By | May 13, 2010 236 Comments

Sociopaths and “The Crying Game”

Are sociopaths who cry “sensitive sociopaths,” or just extra clever sociopaths? What’s going on when sociopaths cry? Is their crying ever sincere, or always insincere? Is it ever deep, or always superficial? Always calculated, or sometimes spontaneous?

In short, what’s the deal with sociopaths and the crying game?

There are some sociopaths—more classical, Cleckley-like sociopaths—who can “cry on demand,” by which I mean cry, as if spontaneously, from a consciously manipulative agenda. Many of these sociopaths can summon displays of emotional vulnerability, like tearful anguish and contrition, with the skill of the gifted character actor.

In some cases, to extend the metaphor, some sociopaths—in the moment—may be so in character as to “virtually believe” in the authenticity of their presentations. These sociopaths may conjure tears, for instance, and then see the tears they’ve conjured as evidence, as ratification, of the sincerity of their response.

I use the term “virtually believe” to denote the sociopath’s capacity, in these cases, to almost delude himself into believing that he’s as sensitive and vulnerable as his presentation would suggest, when in fact—that is, when in reality—he’s, of course, shallow and fraudulent.

Conversely, there are also sociopaths who, producing seemingly spontaneous displays of vulnerable emotion, remain aware of the inauthenticity of their theatrics. That is, these sociopaths recognize that they are acting even as they may be successfully convincing others that they’re not.

What partly covers, or protects, sociopaths who engage the “crying game” is the inherent challenge of separating spontaneity and authenticity. That is, we tend to assume that what’s spontaneous is also authentic—indeed, that spontaneity itself virtually proves authenticity.

But this is a fallacy, which is to say that what’s spontaneous isn’t necessarily authentic. The sociopath’s ability, for instance, to conjure tears spontaneously—that is, at any given, self-serving moment —certainly doesn’t certify his emotional display as authentic.

But is this to say that sociopaths’ tears and crying are always, by definition, inauthentic? I wouldn’t say so, at least not definitively. But I would suggest that where, arguably, the sociopath’s tears are not a product of sheer manipulativeness and inauthenticity, the emotion(s) driving his tears will, by definition, be shallow and invariably selfish.

So, for instance, the sociopath choking up in the courtroom upon hearing the verdict “guilty” that will lock him away for life, may be conveying real emotion—he may really feel bad, upset; however, to the extent that he’s really suffering, we can know that he’s suffering not from what he took or stole from his victim(s), but from what he feels has been taken or stolen from him (for instance, his freedom).

He will suffer, in a word, as victim, not victimizer.

And should he appear to “grieve” his situation—versus protest it with his narcissistic rage—again let me stress: he will be grieving as victim, not victimizer. And his grief, like everything else about him, will be shallow, and dissipate quickly; and then he’ll reinhabit his usual state of emotional nullity.

But again, even in cases where his disarming loss of emotional composure—his tearfulness, for example—isn’t purely manipulative and play-acting, we can surmise that, often, this will reflect less the sociopath’s genuine, deeply felt emotion, like sadness, than a buildup of tension and stress associated with developments unfavorable to his interests (for instance, a jury’s return of “guilty”)—all of which may culminate in an emotional discharge of tension, which occasionally may take the disarming form of a passing squall of tears.

(Thanks to Lovefraud member Newlife, inspirer and friend, for prompting my initial consideration of this subject, which I intend to expand in a near-term post. As always, my use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake, and not to suggest that females are incapable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)  

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of


I have been struggling putting his emotions in perspective lately due to planning my daughter’s Sweet 16 party.

I will abide by her wishes of whether he attends or not and the role she wants him to play – at least within reason.

But after all the damage done , there is still a spot in me that finds it difficult to hurt him deliberately – as in NOT having him at her party at all. I also can’t process whether he will be uncomfortfable being there – like an outsider – and somehow the thought of this hurts me. Maybe it is the hope things had been different – the remaining twinge of “the way things should be “. I don’t know where to sit him, I don’t know if he will approve of the party for her (but I don’t care about that part ), I don’t know if he will use it against me.

This feeling – I can’t sort through it – of not wanting to treat him poorly and see his feeling rejected and hurt – I have no reason to even care what he feels anymore.

So – if I put it in the perspective of your article today – that his feelings are for himself and NOT for the loss of the relationship with his 16 year old daughter, standing there – looking lovely in her ball gown at her party – wanting nothing more than her dad to be real – if I can wrap my head around the fact that he hurts for what is done to HIM alone – maybe I will get through the night with my tears and emotions under control.

And hopefully my child will – she’ll have the memory she seems to want – of dancing with her dad on her night – knowing who he is beyond the role he plays.

Thank you , my dear friend and mentor , – as always – for your wisdom and compassion – lifting us up to new levels of understanding with each of your writings.


Oh, Steve, thank you SO much for this article!!!!! It validates everything that Survivors have experienced with the spaths! They’re incredible actors, aren’t they? When I’ve payed attention to my gut instinct, it’s usually been spot-on: Susan Smith “cried” on National news for someone to bring her boys back. Her shoulders shook. Her face contorted. But, nary a single tear slid down her cheek. There was something so vacant about her display of emtion that I watched and said, out loud, “Mom, she killed those boys, herself.”

Same thing goes with the former spath friend. She sat in my living room and heaved her shoulders, dabbed at her eyes, and wailed about how her husband had beaten her for his SUSPICIONS of her having an affair. All of this after I had learned some disturbing conversations that she’d had with numerous people and confronted her with what I’d been told. Instant light switch! It wasn’t about what she had done to me, it was suddenly about HER and this allegation of spousal abuse! The instant she switched that light, it was Katie-bar-the-door, you’re OUT!

Excllent article, Steve – thank you so much for putting this into clear perspective!

Elizabeth Conley

“some sociopaths—in the moment—may be so in character as to “virtually believe” in the authenticity of their presentations. ”

I’ve seen this. I’ve seen a sociopath so involved in his own drama that he felt “victimized” because his show did not convince me of his veracity. For me to respond to his show of “righteous indignation” with weary disgust was fresh victimization to him. Victimization he saw as me victimizing him, and not the other way around.

He had entirely forgotten that his show was just that, a dramatic production. He’d gotten himself “in character” to the point that my weary, faintly disgusted response seemed to him like “fresh cruelty” on my part.

His large number of siblings, neighbors, and a long string of former associates have all deliberately distanced themselves from him. He’ll freely admit this, and explain that in each case it was they who were cruel to him.

I’ve been there in the hot seat, watching his drama and feeling entirely unmoved, except for a firm conviction that nothing but distance could protect me from the sociopath’s remarkable showmanship.

For those who haven’t witnessed the pattern, his dramatic performances are entirely convincing. It takes patient observation to catch on.

To this particular sociopath, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” He has no idea why so many have fled his theater. His distress over these desertions is among his few genuine emotions.


Mine cried alot in the first month that I met him.. It was over serious things that ocurred in his life, like the death of his son..13 years ago.. and other things.. he could talk about certain thing and tears would well-up.. I listened and felt compassion but it felt like he was unloading on me too soon in the relationship.. like he was dumping all his past hurts onto me.. and I felt burdened…and when he professed his love for me and that I was the soulmate that he had been looking for all his life, it felt ‘nice’ but also too intense and toooo soon.. so while being in the relationship.. I held him at arms length.. one of the last times that we were togther over a year ago.. he told me he loved me and tears well-up in his eyes… it just didn’t feel didn’t feel totally false but it didn’t feel real.. he used the display of emotion and words.. and it never quite felt right.. I wonder did he feel anything reallly for me or was it all orchestrated and contrived..
Then there are they men that never show emotion.. I don’t know which is worse. Then after we broke up and I tried to contact him to see if he wanted the things that he left at my house.. he will not respond at all… It is like I don’t exist to him… and I recall that he sold most all his things when he moved in with me.. it is like he just moves on and nothing means much to him..


If you are uncertain about whether someone is being sincere when they cry, I would suggest paying attention to WHEN they cry, WHAT they are crying over, and WHO they are crying in front of.

And, if you believe the crying is coming from a place of manipulation, then you need to watch what happens AFTER the crying is over…..especially if the “crier” does NOT get their way.

There’s usually HELL TO PAY for someone if the crying performance does not pay off for an abuser.

That usually means you are dealing with a perverse narcissist/sociopath….not good.

~My brother’s wife is Oscar-worthy when it comes to crying.
It’s very difficult to determine if someone’s crying is sincere from just one isolated incident.
There will be other red flags (besides the crying) that will help you put it all together.


Also, I haven’t been able to cry .. really cry in ages.. with tears.. and at times, I feel the ‘crying’ inside of me and wish that I could cry hard but I can’t.. it’s like all the stress, emotionally manipulation and hurt in my life from those that use and abuse me emotionally has block something in me.. I wish that I could cry…


Dear Steve, thank you for your article. I observed very disturbing facts in my little godchild recently. She is 8 years old now and I had to look after her because my sister attends a course in another city.

My niece told her schoolfriends that the dog has died, a very beloved old dog, and to the surprise of everybody my sister was collecting her WITH THE DOG ALIVE. As my sister confronted her with her “tale” the little niece got blank, I was present at the scene as my sister was about to leave for her school and I had “to take over”, it was frightening to observe for me! Her lame excuse to her mum was that she has not seen the dog a while and she was imaging her death and had told the others.

(obviously she got lots of consolation during school, friends of her cried in school out of sympathy and the teacher had to have a special lesson on how it is when a beloved animal dies, and she obviously kept on with her convincing performance!!!)

My sister asked her then what she would tell the teacher, as he informed her about the facts, then they rehearsed a bit, but it was no big deal to either of them!!! No feelings involved, nada. My sister even seemed slightly amused on her back teeth about the fantasies of her wonderful child!

(I remember vividly when our first dog died I was 8 years old too and I cried and prayed to god and I was devastated for weeks, and it was far more distressing than the dead of my Italian nonna with whom I could hardly speak)

Anyway my niece can cry and shed tears “on command”, and she has been able to do this since age three (she is even proud of it, as I have been proud of being able to wiggle my ears)

I tried to teach her feelings or at least to try to “walk in the shoes of the other”, and what it feels like having lost someone significant, and that it is not OK to be on “sick leave” quite often because she hates school and wants to be around her mother who rarely has time for her. She is also very good in producing convincing headaches and a terrible coughing. When she is sick she is allowed to watch TV all the time and no school of course!

I feel like Sisiphus sometimes.

She has told me too “when Mummy dies I have to come to you” (my sister is a single mum), with no sad undertone, as a matter of fact!! How can she think and say such things!? A threat to be nice to her? (my sister also has told me recently in front of my niece/godchild that because of my behaviour towards my niece as I am constantly in battles with the two of them she will reconsider her will to give the niece to me, which I clearly consider a BIG threat)

On the other hand my niece says at times that she hates me as I am very strict as there is NO TV or very rarely, but we do lots of plays or cooking or gardening or other stuff together.

The last times I had always a good excuse for NO TV, computer games and the like as she constantly challenged me on EVERYTHING (be it socks on the cold floor, shower after horseriding or cleaning up after herself; but her mum was also a brat at that time and I had to clean after her because I was too fed up and did not want to embarrass our maid).

I do not know how to react to all of these things. They (my mother, my sister) constantly say to me that it is normal for a child to be like that, that the healthy ones challenge, that I am not used to children as a spinster. The two girls (9 and 11 years old) of my brother are very nice, dear, sweet, funny and not exhausting. My mother told me that THAT was NOT NORMAL as they try to be nice as they are insecure because my brother is divorced and the second wife does not like those girls, and their own mother is a psychological wreck. And that my godchgild is a selfconfident child daring to challenge the grown ups.

What do you think as a professional?


Rosa [Hell to pay] yep you know what your talkin about.


hi hens!


Dear Steve, well I have to add that the father of my godchild is a controlling toxic person (I suppose a S/P), they separated when my godchild was 9 months old and he never ever saw the child again, and my sister is probably a N (and our parents are a N mother and a P-father, and the brother turned out to be a toxic N at least too). So heavy genetics are involved, and I am very concerned to be not able to correct any of the preconditions, specially with my limited contacts I have now with them all (I am unpacking my moving boxes in my wonderful new flat and I am looking for a new job) .

Do you have some advice for me how to handle these situations? (any seasoned mother/father is also of help for a helpless spinster 😉 )


Hi onesteppers how you be?


hanging in 😉

am applying for a gooood job. and today am trying hard to avoid working on the resume. am succeeding.

it’s beautiful here. all the trees are leafed out. i can see the nieghbor’s huge old willow swaying in the wind when i work in the kitchen, so am sitting here watching it.

energy up days are so awesome. days with only a little physical pain (like today) are awesome. days without dealing with spathy stuff are awesome. have had such a lot of physical pain lately. and there is this darkness about me – am trying to watch it and see what it is about, and what it is telling me.

got a whack of food from the foodbank. makes me tres happy.

okay – gotta go work on the resume now. have a great day!


libelle – just wanted to say hi, good to see you!


Dear One! Hi back to you! You seem and sound so much better, I am so happy for you!


Fingers are crossed for your wonderful new job

And I hope that your batteries are recharged for good ((((hugs))))

PS re the darkness: for me it would be a screen for prevention of TOO MUCH GOOD 😉

Ox Drover

It is sort of indicitive too, of what they are wanting to accomplish with their tears. When my egg donor was trying to convince me to “forgive” (read:trust and pretend he was honorable) Uncle Monster for his heinous behavior to his mother, wife and children, and have christmas dinner with him at her house, she would cry so broken-heartedly that I was the one “‘ruining” her Christmas by not giving in to her wishes…I remember asking her if she realized what she was doing to MY Christmas and her tears became wracking sobs, but I don’t think she in anyway “got it” (the point) she did later though, Punish me for not giving in.

Seems like, looking back on it, that “tears of persuasiion” always preceeded rages of punishment and anger if I did not give in to the tears!


Steve this is so true…

I had the opportunity to watch my ex sociopath boyfriend cry two times and the last time it really sounded so pathetic and fake (at that time we were going to a turmoil in our relationship as I was decided to end it and he was begging me to not to). Anyway, we went to this religious event and we all had to bend down on our knees to pray and all of a sudden this guy started crying as there was no tomorrow. I even felt compelled to put my hand over his shoulders and comfort him but something told me not to. The best part of it is to come. After all that cry he just raise up his head, cleanse the few tears left and for my big surprise his face looked so fresh and happy as if nothing happened, he was smiling and behaving like “job is done let’s move on to other excitements”. It was a big cry with no emotion whatsoever, by that time I knew nothing about SP but I felt awkward with that theatrical scene, made me wonder about him. Now I know the answer.

Ox Drover

Dear Libelle,

I suggest that you keep on setting LIMITS for your godchild’s behavior in YOUR house. NO ONE, including her, should be alloowed to lie and act rudely in YOUR home.

In YOUR home, YOU set the rules! I have often taken care of children of others who were allowed in their own homes to be rude, messy, etc. and I would tell them up front. This is MY house and I make the rules how people act in MY house. So, no matter how you are allowed to behave at HOME, since I make the rules here, here are the rules…pick up your toys when you are finished. Say please and thank you, no whining etc. then ENFORCE those rules.

“Sweetie, you seem to have forgotten the rules about picking up your toys, so please do that now.” If she protests, then say somethning like “I will just sit here until they are p;icked up and we will not be able to do so-and-so until they are picked up” then sit there. Ifr it takes a long time (like an hour or so) then say afterwards, “Well, you took, so long picking up your toys that I am sorry we won’t be able to do so-and-so now, there is not time left. But next time you will pick up your toys quickly and we can go on to other things.

If they are “ill” (faking it) to keep from going to school, I would make a BIG DEAL about HOW ILL they were and KEEP THEM IN BED, no TV, no games, no books, lights out, shades drawn, and bread and water only for their poor little stomach. I would also come up with some FOUL tasting fake medicine (harmless of course) concentrated Kool-aide without sugar disolved in a bit of water is a good one. The purpose of this was of course to give them a NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCE to their lying about being sick rather than rewarding them by allowing them to have a “free” day home. If they say “Oh, I’
mm feeling better now so I can get up, you say “Oh, no dear, if you get up I am sure your head ache will come back and you must stay in bed” then keep them there even if it means you must sit by them or lie down by them. All the3 while of course pretending you thought their lie about beinbg “so sick” earlier was true. LOL hee hee About twice of this will usually CURE them of faking illness.



When I was in kindergarten, I did not have anything for “Show & Tell” time, and I was afraid to tell the class that I had nothing to share.
So, when my turn came around for “Show & Tell”, I told the class that my Mom was pregnant (LIE).

Of course, everyone got all excited for me…..even the teacher.

Everything was going great until my Mom and I ran into my kindergarten teacher at the grocery store.

Of course, my kindergarten teacher took the opportunity to congratulate my Mom on her “pregnancy”.
I was busted and I had to confess to my lie.

I guess my point is that it is not unusual for kids to lie sometimes.
It does not always mean the kid is sociopathic.

In my case, I was just a stressed-out kindergartener who wanted to make a splash at “Show & Tell” time.
Mission accomplished. 🙂

The important thing is I learned EARLY that it is always better to be honest.
And lying is a dead-end street that will leave you looking like a fool everytime.



you say:

‘ he told me he loved me and tears well-up in his eyes” it just didn’t feel didn’t feel totally false but it didn’t feel real..’

I think that’s it, if it’s real it feels real. Usually I feel closer to someone who REALLY cries. But with the P I was always wondering …is he crying? as yes there was big welled up drops that kind of spilled over (no red face or stuttered words, no redness or embarrassment) but there was always a doubt in my mind about the emotional depth of his tears.

in two years he cried twice. once when I left to go home after spending weekend, he wanted me to stay….(note HE WANTED SOMETHING, and yes I drove back like a fool) the other time when I found out he was chatting explicitly to woman on internet, I shouted the place down and told him to get out as he was walking in with huge valentines hamper on valentines day!! he was really angry first, “oh no….that meant nothing! you were so busy…I felt alone….sorry…then “crying” on knees please…very convincing because I gave in crying myself and allowed him to comfort me….should have kicked him out immediately….but he got his way both times…I was a pushover

I am a crier myself. I cry when I feel like crying and don’t make a big deal of it. The P hated it he started out comforting me, then walking out saying well if you think crying will help fine but Ido not have to listen to it… It can happen when I’m driving and I hear a song I love, sad movie, friend telling me something sad, at the thought of my parents dying….so many things…but there was a 4 month period after the P I just couldnt cry. I was wide awake, kind of zombie like and could not feel anything except waves of fear and numbness. It was shock I guess. It was so big I blocked it out. Then the tears came and I cried like a baby, still grieving to this day nearly 1 year no contact

Style1 I hope the tears come for you too..They heal, cleanse, soothe.


Thanks.. I would love to have a nice long cry with tears streaming down my face.. I think that it would really be cleansing for me..

One night in a dream, I was crying.. I forgot most of the dream, but that I was crying.

Crying is healthy when real … as it cleanses…

I am tired of taking care of needy men…

I want to be able to cry and relax….

Now, I use working out as a release… and it does help..

I cried years ago when I saw the movie THE NOTEBOOK… That was my last big cry.. and it felt great.. maybe, I need to see a really sad movie…



Here are some movies that made me cry:

“Million Dollar Baby” – Starring Hillary Swank and Clint Eastwood.

“Titanic” – Starring Leonardo Di Caprio & Kate Winslett

“Ghost” – Starring Demi Moore & Patrick Swayze

“Love Story” – Starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw

“Sophie’s Choice” – Starring Meryl Streep

“The Thorn Birds” – Mini Series from 1983


Dear Rosa, dear Oxy, thank you so much!! I am HUGELY relieved by your answers! Well my sister made it clear to her daughter that she has to get along with the adult ruling the house in her absence; and she DID shower and clean up, but it was very stressing for me just to wait patiently during the “powerplay”.

Rosa: It is though some difference between the death of a beloved animal and a happy pregnancy, I think, and my niece is 8 years old, but maybe I am just expecting way too much from her?

But there seems to be some hope! Thanks, and have a great evening!

Our mom used to had us wear vinegar socks to lower the fever, and it was VERY unpleasant to be sick. My friend’s mother made onion liniments… (we complained about transforming into mixed pickles, but without any success. It worked!)

I remember that I had no interest in TV at all when I was sick, and when I have migraine I have to stay absolutely quiet in a dark room for not to throw up.

Another thought came into my mind: my sister got breast cancer when her daughter was 4 years old; so my godchild accompanied my sister to the radiotherapy, got to know all the treatments and sees the medications my sister has to take every day, so the idea of death is something not so far fetched for her. (my sister made it also clear at the time of the diagnosis that I should be my godchild’s Extra-mom when she dies, as she has a huge insurance to protect the child moneywise to go through college and if the father is after the money and wants the child to live with him we would be in jeopardy without pre-arrangements with child-protection and the like)

Just recently for the first time she took out a photograph of her father she never saw (it is a happy foto on an island with my sister when they were on holidays).
And on top she has to change school in summer, losing all her friends from the old school; and everybody tells her that it will be HARD, and also everybody tells her that “sick leave” will be IMPOSSIBLE there!

Lots of stuff to work on for a little girl!

Style: the most hankies I saw and heard being used were

“The bridges of Madison county”

the absolute worst for me: “Schindler’s list” when in the end they mention all the people who were saved by Schindler (since then I go to the cinema alone)

Ox Drover

Dear Libelle,

I would try to appear to be as calm as possible with the child, and not get emotionally upset by her antics or her acting out. Just say, “well, we can’t go to x until you clean up, and if you take too long we won’t go at all, then set a TIMER for a few minutes and tell her if the timer goes off she doesn’t go to the next place. Also, if she doesn’t clean up THEN, let her stay dirty, but she must sit in a “time out” until bed time, then to bed, lights out, etc. so she decides how much “punishment” she gets. When she gets tired of the punishment she is inflicting on herself and gets bored by not getting her way OR GETTING YOU EXCIGTED, she will act a bit better I think.

Good luck.


My ex used to cry too sometimes. He cried the first time he told me he loved me. He cried the first time I told him I loved him. He cried when I told him about my rape when I was younger. He cried when one of his students was killed in an accident. He cried the first time we made love. He cried more when I told him he was my first orgasm. He would cry if I tried to break up with him and beg me not to do it. He cried when he evacuated for the hurricane and we were separated. He cried when he came back home after the hurricane. He cried when his wife found out about our relationship and he cried when she kicked him out. He cried several time when we living together before he discarded me and turned into Mr. Hyde.

I tend to be a crier too. I cried for all the same above mentioned things. I used to cry when he left me to go home to HER or on those times when we were supposed to be together and he had to cancel. I cried on the holidays when we were separated. I cried when he came home after the hurricane-it was like he had been away at war or something.

I cried WAY TOO much in the relationship-now that I think about it. I guess it’s because I let a married sociopath talk me into denying my morals to be with him. I guess that what happens when you’re with someone who’s taken. That will be my biggest red flag-will NEVER EVER do that again.

I had a bad morning thinking about him-hadn’t happened in awhile. The med school where he teaches held graduation today and I had to pass his office on the way to work. All I could think about was this arrogant pompous ass strutting around in the cap and gown acting like the big powerful important professor. I got angry again about him trashing my reputation and acting like I’m like I’m worthless, while leaving his rep entirely intact. I got mad that the wife took him back-AGAIN-cuz I wanted him to suffer the way I did.


oy, this is such a hard topic for me.

the fake boy cried all the time.

all. the. time.

he was ill. emotionally and physically. constantly having to deal with the perils of surgery and a death sentence. and the horrific fallout of his childhood and 7 year relationship with a horrid man.

blah blah


cried almost every time i talked to him. sometimes buckets. moaned with physical pain.

really good stuff to snare a compassionate woman.

one of her other dupes questioned my ppath diagnosis as the ppath could cry at the drop of a hat – now, i don’t know where she is getting her info….i guess she thought that A DISPLAY OF EMOTION, SUCH AS TEARS, WAS EVIDENCE OF AN EMOTIONAL LIFE, OR A CONSCIENCE!



To your list I would add:

The Bridges of Madison County.

Ox Drover

And, “On golden pond” and I have to confess guys, “Where the red fern grows” “Old Yeller” and “the yearling” and even “BAMBI” I’m a cheap date if getting me to cry is the object of the date! I’m a weeper, for sure!


brokeback mountain;


oh onestep in brokeback mountain when ennis finds the shirts in the closet – i just lost it….


The spath probably only cried 5 times in 28 years!
and looking back….i’m sure they were forced or performed tears….NEVER SOB. Too much ego for a sob.


Steve, I have to say that whenever you write, you hit it right on. I have often wondered what it is that makes you able to understand our experiences so deeply and to – better yet – understand the psyche of the Ps we had been hurt by. When all was “said and done” I went to an EMDR professional and she told me that he was in control of our relationship. “How so?!- I exclaimed, I am the controlling one!” (knowing that this is one of the things I have to remind myself to let go of) and she smiled vaguely and answered:”You thought you were. He had you at all times”.

Steve, the way you called it nullity is exceptional. I had often wondered what to call the void stare, when he thought nobody was watching. It was lack of any humanity, just being, not a warm meditative state, but a cold lizard like nullity only to shed moments after someone walked into the room. One day friends of ours asked us to play in a movie. it was a cheap production, they needed extras, and I had him come along. Everyone asked if he’d ever been an actor before. They even gave him a small role, so good he was at acting. To my knowledge then, he never acted. To my knowledge now, he always does.
Thank you, Steve for yet another insightful article. The tears I had seen him shed were gone moments later and months later, same very “life changing” events caused no emotion in him when recollected. Please, keep writing.


mine could go from tears to threats in a blink of the eye..I will never forget what he said in one sentence ‘you better love me or i will rock your fuckin world’ his composure changed just that quick…


yes, the shirt scene is indelibly etched in my mind.

and how they did not know that they could be anything but rough with one another sexually…that really choked me up. the movie was transgressive to the genre, but not to the time honoured plot line of the queer couple not living happily ever after by 1) one of them dying or being killed, or 2) one of them running from the relationship.

here, we have both.


one step you need to watch it again – they had very tender love making scene’s – you just remeber the sence when they were drunk…and this was in the 60’s and in montana back in the days when they killed queers – please Watch it again…


My mother made me watch The Notebook right after I had a breakup with someone. She loved the movie but did not care that I did not want to watch it. I was miserable the whole time. The Bridges of Madison County also made me cry and anything with major love scenes. The love making kills me cuz it brings back so many memories. Ours was so fantastic. If I think about it too much, it makes me cry.


hens – you are right – i remember only this sex scene. (i do remember tenderness that wasn’t sexual.) i was watching it in a theatre with a queer friend….but it was date night and all the juvie str8t boys were out with their dates…think their blah blah was a little traumatizing.

next time, i watch it at home.


Geez.. guys.. thanks for the movie suggestions..I have seen most all of them and cried in at many.. but that was ages ago…

I am going to see Letters to Juliet tomorrow.. a love story…

Oh.. I do think I cried a bit at MARLEY AND ME… but I was with a child and she was crying.. so I, of course, nurtured and comforted her and stopped my tears…

Maybe someday I will cry again… and feel that release…


Erin THE NOTEBOOK would rip your heart out after a break up.. that is when I saw it also.. and I saw it several times… it helped me release my pain at that time..

The pain I carry now.. is like it is stuck…


onestep – that was the first time i asked him out – to that movie – i was jack twist and he was ennis delmar – in my mind anyway…i didnt let him ruin that movie for me tho – i knew he was bad even then – he sat with a seat between us and acted like he didnt know me – i am was ignorant back then..


style1-I feel the same way. It did rip my heart out but not the same as losing this last relationship. This was as close to a complete breakdown as I could ever have been. Last summer was the biggest hell of my life. Now I’m still angry at him but when I think of our lovemaking, it makes me cry. I still have flashbacks about it. He was my first true love, my first orgasm and the most intense relationship and longest one that I ever had.


hens – ”“ he sat with a seat between us and acted like he didnt know me ….whoa.

i was ignorant back then – no chit!

there is a very well known series that the ppath was really into – and she met one of her other dupes on an online forum dedicated to it. then she messed with her for a couple of years.

recently, i watched the whole damn series and REALLY enjoyed it and the ppath can suck …


Erin… I am sorry. I had one of those intense sexual relationships.. the love of my life up until now.. and he was doing drugs behind my back and turned crazy and I left and never saw him again.. after dating four years and after he bought me a house and after I spent a month placing all the furniture just so and after he told me that he was so glad that I was there and after telling me that I was the love of his life.. and after a night of holding and touching.. that was so romantic and lovely that I can still feel it today.. that next day, he was out working.. owmed a company and worked out of the house.. and it was my first day to rest after the move and he came home and began acting so strange, hyper, angry, criticizing.. by later that evening he threaten to kill me.. I slept upstiars with the door locked and after being ther only five days, I left.. and had movers come the next week and I was gone and never saw or spoke to him again…

He was the love of my life but had I stayed he would’ve destroyed me.. I found out from his ex that he would go through phases of doing coke and pot and I never knew this .. and I detest drug use…

I saw THE NOTEBOOK about four times after that and I cried and cried and cried.
So, Erin .. I get it.. and I am sorry….


Tears are ‘contorted’ emotion in a spath.
It’s like a rapist….showing ‘care’ for his victim after he kidnaps her. Asking permission for a sex act…..twisting it in his mind that ‘it’s okay’ because he asked permission…..he’s a contortionist.
Completely dismissing the fact he kidnapped his victim…..
Maybe even ‘holding ‘ her after he raped her crying with her….saying I’m sorry, i didn’t want to do this.

Fake emotions /fake meanings.
Contorted into something society will accept.

thanks for this article, your knowledge and insight is greatly appreciated!



Erin72 I am so sorry for you but if he was the only one and your first orgasm and your first love then sweetie you have nothing to compare it with…. there will be a love number two and three annd lots of orgasms in your life..not to make lite of your pain but you will heal from this i promise now get your chit together love number two is waiting on you and they say third times a charm – life aint always fair – and beside your not gettin over your first real love – your gettin over a big lie – sex and makin love is in your future…you will love again and just think all this bad stuff will be behind you…time is on your side


Dear Steve, WOW! This was an excellent post and you nailed one of the most confusing behaviors that these people exhibit. For a long time, I thought I was with a “sensitive man who was loving and caring”. I was dead wrong.

“But this is a fallacy, which is to say that what’s spontaneous isn’t necessarily authentic. The sociopath’s ability, for instance, to conjure tears spontaneously—that is, at any given, self-serving moment —certainly doesn’t certify his emotional display as authentic.” I GET THIS COMPLETELY! This statement really struck home with me. It’s him all the way.

Tears were just another weapon in his arsenal and it reached the point where I finally would tell him to quit the damned crying! I realized, after some time, that the tears only came when he was busted for doing something that had hurt someone. He would tell me, “You can’t imagine how I feel right now.” Well, NO, I couldn’t because the reality was there was no feelings within him at all. The only “authentic” part of his act was that the tears were for him, not for those he had hurt and the consequences he was going to face.

When I was in the process of getting him out of here, he would go to my sister’s and cry about how much he “loved” me, so on and so forth. It was a great act and she bought it. He wasn’t crying because he loved me! He was crying because he was about to be on the street, thereby turning himself into the “victim” as you so aptly described. I became the bad person for wanting him out of here. This is the SAME sister he also stole thousands of dollars of jewelry from and when confronted by my brother-in-law, his response was that he had asked for a small loan and my BIL had said no. So, in the ex spath’s eyes, that made it OK to take the jewelry. Classic case of the spath turning himself into the victim.

For those of us who don’t think as they do, tears are something that come when we are truly affected in our heart and soul. Sometimes we cry out of happiness and many, many of us have cried because of the pain and chaos these people brought to our lives. NORMAL people can’t conceive of a person using tears to manipulate others. I understand and can conceptualize the difference today.

NULLITY-great word to describe them. I looked it up and the definition was “zero”. There’s nothing there and ain’t that the truth?

Thank you, Steve, for another excellent article!



Mine did the same. When the tears didn’t work, the ugliness came out. He would be extremely angry that I didn’t buy into the crying bit and call me a cold b****. The interesting thing is that he kept trying and trying with the tears bit long after I had called him on it. Presumably, in his mind, I was pretty ignorant.. NOT.



This article interested my greatly since I often wondered about this topic. I used to work in television and became knowledgable about the process actors use. Oddly enough, I think it is the same process actors use with a twist.

When an actor accepts a role, they have a two step process they use to break down a script line by line.

The first step is “intention.” Each line has a stated intention the actor uses in delivering the line — for example, an actor who is trying to convey a point to another actor will write, next to he line of dialogue his stated intention “to nail it to his forehead.” Sociopaths have no trouble with this part of the exercise, since there is always an intention behind everything that flies out of their mouths.

The second step is called “partnering.” The actor draws a box next to the dialogue and puts in the emotion they’re trying to connect with. For example, if they’re trying to convey sadness, they’ll put sadness, and then partner with the emotion, thinking of something that triggers saddness — for example, their dog dying. This presents a problem for sociopaths, in my opinion, since they lack an emotional core or at best have extremely stunted emotions.

My theory is that the only thing they understand is loss or frustratation through being denied something. So, to take my example above of the dog dying, a sociopath is not saddened about the dog dying. Instead the sociopath is upset about losing possession of his dog. And that is the trigger for him.

If you watch a talented actor, you get caught up in his performance because it rings true. If you watch an actor with a limited emotional range, you often feel like they’re phoning in their performance — they know the words, but they can’t convey the message. Compare a performance by Meryl Streep with one by Joan Crawford. The latter’s emotions ran the gamut from a to b. Not a lot going on below the surface, unlike the former, where you buy every performance Ms Streep churns out.

When my S-ex cried, I now realize it was because he was threatened with loss — generally my getting so fed up I was going to cut him off. The first time the tears flowed, was several months into our relationship and he stood me up for a date and after not calling, then fed me some bullshit excuse. He turned on the waterworks in a very public setting and my heart melted and I truly felt for him. The last time he turned on the waterworks, again in a very public setting, was when I was refusing to give him 10 grand. I remember watching the sturm and drang in a very detached manner and thinking “there’s not a hell of a lot going on below the surface.” And a minute later the cloud burst ended and he went on about his business as thought nothing had happened.

And like a typical S, when tactic A (crying) didn’t work, that night he tried tactic B — putting out in bed. Such a tired, trite cliche, now that I think back on it.


OMG…this article answered my last question about the NP going on a remorse performance…That was exactly what I was looking for..and I know for sure its been niggling me even though on the surface all is well and peace soon as I read this, I felt at peace and more sure then ever.


I can relate to Joan Crawford when it comes to wire hangers, though.
As far as I’m concerned, she hit the nail right on the head when it comes to wire hangers.

Because everytime I see a wire hanger, I just want to scream, “NO WIRE HANGERS!!!!!!”

Nobody should have to deal with wire hangers….they are just flimsy & useless.

Sociopaths are the “wire hangers” of society….that’s a metaphor.

Send this to a friend