Psychopaths are not necessarily great liars. That’s the premise of a series of articles Dr. Stephen Appel, the newest Lovefraud Blog author, has recently posted on his website, The Top Two Inches.
“The Top Two Inches,” in case you’re wondering (as I was), refers to the head, but means the mind, brain and thinking. Dr. Steve’s website is devoted to contemplating “the mysterious workings of the mind.”
In Myth: Psychopaths are great liars, Dr. Steve agrees that psychopaths are pathological liars. “They are pathological, they are chronic tellers of untruths, and this dishonesty is tied up with their pathology,” he writes.
But according to Dr. Steve, research shows the speech of a psychopath is not particularly convincing. So how do they manage to be so deceptive? It’s everything else that they do—their arrogance, grandiosity, sob stories and intimidation—that mislead listeners into believing them. It’s not the words; it’s the show.
Dr. Steve is a psychotherapy practitioner, clinical supervisor and educator. He is editor of Psychoanalysis and Pedagogy, a book that looks at education through the lens of psychoanalysis, and vice versa.
Dr. Steve has authored scientific papers as well. One paper, The Heritage of Disorganised Attachment, describes people who relate to others in a way that seems to change moment by moment. They’re cheerful, they’re complaining, they’re angry, they’re depressed—all within an unpredictable matter of minutes. This disorder arises in childhood as a result of maltreatment or living in a frightening environment—conditions a child of a psychopath might experience.
“Psychotherapy with a disorganized client is demanding,” Dr. Steve writes, “but can be life-altering.”
Interest in psychopaths
Dr. Steve has an intellectual interest in psychopaths, and a personal and clinical concern for those they prey upon. While he believes much is to be gained from understanding the psychopathic mind, he is deeply skeptical about the merits of doing psychotherapy with psychopaths.
On the other hand, those who have had their selves distorted, corroded and emptied out by psychopaths need to repair themselves and may benefit enormously from working with a mental health professional.
The Lovefraud Blog welcomes the insights and contributions of Dr. Steve Appel.
I’ve never blogged before so please pardon any “faux pas” I may make. I am so thankful to have found this site! My husband of 29 yrs walked out of our home and from our 16 yr old son 8 mos ago. I always thought “our” problem was his alcoholism/addiction even though he went to treatment 4 times and was in AA. I’ve been a member of Alanon for many yrs and wondered what was wrong? He was sober & clean (much of the past 12 yrs). His departure was not entirely unexpected or unwanted though it did turn my life upside down! I had surrendered the relationship to God 6 days prior to this leaving and KNEW that God was doing for me what I was not able to do for myself. Even knowing this, I was devastated and ANGRY! After some time my parents introduced to idea of sociopathy. My parents are in recovery (AA & Alanon for 30 yrs). I began googling the subject and was beginning to believe that he may be one. I always thought that the disease of alcoholism was the “problem” and could be “arrested” – not cured. You see, I saw the difference and the miracles that occured in my families life, and other “program” families with sobriety and recovery. I could not understand why this was not occurring in my husbands life. The first book I read on the subject (one that my father was sneaky enough to get me to read) about Scott Peterson by Dr. keith Ablow. I read the book over 2 days and had an emotional meltdown! I could relate to so many of the things about him…LIES, LACK OF REMORSE, ATTITUDE OF ENTITLEMENT, and on, and on…After a few days of feeling the feelings, anger, hurt, rejection, I was able to move on and accept. I then read The Sociopath Next Door and have learned much more. I understand that the best revenge is ME living well BUT I WANT HIM TO HURT! Here it is Christmas Eve and I have spent the morning crying! I don’t WANT him back and I think the tears are ANGER! I want him to understand what and who he is, acknowlege it, and HURT – emotionally. I think that it is so unfair that he walks out the door FREE of any responsiblity to what he has done and move in with the new girlfriend and live a HAPPY life while I am working to recover! Though I know in my mind that he can’t be happy because he is emotionless – it is getting those feelings to my heart that I am working on. I’ve learned that I’ve been grieving not the loss of the marriage – but the loss of the dream that I THOUGHT the marriage was and the man I THOUGHT he was. I am trying to live in reality and not the “illusions” of what my life was. Most days, I do very well and am very grateful to be out of this disfunction but today, Xmas Eve, I am sad and trying to put on a good face for my son and family. Reading your site and blogging is helpful. I am grateful for so many things and am just ready for more joy in my life! I regularly attend Alanon, Church, stay involved in emotionally and spiritually activities, and go to therapy every 2 weeks. I guess I want to know that you folks have moved onto happier, healthier lives and how you did it.
I’m so sorry. You will heal, you will get better. I did and, as you can probably tell by now, so have many others.
From where I stand, I can only encourage you to dig in and keep going. I’d say you are on the right track, searching for answers, integrating the insight on this web site with your experience and absorbing the warmth and care of those here. How fortunate that you have smart and helpful parents as support.
Thirty years is a long time to have endured such deep confusion, emotional trauma and loss. Please give yourself all the space and time you need to heal. You get to determine what’s best for you.
For me, there were lots of false starts of healing with one step forward and two steps back. One day I’d think I had made a breakthrough and the next, I was back to square one. It was awhile before I found this site but once I did, everything made sense and I was free.
It sounds like you may have just started your journey eight months ago. One thing that I wish I had done was love myself, the inner me who had suffered at such callous hands, more through the process. I deserved the kindness of which he so deprived me and in the end, I can honestly say I really do love who I am now – and even who I was.
In one of her posts, Donna very perceptively addressed an unexpressed concern I had and that you mention: that he will give someone new all the goodies we were promised.
Apparently, according to author and narcissist Sam Vikram (?) they NEVER do, they can’t, and whatever treatment you received, is what the new person will eventually receive, too. In my case, that was reassuring to me.
I continue to read this site because I never want to be caught off guard like I had been. Even today, as I put myself in the place of the persona in SecretMonster’s poem posted today, I learned more of the sense of desolation in the life of a sociopath.
You’re on your journey. Take good care of yourself and your son. When it’s all over, I’m almost sure you’ll find the happiness you don’t think is possible again. You’ll be wiser and protected.
Thanks for the kind words and reassurance. Today has been a much better day with much less emotion than yestersday.
This was my 1st Xmas wo/my socio in 30 yrs. Even though
any feelings I have for him now are not pleasant or loving, sadness was overwhelming. I’m afraid that I could not hide my feelings from my son. I was angry and tearful and that made his 1st Xmas wo/his father more sad for him as well. We talked about it last night, I apologized, and we shared the evening w/my family followed by driving and looking at the lights. It maded a pleasant end to an emotional roller coaster of a day.
I intentionally made arrangements for family and friends to come to our home today so that we would be surrounded by loved ones and too busy to be sad. We enjoyed time alone this morning, and guests in the afternoon/evening. My son spent a couple hrs w/his father tonight and I RESOLVED NOT to question him about ANYTHING! I am learning that if I don’t ask questions then I can not be upset by the answer. When I do ask questions, I ALWAYS obsess over the information. It is HARD not to know but I must let go of the need to know. If there is anything I’ve learned from this experience it is that God reveals to me what I need to know…when I need to know.
I have spent much time on this site today and it is helpful. I believe it has kept me grounded and I am learning more about the socio behavior. It’s almost like I read a statement about a socio and it is an AHA moment…I remember when mine did or said the same/similar thing. For instance…I remember his facial expressions at times and thought – HE IS LYING – but I allowed myself to believe his illusions. I remember reading somewhere to listen to your body. When I “felt” he way lying…BELIEVE IT! Don’t let him talk me out of it.
I was given a Gratitude Journal as a gift today. For me, I know that when I am in an Attitude of Gratitude, I feel spiritually powerful, connected to God, and able to ward off damaging self destructive feelings. I’m vowing to write entries into this journal daily. Today, #1 I am GRATEFUL this sociopath is not in my life!
I too read the poem posted by SecretMonster and was impressed by his insight. Than another post stated that the poem is actually lyrics to a song. I felt deceived by SecretMonster.
It is 11:40pm and almost the end of Xmas 2007 and I MADE IT! I am optimistic for 2008!
Please keep up the blogs..they are a comfort to me and very informative. I feel I am in elementary school on this education into sociopathy.
That’s great. I’m glad you were intentional about the way you and your son spent Christmas.
You sound strong and smart and you’ll make it. You may face setbacks especially if you have to have contact with your ex-husband. That has to be hard, but we all face setbacks and then start right back up again. You’ll do that, too.
I think your plan not to ask questions is very wise and keeps you in control – of what information you let into your life, information about him that you really have no control over now.
As for Secret Monster, I personally didn’t take offense that he didn’t credit the artist. Secret Monster already identified himself as a de facto liar and cheat and, by submitting that poem, he shows that he identifies with the poem’s persona. That’s infinitely helpful to me in learning how they operate.
It can help all of us. I think a Sociopath can be like an acquired taste, only in reverse. His mentality is so distasteful that I think learning more about people like him leaves us with such a bad taste in our mouths we won’t want another taste.
Either that or poison oak; once we learn what to look for, we can avoid it.
Unfortunately, it looks like his wife will be a victim soon…and no one can protect or warn her.
You’ve made it through the toughest part. It may not seem like it yet, but you’re really on a beautiful journey. I could not have said that when it was all fresh for me, like it is for you now, but I can see where you’re going and when you get there, you’ll find peace and joy and a stronger, wiser you.
Since you’ve mentioned your faith in God, remember whenever you weaken to keep your eyes on Him and not on the problem. It will keep you focused. I knew it was God in His grace who rescued me when I wasn’t able to rescue myself. I thank Him every day for this gift although I probably would have chosen another way to get where I was supposed to go. He’ll be with you every step of the way in your recovery, too.
Merry Christmas, backtoreality, and may 2008 hold many wonderful and joyful surprises for you and your son. You deserve them.
Thanks for your response eyesopended. I felt as though I was wrapped in a warm, secure, blanket!
I too believe that God did for me that I was not able to do for myself. 6 days before the SP left home, I looked into my bath mirror and surrendered to God telling Him that this reationship was in his hands and I would accept what His answer was to be. While the SP was laying out all the reasons for his departure (blaming me) I was able to remain silent because I KNEW this was God doing what I had never been able too.
Over the past 8mos I have realized that for the entire 30 yr relationship I had that “inner” feeling that this should never have been. I was too fearful to admit it and terrified at NOT being w/this person.
What I know is this…God’s plan for me is so much better than any plan in my imagination. My problem though is trusting Him, Letting Go and Letting Him, getting myself out of His way.
Many times I have to remind myself that God removed me from this relationship and He will not let me go now. I simply wish that I could ALWAYS remember this and not allow my thoughts and obsessions take me away!
When I start beating up on myself for staying in this for so long, I Thank God for my 16yr old son…a product of this relationship.
I saw 2 books listed on this site, written by Dr. Leedom. One is Just Like His Father, and the other Parenting the At Risk Child. Has anyone read these and were they helpful?
My thanks to everyone who posts as it is medicine for my soul!
I know so well what you are feeling. Being told some of the truth after 31 years of marriage, made me feel like all those years were a mockery. It diminished what we were supposed to be. The whole time I was waiting for the man I met to come back, little knowing he either didn’t exist, or he only exists for others and not me. He put on his facade to get me, but once he said I do, his part was complete. I realize now that he was going through the motions of being married and it was his version. We couldn’t share insights like we did to begin with and apparently that was a smoke screen too. But I have my children and if he doesn’t or can’t relate, that’s his problem. I no longer buy into any guilt. I, too, can say, so what?
At least we were given the opportunity of seeing and escaping before we lived our alloted time. We can taste freedom and have the chance to create a new past. One in which we have input. We no longer have to be at the mercy of someone who doesn’t care. And if we try again, we can love that someone like they love. Let them set the pace, but not give our hearts and trust to them. Total trust, to me, is just a license for them to take ownership and do what they want to do. Take them on a trial basis, only they don’t know that. And if we see the old pattern emerging we are already prepared. But for me, I’m glad I have the independence to be able to go it alone.
For those of us who choose to take God’s words literally, He says, through Christ, that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That means to me, I am just as worthy as the next one for having a happy existence with or without someone. Galatians 5 talks about the fruits of the spirit vs the fruits of the flesh, and I think that’s where we find a lot of our problems. So many don’t answer to God and they take all the credit for their life, rather than acknowledging Him. He says in all our ways to acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths. But one has to believe to have faith. I always felt if we were at one with God, we can be at one with each other. So maybe some of what we go through is really a battle of Satan vs God and we are the battlefield. I’m just glad I’m on the other side now. We can all encourage one another and can say, there is a brighter day ahead. At least we aren’t dodging bombs and bullets. When we fight the unseen, it’s a battle of wills and won’ts. I know for me, I’m tired of fighting. I will concede and walk away, the victor!!
Dr. Steve is right, these Ps are not great liars. Often times their lies are so way out there it is clear to everyone it is a lie. My guy continues to give out his favorite lie of owning a pink diamond worth $3.2 million. Everyone knows he is full of it! Even when the liar has been exposed though, do they hold onto these favorite lies? That is what perplexes me. They do weave quite a web of deceit. It is the lying about caring for someone that is vulnerable to them and in love that I believe is most destructive. I think back over the lies that he loved me. When I remember these things I have fond thoughts of being loved, then I am jolted into reality that it was all a lie. His actions proved he did not love me. Why is it that women need to hear the words, but don’t demand the words be followed by the actions? This is what makes us vulnerable to these people. What makes some women this way?
You know, I believe my guy’s lying began when he was a child. He was one of seven children. Perhaps he learned early on that he could get attention if he made up stories. Or, that he could make his life better and avoid punishment by lying. The reason I believe this is he is now very boastful of how he is teaching his 3 year old son to lie effectively to the boy’s mother. He and the child’s mother fight constantly, he now is getting the child to join in his lying to her. Sometimes it is simple stuff such as what the child had for lunch. To me it is sick. I wonder if this is how it starts? or how a P can pass on these traits to an offspring? I am sure there are genetic elements as well as learned behaviors, maybe this is one of the learned behaviors.
The lies often times don’t seem to support anything they are doing at the moment or have an apparent role in current or future manipulation of other people. It is just odd stuff that they will lie about. I often wonder what is sparked in their brain at that moment to cause the lie.
I am glad for this site. I honestly thought I was losing my mind because of this man. I couldn’t make sense of being loved and being treated so badly simultaneously. I worry about the children of these people. I can only imagine how confusing and destructive a P parent would be. Here I am a highly educated, professional woman who is capable in every other way, yet I was completely dupped by a psychopath. How in the world could a child survive, when an adult is no match for a psychopath?
All I can do now is count my blessings. I was never married to this guy or had a child with him. For all practical purposes I got away unscathed. He does have a wife and child, at some point he is going to hurt them in the biggest way. I know his wife already has mental issues and is dangerous in her own rite. The one I feel sorry for is their little boy, he couldn’t pick his parents. It is very sad.