is bigger and even safer than hope. Hope in him gets plenty of women and their children hurt when denial eclipses ‘overwhelming evidence.’ Why women who love pathological’s denial hangs on like a shark has been the focus of our award winning book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths.’ If we can help you with your denial, please let us know. We offer phone sessions, telesupport groups, 1:1 Intensives and Retreats.

Ponerology 101: The Truth Behind the War on Terror

Article used with the permission of
Fearful children – fearful adults. Grist for the psychopath’s mill.

Human relationships are plagued by fear. This cycle all too often begins in our first relationship with our parents. Too self-absorbed to recognize what their child truly requires of them, many parents betray their own child’s weakness and dependency on his caregivers – his emotional need for comfort, security, trust, and the loving acceptance of those closest to him. Having missed out on these important periods of growth, this boy, now a parent himself, may come to feel threatened by the emotional needs of his own child, becoming dependent on his own children and spouse to provide what he never had. The vicious cycle spirals on, and in turn, his own children learn to stifle their needs, deny their own feelings, and live as hollow reflections of the needs of their father. When a child must meet the emotional needs of a parent, and not the other way around, the parent-child relationship is inverted. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert Pressman call this the ‘narcissistic family dynamic’, and the problems it causes are directly relevant to the vast geopolitical problems the world currently faces.

Such children, like their parents, seek some source of comfort, some sense of security, but not knowing where to look and what to look out for, they often find it in all the wrong places: their own children, their lovers, their work, some religious or political cause. As much as they may deny it, they are motivated by the very fears they experienced as children – afraid of being alone, not belonging, uncertain, unloved, confused, abandoned. They find shelter from the pain in some literal or symbolic arms of embrace, yet it is incomplete in some way, like the ‘security’ of a sinking ship or of a castle built on foundations of sand. Not wanting to let go, and face that pain again, they shore up their defenses – a rallying of troops to give ‘the people’, their own fragmented personalities, a sense of security. But such a cover-up is built upon and dependent on lies, things half-seen through the lens of denied and distorted emotion. We may be denying that we are in a relationship with a psychopath, someone who, despite the abuse and mental torture they subject us to, offers us some sense of comfort and stability in life. Or we may deny our own betrayal of our loved ones’ emotional needs: the child we criticize and deform according to our own twisted ideals or the lover we demand to be someone they are not.

I find it fascinating how these dynamics of a single human soul mirror so well the delusions of the many. Just as we rally our mental forces to hold onto that equilibrium we desperately fear losing, we rally our military forces to protect us from enemies that do not exist, covering up problems at home that dwarf those projected ‘out there’. How does this come to be? So far in this series, I’ve described psychopaths – individuals devoid of conscience, incapable of remorse, and hungry for power – and their infiltration of corporations and politics – two seats of power in the modern era.

Manipulating mass emotion, particularly fear, is their modus operandi. It’s commonly said that politicians exploit fear, but what is missing from this truism is an understanding of exactly what motivates them to do so, why they’re so good at it, and the extent to which they go about doing so. Psychopaths understand human behavior, often better than we understand ourselves. In the last article I quoted a diagnosed psychopath, Sam Vaknin, describing how he used emotional abuse and insults to break down his victims. It was just one example of the special psychological knowledge possessed by psychopaths, refined after a lifetime of observing and interacting with ‘others’ whose foreign emotional reactions strike them as so comical and ridiculous. When this special knowledge is translated onto the global stage, you get geopolitics and all the propaganda and lies that accompany it.

Yes, psychopaths crave power and will do anything they can to hold on to it, but even that does not get to the heart of the matter. If a psychopath is not born into a position of influence and power, where he has license to do whatever he feels compelled to do without recourse, he feels like a slave in a system he cannot quite understand. He is hindered by incomprehensible laws, arbitrary social customs and interpersonal rules that make no sense to him. He is not free to be himself. To a psychopath, true freedom is simply license to use, abuse, and torture other people – physically, emotionally and financially. Any hindrance on that bloated sense of entitlement is a nuisance he dreams of removing by instituting a social system of his own creation. This is the true definition of ‘totalitarianism’, ‘fascism’, or a ‘new world order’ – a system of government where the psychopath is not arrested for beating his wife, killing his enemies, making emotional wrecks of his family and close acquaintances, stalking those who know his true nature and threaten to reveal it to more of those ‘others’ who so persecute him. In our world, the ‘war on terror’ is the means to this end. New terms like ‘homegrown radicalization’ and ‘extraordinary rendition’ are created, while familiar terms are appropriated and special meanings for those ‘in the know’ are instilled alongside the ordinary meanings understood by the common people.

In an interview in 1989 entitled “Recollections of 23 Years of Service to the US”, Pentagon insider Col. Fletcher Prouty described how the days of traditional warfare were over. The new wars would be economic, and the new enemy would be terrorism. This is exactly what has happened (see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine). But, as many have come to know, there is much more to the ‘War on Terror’ than meets the eye. The long history of COINTELPRO-type operations in the US, whereby groups deemed to be potential ‘dissidents’ are infiltrated and co-opted in a direction favorable to the National Security State, along with ECHELON surveillance of anyone deemed a potential ‘threat’ by the political psychopaths in power, makes it absolutely certain that any potential ‘terrorist’ group in the US has long since been identified, observed, and infiltrated by US intelligence and law enforcement. In fact, this has been the case the world over.

In the aftermath of WWII, and with the advent of a new ‘Cold War’, various stay-behind operations were formed in the countries of Europe (see Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies). These groups formed the basis of national resistance movements against the threat of Communist takeover. Unbeknownst to many involved, they were sponsored largely by NATO and the CIA. When it became clear that the threat of Communist invasion was minimal (these movements were active in such countries as Italy, France, Belgium, and West Germany), the focus shifted from external threats to potential internal threats – local Communists and the ‘threat’ they posed to the then-current power structures. The CIA funded and supported various extremist right-wing groups in this cause. Neo-Nazi groups and other extremist groups were infiltrated and controlled by the CIA and the secret services of the various European countries.

What was the result? A series of terror attacks struck the civilian populations of these countries. Left-wing groups and individuals were blamed by the governments, who then entrenched their power with the support of terrified populations when they turned to them for ‘support’ and ‘security’. However, the attacks were actually carried out by the very groups that had been infiltrated and controlled by the governments – groups who were then protected by these governments, like in the Milan bombing of 1969 which killed sixteen, or the Tuscany railroad bombings in the early ’70s. Similarly, as former BBC Middle East correspondent Alan Hart observes (see his Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews), Israel and its intelligence service, Mossad, has long-since infiltrated every Arab government and ‘terrorist’ organization. In fact, Mossad had agents tailing several of the alleged 9/11 hijackers in the months prior to the attacks (see Justin Raimondo’s The Terror Enigma). Not to mention the fact that Osama Bin Laden had been a CIA asset until the day before 9/11, as had many of his fellow Mujaheddin in their fight against the Soviets.

When you put these facts together, they paint a striking picture. Western intelligence agencies have long had inside access to various ‘terrorist’ groups and used them in a self-described ‘strategy of tension’. And yet the US and its allies are currently fighting an endless war against these nebulous groups that are in fact CIA assets. Why? As Hermann Goering said to his captors at Nuremberg, “It is always a simple matter to drag the people along [to war] … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” More truthfully, attack them, tell them they have been attacked by ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists’, then denounce the ‘liberals’, ‘bleeding hearts’, and ‘peace-lovers’ as ‘terrorist sympathizers’.

If we look closely at any ‘terrorist attack’ in the last 10 years – even the foiled attempts – we see a long list of connected intelligence assets, FBI agents acting as ‘Al Qaeda recruiters’, informants, and patsies manipulated for the cause. In recent years, Russia, Britain, Israel, and the United States have all been caught red-handed attempting such deceptions. Put simply, political psychopaths are in control of the governments of our world. Goaded on by a disdain for human morality, a drive for power and influence, and a desire to create a world where they are the ones calling the shots, they have created an enemy to strike fear into the hearts of humanity and to exploit the fear that is already present. Terrorism does not exist; at least not in the way governments and the media present it. Terrorist groups have long been infiltrated, created, or otherwise controlled by these political psychopaths. In essence, these men and women have murdered their own civilians and blamed a fictitious enemy in order to gain popular support for a cause that will never be won. The ‘War on Terror’ is an endless one, because these people do not and cannot see an end to their power. And while we denounce the ‘evil terrorists’ and the ‘homegrown radicalization’ of our own citizens, the political psychopaths merely see us as suckers, mindless actors in a play of their own creation. They are like the con man who says, “Well if they were so stupid as to believe me, they deserved it!”

If anything is to change, and if we are ever to end this ridiculous ‘war’ against an abstract noun, two things are needed. First, we need to take steps towards removing political psychopaths from office, making it impossible for psychopaths to achieve any position of political, corporate, or economic power. Giving psychopaths power and influence and expecting them to be adequate leaders is like expecting a blind man to drive a bus. Psychopaths are color blind when it comes to issues having to do with the well being of humanity. Second, we must come to grips with our true history, and what is really behind the spin of the current ‘war on terror’. We are arresting, torturing, and murdering innocent people along with patsies whose controllers get away with everything because they operate behind the scenes. Without ponerology, things will only get worse.

Telling Yourself the Truth – You Don’t Have to Tell Me — But at Least Tell it to Yourself

“People, like all forms of life, only change when something so disturbs them that they are forced to let go of their present beliefs. Nothing changes until we interpret things differently. Change occurs only when we let go of our certainty.” – Dee Hock

Acknowledging Domestic Violence/Pathology Awareness Month with the POWER of Information!

Rigorous honesty is the first rule of recovery. Nothing happens until the truth is laid on the table. Well, that ends a lot of recoveries right there–the inability or even refusal to be honest, especially with yourself.

Telling yourself the truth means several difficult things:

1. It means you stop covering for him –making excuses for his behavior, quietly and secretly LOOKING for loopholes he just might fit into (he doesn’t met ALL the criteria for pathology, only 10 out of 12. Psychology COULD be wrong in his case). Instead of looking with the eyes of safety and seeing how many areas he DOES fit in, you scour every square inch of your memory and his behavior looking for ONE redeeming trait that is suppose to wipe out the 25 absolutely pathological things he does. You aren’t telling yourself the truth about ‘him’ and his pathology OR your own loophole hunt and what your real motives are–to find a reason to stay.

2. You tell yourself the truth about how you need to take responsibility for your choices and your recovery. Telling yourself the truth about your own choices means you are willing to really dig in and look at where your choices in relationships have their origins. You can’t change what you don’t see. While you are not responsible for abuse you suffered, you are responsible for your own recovery and the safety of yourself and children. This can only occur when you begin telling yourself the truth about the level of danger you are in and the level of damage you and your children have already sustained. Taking responsibility for your recovery means that you both acknowledge the victimization AND seek to thrive beyond the mere title of ‘victim.’ I see so many women do part one: acknowledge the victimhood and don’t do part two. They camp out in the victimhood and 10 years later, they are still in the same spot as they were before. Recovery means movement and progress. We have to even tell ourselves the truth about our own recovery—we kick our own butts if we are stagnating or have stopped growing. Some women find their identities in their victimization because of the severe abuse and loss of self esteem. Years later some of the women have never done anything for their own recovery. They read one book and saw themselves in it, recognized their victimhood, closed the book, squatted—and stayed there. You already lived THAT—real life is out there on the other side of recovery (even IN recovery). Tell yourself the truth about how invested you are in your recovery or what you need to really do in order to recover. If you’re afraid of success—acknowledge that.

3. Telling yourself the truth also means taking responsibility for relapses. Sometimes women secretly want to relapse. Have you had that feeling? They just want to go back to what feels ‘normal’ — which is often dysfunction. It’s human nature to want what is comfortable even when it’s painful. That makes recovery all the more difficult because when you are tired, lonely, and sick of the pain you are in, it would be great to believe the fantasy again –wouldn’t it? Just ONE night where he pretends it’s going to be good again (and even though you know it’s not true and for that night you don’t even really care if he’s lying) and both of you know how to fake it to ward off the pain and loneliness. So there’s that night of passion that has been fueled by fear and abandonment but the next day when everyone is past the fantasy, it all starts again. Then you think since you gave in, and you really don’t have what it takes to end this and leave anyway–so you sigh and resign yourself to just living in the hell. Telling yourself the truth is pointing to the ways you sabotage yourself. When you are tired, lonely and sick of pain and you feel the old feelings of relapse sneaking in and your head wants the fantasy back—you don’t pick up the phone and call someone who can remind you what reality is. You don’t plan something for that evening that will help you get through that night without sabotaging yourself. The video tape is replaying all the fragments that only show ‘the good part’ of the relationship. It’s warm and cozy. You pick up the phone and call him or you answer when he calls. Telling yourself the truth is about how long you had planned to self sabotage.

Those are 3 REALLY HARD THINGS to hear. But they are at the crux of recovery. Trauma, fear, and abandonment actually INCREASE people’s feeling of attachment. The more you have been hurt by him, often the more attached intensely you will be. Those trauma bonds are hard to break and even harder to live with. Women say they want MOST to be out of pain, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts about the relationship (good and bad) but they sabotage themselves by not protecting themselves through “no contact,” by not managing their anxiety, by not developing a support system, by not planning ahead for sabotaging thoughts, etc.

Recovery is a life change. It’s not a quick fix to get out of pain like taking an anti-anxiety medication. Women who take a whopping 6 weeks off of dating or a few months and jump back in are shocked to find themselves right back in it–but usually with someone even WORSE than the last one. The most common factor is each man is more dangerous than the one before. That’s because they think time heals wounds and if it’s been a few months, SURELY it’s time to date again. Recovery heals wounds. Sitting out for 5 years and doing nothing about gathering insight about your weaknesses, relationship patterns, and problems will not magically make you ready for a relationship because you waited 5 years. Time is time. It just passes. You have to change your life in order to change your choices. Recovery or changing your life is a new way of seeing yourself, your previous relationships, your past, your choices, your coping skills–and most importantly a future filled with different choices and healthier relationships.

I KNOW that you ladies are up to the challenge. In the 20 years that I have been doing this and kicking butts, (referred to as Sandra’s Bootcamp!) I am always AMAZED at the quiet strength that grows in women as they take the chance to detach, be alone, and heal. It’s your strength that has kept me doing this for this many years in the face of a lot of great odds and often danger myself. But ALL of you are worth it!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and for The Institute, Pathology Awareness Month!) so I am starting the kick-off with this article on Telling Yourself the Truth. If we can help you dig down into the truth for you and help you start your recovery, just let us know! We make it easy–phone sessions in the privacy of your own home and in the comfort of your fuzzy slippers! Or gather over coffee in one of our tele-support groups and meet other ladies going through it too. Or jump on a plane or in your car and go to beautiful NC and deal directly with Sandra. Whatever you do….tell yourself the truth so your recovery can start!

Ponerology 101: The Political Psychopath

Article used with the permission of

– How could a psychopath outshine other candidates and achieve success in politics?

– Why would a psychopath want to enter politics?

– How long could a psychopath successfully operate in such an environment?

Jim Kouri, who served on the National Drug Task Force, has trained police and security officers throughout the United States, and is currently the fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, answers the first question in an editorial for

Quite simply, most [psychopathic] serial killers and many professional politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and other human responses to outside stimuli. … If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. Not only must politicians be relatively thick-skinned to handle attacks on their character, they must be capable of dishing it out in return. Psychopaths lie with ease; they do not have any moral scruples when it comes to character assassination, empty promises, shameless self-promotion, cutthroat tactics, and using any means to justify the end. These qualities give them the leading edge over their more honest (and often naive) competition.

Politics is little different than any other con-job. In a Ponzi scheme, for example, the con artist targets members of an identifiable group, whether religious, racial or age-based. Regardless of whether or not the scammer is a member of the target group he pretends to represent the group. While political psychopaths are instrumental in the rise of totalitarian political groups, they play an equally important role in apparently Democratic governments. Their use of a party mask (no pun intended!) is so common that it can easily be called their primary modus operandi.

But why would a psychopath enter politics in the first place? Simply ask the question, “Who is the most powerful person in the world?” and many will answer: ‘the President’. Psychopaths seek positions of power and influence, and politics offers publicity, prestige, and other perks. It also provides positions of ultimate authority over military, industry, and entire populations. In a world where psychopaths are understandably viewed as morally repulsive, often finding themselves at home in the criminal world, politics offers an opportunity to create a new world, to be free from the ridiculous (in their minds) moral and legal rules of society.

Scanning recent headlines, we regularly see examples of the corruption and fraud typical of white-collar psychopaths:

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme. (Patrick Cockburn, “A ‘fraud’ bigger than Madoff”, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

Defense Department Cannot Account For 25% Of Funds – $2.3 Trillion

On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld … said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat. … “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld admitted. … Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11– the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten. (“The War on Waste”, CBS, January 29, 2002)

Israeli police have recommended charging the country’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, with several counts of corruption as part of a bribery investigation, in a move that could lead to his resignation and a significant government reshuffle. Lieberman, head of a popular far-right party, is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and obstruction of justice in a case dating back over nine years. If charged and convicted on all counts he faces up to 31 years in jail. (Rory McCarthy, “Israeli police recommend corruption charges against Avigdor Lieberman”, The Guardian, August 2, 2009)

Rod Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich with President Obama.

In 2008, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich came under similar media scrutiny, with several commentators speculating as to his mental health. Blagojevich was impeached for attempting to auction off newly elected President Obama’s vacant Senate seat. However, even before his impeachment, the signs were obvious. In his profile of the governor for February 2008 issue of Chicago Magazine, David Bernstein portrayed Blogojevich as narcissistic, arrogant, vindictive, charismatic, irresponsible, impulsive, untrustworthy, and with presidential aspirations (how typical!).

After interviewing more than 20 associates of Blagojevich (“from current and former members of the governor’s administration and his campaign staff to state lawmakers, Democratic benefactors and operatives, academics, pundits, and political prognosticators”), Bernstein noted that several “resorted to colorful, four-letter language when describing the governor. The list of printable insults included “greedy,” “dumb,” “paranoid,” and “phony.”” They described dramatic displays of temper over items as trivial as office stationary, “alleged illegal hiring and political kickback scandals”, his unapologetic lateness for meetings and even funerals, and a litany of political failures and embarrassments. As Bernstein puts it, for the man who once bragged of his “testicular virility” in standing up for himself against the offender in the stationary incident, “all the withering criticism, negative newspaper headlines, and next-to-nothing approval ratings should feel like a kick to the groin. But if he’s fazed, he doesn’t show it. In public, he looks easygoing, unshaken, even self-assured. He still cracks jokes and smiles that big, toothy grin.”

Cool under pressure, Blagojevich obviously saved his temper for more profitable situations:

“He can’t control himself,” says Miller. “I’ve heard people say that on his own staff.” A Democratic insider adds, “Rod sometimes just goes out of his way to have a fight, just because he can. It’s as though he relishes them.” … Last summer, the downstate newspaper the Peoria Journal Star declared that the governor was “going bonkers.” Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole. State representative Joe Lyons, a fellow Democrat from Chicago, told reporters that Blagojevich was a “madman” and “insane.” “He shows absolutely no remorse,” says Jack Franks, the Democratic state representative. “I don’t think he gives a damn about anybody else’s feelings. He tries to demonize people who disagree with him; he’s got delusions of grandeur.”

© M.C. Roessler 2010

Called a “liar” and likened to a “used-car salesman” by lawmakers after one incident, “in an unprecedented move, they demanded that Blagojevich put any promises on paper in so-called memorandums of understanding.” In fact, he spent much of his time in office “fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration.” But despite the rumors, innuendos, and outright accusations, “Blagojevich has claimed – sometimes indignantly – that he has done nothing wrong. He blames the scandals on “a few bad apples who violated the rules” and who deceived him.” In short, Blagojevich shows all the hallmarks of a political psychopath, albeit a fairly obvious one. And he surely isn’t the only one. Just as the ‘best’ psychopaths are those who evade detection, living lifetimes of successful crime, the best political psychopaths operate in such a manner as to hold on as long as possible.

Robert Hare, in his 1970 book Psychopath: Theory and Research, as well as James Blair, Derek Mitchell, and Karina Blair in their 2005 book The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain, observe that negative environmental conditions such as low socioeconomic status, abuse, and poor parenting, along with low IQ, are often associated with high psychopathy scores, particularly among those who engage in persistent, violent criminal behavior. These psychopathic offenders are often considered the worst of the worst in courts and prisons. However, these factors seem only to affect the expression of psychopathy. As Dr. Hare says in filmmaker Ian Walker’s excellent documentary, I, Psychopath, on the diagnosed psychopath and self-styled narcissism guru, Sam Vaknin, while psychopaths often tell of some traumatic childhood that made them the way they are, psychopaths come from all backgrounds, good or bad. Speaking of successful psychopaths like Vaknin, he says, “If you’re very bright, know how to dress well; you have, say, the gift of the gab; you’re raised in an affluent family background; [then] you don’t go in the bank and rob it, you get in the bank and become a director…”

In fact, Vaknin makes a perfect case study for the type of psychopath that is most dangerous to political institutions, and thus entire nations. Best known as an Internet guru for “malignant self-love”, Vaknin was arrested in Israel in 1995 for major securities fraud. The documentary follows Walker, Vaknin, and Lidija (Vaknin’s wife) as they visit several European institutions to test if Vaknin is indeed a psychopath. Vaknin ends up scoring 18 (out of 24) on the PCL-SV (Screening Version),

Sam Vaknin

Diagnosed psychopath, Sam Vaknin.

developed by Dr. Hare, a score higher than the majority of offenders in US correctional facilities, and the cutoff point for psychopathy. However, according Walker, Vaknin, like many of the so-called successful psychopaths now being studied by Hare, Bakiak, and others, is not an “archetypal, textbook” psychopath. Contrary to the criminal populations, Vaknin is never physically violent. He has also been married to the same woman for ten years, while most psychopaths are seemingly incapable of such ‘commitment’, engaging in a string of short-term relationships. (His emotional treatment of her is another matter, however.) Most interestingly, he is remarkably self-aware, and his insights agree with what the experts have to say. For example, in total seriousness, Vaknin had the following exchange with Walker:

Vaknin: “I like to present a facade of the self-effacing, modest person. It gives people the impression that, underneath it all, I’m human.”

Walker: “But you are human, aren’t you?”

Vaknin: “I firmly believe that you want to believe that, yes. … [The psychopath] regards people as instruments of gratification and as disposable things to be used. … The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert. They do nothing. They’re just there. They torment their spouse by being unempathic, but they don’t beat her or kill her. They bully coworkers, but they don’t burn the office. They are not dramatic. They are pernicious. Most psychopaths are subtle. They are more like poison than a knife, and they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide.”

After subjecting Walker to a series of degrading insults (a regular occurrence during filming), and with Walker still visibly in shock, Vaknin coolly, and with disturbingly sadistic insight, described the process to him:

“Your body was flooded instantly with adrenalin and its relatives like norepinephrine … Now when these moments pervade the bloodstream, your brain reacts. It shuts down certain centers and activates others. This is called the stress reaction, or stress syndrome, actually. Then when the abuse recedes, the adrenalin levels begin to drop. As they drop, the entire system goes into mayhem. So what bullies usually do, they start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress syndrome, and this is the great secret of bullying. Never overdo it. Small doses. The victim will do the rest. – Although you are shaking much less [now] … I must do something about that.”

This type of self-aware psychopath is perhaps the most dangerous to humanity. When his instinctive drive for domination of others is coupled with the means to attain to positions of power, he is not only free of the restraints of conscience by nature, but finds himself largely above (or indeed the architect) of the laws that are meant to protect normal human beings from the the deviant impulses so clearly defined by the psychopathic mind. As a president, politician, military or corporate chief, a vast number of people are literally at his mercy.

60 Million Persons in the US Negatively Affected by Someone Else’s Pathology

Acknowledging Domestic Violence/Pathology Awareness Month with the POWER of Information!

Do you believe that someone else’s pathology is none of your business or it’s simply an ‘unfortunate turn of events’ for the person in a Pathological Love Relationship? Or that what happens to someone else doesn’t affect you? What happens because of pathology affects us all.

An astute student asked ‘How many people does pathology negatively affect?’ We did a little math….

There are 304 million persons in the U.S. 1 in 25 people will have the disorders associated with ‘no conscience’ which include anti-social personality disorder, sociopath, and psychopath. 304 million divided by 25 = 12.16 million have no conscience. Each anti social/psychopath will have approximately 5 partners who will be negatively affected by their pathology = 60.8 million people!

If that many were affected by an existing medical conditions (like Diabetes or Heart Disease) or if it were a more readily recognized mental health problem like Depression that was negatively impacting 80.8 million people, there would be a public educational campaign. Celebrities would be on board helping the world to recognize the disorder/disease. There would be billboards, and walk-a-thons, and a proclamation signed by the President for Pathology Awareness Week. But there is none of that. Not only does Pathology slink silently by without recognition or assistance to others to recognize it, it racks up enormous financial debt for anyone and any system in its path.

And that isn’t the end of tallying the human path of destruction! The 60.8 million negatively affected by pathology does not include the children harmed and since psychopaths (and other forms of pathology) are hypersexual they tend to have lots of children so we could certainly tack on about half that amount of 60.8 million for children affected based on 2.5 children per psychopath. And sadly, this does not include all the other forms of pathology related to Cluster B personality disorders that also negatively impact others such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or other disorders within Cluster B. Current stats says that narcissism affects approximately 1% of the population and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at 2%. However, 60% of people who have 1 personality disorder have more than one personality disorder so it’s likely that NPDs also have BPD or some Anti-social Personality Disorder (APD) and APDs have NPD and so on. So those numbers represent an overlap. (This is starting to challenge my math skills here…) But if we begin even with just the statistics on 1 in 25 have no conscience and multiply that to estimate how many wounded people are out there—it’s a huge issue.

A psychiatrist once remarked, “I consider pathology to be the country’s number one public health issue.” And with good reason—there are 60 million people negatively impacted by someone else’s extreme pathology (that Otto Kernberg called ‘Severe and Dangerous Personality Disorder). This includes the emotional impact–the aftermath symptoms that leave 50% of the people with PTSD. That’s almost equal to the percentage of war vets who come home with PTSD.

The emotional aftermath in others (with or without PTSD) causes treatable mental health symptoms like cognitive dissonance, intrusive thoughts, sleep disruptions, increase use of alcohol, concentration problems, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, paranoia and suicidal ideation.

The emotional aftermath affects the work environment causing almost 50% of the persons negatively affected to also be negatively affected in their work performance. Some cut back from full-time to part-time, be demoted making less money, or go on short term disability for aftermath symptoms causing MILLIONS of dollars in lost wages.

I have seen doctors move to ‘impaired practitioner’ status, attorneys step down to paralegals, social workers because mental health techs instead, others default to paid time off, use their vacation time, or go on disability and begin using state services such as food stamps and subsidized housing.

The aftermath also affects children who are then:

* Put into counseling

* Need school-based services because of acting-out/behavioral problems

* Are distracted

* Get PTSD

* Suffer with declining grades

* Are affected by the pathological parent’s world view and begin acting like the pathological requiring therapy to overcome their patterns

This doesn’t include the abject neglect that kids go through when being ‘watched’ by the pathological–often malnourished, not on a schedule, not put to bed on time, exposed to high risk behavior (porn, drugs, lots of sexual partners, violence, other criminal types). Total this up and the child has a lot to overcome. Since many of the personality disorders are parasitic by nature, they are also dead beats by nature not paying child support (even if they can afford to) causing another lag on the government services while children need Medicaid and other benefits.

Many of the personality disordered types are also affected in moral reasoning and don’t take responsibility for their behavior. This includes not paying off debt which becomes written off as bankruptcies or the other partner assumes the debt placing them in financial chaos for 10 years or more while they dig out and live below their normal standard of living. Millions of dollars every year are written off and absorbed by financial institutions and credit card companies because of pathologicals causing an even bigger financial drain on our over-taxed economic system. These types also feel ‘entitled’ to have all the things they want so are likely to have bought luxury toys they can’t afford–more than one house, huge houses, expensive cars, vacations, boats, etc. and walk away from the financial responsibility.

It is estimated that over 60% of pathologicals have addictions including drugs, alcohol, gambling, and porn–all causing millions of dollars in not only money spent on the addiction, but money then not spent on their children, alimony, and their bills.

Pathologicals are also highly litigious and don’t follow court orders resulting in years spent in frivolous court activity putting a lag on the court systems either by using up court time, not following court orders resulting in more court appearances, and using state-appointed court resources, further clogging up the court system. It also causes the partner high amounts of legal bills in fighting narcissistic-based law suits to simply spout their opinion in court or to exert power over the partner.

A moderate percentage of pathologicals will be criminal using court resources, state-appointed legal services, and jail, prison, probation and parole services.

(Are you furious yet?)

This cluster of pathologicals with impaired moral reasoning, high impulsivity and hyper sexuality are those most likely to practice high risk sexual behaviors and thus have resulting STDs that they willingly share with others causing public health concerns.

This high impulsivity and low responsibility results in DUIs, speeding tickets, and jacked up insurance rates.

When we wonder if pathology and the lack of a national public awareness campaign is ‘really’ an issue we should consider that ‘AT LEAST’ 60 million people are being affected by someone else’s pathology —and pathology is increasing as more women have children with them and as more children are being raised by them, thus influenced by them.

Our future is highly dependent on what we provide as Public Pathology Education to influence patterns of selection, the clogging impact on our social service systems, and the over use of our legal structure by pathology. Each one, teach one. Pass on what you know about pathology to someone this week! If we all teach a little, we can reach a lot!

I, Psychopath

The psychopath feels little, if any, guilt. He can commit the most appalling acts, yet view them without remorse. The Psychopath has a warped capacity for love. His emotional relationships, when they exist, are meager, fleeting, and designed to satisfy his own desires. These last two traits, guiltlessness and lovelessness, conspicuously mark the psychopath as different from other men.

– Watch the video at

The Neurobiology of Evil

Is a person’s propensity toward evil a matter of malfunctioning synapses and neurons?

Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and author of “The Anatomy of Evil,” says it is.  Ever-more-detailed brain scans are revealing the biological origins of psychological issues in “evil” people, from those who are mildly antisocial to serial murderers.

–

Posteromedial Cortex: Divide Between Narcissists And Psychopaths Narrow

Like many of history’s greatest minds, narcissists spend a great deal of time deep in thought – but for narcissists it is thought about themselves.

Neuroscientists recently found a correlation between high scores on the Machiavellian Egocentricity subscale – a measure of narcissism – and activity during rest in the posteromedial cortex, a brain region that previous studies have associated with thoughts about the self.  The study also found a correlation between poor decision-making and brain activity during rest in the medial prefrontal cortex. Impulsive action without regard for consequences is another aspect of psychopathic behavior.

– read more at the Science 2.0 website

Ponerology 101: Snakes in Suits

Article used with the permission of

Babiak, as an industrial and organizational psychologist, encountered his first corporate psychopath in 1992. By studying operators like “Dave” in the corporate environment, Babiak not only brought into focus the methods by which psychopaths infiltrate and ascend the corporate ladder of success, he shattered previous illusions about what was and wasn’t possible for psychopaths to accomplish. Many in the industry thought psychopaths wouldn’t be able to succeed in business. They thought that psychopaths’ bullying and narcissistic behaviors would be off-putting to potential hirers, and that their abuse and manipulations would inevitably lead to failure within the company. In fact, the so-called “experts” couldn’t have been more wrong. They seemed to have neglected the uncanny ability of psychopaths to present an image of extreme normality, and even excellence, to their victims. And that is what we are to them: victims, potential “marks”, suckers.

Against the prevailing beliefs and hubristic assumptions, Babiak found that psychopaths were readily accepted into the management ranks of prominent companies, and were even experiencing career success.1 Their extreme narcissism was apparently mistaken as a “positive leadership trait”, and the murky morality and internal chaos typical of the mergers, acquisitions, and takeover environment seemed perfect for their type. Not only would they do well under the pressure – not having the ability to feel fear or stress – the potential personal rewards were too great to refuse, for the business and the psychopath. As Babiak put it, “the lack of specific knowledge about what constitutes psychopathic manipulation and deceit among businesspeople was the corporate con’s key to success.”2 Ironically, the very traits sought by corporations and other powerful entities are often the ones that do bring about their inevitable demise (witness the fall of Bernie Madoff, Enron, Nazism). And they are the traits we have been conditioned to see as ideal. For example, through the “rose-colored glasses” of those who do not know better, conning and manipulative become “persuasive” and “influential”; coldhearted behavior and lack of remorse become “action oriented” and the “ability to make hard decisions”; fearless and impulsive become “courageous” and “high-energy”; lack of emotions becomes “strong” and “controls emotions”.3

In short, when we call a psychopath “persuasive and courageous” we should actually be charging a commission for doing the psychopath’s PR for him, because that is all it is. It’s like selling bleach and calling it holy water! On paper these qualities may look promising, but as coworkers, and especially as bosses, psychopaths are domineering, intimidating, frightening, and dangerous. Quick to take credit for others’ work and to hire and fire employees on a whim, they tolerate only praise, are extremely short-sighted, and genuinely lack the insight that makes a good leader. One psychopath, described by Babiak, was “unwilling and perhaps unable to acknowledge that any of her decisions could have any negative consequences for the business.”4 Even when leading superficially “normal” lives, psychopaths still cause problems in ways that fly under the radar of the law – economically, psychologically, emotionally.

How do they do it? By analyzing corporate cons, Babiak discovered the basic methods psychopaths use to operate in a hierarchical, corporate environment. But no matter in what environment the psychopath finds himself – a romantic relationship, a corporate strategy, a planned heist, an election campaign, a political coup … the list of possibilities is endless – he uses the same, three-phase “Assessment – Manipulation – Abandonment” routine on his victims. In the first phase, the psychopath assesses the value of his “ally” and potential patsy – what he or she can do to further the psychopath’s aims. Psychopaths are experts at identifying and pushing others’ “buttons”, their “likes and dislikes, motives, needs, weak spots, and vulnerabilities.”5 Others’ strengths are utilized and weaknesses exploited. Next, the psychopath uses messages carefully crafted for the specific target, utilizing information gathered in the Assessment Phase. He then adapts his manipulation to accommodate any new feedback from the target in order to maintain full control. As Babiak and Hare write:

They often make use of the fact that for many people the content of the message is less important than the way it is delivered. A confident, aggressive delivery style – often larded with jargon, clichés, and flowery phrases – makes up for the lack of substance and sincerity in their interactions with others … they are masters of impression management; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial – but convincing – verbal fluency allows them to change their personas skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan. They are known for their ability to don many masks, change “who they are” depending upon the person with whom they are interacting, and make themselves appear likable to their intended victim.6

Sounds an awful lot like the work done by intelligence agencies, doesn’t it?

© M.C. Roessler 2010

Psychopaths also use a variety of manipulation techniques, for example, gaslighting. When told a lie often enough, and with seemingly absolute certainty, normal people tend to doubt their own perceptions. “Amazingly, more often than not, victims will eventually come to doubt their own knowledge of the truth and change their own views to believe what the psychopath tells them rather than what they know to be true.”7 In this phase, the psychopath ruthlessly exploits his victims, using them to acquire money, position, control, and power. When a person has ceased to be useful, they are discarded in the final, Abandonment Phase. Loyal to none, this often has devastating effects on those who were deceived by the psychopath’s façade of lies and “good intentions”. Whether a spouse who has been drained emotionally, an old woman whose bank account has been emptied, or a “friend” whose connections have finally paid off, the psychopath inevitably throws them out and moves on to the next target.

Within the corporate world, Babiak identified a more elaborate five-phase variation of this dynamic. First, psychopaths use their charm and gift of gab to feign leadership qualities, thus gaining entry into the company. Once hired, they identify possible targets and rivals among coworkers – from talented but naïve peers whose work can be stolen to secretaries who control access to important executives – in the assessment phase. Babiak describes the four groups of people that psychopaths employ in their games. Pawns are ordinary coworkers who have “informal power and influence”, and who are deftly manipulated by psychopaths into wanting – or needing – to support and please them. Patrons are high-level individuals with formal power. By developing rapport with patrons, psychopaths secure protection from the attacks of lower-level workers who see through the mask. Patsies are pawns who have lost their usefulness and have thus been discarded. Lastly, organizational police are individuals like auditors, security, and human resources staff who are more experienced in detecting manipulation in the work place.8

In the third, manipulation phase, psychopaths create and maintain their “psychopathic fiction”, setting up positive disinformation about themselves and negative disinformation about others using the network of pawns, patrons and “useful idiots” that they create. By creating conflict among the other employees, they divert attention away from themselves, preferring to operate behind the scenes and above the storms that they create and manage. In the confrontation phase, psychopaths discard rivals and pawns (now patsies), frequently using techniques of character assassination, framing, and other tactics using so-called “facts” that deviate significantly from the truth. They get away with this by relying on the highly placed patrons with whom they are now cozy. And in the final, ascension phase, they ultimately unseat their patrons, taking for themselves the positions and prestige of those who once supported them.9 In the psychopath’s game, people exist solely to be manipulated, and he pursues his aims at any cost, even if that means backstabbing everyone who supported him in his ascent.

Interest in corporate psychopaths has risen significantly in the last decade, largely due to the publicity of corporate frauds and scandals like Enron in 2001 and Madoff in 2009. Oddly, given the number of political scandals and their striking similarities to their corporate cousins, the idea that psychopaths infiltrate governments – with disastrous results – has yet to receive the attention it deserves. In fact, the political massacres that are occurring today – the dark aspects of human history that both fascinate and repel us – and the corruption that inevitably leads to them, have their roots in the presence of psychopaths in positions of power and influence.

Psychopaths can be found in prison for all sorts of violent and predatory crimes against individuals, including white-collar crime. University programs, academic societies, conferences, professional textbooks and manuals, all exist to get a handle on the problem and aid in prevention of these sorts of crimes. But what about their role in crimes against humanity? I haven’t been able to find one academic paper examining the role of psychopathy in politics, whether in so-called democratic systems or overt dictatorships. Just as researchers at first doubted the ability of psychopaths to succeed in business, and the problem remained unexamined, the problem of psychopathy in politics remains steadfastly ignored. Political scientists refuse to look at psychopathy, and psychopathy experts refuse to look at politics. The results of such blindness are evident in history – and the present – for anyone to see. Genocides, dictatorships, state-sanctioned torture, “war without end”, political assassinations, death squads, corruption, blackmail, spying on civilians, “state secrets”, illegal “espionage”, and on and on.

The situation is odd, considering the fact that experts have made it increasingly clear that psychopaths can occupy prominent positions in all professions: law, business, medicine, psychology, academia, military, entertainment, law enforcement, even – and perhaps especially – politics. As Babiak and Hare explain it, “Many [psychopaths] do manage to graduate from college or obtain professional credentials, but in most cases it is less through hard work and dedication than through cheating, getting others to do their work, and generally ‘working the system.'”10

Bernard Madoff

The Madoff case offers a great many implications concerning not only the Wall Street in general, but the political scene as well. Interestingly, the list of his victims lacks any US banking names or other serious institutional investors, who normally require the type of information that Madoff’s firm kept off limits. In fact, the business was suspected as a fraud for nearly a decade, with evidence of misconduct from as far back as the 70s. And yet serious investigations were held off until his sons turned him in. Many knew for years, but remained silent, allowing Madoff to continue the scheme that would ruin thousands. Conveniently, Madoff’s niece was married to a senior compliance official at the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2005 and Madoff himself bragged about his close relationships with SEC regulators. Madoff’s firm had close ties to Washington’s lawmakers and regulators, with Madoff sitting on the board of the Securities Industry Association, and Madoff’s brother sitting on the board of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). In Creswell’s and Thomas’s piece for the New York Times, a close associate of Madoff’s relates that “He once mentioned to me that he spent one-third of his time in Washington in the early 1990s, late 1980s.”

Not only was Madoff’s fund a perfect money laundry for potential co-conspirators, he was protected by his close ties to the “organizational police” of the SEC and his domineering control over his employees. “Nobody left because they could never get another job that paid as well as this one. Some people, after his arrest, speculated that it was kind of like hush money; nobody asked any questions because the Madoffs were nice, protective, generous.” (The Daily Beast) According to Babiak and Hare, “The level and intensity of psychopathic intimidation often keeps those who have been abused from coming forward.”11 By controlling underlings and wooing regulators, Madoff protected himself from exposure. It was only after his arrogance got the better of him that it all fell apart.

But Madoff is only a symptom of a systemic problem that affects humanity from the level of interpersonal relationships to heights of political control. The “garden-variety psychopath” maneuvers for control and power in a relatively limited sphere of influence: from his immediate family to the wider group of coworkers and chance victims. Criminally versatile psychopaths move from victim to victim, acquiring a tally of women emotionally and physically destroyed; elderly people bilked of their life savings; charities robbed of their donations; children tortured and mutilated. The corporate psychopath not only affects everyone in the company’s staff; his misdeeds have the potential to ruin the lives of thousands. But the political psychopath, in a position of the utmost prestige, power, and influence, has the potential to rule – and ruin – empires. His influence reaches level of society and his decisions have the potential to affect billions.


  1. Babiak (2007, 413).
  2. Babiak & Hare (2006, xiii).
  3. Babiak (2007, 419).
  4. Babiak & Hare (2006, 12).
  5. Babiak & Hare (2006, 37).
  6. Babiak & Hare (2006, 38).
  7. Babiak & Hare (2006, 51).
  8. Babiak (2007, 417).
  9. Babiak (2007, 418 – 20).
  10. Babiak & Hare (2006, 47).
  11. Babiak & Hare (2006, 52).