By | April 24, 2014 37 Comments

Hard to See a Psychopath

I’ll start with one man who has dedicated his life to teaching others how to assess and clearly identify psychopaths. Here’s part of the bio from his website.

“Robert Hare is Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia, where he has taught and conducted research for more than four decades, and President of Darkstone Research Group Ltd., a forensic research and consulting firm. He has devoted most of his academic career to the investigation of psychopathy, its nature, assessment, and implications for mental health and criminal justice.

He is the developer of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and a co-author of its derivatives, the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version, the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version, the Antisocial Process Screening Device, and the P-Scan (for use in law enforcement).”


Why start with the psychologist?

I’m starting with him because he’s the guy behind THE assessment we use to identify psychopathic individuals.

(He emphasizes the use of the word “psychopath,” so I’m using it here to be consistent with his work.)

Dr. Hare spends a huge portion of his time teaching other professionals how to see. How to see a psychopath.

And that’s a really big deal. It’s critical that we as professionals know how to see and assess psychopathic individuals, and he’s developed the most widely used tools in the world for doing so.

If you ask me what I think we need to do differently when it comes to difficult cases in the family courts, this is where I’d start. Yes, there are other changes to be made. Major, critical improvements. And I’ll write about those changes in the coming weeks—because a clear assessment in the hands of a corrupt magistrate can mean nothing. Or if an assessment is too expensive for any average individual to utilize, then it’s not helpful to humanity. But we have to start somewhere, and since there are apparently so many professionals currently involved in court processes who lack the capacity to identify psychopaths (with tragic consequences to their victims), I’m going to start there.

If you’re a mental health clinician who works with any human system (and that means every clinician, in my opinion), then you need to know who and what you’re working with, and you need to be able to clearly identify any obstacles on the path to healing and health. Those obstacles are often people. And if you’re dealing with a secretly undermining psychopath in your system, then you clearly have an obstacle.

And it helps if you can see the obstacle.

But professionals like charmers, too.

The problem is that professional clinicians are just as human as everyone else. And we like warm, charming people.

Now you might say, “I’ve always hated charming people. They seem like they’re up to something. They make me suspicious. So I can’t be fooled.”

But I’d say that you can.

Because charm isn’t always so obvious. Not in the psychopathic world. When I’m talking about charm, I’m talking about a psychopath who has the ability to size you up and come off as a quiet person if you’re attracted to quiet people. Or maybe as a chest-thumping patriot if you’re the patriotic type. I’m talking about a warm, wonderful fake. A chameleon.

A person who can fool anyone.

Who might study your face while you’re watching a cooking show and then quickly round up a couple bumbling recipes that will make you giggle and find delight over the togetherness of boiling water and chopping vegetables and catching each others’ eyes as you hear some kind of humble with just-enough-awkward-to-be-believable hook like, “I’m not the most graceful cook, you know, I mean, look at this. But maybe it’s ok to just love the sensuality of the whole thing. You know? I mean ok, I don’t want you to think I’m all soft or something, and I mean I’m supposed to be this hard core driven person. I mean look at me. But I guess maybe I’m really just like this big softie on the inside. Like those vegetables are just beautiful, you know? But my God, I can’t believe I’m saying that. I mean seriously, that’s just between us. Our secret. Now tell me something about you. To make me feel better.”

And what you’ll know is that you feel connected over the food. More connected than ever before, because you never knew someone who felt the way you do about these things. But what you won’t know is that your new “friend” frankly doesn’t care in the least way about food, or about you, or about anything but whatever end goal has been established. Maybe the goal is to have you. Maybe it’s to destroy you. Maybe it’s to rob you.

But when you’re talking about your togetherness over food, you won’t know.

You won’t see.

And you often won’t even say that it’s charm.

Charm doesn’t always look like charming.

Because it doesn’t always look charming. Sometimes it just looks soft.

It looks like whatever you’ve been dreaming of for years.

And that’s for a reason.

So how can we protect ourselves? How can we look for the cold eyes or the warm eyes or the charm or the distance or whatever it is that a psychopath is supposed to have going on?

The truth is that it’s most often really incredibly hard to see.

The truth is that even too many professionals don’t know how.

And the truth is that because of these inadequacies, lots of pretty good people get stomped.

Over and over and over.

So I’m writing this now to declare that we all need to do a better job of seeing and identifying psychopaths. We need to admit that we can’t look through a convenient seven-point checklist and know who’s who.

Because in an office or a court room, the psychopath in front of you may look like the best parent around. There may be a child involved in the interview, and if so, that kiddo may be getting hugged and tickled and tossed into the air a little and tickled some more and then turned around and hugged again. There may be some talk about the best new parenting books that are out, there may be some talk about the concerns this (psychopathic) parent has with their ex’s ability to be a stable parent. The child may then tense up and speak up to say that he or she doesn’t want to see the parent who’s not in the room. Ever. The psychopath may look at you directly in the eyes at this with a look that says, “See, I told you there were issues. Isn’t this alarming?” And as a professional, it’s easy in those moments to get confused. Who is this person in front of you? Is this person a great parent who has a difficult ex, or is this person a con-artist who is trying to destroy the other parent?

We need to spend more time getting trained to assess. And we need to know how to help people deal with psychopaths. Because even if the above parent is a confirmed psychopath, does anyone have a clear and consistent model of what should happen next to protect the other people in the family? Or is it up to the courts to decide?

In my experience, it’s up to the courts to decide. And that adds another layer of complexity and another opportunity for the psychopath to fall through the cracks and/or do serious damage to everyone involved.

We need to admit that we’re contributing to the harm of innocent people when we fail to identify a psychopath and take appropriate measures to help or protect those who are connected.

Clear identification is where we need to start. In my opinion. Yes, there’s much more to do than that.

But if a psychopath is evaluated professionally based on interactions or by some other inadequate scale, then that psychopath is going to walk around with professional verification that he or she is not actually a psychopath.

And that has major, life-long impacts on everyone else involved.

So let’s at least begin with the ability to see.

Let’s start with some wide-spread training in assessment.


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Ohhhh!!! Well said both of you!!! HGB and Legend…


The Biblical advice, “By their fruits you will know them” can work to discern a psychopath. Look at the results of their life’s path: marriage or divorce history, financial stability, good relationships with their children and other family members, good stable friendships, a successful stable career, etc. One has to get to know someone personally over a period of time and observe them interacting with other people in a variety of contexts, and to have an open mind without preconceived conclusion about who a person is. Also notice if their talk doesn’t match the reality of their lives, or if they have a lot of ‘misfortune’ and always blame other people and outside factors rather than taking responsibility themselves.


AnnettePK…perfect. I agree and you have said this very well. But imagine a man who is extremely charming and caused a lot of damage, but yet he has had only one long term marriage nearing 25 years and also had one job of 25 years until he was fired for serious misconduct. Wow, that’s scary because he has many sociopathic characteristics yet he had been able to hold down a very successful job (mid six figures, executive level…mainly because of his charm) and have a long term marriage even though he has cheated for years (this is only because his wife puts up with it and won’t divorce him…how lucky is he??). He is also an alcoholic and has no real friends. So what you said is perfect, but sometimes, they can have these seemingly “good” results in their life (job, marriage) and still be spaths.


I relate to your experience. My ex P had been married once before for 20 years, because his wife was trapped financially and committed to the marriage for religious reasons. He was also employed continuously, but his career was an underachievement considering his abilities and education. He lied about his past and himself, and I believed him. What I did not recognize was that he had no friendships (I wrongly attributed this to factors other than his disorder.) The biggest mistake I made was to allow myself to be love bombed and even though we dated for a year before ‘marrying’ we did not spend enough real time with other people so I did not get a chance to observe him interacting with others on more than a superficial context where he could keep his mask on. I discounted other things like how crappy he made me feel at times (I blamed myself for being too sensitive,etc.), and inconsistencies that I later found were due to lies and manipulation.
All of us victims were duped because they are so good at finding whatever particular weakness or blindspot works with particular victim. The Bible also says that Satan “deceives the whole world” and similarly spaths are successful everywhere with everyone.
Having no friends and alcohol addiction are red flags, once we recognize these factors. Still, we reason that no one is perfect, and it’s not always possible to discern what’s a deal breaker and what’s a human weakness.


AnnettePK…yes, being an alcoholic and having no real friends are red flags. I don’t think he cared to have real friends. The ONLY “friends” he had were co workers who were actually subordinates to him. They followed him around like the Pied Piper, but some of them I think only did it because they thought he would promote them. I think a few genuinely liked him because they were so charmed by him. He had a lot of power and he absolutely abused his power. He knew exactly what he was doing. Right…no one is perfect and you are right…we poo poo these things away because the person makes us feel so good and they are carefree, charming and fun. I went to three different counselors and none of them really helped. One of them asked me if he reminded me of someone and to this day, I can’t think of anyone in my family or from childhood that reminds me of him. Another thing that also upsets me is this man’s children, especially his daughter (not as sure about the son), just loves him so much! She is only 14 and she has no idea what damage he has done. It’s sad. I understand that it’s her dad and she is probably going to love him no matter what, but I am afraid that he is charming her just like he has charmed all the other women in his life. She is a young woman who is being charmed by a man…her father. Hmmmm, it’s just upsetting to me. I know she has heard and seen all the turmoil and the verbal arguments that her parents have had, but I think her spath dad has manipulated it to make her mom look like the bad one. It’s crazy. 🙁


I think that the children don’t know any different, they don’t know what healthy relationships and appropriate roles are. With my ex P, all roles were screwed up – father son, father daughter,mother, wife, all confused and perverted. I’ve read that the children tend to adore/worship/be loyal to the disordered parent because on a subconscious level the children know that the healthy parent will love them and be there for them no matter what. The disordered parent, however, treats the children according to what he can get from them and how he treats them depends on their adoration/worship/loyalty.
I have also heard that Spaths only have followers or enemies. They are not interested in friendships and they have no motivation to be a friend. They simply use people for power, control, sadism, game playing, money, status, whatever they can get that they want. They don’t want a mutually cooperative considerate giving relationship.


AnnettePK…OMG…you are brilliant! All the roles are screwed up and wow, you have hit the nail on the head with what you read regarding the children worshipping the disordered parent…that makes so much sense.

Wow, that was definitely the spath I knew…only enemies or followers…nothing in between! People either loved him or hated him. I would say there were more lovers than haters though. He was absolutely NOT interested in friendships especially with women. I found that out when I tried to be his friend and support him through some really bad things he was going through, but he pushed me away. He didn’t need it or want it. They don’t want it because they can’t sustain it, amongst other reasons. I noticed with all the women who he would con (including me), three months is about as far as it got. I guess he could only keep the mask on and keep the con going on for that long. It was short, but it was very damaging. But of course, it didn’t end up being “just three months” as we know how they operate. He came back around and strung me along for another six or seven months (no sex) and after that, he pretty much discarded me, but then it was me chasing him trying to recreate the first three months and it was never to be…he was done with me. It destroyed my self esteem. Thank you so much for making me see these things so much clearer!


I realize now to that my spath didn’t have any friends, I only met one of his coworkers once and at the beginning I would always say let’s hang out with him and his wife and he would always decline or have an excuse. He would always tell me he doesn’t have many friends, but would blame that on being new to the US as he was from Jamaica. He knew to bring that up a lot to cover his spath ways. Also his friend at work, he always told me that he was lazy and he always had to show him how to do construction and teach him new things. Another spath way: his ego about being the best at what he does and always having to show them how to do such easy jobs to him.

I guess I was just thrilled he wanted to get to know my friends. My last relationship, the guy was always distant and never got to know any of my friends. The fact that my spath wanted to know my friends was exciting and made me feel like he wanted to get to know me.

My friends were there for me when I tried breaking up with him and they always encouraged me to move on because they knew I wasn’t happy. However, whenever we got back together, he was really good and being overly attentive to everyone of my friends at a party, that my friends would then change their mind about him. He would tell my guy friends aside from everyone that he really loved me, just so they could come back and tell me and say that we can find ways to heal our relationship. What a con!!! All the while he was engaged!!! Once my friends heard this, they all said they knew something was up with him, they just couldn’t tell exactly what. They were stunned at the same time because he conned them. The vicious cycle of spaths!


Ser ….Are you sure you aren’t speaking for my ex????
Married for 28 years…. a couple for 34…. one job for 22 years. Overt father of the year even though in hindsight and according to my daughter mostly absent father…I still do not know if he has cheated repeatedly in our marriage. His job entailed a lot of travel….My daughter caught him cheating. I was blind and did not recognize his pathology DESPITE having a graduate Mental health background and having practiced in the field for twenty years. I did not know and it was not on my radar that all I was good for to him was to provide respectability and social connection. Until the mask slipped. And hindsight is always 20/20. They have lived a cardboard life for so darned long that they get really good at the mirroring and faking. And my Empathy and righteousness supported and protected him. I was duped. All I can say is that my learning curve has been steep. I now understand and have the ability to acknowledge that these disordered people exist. And that they are not redeemable. They cannot be salvaged. You are right about the friends part Annette…. but I was the platform on which he based all his relationships. When the platform crashed he was on to a new life and a new family. Remade himself in a new state. No one from his 50 years has anything to do with his life and that is no impediment to someone who is disordered!! His now wife thinks he is segregated because he had an affair with her….Of course its because he is so misunderstood….these folk leave US with disonnance and keep moving on. That’s the scary part.


Imara…yep, your situation sounds a lot like the one I knew. I think he has also used his wife to provide respectability and to take care of the children. I love your comment about them living the cardboard life for so long…so true!! I agree that they are not redeemable, but I still have cog/diss about that. I struggle with wondering if they CAN change if they lose it all…hit rock bottom like mine did when he was fired. I have no idea as I have not talked to him or seen him in a very long time which brings me to another point. It really disturbs me that they can cause all kind of damage and havoc, yet they just go on like a rolling stone and still have their family! That is so unfair!!! But life is not fair and I know that, but out of everything that happened, that is one thing that still sticks in my craw…the fact that he still has his family and the love of his children and wife. He doesn’t deserve any of it!!!! Blah!!! YES…exactly what you said above…how they leave us with cog/diss and they just keep moving on! It is so sickening.


I had a neighbor who did work for me around the house for 4- 5 years. We talked on the phone some as well as in person, and I felt he was a very special friend. I felt we were getting closer, and we ended up having a 7 month affair which progressed into a serious love relationship within a month. We started flirting a little, and although I had been in a lesbian relationship for 28 years(my partner died 3 years ago), he felt he may have a chance at this point since I had mentioned being attracted to a man. He said as he was leaving my house one day, “If you ever get horny, let me know.” I told him I was “curious” and he said he was, too. The first time we went to bed, I was waiting, and then he said he was unable to get an erection! He knew I wanted intercourse as I had never been with a man! But the feeling I had when he touched me was so strong that it was still the best sex I have ever had and got better up until the last time we were together- the day before my trip- mentioned below! He said he was going to tell his wife he was in love with me. Then he came over the next day and said he was getting cold feet! He said he was going to see me no matter what, and if his wife did not like it, she could get a divorce! He kept saying we would start going out together and he was going to tell his wife we were friends, but kept putting it off. We later mutually agreed that we would keep this an affair, and I accepted the fact that he was not planning to leave his wife. However, right before I went on a trip a couple of months ago, he said he wanted to “step up” our relationship and was going to start seeing me more and tell his wife we are going out as friends. He did say that he had previously told his wife that I was a good friend, but I now doubt this is true. We all went out to lunch together a couple of times. However, I finally realized that he was only interested in oral sex. He said he started on Cialis for me but only had a few pills which were samples from his doctor. They seemed to help a little for a few days but not enough for intercourse. He later said he had 6 left, but I could not figure out why he would not take them. A friend gave me a few Viagra and he made excuses not to take them. I wonder if he does take something for his wife, but just wants the oral sex from others. The straw that broke the camel’s back happened when I went on the trip mentioned above, and he said he would call to make sure I got there ok, and then he did not call for 2 days. I finally called him and asked if he forgot to call. He said he did forget!!! He was working on a job and every time he thought to call, it was a bad time! This is a lie as we often talked in front of his wife, and she knew he was watching my house while I was gone on this trip. Wow, someone who said he thinks about me all of the time, loves everything about me, and has fantasized about me for years! He said we were a match made in heaven and were perfect for each other, and we were both “givers.” I trusted him for years! We talked a few times on my trip- he called me, but I did not call him. I was cool, and I think he was getting the message that I was backing off and was upset that he had not called when he said he would. I did not mention getting together when I returned, which I always did before. I did not call him when I returned but emailed him asking him to return a book that he had borrowed, and I think he knew I was not planning to see him again. Two days later,he came over at dusk, unannounced to bring the book back, and was cool. He said he had been busy and had been thinking and was not in love with me, only liked me, and was sorry if he hurt me. I think he said this since he knew I had his number and was backing off! In fact, I told him I had his number and yelled, “Good luck! You are going to need it” as he was leaving. He never bought me anything! He gave me a handmade birthday card last July saying he did not know what to get for a woman who had it all, and that he was giving me his most prized possession, his love, and signed it “love always”. Then for Christmas, he said he was giving me his love! I did not think much about it since he said his wife kept up with his money, and they usually went shopping together. Another lie! He was been married for 40 years and supposedly had a great job making $100,000+ until he retired 8 years ago, and they moved to a house they had built together in the 80’s. He says he works to get away from his wife and for social life (he loves to talk and is a charmer) as they don’t have many friends- only one neighbor couple with whom they go to lunch with once a week. I know why he works. He is constantly looking for victims! And I found out there are a lot of widows in our resort area! He admitted to having several affairs during his marriage, but I have a feeling he has had multiple ones. And he assured me he had not been with anyone since he moved here 8 years ago and said, “I am not a condom kind of man.” There is much more to this story. I would love to write a book about it. Perhaps it would help other women. I must remember- never trust a cheater. I told him once that he was lying to his wife, and he said, “You can’t tell everyone the truth!” He said he wished he could tell his wife about our affair, but she would not understand! He said she was not interested in sex!


SER (and everyone else)

Perfect? Not on my end.

What if you were brought up in an extremely dysfuntional family and had the characteristics of what other people thought were sociopathy (due to the abuse you suffered). I have been avoided, especially on jobs, and was called ‘antisocial’ (which I am assuredly not)…I felt bullied when that was said to me. And it was a ‘low blow’ because that is not what antisocial means (read any dictionary). I did confront the person who said that later, in fact, I told them to look it up in the dictionary to better understand it.

There is nothing antisocial about me. I believe in rules and laws and how necessary they are. Because of my assiduous studies regarding family dysfunctionalism, narcissism, and all kinds of emotional abuse, including the symptoms of depression, PTSD, and shame, a person may appear strange to others. Unfortunately, the very people who need the most help are thought to be ‘bad’ (I don’t trust her, she looks weird) and this is unfathomable to me.

I know people who got straight A’s, held the same job for decades, and married for life who I would consider sociopaths.
The person with a mottled past due to bad grades, frequent firing or quitting jobs, and overall demeanor may be a genuinely good person who was taken advantage of and/or bullied.

Find and dandy to be made aware of sociopaths/psychopaths, but let us not confuse them with innocent people who were tampered with when young (or any age), with no fault of their own regarding their ‘strange’ or ‘unusual’ behavior. Be careful, that is all I say!


Barb…I had said somewhat the same thing when on another post I talked about how “hurt people, hurt people” so I know and agree with what you are saying.

AnnettePK .. I can relate to your comment so very much. I was with my psychopath husband for almost 30 years. I was the only person in the world who really, really knew him. He was a masterful charmer, especially with women. He worked in a profession where he’d do great for 2-3 years at a time, people would begin to figure him out (especially men) and then we’d move to a new town or place and we’d start all over. It was exhausting for me yet when we’d move and start all over, he’d be great for a year or so. Enough time for me to ‘rest’ and gain some false hope. Finally, as the years wore on, I began to see more of the man behind the mask. He couldn’t pretend with me anymore and knew I was not tolerating his dysfunction and substance abuse and womanizing. What maddens me is that very few figured him out. A few pretty attuned and smart individuals did, and eventually contacted me throughout the years to let me know they knew, but most people were really conned by him. I can’t disclose his chosen career, yet let me say that he is surrounded by women and children who he can easily manipulate and appear as a ‘hero’ and wonderful, caring man. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, he’s gaslighting his wife, shaming and blaming his children, and drinking himself to sleep every night.

What I did find out during my 4 years of rebuilding my life, post abandonment, is that people knew more than I thought they did. This also bothered me because I wondered why they never stepped in to stop him or offer me support. The answer I got from a family member and good friend is that I was in such denial that I wouldn’t have believed a word they had to say to me. So they let me be.

My ex, too, was successful in a long-time career, appeared to be a great husband/father. Now that I’ve divorced him for his cheating and sex/porn addiction…he has found a replacement family and continues to be a success in his career. However, our sons are finally seeing the shallowness of his character without me being there to give him pointers. Interesting there are so many similarities.


[email protected]…I am so glad your sons are finally seeing through him!


I love the metaphor of the food!!! So So very true that even a little bit of poison in a gourmet meal can be lethal!!!!
I think I now understand the parallel fantasy universe that seems to be inhabited by the disordered….very little real contribution or attachment to anything!!!
Most of them are so good at the image management angle that we cannot blame acquaintances for being duped!!!
We cannot blame ourselves for being taken in by the fantastic façade either….our life experience makes us vulnerable.
I really think that unless you have experienced that level of control and covert manipulation there is no way to understand how it works.
As a professional, it now becomes my obligation and my duty to spread the hard won knowledge. If we live with even the “each one teach one” we will spread awareness. So when someone senses that the Rotary Club president is not really there for the greater good they would at least be able to evaluate that person from their actions and not just the façade….


Imara…again, yes!…very little contribution or attachment to anything! You all have so many good insights on here. The one I knew was irresponsible and unreliable yet he held this big position at a huge company. Trust me, he didn’t do anything but troll for women all day at work. It was ALL charm. He didn’t even have the level of education that others in his position had…he had a Bachelor’s and everyone else had at least a Master’s and a lot of times a PhD.


HG, your explanations of why we can be duped and how, are right on target. And I agree and relate to all the comments posted here. I still am amazed at myself when the smallest amount of contact with the Spath can, and usually does lead to manipulation. Allowing him only three words can put me into confusion. After all this time, he still has an impact on me.

Yet, I find myself doubting the words of almost everyone else. When I meet new people (not romantic, just anyone), I go through a battery of psychological testing, judging their facial expressions, eye contact, stance, and the likelihood of their believability. I’m serious. I find myself asking them questions that are out of context or leading. It’s as if my heart believes that everyone is out to get me.

But with just one text, the cheating, manipulative Spath can knock down my defenses and have me doubting myself for thinking he’s probably lying. I’m just so confused with why my mind behaves this way. I KNOW who he is and he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, but others….I feel like they are my enemy.??

Have almost NC is helping me protect myself and my emotions. I’ve read articles here on LF of how to trust again but obviously my heart is not ready to go there yet. Maybe it’s just part of the process. Has anyone else experienced this difficulty of suspecting that everyone is a SPath?


My whole outlook changed; and I am suspicious of everyone new, and even question the motivations of people I have known for decades. I have become very untrusting. Before being targeted by the Psychopath, I was too trusting of everyone, which made me a good target.


HopingToHeal…that is because you are/were sexually bonded to him. You have children with him also? It is extremely hard to break that bond, but you can do it. You just have to focus now that you know what you are dealing with. I also do not trust anyone now. I suspect everyone as I think I should! I was way too trusting and that’s what got me into the mess so it was a lesson I needed to learn. So for me, I think it’s good to question people’s motives as I didn’t do this before when I should have.


Something else to consider is that Psychopaths use hypnotic techniques on their victims. It is very difficult to break free when one’s mind has been accessed and manipulated and controlled at that level. I used a relaxation/guided imagery/suggestion tape daily for months to help deprogram myself from the Spath’s hypnotic spell.


AnnettePK…how do they know to use these hypnotic techniques? I mean, is this something they study or is it innate for them? I ask this because I KNOW I was hypnotized by him. There is no doubt, but I think with him, it was very innate. I never met anyone like him and I am sure I never will again (Thank God for that!). Do you know of anyone who deliberately studied hypnotic techniques to dupe their victims?


I’ve read that there is a lot of info on the internet on specific techniques on how to manipulate people, but I don’t have any first hand knowledge.
My ex P was doing this stuff before the internet existed. He’s not extremely intelligent. My discernment is that there is a spiritual component that taps into the same evil everywhere. Many of us victims notice the uncanny similarity in the specific tactics, arguments, games, etc. that the predators employ. My personal belief is that there is a real spirit world with both good and evil powers, and people draw in or tap into good or evil according to their choices of behavior. A description of the process is “know the right, choose the right, do the right.” Another concept that comes to mind is that one’s thoughts become one’s actions, one’s actions become one’s habits, one’s habits become one’s character.


Hi AnnettePK
My ex was stellar at his talent, getting people to do what he wanted, when if they knew his motivation, they would have NEVER agreed. This is what I defined as manipulation, most do. The self centered, thoughtless controlling behavior that is harmful.

My therapist corrected me.
We ALL manipulate. The studies show that babies learn to manipulate by 6 mo. Certainly my dog does, she rests her chin on my knee and it is rare that I don’t get up and do her bidding. Children know who and how to get ice cream, smart young wives, or handsome husbands, know how to get their spouse to cater to them. Students sway teachers. Blondes sway police officers. The list goes on forever. The tactics employed are similar to all, the perpetrator pricks the needs/wants/desires of the recipient.

The main difference, as it was explained to me, is motivation. I would NEVER talk someone into doing something that is harmful. I couldn’t handle the guilt. So… no bank robberies for me. But, I have been VERY kind to the person that I asked a favor, and they granted it.

But my ex would do it, just to tell others the story about how easy it was to dupe someone to do his will. He cost people their jobs, as entertainment for him. They thought they were doing a favor to some poor sad sack, and instead, that sad sack told everyone, back to the boss.


AnnettePK…I have Googled mind control and hypnotic techniques and there is a lot out there. I guess I just wonder if my ex actually did that…went searching for the ways to mind control someone or did it just come naturally to him. My ex was/is very intelligent. I agree about the spiritual component. There has to be something like that as they are all pretty much the same. You are so good at figuring all this stuff out. I love talking with you!


NotWhat, It’s true we all use behaviors to communicate our needs honestly and ask for what we need, like your dog showing you he wants something by using an innate behavior that we humans are programmed to respond to. Interaction based on cooperation, honest expression of needs and desires, negotiation, compromise, with the good of all (self and others) as a goal. Normal people feel joy and satisfaction when we have the opportunity to do something that enhances another’s well being. You are so on target that motivation is the key. The first thing that I came to understand about my ex P, was that he was not motivated for the same goals as I and everyone else I know. Of course I assumed he wanted what I wanted, and it was a really awful jolting, sickening unbelievable realization. I tried to tell our dear minister and his wife who were trying to do marriage counseling for us – that nothing would help because the exP didn’t want to be doing anything different than he was doing and he didn’t want different results (like my well being and a peaceful harmonious marriage) even though he pretended that he did and that everything he did was my fault somehow.
It seems that every tool and every trait has a good use and an evil use. For example, communicate and influence for the good of all vs. manipulate with lies to exploit others. Nurturing vs. controlling. Permissiveness vs. Neglect.


SER, It’s so helpful for me to be able to share our experiences and understandings. I learned everything from victims who paved the way ahead of me in their recovery and who took the time and effort to share their experiences. I read a lot and was really driven to understand which freed me from the confusion of cognitive dissonance and the fog the P’s spin caused. I don’t know where I’d be (a mental institution? or even alive..) if I hadn’t had the internet and the many books I learned from.


AnnettePK…yes, we surely do need to pay it forward. I too have read and read and read until I think my head will explode. I have learned so much. It’s hard though when you see friends making the same mistakes and you tell them, but they just don’t see it and continue down the wrong path. It’s like an accident you can see going to happen and you can’t stop it. I have learned that everyone has to live their own lessons…no one can live it for them. I feel the same about either being in a treatment facility or dead! It’s unbelievable how they get to us and can destroy us. I feel like he slimed me with all his dysfunction and now I can never get it off…ever. This sounds weird, but I feel like his soul climbed into my body and took over. I can’t explain it. I don’t hurt like I used to. I realized yesterday that while I was volunteering at church, I did not think about him one time! In the past, even though I would be busy and engaged, he was still always right there in the forefront of my thoughts, but as I left church yesterday, it hit me that I hadn’t thought of him! It was such a great feeling, but at the same time, I feel like the scar is there and I guess that’s OK. I have found we all have scars. I went to a movie yesterday afternoon with a friend and she ended up confiding in me that the love of her life committed suicide seven years ago this past January. She was crying. She even said, “Look, it’s been seven years and I still cry.” So sad. They had been engaged, but she didn’t marry him because he had addiction issues. She got married a few years ago and it is not without issues. Anyway, she poured her heart out to me and told me the whole story about what happened with their relationship and his ultimate suicide and it made me realize that I was not alone…that she is scarred from this. She said she has never been the same. It makes me accept that we move on with our scars.


I think it is very common that when your trust is fundamentally violated in a way that was not easily visible in advance, that you worry about that happening again. Additionally, if you are hypervigilant or have PTSD or anxiety, you would watch everything more carefully and look for danger. We also learn that perhaps we were duped due to some blind spot, and wonder who else we did not notice may have been this way in our lives. So, even knowing someone for a long time may not be a protection. It is wise to question, but there is probably no need to over-worry. We need to work on shoring up our vulnerabilities and therefore we will become less attractive to them as victims. And with time, we can stop worrying so much and doubting everyone we meet.

For me, with people who may be important in my life, I look for both positive and negative indications of sociopathy. In other words, are there signs that they are sociopaths? Are there contraindications showing they are not?


I could read and read this site all day but I’d never get any work done.

HGB – I absolutely love the bumbling, togetherness over the boiling water scene – this is absolutely SPOT ON! Of course I never saw it in 1986 when I met my ex but with hind sight I see it very clearly now. He knew – from mutual friends – that I didn’t need rough and ready so he played the gent, he knew I didn’t want to be pressured so he was patient, he knew I hated arrogence so he was humble – which couldn’t be further from the actual truth. He played a blinder to be fair and blinded me with that fog!

It wasn’t just me he fooled. Everyone thought he was lovely – salt of the earth, absolutely charming. Hmmmm. It was early on I began to see cracks but I was tied in both emotionally, finacially and in every other way by then so it took a long time to get out of it.

As others have said, there were two things that don’t fit the bill with my ex – a long marriage (to me) and a low libido. But I now realise his sexual preference would be something other than a normal, intelligent, sensual grown woman, plus his heavy drinking affected his performanc which he would never admit to and the marriage itself suited him both financially and in providing him with a Mr respectable, pillar of the community mask.

Sometimes I feel terribly sorry for his latest victim and for all those people around him who are still under his spell but he is not my problem anymore. I have to keep myself and my children away from him and to interfere in his life would bring him back into ours.

In the meantime I am building a wonderful, healthy releationship with a wonderful man. Every so often I get anxious and think – could he be the same as my ex, could he be fooling me but with the help of this site, I am able to look at all the factors and go through a tick list and I come back to reality!

Onwards and upwards 🙂


overthehump…I am so glad you are out. What you said about the drinking and sexual performance was my ex. It really does affect the performance unless they use Cialis or Viagra. It’s pretty pitiful actually. Also, what you said about the marriage suiting him is perfect. It’s way more admirable to be married in the society we live in. Sometimes people think there must be something wrong with us if we are single, but if we are married, hey, at least someone wants us, right?


I think the way to really know, or assess, whether someone is a psychopath or not, takes TIME. And healthy skepticism. And background checks.

And the time it takes for all that is what we as a society have the least of.

We’re asked to make quick assessments of others, and that’s where the manipulative tools of charm and seeming rationality, making us feel attuned with this delightful new friend/client/coworker/boss/service provider who seems so intelligent and trustworthy… etc., works so well for the spaths.

But over time, their true nature eventually becomes clear, because they do their dirtiest work in private, behind closed doors, in the dark, in a covert manner. But the damage they do, their wake of destruction eventually surfaces.

But it takes time.

That’s why I like the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. He talks about learning to trust your gut, your instinct, when some new acqaintance seems just too good to be true, and they just seem to be SO smitten with you. Learning to *trust our own gut*, and *learning to not be emotionally needy*, seems to be one of the few ways we can protect ourselves from the charming, fascinating psychopaths out there.

Trust your gut, realize that too good to be true usually is just that: a mask, and give other people time to show their true selves.


Babs…absolutely perfect. One of the best posts I have ever read. Thank you!


Hi Babs
I liked “The Gift of Fear” and as an incest and physical abuse survivor, I am hyperintuitive to certain types. But fear did not protect me from a covert abuser.

Covert abusers use shame to control and blame their victim. My ex claimed our marriage discord was because I was “needy”, one of his favorite smears,and one of the most used smears used by misogynists.

Society has a tendency to take NORMAL human needs and attach words of shame, like we would not have been victimized if we weren’t so gullible or needy. (BLAME the victim!) But we all know that sociopaths have NO capacity for real connection, for reciprocating needs, needs like trust, respect, dignity, fidelity, consideration, etc. and that they don’t just target the vulnerable.

I would argue that protecting ourselves from being the target of a sociopath, without having context or experience, is VERY difficult. ONLY those who have previous experience would ever even THINK to assess if someone is a sociopath. It would just not occur to people. While everyone knows what a jerk looks like, we LF members know to go the extra step to watch out for a con, a covert or overt sociopath.

You are SO right that in truth, it takes time. And diligence. But I think, sadly, it also takes the experience of knowing sociopaths exist inside the bodies and faces of the sweetest, kindest, nicest people.


Well, bottom line is YES you can spot a psychopath when you ask the right questions and know their history.

I disagree with Robert Hare that he cannot “spot one”. Seriously, come on Dr Hare. He obviously does not ask the right questions OR question the individuals that surround him or her.

Plus, I personally believe that the majority of our so called family “therapists” are psychopaths. So, why would they ever recognize another spath or want to “out” them? They are not interested in helping anyone really, just adding to their bank account.

I went to “therapy” for over 30 years and NEVER found ONE therapist that knew crap about personality disorders or too much else about psychology. I have a niece who typifies this disordered personality also. Her father – my sister’s ex-husband is a HUGE psychopath yet she refuses to recognize the evil he did to her OWN mother! I no longer speak to this freak of nature. Sadly, she now has TWO children that I am sure she will make into “little” spaths someday.

The answer. WE are in charge of our lives and WE must educate ourselves and GO WITH YOUR GUT when in doubt! Always.

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