David McDermott: Know your vulnerabilities

David McDermottBy David McDermott, who works internationally

The idea of finding what vulnerabilities or weakness a victim has is an important issue and some further distinctions are useful, I think.

It is generally accepted by the experts in this field that working out why a person is caught by a psychopath is an important part of their recovery.

However, the first part of the recovery process should be an undoing of the negative effects of the mind control that the person has been subjected to. This allows the victim to make some sort of sense of the experience and the individual comes to an understanding of the extent of the control that the psychopath actually had on them.

Vulnerability leading to susceptibility

Only then is it appropriate to look at any potential vulnerabilities that the individual has that made them susceptible to the manipulation of the psychopath.

There are some important points to keep in mind. It is (also) accepted that there is no particular personality that is susceptible to being caught by a psychopath. That means that everybody is susceptible.

Secondly, ‘vulnerabilities’ are NOT always weaknesses. Liking to help people, being good at connecting people or simply having emotions are not weaknesses in and of themselves and are often things that allow people to be very successful in their lives. Psychopaths know only too well how to take advantage of these strengths, too!

And thirdly, there are some things that a victim comes to believe are vulnerabilities, but these may have been installed by the psychopath! This often leads to nasty closed loops from which the victim cannot exit alone.

Vulnerability groups

Vulnerabilities can be divided into various groups.

On a societal level, the law is not set up to protect us from psychopaths and this leaves us all open to the machinations of psychopaths.

On a journey through life, there are typically times of change and/or stress, such as starting in university, changing job, the death of a family member or friend, loss of a job, breakup of a relationship, and so on. These things happen to us all and at such times people are more susceptible to being caught by a psychopath. And these things can in no way be considered the fault of the victim!

‘It would never happen to me!’

At the level of beliefs, the biggest danger for people is not understanding mind control or psychopaths. A very dangerous belief is that ‘it would never happen to me!’ When a person thinks this way, they think they are automatically protected in some way and do not consider it necessary to learn about mind control, nor are they on the lookout for manipulators. And even if they were, without fully understanding psychopaths they would not recognize one anyway.

Most normal people (I don’t consider psychopaths normal, no matter how many people try to sell the idea that psychopaths are more evolved than the rest because they have no emotions) believe that others are basically good. This helps to make the world go around and keeps society functioning, so it has its benefits. However, it is not true and it gives psychopaths a huge advantage because they don’t even have to hide the fact that they have no conscience!

On a personal level, other vulnerabilities include feeling lonely, seeking spirituality, a regard for authority, feeling discontentment with society, concern about what others think of you, a desire to take care of others, being idealistic, having been the victim of a psychopath in the past etc. etc.

Again, being like this is not someone’s fault. In fact, we teach our children to share, look out for others, and so on!!

Why is it important to know what your vulnerabilities are? (And not just for those who have been victims already, but for everyone”¦)

Vulnerability red flags

The reason it’s important is that when you notice someone paying particular attention to your specific vulnerabilities, it raises red flags for you! And instead of going ahead to see what happens, you can cut off the relationship there and then and you don’t get suckered into another bad situation.

You will also be able to notice when others (who are not psychopaths) are using these things in their favor (even if they are doing it unintentionally). This gives you considerably more choices and freedom in your life, where you are making your own decisions, and not just automatically responding to things that you later regret.

 Know YOUR vulnerabilities

So I believe that knowing your vulnerabilities has its place (and it’s not the first thing that a victim needs to do), but this knowledge has to be understood in the proper context, i.e., that of mind control and psychopaths.

Remember that psychopaths are particularly good at ”˜reading’ people. Within minutes they can assess a potential victim’s needs, wants, desires and fears. Using this information, they then create a personality which is the ideal partner for the potential victim and they set to work building a bond with their prey.

If the psychopath knows your vulnerabilities and if you want to avoid getting caught (again!), you owe it to yourself to know what your vulnerabilities are, too, and, more importantly, to recognize when someone is trying to exploit them.


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You are spot on, David! One of the hardest parts of recovery is examining yourself, not for blame, but to learn your own “soft spots” that could make you a target once again. A good bit of that in my experience was to work hard on deprogramming the negative language that was left in my psyche. Once I got rid of the “bad tapes” I was able to look at all my own good qualities, which also helped me identify my vulnerable spots. It doesn’t mean you have to live your life being suspicious and paranoid, it simply means that you take additional precautions based on what you know about yourself. I think of it as changing my password and PIN on my accounts for security!

By the way, thank you for the excellent work you are doing with my client, J.

David – you are right – this is the key for preventing exploitation by a sociopath. We need to know our own vulnerabilities – which are not necessarily flaws – and recognize when someone is attempting to take advantage of them.


I would like to add something……I personally know someone who was targeted specifically in retribution for actually setting boundaries, for drawing a line in the sand, for saying XYZ is unacceptable……it was pay back time for bruising the Ppath’s narcissistic ego, for offending him. and, if properly wounded( in the Spath’s eyes), the Ppath can go under ground to destroy you/ pay you back/ get even. I think Spathtard got his ex-wife fired from her job because she had him arrested for domestic violence.
Everyone is vulnerable in different ways and at different levels during their lives. And a psychopath doesn’t have to pander to your vulnerabilities to destroy you, they just have to know what they are in order to attack. And, if he is unable to gain access through your vulnerabilities, he will create some that are easier to use against you. Even the experts in the field are able to get the wool pulled over their eyes.


Im not saying that knowing how and why and where you are vulnerable is not a good idea…..It is in SO many ways. I feel pretty certain that someone could not get to me romantically because that is how I was targeted this time but in spite of what I went through with Spathtard romantically i was hit by someone I was not involved with romantically, like at all and now that the mask has slipped i see serious signs of him being severely disordered. I’ve known him for 6 years, been plutonic friends with him but not close friends and I SET some boundaries with him that he crossed repeatedly. Each time I became more insistent but still nice about it, not rude. He is well known in this area and is one of those people that people say……”oh, that’s just what’s his face”. Like he gets a free pass from people for just being the way he is. Well the last time he violated my boundaries he did it in a huge, multi faceted way and it was obvious to me that the reason he did what he did was because I had laid down the law with him and bruised his narcissistic ego. SO,,,,,he retaliated by disclosing something I had asked him not to in front of someone I didn’t know, among a couple of other things, and then three weeks later after the resulting blow up, he crossed the boundary I had been having a problem with all along by coming to my house without calling first. SO, I called the sheriff because now this was becoming almost scary, he was trespassing and teetering on stalking me. These types, which Spathtardx was as well, are vengeful/ get even types and winning is paramount to them……an “I’ll show her” attitude. where they may have started out having an entitled disdainful attitude towards you, they now have a bitter and morally superior hatred towards you. That is how I feel vulnerable now and it seems with these types you are caught between a rock and a hard place. They toy with you like a cat plays with a mouse to see where you will draw the line or what they can get away with and then when you finally figure it out and put your foot down they are pissed that they have been busted and that you took action. I hate feeling like I have to be looking over my shoulder but that is exactly how I feel. So do I turn my home into a fortress? Hire a body guard? seriously?


I think your post is a clear example that boundries that are appropriate for normal people FAIL when they are applied to the disordered. I used to say (“used to” because he’s my ex and I have nothing to do with him anymore)that my husband was a camel, give him an inch and he’d take a mile.

I read some book about sociopaths, maybe the Gift of Fear?, that gave an example of prison inmates that manipulated the guards, got them to break an innocuous rule. The inmate knew that once they got that guard to break that rule, they OWNED that guard because it’s not the size of the rule, it’s the breaking of a boundry that indicates whether someone can be controlled, or not.

Someone on here wrote they had a one lie rule. At the time, I thought that was harsh because everyone lies. Did I run that light yellow or red? Did I call in sick when I really just didn’t want to face a day of work? Did I buy that stapler or bring it home from the office? But… these examples are not the lies they mean, are they? So no, these social lies are not what was meant by the One Lie Rule.

No, what the writer meant is…. is that person deceitful, can I trust them to abide by my boundry “even if”? Like the inmate/prison guard example, I learned that when a person crossed ANY boundry, they are revealing their lack of regard for me, they aren’t considerate, they are exploitative, FISHING for a dupe. In such an example, I make myself be too busy to ever have time for them ever again.

That’s what I learned anyways. Others might call me paranoid, but I am a lucky survivor of murder… and got so close to such an ending all because I kept letting someone disregard my boundries.


And,,,,,in regards to lies, a one lie policy only works if you KNOW someone is lying and know it for a fact. Nothing used to set me off more than my brother, who is a pathological liar, telling ME that I was lying! So again, unless I know for a fact that someone IS lying or has lied, I just don’t go there. The crux of the matter with these types is the covert, underhanded nature of how they operate that inherently puts their victims at a disadvantage and CAN make it impossible to enforce your boundaries. A boundary, just like a law can only be enforced once you know it has been broken and can prove it.


It is quite common for people to be caught more than once by psychopaths. After the first episode, they are wary, as you say, of similar situations. If they were caught at work, they prepare themselves not to be caught in the same manner and look out for the same or similar behaviors in other colleagues. They are hyper vigilant in work situations, guarding their feelings, on the lookout for people taking advantage of them in similar ways as before.

But their ‘experience’ is in a specific context only. They are then caught again but in a different context.

Personally, I had a psychopathic boss, then later I was caught in an intimate relationship with a psychopath and was sucked into a marriage, then a couple of months after the separation, I was recruited into a personal development cult!

This happens because the individual learns about ‘their’ psychopath and not psychopaths in general. And they typically don’t learn about mind control techniques and the specific techniques used against them the first time around. They don’t have a feel for the underlying nature of control and domination.

While psychopaths have the same underlying characteristics, how those characteristics show up differs from one psychopath to another. The god-like, all-knowing, caring, charismatic cult leader may seem very different from the determined business executive who has big plans for his career, to the untrained eye, so to speak. But they can share exactly the same psychopathic characteristics, they are just expressed differently.

Even 2 boyfriends or girlfriends can seem to be very different people, but they can both turn out to be psychopaths.

So studying one psychopath is not enough to not get caught again. Nor is it enough to undo the dependency and damage they do.

Understanding the details of how they work, the subtleties of mind control, noticing when someone is putting extra attention on your vulnerabilities, how one liar can be different to another, how specifically you were caught, how they built the bond with you, how they got you to reveal info, how specifically they created the dependency, these are the things that one needs to learn to be free of the influence of the psychopath and to spot them when they show up.


NotWhatHeSaidofMe : Yes,,,,,,there is a saying about laws, “laws only work when people follow them”. Boundaries only work in the same way and with a COVERTLY manipulative abuser, a lot of times you really don’t know that what they are doing is thumbing their nose at your boundaries because of the way they violate them. There are many grey areas in life. I am often misunderstood and I will always lean towards assuming that there is more to the story when someone does something that rubs me the wrong way. I am very easily confused and have a hard time “staying on top of” events so again, I lean towards giving second chances, thinking things could be a mis understanding, and until the POS Spathtard entered my life I just never EVER considered that someone could be f’ing with me intentionally. I assumed that if someone had a real problem with something I said or did they would simple address it with me as I would with them,,,,,,,not retaliate by waging a covert attack on my mind, boundaries, emotions and in Spathtard’s case, my heart. I still can’t believe that there are people that childish, hateful, ridiculously petty and hurtful.
So, until this most recent thing happened, i honestly didn’t know that he was blatantly doing what he had been doing…..not until it was in my face. Like I said,,,,,there are other people in the area who know this dude and he has worked for them. people cut him generous slack because he is who he is. I had heard nothing that would give me cause for the concern about his character that I have now until after this happened. AND there had been significant time periods between incidents, he’s an older man and kind of, well,,,,,different.
I think the situation is that the other people i know who had hired him in the past never had these issues with him because THEY just accepted his “ways” and his peculiarities as
“just being him” and the situation with them was different than mine. They are a married couple, not a single female so they had no cause to set the boundaries I set. THEY had not been targeted by a psychopath and diagnosed with PTSD so they don’t have the safety and privacy concerns that I have……many things are different about their situation compared to mine.
My point is that there was a very fuzzy picture and none of it was truly visible to me until his mask slipped this time and now the whole history, all the parts and pieces of the past events and a lot of the things I knew about him all make sense through my newly learned knowledge about Spaths. AND knowing what I now know, having been through what I went through with Spathtardx, and putting the pieces together about this guy……he IS out. There will be no other contact with this dude and if he even contacts me it will be considered stalking or trespassing by me and the cops will be contacted.
There is so much more to this story, too lengthy to type but more information has come to light about his past and his character since the incident.
To summarize, boundaries work when they are respected and the people who respect other peoples boundaries are not the ones who tend to cross them anyhow and when they inadvertently do, they are the ones you can say something to and have it be respected. With the Spaths I’ve encountered, if you confront them about an issue or boundary, they will just switch tactics and create the impression that they “got it” yet attack you in another way, and often in a way that you don’t even realize.


for instance, Spathtard’s ex wife called the cops on him…….he didn’t get mad he got even……she got fired from her job.


deja vu! My ex took pride in NEVER losing his temper (at least to 99.9% of other people. I saw him lose it when he got home.) But he ALWAYS carried a grudge, and he ALWAYS gets even. It’s why I still maintain security… because I survived the attempt to kill me. ANd I KNOW that sits in his craw and will until he “WINS”.


Spathtard never lost his temper and when he did you can be sure that it was tactical, if you know what I mean. He never expressed any emotions spontaneously, for lack of a better word, you know…….like real people do? Like I can’t help but do? Laughter, yes………..kind of?
Interesting about how you say “WINS”. That is a Spath theme apparently. Spath’s mommy used to say “I love to win” like she was dreaming of a big piece of chocolate cake……..SERIOUSLY?? Who SAYS that? never mind…….she does. So I’m sure this was all some big plot between them… to round up Dorothy and run her over the killing cliff. A**HATS! Just so pathetic. I picture them tittering between themselves like little girls out to get back at mean old Dorothy. His favorite movie, btw, was SEVEN. How comforting it THAT?


You bring up a point about how we treat others like we’d like to be treated. I had this strong belief in redemption. As a child who was neglected and abused, I had NO social savvy until after high school. If people didn’t give me a second chance, I would never have achieved the success that I had (I had a certain impressive WORLD achievement before I met my ex husband, that no longer matters because the world has moved on… and moving on is okay, but the point is, I did ACHIEVE BIG TIME, I was capable and I DID it..)

That’s where I have modified my thinking. I still believe in redemption and second chances, but for clumsiness, for missed steps… and the second that I realize the other person has no remorse or does not self correct, I make myself too busy. …(I say, “when I realize” because let’s face it, people with a heart don’t monitor others for who gives and who takes. We don’t have that kind of agenda.) My modified thinking now is …. No more trying to talk someone into behaving like they are connected to their humanity. If they had it, they wouldn’t need to be talked into it.


I hear you NWHSoM! But we all have different priorities and challenges and beliefs and, fill in the blank, so sometimes we need made aware of where we are going off track with another person in order to meld with them. But there are plenty of areas that are pretty straight forward and shouldn’t HAVE to be explained, yeah? One example, POS Spathtard lived in mommys basement for free but then basically ended up living with me. he had a decent job,,,,,,A real man would have offered to contribute to the financial picture not sit around waiting to be asked. Retrospective Red Flag number 5,354, Salute! Oh Spathtard……you are just such a clever, impetuous lad.


NWHSoM, it was his redeeming qualities that kept my hooked. Little did I know that they were not real. SO many things I gave him a fee pass on because they were endearing to me and would have been even more endearing to me if he had really love me the way he professed to love me. I would have settled right in, warm and cozy,,,,,,relaxed, safe. Instead, I became constipated, got the shingles, couldn’t sleep, my normally freakishly low BP went high, his normally high blood pressure lowered……just too much to take in, just too bizarre now looking back. I’m almost sure he was fixing to off me “accidentally” or drive me to off myself. I just didn’t get it when he told me he walked in on his 1st wife with a gun in her mouth. How does one ignore or not get THAT “tell”? Mind control and manipulation, that’s how.


the one thing that does give me some satisfaction is that his legacy in life is a big fat zero. He’s a Psychopath and a loser, whew f’ing hoo. Way to go Spathtard, you are nothing. I have so many curiosities as to the reality of his true nature and none of it is good. Gross.


It’s almost fascinating once you hear all of these others stories of Spaths in the lives of other. It really makes one feel that they are not so lost in space anymore all by their lonesome. I can totally understand the one lie rule but I will add an additional twist to it. With me, it was the one LINE rule which will never be crossed. It is the line on which it doesn’t matter what else the spath says or does (whether it be known or unknown that they are indeed a spath) if that line is crossed, they are done. Cast out, kicked out of my life. My line with my spath was crossed when she lied about the money she took from the widow of MY deceased Army buddy and best friend. I signed divorce papers that same week.

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