Lovefraud received the following question from a reader:
When a sociopath targets his victim, does he think and create a plan as to HOW he is going to manipulate his prey to glean what he wants, or is this just second nature to him? How can he spend MONTHS being such a kind, considerate person, going out of his way to do the “little” things that matter in life, before turning into the evil monster?
When you have been deceived and manipulated by a sociopath, the most difficult idea to grasp is how totally different people with this personality disorder are from the rest of us. Their behavior is different from everything we thought we knew about human interaction.
Sociopaths—both male and female—seem to be missing the parts that make the human race human. There is no deep warmth. There is no true caring. There is only fake warmth and fake caring, which disappear immediately once sociopaths decide they have no further use for us.
How do they become like this? According to Dr. Liane Leedom, it’s their different motivation.
Power motivation v. love motivation
Normal people, who do not have a personality disorder, are motivated by both love and power.
We feel emotional love for family, friends, neighbors, and even animals or causes, that are important to us. We care about everything we love, which makes us take action to please, support and protect them.
Normal people also have a healthy power motivation. This is what makes us pursue achievement, leadership and recognition. But our power motivation is kept in check by our love motivation. Therefore, although we strive for accomplishment, we’re willing to strive fairly, without injuring other people as we pursue our goals.
In sociopaths, there is no balance between their love motivation and power motivation. The defining characteristic of real love is caring about another person’s health and wellbeing, and this is practically nonexistent in sociopaths. Their power motivation, however, is out of control. All they really want is to win, to control and to dominate others.
Born to be manipulative
Sociopathy (technically called antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy) is highly genetic. That means children can be born with a genetic predisposition to the personality disorder. Whether this genetic predisposition “expresses,” or becomes active, depends in part on the child’s environment, including the parenting he or she receives. When sociopathic parents are part of the child’s life, their notoriously bad parenting may encourage their offspring’s latent disorder to develop.
When children are born with a genetic predisposition to the personality disorder, what it means in practice is that they have a stronger power motivation than love motivation. From a very early age, these children derive little pleasure from warmth, affection and closeness, and much more enjoyment from getting what they want. Therefore, the children learn, essentially through trial and error, how to behave in order to get what they want. They learn manipulation techniques—and spend their lives perfecting them.
Games sociopaths want to win
To get back to the Lovefraud reader’s question, I think sociopaths pursue both avenues of manipulation, depending on the individual and circumstance. Yes, they think and plan about how to get you to deliver what they want. And yes, they’ve been doing it for so long that much of their behavior is second nature. They are opportunistic, so when chances to manipulate you pop up, they know exactly how to capitalize on them.
Because their objective is to win, sociopaths view their interactions with you as a game. Some sociopaths have the patience to play the game as long as necessary in order to score that win. Then, when they’veachieved their objective, they’re finished. The charade is over, and you find, to your horror, that everything the sociopath said and did was designed to deceive you.
Lovefraud originally published this post on April 15, 2013.