Archives for April 2011

Nothing Bothers Him–I Wish I Were MORE Like Him!

At the heart of pathology is a lack of empathy, conscience, and remorse. Sounds horrible on paper (and it is) but it looks different in action. Sometimes women wish they were more like THAT–less empathic as a way of getting less hurt.

She doesn’t really mean that (unless she too has a pathology bent). She is exhausted by her own mental activity of intrusive thoughts, heart break, hypervigilance and hurting. She just wants the pain to go away and if that means she becomes callous and doesn’t give a ‘rip’– then so be it–she’ll opt for his pathological character traits.

Cluster B Personality Disorders (Borderline, Narcisistic, Anti-Social Socio/Psychopaths have at the center of the disorder a complete lack of, or at least a reduced capacity for, empathy, conscience and remorse. (We will use the Acronym REC for a lack of these traits–Remorse, Empathy Conscience). To a certain extent, only the degree of a lack of REC distinguishes one disorder from the other. Psychopaths/Sociopaths are at the high end of the spectrum with the highest amount of these traits. But all four disorders have some of these traits in them because these disorders overlap with each other.

So what does a lack of empathy, conscience and remorse look like? On the surface from the women’s perspective it looks like in him either carefree-ness or a lack of concern what others think of him or his behavior. It looks like confidence in his choices and his behavior. It looks like enjoyment of his choices and behaviors even if they are negative. It looks like an unwaivering commitment to his own thoughts (even when it hurts someone else). On the surface, it looks healthy to not be harmed by the thoughts of others because he gets to do his own thing and then be unaffected by how it effects others. He coasts along in cloud of impenetrable numbness from any negative consequence–socially, emotionally, sexually, financially, or physically from his behaviors.

However, a lack of REC is the only thing that differentiates us from some animal species. (Ever try to guilt a cat?) Our ability to feel appropriate guilt is a reflection of our humanity. That various levels of psychopathlogy LACK these elements point to their own diminished ability to act ‘humane’ in certain situations. Why are we surprised that people who have impaired REC go on to abduct children, hurt pets, steal, lie, cheat, and are unfaithful? Conscience is related to consequences and the emotion guilt. Guilt is the RED LIGHT of our behavior–we don’t do something because we don’t want to feel guilt. In the end, guilt saves us from hurting others and ourselves and living with that awful feeling of regret.

But a pathological who doesn’t have that hardwiring to feel remorse or guilt, hurts others (and himself although he may not have the insight to recognize it as self harm), hurts society, and leaves a trail of wounded women and children as he goes golfing, picking up other women, or goes to the tanning bed–all the while humming a little song to himself.

Admiring his ability to hurt others and go on is NOT something you should admire in him. In a recent retreat someone kept bringing up they thought this was GOOD–that a pathological remained unscathed by his own belief system and therefore if we were more like him, we would be happier because we would react less to what we did.

That’s a sad thought. It’s the only line in the sand that separates us as caring human beings from a pathological. Our ability to have insight about our behavior is what makes us somewhat unpathological. Even though we are hurt and would welcome a bit of numbing to get away from the pain, you will never be able to throw yourself into the pit of pathological REC to escape your pain, intrusive thoughts, and other symptoms you wish would go away.

For those women who are not mutually pathological, the only way to get OUT of pain it to go THROUGH the pain. Embracing that you can still tell the difference between right and wrong and you don’t covet his pathology as something to be admired, means you are not pathological yourself! Others who have now embraced his worldview of hurting others, seeing it as good and wanting to a live a life of power/dominance/status, need therapy surrounding her ‘consumption’ of his pathological worldview.

A healthy REC is one of the differentiating aspects that separate us as the fabric of humanity versus the pathological alien. Embrace that about yourself.

Soul Slayer– Psychological ‘Evil,’ Spiritual ‘Evil’ or Both?

The one adjective I hear repeatedly connected to pathology is the word ‘evil.’ Spiritual, unspiritual, heathens, pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddists–it doesn’t matter. The word ‘evil’ is the chosen adjective-of-choice to describe pathology. But what IS evil? Is it more psychological than it is spiritual? Or is it a spiritual issue that has been picked up and defined psychologically? Are they the same thing?

I am not going to translate the lists for you below. They are self explanatory. I have taken the right list from Old Testament (of the Jewish faith) and New Testament (of the Christian faith) as examples of the definition of ‘evil.’ You could most likely find similar definitions of evil in other religious texts.

Draw your own conclusions.

Description from the DSM IV About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Grandiose, self important and pre-occupied with self Wants people to worship him
Fantasizes about power, brilliance, success, and money Says to God “I WILL ascend, I Will Rise…” Showing power fantasies
Requires excessive admiration Says “You WILL bow down to me”
Is entitled Wants the same power as God, feels he’s as powerful as God
Exploits all relationships Tries to lure others to do his dirty work in the world
Lacks empathy Envious of others
Arrogant Fails to follow laws or rules/uses unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior
Deceitful, lies, cons for fun or profit Impulsive, wants it/takes it, sees it/does it
Aggression Disregard for the safety of others, puts others at risk
Irresponsible–bad with supporting others Lack of remorse, rationalizes stealing, lying, etc.

Other Characteristics (also mentioned in the Women Who Love Psychopaths book)

Description from the DSM IV About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Pretends to be wonderful, helpful, supportive Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Powerful Often beautiful or handsome; Lucifer called ‘the most beautiful’, name means ‘the shining one’
Superior attitude towards others Is superior to other angels in power and authority
Contempt for others especially authority figures Fights against God and wants His power
Use power and authority over others Called the Prince of Power
Prideful Heart is filled with pride and contempt
Splits people against each other Turned 1/3 of the angels against God and took them
Often rejected, expelled, dismissed, broken up with because of behavior God expelled him from Heaven
Places are created to contain them: jail, prison, mental institutions, probation God created a place to contain him in the future–Lake of Fire
Fights against any rules and others who try to make him conform Fights against God to ruin and hinder His plans
Destroy and deceive others (and enjoy doing it) Called ‘The Destroyer’ and “Deceiver”
Masquerades as anything you want him to be Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Likes to scare others and show power so others fear him Prowls like a roaring lion
Looks for someone to overpower and control Prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
Bold, cunning, self ambitious Boldness, subtlety in his cunning
Self willed and strong prideful self will
Narcissistic wanting to be better than everyone else Said “I will be like the Most High”
Fakes being wonderful, helpful, virtuous Many false prophets have gone in the world (like him), performs lying ‘signs and wonders’
Accuses others Called ‘The Accuser’
Adversary, enemy to any who turn against him Called the Serpent or ‘Adversary’
Liar, tempter, thief Referred to as a liar, thief and tempter
Motives are destructive to others Motives are to deceive and afflict

It is clear in some spiritual texts that spiritual evil has almost no separation from psychological evil, or vice verse. There are some things we don’t totally understand such as how the spirit realm can effect the psychological realm or how one’s pathology may taint their spirit. But it has been clear to me, and hundreds of survivors, that ‘evil’ straddles vocabularies of both psychological definitions and spiritual ones as well. The spiritual union of souls when united to a psychopath, is like none other. Those who have united in the spiritual realm can attest to the evil witnessed in that sharing. There is still much to learn about how psychology and theology meld.

A large portion of one of the chapters in Women Who Love Psychopaths as been devoted to this issue. Please check the chart in the book for a better grasp of this concept.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Testing the Edge

Women who end up in dangerous and pathological relationships often end up there because they like (or find interesting) ‘living on the edge.’ They don’t like their lives boring and that extends to liking men who are ‘edgey’ as well. No boring normal ‘geek’ men–Nope! The more the edge/bad boy/outlaw/rebel (or the more you perceive they need some support to keep an honest life afloat) the more you like them.

This ‘edge-walking’ landed you right in the lap of a dangerous and pathological man. In the beginning edgey seems ‘neutral’ — it’s too early to know that his edgey-ness is going to cost you. All you know is he’s a long way from boring and that’s ok with you.

It’s before you knew that:

  • His ‘edge’ is emotionally addicting for you
  • That his edge is narcissism (or worse!)
  • That his edge is about rejecting authority
  • That his edge isn’t the cool ‘James Dean’ type of edge
  • That this edge is all about him
  • That his edge consumes your self esteem for lunch
  • That his edge doesn’t make YOU cool for being with him
  • That his edge doesn’t mean you an ‘in’ girl to love someone like him
  • That’s before your realized his edge isn’t about you or your own enjoyment of everything edgey
  • It’s before you realized his edge wasn’t something for you to ‘tame’ a bad boy or ‘heal’ a wounded one

That’s before you knew that his ‘edge’ can’t be fixed, counseled, medicated, or churched.

His edge can’t be loved into something less savage and more soothing.

That’s before you realized his edge isn’t artsy, educational, intellectual, musical, poetic or religious. His edge isn’t about riding his convertible fast, or having daring sex or risky financial investments. His edge isn’t about his party lifestyle or his command presence when others are around.

That’s before you realized that his edge isn’t about the sad stories he told about his life to use as emotional bonding with you, before you realized that his edge was really just a trail of wounded women behind him. That’s before you realized that his edge was unrelenting lying, broken promises, and changes he could never make no matter how long he promised or how hard he tried.

That’s before your realized his edge really wasn’t brilliance unrecognized, charm unspoiled, or love unrequited.

That’s before you realized that his edge was one thing…and one thing only.

His edge was pathology.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

The Dangers of Pit Bulls and Climate Control – Part I

So, I think you all are getting the point of this series so far: psychopaths are a big problem in our world! But it’s not that simple. Take an analogy. Timmy is sick. He caught a bug at school the other week and is down for the count. Thankfully for his parents, they’re somewhat eccentrically obsessed with health and cleanliness and had immediately placed Timmy in a microbiologically sterile bubble in their guest bedroom, before proceeding to decontaminate the entire house and its occupants. The pathogen that threatens the health of those he might come in contact with is successfully locked in. (Unfortunately for Timmy, so is he!) However, Timmy’s parents didn’t factor Sunshine, the family’s pet pit-bull, into their anti-infection equation.

So, one afternoon, while Timmy is reminiscing about his former life outside the bubble, along comes Sunshine who pokes a hole in the bubble’s protective layer with his favorite stick. The highly contagious, airborne infection is now free to surf the air waves of 21st century climate control, and through a series of highly improbable events, Timmy’s sister, parents, dog and goldfish all come down with the nasty bug. The infection then spreads throughout the neighborhood, city, and eventually, the world, as local businessmen who don’t mind an aggressive pat down from the TSA and exposing their genitals to puerile airport security personnel via Peeping-Tom-Technology travel to very serious and important business meetings. So, what’s the point of this? Simply put, psychopaths need a number of things to have their effect in lieu of the direct interaction of personal relationships. Among a psychopath’s best tools to spread his malevolence are fanatic bulldogs and the cold theories of human nature that determine the intellectual climate of a society. It’s through these intermediaries that our bodies and minds are systematically infected – ponerized.

In this article I’ll focus on the latter of these tools. For now, all that needs to be said of the fanatics is that the tenacity of true believers (whether paranoid or just lacking important functionality of the prefrontal lobes) is what keeps pathological social systems in action. Just think of Internet trolls with religion and guns, seeing a Communist or terrorist behind every even slightly ‘liberal’ blogger, and you’ll get the picture. As for the second type of psycho-puppet, they’re a bit trickier to spot. Often intelligent, and highly influential in society, the pervasiveness of their theories in modern Western culture offers them some degree of camouflage. But when those theories are put to the test, they don’t fare too well. Unfortunately for us, very few actually question them, and they’re the cause of many of the world’s biggest problems.

In his book, Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (New York: Norton, 2009), professor of psychology at the University of California, Dacher Keltner lists some depressing figures. In the last fifteen years, levels of trust among Americans have dropped 15%; feelings of social anomie, loneliness, and unhappy marriages are on the rise; people have fewer close friends, babies have less physical contact with their parents, and American children’s well-being ranks twentieth in a list of 21 nations. Keltner traces this overall decline in social well-being to what he calls the Homo economicus ideology of human nature. He writes:

This ideology has influential advocates from Sigmund Freud to evolutionary theorists. The strongest proponents of this view are found in the halls of economics departments. Their characterization of human nature [is] known widely as rational choice theory … First and foremost, Homo economicus is selfish. Every action of Homo economicus is designed to maximize self-interest, in the form of experienced pleasure, advances in material wealth, or, in evolutionist thought, the propagation of genes. … Competition is a natural and normative state of affairs. … Cooperation and kindness are, by implication, cultural conventions or deceptive acts masking deeper self-interest. … The conclusion: These generous acts are evolutionary “misfires” or “strategic errors” … (pp. 8 – 9)

Keltner mentions just a few such theorizers: the already-mentioned Freud, Ayn Rand, Machiavelli (“in general [mankind] are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain”), and George C. Williams (Natural selection “can honestly be described as a process for maximizing short-sighted selfishness”). To this list we may add Karl Marx (for whom material conditions shape consciousness) and Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679), who thought that so long as there were no strong authority to keep them in line, humans were naturally “in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man” (quoted in Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2002), p. 7). In other words, human nature is so wretched (i.e. self-serving, distrustful, malicious) that a strong authority (i.e. church or state) is needed to keep society from descending into social chaos. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. As Keltner describes it, such a view of human nature offers only part of the picture. Without the very real qualities of equality, compassion, cooperation, gratitude, love, laughter and nurture, our families and societies would fall apart. These emotions and values are what bring, and keep, people together, and coincidentally (or not), they are the very qualities lacking in psychopaths.

In fact, some big clues to this can be found in Adam Curtis’ 2007 documentary The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom . In it, Curtis shows the influence of “simplistic model[s] of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures” on modern economics and politics (are we seeing a pattern here?). One such model is the “Game Theory” of mathematician and Nobel Prize winner in Economics John Nash, whose life was whitewashed in the Hollywood film A Beautiful Mind. Importantly, Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, although in my opinion “schizoidal psychopathy” is a better fit. His arrogant, cold-hearted, and disturbed mind is dealt with at length in Sylvia Nasar’s biography of the same name. Nash’s view of human nature influenced the development of his “game” scenarios, which in turn greatly influenced official Cold War policies.

According to Nash, human beings are selfish and distrustful by nature, and the only way to create social stability is through the cultivation of suspicion and self-interest. In one of his games, players must choose to trust or betray their gaming partner in order to either lose or gain benefits. Trust only works if both sides choose to do so. If your opponent “screws you”, however, you lose more than you would if you screwed him as well. The choice with the greatest payoff is thus to betray your partner, who in turn betrays you. According to Nash, as well as other economic theorists like Friedrich von Hayek and James M. Buchanan, this is how humans actually operate: motivated entirely by self-interest and constantly calculating and anticipating the malicious intentions of all others. Homo economicus. Life is one big game of screwing others over, and coming out on top.

That’s great in theory, I suppose. However, in practice, the only individuals who consistently played the games in such a manner were psychopaths and economists (!). When the games were played by the experimenters’ secretaries, they always chose the mutually beneficial trust scenario, that is, the normal, human response. And while these theories of economic and political “freedom” were embraced by politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and continue to determine economic and government policies in Western societies, as Curtis concludes, when they are put into practice they actually lead to “corruption, rigidity, inequality.” See how far Timmy’s bug can spread?

As can be seen by the names mentioned above (Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx, etc.), the view of humanity as nothing but selfish imps has long held sway. Religious traditions have taught their believers to view themselves as “special” and set apart from the rest of humanity, which is seen as wretched, brutish, amoral, and Godless. (In other words, Homo economicus-lite; only the others are evil.) It is so universal that it seems to be a rule among religious sects, whether in the Talmudic view of goyim, the Christian view of the “un-saved”, or the Muslim view of the kafir. So, too, in political theories. As the game theory tests showed in The Trap, normal people tend trust one another. It is “intra-species predators” such as psychopaths who are themselves distrustful by nature, and who then inspire distrust in others; who are selfish, and inspire selfishness in others; and who wish to be the ones controlling the rabble of humanity.

Adult Children of Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Borderline Parents

Nothing is sadder or more destructive than not getting your needs met as a child because your parents were pathologically disordered. Narcissism, socio/psychopathic, antisocial or borderline are just four ways that your parents could have been pathologically disordered. There are a number of other ways and diagnosis as well.

But the fact remains that so many children raised by pathological parents (whom are often also addicts) grow up seeing the world through the eyes of the pathological. We call that ‘the pathological world view.’ No matter how you cut it, children are influenced, for the good or the bad, by the parents who raise them. That’s because we largely come to see the world, ourselves and others through their eyes. If they are healthy and normal people–that view of others and ourselves is a good thing. If they are dangerous and pathological, the view of others and ourselves could be a bad thing.

There are a number of aftermath effects of pathological parenting that you may have recognized in your own life–choices, patterns, feelings, behaviors that have negatively influenced your life.

  • You may be plagued with self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic caregiving of others
  • A total disregard for your own needs or self care
  • You could battle depression or chronic anxiety
  • Or fight nagging pessimism about your future or the world around you
  • You might be dangerously naive never trusting your own instincts and being constantly taken advantage of
  • You could have eating disorders, sexual addictions/other sexual disorders
  • Or obsessive compulsive behaviors
  • You could medicate your feelings with drugs or alcohol
  • Or find abusive religious affiliations to take up where your pathological parents fell away
  • You may have emotional intimacy problems or jump from relationship to relationship fearing abandonment or being alone
  • Or you may engage in what they now call ‘sexual anorexia’ — the forbidding of yourself to ever be intimate or loving with someone else

While you may ‘understand why’ your parents behaved like they did or you are engulfed in compassion and pity for their illness, the rubber meets the road at the point where your needs went so chronically unmet that you now have your own emotional problems because of what you didn’t get at those crucial developmental points of your life. Compassion, pity, forgiveness and understanding about their disorder only goes so far as it doesn’t help you get what you never got from the most important people in your life.

Today, your choices in relationships can be largely influenced from pathological parenting. Picking dangerous and/or pathological men for relationships is often a devastating side effect of pathological parenting. Growing up learning how to normalize abnormal behavior is a set up for accepting pathology into all areas of your life—your boss, your friends, your partners. Becoming aware of your relationship choices is a good first start but may NOT be the only intervention you need in order to grieve your childhood losses and stop trying to fix pathologicals by having intimate or parenting-type relationships with them. You can’t fix your own pathological parenting deficits through a relationship with someone else. That can only be done one-on-one with yourself.

If you are sick of self sabotaging your own life, relationships, career, success and future because of what you might not have gotten in your childhood, there is help and hope. You don’t have to be a slave forever to your past.

Join us for the ‘Adult Children of Narcissistic, Psychopathic and Borderline Parents’ support group. If you are ready to make healthy choices you didn’t have the skills for before, then contact us for jump start on your recovery.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)