By | February 12, 2009 319 Comments

The “feel” of a sociopath

I recently had clinical contact with a client who left me with the unusually strong, immediate impression of “schemer,” “slick,” “full of crap.” He was instantly, aggressively ingratiating—less, I felt, from insecurity, as from ulterior motives, as if he were angling, at the outset, for an edge.

I had the uncomfortable feeling I get around intrusive salesmen who leave you feeling like an “object” from whom to extract a sale and commission.

I should mention that he was glib. Glibness is a trait often associated with certain sociopaths. My client was so glib, as a matter of fact, that for the first time in a long while the word “glib” actually popped into my head.

When I say “glib,” I don’t mean just fast-talking, which he was. He was shallow, too. And for me, the combination of smooth, fast talking, underlain by shallowness, really captures “glib.”

He was something of a schemer, and it was fascinating to observe him deny or dismiss rife evidence of his historical deceptiveness, abusiveness and double-standards. And he did so with a striking lack of shame, and with much audacity, along with irritation (arrogantly conveyed) to have to even deign to respond to the history.

Now I’d like to shift gears (abruptly), and say something about the psychopath’s (or sociopath’s) alleged “look,” or “stare,” which has been described anecdotally in the literature. Its most obvious form is characterized by a certain crazed intensity (note some of the existing photos of Ted Bundy, and other serial killers).

There are also, I suggest, other, subtler forms of this look. In any case what this “look” transmits (in any of its forms) is something elementally predatory. It has an evaluatively predatory quality.

I suspect that many of you have had the experience of being watched in this way?
It’s more than a feeling of being scrutinized, because all of us scrutinize each other, and clients should be scrutinizing their therapists.

It is more, I think, the quality, or motive, of the scrutiny—again, a predatory aspect that engenders the experience of feeling invaded, and “sized up,” “measured” for ulterior purposes.

At bottom, this is a type of “look” that leaves one feeling watched, studied as an “object.” One experiences the “watcher” as if he or she is calculating, “How much can I have my way with this person? How susceptible is this person to my present interests in him or her?”

My client had this “look.”

He was a “watcher,” and as he watched me, I often had the disconcerting sense that he was less interested in what I had to say, or what I was saying, than in using the time I was speaking to further his evaluation of my vulnerability.

This feeling with, experience of someone, can be a signal. It can signal that something predatory is brewing, or occurring.

I’ve called this the “feel” of a sociopath, because sociopaths sometimes (not always) can stir-up this sensation in those whose paths they’ve crossed, or lives they’ve entered. To be sure, not all sociopaths evoke this experience; but some do, and it can be an uncomfortable, and not easily articulated experience. Depending on the circumstances, it can even feel flatteringly seductive (if still uncomfortable).

Take, for instance, a blind/first-date scenario, in which the exploitative-minded individual approvingly, hungrily, invasively and audaciously sizes-up his date, leaving her feeling flattered (hungrily desired) while at the same time uneasy?

This “sizing up,” “measuring” process too often belies not a hunger for love, and connection, but of acquisition, possession and/or conquest.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of

Hi, guys, Just popping up again to say “Wow, I feel like I’ve been reading for a year now”. Reading reading, learning. Feeling better, then getting really pissed off again. Sad, hopeless, fearful. And then back to hopeful for the future. I’ a moody biatch. : )
I know all this is suppose to help me get on with my life. I guess it is. But more so it is giving me the tools I need to turn the tables on him.
Thank you all for all the great articles…………..and posts.


Reading this makes me remember how he stared at me, I did not recognize it for what it was at the time, but now I feel like I was being studied. Makes me feel sad.


I don’t recall that look until after we married, after his “Nice Face” started to come off. After that, I remember the “LOOK”.
I didn’t know what it was then………..

Is opn

I know that look, that weird stare. At first I thought, I say thought, he was just really into me. After the honeymoon my first came by and saw the picture of us on the honeymoon. His exact words were, ” Uugh, Ugh look at those eyes.” I said what? Not knowing what he meant at the time I could not see it. Many years later I started to see that look regularly. I was not sure if it was a mental illness, or depression that I would see resulting into the weird look. It was not always there. In the end of the relationship it was always there and I feared that look. A look of a bear in the woods chasing his next meal! Thanks for the article, confirming the weird look.

Ox Drover

What I call “THE LOOK” has a quality of RAGE about it. EVIL RAGE. The famous picture of Charlie Manson, looking at the camera with that SATANIC STARE is the closest I can describe it.


Dead on! “I suspect that many of you have had the experience of being watched in this way?” Yes I STUPIDLY agreed to meet the P in a hotel. He got their early, got a room with a window facing the parking lot. Talking on the cell phone, he let me know he was going to be watching me walk up. When I got to the room, the door had been opened a crack and he said “come in”. After pursuing me for 40+ years, telling me “everything you say, everything you do, breathless, in love” etc. via emails and phone calls, I expected to be enveloped in a warm embrace, tears of joy, “oh my god”, etc. But instead, the room was dark, except he was backlit by the window and so it was hard for me to see him….but I saw that he had a baseball cap on, and he was sitting back with his arms crossed, and cocking his head from side to side, very arrogantly


I do not recall the stare but I did not stay with him very long. But mine had some other traits. Whenever I would see him, even if I hadn’t seen him in two weeks, whenever we hugged, his hug had the quality of lack of feeling. Hard to describe. There was no emotion in it. His kisses also had no emotion. It didn’t bother me at the time. I have enough emotion for any 10 people. And I think I mentioned here before that there was a time he was sitting on my sofa listening to Cold Play while I was changing for a reptile show. I saw him sitting there and had the distinct sense that no one was home. Nothing substantial inside. I remember saying to myself, “who did I just sleep with?” Who is he deep down? It seems when he wasn’t complaining about his “soon-to-be-ex-wife” as he called her, or convincing me how much he wanted me and wants to always be here for me, etc., there wasn’t much substance to him. We often had long quiet drives in the car in the beginning when we were building our friendship. I found his inner quietness very refreshing. But maybe there was just nobody home to have an intelligent conversation with. I tried to find out his feelings about fighting in Iraq and watching his friends die. His response was to shrug his shoulders and say “it was a job” or “it was just kill or be killed.” He had no feelings about it one way or the other. I found that strange.

When he returned to my reptile site, he played the game so well. He introduced himself and talked about his 10 snakes. Then he said he’d had some hard times but everything was okay now and he’d be posting all the time. One of the members said “Wait till Stargazer sees you’re here, she’ll freak out.” His response was perfect: “I’m only here to share my snakes.” He never misbehaves. Never creates drama. Therefore, he will always have friends there. And yet he had opened up another account under a different name. I imagine that’s the one where he will con people. It’s so creepy.



I’ve read somewhere that the first time we meet somebody we’re allways attracted to 3 things. In my case its eyes, teeth and shoes (don’t have to Prada, but do have to be shined).

I should have paid more attention to that old adage “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” If I had, I would have picked up on glib S was on the surface and how there nothing going on below it — except the calculation.

I agree that there are variations on “the look”. And the look is part of the whole package — which you summed up. But, the look is the first warning sign no matter where it falls on the spectrum from calclulating to predatory.


Dead on! “I suspect that many of you have had the experience of being watched in this way?” Yes!!!!!! Literally!

I STUPIDLY agreed to meet the P (for a reunion after 40+ years apart) in a hotel. He got there early, and got a room with a window facing the parking lot. Talking on the cell phone when I was driving, he let me know he was going to be watching me walk across the parking lot. I tried to somehow look sophisticated walking from my parked car to the hotel. (Already he had me performing for him!) After I entered the hotel and got to the room, I saw that the door to his room had been opened a crack and I stepped in. After pursuing me long distance for 40+ years, telling me “everything you say, everything you do, breathless, in love” “love you” etc. via emails and phone calls, I expected to be enveloped in a warm embrace, tears of joy, “oh my god, is it really you”, etc. But instead, the room was dark, except he was backlit by the window, at the far end of the room, and so it was hard for me to see him….but I saw that he had a baseball cap on, and he was sitting back with his arms crossed, and cocking his head from side to side, very arrogantly appraising me, with a “hmm” “hmmm” as he looked, a very slight hint of a smile. And he just sat there and didn’t say anything but “hmmm”, until I finally started toward him, with my arms outstretched.

I try to relive those awful moments in my head now, and picture myself with the reaction I would have now. And in my head, now I say something like “This is the welcome I get after 40 years? You arrogant son of a &&^**” and I turn and walk out and don’t turn back for any reason!!!

I think it helps dilute those FORMERLY hurtful memories. I still remember them now, but I rewrite the endings! And it makes me feel empowered.

I think reactivity, as the Betrayal Bond book suggests, is the biggest problem for survivors of repeated exploitation. We tend to over react, or under react, when someone tries to exploit us again. Right now I’m in the over react mode, but it feels much better than under reacting! Woe to anyone who tries to exploit me right now! It makes me far angrier than it should , but that’s okay for now.

Thanks as always for the great blog!


I don’t know that mine had a look, but I distinctly recall how he could look me in the eyes without blinking, as if he were utterly sincere and truthful in whatever he was trying to convey.


Sorry, a draft was partially posted before my final. I must have hit something!


Not a good bog place for me. Mine was so physically beautiful– that his green eyes seemed to look into my soul. I never, ever, ever would have thought this of him.
he was so soft spoken and gentle and FUNNY– and I have a strange sense of humor.
oh forget it.


my three things to which i was attracted–
his creativity–he was kind of “out there” like me– so I thought. I was a theatre major– he was a photographer. i thought we just came from the same worlds.
his sense of humor-
his teeth—-

who knew I would end up getting bitten so hard.



My S had a beautiful smile.

But, he started to grind his teeth so hard. I now realize a sign he may have been doing meth on top of cocaine.

I hope he grinds them to nothing. Then he and those toothless old codgers he was cheating on me with will have something in common.


i knew that my the spath-hole was cheating when he decided to get braces on his teeth to correct a few slightly-crooked bottom teeth. he was obsessed with his looks, but never even spoke about braces. then, one day, there they are. it was his only physical flaw and i thought it was cute. i guess his new bitch didn’t.
however, he was beginning to go bald at the back-top of his head. sweet justice. i hope it’s progressing like a virulent bacteria.


I would pay money for mine to go bald– but nope 39 yrs old with thick, thick sandy brown hair. Everthing about him physically is perfect.

Matt– my God. toothless old codgers—
was this guy from Apalachia? 🙂

God you have gotten away from some evil crap.


Mine had the look, piercing blue eyes that had nothing behind them. He was always sizing me up, always gauging my reactions to his insane stories. A nice smile, charming, so smooth, so glib. He was certainly accompanied by a “feeling” of his own.


Interesting article. We all have experienced a look of some kind that felt funny. Bad Man had a look that seemed so boyish and cute sometimes. It would come across his face suddenly. Later, I came to know this look as a danger signal that he had just locked on to something I had said that would be radically twisted and tossed back at me. It was like he suddenly thought he had me on something.

He used to be the most beautiful face to me… that was a long time ago.


“It has an evaluatively predatory quality. “

I have seen this look many times before and know it well.

“It is more, I think, the quality, or motive, of the scrutiny—again, a predatory aspect that engenders the experience of feeling invaded, and “sized up,” “measured” for ulterior purposes. “

Perfect! Yes, that is how it feels and is witnessed. Also like to add that when my ex s/p used the look on me it felt like she had me in a corner to me and she enjoyed the feeling of control but when it stopped working it only cause her more narcissistic rage and emotional frustration. Like a child who couldn’t get their way.

Thanks Steve!


I now see the “look” as eyes that doesn’t have any light/sparker to them unless it wants something. Then the eyes become alive with excitement. But still the eyes are shallow and kind of dead in a way…

Very hard to describe or put into words..

A kind of vacate look when no one is watching….

A picture with a smile but still the eyes lack this smile in them…

When we smile our eyes too smiles but for some reason the face and eyes don’t with them..

Again, Very hard to describe or put into words…

Ox Drover

I got to thinking too about another time I saw “the look” in the eyes of a tiger. My living history group had “set up shop” at the zoo grounds in Little Rock, AR. and in the morning I got up after we had spent thenight in the zoo, well before the gates were opened, and I yoked up my young yearling oxen and was walking them around and I passed by the tiger enclosure. It was one of those with the big deep moat around it and the tigers were up on a sort of hillside where they were actually above the place where the people stood on the other side of the moat to watch them. When the big male saw my calves he immediately went into STALKING MODE and the look of the predatory cat was there. \

He was wild caught and I imagine he was the only cat there that had the training as well as the instinct, because the other tigers all just lay around, but he started stalking my calves.

I looked at the moat and I could see he would glance at it too, he was calculating whether or not he should try to leap it. I got the calves and we took a hike quickly away from the tiger enclosure, but he followed us with his eyes and then stalked until he could no longer see us or we him.

THAT LOOK, the same look in my son’s eyes, my p-bio father’s eyes, the eyes of the PREDATORY CAT with its eye on the prey. Maybe not all Ps have that same exact look, but I’ve seen it in those two, and also in my mother’s eyes when she was enraged at me. It chills the body and soul all the way to the BONE. It is nothing I will ever forget.

The look that conveys DETERMINED INTENT in the tiger, but evil and determined intent in the human predator.


Justabouthealed, your ex sizing you up in the hotel room reminded me of that psychopath in No Country For Old Men. It sounds so creepy.

I do believe when we have been traumatized, it is healing to relive the incident with an empowered ending. I often have dreams about my abusive parents where I’m standing up to them and telling them what the consequences will be if they ever lay a finger on me or say anything derogatory toward me. There is a type of trauma work that has you alternating a really good feeling in your body with reliving the trauma while having that good feeling. Then you do whatever you were not able to do before–kick, scream, set limits, etc. I think the name of the book is “Eye of the Tiger” but I’m not sure, that talks about that type of trauma work.

When we have had so much abuse and trauma in our life, we can forget what it is like to feel good. But if we can somehow have some positive happy feelings, we can look at the bad experiences in a different way and heal them. I think it is SO important for all of us to do some things that make us laugh and smile, and to relax once in a while. This will make the healing go faster. So many of us are programmed for pain, and it is a major challenge to allow good feelings to come in. Life is made up of good and bad, NOT just the bad. We all deserve to have some peace and laughter amidst the tears, my friends.

Margot Channing

I remember feeling afraid to make eye contact with him and that anything I said was childish, uninformed, when in fact I am an intelligent and interesting person. I was awkward in his presence. The ONE time he hugged me seems, in retrospect, like a clinic on the sociopath and affection – I felt as if I were embracing an inanimate object. He wasn’t even breathing.

One would think that with just these observations I would be over him. How lucky am I to have a manipulative relationship with a narcissistic mother to fruitlessly reconcile through a sociopathic man? This site is the cheese to my therapist’s cracker. Thank you all for posting.


I felt the feeling too, of embracing an inanimate object. Kissing nothing. Even at the beginning I joked with my friends “I think he may have been born without a soul”, not really supposing it to be true…at the time.

Elizabeth Conley

I understand the feeling that someone’s just too slick, based on what they say and how they say it. I’m afraid to judge someone psychopathic based on whether they’re observant of others or not. We can note that someone’s observant, but attaching motive to those observations isn’t appropriate without a bit more information.

Mr. Becker had that information. He knew some of his client’s history, and he was being schmoozed. Within that framework, his client’s watchful gaze had to be disconcerting.

Most people aren’t particularly observant, P or not. Of the minority of people who are observant, many are quite decent.

Of the people I know who make snap judgments, most are quite mistaken. In spite of this, they stick by these first impressions, justifying them through harsh interpretations of their target’s innocent behavior. As much as I want to get better at assessing character, I don’t want to become cruel.

I know I’ve been too patient, too forgiving and too willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m trying to change, but I don’t want to swing too far the other way.


One of the things that I never liked about my ex were his eyes. They are almost black and slightly buggy, and conveyed NOTHING. Eye contact always felt a little off, or barely there.

But I let the WORDS coming out of his mouth drown out any misgivings. I rationalized his eyes, by realizing that his sister who I really like, also has that buggy overactive thyroid look.

Over the years I noticed that there were almost no pictures of us together. I did look back at some of them recently and the LOOK on his face – for the camera mind you – is just chilling. Even our wedding photo he is posing with a look that is like the cat that swallowed the canary.

Two of my adult children are currently in a work environment with someone who we KNOW is lying (two different work places).

While all liars are not PSN’s all PSN”s are liars. In my daughters case, I twigged on it early and have been accurately PREDICTING what the guy will do next. (go after her job, undermine her, schmooze with those that can help him etc, set her up to look bad, bully).

This guy has managed four months in a work envirnoment that requires a police check, having presented NO ID, claiming he lost his wallet, etc etc. The clientele at the job is at risk street kids, and yet unbelievably, the staff just LOVE this guy, he has managed to ignore the usual procedure and charm his way in, hired on the spot, no reference checks etc.

My daughter felt uneasy when she first started working with him, but was soon charmed. Since then his mask has slipped just enough for her to see. From what I can tell he likes it like that. She knows, and watches, as everyone else is still “charmed”.

What I am getting at is, once we have these diagnostic tools, although not infallible, they help us be on guard. And they do give themselves away… the SPN’s if we can hold back our natural willingness to accept and give the benefit of the doubt to strangers, until they have demonstrated their sincerity or trustworthiness.

I have encouraged my daughter to persoanlly check his references. Any bets out there on what she finds?

Peace to all,

Elizabeth Conley

“This guy has managed four months in a work environment that requires a police check, having presented NO ID, claiming he lost his wallet, etc etc. The clientèle at the job is at risk street kids, and yet unbelievably, the staff just LOVE this guy, he has managed to ignore the usual procedure and charm his way in, hired on the spot, no reference checks etc.”

Huge red flag!!! One S and one N I have personally had dealings with both pulled off that exact gambit in church settings. They quickly rose quickly to leadership positions without once getting a reference check. They are both currently considered to be “canonized saints” by their church leadership. In both cases those background checks would have shown criminal assaults and histories of employment problems.

Get the background investigation early, before the organization’s leadership becomes to “invested” in the N/P/S’s “wonderfulness”. The more invested the leadership becomes in his false persona, the less willing they will be to respond appropriately to factual information.

Ox Drover

Sounds to me that the “management” who are supposed to assure that a background check is done are DROPPING THE BALL.

RED FLAG for sure!

Is there some way this lack of background checkk can be done at this point? Or upper management notified? Sounds like a child molester or exconvict to me….RED FLAG!!! HORNS!!! SIRENS!!!!


Stargazer said: “Whenever we hugged, his hug had the quality of lack of feeling. Hard to describe. There was no emotion in it.”

SG, I know that hug. I tried to explain it to someone by saying that his hug lacked a presentness. It’s like he stood there with his arms around me mechanically, waiting for the hug to be over. That is the way the hugs were near the end. I think they might have been better at the beginning, but I don’t specifically remember their quality then.

I thought these things happened because he really didn’t like me. Although he deceived me through his actions, he never lied to me and told me that he loved me, and I am so grateful for that.

The s/p in my life was VERY cozy but not very affectionate, unless he was trying to hook me. Has any one else experienced this trait/dichotomy?

I think that the “feel” of an s/p is often a tickle or a sensation in us noting the lack of feeling in the s/p, the lack of insight, the s/p’s lack of recognition of the other person and her/his experience. I used to plead with the s/p to be more introspective. It was like talking to a wall.


What a great thread!
I am very familiar with that look. It is so strange to read this, I recently had a dream about the s-ex. In the dream he was trying to sweet talk me into getting back together. He kept saying I was his only one, blah, blah. Then something inside occured to me. A voice said “watch his eyes when he says I love you” so I focused on his eye and it was like a revelation. When he said ” I love you” there was NOTHING. Lizard like glassy eyes, void of anything. Chilling. I woke up crying.

In waking life I know for a fact that the s-ex was “observing” me for a long time, before we met. He in fact even told me. I used to work at this gallery and apparently he was there on some business. He said that he was looking at me and I shut the door on him. He was probably a staring creep to me at the time and I shut the door for privacy. He wrote it off as me being stand off-ish. He was just waiting for the right moment, a moment of weakness or off-guard to pounce. Which he did.

Later when we went out, he would grab my hands and stare at me with this pretend intensity. I say pretend because it was like practiced it from a book and it did not come from the heart. The eyes were unmoving and lacking life. It was f***g creepy, it made me really uncomfortable.


Shark eyes! Right -on!


Goat eyes.


It gets better and better! Although goats can be cute when they are babies. How about cayman eyes?


I’m sure sociopaths are cute when they’re babies too. LOL Especially before they can talk. No talking = no lying.


I do remember times when it was obvious he was intently staring at me when he was lieing, but I think that was just because it is now common knowledge that people tend not to make eye contact when lieing, and he knew that. But usually, I just remember charming blue eyes, a great smile, and a wonderful, contagious laugh. He was a high school drop out but I saw him able to manipulate all levels of people, including successful business owners and very well off people. Everyone liked him and he was often described as lovable. He was even approached to be in commercials when he was in California (which he did not accept). But I think there were times when he looked like a lizard to me in his eyes.


Stargazer: I didn’t see that movie. I just read a review, and I won’t see it! I have to be so careful, flims can haunt me for years, I think it is part of the reactivity from trauma. Anyone else like that? Sophie’s Choice was horrible for me, I went into a funk for days.


I had a different take on my ex S today. One of my friends who knows the S saw him on the snake site posting pictures of snakes. He believes they are not even his snakes! They are very expensive snakes, and the photos were obviously taken by the breeder. My friend thinks the S lifted the pictures off a website and is posting them to get attention. Wouldn’t surprise me at all. For the first time ever, I actually feel sorry for him. But I still won’t go back to the site.


I need to comment about my dogs. My dachsund’s, Posey is much better. Crickit had one pup a few days ago, it was breech and it died. I cant get her to leave her bed, she is taking care of this babie that isn’t there. I take her outside and like a bungie cord she is right back to her bed, instinct I guess. Do we have that instinct to love someone who isnt there? Physcologically she is confused, werent we? Love is a powerful emotion. It will take her some time to accept that she is caring for an imaginarypuppy.


That is so sweet about your dog wanting to care for her imaginary puppy…. I think all our X’s moved on a whole lot faster with their selfish agendas than poor Posey…(BTW I have an adorable but overweight mini-pincher…)


That is so sad about Crickit. Would it help to give her a small stuffed animal? Also, I wonder if the local humane society has any newborn animals that need a foster doggie mom?

Years ago I had a cat who had a litter of kittens. When they were all adopted out, she used to carry a tiny pin cushion around the house and cry. It was so sad, but it was a good transitional object.


Well, it seems a few of my friends have taken matters into their own hands. They are the ones that actually met the S back when we were just friends, and he lied to them too. So they have a personal vendetta. They are also on the reptile site, and they believe he is lying about the snakes he claims are his (big surprise). They are going to expose his lies on the site. So it’s possible he may get driven off yet. lol

I kind of have mixed feelings about it because I don’t really want to even hear about it. But if they can nail him, it would be very satisfying, especially since I have nothing to do with it. When I heard he was lying about the high end snakes he claims to own, I actually felt sorry for him. It’s sad when someone has to lie that much for attention.

On a happy note, I am very very lucky to have friends like that who would go to bat for me. I have another friend in Florida who I never met personally. She helped me nail him in his lies last summer, which helped me see the truth about him. Speaking of “going to bat”, she told me if she lived here she would not hesitate to beat the crap out of him with a bat. I’m not sure if she was kidding.


I really believe that to confront a sociopath, it takes a village. The nice thing about having forum friends is that the S does not know where they are. They can do their “good work” from a distance. I am very fortunate to have a core group of friends who are fighting for me, even though I have walked away.


Hugs… That’s that is a physical interaction between two people….

I remember went I showed affection with an hug or stroke (just touching someone’s back or shoulder) to my ex s/p. One thing I want to add is how I was always the one to put forth any effort in this physical contact between us during our 17 years. Anyway back to point. When I would do this I notice a few things. One was how her embrace felt more mechanical like someone going though the actions but not feeling it. Two how she would just drop her arms after the embrace to her sides and then three when I looked into her eyes how I saw a “forced” smile not the genuine smile I have seen on countless faces whenever I showed my affection albeit another family members friends co-workers or even a stranger. I am a very huggable type of person and can show my goodwill and affection very easily. But with my ex s/p I always walk away from it feeling “what just happen?”. What I mean is if I hugged myself I would feel something and whenever I hugged my children I feel good and I know they do too. I see those smiles on my children’s faces and know they are real and sincere. But it was never like that with her! Not once and I guess this should have been a “red flag” in it’s self in the beginning…


Regarding “The Look.” Mine had a real repertoire, I now realize from the distance of a few years.

While still in the relationship, I often joshed and joked with him about his “John Belushi” look. This was the plaintive, liquid-eyed, little-boy-lost look that Belushi uses on Carrie Fisher to keep her from shooting him in “Blues Brothers.” My ex used this one to very good effect with me. Like Carrie Fisher, I would melt, relent, allow him whatever lie he was peddling at the time.

Just before I got rid of mine, I experienced the cold appraisal look. At the time, I described it as being “studied like a bug.” (I’m sure I probably got that look early on in the relationship too, but I didn’t know enough to be cognizant of it at the time.) It’s funny to see these things NOW, with all the benefit of hindsight and years of study. Funny and sad. (The appraisal, I now know, was him deciding whether to “keep me” as his nurse and financial spigot, or whether to go ahead with his plans to discard me for a stable of younger women. Fortunately for me, he never got to make that decision. I made it for him.)

Then there was the capper–the hate-filled look of total, deadened, hostile malevolence. I still experience chills just thinking about it. I hope never to see such a look on another human being as long as I live.

Mine had very distinct “voices” too. He was a master of vocal inflection.


“I remember went I showed affection with an hug or stroke”

Sorry typo.. should be:

I remember When I showed affection with an hug or stroke



Mine was a terrible kisser, terrible hugger, terrible lover, you name it.

One more thing about trauma victims having too much reactivity. I forget which self help talks about getting your zipper back on the inside. Right now, I catch other emotions, even from movies, far too easily. Anyone can unzip my emotions, feeling etc and get what they want. I’m working on putting the zipper on the inside, so I am in control of my feelings. And I’m working to have more “emotional insulation” (a term from one of the books also) around me, so I don’t get so drawn in.

Here’s another funny thing. I used to do undercover work and see abuse first hand. THEN I did keep my emotional reaction to myself just fine. Why? Because I had the perfect training as a child. Focus on pleasing the abuser, discount or deny what is really going on, just please the abuser, hyper focus on keeping them from abusing you. Perfect for documenting things with a hidden camera. My partner used to say, “You are good, even I would have sworn you liked those people”. Sadly, it wasn’t much of an act, just the way I learned to react to bad guys!

However, now my husband says I have my guard way up, but he agrees it is a good thing!! (And I stopped undercover stuff, I don’t need more trauma in my life.)


Whenever I reached out to my S physically, I always had the feeling that I was touching/holding/kissing etc someone who wasn’t there in the moment.

Oh, initially he put on a pretty good show in bed. And he was completely uninhibited, which was part of the draw. But, by the end I may as well been holding a slab of meat.


“A liar avoids eye contact” is a common myth. The more adept liars (we know who they are) are far more likely to use a friendly or assertive gaze to add more assurance of credibility to their lie.

Steve, this sounds like you had one of the lesser ASPDs in your office. He didn’t begin to match the subtlety of the guy who played me. If only the signs could be that obvious!


Rune: To this day, I know have a hard time making eye contact … due to be a victim of psychopaths … I’m totally humiliated when I have to tell anyone in authority about my saga.

Very difficult to make eye contact and if I do, very difficult (what’s the use) to keep it (why bother, I’m on another playing field). I just want to crawl up into a little ball and make believe none of this happened to my life (as I knew it).

Now when men talk to me … I automatically divert my eye contact from them (why bother in this arena too … I could care less that they are interested and I certainly don’t want to know the rest of their stories).



Wini: I think this is part of that aftermath of the trauma. I understand. I know that sometimes people think I’m being “shifty” when I look away. I have so much pain that I just don’t want to be that exposed, to let someone else look deep into my eyes.

People who examine these disordered creatures in their clinical settings just have no idea of the damage they can inflict. Steve had an easy target with his smooth talker there in the office. If only they were all that obvious.

Send this to a friend