By | January 23, 2008 117 Comments


Question: Why do people engage in aggressive behaviour (some, as we know, rather more than others)?
Answer: Because they enjoy it.

There’s a bit of a flutter on the internet (see here and here) about research coming out of Vanderbilt University. Studying mice, Maria Couppis and Craig Kennedy have found that aggression can be as emotionally rewarding as food or sex.

The neurotransmitter dopamine has been implicated in nearly every experience we consider rewarding, such as love, drugs, eating, and sex. Indeed, the mesolimbic dopamine pathway is referred to as the reward system of the brain. Dopamine is necessary for reinforcement, e.g. the ex-smoker’s craving brought about by the whiff of cigarette smoke.

Now a direct connection has been drawn between dopamine and aggression. In the experiement the male home mouse continually pushed a button to let in an intruder mouse which it then aggressed. When treated with a dopamine antagonist (blocking the activity of the dopamine) the home mouse decreased its button-pushing. (For a discussion of the experiment see here.)

(Incidentally, it is important not to conflate aggression and violence. Aggression is dominating behaviour. For the mice aggressive behavior included tail rattle, an aggressive sideways stance, boxing and biting – two non-violent and two non-violent behaviours.)

“We learned from these experiments that an individual will intentionally seek out an aggressive encounter solely because they experience a rewarding sensation from it,” Kennedy said. “This shows for the first time that aggression, on its own, is motivating, and that the well-known positive reinforcer dopamine plays a critical role.”

Not that surprising?
I suspect that lovefraud/blog readers who have been on the receiving end of aggression won’t be surprised by these findings. Says Dr. Bliss at Maggies’ farm, “I cannot speak about mice, but every psychiatrist – and every person – knows that this is a fact for human beings.”

Any comments?

A query I have is runs something like this. Many commentators on this blog speak of increased assertiveness, anger, determination, etc. which has enabled them to get through relationships with psychopaths, to gain self-respect, and to make new lives. Would you say that you have learned to better access aggression? And if so, is there pleasure in it?

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A discussion of the enjoyment of aggression is in my upcoming book, Driven to Do Evil. Although to some, violence is enjoyable, that is not the issue for sociopaths. The over focus on the enjoyment of aggression/violence has prevented us from having a complete understanding of sociopathy. What about the sociopaths who are not violent, what to they enjoy? The answer is dominance and power. Violence and aggression are the most primative least sophisticated means of achieving power.

Why do sociopaths lie? In order to get the power they want. In this respect lying is an act of aggression, though most people do not see lying in this way.

Understanding that dominance and power are pleasurable allows us to completely predict and explain the behaviors of sociopaths. Consider this- if a person is very power motivated he/she will behave like a sociopath even if he/she has a modicum of conscience and empathy.

I don’t like shunning someone,I don’t like being suspicious or aggressive. It’s not me.

I feel empowere taking care of myself, spotting controlling, manipulative people before they eviscerate me, BUT I have no desire to control. And it makes me sad, deep down, that someone gets off watching another person twitch in psychological or physical pain.

I have hurt others, but it was never my inetnt. That’s what disturbs me most about psychopaths, they’re out to toture. Mine used to look at me in hopes of tears, I saw it on their face. But once one undrstands pain is their pay-off, so much makes sense.


I was an assertive, independent , ambitious, driven, adventurous, financially successful, career-oriented individual pre-Psychopath experience. I had large amounts of self-esteem but I do not feel that I had a lot of self-respect at the time.

Friends described me as reliable, responsible, loyal, dependable. Funny they never seemed to picked up on any of my power motivations (present at the peak of my high profile career) perhaps because it was restricted to the career environment and it was more of an enjoyment of the status I had achieved than some kind of aggressive campaign to seize power.

Hard work, long hours and efficient skills, ability to tolerate complete chaos got me there as opposed to back-stabbing, manipulation, underhanded tactics.

Attempting to keep myself from getting a “fat head” or an overblown ego was very challenging at that time. The “rise to the top” happened overnight-no time to adjust.

I was young, part of a “special” group within the company, which was afforded an outrageous level of perks, name your price salaries, sky’s the limit expense accounts, unrestricted purchasing power, little to no oversight or accountability-anything went. This was only the norm for that particular group-other groups were not given the luxury.

I could see in myself and many of my co-workers and business connections varying degrees of heightened narcissistic traits and lower levels of could constitute aggressiveness.

My choice to leave that industry was a direct result of my dissatisfaction with how my personality and world views had been affected- I craved balance and I wanted to be like everyone else.

For me, any aggressiveness I may have exhibited as a result of that situation, left me feeling uncomfortable and “not really myself.”

Post P experience, I barely had enough energy to get out. He had completely drained me financially over a 4.5 yr period of time while I was sick with a lengthy illness which was almost fatal. I had been so severely tortured and battered for such an extended period of time-I no longer valued my life, I simply existed.

There was nothing from within myself fueling any kind of notion/desire to escape -it was the concern, anger, and determination of others who feared that I would end up dead, that got me out (the P had become increasingly violent).
I wonder then, if this was not some sort of transference at work-they felt for me what I could not which in turn provoked my escape (empowerment?).

It has been 3 years since I got out and in that time I have not felt/experienced anger or any sense of empowerment. Assertiveness-maybe, I won’t back down if challenged, I express my opinions easily even in conflict-but no power drive exists in me. Determination certainly exists to a degree.

I have little doubt that had the abuse been perpetrated during a time when I had not been so physically ill-I most likely would have been able to draw on some sort of reserve of strength of my own.


Narcissists/psychopaths are also known as psychophagic- meaning they are soul eaters. I believe this- just physically – even at the best of times- the psycho drained me of all energy.

Dr. Steve-

There’s much peace and control in pacifism. I am not a shrinking violet, but I find aggression particularly repugnant, I always have. I differentiate that from drive and assertiveness, to me aggression is an attack.



You said: “It’s almost as if the psychopath drained a certain kind of energy out of you (this makes sense – they must have it all – any power in the other is a challenge).

I wouldn’t have agreed with this a year ago. But then a year ago I didn’t even realize my husband was a psychopath. But now I do and I can see what you say is true.

Back when I was starting to figure things out, my husband arranged a meeting between himself, me, and the woman he was having an affair with–and was planning on dumping me for once his parents had come out for a visit.

He arranged this meeting because he was trying to “prove” to me that he never had sex with her and he figured he could do that by, in front of me, making some sincere-sounding (aren’t they all?) bogus apology in which he would apologize for “leading her on” and flirting (but no sex of course) because “a lot of people got hurt.”

He gave me several hours advance notice of this meeting, so I used the time–I was at my mom’s house–to write pages of questions for her and then when we met I engineered things so we ended up in her car. After DH did his fake apology thing, I asked him to get out of the car and let me talk to “K” privately for a while. What could he say? He had to get out. To refuse would have made him look guilty.

So he got out and I proceeded to talk to K for almost 2 hours. Very interesting. And enlightening. One thing I did was tell her every crappy thing he had said about her (that wasn’t planned; I was genuinely surprised she was attractive, and, well, I guess I was being a little aggressive myself). She was pissed and wouldn’t even look at him when she drove away.

Later, I told him I “sandbagged” them. He said he was the one who engineered things to work out that way. He *knew* I was going to do that.

Now I understand why he said that. It’s because, as you say, he must have all the power in the relationship. Sometimes he’s willing to make it look like I have some power, but even then, he has, or I should say *had* an ulterior motive, it was something he let me do, to manipulate me, to keep me happy, to keep me his unwitting slave.


I wonder if non-sociopathic aggression is primarily self-defensive. I think it is for me. It’s using enough force–verbal, emotional, even physical if necessary–to protect myself and those I care for. Any pleasure I gain is not in the aggressive act itself, but more a satisfaction in standing up for myself and others who are threatened by the behavior of the sociopath. It feels good to feel strong.

Our cultural ideal is for women to be sweet and nice. Sweet and nice are good things, but inappropriate and self-defeating when it comes to dealing with sociopaths. I think sweet and nice stimulate their predatory instincts. It’s like they smell blood. I think they think: here’s a good target. They see someone to use for their own evil ends.

Once in a while I get pressure from others–women mostly–to be more saintly in response to my husband. I know I need to work towards forgiveness–for my own sake; but I’m not ready for that yet, and in the meantime, I think I can best protect myself and work towards healing by being willing to be aggressive in dealing with him. To be willing to be perceived as a bitch.

This thread makes me think about the difference between assertiveness and aggression. The difference can be in the eye of the beholder, especially if you’re being assertive with someone who is passive-aggressive.

I used to teach Southern women a seminar called “Power is Not a Four-letter Word.” I would tell them at the beginning that, by the time they left, they would be able to tell people what they want.

In every group, and sometimes it was a majority of the group, I’d hear: “But I can’t do that. It would be rude and selfish. What would people think?”

Well, then how do you communicate how you want things to come out? I’d ask. And they’d smile among themselves, and start talking about the effectiveness of “hints” and a little strategically placed guilt. But sooner or later in the seminar, it would also come out that they were afraid to openly saying what they wanted. Either because it was “not feminine” or because they would be punished in some way.

They were heavily socialized to be manipulative. It was expected, and if all went well and they had a good man who’d roll his eyes but bring them diamond earrings for Christmas, it was regard as successful femininity. I was a radical feminist at the time, and all I could see was the strong linkage between the gender dynamics of Victorian era and the 1950s when most of these women (and I) grew up.

What does this have to do with this discussion of aggression. I think that the question of empowerment plays into this. Being self-referenced, rather than depending on external approval for validation. Of course, it matters (as all of us with history of relationships with sociopaths know) if someone is constantly pushing denigrating and disdainful reflections of our worth in our face. It takes a lot of work to deal with that kind of toxin, and some of us (myself included) implode emotionally under this treatment.

At the same time, if you are simply healthily self-referenced, if you are motivated by what you believe is right for you, if you sense of your place in the world is based on your own choices about the kind of person you want to be, I think you’re going to look like a sociopath to someone who is experiencing life as a victim.

There’s an old saying that the way out of the drama triangle (victim, rescuer, perpetrator) is through the side marked “perpetrator.” Because if you refuse to be a victim or a rescuer, you’re going to look like a perpetrator to the ones who are still in that game.

Does that mean there are no real perpetrators? No. It doesn’t mean there isn’t true aggression either, which I define as the behavior of someone who has no respect for other people’s boundaries. There’s sort of oblivious aggression, like the way Mediterranean people can seem touchy-feely and loudly emotional to Scandinavian people. And then there’s deliberate aggression, where the aggressor intentionall violates other people’s boundaries for their own purposes.

That could be a dopamine rush — i.e., a relief from feelings of frustration or powerlessness by making yourself more powerful than someone you can scare or otherwise convince to be weaker than you. There are other means to get that same rush. I get it by solving tough problems in marketing, and then setting marketing programs in motion that make money for my clients. It makes me feel good about my own effectiveness, which is another word for power, the ability to get results from my investments of time and attention. It’s a good way for me to get over feeling, as I sometimes do, hopelessly inadequate.

I think there is reason to go back and look at the cause of the need for a dopamine rush. There is plenty of research linking dopamine issues to chemical addictions, which are a mechanism of disassociation. From what? From something that is so painful, so shame producing, that the addict flees to some sort of painkilling or distracting activity. If there’s research on which emotions are associated with dopamine irregularities, that would be interesting.

I feel like I may be being difficult here, but I also think it is one thing to be righteously angry about being aggressed upon by someone who intends to enrich themselves at your cost, and another thing to assume aggression is a bad thing. It has it’s place, as any business person will tell you. I can empathize with that mouse in the cage with nothing to do all day and its life passing without a single thing that resemble normal mouse life. No sex. No family. No social life. Exactly what other reward is this mouse getting in its day-to-day life? I can understand the temptation to get a little thrill from playing “who’s your daddy?” with another mouse.

And I know that’s a provocative way to put it. But don’t we already assume that males are hard-wired for aggression? And that women are also capable of it? We know the need to defend ourselves physically triggers a whole cascade of brain chemicals, including endorphins, which keep us from feeling pain, so we can fight when we’re injured? And the brain chemicals of sex often mirror the chemicals of dominance and defense. As do the brain chemicals of all kinds of everyday activities. When I win a contract in a competitive situation, it’s so much fun and so wildly stressful in a happy sort of way that I can understand why people go into sales and also why salespeople often drink.

I want to be treated with respect. I wanted to be appreciated for who I am. I want to be able to plan my finances and my life in a way that minimizes nasty surprises. I want to have a community of friends. I want to live a healthy life. I want to choose when and if I donate time and caring in someone or something other than myself. I want to be proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished.

I was too emotionally ill after five years with the sociopath to say anything like this. But in recovering from the sociopath, I also got the hang of what I’d been teaching those Southern ladies so many years before. And saying them affected a number of other relationships that were based on my not having any boundaries. A relative said to me, “Who do you think you are to imagine you can get well? People in our family don’t get well,” and didn’t talk with me for a while because she thought, by investing in my own recovery, I was criticizing her. Another friend went into the hospital threatening suicide when I decided I didn’t have time anymore to listen to her problems for two or three hours a day.

Is this aggression? Oddly enough, they thought it was. And I might as well have been a sociopath, because I was more interested in my own objectives than how it affected their feelings. And when I won, they lost, at least in their view.

I apologize for being so long-winded. But to get back to my original point, the line between assertiveness and aggression may be in the eye of the beholder. Yes, the intent of the aggressor is clearly a piece of this, but no more than the response of the aggressed upon. I may be completely wrong here, but I see it in my own life.

Just curiosity, but was there anything in the research about the visiting mouse fighting back? And if not, why not?


Addicted to POWER!

What gives a person POWER? The ability to CONTROL.

Who has more POWER the empathic person or person with no conscience?
The person with no conscience.

Why do people lie? To CONTROL the situation.

Why do people want POWER? Because it makes them feel good.

If you are “addicted” to POWER, it means you “MUST have POWER”?. Everytime you get POWER it gives you a high (like a drug).

How do you get POWER? You choose someone who you think you can CONTROL, by lies, by rages, by gaslighting, exploitation, by manipulation, etc. Everytime you are successful at CONTROLLING the other (i.e., wielding your POWER), you’ve reinforced your addiction to POWER with another FIX.

You cannot love or feel empathy, because these two emotions inhibit of your ability wield POWER over others and CONTROL them . Love and empathy prevent you from getting the FIX you need. With love and empathy you would not be able to hurt others and that would reduce your POWER and CONTROL.

You lie, rage, gaslight, blame, manipulate etc. often “out of the blue”? when there is for no reason to do so. But there is a definite reason . . . you need a FIX “now”!. You need to CREATE a situation that gives you a fix, inorder to feel good. You have a need to exert your POWER immediately.. You are effecting other people . . . making them doubt their sanity, making them focus on “what the hell is going on”?, or “why would he/she do that”?. This is POWER! This is CONTROL! and this is what makes the Narcissist/Psychopath feel good again. “It is another fix”!

As an “addiction to power”. . . what the psychopath/narcissist/ASPD/sociopath does makes sense!

I’d like to use this post, Very well put


Yes, you can use my post, if you give me credit. “A. Krengel”


Regarding Empathy: Empathy is the ability to know what someone else is feeling. We usually say someone has empathy, when he wouldn’t hurt someone else (because he knows how bad it would feel). But what if you have empathy (know what others are feeling), but don’t care, or even worse, what if you have empathy and “get off” on the power you have to make the other person feel bad. The most effective psychopaths/narcissists/ASPD’s/sociopaths have lots of empathy. They know you’ll feel bad when they rage, blame, exploit, gaslight, manipulate, lie, etc. which is exactly why they do it. They either don’t care, or worse, it makes them happy, because it gives them their feeling of power. The worse you feel (or doubt yourself) the more effective their power was. If they can reel you back in, (after an attack) with promises, more power to them. So yes, I believe the best of these demented individuals have lots of empathy.

Sarah666: I’m speaking from my personal experience only: I understand what empathy is, and I can conceptually put myself in someone else’s shoes and reason how they may “feel” by certain action, given conditions, et cetera, and in that I think it makes me more effective at what I do. I can conceptually understand what’s going on in the other persons head. It doesn’t mean I feel it the same way.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had years and years of interactions with people, that now there is a sort of predictive quality to it, I’m not sure.

Main Entry: em·pa·thy
Pronunciation: \ˈem-pə-thē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathēs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion more at pathos
Date: 1850

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this

The important aspect of the definition is bold. I’m aware, I’m even sensitive to it in the manner of I’m perceptive enough to figure it out (in a loose sense), but I sure as hell don’t vicariously experience the feelings.

But as you say, this could be a trait of the “best” of them. However THAT ranking system works out… I can tell you that the few real stinkers I’ve had the opportunity to interact with throughout my life weren’t very different from me, in that respect.

Just my 2 dinars.


P.S. It does give me fulfillment. I hesitate to use the word “happy” because it’s likely a different experience for you and me.


Okay, I read the study. Few points:

1) What nobody seems to be talking about is that this is not aggression for the sake of aggression, but aggression in response to an intruder by a creature whose life depends on responding aggressively to intruders.

2) Aggression in animals does not necessarily translate to how aggression is handled in human beings in everyone, though certainly it would apply to a certain percentage of the population.

For example, when an ovulating female pig is exposed to a pheromone from a boar’s saliva, the scent travels along the olfactory nerve directly into the amygdala, stimulating the release of neurotransmitters, the result of which is that she becomes immediately and completely paralyzed in a spread-legged mating posture! Naturally, this fact has led to the marketing of a number of pheromone based men’s colognes designed to produce the same effect in the human female! (Nice try, guys!)

If you give rats in a cage access to both food and cocaine, the rats will consume the cocaine and ignore the food. And they will end up starving themselves to death with a limitless supply of food available. And, of course, that makes us think of the alcoholic who has gin for breakfast, bourbon for lunch, and brandy for dinner – ending up in the hospital with a severe case of malnutrition.

Now, in the human being, (as in other creatures), the sensation that is experienced as orgasm is the same release of chemicals that stimulate the same part of the brain that makes the rats so happy. Some scientists refer to this in technical jargon as the “do-it-again” center. [cf. Burnham and Phelan.] When this center is stimulated, whatever activity is associated with it will be sought again and again.

We have, it seems, a lot of “do-it-again” chemicals with a lot of “do-it-again” receptor sites all over our bodies. Certain foods in different people act in this way. Some people feel euphoria when they achieve victory over a rival in some sort of competition. Aside from the most obvious example of sex, these are examples of other things that can cause the secretion of these “do-it-again” chemicals.

When we take certain drugs, our brain acts as if the “natural” neurotransmitter were flooding the system. The brain thinks we have done something really great such as finding food or warmth while, in reality, we may be hunkered down in a flophouse with a hypodermic of heroin in our arm. Our pleasure centers know only that they are bathed in chemical bliss. Never mind that the first time we tried it, we were disgusted and repelled by the setting, the process, all the external elements. Once we have received that reward, we are convinced that this nasty setting, this ignominious behavior that is clearly damaging to the self, is “okay” and “desirable” for the reward we are going to get.

When cocaine is snorted up the nose, it heads straight for the dopamine re-uptake sites and blocks them. The “feel good sensation” is not, however, from the drug; but from the fact that dopamine is flooding your cells, binding with the dopamine receptors like crazy, unable to be reabsorbed. And the brain only knows one thing: this feels GREAT! Crack cocaine reportedly produces a more intense sensation of pleasure than any natural act, including orgasm! And, take note that it is from the body’s OWN chemical that this pleasure is experienced!

Morphine and Heroin work in a slightly different way. They mimic endorphins which trigger the release of dopamine. So, instead of the sensation occurring because the natural flow of dopamine is not reabsorbed, it occurs because there is too much dopamine to be absorbed!

But, there is something very curious about this: it seems that with repeated use of cocaine, heroin or morphine, the “fake endorphin” that binds with the opiate receptor and sends a signal into the cell body to release more dopamine, the body reacts by reducing the number of receptors! With fewer receptors, the effects of the drug – as well as the body’s normal ability to bind dopamine that is naturally present – plummets. And, without the normal flow of dopamine into a normal number of receptors, the brain experiences “withdrawal” which is interpreted quite literally as “pain.” It is the agony of a mind that can feel no pleasure at all.

Now, I have not been able to find any studies that suggest that the more dopamine secretion a person experiences from the body’s own chemicals in the “normal” way, that the number of receptors diminishes. However, the very fact that the “high” of cocaine is the body’s own chemical, and that is what happens in that case, suggests that this is so. This means that each time a person succeeds in some way in attaining that “feel good” moment – no matter how it is achieved – the more will be required to experience that same level of feeling again. This may be why “love states” so rapidly diminish and turn into battles to produce threat of loss so that it can be averted and thereby produce the “rush of dopamine.” That is to say: the more that is experienced, the less it CAN be experienced; so it becomes a physiological/psychological “carrot and stick.”

But, even in such situations, the point arrives when the body simply can no longer meet the demand and nothing works anymore. How soon this point is reached depends on many factors.

I wonder if aggression which results in neurochemical “rewards” works the same way. Is the person actually damaging their system this way?


Laura: Man! You are one helluva good science writer. Can you speculate why the body might act to diminish receptor cells? That’s so interesting. Can you think of a Darwinian reason?

Secret Monster: Would you say the sense of fulfillment that comes to you from having made someone unhappy is equal to the one you get from producing happiness in another? Ie, is the reaction less important than the fact you got a reaction?


Dopamine secretion can be normal but receptor numbers increase or decrease in response to a variey of other stimuli since there is a lot of integration of the system. This allows for adjusting the sensitivity of the system’s response to dopamine in order to maintain homeostasis. Gonadal hormone receptor numbers increase or decrease with the menstrual cycle, for example. Better yet, during the mating season in some songbirds, the dopamine receptors numbers in the vocal control system significantly increase but then go back to normal during the off season.

One of the problems with continued methamphetamine use, which sociopaths are susceptable to, not necessarily psychopaths (some never touch drugs) is that it not only keeps the drug longer in the synapse. It also causes more dopamine to be continuously released from vesicles. It may or may not help to elucidate some of the mechanisms involved in aggressive action.

Vesicles inside the cell store unreleased dopamine until a signal is sent for them to go to the membrane and release it into the synapse. Meth causes vesicle release of dopamine INSIDE the cytoplasm of the cell as well as uncontrolled release at the synapse. If it spills in the cytoplasm it is quickly degraded. With prolonged dopamine in the synapse receptor numbers decline-homeostasis must be maintained. It is like a system fighting to keep things normal.

Eventually when vesicle dopamine is degraded and synaptic dopamine is done there is craving for more drugs in hopes of stimulating the system again. So an addict takes more and more drugs with diminishing returns. But maybe a good clinician can correct me if I’m wrong on that part.

What I do understand is that the oxidation of dopamine causes free radicals which can be toxic. An overly stimulated cell that respond to dopamine will die with constant bombardment. This may be why an attempt is first made to reduce sensitivity by decreasing receptor numbers. But with this constant emptying of vesicles, dealing with free radicals and prolonged synaptic dopamine, there is burn out. Inevitably the and dopamine receiving cells die. 18- 25 percent of these cells in the striatum die within the first 24 hours after a high dose of methamphetamine. This area is part of the motivational control system which includes goal-directed movement including aggressive action. If no receptors are there for dopamine to bind-no receiver of the signal- the terminals of the cells that produce dopamine will degenerate as they become toxic-within 36 hours after meth. Lots of uncontrolled movement occurs while this stuff is happening. In animal models nasty stuff like destroying everything around them and when thats done, ripping out their own flesh. This stuff isn’t included in a lot of the literature. Neither is the fact that for whatever reason, some individuals under the same conditions never do this. Instead they sit quietly in a corner and do nothing until the drug is out of their system. Then they go back to normal activities until brain tissue is collected and analyzed. Haven’t yet found the individual differences between the two types in connections regulating aggressive drive except amygdala-cortical connections so that may be eventually worked out. The amygdals-cortical differences are more evident in reactive aggression, as is expected if the animal perceives a treat rather than aggression to be aggressive. I’m a novice with this stuff regarding humans so I am open to data.

Lesley: Reminder, I don’t get fulfillment from specifically making people unhappy, in fact, I find specifically making people unhappy to be counter productive to my overall agenda (whatever it may be with that specific person, and also to my long term goals). So the unhappiness isn’t the goal, it’s a byproduct when I make mistakes and my actions are discovered.

The pleasure, for me, is in getting away with it. The excitement comes from pushing it to near ludicrous points and still getting away with it. Sometimes I don’t, and people are unhappy.

Making people happy – It depends on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Getting my wife a nice present and receiving the attention that surrounds that is… nice. But it doesn’t compare.

I’m generally a nice guy, in that I’m always willing to lend a hand if I have the time, or volunteer to do the stuff I know others hate. I can convince myself that some of this is just because I don’t mind, but ultimately, it’s solidifying the image I want to portray. It, in and of itself, doesn’t give me the same sort of rush or pleasure.


SM, that’s exactly what I figured out about my X P. He portrays himself as a truthful, honest, trustworthy guy, but would ultimately let you contract his disease if you dont protect yourself. I thought he was intelligent guy, or at least he seems that way, but I’m not so sure he is ‘learning’ from his mistakes. I have found out he has hooked up with others in this town, and did not disclose his HIV status to them, and infact lied about it. And that was AFTER I found out. I can’t quite comprehend why he continues to lie to people, when it’s quite obvious that when you lie and someone finds out- they get pissed and tell other people. After all, that’s how I found out. So why does he continue to lie to people? Doesnt he understand that people will eventually find out? Or does he not care? What’s your take?


To the “Secretmonster”,
“Being aware of”, and “being sensitive to the feelings of another”, (even if you don’t feel the emotions yourself), stops a normal person from hurting those people “they care about”. The BEST of the psychopaths/narcissists/ASPDs/Antisocials, are very aware of and very senstive to the feelings of the other person, and use that information to either hurt (or NOT) the other person, depending upon which will give them a power fix. Their relationships are not about “caring”, they are about exploitation. . . so I specifically left out . . the words “they care about”. Bottom line . . I feel sorry Secretmonster that they are crippled.


This man is committing premediated murder.

Go to the police, public health dept.

It’s illegal, immoral and evilnot disclose that diagnosis.


SM: Re ‘ludicrous points’ – you said recently that you were most happiest when you’d pulled off an ‘intrigue’ and it all turned out exactly as planned. Can you tell us any more about what happened, and what bits of it all you relished most?


Regarding lying: I realized recently that these liars really don’t care if you know they are lying, or catch them in a lie. The best (for them), is that they got what they wanted because of the lie. But, if they didn’t get what they wanted, at least they got to confuse you and casue you ponder their motives etc (i.e., “how could he lie . . knowing I know it’s a lie?” . . . a side-effect of their lying. In either case . . . they effected you and controlled the situation. How sick is that?


I’ve been subject to so many half truths, that I became too bewildered to even try to converse. I would question everything he said in my mind, then go over it constantly looking for that loophole I knew was there. As I travel this life journey, I’m constantly amazed at the approach of so many. I can’t help but wonder what they are looking for and how they hope to achieve their agenda.

I have wanted to believe that people were people and really cared, but had no idea that so many played games and didn’t even play by their own rules. It’s like they were making up the daily ritual, to coincide with whatever mood they were in. Love, to me, is unconditional, constant and consistent. Being with these mix up minds, sure leaves one in doubt.

But the phrase, familiarity breeds contempt, sure is fitting. I’ve found the longer I knew the ones in my life, and the more I saw behind the scenes, the more I didn’t want them around. I guess as long as they kept us in the dark, and kept playing their game, they had a captive audience. For me, once the facade finally slipped, the man behind the mask, is as shaky as the wizard in Oz. He needs a brain, heart and courage. It really has to be awful going through life, turning love into contempt. But if they walk in their own darkness, they don’t much care.

I think, too, when we can finally reach that place where we feel sorry for them, not in an emotional way, we have forgiven them. I’m glad I don’t have to resort to lying to get through life, as it always comes back to haunt that person. Truth will prevail. I’d much rather have that, than a life built on lies. It will come tumbling down. But there won’t be anyone around to but the pieces together again!! Although these kind usually find another sucker to drain.

Sometimes I feel bothered by the fact that the ones in my life thought they were so manly, but through a series of events, they were put in their place and lost their standing. Had they just humbled themselves, they wouldn’t have been brought down. I don’t take pride in calling them on their lies. But I can’t take anymore. I’d rather have truth by myself than to keep living a lie with someone who’s a phony. All to make him feel like a man.


Dear Dr. Steve,
I believe that these people are actually ADDICTED to POWER just like and alchoholic, drug addict, anorexic, gambler, overeater, etc is addicted. In each of those cases however, the addicts hurt mainly themselves. It is extremely difficult (or impossible) for those addicts to be cured. They must first ADMIT their ADDICTION. They do that only when their life had become unmanagible. Well anyway . . for the psychopath/narcissist/ASPD/sociopath . . . . they hurt “mainly” others. They hardly ever (or never) get to the 1st STEP of admitting their ADDICTION to POWER. Their lives have not become unmanagable (usually). It’s their relatives, friends, associates lives etc. that have become unmanagable. Well anyway . . My point is that I believe a Power Addict doesn’t doesn’t get better . . because 1) like any other addiction . . it’s almost impossible to cure . . . and 2) in most cases . . . they aren’t even acknowledging they have a problem (becuase they don’t -their friends, relatives etc do), and therefore have no need to take even take the 1st step to help themselves.


I think you said it best!


Additionally, there is no incentive for the POWER ADDICT (i.e., psychopath/narcissist/Aspd/sociopath) to change . . . since (usually) the POWER ADDICT is not suffering. It is the people he is controlling, that are suffering.


Once I understood POWER ADDICTS thru the lense of “an ADDICTION to POWER & CONTROL”. . . Everything fell into place and made sense. Addicts i.e. “HOLICS”, (alchoholics, compulsive gamblers, anorexics, drug addicts etc). are almost impossible to cure . . . although they are destroying themselves (mostly) and would seemingly be motived to stop . . Imagine how hard it is to cure when you are not destroying yourself (most destroying others). I think we must name it . . i.e., call the group of narcissists/psychopaths/sociopaths/ASPD’s “POWERHOLICS”, which will give victims & others a frame of reference of what they are dealing with, and not just words (whose definition even experts don’t agree upon even now).

One thing I don’t understand in the sense of power addicts versus sociopaths is that people who are addicted to power would seem to want that power reflected back at them….so they would have to make very certain the others who they see as “under their power” are well-aware of that fact on a daily basis.

However, S and P people LIE constantly and have secretive lives, often many at once. Their victims aren’t aware of being under anyone’s “power” until it’s nearly too late, or certainly at the end of contact.

So how does the P translate into a Power Addict when the victim is not really aware of being under anyone else’s power and the P lies, pretending it is not so?


I’ve been trying to come up with some verbiage (rather than/narcissistic/psychopathic/Anti-social Personality/Sociopath) that describes these POWEER ADDICTED people. Usually victims will say “I’m not sure if he’s a narcissist/psychopath/ASPD/Sociopath” because he hasn’t been professionally diagnosed, or he’s not old enough, or I’m not a psychologist. But the victims are SURE that these demented individuals are always putting them down, falsely blaming them, raging uncontrollably, lying a lot, exploitative, gaslighting, abusive (physically and/or verbally), don’t take responsibility, are controlling, predatory, and have no conscience, and are sometimes very charming etc. With all that, victims are still often reluctant to LABEL them . . I read it again and again . . . It’s remarkable to me!!!!!! It seems that victims are so frightened to make a diagnostic mistake. And of course, in many instances the psychologist, who is not scared to make a mistake, only sees the charming side and hears the lies & excuses, and erroneously, again blames the victim (or as I was told – “It takes 2”.) Yes, In a murder it also takes 2, a victim and a murderer. But no one would dare say . . “It takes 2”. My point is that we need to give this addiction a name that victims won’t be scared to use (without trampling on professionals toes). I suggested POWER ADDICTS or POWER-HOLICS/CONTROL ADDICTS or CONTROLAHOLICS. I think we need to place the blame precisely where it belongs, and not be scared to do so, just because we are not “the professionals”. Sometimes (when so many professionals “just don’t get it” . . You’ve got to take it into your own hands. We lived it . . . they didn’t!!!! With apologies to those few professionals that DO GET IT!

Ox Drover


I think you are one perceptive and articulate woman!! I totally agree with you that it is the POWER and CONTROL that they are addicted to. the risk-taking behavior and the “getting away with” IT (whatever it is).

I also think it doesn’t matter if the person wins or loses, gets away with it or not, it is the RISK TAKING that is the “high”–compulsive gamblers don’t seem to really care if they win or lose, it is the GAMBLE that is the “high”—I think the Ps are somewhat that way as well.

The planing and execution of the “plan” for power and control seems in itself to be a “high”—

My P-son, who is incarcerated for murder, had a plan to have me killed because I finally unmasked his “remorse” and “repentence” as totally false, and he didn’t like being cut out of the will…his very complex plan failed, and his “assistants” are now in prison or out on parole for the attempt. But I think he got as much of a “high”out of it as if he had succeeded.

Since age 17 he has not spent a total of one year out of prison or jail (he is 37) but has committed crime after crime, and even while incarcerated he has continually “tried to pull one over” on other convicts and the guards. He has 19 convictions for rules infractions, some pretty serious, while he has been incarcerated.

In fact, I read (can’t remembr who wrote it) that prison is the perfect environment for them, as they are constantly on guard and always have some sort of scheme going to keep their adreniline up. I agree with that!

My son is control-addicted, rage fueled, and anger inspired. If he had 10 million dollars and were released today, he would rob or cheat someone, not for the money but for the “fun” and risk involved. My biiological father, who is also a raging P, but who was wealthy enough to never go to prison for his crimes, was totally fixated on CONTROL and inspriing fear in his victims.

In my career as a registerd nurse practitioner working with patients, I saw many women who were both the victims of abuse and violence and also the perpetrators of abuse and violence. They seemed to flop from one chair in the musical triangle to another with the rapidity of a bouncing ball.

If they per chance left a man or he left them, they would seek out another man who would beat them, and they would then respond back with violence. It was a way of life, and they seemed to enjoy the victim role as lmuch as the perpetrator one. “He may have blacked my eye, but I cut him with the knife” I am not “victim blaming” here, because no one deserves to be hit, but responding repeatedly with violence in return on a prolonged basis says that they are getting something that is pleasureable to them out of the situation. No matter how “dysfunctional” it is, somehow it triggers something that makes them “want to do it again”



I love your thoughts above. I think that we ARE the experts. I just started therapy and I told me counselor, “Please do not explain to me what a Sociopath is. I KNOW.”

Also, I read something somewhere about Borderline PD and that it’s not curable due to the fact that the cure is to not have it… kind of like the cure for cancer is to not have cancer. It can be hard to get one’s head around that. These disorders seem impenetrable because to be cured would be to admit flaw and give up power. Anyway, I am just restating what you said.

By the way, I am 100% satisifed with my non-professional diagnosis of the Bad Man. He is a Sociopath.


I believe that these POWER ADDICTS are born that way. It is genetic just as hair color, height, body type. This is a personality type. And just as genetic characteristics manifest at predetermined ages. i.e., one persons’ hair may turn grey at 35 another at 65. That age, (35 or 65) was determined at the instant of conception. Personality types are also inherited (think of animals (golden retreivers vs pit bulls – sharks vs dolphins). Well some people are born POWER addicts, and the age and ferocity with which it manifests, is variable (but it was there at the moments of conception). The reason (I believe) that it is so hard to “CURE” . . is because there in fact is nothing wrong with them (in nature). They “feel right”, just as a shark, pit-bull or lion feels right. This is WHO THEY ARE. In our society, it interferes with those of us who want to get along, and cooperate, and love. So we call it a disorder. But IT’S NATURE (and I, as well as other victims, are shocked because they are so different – predatory, and what we call EVIL. My only suggestion for us (which is not nearly enough) is to learn about the NATURE of the BEAST (POWER ADDICTS), learn how to recognize them, and protect yourself. If more people did that, they would (through years of evolution) become fewer and fewer. But for sure we, (and perhaps nobody) will be around to see that day.

that’s exactly right sarah999, that is exactly how i see it. this is who they are.

i may be rattling some people here by saying i don’t think these S’s purposely sit down and develop a plan to intentionally hurt us. i know to us, it FEELS intentional.

but for us, who will never be able to experience our life without conscience, the only way we can try to process this is to say they sit down and do this on purpose, that it is a master plan they have to injure us.

in other words, i believe the only way WE could injure someone is to develop a master plan and hurt that person ON PURPOSE – because it is so outside of who WE are.

our S’s? in my experience, they are just doing what they do. the scorpion stings. the cat tortures a mouse. they are not setting out to sting or torture – it is PART of them. they find enjoyment out of stinging and torturing the same way we find enjoyment out of helping an old woman to her car with her groceries.

we don’t seek out the old woman, but if she is there, we will certainly help. it gives us a good feeling as well as the old woman. we get something out of it.

so do S’s. only they get something out of pain and torture.

many may disagree with me, and that’s okay. i think that’s what this is all about. we are still learning about it, and as aloha said – WE are the experts.

i find it funny when my son’s doctor tells me something about my son – i used to take her word for it, no matter what.

‘no he couldn’t have a sinus infection after just two days, there’s no need to bring him in for a look.’ – no doctor, i am the expert on my son, and i am the one who knows when he is sick – make an appointment for him today.

if i begin to believe that this S who i loved with all my heart did all this to me as part of a premediated master plan designed to hurt me, then i will go back to believing that he can change his behavior.

what i must hold on to – at all costs – is my reality that he is not in control of his behavior. he behaves this was because it is not a behavior – it is who he is.

it is quite the opposite of what i believed all my life. don’t the ‘experts’ say – ‘never criticize the person, only the behavior.’ i did that for years.

now i criticize the person.

Ox Drover

Sarah, I agree in part with your “they are born that way” in that the person who is born with the gene or genes that SOMETIMES leads to alcoholism has a greater tendency to be an alcoholic than those that don’t have that gene or genes.

I come from a family with a genetic history of psychopaths that I know for a fact on one side leads back to before 1840. On the other side, I only know back to about 1860, but in these families that make up my ancestory I can definitely point to a direct line of psychopaths. Not all of thes epeople were raised by the psychopathic parent either because many times the psychopath sires a child and abandons it for the mother to raise (or the father as the case may be) and that happened inn several of my ancestor’s lives.

My biological father was a psychopath akin to Charlie Manson, and I know for a fact of several people he has killed, and all of his 7 wives were beaten severely. His mother was at least an N and maybe a P. She was the daughter of a man who was at least an N and possibly a P. I can’t get enough information to make a good guess, but at least a p. He was a bigamist who had at least 4 wives, and some at the same time.

My mother is, on the other hand, is an enabling narcissist, whose brother was an abusive monster that should have had life without parole if it had been known how he abused and tortured his x wife and children. On her mother’s side of the family, the direct line of abusive men can be traced to one of her ancestors who tied up a slave woman by the toes and beat her, this same man, born about 1800 and who died in 1860 was also a “nasty and mean drunk” which I got from court records. Several of his sons were as well.

However, just as a person being born with the gene for acoholism can NOT DRINK, a person born with the genes that predispose toward the psychopathic behavior can still function on a fairly normal (if not totally normal) way in society. He does not have to choose to be a mean SOB and abuse others.

I think at some point they get “pleasure” out of their mean behavior and like it….just like the person with the alcoholic genetics takes that first drink and gets pleasure out of it. He then continues to drink because of the “feel good” chemicals the alocohol releases in his brain.

We know for a fact from various studies that various thoughts, including thoughts of revenge, stimulate the “pleasure” centers of the brain and actually give a “high” to the person thinking those thoughts.

I agree that there is some genetic predisopsition to psychopathic thought and behavior, but I do not think that they are born WITHOUT ANY CHOICE any more than the person who is born with the tendency for alcoholism has NO choice but to become an alcoholic.

My youngest son is a carbon copy of my psychopathic father, though the two have nevr met, and I was never around my bio father until I became an adult and was victimized and brutalized by this man.

Being in the medical profession, and is psychiatry as well, I have a great interest in the genetic predisposition to a lot of various physical and mentalo illnesses and have researched the literature looking for evidence of the inheritability vs the environmental aspects of psychopathic thought and behavior.

I have NO doubt that there are some strong genetic predispositions in people toward that behavior. I only have to look at my own family to see that. Some of them though “pass for normal” people in society, only showing their REAL selves to a chosen few victims, others, like my psychopathic son who is in prison for cold blooded murder, and recently even tried from his prison cell to have me murdered by a friend of his.

When my son went to prison he was more the “charlie manson” type of raging anger, now that he has spent almost 19 of the last 20 years in prison, however, he has learned to be an excellent con man, spouting paramoral platitudes in hopes of getting his con in on me and others. the fact that I saw through his lies FINALLY and realized that he had NO remorse, but was in fact actually proud of the brutality of his crime…that it was actually worse than the cops knew…that when I cut him off from contact, commissary money, and feed back that he plotted to have me killed.

It is only by the grace of God that I was able to figure out that was his plan, and the fact that his minion screwed up and I realized that he was involved, did I finally realize that my life was in danger. My enabling mother and one of my sons were hoodwinked and if the police had not believed me I might very well be dead by “suicide” at this point.

My thoughts are that the genetics may be there, but environment can also trigger chemical releases that change the brain, and also addict them to those chemicals as a “high” that they get from POWER and control and other things. LIke the cat playing with the mouse and torturing it before killing it, they ENJOY the chase and the kill and want to prolong that pleasure as long as possible. They also like looking back on previous kills and savoring the feelings again.

They love provoking fear in their vicgtims and savor the pain the victim endures as part of their own “high”–their own power trip.

But I think at some point in their lives they have a CHOICE to proceed as a monster or not.


I think we are in agreement. I do believe POWER ADDICTS have a choice, and they choose pleasure (i.e., A FIX). To a psychopath, pleasure (or a FIX) may mean abusing someone, putting-someone down, duping someone, seeing the power they can wield over another person. .
To us (non-psychopaths), pleasure may mean helping an old lady cross the street, helping someone achieve a dream, or appreciating the joy when someone else has accomplished something etc.
We are both seeking pleasure (a FIX). We both have a choice, and they both choose pleasure (i.e., a FIX)


The reason why POWER ADDICTS smear & slander their victims.

A POWER ADDICT chooses a victim (i.e, mark), that will give him a POWER FIX.
After he has hurt the victim (i.e., raged at, demeaned, gas-lighted, exploited, duped & deceived etc.) to make himself feel POWERFUL . .
He must then (since he knows it’s not nice or acceptable to do this) create a story about how the victim DESERVED it . .
He does this by smearing the victim, blaming the victim for something, fabricating a story as to why the victim actually deserved what the POWER ADDICT did.


Ox Drover


The “smear campaign” is so true–when the P is “injured” because the chosen victim rebels and leaves or fights back, I think the P is so enraged by this rebellion that they MUST punish the victim in any way that they can. They smear the victim’s reputation, blame the victim, or seek revenge. (which I think also gives them another “fix” to use your term.) Studies have shown that thoughts of revenge actually light up the pleasure centers of the brain.

I do think your reason that “he knows its not nice or acceptable to do this (hurt another person)” is not the reason for the smear campaign, while I do agree that they KNOW the difference in right and wrong and consciously choose to do what they know that “society” thinks is wrong, the smear campaign, the blaming the victim, etc. is a continuation of the victimization of the victim–just another step that is induced by the victim either escaping or fighting back. I don’t’ guess that “hair splitting” difference in “why” they do the smear campaign is really important, but it just seems to be to be another step in denigrating the victim. Kicking them when they are down, so to speak. No mercy!


I say that because the N/P (POWER ADDICT) must justify his abuse of the victim, and does this by and further smearing and demeaning the victim, even when the victim does not fight back, and is totally out of the picture, as when they enforce NO CONTACT. The Power ADDICT does this to justificy to himself (and everyone else), that their abuse was NOT abuse but rational.



This is a wonderful way to explain them! Whether it be through sex, business, gaslighting, money, or whatever, they need to control and have power over other people. I think that is seriously THE driving force behind their manipulations, although it may manifest itself in many different ways.

The smear campaign is just an extension of that so that even after you enforce NC, they can find other ways to screw up your life from a distance. That is a way of saying, “Look, you thought you could cut me out of your life, but here I am indirectly controling it!”

A point that LilOrphan brought up is sometimes they conduct their intrigues without the victim knowing, and sometimes they never find out. But this reminds me of one of Secretmonster’s posts from another thread awhile back. He said that even though many of his victims dont know theyre being victimized, he gets a kick out of hanging humiliation over their heads. He has the power to drop it at any time and destroy them emotionally. So even if they never find out about it, he knows he is in control and that’s enough for him.


Can somebody please explain to me why “Secretmonster” (who I presume is one of THEM, not one of US) – is allowed to post on this website? (Or have I got it wrong?) Is it because there are professionals on here who are conducting scientific research? I don’t understand the engagement with someone who claims to enjoy conning and/or hurting others… I thought this was supposed to be a safe place?


Aussie girl – in case Donna (the blog owner) doesn’t see your question, you can email her at: [email protected]
and ask her that question.

you need to know that they show up here at times – some like secretmonster, some who are trolls and come and spew crap in their first posts, and some who pretend to be victims, and are not. Even if they are not posting , they are reading. This reality is always in my mind when i post.

what i understand about some who have posted a bit is that their posts are tolerated as field research. Personally, i have all the field research subjects i need.

When they show up, it is best to not engage with them, but post such banal banter that they leave. If you see a conversation come up about ‘potted plants’ or EB starts posting long posts of gibberish and tons of smiley faces to bump the thread out of the que – well, then you’ll know we have identified a spath or troll in the house. Lots of us have experience with getting the acute trolls off the blog. it is best not to post anything important during those periods. takes a few hours to a few days – one thing we have going for us is that most of them have a fairly short attn span if they are not getting fed emotionally. nc on our part and they get bored.


Dear onestepatatime

Thanks for the explanation – I was a bit rattled when I saw people reply directly to that person.

Funny you should use the term “troll” – that’s my pet name for the revolting next-door neighbour I had for a year, who has only recently moved to another house. The neighbour from hell – drug-f****d in the head and I suspect a sociopath to begin with (even before the nice drugs came and ate his brain up).

Anyhow – the only other thing I have to say about this thread is gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, potted plant and gibberish.

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