By | January 3, 2011 364 Comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Gaslight Effect Redux

It’s amazing how people can have differing opinions of the same book. Last May, the Lovefraud Reader Ox Drover wrote a review of The Gaslight Effect, by Dr. Robin Stern. I am always on the lookout for books that will help readers understand, and recover from, a traumatic entanglement with a sociopath. Because Oxy was so complimentary about The Gaslight Effect, I was anxious to read it, and possibly recommend it to others.

Well, I read the book, but I’m not sure I can recommend it.

Oxy did point out that Dr. Stern never mentions the word, “sociopath,” referring to the perpetrator as the “gaslighter,” and the victim as the “gaslightee.” Although Oxy was willing to look past this omission, I’m not.

First of all, let’s define “gaslighting.” According to Wikipedia:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

Gaslighting is nasty behavior. The problem I have with this book is that Dr. Stern never, ever mentions, not once, that a person who is gaslighting someone else may be malicious, controlling, and intent on destroying the soul of the victim. She does not mention that the gaslighter may be mentally and emotionally abusing someone else, simply for his or her amusement. She does not say that the gaslighter may be evil.

Here’s how Dr. Stern defines the gaslighting relationship:

The Gaslight Effect results from a relationship between two people: a gaslighter, who needs to be right in order to preserve his own sense of self and his sense of having power in the world; and a gaslightee, who allows the gaslighter to define her sense of reality because she idealizes him and seeks his approval.

This definition makes it seem like the two parties—gaslighter and gaslightee—are equally responsible for the dynamics. I don’t think that’s true. Then, a few pages later, Dr. Stern writes:

Of course, neither of you may be aware of what’s really happening. The gaslighter may genuinely believe every word he tells you or sincerely feel that he’s only saving you from yourself. Remember: He’s being driven by his own needs. Your gaslighter might seem like a strong, powerful man, or he may appear to be an insecure, tantrum-throwing little boy; either way, he feels weak and powerless. To feel powerful and safe, he has to prove that he is right, and he has to get you to agree with him.

Excuse me while I barf. Sociopaths who engage in gaslighting do not feel weak and powerless. They are motivated by dominance and feel totally entitled to do what they want and take what they want, even if it is someone else’s sanity.

Three types of gaslighters

Next, Dr. Stern describes three types of gaslighters—the Glamour Gaslighter, the Good-Guy Gaslighter, and the Intimidator. She spends the most time describing the Glamour Gaslighter:

He lets you know you’re the most wonderful woman in the world, the only one who’s ever understood him, the fairy-tale princess who has magically transformed his life. He’ll transform your life, too, he implies or even promises, he’ll shower you with affection, take you to wonderful places, sweep you off your feet with gifts or intimate confessions or sexual attention of a kind you’ve never known before.

This is a perfect description of a sociopath in full seduction mode. But Dr. Stern doesn’t seem to get it. Instead, she explains that this man is in love with the idea of a relationship. He likes to be a leading man, and is looking for a leading lady to fill her part.

Dr. Stern describes the Good-Guy Gaslighter as someone who needs to appear reasonable and good, but is deeply committed to getting his own way. She spends the least amount of time describing the Intimidator, perhaps because the problems are so obvious—put-downs, yelling, bullying, guilt trips and other types of punishment. In order for a relationship with an Intimidator to be more satisfying, she says, the Intimidator will need to alter his way of relating. Yeah, right.

Stress response

Much of this book describes sample cases of gaslightees trying to understand and cope with gaslighters. I’m sure this helps people realize and identify what is going on in these relationships.

The book, however, falls down when Dr. Stern explains why this behavior happens. She writes, “Gaslighting is a response to stress; people become either gaslighters or gaslightees when they feel threatened.”

Sociopaths don’t engage in gaslighting because they’re stressed. They engage in it because it’s who they are and what they do. And victims don’t become gaslightees because of stress. They are trapped because of a psychopathic bond created by the predator.

Then, Dr. Stern asks the reader to be honest:

Think about the ways in which you aren’t being your best self. Do you set off your gaslighter by being overly critical or demanding? Do you belittle your gaslighter or play on his vulnerabilities? Do you say or do things that you know will make him crazy?

Gee, the people I hear from are walking on eggshells trying not to set the guy off. Until, of course, it gets so bad that they have not choice but to explode.

What’s your view?

In the last chapter, Dr. Stern offers three courses of action for people in these situations: Changing the gaslighting relationship from within, limiting a gaslighting relationship, or leaving the relationship. Yes, these are the three choices, and the book offers suggestions on how to decide what to do.

When considering whether to stay in the relationship and change it from within, Dr. Stern reminds the reader to be compassionate, both for herself and the gaslighter. She writes:

You don’t have to put up with unlimited bad treatment, but if your gaslighter persists in gaslighting you, you can remind yourself that he is also suffering, perhaps even more than you are. After all, he almost certainly grew up in a home where he was gaslighted by someone and couldn’t make it stop—so now he doesn’t understand why you have the power to say no.

Is this true? I am asking an honest question of Lovefraud readers here, and I would appreciate your feedback. Have any of you ever been subjected to gaslighting by someone who was basically a good person with problems? Can any of you attribute gaslighting behavior to the perpetrator’s stress or internal pain? Or, do you feel that gaslighting behavior is due to sociopathic traits?

Afraid to recommend

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book, The Gaslight Effect. The author does a good job of explaining what the behavior looks like, and the questions victims should ask themselves to determine what is really going on. She offers strategies for coping with the behavior, including leaving the relationship.

But Dr. Stern seems to come from that school of therapy that believes both parties contribute equally to relationship problems. Throughout the entire book, I kept waiting for the author to warn the reader that some gaslighters have dangerous, pathological personality disorders, and they should run, not walk, for the nearest exit. The warning never came.

Therefore, I’m afraid to recommend the book, because it may encourage people to stay and try to work things out with an abuser. And the longer people stay in a gaslighting relationship, the more power they lose, and the harder it is to finally leave.

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My husband has gaslighted me throughout our relationship, right from the start is my guess. He is the biggest liar, the only adult person who I am aware of who will lie in order to get his way, not batting an eye over it. When he is confronted, there is an absolute lack of shame or remorse, always being able to justify his behavior, or remain silent and say no more. It’s impossible to have a relationship with a gaslighter because their thinking is twisted, being only concerned about themselves in the end, self-preservation. The victim can be driven to the lowest place emotionally by the constant craziness that goes on and the gaslighter doesn’t care. My husband is the Good-Guy Gaslighter, engaging in the behaviors because “it’s who he is and what he does” (slightly altering your exact words). The stories (lies) that my husband has told me in the past (sometimes to explain away or avoid something), some of them have been downright bizarre, giving me a sinking feeling in my stomach that he is “not right upstairs,” concluding to myself that he is nuts (and I am not being mean-spirited when I say this) – it’s reality.



My husband was the poster child for Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder which is no longer in the DSM. In Scott Wetzler’s book about passive aggressive men he describes gaslighting. I have come to believe that Passive Aggressive Zingers and gaslighting are the same thing.

Because I was busy raising an autistic child by a previous marriage I didn’t pay a lot of attention at first, but as his behavior escalated and I started taking more responsibility for my own behavior….that is not asking his opinion about everything he finally left me right before our 25th Wedding Anniversary. I ran into an old boyfriend shortly after that who told me that I was not the same. I jokingly told him that he had aged also. He said “That is not what I mean. You remind me of when my business burned down. You walk slow. You don’t seem to have that light in your eye.” I still had my giggle and hope, but I didn’t realize how much damage my H had done to me.

The separation and divorce started three years ago. It is now final. Just a note. I joined this blog commenting because of a recent exBF who is a con man type Spath, but I am wondering about husband now.



Thanks for the review, Donna. I’ve seen this book before and have thought at times of purchasing it- but I know I’d be disappointed once reading material like that. It’d probably be too late to return it by then too. That is IMPORTANT stuff to fudge up, so no thanks for me. The dynamics- where a sociopath is coming from is NEVER on par with where a normal, albeit somewhat dysfunctional person is coming from. That would just be too confusing to get through.

Twice Betrayed

After marrying two P’s whose gaslighting skills are honed to ‘perfection’, the answer is an emphatic:NO! These are NOT good people with problems. I raised three children who were sweet when they were young, two NOT around their father, one with hers. All 3 show gaslighting, P behavior. They all seem to enjoy ‘torturing’ me emotionally. I am badly sick after the Christmas ‘holidays’ dealing with all the games/scenes and drama, which, I won’t go into detail, here at this time. Look, these people enjoy this behavior or they would find a way out or to stop it. Someone else’s discomfort and emotional distress is the jam on their bread! They EAT IT UP! Personally, I’ve come to the opinion we are either evil or good pointed in our personalities. Good seeks peace, evil seeks pain/discord. Just my two cents.

Twice Betrayed

And….I would also like to say, it’s almost, if not, impossible, to KINDLY end relationships with these people. They see kindness as weakness and anything short of your total worship as betrayal. They are not in pain the way the victim is, see losses of relationships as just another hurdle to cross and another human to conquer. They collect human souls like we would charms on a bracelet. The idea is to bleed, hurt, kill, destroy, and own your soul. And they LOVE and ENJOY every second of it. In their world, it’s predator or prey and from my experience, genetics wins. When I pull back and disengage from my kids, they come after me, sweetly at first, and then the psychological torture begins. Carefully planned, worded and executed. Subtle, quiet torture which keeps you totally off balance. As easy to them as breathing. And……they know when I am getting wise to the scene and they will shift gears. NO way to have a peaceful relationship with any of them.


I agree. I stopped answering his calls for ONE day ( and expressed to him in a short answer that I didn’t want to speak at the moment – i hadn’t explained the REAL reason which was that I found out that he was lying about someone just having been a “friend” ) and he RAGED the next day… ( unable to brainwash me with my NC that day ) calling me all sorts of derogatory names…”bitch” “I thought you were yada yada yada… guess I was wrong” ” I was going to tell you how bad I felt because I think i haven’t been there for you as much as I should… yada yada…” “I’d rather be single than be with you” “I was thinking about how much i missed you since we havent seen each other this week but I have to reconsider that now” ( While he’s juggling multiple women at the moment ) ( LOL and this was on text message. But he sent a whole bunch ) given when HE needs “time to himself” out of the blue for days I respected that ( when he’s likely sizing up a new target ) although instead of respect I should have been asking why he needs “time to himself”… esp after he lied to me about going on a “business trip” out of the city when he was really still in the city just taking a different girl he met online out ( the evidence was there plain and clear but at the time I chose to believe him because of the “What If’s” and the put downs. )

Whew. Anyway.. the ONLY way to reason with a sociopath is NOT TO. NO CONTACT. You could be Mother Theresa, I’m sure all of us out-MotherTheresa’d Mother Theresa herself in these toxic involvements… they’d still treat you like another bug to squash. You wouldn’t try to reason with a shark that sees you as his next meal, would you? You wouldn’t put him down “gently” because the shark wouldn’t “get it.” Same with a sociopath.

Ox Drover

Donna, I can’t in any way say I disagree with you about this book, it does have some deficits over all, but at the same time, I GOT SO MUCH out of it in terms of the examples of the gaslighting. It enabled me to look back on instances in my life and go “WOW! They were gaslighting me.” I realized that my egg donor had gaslighted me my entire life and I didn’t realize it until NOW–60 years LATER! LOL But you are right, the author doesn’t use the word “socioipath” but unfortunately she is not alone in NOT using THE WORD (S or P) and too many times the descriptions of the “abuser” or the “dysfunctional” relationship should say PSYCHOPATHIC abuser, or psychopathic relationship.

Or an author may actually invent some term to describe the person as in “gaslighter” (abuser) and “gaslightee” (victim).

I also think whether someone would get more or less help out of this book is the stage that they were at at the time they read it.

I try not to take any ONE book, or any ONE author’s point of view as “gospel” but to pick and choose different points from different authors. Like for example our old “buddy” J. Reid Meloy, PhD—he does have SOME VERY GOOD POINTS in some of his writings, and some of the things he writes I think are “WORD SALAD” to stoke his own ego and don’t make a bit of sense.

Taking any “self help” book and reading it I think it is good for us to always keep in mind that there may be some things in there that are totally off base, or don’t get to the point at all. Following any one author without searching other authors on the same subject doesn’t give us a very wide basis for our understanding and beliefs on which to base our opinions and decisions. That’s one reason I love LoveFraud is there are so many and diverse thoughts here for exchanging, different points of view that it broadens our thinking and understanding.

Thanks Donna, some excellent points about this book.


I suppose any type of lie, is gaslighting.
If you believe the lie is the truth, then you are automatically delusional. And If you know a lie is a lie, then you’re still thrown off balance wondering WTF? WHY would anyone lie like that? So your view of reality gets thrown off – like in o for umbrella.

Anyone who adamantly maintains that a lie is the truth is a sociopath and there is no hope or reason to stay with them.

That said, I don’t think the book is wrong, I agree that the liar is lying out of fear. They all fear losing control, but they don’t FEEL fear. In fact, their fear is so consuming that they have refused to feel it and transformed it into a lust for power. Fear leaves you paralyzed, but lust gives you energy.

The sociopaths all have a fear of abandonment. Jeffrey Dahmer transformed his fear of abandonment into a lust to murder and eat his victims so that they could “never leave”.

It goes beyond our ability to relate to the sick logic that humans are capable of. But it is a well known truth.

When I left my sociopath (each time), it was amazing how energized he became in his lust to get me back. He stalked, he called, he emailed and rallyed the cops and his girlfriend to call me and threaten me.

They FEAR abandonment so much. It made me laugh. LOL. They were so convinced that I was the puppet on a string, but in fact they were tangled in their own strings and I could manipulate them with gray rock and watch them go CRAZY.



You’re right about the sociopath having a fear of abandonment, my husband having made a couple of statements while we were dating that revealed that to be the case (not wanting to replay the actual events, but the fear of abandonment was expressed by his words). My husband’s poor parenting messed him up in my opinion, that and having the disorder in his father’s family tree.


i don’t see their compulsiveness to get their prey back as fear based. I see it as predatory, and I think not a fear of abandonment, but of fear of perceived control. IF for instance, their prey wises up and gets out of the situation, this COMMUNICATES to the predator that they aren’t as omnipotent as they thought they were ( And by putting you down, by seeing your FEAR reactions it gives them a sense of power.. like look how BIG i am, I’m squishing her like a bug… I feel GREAT! ) .. Not fear in the usual sense, but definetely some kind of narcissistic injury. They MISS flexing their proverbial “Arm” in the “image” of putting you down ( so they feel “BIG” by comparison ) and they like addicts don’t want to lose that! Like Steve Becker said in one article.. ( which I think was very aptly said )

“Many of these men are desperate to be the fantasy of their perfect selves”“that is, the fantasy of themselves as special, unique, memorable. And so they tend parasitically (and compulsively) to seek cooperative, vulnerable hosts (such as you) as if to hold for them, store for them their slippery, empty gestures at immortality.”

Once you’ve initiated NC, you’re also cutting off this FANTASY of themselves. They stomp their foot like children because they want to live out this delusion and they need you to play a part in their elaborate ( and demeaning ) play!


After all that I have gone through via my husband (and others who have hurt me), I feel constantly drained, gray inside. I have been disappointed to learn some hard realities about people, that our loved ones can sometimes end up being our enemies. True-to-self said that an old boyfriend commented that “you don’t have that light in your eye.” This happens. When your world has been turned upside down, is it possible to get the light back, having seen the dark side of mankind? I question if you can ever be light-hearted again, the world seeming to be dark, full of unfriendly people.

Twice Betrayed

“But Dr. Stern seems to come from that school of therapy that believes both parties contribute equally to relationship problems. Throughout the entire book, I kept waiting for the author to warn the reader that some gaslighters have dangerous, pathological personality disorders, and they should run, not walk, for the nearest exit. The warning never came.”

* I had been to many counselors in the beginning and when they pulled out the ‘both parties’ are guilty ‘card’…..I walked. I didn’t know much, but by golly, I knew better than this! I was emotionally [and every other way] pedalling my butt off, trying to save the marriage and my family. Nope, wasn’t buying that BS. Not as hard as I was working! I was a conscience, mother, father, counselor, rehabber, cook, maid, ‘stage manager’, ‘roadie’ [I began to equate a relationship with these people as setting up and breaking down for a rock star], scapegoat, saint, sinner, and general all ’round ‘ass wiper’ and somebody is going to tell me it’s my fault. GET REAL! Does anyone in their right mind think we’d go into a relationship if we knew all this up front? These people are fantastic performers on the stage of life. Are flies caught with vinegar? Is it the fly’s fault? Or, isn’t he like the rest of us, likes honey? And honey flows in the beginning, as they bait the trap. I’m so good at reading people now, I can meet them and in just eye contact, know who/what they are, reading far below the surface. Could I do that twenty years ago? No way!

And we do NOT want to give false hope thinking one can change these people. That’s one of their trump cards [when they are busted] anyway. They will play the ‘I need help’ card when all else has failed and the mask has slipped. Just long enough to regroup, reattach you and bam, the ‘dance of madness’ resumes. One way only and that’s like Donna says, the nearest exit!

Twice Betrayed

bluejay: You make a VERY good point! One where I am now, as a matter of fact. I am not the same and I’m not going to ever be the same. I’ve seen behind the curtain.


Bluejay–for me, no. It’s hard to remember who I was pre-spath for a couple of reasons. 1) I’m not who I was and its hard to relate to my former self. 2) it’s painful to remember who I was because that person is very gone. That pre-spath self was lighthearted, curious, friendly. I hope I recover enough to be a new version of me. The experience with evil still staggers me; changed the way I look at the world. Maybe I was too naive, I don’t know. And maybe this new self will be more realistic, more savvy. It was a hard lesson, one I don’t wish on anyone. Broke me physically and mentally and financially. Very good question to ask, bluejay. Goes to the existential side of this whole thing.

Twice Betrayed

dancing: I agree with you. Our job is to keep the fantasy going and reality away. Kinda like we gotta continue to tell them their image is real and safe, because deep within, they know it’s not so. That’s why collecting people is a never ending enterprise for them. Sort of like sales people. I worked for a marketing firm that continually had sales training classes. Why? Because the work was so demanding, the sales staff ‘burned out’ and left. So, keep ’em coming in.

And a personal example is: my older daughter was fuming Christmas Day over her brother not responding to attending Christmas dinner with us. She and his wife had a major run in several years ago. When she finally blurted out that she guessed the wife was still ticked at her, I agreed, thinking that she would settle down once she was validated. MISTAKE! I was psychologically punished for hours for that dose of reality.

As far as leaving them…holy smokes, they say, you THINK you are going to get by with this act of treason?! Ted Bundy was mad at his former society GF that dumped him because he was ‘not of her social status’. That rebuff fueled his P rage and he worked to become successful, looked her up and when she was receptive, paid her back. And this was years later.

Twice Betrayed

Masada and bluejay: WOW! I wondered if I was the only one that felt this way!


I have been through 2 Spaths… the first from a very early age… ( 13) and I have to say, I’m still ME. *I* haven’t left the building… they may have tried as they could to dampen that light but I’ve only been becoming wiser. The “blind spots” previously in my vision have been corrected.. and although it will take time, you WILL flourish and you WILL thrive and be able to feel that you are truly able to appreciate yourself again. Healing is an arduous process, I remember the first year after S #1 ( female N ) it was like walking into a different universe. Was I asleep for that long? I didn’t know up from down, I was constantly crying and isolating myself because of the PTSD.. those were DIFFICULT times, but I’ve come a long way from that. I read the literature on sociopathy and got struck 4 years later by a Psychopath.. but I knew I had gotten through the storm before so I trusted my instincts, no matter what the current situation looked like. It will get better… trust me.

GIVEN… I’m a lot more suspicious upon meeting new people and I don’t “wave away with my hand” my GUT FEELINGS now… but that’s a good thing, IMHO.

And rather than reverting to a previous state of being, I see healing as growth. You still have the light in you you’ve always had, but now you have the THORNS to keep the predators away.. and the character and experience from your life to trek forward even stronger and wiser than ever before.


Twice Betrayed,

It hurts, having been exposed to a side of humanity that rips you up inside, literally. I don’t have the stamina to fight it. The last time I saw my therapist, he said, “the next time we meet, we’ll work on setting up boundaries with “D.” That’s the last time I saw the counselor, ’cause I thought all I’m going through are hard times due to this person that I’m married to and since he doesn’t respect anyone’s boundaries (especially mine), the next therapy session will be a waste of time.

Twice Betrayed

bluejay: I so relate! You know, I’ve dumped my PX’s, but after giving my life to my kids, they turn out like their fathers, my older daughter betraying me to the point of having a long term/off/on affair with my last husband [father of my younger daughter]. I’m not ever going to be the same. And the acts/scenes continue on and on and on……Can I just never have contact with my three kids and GD ever again? It’s what I feel like I want, after these holiday performances. It’s killing me, literally. I’m in adrenal exhaustion and have an upper respiratory infection from all the stress. I feel like moving to another state with no forwarding address. I’m serious.


I agree with the author that a r/s takes two people to form the dynamics.
The gaslighter is dangerous, manipulative and damaging.
The gaslightee….(as I was) also had psychological and /or emotional problems….to attract that person and to stay with them for a time.
In other words…MY weakness/problem was that I had low self esteem, naive (too trusting), lack of confidence in myself. MY problem came from childhood abuse.

The gaslighter also has psycological/emotional problems…but usually more severe pathology. They also became this way due to childhood traumas and/or genetics. They became abusive, (controlling, manipulative, etc…) as THEIR way to “survive” in the world.

All relationships in life are “dances” between two people, who, if they stay together, have bonded for a reason. (not sure how to explain this)

My own relationships have been “dances of wounded souls”.

Now I realize that until I get MYSELF right…until “I” change, and get healthy and strong….(and I’ve come a LONG way since last year…)..I will NOT attract the right person.

I have grown, because I did meet a new guy and saw “red flags” and gave him ZERO chance to be in my life!!!
He was good looking and charming, etc….but I listened to my gut feeling and RAN!!!!

So, yes…I understand what the author is trying to say….or saying…but I also agree with Donna, that …. the author should not entertain the thought of “coping” with a gaslighter…for even a minute….however, in certain situations…such as my divorce from a socio ten years ago…where I HAD to deal with him for a time, for child visitation…court…etc…I did have to get the book “EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL” to learn how NOT to allow him to gaslight me in ANY way.

Food for thought.


I think it is erroneous to operate on the idea that all victims of Psychopaths have psychological or emotional problems prior to the encounter. As explained in Women Who Love Psychopaths… the research indicates that the “problem” these women had is TOO much empathy ( and also characterized as strong and extroverted ). That isn’t a “problem” by any stretch of the word- but guess what, in a Psychopath’s hands, empathy or compassion is like PUTTY- there for him/her to manipulate. Anyone can be preyed on by a Psychopath… Dr. Robert D. Hare even admitted to falling under the spell of one.. the BIG GUN in psychopathy research even fell for it! ANYONE can be prey, given they are not aware.

Given, most if not all people have vulnerabilities- it’s what makes us human. Psychopaths hone in on these vulnerabilities, and i quote from Without Conscience in the Psychopath’s own words “Like a pig smells truffles”… that makes THEM abnormal- not us. In a normal relationship, LOVE conquers and is BLIND to these vulnerabilities because LOVE simply *is* despite them. In a Psychopath predatory encounter, your LOVE and Vulnerabilities are the perfect HOOK, vulnerabilities just another pit to exploit.

So it doesn’t take two people IMHO. It takes one.

Psychopaths are not wounded souls. They simply don’t have souls, period.


Twice Betrayed,

I can relate to wanting to take off, fleeing from the the turmoil that some of our relationships create. If it were just me, I would seriously think about doing so, but I have three kids. Getting away from the people (mainly family members) who just cause me headaches would be ideal.


to be happy,
I guess you could say that it is the deers fault for being eaten by a lion for being a deer.

Sure, I was trained by my selfish parents to allow others to abuse me. But I didn’t ask to be abused and would have preferred better treatment, I just didn’t know that people COULD be treated better. It seemed normal to me. Just like a deer thinks it’s normal to be prey.

Ox Drover

What is the difference (if any) between “fear of abandonment” and “fear of losing control over someone?”

Personally I think the psychopath wants that CONTROL over their prey (victim) until THEY decide to abandon it. They have to be the one in CONTROL and to say to the prey, “You are not what I want, you are worthless.” But if the PREY escapes and runs away and out of their CONTROL they are furious. They must get control back, which means either entice the prey back with “Oh, I’m sooooo sorry I love you so much, please pity me” and if that doesn’t work, “I will stalk you to your grave>”

NO CONTACT on our part is the ULTIMATE CONTROL over them. They cannot manipulate us, and they have lost power. Lost control.

Reading the letters my P son wrote to my egg donor and my son C after the entire family went NC were actually funny. In one letter he would try anger about how we were mistreating him, in the next it was A Pity play, how pitiful and alone he was and how we had abandoned him, then he wrote to 3rd parties and got them to call or write to us on his behalf. Even wrote a 10 page letter to a priest friend of ours complaining how unchristian we were for not giving him UN-CONDITIONAL LOVE….LOL I can actually laugh at this crapola now, but because she kept reading it, it finally hooked the egg donor back into being his dupe again and sending him money, hiring him an attorney for his parole hearing, leaving him money in her will and so on. Defending him against me! LOL

That is why NC is so important, don’t LISTEN TO THEIR PLEAS for pity, or whatever ploy they are working today…and they will keep switching them up from Love to hate, to pity, until something finally clicks and they have baited you back and gotten control of you again.

We’ve had a problem with possums on the farm and coons and a skunk, and we have set traps and used different baits. We caught 6 possums, and found where the skunk was denned up and kill her, haven’t caught the coon yet…but will just keep changing baits until we find one that he can’t resist. They do the same thing with us as long as we look or listen to their offerings.

lesson learned

I seriously need to get a hold of a DMS. When is five out or is already? A friend of mine sometime ago had one and told me I should read it and that I would find it fascinating. Having said that, I think the lines are a bit blurred here when discussing which personality disorder the “gaslighter” falls into, is it N/P/S? Aren’t they ALL predatory and don’t they ALL exhibit these characteristics/behaviors? Food for thought for starters here.

This is my feedback/take on things:

I believe gaslighting is a trait of ALL sociopaths, but also Ps/Ns. Hands down. Any serious pathology and one of THE first signs anyone sees in a personality disorder, aligned with lying. One in the same? Well sort of.

While reading this and several other articles/posts on this site, there is enormous compassion given to the personality disordered person on the part of some here. Do they deserve it in my opinion? No, and here’s why: They do NOT give “compassion” to others in the slightest. They are sadistic, selfish, evil. They suck the souls of others dry in a malicious, cold calculated way. I do NOT believe for one MINUTE that these people spend five seconds in a state of compassion for anyone. Pity? Perhaps. Who would not pity someone who cannot love? WHo is evil? S/P/N’s are a tragic happenstance in society. TRAGIC and its effects are there for generations and decades to come. DEFINITELY sociopathic traits to answer that question.

I DO think, however, there is SOME truth to the idea that the REASONS we attract these people are emotional/psychological issues, BUT, I also think that we ALL have vunlerabilities and some more than others. I think they could hone in on a persons vulnerability VERY easily and at least attempt to worm their way into a person’s soul. There are so many variables here that I’d be here all day trying to articulate any of this. But to “victimize” the victim is very triggering for me. It invalidates my experience with someone who is VERY VERY sick and VERY VERY dangerous. Admittedly, when I see ANYTHING that encourages working things out with a personality disordered person or that I should have some compassion for them when they were MERCILESS to me, is in itself, well, insane. I can’t imagine what it would be to be someone reading this who is still involved with a Spath and just give that person ONE more reason to sit in denial and spend more time getting their asses kicked. No one needs anymore of that.

I need to be very careful when I read stuff that invalidates the incredible cruelty I experienced. It doesn’t foster my healing at this point. I’m still in the early stages of recovery. VERY early. It is disheartening to read stuff like this, although it would have a benefit for some I’m sure and there are some points outlined here that make sense, but the bottom line is the same, that the personality disordered individual is just a victim of his childhood like we all were. That implies he can FEEL……….the very antithesis to the notion that they CANNOT. So which is it?

He experiences “emotions”…but what KIND? Aren’t emotions, FEELING??? If he feels rage, anger, can he not feel hurt, pain? Dunno. I’m not a P/S/N. But in my observations the answer would be an unqualified NO. And if anything is shown, it is fake! Or at best shallow in nature.

lesson learned

**DSM** sorry 🙂


Well, according to Bruce Lipton….we are functioning from our “subconscious” mind, 95%…and are totally “conscious” only 5% of the time. Which means, that our “early” conditioning…if it was abuse….is what we attract out of familiarily.
In other words…a more “stable” woman than me…(three of my classroom aides) saw right through him and his antics at work….and distrusted him and despised him and avoided him.
However, “I”….was so attracted to his personality and demeanor….(controlling, secretive, macho…etc..) because of MY early conditioning …which was abusive.
So, no ….I’m not blaming myself for NOT seeing the red flags…and NOT being confident enough to stand up to him and demand respect (boundaries), etc.. Its not MY fault…its what happenned to me in my childhood that made me “weak”.
Hard to explain. The deer that was eaten by the lion didn’t learn to run faster,…or to protect himself.

I think we need to EDUCATE children…at a younger age than I originally felt….about EVIL in our society.

I used to teach my 3 girls to “love everyone” etc…”trust people” etc…and I was NOT a good role model….in some ways…talking to strangers…etc.

But, now I am changed. I don’t even like people anymore or trust them. I like children, animals and wise elderly people! lol

In all seriousness…had I been taught to be CONFIDENT, and STRONG, and had I been taught to be “streetwise” and not trust people….and had I been raised the way I raised MY girls…with confidence….I NEVER would have tolerated the Scott Peterson’s I was attracted to….and I NEVER would have stayed with my xhusb and had 3 kids from him….and I NEVER would have settled for the crumbs this last liar was throwing me!!

No, I didn’t ASK to be abused…but now I DO know how I should be treated,….because NOW “I” am healthier than I’ve ever been….smarter, wiser….tougher….not as trusting..

This is what I am implying. NOT that there is something flawed with me or other women who get conned….but, had we been EDUCATED and taught about PEOPLE….and EVIL….we never would have missed the red flags.

I still believe that we need to have “Social Skills” courses in ELEMENTARY schools today…since they start young on Facebook…etc..with technology today.

These courses should teach skills to assess people….different “types”….red flags….and how NOT to trust others.

I was so lonely at one time, that Hannibal Lechter could have rang my bell and I would have let him in!!! LOL!!

Most of us on here met got conned because we were at vulnerable stages in our lives…from what I read. We weren’t “stupid” or “psychotic”…..we just were “weak and vulnerable”…another thing we need to teach our children…

“How not to be taken advantage of and conned”..

So, I see my daughters peers…some young teenage girls…who come from abusive and neglected homes ….and they are allowing the boys to “abuse” them…con them into having sex…etc…Noone is teaching them that they COULD and SHOULD be treated with respect….they also think its normal to not be treated with respect…because they have low self esteem.

Yes, I feel that if you have low self esteem, there is a reason…and it brings a lot of misery into your life. I was gorgeous when I was younger…but I had no confidence. Yes..thats a flaw. So is being “vulnerable”.


Well i made the distinction as to not confuse it w/ the normal “fear of abandonment” in NORMAL people ( i think it lends to a certain connotation ). That and sociopaths don’t feel “fear” like normal people do. The amygdala ( or “Ahhhh!mygdala as my psych professor liked to put it ) doesn’t respond in their brains the same way it does in ours. So I was hesitant on calling it “fear” of any kind.. more like RAGE or annoyance, frustration… They don’t “fear” repercussions of getting caught, they just change their stories once they are. The amygdala is also said to be the “seat of emotion” and psychopaths don’t have any… so yeah. I don’t know if that’s necessarily just semantics.. but I think to visualize where they are coming from it is helpful to make the distinction. I do agree that NC is the ultimate control… you’re taking it back and they don’t like that- not one bit! Hence the verbage of expletives, crocodile tears, pity party, anything.. ANYTHING to get you back in their script.. where you’re supposed to look scared and they’re supposed to flex their arms in glib satisfaction and glee.

Twice Betrayed

dancing, bluejay, sky, ox, lesson: HEAR, HEAR!

Ox Drover

Lesson learned, I agree with your take on things, but I think that is also why we need to learn and read from a VARIETY of sources, not just one. I have read until I am almost “blind”—all kinds of books about psychopaths from Bob Hare’s “Without Conscience” to “If you had controlling parents” and so on, and gotten some good things out of many books, even if I didn’t agree with much in a particular book, I usually found some “take home lessons” in just about every one I have read.

I did get some great “take home” lessons from this book on Gaslighting and how it is done. I didn’t agree with all of her takes, but she explained the “gaslighting” part of it so that it was much more clear to me than it had EVER been. The rest of the book didn’t “hurt” me, and I got a great deal of good out of the “good parts.”

So reading any book or article on psychopaths and/or about healing, or improving ourselves is like a smorgassboard, I think, it may have some plates of great food, and it may have some boiled liver, (YUK) so we just have to pick and choose the parts that we want and leave the rest on the table…or maybe take a bite or two of something new and see how it tastes. Learning is never wasted I think.


When I read the Gaslight book, what stood out was this was another book where the author understood the concept but didn’t truly understand the perpetrator (too much sympathy for the perpetrator???).

The best book I have (other than Donna’s) where the author “got it” is Marie-France Hirigoyen, “Stalking the Soul”.

The other good book is by Lundy Bancroft, “Why Does he DO That?” (but it doesn’t go far enough). The books by M.A. Sandra L. Brown have a grain of explanation which is enough for newly discarded victims but has far far to go for the reality needed for victims to recover, similar to “The Gaslight Effect” which is missing the real substance of these perpertrators.



“too much empathy” IS a problem. TOO much of anything is a problem.

Women who are compassionate, but WISE, EDUCATED to not trust unconditionally…and STRONG and CONFIDENT….are less likely to attract a con man….

I don’t “blame” myself…but I do take responsibility for everything I do in my life. Had I been smarter…I would have listened to my “hunches” (instincts) and I would have checked up on these guys who I thought were lying to me….

I actually did years ago…when I was only 30. I didn’t trust the guy I was engaged to. I was SMART enough to check up on him..where he was….etc. I caught him redhanded…on several things and RAN!!!

Somehow, as I got older…and I had my children…I lost some confidence in myself….and “ignored” my hunches and allowwed him to continue to lie…and manipulate me. It was after 5 yrs of being alone without a man. I was “desparate and vulnerable”.

So I was NOT “healthy” emotionally, in my opinion.

Thats why I closed my eyes to the truth …he was conning me.


tobehappy while I do agree that Psychopaths WILL take advantage of people who have MORE vulnerabilities, I just mean to say their pool of prey isn’t exclusive to people who have grown up in abusive homes or come from a place of abuse. Let’s face it, Psychopaths take advantage of the HEALTHY inclination in people to love unconditionally and be in a relationship. Some people are hard nosed by nature, as we’re all different, and possibly could be less vulnerable to a Psychopaths lovebombing but no one is immune if they aren’t aware of Psychopathy. Your example was anecdotal but there are likely dozens upon dozens of women who are like her, yet have been conned.

There really is no “formula” IMHO. Psychopaths get a thrill out of being able to render a once healthy, strong, confident, independent woman to a cowering, emotional ball on the floor. They love a “challenge”. This is based on research of many accounts, see Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra Brown MA.

There was no “defect” in me that made me vulnerable to a Psychopath- i’ve been involved with TWO ( one male, one female )… they just knew what to MIRROR to hook me.

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME. That’s all there is to it. The traits of victims of sociopaths runs all over the map, from all different backgrounds… the one thing that unites all is HIGH EMPATHY.

There are a lot of interesting comments in that post ( the article written by Donna is also important to read ) *A lot* of the members who posted described themselves as healthy, confident women PRIOR to the sociopath. STRONG even. It is dangerous to think one is immune just because one “walks differently” and thus projects an image of competence. Thats akin to chickens bending their head differently expecting that if they do then it’ll rain.


From the LF link i posted, I quote :

“Consider the research by Dr. Liane Leedom on women who were targeted by psychopaths. She found that they have three traits in common:

* Extraverts. The women are outgoing, competitive, strong-willed and liked excitement. Sometimes they are free-spirited.

* Cooperative. They are high in empathy, tolerance and compassion. They value getting along with others, and are willing to compromise their own interests for the larger picture.

* Invested in relationships. They like being around people. They are sentimental and focus on special moments.


I agree with the “high empathy”…but I still feel that there is a ‘weakness’…(whether its lack of confidence, fear of being alone…not educated enough about “people”….or inexperience with relationships…..) or something in our “subconscious” that tells us we aren’t good enough…….for those who have been abused by a monster.

Look at Sandra Bullock. She missed all of the “red flags” but got involved with him anyway!!! Lack of education. His past was a good indication of who he really IS. Need I say more.

I just refuse to call myself a ‘victim’…even if I was conned and lied to. I was too weak to get involved with any man at the time…too trusting….too little confidence in myself ….and in “deniel” because I just wanted someone to love me so badly….(desparate)

I just believe in taking responsibility for our own actions.

Sure, if I’m walking home alone at night…and get attacked…it isn’t MY fault that there are monsters out there. But, had I been educated, and smarter…I wouldn’t be walking at night alone!!!

Twice Betrayed

dancing: Yes, and these are positive traits.


TB, tobe and dancingnancies, Happy new year!


tobehappy the thing is that psychopaths target victims from all walks of life and all experiences.
Donna Andersen herself says in the article :

” *

Dr. Leedom’s research relates to women. But I’ve heard from many Lovefraud readers, both men and women, who were successful, take-charge individuals—until they met the psychopath.

Personally, I don’t think anyone who watched me walk down the street would tag me as timid or vulnerable. I’m an athlete, and my stride is confident. But I was victimized by a psychopath, who took $227,000 from me, and cheated on me incessantly. And the guy started setting his hooks via e-mail, before he ever saw me walk.

Maybe projecting dominance would work to avoid muggers. But it’s not going to stop victimization by a card-carrying psychopath intent on finding a resourceful new supply. ”

Considering there are many stories on Lovefraud where these women were at the prime of their lives, strong, energetic, confident- i think it’s impossible to ignore this fact.

You yourself may FEEL that he took advantage of the vulnerabilities in your life at the time- he may as very well HAVE! But not in all cases, with ALL people. That’s my point.

The “weakness” is IMHO being unaware that there exist out there people who completely LACK empathy. The weakness is not knowing Psychopaths exist.

I don’t mean to be so relentless in this assertion but I think it’s a huge misconception that I would like to bring awareness to whenever I can


Happy new year one step! 😀 Make it a great one…

Twice Betrayed

It’s good to be educated, no doubt. But, we didn’t have this info available before. That’s why LF and books exist now.

We got conned in the beginning, when they were very different acting people.

Twice Betrayed

one step: Thanks~and Happy New Year to you! â¤


Yes…women who are targetted ARE those good traits you listed….but they are ALSO……NOT educated enough, wise enough, tough enough with setting boundaries, and confident and strong enough.

I was a “target” for socios my entire life. I was very attractive, sweet, smart, educated, kind…extroverted, successful in my teaching career…..etc…

BUT, I was weak in other areas.

My uncle used to tell me…”stop opening up to strangers…stop trusting people…stop looking men in the eye” etc…

A top notch therapist told me my twenties….”I have no doubt you have the IQ to be a doctor, lawyer…etc…but when it comes to social skills …especially with men…you are VERY naive. Predators can sense that you are naive…”

I’ll never forget that. Too bad I didn’t stick with her!! She was teaching me skills that my parents didn’t teach me.

I have a few friends who have husbands/boyfriends who are stable…”normal”…treat them with respect. They are TOUGH BITCHES…lol….

They taught their man how to treat them….don’t tolerate disrespect or lies….

So, this is why I feel that I brought these guys into my life and tolerated a lot. Lack of confidence in myself.


One step….Happy New Year to you too!!! Hugs



Yes..they target all types….but…if when I was younger..I was a take-charge woman..bought my own house at 26…educated…career…travelled, attractive…artistic,….danced,…played piano…etc…
From the outside…I appeared to be a strong confident woman…which I was in many ways.
But..>DEEP DOWN INSIDE>….I had a flaw. I didn’t feel worthwhile….had low self esteem that I covered up …and I the good looking charmers targetted me.

Why….because they could “sense” my weakness. Yes, they saw that “kindness” was weakness. And they were right.

I was open for abuse.

Now, years later….I have “self actualized” and I know who I am…like who I am….and I am fine being alone with my girls..friends…family….until the RIGHT man comes along.


And I respect your reasons… but the only thing that I disagree with is “not confident enough” “not strong enough” “tough enough with setting boundaries”

That’s wrong…

“Nonsense Check on Codependence”

I encourage you to check this article by Kathy Krajco

An Excerpt :

” The preachers of codependence say that you are to blame for how the narcissist’s abuse makes you feel. They say that no one can make you feel anything. That if you feel bad about abuse, it’s your fault. Specifically, you lack self-esteem. Shame on you. That makes you a victim. And it’s bad to be a victim.

If that isn’t blaming the victim, I don’t know what is.

I ran across this example on the web: It starts off in the title saying that no one can make you feel anything, though the writer admits it’s hard to achieve this mental armor.

Lets say someone comes up to you and says you are a liar. Inside you know you always tell the truth, you are confident in that and don’t feel threatened by the accusations of this other person because you know youself, you know how you treat people and you don’t care what others believe about you, you let your actions speak for you. The idea is if your self esteem is HIGH enough, and you are not dependant on the opinions of others, then you would be able to blow this off and feel secure in the knowledge that you are not a liar. The power then, that this other person seems to have over you is lost because you know the truth and you have faith in yourself/ your higher power.

It’s hard to know where to begin disentangling this mess.

Presumably, the third sentence contradicts the second because the writer got the cart ahead of the horse and meant to say that ‘only if your self-esteem is high will you be able to know that you are not a liar, etc.’ Which is absurd. Your self-esteem can be in the pits, and you’ll still know that you’re not a liar.

This literary spaghetti confuses mere insecurity with being brain-dead, so brain-dead that if someone tells you that you are 3 feet tall, you believe them.

And what follows doesn’t follow: “You know you always tell the truth, so you are confident and don’t feel threatened by the accusation, and you don’t care what others believe about you.” There are two ”“ count ’em, two ”“ absurdities in that sentence.

First, being honest makes you feel unthreatened by the accusation that you are a liar? That’s absurd. Being honest does not make you immune to damage by being called a liar. If you are a liar, THEN you suffer no real damage by being called a liar, because then you are just getting the reputation you deserve. That’s justice. No foul. But when you’re honest, that false accusation can make your whole past life go up in smoke. That’s damage. The threat is real, and if you don’t feel it, you are off ga-ga land.

Second, because you know you’re honest, you don’t care what others believe about you? That’s a non sequitur. And anyone who says they don’t care what others think about them is either deluded or lying.

Now for the self-esteem thing. First, self-esteem itself is but a feeling. It’s your emotional response to how you treat yourself. People who force you to knuckle under to abuse beat it down, because they have made you stoop.

So, this guy is saying that if you pump up one feeling enough (your self-esteem) you won’t ever be made to feel other (bad) feelings? That’s another non sequitur.

That’s two gigantic leaps of illogic.

Your self-esteem, among other things, will figure into your emotional response to this false accusation or any other kind of abuse. But the main factors will be whether the accusation is true and who the accuser is.

For example, have you ever incurred the wrath of a tempestuous little child? She stamps her foot at what you’re saying and yells, “You’re a liar!” You are not going to be bothered by that, are you? In fact, you’ll be amused and have to try to hide your amusement so as not to rub it in. Why? Because you don’t feel threatened by the accusation of a child.

But if your boss calls you a liar, that’s a whole different thing. You are threatened by that, just by virtue of who he or she is. And you can’t make his power over you go away by just pumping up your self-esteem.”

There’s a lot more to it ( that was just an excerpt as I stated ) but I think it hones in on the most important thing : saying that “Victims” have low “self-esteem” previous to their encounter with the Psychopath is a myth. Not only a myth but a harmful myth.

Also when you agree that they target people from all walks of life, and then give a personal anecdote of your having been strong but “not really”- I think you inadvertently imply that the victims really DID have a weakness- ie : weren’t actually confident as they perceived themselves to be. Which in effect would not really make them confident at all. What i mean to say is that the targets of sociopaths WERE truly confident, not merely covering it up. No falsities/veneer there.


I still believe that a totally strong, self confident, smart woman…would listen to their gut feelings and not allow anyone to abuse or use them or fool them or con them.

There IS a weakness. My g/f suspected her husband was lying and she didn’t hesitate to investigate. She demanded the truth…and was SMART enough to go through his stuff…and lo and behold…caught him.

With my X bf….I was weak. I KNEW he was lying and yet I was fearful to rock the boat and confront him or check on him.

Anyway…my New Year Resolution is to be TRUE to myself.
Follow my gut feeling at ALL times.

Twice Betrayed

“Why”.because they could “sense” my weakness. Yes, they saw that “kindness” was weakness. And they were right”

Oh, I do not agree with this statement AT ALL! I will NEVER, EVER see kindness as weakness. I see the P as the person with the problem. What kind of a world would we become or have become if we see kindness as weakness? This makes me shudder! No, I am going to continue to be kind. I’m not going to let evil skew my thinking to the point of reducing me to a power play.


Tobehappy, i’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. The research has spoken time and time again, that these predators LOVE especially to target strong, independent, confident women. Women Who Love Psychopaths ( Dr. Liane Leedom had a hand in the first edition ) by Sandra Brown explains all of this. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion however.. I’m going to tend to stick with the proven facts, which is that they DO in fact target “totally strong, self confident, smart women”…

There are many instances where one can quote from history, when psychopaths may have preyed on the more vulnerable, perhaps “weak” but there are JUST as many instances, if not MORE where the psychopaths have preyed on the strong. It makes no real difference. Hitler conned all of Germany, Stalin – Russia, Hussein – Iraq.. they were all oblivious.


Twice Betrayed, yes. What would otherwise be STRONG character traits such as kindness, empathy ( these hold civilizations together!) are “loopholes” “toys” “strings” in the sociopaths hands to manipulate. Not to say that they are rendered “weaknesses” by any means just because the Sociopath may have used them that way.. its the SOCIOPATH’s thinking that is distorted and perverse, not ours.

Twice Betrayed

Humans are social creatures with a basic understanding of what it takes to survive as a unit. The healthy of us have respect for the laws, welfare and boundaries of one another. The P does not. They are the ANTI socials. That’s why the civil laws were created: to protect us from the ANTI socials. To blame the victims is to place a spin on the whole social spectrum.

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