By | May 9, 2016 47 Comments

Psychopaths as puppet masters

puppeteer and puppet businessYou and I feel personal satisfaction through accomplishment, or warm human relationships, or being of service to others.

Psychopaths feel personal satisfaction through pulling the so-called strings and making people jump.

They do something that they know will upset you just to see you cry. They trap you into no-win situations to watch you squirm. They devalue and discard you, so they can watch you fall apart.

Why do they do this?

Social motivations

The answer lies at the heart of the personality disorder. According to Dr. Liane Leedom, psychopaths have an out-of-control power motivation.

Researchers have identified four social motivations. These are basic motivations that people, as social animals, have regarding other people. They are:

  • Attachment desire to be with other people, especially mates, family and tribe
  • Sex for enjoyment, bonding and reproduction
  • Caregiving doing what is best for other people’s health and wellbeing
  • Power desire for higher rank and privilege

Anyone can have these motivations to greater or lesser degrees. In most people, the social motivations balance each other out. For example, the power motivation makes people want to achieve and be leaders, so it isn’t necessarily bad. Usually, the attachment and caregiving motivations keep it in check. Most people are willing to go after what they want, but don’t want to harm other people in the process.

Psychopaths are different

Psychopaths feel the attachment motivation they want to be with other people. They certainly want sex. And they really want power.

They do not, however, experience the caregiving motivation. Psychopaths are really only interested in themselves, and have no concern at all about the welfare of others. (If they seem to be displaying concern, it’s only because they have an ulterior motive.)

The bottom line, then, is that psychopaths have a really strong power motivation, and no caregiving motivation to but the brakes on it. So what they really want in life is power and control.

Yes, they want sex, but they want power and control more. Psychopaths aren’t necessarily sex-crazed fiends. Many either engage in sex or withhold it in order to increase their power and control.

Do NOT react

Psychopaths love being the puppet master making other people react feeds their desire for power and control.

That’s why No Contact is so important. No Contact changes the dynamic. It takes you out of the psychopath’s feedback loop, because they can’t get their power-and-control fix.

If No Contact is not possible, or not possible yet, the next best strategy is DO NOT react. When psychopaths try to provoke you, do not respond emotionally at least in front of them. Even if you have to temporarily be the world’s greatest actress or actor, do not let them know that they’ve upset you.

If you can keep this up, hopefully the psychopath will get bored and lose interest in you. When you don’t react, you’re no fun anymore.

The idea is to cut the puppet master strings, so that you can achieve your freedom.


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Hope Springs


Protect yourself, and as a bonus, take away the SP’s fun (power play that is).

Great article. Cheers 🙂


If you don’t react, if you remain NO CONTACT, you take your power back and drive the psychopath crazy because he loses you as entertainment. No entertainment = a bored psychopath. Psychopaths need targets to play with in order to fight their incessant boredom which drives them crazy. If you want to win, you must starve the beast. No puppet, no toy to control and play with. Excellent post!


Another great written article by Donna. Thank you so much for validating my decision to divorce my ex husband sociopath. I have been no contact over 3 years now. And I call it “feedinghim his ego kibbles”. Kibbles he so desperately needs and wants to feed his ego, his existence , his image if being God. I stopped feeding him the day I filed for divorce. Even though we share a college age child , we stopped all communication with him. It cost me a fortune to let my attorney do the talking. But my sanity was priceless. For over 20 years I was his puppet in strings. So true. I did everything in my power to please him, to try to make him happy. In the end it was not enough. Nothing is ever enough. I was “replaced” with younger, fresher, more exciting supply in the form of a co worker. It caused me a lot of pain and skeepkess nights. Back then I thought I would never be ok again. My world was shattered , me dreams were give, my future unknown and shaky. I asked God to move mountains he did not move. But instead God removed evil out of my life. His plan was so much better than mine. While I prayed for my marriage to get restored God had other plans. Looking back now all I needed was my trust in God. And of course a good attorney. I am no longer a puppet on strings. I honestly forgot myself in this marriage. Being a puppet is not a life. I will remain no contact as long as I live because going back is not an option for me. It would be my death sentence. I value my emotional health much more than being in a relationship or marriage with someone who had absolutely no respect for me. As for him. I don’t care who he sees , where he lives and what he does. I am sure he has new puppets now. But all it matters that my strings were cut off and I was set free. The divorce made this final for ever.


Thank you Kaya, for posting this. So similar to mine. I am so excited about my future, and my heart still hurts when I remember the me who was so crushed after I had to end the 24-year marriage. I feel so sorry for “that” me… and wish I could have talked to the future me to know how thankful I’d become!! That was 4 years ago.


Yes. I still remember how crushed my heart was when he left us , his only family , one evening. He declared me mentally ill and he just left. Just like that. After over 20 years he walked out. I was in complete shock. I did not see it coming , I was not prepared. While he planned his exit for many months I was left devastated and in excruciating pain. I actually experienced physical symptoms. My heart was raising. My blood pressure was extremely high. And I went on. Day after day I went to work and I existed. That’s all I was capable of. Once I initiated the no contact I was finally able to focus on me. Not him anymore. I was done. I felt it in my heart to let go and accept it. My lawyer once asked “why are you so sad, give me one positive thing about this man “. He was right. There was nothing good about my husband , the marriage , the illusion of “family life”. It was basically all a lie. And yes I was acting the worst in my life for the last year before his exit. He left clues for me to doubt my sanity. I was constantly questioning if I was seeing the truth or imagining his affairs. I finally had pictures and proof that I was not crazy. Thinking back I am not proud of my behavior. But it is in the past , it ended with my divorce filing. And I stayed strong thtoughout this bitter divorce. I finally became a warrior instead of a puppet. And for that I am still proud of myself. Divorce is always “bad”. Divorcing a police officer takes it to a new level. But in the end I was victorious and yes my life is happy again. I don’t think back anymore. Even the “good times” with him are erased from my memory. I am thankful and blessed for my son. He is nothing like his father. And he will never be like his father. Because my son has a heart instead of an ice block at its place.
Is you are still a “puppet”. Stay strong. Sever all ties , change your email , your phone no and stay away from social websites. We lived without Facebook before and we can do it again. Don’t give them one inch crack in the door. Just close the door on them completely. Shut for good. That’s what I did and it saved my life.


I went NO CONTACT with my Narcopath in December 2014 after 18 months of severe emotional abuse and struggled trough recovery and I do mean struggle! I lost my job; fell into a deep depression and anxiety and just now am able to see my way to a near-normal life. On April 15, 2016 I received a text from him (from a new number) asking: “Do you think we could be friends again?” I replied only that he should go F*** himself. I got no response to that and don’t think I’ll hear from him again….No fun if I don’t play along! Excellent article Donna. Thank you for this page!


Just want to say thanks for your comments and the article. I have only just found this website. I broke it off with my partner 3 months ago but due to circumstances only moved out from him 2 weeks ago, although I did spend 5 weeks with my sick mother during that time. I like many others didn’t realise the abuse I was subjecting myself to, as he made me believe that I was the crazy one! Reading articles on this site has opened my eyes to who he actually is. He had a car accident last week and I fell for the whole feeling sorry for him line, inwish I could take that back! Henthrew it back in my face! I now understand that no contact is the only way I can regain my sanity. I know it’s a slow process to come to terms with what you think you have lost! I look forward to the support I have found on here.

Hope Springs

How wonderful for you thelittleone! 🙂 You are well on your way to a better life.

Welcome to the site. It is also wonderful.

Cheers to you.


Thanks Bev, glad to have found you all!

Hope Springs



Damn I was doing so well and now he has activated my empathy!!! Damn damn damn why? Why does it work??? I know I shouldn’t respond but it’s hard!!

Hope Springs

Why? You are doing what we have all done.

Don’t worry…it’s normal. Nothing is wrong with you.



bev the site won’t let me reply! In need of support!


Damn was doing so well with NC! Why do they pop up??


Damn I responded with he can see that if he wants to obviously not the response he wanted as I haven’t heard back I’ve I was nice! I am not expecting a response and don’t care which is good!


Thanks ladies appreciate your support!

Hope Springs

If you do hear back from him you could say: ‘I have changed my mind. I don’t care if you miss the dogs. I do not want any contact with you ever.’

Cheers 🙂


Thanks Bev! Very good advice xx


As a trainee neurologist I can tell you that their brain is different- their grey matter density and amygdala are different from us. So in a sense its a genetic predisposition and we cant blame them. We can only blame ourselves for not being wise and observant to recognise them and fall under their spell.

Change yourself, dont take on their emotional and financial problems, you should benefit from relationship, not detriment!


Hi shenik, I understand their brains are wired differently and that maybe they can’t help themselves, but sometimes very intelligent, wise people who are having fragile times get hooked under their spell. As for myself I was in a low point and didn’t see what was happening to me! Unless people are educated on these people it’s hard not to get sucked in. As a neurologist you will also understand the chemical reactions that happen in a victims brain to keep them hooked if they don’t get out quick enough.


Shenik, I would highly recommend that you educate yourself on exactly what sociopaths do to their victims to destroy every aspect of their victims lives purposely & intentionally. Most if not all victims end up crawling out of the sociopaths hellish life that they thrusted their victims into.

You state:

“…Change yourself, dont take on their emotional and financial problems, you should benefit from relationship, not detriment!”

ABSOLUTELY NOT….you IMMEDIATELY follow the NO CONTACT RULE and get this mentally crazy evil person out of your life for EVER!!!!

This is the ONLY option to have a normal, peaceful & calm life again.

With a sociopath in your life you only get “detriment” (meaning loss) in your life!

And by the way the Sociopath knows EXACTLY what they are doing by using manipulation, brain washing, mind control, gas lighting, reward & punishment technique, installing fear & phobia’s into their victims mind, serial cheating, pathological lying, abusing their victims every way!! THEY KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG AND KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS NOT NORMAL ETHICAL AND MORAL BEHAVIOR!! But they chose to continue their evil behavior for the pure joy of it. They are like a cat playing with a mouse.

How do I know this because most sociopaths that walk this planet are not killers or criminals but blending into society.

I wonder about you & your post as your word chose is a RED FLAG.

You specifically use the word “detriment” meaning “loss”. IF you stay in any kind of relationship with a sociopath you end up losing everything, your sanity, your home, your job, your friends etc all because the sociopath will manipulate you and break your spirit down.

You should not have to “change” when you are with other healthy minded people…you will just want to grow as a human being. HUGE DIFFERENCE!!

Lesson learned:


Hope Springs

I don’t like this post at all.

We should have NO CONTACT with these disordered people. We should not try and ‘understand’ them. We should avoid them.

It may not be their ‘fault’ that they are born this way, but there is no changing it. No amount of love or support can change them.



As a new student to psychopath and trying to make sense of the last 17 years of my life, I am open to my part in this “game”. I agree with you that it is their nature to want to abuse, dupe, play, use others, etc… I also agree with you that we should protect ourselves from these predators. However, through my own observations, mainly in the context of my divorce, I have come to the conclusion that these types know exactly what they are doing. They fully understand right from wrong. And when they choose to do the wrong thing they know it. They have weighed their decisions and their prey and it is a calculated choice. I could list many examples of how my spath pushes the court to its outer limits and only when the gavel is about to fall does the tactic change. And change it does, to continue the game. My spath has defied the court, played it, and only when he knows the court’s patience is nearing it’s end does he comply, kind of. He lives to play another day. I am convinced that what I thought was behavior which he couldn’t control is fully within his control. He is culpable.


“The Puppeteer,” Poem I wrote 10 years ago.

The Puppeteer

You want to pull the strings.

Pull the strings to make me smile.
If I smile and it’s not you pulling my strings,
you’ll cut off the smile string and make me cry instead.

You want to pull the strings to make me sexy.
If I’m sexy and you haven’t pulled the sexy string,
You’ll pull yourself away from me,
or push me away from you,
until the time you decide it’s time to pull the string to make me sexy,
when you want me to lie there and please you, do whatever you command, on demand.

You want to pull the strings to make me happy.
If I’m happy and you haven’t pulled my happy string,
you’ll do your best to be sure that my happiness falls flat on its face, and that I begin to cry.
You’re the ultimate kill-joy to MY happiness, unless it’s YOUR happiness you want, making me dance on a string.

You think you have the answers, Mister Puppeteer.
Well guess what?
I’ve cut the strings.
Now instead of holding a warm friend who loved you,
(that’s until she figured out who you really were — merely a puppeteer)
All you are holding
are a couple of dry sticks.

And I am dancing free.


Thank you, Donna! Glad you like my poem.


Spaths are puppet masters, indeed. They find a way to get us hooked on them. Then, once we are, they usually have us right where they want us. With my 2nd ex gf, she had me hooked with constant sex, and various other forms of manipulation.

As time went on, however, I began to start questioning things. Whenever I would, she’d find a way to turn around and either turn it back on me or toss the questioning aside entirely.

Looking back on it, I wonder how I missed the signs that I dismissed at the time. Spaths, when they get bored and move on (Well, those that do), always leave us bewildered and confused. Or is that just me? lol


Hi Jericho534, well, it’s not just you — here’s one more anyway, who has experienced the same as you. Each and everything you say, is me, too, except my ex was a man and I am a woman. We had amazing, great sex for 11 years, and that was so hard to give up! It was what kept me there. He got meaner and grouchier as time went on. He is the kind of person, too, who tries to destroy people’s closely held value systems. I even saw him try to do that with a four year old boy! The boy, a sweet little neighbor of mine who used to come over and songs with me and my piano, enthusiastically, “I am four!” to which the ex reacted with “Really, no ____boy’s name _________ is it all that important how old you are?” I asked the boy if he was uncomfortable with the man, and he did what kids do — not say, Yes directly, but shuffle around and say “….sort of…..” and I told the ex to lay off. I saw him pulling the hair of his young nephews — hard — and he even grabbed me by my hair one time and dragged me on the hard-packed summer ground.


Guys like your ex make my job harder. It makes it beyond hard to get a woman to want to be in a serious relationship. I am truly sorry for what you went through 🙁 I hate people who abuse others……


How right you are, Jerecho534. I’m super leery of men now, except by some miracle I met a man 4 years ago at match dot com, who treats me really well. We NEVER, EVER fight — verbally or any other way, never call each other names, never yell at each other, and are both respectful of the other. WE have tons of mutual interests and activities together. When we disagree, we talk briefly then agree to disagree. He is not always comfortable in disagreeing, but he does not get really upset, and soon gets over it. He’s the only close man, even those in my immediate family of origin, who has ever been so good to me. I’ve finally learned, too, that nobody is perfect, not him either. But we can and have worked out some stuff. For example, he would get road rage when someone cut him off on the road. He would honk back real loud. I complained once or twice, and he just kept justifying it. Then I said, “You know what? You are endangering ME, not just yourself. If you want to do road rage when you are alone in the car, I can’t do anything about that. But when I am in the car, you gotta not do it. Plus, you could get yourself shot!” He continued to be irritated at me, saying people needed to know that they had done somethign wrong. But you know what? He has not done road rage again my strong talk. He does not like to back down in any type of discussion, but very often (when we disagree, which is not often anyway) he will hold onto his position in the discussion, but the matter ends righti there, and he changes his behavior. He’s a slow mover, and it took him 3 years one time, but he did it. I do want to add, though, that I had a teacher who was good to me, in a way no other teacher had been. When I was 28, I met the first competent piano teacher I’d ever had. I had played piano since I was 8 and never got where I wanted to be with it. He was so kind to me (and all his students, some of which came 1000 miles to have a lesson!) that he completely changed my life. He taught me how to see what was right in playing the piano, instead of focusing on errors or mistakes that I would make. I told him “You have changed my life!” and he said that his wonderful piano teacher when he was an adult, changed his life, so he could do it for others. He also told his students,”anyone who learns this way has an obligation to teach others.” I took him at his word, and later taught piano. I had learned so much from him that my teaching inspired several hundred students over the 20 years I taught. Occasionally, one would say, in amazement: “This works IN LIFE, too!”


Sorry for the way late response. It sounds like you’ve got a good one. And before I gave up on love for good, I tried match dot com last year for a few months. I got no responses, but I guess you can call it a learning experience?

The problem is that there are genuinely good people out there, it’s just hard to find them in a world of spaths.


Hi Jericho, that’s odd that you got absolutely no responses. I contacted a few men, and I think a few contacted me, but I’m not sure. Did you try contacting some people at match dot com? I suppose you did? Have you looked over some suggested “formats” or sample scripts that might help get some responses? Some of the men I met were very nice people, but were not interested in seeing me again. Some were creepy, from my personal perspective, and I sensed mutual dislike! And be sure you meet in a pleasant public place with plenty of people around. Sometimes I met at a nearby coffee house. One time I invited a guy (the one I’m with now!) to meet at a very populark, large rose garden, with plenty of people walking around. Any popular park would be nice, at least for me, because I love nature and would expect any partner of mine to love nature, too.


Another great post. I’ve been keeping no contact for a couple of years. I work with the SP and most people I work with think highly of the SP, which makes it harder because I know the truth about who he really is. The other day, he found out that I would be traveling for work, called me and told me I was being shady for not telling him. Remember we are at work so it’s not like I can just walk away or hang up. It really upset me that he talks to me like we are in each other’s lives but he doesn’t not act like it. He recently realized I blocked him on my phone and he has been emailing me and telling me to unblock him, which I haven’t and won’t.

My therapist thinks I should consider a restraining order or talk to my boss about having less contact with him at work. I feel like that is harsh and unprofessional–I prefer to keep my personal and professional life separate. I hate that he tries to control me even when I am at work and doing my best to minimize contact but I don’t know how to prevent it. And while I am aware of this and trying to move on, it keeps me stuck in a way.

What are your experiences or thoughts on telling an SP s/he is an SP? Do they care? Do they feel outed and then retaliate? Is it enough that you know? Any other tips for those of us who work with an SP?


The “shall I tell him and would he care” Question has been plaguing me recently as my SP has his wife watching me and I want to tell her she’s still being used 10 years after our affair!!
They have separated recently but she still wants him and tries to irritate me on a regular basis.
I believe if I told him he would respect my opinion as he has a deeper obsession with me ( he punishes) me regularily) but I can’t prove it. So, that said maybe ignorance actually is blissful??? â¤ï¸


I understand. I guess we have to remind ourselves that it doesn’t matter if s/he cares. I thought that if I said to him that I know he’s a sociopath he would step back a bit–he would be exposed and stop abusing me ( I consider his actions at this point to be abusive). I have a feeling it would incite him along the lines of what Donna said above.

It’s very frustrating to be “controlled” by someone when all you want is to be free and move on…


Hi Steps, Whenever I would come up with something about improving our relationship, the alcoholic I was married to foe 9 years, would say in irritation: “What have you been reading NOW???” First of all, if you tell your significant other/husband that he’s a sociopath, he probably won’t believe you, or accept this. I also think it could be dangerous. Also, it would just give him more power over you because he’s know you are onto his tactics and he’d develop/conjure up, more subtle tactics against you. I hope you can find a way out of this relationship. Another caveat: If you have any books on how to escape, or how to handle this bad situation do NOT leave them around where he can find them. Maybe even leave them at the home of a trusted friend. Two books I’d recommend: “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” by Patricia Evans, and “Getting Free” by Ginny Nicarthy. Both of these helped me escape.
Both these books warn painting leaving them around where he can find them. About verbal abuse: I had a good friend from AlAnon, who reoommeded the one on verbal abuse. She said that something my then husband was saying was verbal abuse. I was very amazed! I asked here, What’s verbal abuse? How do I know this is verbal abuse?” She said, “Read the book. Then if you have any more questions call me.”

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