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By September 20, 2010 16 Comments Read More →

I wasn’t that stupid

Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.

A Lovefraud reader recently sent me the following link from Wikipedia:

Psychological manipulation

The author of the article on psychological manipulation based most of its information on three books: Who’s Pulling Your Strings?, by Harriet B. Braiker; In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, by George K. Simon; and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, by Martin Kantor.

The first two sections of the article are excellent. First, the author discusses the requirements of successful manipulation:

According to Simon, successful psychological manipulation primarily involves:

  • manipulator concealing aggressive intentions and behaviors.
  • manipulator knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine what tactics are likely to be the most effective.
  • manipulator having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Then the author describes how manipulators control their victims. This was a catalog of all the behaviors we know so well—lying, denial, rationalization, minimization, etc., etc. Yes, I’d experienced all of them.

Vulnerabilities

Next, the article discusses the vulnerabilities exploited by manipulators. Here’s where I had problems.

According to Braiker, vulnerabilities that made one susceptible to manipulation included the “disease to please,” lack of assertiveness, a blurry sense of identity and low self-reliance. No, no, no and no, that wasn’t me.

According to Simon, susceptible people were over-conscientious, self-doubting, and had a submissive personality. I have none of those traits. Simon also mentioned naivete. I will admit that I was naive, but not in the way this author defined it. So for me, that’s a “no” as well.

Then there was Kantor’s list. He described vulnerable people as too altruistic, too impressionable, too masochistic, too dependent, too impulsive, and too much of several other traits. Of his list, I had to admit that a few somewhat applied to me.

Kantor said vulnerable people are “too trusting—people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest.” I am honest, and although I am well aware that dishonesty exists, I did not know that a man who was emphatically proclaiming his love to me would be lying.

I was too lonely, but not in all aspects of my life, only in that I was lacking a romantic partner. Otherwise, I had plenty of friends. And once in my life I was too impulsive—when I quickly said yes to James Montgomery’s marriage proposal. Otherwise, I took time to consider my decisions.

Overall, the list of vulnerabilities in this article gives the impression that only stupid, pathetic people fall for psychological manipulation. And that wasn’t me.

Meant to be

There was another reason why I allowed James Montgomery to manipulate me: It was meant to be.

When I was involved with Montgomery, it didn’t take long for me to realize that something was amiss.  He was telling me how much he loved me, and how rich and successful we were going to be. But I knew that on some matters, he was lying to me. I knew he was taking my money. Eventually, I knew he was cheating.

So I prayed for guidance. I prayed to God, my higher power, my guardian angels. And I kept receiving messages to stay with him, that everything would work out just fine.

I stayed, and things did work out, although not at all in the way I expected. The journey was painful. But I am now happier and more fulfilled than I ever was before the experience, in my lonely, naive and impulsive days.

No, I wasn’t stupid. I did what I was supposed to do. It may look foolish from an earthly perspective, but my involvement with James Montgomery was right for my personal and spiritual growth.


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16 Comments on "I wasn’t that stupid"

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I have to disagree with those writers. This isn’t about being “stupid.” I think language like “the disease of pleasing” is useful for pop psychology but not exactly accurate for the dynamic of sociopathic transactions or relationships.

The reality is that their intention is to make us “stupid.” They prey on certain vulnerabilities with the intention of causing us to tolerate more and give more than we would ordinarily. By appearing to be the “person of our dreams” — something we describe to them because they seem so interested in us and trustworthy — and then, using a few other time-tested techniques to push us to make decisions and commitments faster than we would have otherwise, they tangle us up in our own social rules and ethics.

And I think this is the true nature of manipulation. They “sell” us something we really wanted before we met them. But they keep bringing in “hidden costs” that chip away at our everyday self-protective mechanisms. And as we recognize how compromised we are, we don’t have the experience or skills to figure out how to correct the situtation or to extricate ourselves. And the situation isn’t helped by their constant carping on loyality and trust.

With apologies to the community of professional sales people, sociopaths are kind of like the used car salesman who discovers you always wants a Rolls Royce, and offers you the deal of your life on a lovely Rolls that belonged to an “old widow who never took it out of the garage.” And then as the fact that cats have been living in the car, and the engine is won’t start, and it actually comes with a need for a super expensive insurance policy all come up, the salesman keeps making it about you. “But you said this is what you wanted” and “maybe you really aren’t the kind of person who should be driving a Rolls” and “if you really wanted the best for yourself, you’d be stepping up to this” and “I thought that you were serious about his, and my boss is holding up my paycheck until I make this sale” and “you’re really not a very trustworthy person, are you?”

No question, our past history and training to put other people’s needs first is going to play into this. And if we have dysfunctional family histories, as many victims of sociopaths have, we’re going to be primed to accept all this self-centered manipulation with fewer questions than someone who is more assertive and focussed on his or her own needs. But this is also true for people in helping professions or even high-pressure jobs. Or people who are really focussed on their own dreams.

And these two points — the willingness to be drawn into other people’s needs and the hunger for something in particular in our own lives — are what make us vulnerable.

But the “out” is always when we get to saying no. And the real healing is when we accept that we’ve been bamboozled. That it was a costly lesson (because it always is with these people). And that we need to be a little more self-protective and a little more discerning about things that are too good to be true, especially if they come with a hurry-up pressure to make a commitment.

It’s easy to blame the victim. Especially when the victim has become confused, upset, and acting like someone who is so codepedent that it’s crossed the line into self-destructive behavior. Yes, there is something to learn here, but I think that saying victims of manipulation are pathological or stupid is not giving enough credit to the effect of the techniques used by the sociopath.

Anyone can conned. Even you. You were conned because this man offered you something you really wanted. And you wanted it badly enough to start doing some things that, in retrospect, were pretty silly. And he got you to do that by playing on your sympathy, your loyalty, and your resistance to letting go of the vision of the future that he offered.

It doesn’t make you a credulous fool. It just makes you a sucker for a professional con man. And the only guarantee it won’t happen to you — or any of us — again is what we’ve learned from the experience. Not just about the bad people who are out in the world, but what changes we have to make in ourselves to be smarter and stronger and safer.

And mostly that just comes down to knowing what we’re no longer willing to give up under any circumstances. Our self-esteem, our control of certain aspects of our lives, our instincts about right and wrong. The lists are personal, but they are ultimately not about how we were weak or stupid before, but how we were naive and possibly misguided about the real sources of our happiness.

Kathy,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You contribute so much to Lovefraud.

I didn’t realize, until long after the proverbial sh*t hit the fan, that there was a larger purpose to my involvement with the sociopath. And even when I did realize it, I still struggled to accept that the betrayal, the devastation, were for my own good.

You see, I was ready to say “no.” I was ready to bail out long before I did. But as I prayed for guidance, demanding to know what to do, I kept getting the message to stay, support my husband, and continue to love him. Or attempt to love him, because I had no love left.

As strange as it may seem, I was doing what was right for my spiritual growth.

This is a really difficult concept, and one that I still struggle with. How could so much pain be good for us?

I’ve come to realize that sociopaths have no heart, no conscience and no remorse, but sometimes we engage with them for our own spiritual growth.

I’ll be talking more about these ideas in future posts on this blog.

Donna,
Your story bears so many resemblances to my experience with a sociopath except for the fact that mine had a criminal history. Of course, upon meeting him initially he claim God had changed his life…yeah right. He played me over and over again and like you, I just couldn’t except and still struggle with the fact that somewhere inside he had to love me in the best way he knew how. Why on earth would he want to hurt me intentionally for his benefit after ALL I had done for him…and it was ALOT….I gave way too much. I, too, believe, after reading your post here that I was allowed to go through this experience for my own personal and spiritual growth. I, too, prayed for guidance while I waited and endured a 3 year incarceration thinking he would be different and “change” once he got out of prison. Then when he did, my world came crumbling down. I so remember feeling I could not get out of bed many days yet I had no choice as a single mother with a very demanding job. It has not been easy at all but I am healing and with every day that passes, I feel alittle better. I didn’t possess many of the traits listed in the article either but I did have some of them and most had to do with “caring too much” and being empathetic and too trusting too quickly. Now people have to earn my trust before they get it. I don’t post much here but I do read as often as I can and this site has helped me tremendously. For the longest I could not figure out what was wrong with him…was he just “mentally ill” or what? Had prison just damaged his ability to live in society? It was like an adult “failure to thrive” scenario. It is so helpful to read of other experiences and to know that I am not alone…others have been through similar situations and have survived…and I am a survivor and so much stronger for it. This experience has truly allowed me to deal with my own issues and growth both spiritually and personally in areas I might not have grown otherwise without the experience. I am trying to learn to be thankful “in all things”. Thank you again for this site Donna and for your helpful insight.

Hugs,
Strongsurvivor

First of all, IMHO Wikipedia is not a good source to use for any information. Anyone can write or edit the information, so I would not take what is read on that site as accurate or factual. I am sure there are some sources on there that might be accurate, however, if you want to find information relative to what you are searching for, one must look at a reputable site, and that would not be Wikipedia!

That being said, anyone can fall prey to an excellent manipulator, especially if you are a person who wants to care for and believe in goodness of other human beings. The manipulator (sociopath) is so good at manipulating and controlling others, it comes natural to them, they don’t have to work at thinking that way, they just do it. I would have to truly think about how I could manipulate someone, and then I would feel bad for duping them into something. Manipulators see vurnerable,caring people a mile away and it’s like taking candy from a baby. When the manipulators start running their mouths with compliment after compliment, it’s time to turn on your bullshit radar because that’s all it is. We all want to hear great things and believe those great things, but there comes a time when we can hopefully change our self-talk and hear those great things from our own mouths. It certainly has nothing to do with the intelligence of a person. Unless someone has been in the situation of being controlled and manipulated, they cannot speak with any true knowledge. To all of you survivors I commend each and every one of you and I hope you are living the happy, loving life you deserve! Take Care! 🙂

Jutza,

You mentioned one of the key reasons why many of us get caught by sociopaths – we want to “care for and believe in the goodness of other human beings.” I think one of the hardest lessons of the experience was coming to terms with the fact that there are people in the world who are rotten to the core.

It’s not what we learned in school or church. It’s not the idea of “all men (and women) are created equal.” There are people who really don’t deserve an opportunity to be in our lives. We have to learn how to spot them.

@Donna
“I think one of the hardest lessons of the experience was coming to terms with the fact that there are people in the world who are rotten to the core. It’s not what we learned in school or church.”

Actually, I blame church and school. In my experience it was primarily the teachings I received at both church and school that provided the “cognitive dissonance”. If I hadn’t received that message over and over and over again without any qualification whatsoever, it would have been as plain as the nose on my mother’s face that some people were rotten to the core.

I have been told I’m stupid for falling for the lies.

No one looks badly at the guy who robbed me, instead they look at me as a stupid woman. I believe this is what helps these guys get away with this stuff.

It made me feel more victimized. It isolated me making me more vulnerable to the next abuser. I just wanted a listening ear who didn’t judge, and abusers are all ears to that! They listen with glee as you tell them your weaknesses and how to abuse you.

My first abusive relationship lead to a lifetime of abusive relationships. I couldn’t break the cycle.

When I reached out to others, I was always told I need to be alone. But, being alone did not teach me to recognize abusive people.

Going to church did not teach me. Church people put on their best face and don’t talk about problems.

Joining a club did not help me. It was the same thing as church, everyone puts on their best face and do not discuss problems.

I’ll bet that domestic violence survivor groups are the same way. Everyone groups off into smaller groups, and the main goal is lost. The newcomers are told suggestions, and then the groups turn back to their conversations.

Jeannie812-

Sometimes it takes us awhile, and a bunch of errors, to really learn that there are people out there who only want to use us. It sounds like you now have that figured out.

Therefore, you can now set your own criteria for who you will allow into your life. You can move slowly, allowing people to earn your trust.

Now that you know abusers are out there, you can trust your intuition. When you start to get a feeling that someone is bad for you, you know to pay attention to it.

It’s not about ‘being stupid’…..it’s about loving unconditionally and being lied to.
Anyone can be victimized……anyone with a good heart.
Sociopaths have no boundaries…..they seek to exploit.

Kathy, your comment on September 21 is so well thought out and so on the mark in my opinion! GREAT COMMENT!

“Used car salesmen”! Ah yes, I’ve bought that RR a few times myself! LOL

Thanks for a great thought provoking comment!

Hi Everyone,
I am not sure where to start a new blog or topic and if that is even allowed so here is where i will write what’s on my mind. I am asking for support now and i thank everyone in advance….. I have mentioned that i am new here and that my now ex-bf had beat me up pretty severely and is sitting in jail.Just a litle info. to refresh anyone’s memory who might like to comment. I was served a subpoena to be in court on Nov. 22, 2010 at 8:15am. I was told by my victim’s advocate that i probably wouldn’t have to show up since they had quite a few very troubling and brutal pics of my face and neck that they (DA) could use, so i was shocked and then i got Peode!!! I was mad because this man sp, is still holding onto his inocense/ not guilty plea. Being told that if he had made a guilty or no contest plea that they would not need me to testify. Okay, if this person had any remorse at all for what he did to my face, my sense of safety, anything that i am being put through now then i feel he would cop a plea to save me from having to go to court to testify at all. If i don’t show up then i get a bench warrant, go figure!! I am thinking that him and his attorney think that i will be like alot of other DV victims and not show (for fear for my life or love for the sp) Well this is where i feel very strongly why this is happening and it has to do with my spiritual growth. i have read Donna’s reasoning as to why her sp had been placed in her life. I am on the same page in respect to my life and my spiritual lifes plan. I had (unrecognized) before reccently been affected by soooo many sp’s durring my entire life. Now with all of them getting away with abusing me in all sorts of ways and always getting away with it. I had been left with losing my R.N. career due to an emotional breakdown that tore my life apart. I am now disabled due to Mental diagnosis’ like PTSD, DID, Major depressive disorder, Panick disorder (all of which my sp-xbf new about and used it all to his advantage)these are left over after-effects from repressed childhood trauma (severe to say the least)Now i was angry that the DA wanted to use me as a pawn to get a conviction!!!! But now i can see that this is the spiritual circle that needs to be completed inorder for me to move on as a whole human being. All of the abusers that i had been abused by in my life had all gotten away with every rotten thing that they did, all of them! Now as scary as this is to me it is time for me to finally POINT my finger at my abuser without fear of not being believed, fear of being killed, beaten, tortured, or fear of being thrown under the bus to save the abuser (which i have to add has been the worst part of it)So as i have read Donna say that she had those red flags in the beginning, prayed about it often (sounds like)and felt the need to stay. So did i. I was mad at myself for not taking heed to my spiritual guidance/my intuition, that this man was unsafe and i stayed anyway. Now i know why!!!! Having been so abused and mentally manipulated, especially durring my childhood, everything and everyone either wasn’t remembered or everything was a big fog but the energy of the traumaS had remained in my energy field to this day causing me great distress from paranoia to panick attacks, etc…. But now, even though this man that is in jjail is not one that had taken his turn abusing me when i was young his energy is the same! Using fear tactics and manipulation to keep me down and getting great pleasure from it. So i am convinced that this is bringing some if not all the closure that i need so i may move on and not have to deal with this type of person again, atleast without first hand knowledge of what kind of beasts these perpetrators are and knowing in my heart that i can spot them and that i can protect myself from them if neeed be. Does any of this make sense to anyone??? i hope so. ANyway, I mentally put this man and all the other perps that i have had in my life into the cage where my ex-bf sp will be sitting durring our court appearance and i am going to point my finger at him when asked if the man who did this to me is in the court room pretending that all the rest of (sps)abusers from my past are sitting with him. This will be a very deap healing process for me and this is probably the reason why i met the creep to begin with and that is to help me heal from the traumas from the past, it may also be healing from past lives as well… Thank you all for listening. I hope i put this in the right place. Donna, thank you for putting all the time and effort that you do into this site and thank you to the rest of you too. Light and love, Caylin

Dear StrongSurvivor…oh my! Your story is mine!
I met my psychopath before he went in for a three year prison sentence. We developed a relationship over that time and I believed in the man I was getting to know. He was careful not to make “prison promises”. But he very definitely lead me to believe he was something he was not.
He was no more ready to participate in a relationship than a teenage boy.
He is 42.
In the year that he has been out, thing have been pure chaos. The list of hurts—and lies—is endless. He is so believable. He knows just how much sincerity to work in order to be trusted.
And each individual issue is explained away. When I look back at all of the problems that have occurred, it becomes clear that this man is a psychopath. He meets every single descriptor of the disorder.
And still I find myself loving him. I do believe that I am the only one left in his life who cares and is able to help him navigate life. What I fail to see is that no one else is left because he has abused their love and kindness.
He has moved on to another female, a young woman. He changed his phone number. I have no idea where he lives.
I hired a private investigator so I can gain some closure and move on. For some reason, having the facts about him, for once, feels refreshing. I have only had smoke and mirrors since he was released from prison a year ago. For once, it may be nice to have some concrete proof of what he is up to.
Yes, it will hurt terribly as well.
I appreciate anything anyone has to offer to heal. I look forward to reading “The Betrayal Bond”.
Thank you.

The last book I was reading when my sp left me was “What Good is God?”. I knew something was missing from my life. Since I have started going to church I would disagree with some of the comments about church giving you the skills to identify evil. It is actually the Bible that gives you all the tools to identify the evil. It is whether you choose to pay attention. My husband was a deacon in his church long ago but when we married (in civil court), he found all things wrong with each church we went to. Now I see that he could tell these churches were to strong to walk in and manipulate. The church I go to now – a coworker is a member. He really did not want to join this church! He started to go with his new victim, but I believe he has already got in between her and her church going. He already broke her faith by luring her into a relationship with a married man….maybe this is her test too.

Thank you to all who post here…it has helped me understand what I was dealing with and how I want to move into the next phase of my life – sp free!

Michelebt,

In some ways, church makes us more susceptible to sociopaths. We’re taught to forgive, turn the other cheek, look for the good in everyone. We need more instruction on discernment. There is evil in the world, and we need to be able to recognize it and walk away.

Yes it is the perfect pick-up place. During my Divorce care group we were talking about “forgiving” in a Godly fashion….it is not forgetting. And, the forgiveness does not have to be verbalized to the abuser. Just between you and the big guy….he’ll sort it out, you are just letting go of it for your own sanity. So the group really puts the emphasis on learning to be “single” without being alone. The loneliness is whats gets you….feeling disconnected – from family or community. What is the line from “Show Me The Money” – you complete me. No person can fill that space….

Like Donna, I feel I have not yet been spiritually released from the sociopath I am legally seperated from.
He has done unspeakable cruelties to me and the children over the past 6 years.
Other than AlAnon I have no support group.. I blocked him from the phone and email and just pray a lot.

Currently he is flaunting his association with a 38yr old married woman(he is 20 her senior) and draining the remaining mutual assets to be her sugar daddy.

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