Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People, by Jackson Mackenzie
Review by Donna Andersen
I admit I’ve been remiss. Jackson Mackenzie’s book, Psychopath Free, came out in 2015, and I just finished reading it. I think I need about 48 hours in the day.
Anyway, if you’ve been romantically involved with a psychopath or other disordered individual, Psychopath Free will ring true for you. Jackson does an excellent job of describing the cycle of an involvement with a psychopath, from the glorious beginning when you’re feeling high on all the attention, to the confusion of the mind games in the middle, to the utter devastation when you are brutally discarded.
In the beginning of the book, Jackson presents 30 Red Flags for spotting toxic relationship partners. What’s interesting about his list is that he includes behavior that you, as the unwitting target, may engage in. For example:
- You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man or woman.
- Accuses you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally provoking.
- You find yourself playing detective.
- You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you.
I also like Jackson’s description of “the manufactured soul mate” — how the psychopath convinces you that you are meant to be together. One of their methods is “indirect persuasion:”
“They will insult their exes as a way to flatter their target, but what they are really doing is grooming their target. For instance, by saying, “my ex always used to do this, but you never do that,” they are telling you to behave in a certain way. This is not a compliment — it’s a warning that if you repeat any of the ex’s alleged behavior, you’ll be discarded as well. The ex likely didn’t even do any of these things. It’s just a way for the psychopath to indirectly tell you how they expect you to behave.”
One of the things about the book that I found really interesting about Jackson’s book was his youthful perspective. Jackson encountered the psychopath in his life when he was 21 (which was far more recently than when I was 21).
Jackson’s descriptions of psychopathic behavior include game playing on Facebook and via text message. He also describes how psychopaths have their “fan clubs,” and once the psychopath turns against the target, all of the fans also turn against the target. So his book contains helpful information about how psychopaths infect entire social groups — something that I didn’t experience.
Although anyone can benefit from this book, it’s most appropriate for young, single people who are looking for love. If you, or your kids, are in this demographic, you’ll definitely find the book helpful.
There’s only one aspect of the book that I disagree with, and that’s the references to psychopaths’ pain about their own emptiness. For example, Jackson writes:
“They destroy you because they hate you. They despise your empathy and love — qualities they must pretend to feel every single day. To destroy you is to temporarily silence the nagging reminder of the emptiness that consumes their soul.”
I don’t think psychopaths feel any distress about their internal emptiness. They’re too busy gloating over their power and control.
Many psychopaths are aware that they are different from normal, empathetic people. They are aware that they don’t feel emotions like others do. They know they don’t have a conscience — hurtful or illegal behavior doesn’t bother them. Usually psychopaths view these characteristics as making them superior to the rest of us. They view themselves as “evolution’s next step.”
Okay, I’ve heard from a few self-identified psychopaths who wish they could feel emotions. My guess is that these individuals don’t score very high on the PCL-R — the test that measures a person’s level of disorder. Those at the upper end of the scale, the truly disordered, don’t know what they’re missing, and don’t care.
Opportunity for healing
More than half of Jackson’s book is about recovery, and it’s very helpful. He emphasizes the importance of No Contact.
“Nothing good can come from contact with a psychopath, no matter how seemingly insignificant the contact might be.”
He offers other suggestions to help you in your recovery. And he makes a point that I absolutely agree with — your involvement with a psychopath, as devastating as it is, presents you with an opportunity to become more in touch with your true self, and create a better life than you ever imagined.
This is a really difficult message to hear when you’re in the throes of emotional pain, financial meltdown and whatever other disasters the psychopath has created. Nonetheless, I believe it’s true. Jackson writes:
Through the recovery process, we build ourselves back up from total darkness. From emptiness and hopelessness, we discover qualities in ourselves that we never valued before: creativity, kindness, humility, compassion. The foundation of our very spirits …
Once you have self-respect, you are free to become who you were always meant to be. You do not care about the petty judgments of others, giving you the opportunity to fully explore your creativity, imagination, and spirituality.
This is where the magic begins.
I often tell the people who call me for consultations that there is a silver lining to the experience of being trampled on by a psychopath. And this is it: The experience is so awful that you can no longer contain the internal pain you’ve been carrying that made you vulnerable to the psychopath in the first place. So you have an opportunity to release the pain — all of it — and find the joyful and peaceful life that you always wanted.
If you were in love with a psychopath, Psychopath Free will help you understand what happened, that it wasn’t your fault, and that you can rebuild your life. I highly recommend this book.
Jackson’s next book, which should be out this year, will delve further into the topic of healing. I’m sure he will offer many valuable insights.
Psychopath Free is available on Amazon.com.