Taking on psychopath's behaviors?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Donna Andersen 1 year, 9 months ago.

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  • #39524


    Have been apart from my psychopath relationship for 3 years. No contact for 2. Thought I was healing and moving on but have recently started my first relationship since and am finding myself behaving in the way he did to me to my new partner, who is not a psychopath. I have panic attacks or just plain freak out when something happens and am unable to deal with any small “normal” relationship problems and blow up at him in ways I know, from experience are not healthy. I was not this way prior and I feel like I’m sabotaging this new relationship. Has anyone experienced anything similar or can point me to any resources? Dated a psychopath and worried I became more like him because of it. :/

  • #40093


    There’s a couple of ways to look at it. The first is that you have simply learned a behaviour that gets you what you want. Think about it. The psychopath was very effective in getting what he wanted. He gets rewarded by being manipulative, dramatic etc. You simply might have learned that being dramatic, manipulative is an effective way of getting what you want. This is addressed in the way in which any bad habit it addressed. Just make a conscious decision to stop. You will have slip-ups. When these occur, stop the demanding behavior, apologize and make amends. Your unwanted behavior will occur less and less frequently and eventually it will disappear.

    You could also be suffering from the effects of PTSD. This could contribute to panic attacks and “dramatic” behavior. There is material on this and other websites about PTSD and how to deal with this as it pertains to being the target of a psychopath.

    Maybe you have psychopathic or other personality disorder type tendencies already and these have come to the fore as a result of your current experiences. I believe that psychopathy lies on a spectrum and that every human being has psychopathic attendances to some degree. How these are expressed depends on the context the individual finds themselves in. In Western culture many psychopathic characteristics are admired and rewarded. Getting rich at other people’s expense (like many Wall Street traders do) or at the expense of the planet (like many multinational corporations do) brings many rewards, including admiration. The infatuation with the Kardashians who are spoilt and rich says a lot about our culture and what we value.

    The problem with either reason 2 or 3 is that if the latent psychopathic tendencies are indulged (not stopped), then the resultant rewards (getting what you want) reinforce the behavior. Therefore, the first reason I gave (a bad habit that gets you what you want at other people’s expense) is probably operant in addition to whatever cultural influence or psychological trauma exists.

    So I would see that if there is underlying trauma or biological psychopathic tendencies, these need to be addressed. However, this is not enough. Regardless of causes and despite the rewards psychopathic behavior, everyone has the ability to make the decision NOT to hurt other people for one’s own ends. The need to make this decision occurs dozens of times every day (should you return the shopping trolley or leave it in the parking lot to be a traffic hazard? Would walking or public transport be kinder to the planet than driving a short distance? Is winning this argument worth shaming or hurting the other person?).

    Psychopaths and sociopaths are losers, not because of the biological faulty wiring in their brain, but because they choose to use other people for their own ends. They could choose not to use people, but they just don’t feel like making the effort. They simply choose to put their own needs above other people’s to the point where people become objects to them. They are perfectly capable of choosing not to do this. So are we all.

  • #40096


    Hi Tiffany,

    It may help you to look in more detail at what it was that happened, or what it was your new boyfriend did, that’s been leading you to “freak out” or “blow up” at him. In particular, was there anything about it that REMINDED you of the kinds of things your psychopath did to you? Or if you can pin down just what it is you feel fearful of or angry about, is that similar in some way to what made you (justifiably of course) fearful or angry about what that psychopath was doing?

    If you do see similarities, I’m not suggesting that’s because your new boyfriend is a psychopath too! Mind you, that possibility should not be entirely ruled out, because a number of people do have personality traits that attract them to abusers, or attract abusers to them. As a result, they sometimes find themselves in one relationship after another with abusers of some kind.

    However, that’s not really what I have in mind. Rather, I’m suggesting some of the things happening in your new relationship, things your new boyfriend is doing, while normal and innocuous enough in themselves, may be TRIGGERS for you, behaviors and events you’ve been hypersensitized to from your previous relationship. These triggers may be evoking fear or anger out of proportion to their real significance, and causing you to overreact to them.

    Though you may be afraid that you’ve taken on some of your psychopathic ex-partner’s abusive behaviors, it’s important to realize that people can behave abusively due to quite different motives. So if you weren’t like this before, it’s highly unlikely that you’re “turning into a psychopath” yourself!

    Chronic abusers themselves come in different “types,” who may on the surface do many of the same bad things but have a different underlying psyche, even opposite in certain ways. For instance, psychopaths seem largely immune to fear (though some of them can appear strangely paranoid at times). For the borderline on the other hand, fear—the fear of “abandonment,” and the rage it gives rise to—is a major part of the personality. In particular, while psychopaths’ behavior is rooted in their extreme emotional shallowness—their total lack of empathy above all—irrationally overblown emotions, fear and anger especially, can play a major role in the behavior of some other abusers. Some of them may not be easily classifiable in terms of a specific personality disorder, and their behavior (unlike the psychopath’s) is largely of environmental origin, typically the consequence of being chronically abused in childhood. In adulthood, abusers of this type can be “triggered” by others into overreacting to an action or situation, “normal” in itself, that reminds them (perhaps subconsciously) of how they were mistreated. That brings to the surface all kinds of fears and buried rage which they then unfortunately proceed to vent on the blameless person who triggered them.

    Madelaine quite rightly pointed out that you’re likely to be suffering from PTSD after your encounter with the psychopath. After all, a prominent effect of PTSD is to cause overreactions to otherwise normal events, conditioned by past situations. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic example of the war veteran startled by a car backfiring in the street who throws himself on the ground—as if he’s still on the battlefield being shot at or ambushed. Overreactions typify PTSD. That example of course is not “abusive” to anybody, but all too frequently it can be. Dr. Donald Dutton spent his very fine career researching abuse-related issues and treating (as far as it can be done) domestic abusers, and one of his findings was that large numbers of chronic abusers suffered from PTSD symptoms, including insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

    This is not to say your problem is as profound as someone who has harbored these symptoms since childhood, but it’s well worth examining how much of your behavior is not an “emulation of,” but a “reaction to” various aspects of your psychopathic ex-partner’s treatment of you. If it continues to be a problem, therapy can help with PTSD. Good luck!

  • #40097

    Donna Andersen

    Tiffany – It sounds to me like you have more healing to do. Be gentle with yourself. It takes time to get all the “Poison” out of your system.

    One approach to recovery is “Radical Acceptance.” I just wrote about it. Maybe it will help you.

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