ASK DR. LEEDOM: Are sociopaths (and psychopaths) vindictive?

A woman who married and had children with two different sociopathic men wrote us this week. Her story and questions are timely since they allow me to mention another upcoming book, the conference Donna and I attended last weekend and to discuss vindictiveness.

It seems most women who have children with sociopaths end up with the sociopaths walking out on their children as well as the women, leaving the survivors to mop up and struggle to understand what happened on their own. From what I understand of sociopaths, the prevalent attitude they seem to behave as if they “don’t care” about anything except doing what benefits them”¦ (she told her story of marriage, children, custody battles and vindictive sociopaths)”¦ So, is vindictiveness a trait typically found in sociopaths or are these guys merely trying to maintain or regain their power and it just happens to look like vindictiveness on the surface? These guys have definitely expressed some serious rage, especially after losing as spectacularly as they did when they tried to take custody and prevent me from moving. Is anger an emotion sociopaths feel when they don’t get their own way? Do they ever “get over” it?

Many women tend to repeatedly pick sociopaths as partners

There are many women who have relationships with more than one sociopathic man. Sometimes children result from one or all of the relationships, since sociopaths like to father a lot of children. (My son’s father has 7 children I know about.) The resultant children carry the sociopath’s genes and are exposed to the sociopath’s fathering behavior.

Sociopathic/psychopathic men are at least 4 times more common than sociopathic women. The interpersonal love-relationship patterns are the means by which sociopaths replicate themselves and perpetuate sociopathy within our society. It is very important, then, to understand women who love sociopathic men. Is there anything different about them? Are they drawn to sociopaths because of prior abuse? Is it simply that sociopaths con them and they are especially gullible? These are tough questions for those of us who have had relationships with sociopathic men, but we have to ask them. The stakes are too high for everyone for us to avoid asking and answering these questions. Sandra L. Brown, M.A., and I recently conducted a survey/study that has addressed these questions and more. Stay tuned because a book with our initial findings is nearly complete. The results are enlightening and freeing.

Batterers often win custody of children

Last weekend Donna and I attended a conference, the Battered Women’s Custody Conference. This conference is held every year and so plan on attending next year if you missed it. The conference addresses one end of the spectrum of sociopaths—sociopathic men who are physically violent. It is incredible the courts often give children over to these sociopaths! Batterers are a little different from the sociopaths most of us know. These sociopaths have been referred to as secondary psychopaths, as opposed to the primary psychopaths we are most familiar with.

Primary verses secondary psychopathy

Secondary psychopaths are more insecure (than are primary psychopaths) about the status and power they so desire. Whereas primary psychopaths are grandiose and feel confident in their supremacy, secondary psychopaths are always on the lookout for threats to their status. They are also prepared to meet status threats with physical violence. Secondary psychopaths have more problems with impulse control than primary psychopaths. They also tend to be more emotional, displaying more anger. I think the average perpetrator of domestic violence fits the profile of a secondary psychopath very well.

There are other minor differences between secondary and primary psychopaths, but the similarities between them are more noteworthy than the differences. Both primary and secondary psychopaths are unable to love, have poor impulse control and impaired moral reasoning. Genetics play a substantial role in the development of both, and it is not true that one is environmental and the other genetic, as is commonly believed.

Sociopathic fathers

The parenting behavior of sociopaths has not been thoroughly studied. In my opinion the reason for this is the belief held by many researchers and clinicians that sociopaths abandon their young. This belief is related to another belief—that sociopaths are incapable of attachment. These two fallacies have stood in the way of efforts to eliminate this disorder and the suffering of victims. First of all, to those who hold on to the second misconception, If sociopaths are incapable of attachment, why do they engage in stalking? Scientists measure attachment as the tendency to seek proximity to a specific special other. Is not stalking the ultimate manifestation of attachment behavior? Sociopaths often verbally report they love others. Let’s take this to be a reflection of a longing for specific people, then we can start to understand sociopaths.

The feeling of longing

The feeling of longing sociopaths have is related to the fact that certain people in their lives have previously been a source of pleasure. We tend to get attached to things and people that have brought us pleasure in the past. There are three social pleasures: affection, dominance and sex, and possibly a separate fourth, parenting. Although sociopaths may experience a modicum of affection, the primary pleasure they derive from relationships is associated with power as opposed to love. When a sociopath says, “I love you,” he means he greatly enjoys the pleasure of possessing you and having power over you. SO how dare you question his love!

Children are also possessions sociopaths enjoy having dominion over. Part of the enjoyment of parenting they have is the prospect of turning, particularly sons, into miniature versions of themselves. For this reason, any money that the court orders your sociopath to give his children is not worth the trade off. If your sociopath will give up his possessions for a price, pay him off and be done with him. If the sociopath succeeds at his goal of turning his sons into miniature versions of himself, you will live your entire life surrounded by sociopaths, you will never escape and have peace/love.


Sociopaths are by nature extremely vindictive! Vindictiveness comes from the power/dominance system in our brains. Scientific studies show that sociopathic people derive great pleasure from revenge. Revenge is a very primitive emotion that evolved to ensure enforcement of social reciprocity. It evolved before the capacity for love. We know this because of studies of chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are very vindictive and vengeful when a comrade fails to reciprocate, and their capacity for love has not evolved much. It is only the threat of revenge that induces chimpanzees to cooperate with each other, because they do not have love bonds that motivate cooperation. When a chimpanzee shares his food, he does not likely get a warm fuzzy feeling inside, instead he knows that others will later do the same for him. If others fail to reciprocate, revenge is always taken.

Thankfully most humans receive a double reward when they cooperate with each other and a double punishment when they fail to cooperate. The double reward is the inherent pleasure in knowing we did a good for someone else, and the thought that good might someday be reciprocated. The double punishment is the guilt over harming someone and the fear that the harm will be reciprocated. Please hear me, sociopaths are like chimpanzees. They do not feel good when they do good for someone, they thus expect immediate reciprocity. They do not feel bad when they hurt someone, but they are smart enough to know revenge might follow. This is why prison is an occupational hazard for them. They also do not comprehend the guilt other people feel. This is why it is important to them to mete out huge punishments toward everyone who has offended them.

When you have to deal with sociopaths, be ever mindful that these individuals are devoid of pleasure from goodness and devoid of guilt over evil. Although they take advantage of other’s emotions, they have it in their minds that the rest of the human race is like them. They therefore feel it is necessary to get revenge in order to reduce the likelihood of future attacks on their status, power and possessions.

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465 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: Are sociopaths (and psychopaths) vindictive?"

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moving past the facade,

Almost everybody of his village tried to warn me he was a total good-for-nothing, a thief, a drug dealer. But he had admitted to that as being his past himself to me already and he only needed a chance to change his life around. So, all what they said against him propelled me into becoming his personal defender.

I didn’t know about the women of course. I’m sure some girls could have told me, but these were the women who wanted him for a night and didn’t care or even enjoyed the fact that he had a girlfriend right then and there in the pub. And of course he paraded me in front of these women lusting for him to increase their desire for him, and for me to be absolutely convinced he was 100% faithful.

I knew one of his ex-es personally. When she met me, I was actually very interested in hearing her advice. I would, at the time, have valued it the most. Instead, she lied and said that I could trust him to leave my wallet on the table and nothing would ever be taken out of it. When it was over though, she was one of the first to personally call me and actually tell me she was glad I had escaped him. I cannot blame her, because she was most likely fearful of him when I first met her (and imo not without reason). Another ex of his was still in contact with him and hoped and believed that he truly loved me (so did the other ex I mentioned).

Very sometimes a woman who had met him somewhere in my town and who I later met while we went out, would tell me that I deserved someone far better. When I asked them for their reasons for telling me this, they would not clarify. Or they would say something like, “He’s a bad man.” But never anything preceise. I don’t necessarily think these were mistresses, but they might have witnessed him cheating me or do other bad stuff.

On the one hand I do think that the only information I would have valued was the infodump I later got from his ex-es. On the other hand, perhaps I wouldn’t have. I cannot say, because I wasn’t told during by them, only afterwards. However, any other warning I received from others about his criminal lifestyle I plainly ignored.

I do know that I warned the woman he exchanged me for, and she’s married to him now. She didn’t necessarily disbelieve my story, but in her eyes, he truly loved her. She still needs to learn that she’s mistaken in the latter.

To all of you: I wish you further progress in your recovery for 2013! I wish you peace, health, and safety!

I think there are two parts to the warning. If both parts aren’t there, the warning won’t work.

Part one, needs to be education about these creatures existing. I couldn’t imagine this. It was beyond my comprehension that a person could NOT FEEL ANYTHING, even to the extent that when he had to have jaw surgery, he demanded that it be done without any anesthesia. (The doctor refused, of course, but the point is that he knew it wouldn’t hurt). He can’t feel emotions because he has numbed himself completely. This is the basis of his evil.

Part two, is to show the red flags, so that we can recognize what we are seeing, FOR WHAT IT IS. If I had known that all of his strange behaviors were an indication of psychopathy, I would have run for my life.

The only other way I would have listened was if my parents had told me what they overheard him say about only being with me for my money. The reason this would have worked is because it is the ONE AND ONLY boundary that my parents instilled in me. I would let anyone hurt me, but not take my money.

Happy New Year! Time to look and move forward!
Does anyone know if this book that is referred to has been published, and if so, what is the name of it?

What book are you writing about?

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