Archives for June 2014

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 2 – Dominance and Competitiveness

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Last time we talked about the first two ingredients of the Attraction Cocktail – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion. The final main component of the Attraction Cocktail is Dominance and then, just a splash of Competitiveness.

Now, Dominance! This is another one that, at first thought, you might say, “What, who me? I am surely not dominant!” But with a closer look, you will see that your dominance looks like leadership. It looks like a woman in charge. It’s not the kind of dominance that over powers. It is the kind that takes charge. Your dominance does put you in control without being controlling. It tells others that you know what you want and will do what you need to do to get it, even if it means you want a relationship with a certain exciting man.

So, there he is – the guy with the magnetic personality who appears as if he “owns” the room! You decide to go for it. He says, “Bring it on!”

His dominance means that you are a challenge. Two “powerful” people means there is energy. This energy is ultimately moving in different directions, but, nonetheless, it’s energy. His dominance means he wants to have power over you. His power is the kind that is controlling but when you first get together it may look like “a man who knows what he wants” and knows how to get it. He will use his dominance to appear as if he is your equal. He will move in your circles and appear to be everything you need. And he will do it with swagger.

But soon his dominance and need to control will become “power over”. And herein lies the risk. Your dominance is not the same as his and when that difference becomes undeniably different, you may already be hooked. You may spend the middle to later part of the relationship fighting for your own.

You may have seen his dominance as “sameness” and felt comforted (thinking that you are always in control and it is finally nice to have someone match you) but that feeling soon fades. By the time it does, you can’t break free. And herein lies the benefit. Your dominance will be the power that, in the end, does free you. You will learn how he controls you, you will learn his patterns and with that information you will gain control and dominance – the kind of control and dominance that will set you free.

So, if this cocktail isn’t strong enough to convince you of the power of his pathology, your risk to it, and the benefit it offers you, let’s add a splash of Competiveness. It is one of the final traits that you both have in common and that you both have in high amounts so it makes sense that it adds to the power of the initial attraction.

Let’s get real! You probably like a good fight. Not one with someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or with someone who is not equally matched to your intelligence, but a fight that helps you gain an edge – a smarter outlook, a challenge to build your depth of knowledge. You would not back down if someone came at you with inaccurate information.

You have a need to make things right, to get the facts and share the facts. Additionally, you will not tolerate being accused of untruths or called inappropriate names. If you think you are not competitive, ask yourself how you would react if someone called you a name or lied about you. I bet you would not back down to that. Well, guess what! He does not like to back down either.

He likes a challenge so he is looking for someone who will tangle with him. This type of emotional tangle is just what he loves. He loves to engage in emotional wrangling. It feeds his need for power. When he can control you emotionally he knows that you are invested in the relationship. And herein lies the risk. This relationship is going to feel like a challenge to both of you in the beginning.

To you, a less passive man probably seems boring. Furthermore, you are not afraid to battle it out and you surely do not want him to “get one over” on you. So this is a great reason to stay and fight. You also might find it a challenge to stay in the relationship and “bust” him doing something, staying until you find the evidence or staying until you find out he’s NOT doing what you think he is.

Your competitiveness means that you are willing and able to battle it out in court. You will go head to head with him and that is just what he wants. And herein lies the benefit. Once you know who he is, you will fight like hell to get out. You will realize that you have won because he no longer has the power that comes from your lack of awareness. More importantly, being competitive helped you build a great life.

You fought for things that were important to you – an education, a great career. It helped you to challenge others and yourself to always be the best and find the best in others. It helped you make good decisions and take a pro-active approach to almost everything.

The best thing about being competitive is that you are often successful. The reason you are successful is because part of competition is knowing when you have been beaten – knowing when to cut your losses and move on to a challenge you can win. It is not about being so headstrong that you stay and fight just to be able to say “I win”. Your competitiveness, combined with all the other traits you possess, leads to more than a need to win. Your traits lead to success.

Because he is sicker than you are smart, you will never “win” with him. So all of your book smarts and street smarts and relationship smarts will not out smart his ability to psychologically damage you. Prolonged exposure leads to inevitable harm. Once you know this the battle is over.

By the end of the relationship, you may not even feel competitive anymore. He has taken it from you. The energy, fire and gusto that you once had may seem gone. But spend some time away. Talk with your girlfriends or family about it. Your fire will return. Your brain will tell you to put down the sword and walk away from the emotional vampire; walk away from the battle that you cannot win. Ultimately, and in the end, this is where the similarity stops and the pathology begins.

Someone who is pathological does not want someone like themselves. Ultimately they know that they lack certain things other people have and they are on a never ending search to get those things. And, because they will never get or be those things, they will use your emotions to control you…so they can fill their empty cup.

So when you ask yourself, “Why me?” the answer is clear. Because you have what he wants. And when you ask yourself, “Why did I stay?” the answer is because you posses traits that meet his needs and he used them to control you. And when you ask yourself, “How do I begin to heal?” the answer is by using all of your traits as powerful healing tools, tools that have helped you create a big, full life in every other area of your life.

When it comes to the traits contained in the Attraction Cocktail you may be asking, “How do I make sure I never get caught up by another psychopath again?”

My suggestion is to use these traits and take the Joyce Brown approach to life. Accept that you are an extraverted, excitement-seeking, dominant, competitive woman. Once you own that, and claim (or re-claim) the benefits, you will find new ways to feed that part of you.

Remember, these are NOT deficits! They are overflowing traits you possess so you must use them. You must do it carefully and cautiously, but you must use them.

Think outside the box. These are just a few suggestions that will feed your need to be extraverted, do exciting things, be a leader and engage with others:

  • Find a hobby. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Take up a political cause or join a social action group.
  • Work with a non-profit agency on an issue close to your heart.
  • Start a club or group focused on a topic, issue, or hobby you enjoy.
  • Learn to ride a motorcycle or take up waterskiing (go big or go home, right?)

Most importantly, you will be using your traits in a way that YOU can control. If you are carefully and thoughtfully aware of who you are and what you need, no one can come along and take that away from you. As Joyce said, “When you aren’t living a big enough life, any psychopath will do.”

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 1 – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion

“People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise” – Molière

 You might be asking yourself “Why me?” Why did you get to be the one to end up in this crazy relationship? What did you do wrong to land THIS guy? The answer begins with what could be called the “Attraction Cocktail”.

There is this powerful potion that has brought the two of you together. This potion consists of the first three Super Traits identified in Sandra’s research:

Excitement Seeking   Extraversion   Dominance

These are a few of the rare traits that you both posses in high amounts. In your cup and in his cup these traits are spilling over. Remember you both posses these at the high end of the trait cut off at 85-95%. Most average people would not test that high in these traits. So, what we have are two high excitement seekers who are both extraverts, looking for a win. Sounds like a recipe for inevitable harm to me – but not immediate harm!

First, and almost within minutes, there is fire and passion, understanding and power, lust and energy. There is electricity – maybe in a way that you have never felt before. While some people might see him as “fake” and “overkill”, you see him as passionate and understanding. In the very early stages of a relationship these traits lead you from one “fun” experience to another. For him, though, it’s about building your trust and testing your boundaries.

Let’s look at each trait on its own because each ingredient offers its own unique characteristics that contribute to the potion.

I am guessing that some of you may be saying, “I’m not an Excitement-Seeker. I do not like to jump out of planes!” But being an excitement seeker is a little more (or less) than that. It can mean that you like to take risks – personal risks, financial risks, professional risks.

It can be that thing that creates in you the desire to go out on a limb, maybe go to the nightclub on your own or sign up on a dating site or go on a blind date. These are not the things that someone who desires boredom would do. It is the excitement you seek in your hobbies…maybe cycling, hiking or traveling. It is the excitement that you get from going to a great job every day – a career that drives you to go for it!

You’re the person who says “Yes!” to new experiences and “Sure!” to risky (yet really cool and innovative) opportunities. It’s that little something inside of you. Think about it. That thing that says “I’ll give it a try, why not?”

So, let’s mix the cocktail. Here you are, with all this desire to “seek excitement” and here he comes, looking for some excitement too! Pow! It’s on! He loves to go, get out there, take risks with no regard for others. His risks are more about feeding his energy. This energy is part of his pathology. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just overwhelms you…they chat you up…with frenetic energy that just doesn’t stop! That’s the energy of a psychopath that must be fed with exciting things.

He’s game for anything! In fact, you may have noticed that if you mention a hobby, it probably is his hobby too! (Later, you find out that he never really liked to do that – it was just part of his hook). He probably loves to travel – if you do; he loves to bike – if you do; he loves to go out with friends – if you do; he loves art – if you do; he loves to go camping – if you do; he loves to go boating – if you do.

Whatever he can do that you do, he’ll do it. Isn’t that exciting? And herein lies the risk: When two excitement-seekers meet, it is a chance to join.

For you it is a chance to build trust; for him a chance to take trust. For you it is a chance to create a bond; for him a chance to build an attachment. For you a chance to feel a connection – someone finally understands you; for him a chance to make you think that he is just like you and that he understands.

Your need for excitement means that you take risky chances. Sometimes those risks do not pay off. You (and everyone else in the world) is also more likely to go along with others when you are in a heightened state of excitement. And herein lies the benefit: Because you are an excitement seeker you will be able to see quickly that he is not “all that and a bag of chips”.

Inevitably, once the relationship progresses, it will become clear that his excitement-seeking fades and the façade he built to trap you will fall to pieces. He bores easily – not because you are boring, but because he cannot sustain the emotional energy that it takes to remain in the relationship. He bores because he cannot do the emotional work to remain committed and he does not have the depth to go where you can go.

You can turn your wonderful, exciting experiences into real emotional, energy-building bonds, and forging strength and character for yourself. He has used the opportunity to manipulate you into being under his control. When he is done with that task, he must find someone else to fuel his need for excitement.

What about the ingredient of Extraversion? You might see in yourself a person who openly engages in conversation, someone who is curious about others, and often is impulsive in social situations. You might be the person who leads in a group or offers to help out more often than others. You are willing to tell your story, share your thoughts, and contribute. Your extraversion wrapped up with excitement-seeking makes for a pretty great package – life of the party even.

So, mixing it up in the room is another extravert. He has no problem going up to complete strangers (how exciting!) and introducing himself and then telling you his life story (or whatever story he thinks you want to hear). He is “owning” the room with so much confidence and bravado it’s almost sexy. He displays expertise to the point he is grandiose – a LOT grandiose!

His extraversion is the mask…the mask that makes you think it’s safe. It’s the mask that convinces you he is what you want him to be. (They are really good at this part – creating that mask of normalcy.)

Extraversion is a great trait to have but herein lies the risk. Your extraversion lets him know that you might play his game. Your extraversion means you will do the exciting things he likes to do. It also means that you are curious and probably would not turn down an offer for fun or the offer to try something new…and he might be just that, in the beginning.

You are someone who likes to get out and meet people and the guy who is “owning” the room is just the guy for you. But there is one thing about extraversion that makes you different from him! That is your ability to truly bond with others. And herein lies the benefit. You must become truly bonded with someone to maintain a relationship.

Extraversion may bring you two together but you need mutual understanding, respect, and unconditional love. This is not what he provides in the long run. It will become clear at some point that his extraversion was a rue to hook you. His mask will fall and you will see that he is really a lonely, empty person who transforms to meet the needs of those around him. You will begin to use your extraversion as a way to break free of him.

When the dynamics of the relationship become clear you will seek out help. You will find people around you who can support you. Your curiosity will lead you to answers and help. You will not fear talking to others even if they don’t really understand. You will keep trying until you find what you need.

Next time we’ll talk about the remaining elements of the Attraction Cocktail – Dominance and Competitiveness – and finding new ways to feed your Attraction Cocktail ingredients.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  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 information).

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