Taking the Bait

I already observed that we often spot pathological dynamics in other people’s lives. After the horror of discovering on our own that our partners are not who they say they are, parents, siblings, and friends will often say, “I knew he was trouble from the start!” So why couldn’t we see it?

There are several reasons, and they boil down to this: when a psychopath picks his mark, whether in a personal or business relationship, he focuses all his resources on making his victim think he is something he is not. He specially tailors his manufactured persona to your specific traits, behaviors, and anxieties. In other words, he makes it personal, projecting the image of your fantasy partner, perfect in every way. The problem is, it’s all an act. Once he has used you up he will throw you to the side and move on to his next victim, leaving you traumatized and clueless as to what hit you.

But how does he begin to do this? How does he convince us of his perfection, even if others can see he’s dangerous? This is where his special ability to exploit emotional weaknesses begins: the initial con. The psychopath is aware of certain things about so-called normal people. He observes their strange rituals of “loyalty” and “friendship”, their meaningless fantasies, their desperation for something so lacking in their lives. To him these things don’t make sense. They’re like the dance and music of a foreign culture. But he observes these strange “rules” of behavior and quickly understands that they can be put to use to give him what he wants. He learns to use people as instruments, as machine parts. “Put in a coin and push this button. Out comes food. When nothing else comes out, move on to the next.” He pushes the buttons but has no understanding, like a deaf man who plays piano by rote, amused by the goofy smiles of enjoyment on the faces of people who hear the music he never will.

But the psychopath can’t simply play random notes. He needs to learn the correct technique and melodies otherwise he’ll be exposed for what he is. He needs to identify what it is we want and need and then give it to us. It’s only when we trust, respect, and love him that we become his slave. In this stage of his con, he exploits our positive emotions. He gives us the pleasure of telling us everything we’ve always wanted to hear, giving us what we want, and fulfilling our long-held fantasies. The psychopath can be the perfect friend, the perfect lover. He likes the things we like, reads the same books, has the same views on the world, and he accepts us completely and with no conditions. He is always there for us and is considerate to our every need. The psychopath protects us from the dangers of the world and lets us bask in his perfection.

It is this process that makes the psychopath go from just being some guy whose opinion we could care less about, to someone we trust and look to for love and guidance; from an outsider, to a member of our family. He conditions us to need him. He “hooks” us via our emotions so that it hurts not to have him. As mentioned last month, our basic emotions serve our survival. We come to enjoy good meals because they give us energy and keep us alive; our homes which provide shelter from the elements. The positive feelings of the social bonds with our families and close friends gives us a network of support and trust to survive in the world. And when those habitual and emotional bonds are broken, it hurts.

The psychopath knows we prefer pleasure over pain, so he deliberately makes us feel great and sets it up so that we feel miserable without him. When we have a job, we tend to want to keep it; a house, to stay in it; a meal, to eat it. We don’t willingly just give these things away. We need them, and we often fight to keep these things. When the psychopath insinuates himself into a position of being the provider of the things we need, we can’t leave him. We NEED him. And he knows it.

Let’s look how pathology creeps into other areas of our lives. For instance, our political and religious systems follow the same psychopathic dynamic. Just look at the position of President of
the United States and the manner in which he is presented to the public (the “image” of President Obama being a case in point).  He is a myth, a god, a superhero. He loves us, understands us, praises us, and does everything he can to help us and give us what we want and need. He is a good father, one who knows best and in whom we place our respect and trust. If he tells us something, we believe him. After all, we are emotionally invested in believing because government is set up in a such a way, and marketed in such a way, that we NEED it. This has provided the perfect feeding ground for inordinate number of psychopaths who seek politics and government as a career.

After all, they are experts in telling us what we want to hear, presenting themselves as our country-saviors and protectors. They are charming, hope-inspiring, and charismatic. But again, it’s all the well-known ‘mask of sanity’ of the psychopath.  These  politicians could care less about us and what we need. They lie to gain our support, and later use our own support to dominate us. Of course, just as in relationships, we usually don’t realize we’ve been duped until it’s too late and the life has been drained out of us.

What the politician does on the national and global level, the charismatic pathological preacher does in his church. The news is often packed with the latest pathological preacher and what he’s doing within his church. He plays on our desire for meaning and transcendence. He tells us we are “special” and “chosen”, and presents himself as the interpreter of God’s will instead of allowing each person to know that for themselves. He convinces us that we can only continue to be “special” children of God if we follow his will and ideology. In this way, he makes it so that we rely on him alone. Without him, as God’s middleman and mouth-piece of truth, we cannot be saved. Once he has his flock, he keeps it, and feeds at will.

Here we can see how pathology implies into our mind the issue of ‘needing’ this person for our own relational needs, governmental protection, or spiritual service. It’s no wonder that psychopaths can easily enter our lives under the guise of need.