Psychopaths pushing our buttons

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

Most of you know I have spent a good portion of my life training animals of various kinds dogs for obedience and to work livestock, horses, donkeys and cattle (oxen).

When we train animals, we “condition” them to do X and they receive Y reward. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, conditioned dogs to expect to be fed by ringing a bell every time they got fed. Eventually when a bell was rung, even though there was no food in sight, the animals expected to be fed, and their bodies reacted by making them “slobber” at the mouth, just as they would if food were present.

B.F. Skinner, and American psychologist, observed that animals who had intermittent rewards, rather than continual rewards, would continue a behavior longer than animals who got rewarded every time they did an act. For example, a rat that pushed a lever and got a grain of food every time, would quickly stop pushing it if the food didn’t com. But a rat that sometimes got a food pellet when he pushed the lever would continue to pound on the lever for a very long time, or even never stop pushing it, even though he did not get a food pellet.

In humans, this “intermittent” rewards works in a slot machine, or in gambling games, because every once in a while you get rewarded. Therefore, you keep hoping that next time will be THE TIME.

Psychopaths and intermittent rewards

You may ask what this training technique has to do with psychopaths. Well, just as Las Vegas was built on intermittent rewards for gamblers, relationships with psychopaths are built on the intermittent rewards they give us.

At the first part of the relationship, the psychopath “love bombs” us by giving us the good things we enjoy compliments, doing things for us, great sex. WOW! We think we have found nirvana. Just as a dog I am beginning to train gets a treat every time he “sits,” then only sometimes when he “sits,” the psychopath only gives us the “loving” some of the time. Also, just as I eventually no longer give the dog a food treat any time he “sits,” and the most he will get is a “good dog” verbal compliment, or a scolding if he doesn’t sit fast enough, the psychopath quits giving us treats and gives us “scoldings.”

We have been conditioned by the psychopath to be and do what they want, because we still desire that initial “love bombing,” and we dread the “scolding” they will give us if we don’t “jump” when they say “frog.” We keep on hoping against hope that we will be able to please them again. We do whatever we can to keep the scoldings to a minimum and get them to reward us with “love” again.

Running for bread

It doesn’t make any kind of difference if the animal we are training is a dog, a parrot, a donkey, an steer, a horse ”¦ the conditioning works the same. Intermittent rewards cause the desired behavior to continue. If we give continual rewards every time they perform the behavior, it wouldn’t take long for the behavior to be extinguished when we stopped rewarding it.

My mammoth jack donkeys, Fat Ass and Hairy Ass, haven’t had a piece of bread (their preferred treat) in a year or more. But any time I go to the hangar and open the freezer, they come running up to the fence on the never dying hope that I will get bread out of the freezer and give them a piece. They are totally “conditioned” to that treat, and they know that the opening and closing of the freezer is what always preceded them getting a slice of bread.

The psychopath we have had relationships with know what “rings our chimes,” what makes us happy and what makes us sad, or what makes us angry. It is like a panel of buttons on the front of our chest. They know just the exact words to say, or the thing to do, that will press our “buttons” and get the reaction they want from us.

No Contact is the answer

No Contact keeps those buttons covered. That is why it works.

Psychopaths know that in the past, if they pressed “button A,” you would do B. So they will keep on trying because IT ALWAYS WORKED IN THE PAST. They just know if they keep doing it, it will EVENTUALLY work again. So they will press it harder and faster and longer. Just like some old lady sitting at a slot machine, plugging in quarters, she just “knows” that the very next quarter will get her a reward. Just like my donkeys running up to the fence when I open the freezer, they still hope to get a slice of bread, a reward.

Expect when you go No Contact that the psychopath will up the ante and will work harder and longer to get a reaction. If it takes 30 times for them to eventually get a reaction, THEY LEARN THAT it takes 30 TIMES TO GET A REACTION. If next time it takes 40 times, they learn that they must work a bit harder to get a reaction, so they keep on and on and never stop.

So hang in there. Once you make up your mind to go NO CONTACT, then STAY no contact, because if you give them ANY reward of ANY kind, even a well deserved “cussing,” it is still a reward. It is ATTENTION, and even negative attention is attention. Not being noticed at all is the worst punishment they can have.

If you are required by law to have contact with them, like if you share children, do it only by e-mail, so that you have a record of it. Discuss ONLY the children. Do not respond to any nasty comments they make. Refuse to discuss the other person with your children, and Gray Rock them entirely. NO emotional responses at all. If possible, get someone else to pick up and drop off the kids, so you do not have to see him/her. Or do it in a public place, a police department parking lot if necessary.

We can stop them only by not responding. So when your ex is trying to push your buttons, just think about Joyce’s donkeys Fat Ass and Hairy Ass running up to the fence for a slice of bread. Visualize your psychopath with long ears, standing there trying to get a reaction from you, and then DON’T GIVE IT. Take control and refuse to allow the psychopath to make you respond to his/her button pushing!

God bless.

Fat Ass and Hairy Ass

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346 Comments on "Psychopaths pushing our buttons"

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Sparky, hang in there sweetie,, it will get better, but right now you are raw, so just cry when you feel like it and come here and read and learn. (((hugs)))


“Why not just say, Yeah, I tried being with one’s not who I am..and split on decent terms??? Why RAGE..AND PROJECT???”

You are trying to expect him to have some normal way of thinking, of being responsible and treat others with humanity.

Spaths will NEVER take responsibility. Even when they apologize for something, because they are cornered and still need something of their supply target, they will say something else next to rid themselves of self-blame.

Ex stole my cards one night, and when I discovered it and he refused to answer my texts I blocked the cards and texted I’d call the police. He sure came home fast then, with only one card since the other card had been swallowed by the ATM since I had reported it stolen and blocked it. So, when he had read my texts where it was clear I had discovered him taking my cards without permission, he had quickly tried to use it to take out more money. The game was over and he had to return. I kicked him out that day despite his apologies. He laid low, but the trauma bond addiction kicked in and I was afraid he’d disappear and wouldn’t take his plane back to Nicaragua without my supervision… which would eventually come back to me if he ever got into trouble (which I was sure of he would) and be planted on a plane by the state back home as an illegal in such case. I had signed financial responsibility for his 3 month stay, which meant it was also my responsibility to make sure he got on the plane back after 3 months. So, I took him back in. After that he said I was crazy to think of calling the cops on him.

He beat up a guy in front of me, by hitting the buckle of his belt in the guy’s face for NO GOOD REASON! I walked off disgusted. Then he came home all cheery end excited about it and gave some of his sandals as a gift to the young man who had asked him to join in that fight. Ex didn’t care one jot about my cold demeanor, but the young guy looked thoroughly ashamed when I scolded the both of them over it. Then he acted like a total ass on a birthday party in another pub of a friend of ours an hour later. So, I packed up my stuff and planned to take the first bus out to another town in Nicaragua.

Only mistake I made that night was to wait for him to say my goodbyes. First he said I was making too big a deal out of it. I was cold and unmovable. Then came the crocodile tears, that he was sorry and promises he’d never do it again, and not being able to go on without me, while he kissed me. That’s when I gave in. But as soon as I did, he made some remark on how I was so severe, and that he had done it for a GOOD reason (in his eyes): supposedly the guy had said something about my ass. I dismissed it as a total irrevelant excuse.

Spaths won’t and can’t take any kind of responsibility.

As long as you attempt to understand the mind of a spath as if he/she could think and act responsible, empathic – thus normal – you’ll confuse yourself.

I’m trying my best OxD..thanks.:)
Dar, omg…what a psycho..and, yes, I know it’s like I’m STILL beating my head against a brick wall. Ugh. I know this decision was for the best..for My daughter’s and my well being..and for a healthy future..and real love. I’m just PRAYING I don’t see him lingering around town… freak.

Much Love,

Well, let the games begin. Got a letter from douchebags lawyer. He needs his personal stuff..the shit he left behind. Some of which isn’t even his!! And, he stole many of my things when he left. He’s pissed because he got arrested for domestic now it’s punishment time. I just wish he would fuck off and leave me alone.

what was his name? what did he look like?

I’m really nervous because this sounds like someone i know.

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