By | February 26, 2009 226 Comments

The Borderland of Narcissism and Sociopathy

In a prior post, I discussed some differences between the narcissist and sociopath, a focus I’d like to continue in this post. For convenience’s sake, I’m going to use “he” and “him” throughout, although we can agree that “she” and “her” could easily be substituted.

The narcissist, if I were to boil his style down to one sentence, is someone who demands that his sense of self (and self-importance) be propped-up on a continual basis. Without this support—in the form of validation, recognition, and experiences of idealization—the narcissist feels depleted, empty, depressed.

The narcissist struggles to define himself independently and sustainedly as significant and worthwhile. The fragility of his sense of self is no big news; it is how he manages his fragility, his insecurity, that is telling.

The narcissist, for instance, feels entitled to a sense of inner comfort and security. More specifically, he feels entitled to what he requires in order to experience an unbroken state of inner comfort.

But wait a second? Don’t we all feel somewhat entitled to what we need in order to feel secure and comfortable?

Most of us, after all, feel entitled to the air we breath that keeps us alive. You might feel entitled, when dehydrated, to a cold stream of water from your kitchen faucet? Imagine feeling an intense thirst, yet when you twist the faucet, no water comes out? The pipes are empty”¦everywhere in the house.

You are deeply thirsty, and yet the water you count on to salve your thirst is being withheld. In this circumstance, especially if your thirst is great, you might feel outraged? Incensed? Even panicked?

You might even feel furious enough to hurl curses and imprecations on the forces conspiring to frustrate your thirst!

Imagine the narcissist’s thirst as constant and deep—a thirst for things like recognition, appreciation, for validation of his importance, and special signifigance. When the narcissist’s thirst for recognition is unmet, it is no small matter—anymore than it would be a small matter to find a spigot unresponsive in the midst of your urgent thirst.

In other words, the frustration of his demand of recognition is a major disappointment, a major problem for the narcissist—a problem felt not merely as an inconvenience, but as a threat to his fundamental equilibrium, sense of security, and comfort.

In a certain sense, then, that the narcissist feels “entitled” doesn’t make him a narcissist. It is what he feels “entitled to” that is most relevant.

Specifically, it is his sense of entitlement to an undisturbed stream of others’ approval, admiration and recognition that most separates the narcissist from the non-narcissist.

But the narcissist demands more than others’ idealization; he also demands others to idealize. The narcissist needs to idealize others.

For instance, when he finally meets, yet again, the “perfect woman,” he puts her on a pedestal—i.e., he idealizes her. Idealizing her—putting her on a pedestal—makes for thrill and excitement (which, by the way, he misjudges again and again as fulfillment).

After all, he is tasting perfection. He must be pretty special to have the enviable attention of someone so perfectly, admirably beautiful. He looks and feels good thanks to the reflection of her perfection on himself.

One of many problems here is that idealized states are inherently temporary and unsustainable; they don’t hold up permanently; they are fraught all the time with dangers of collapse.

Thus, the narcissist can’t permanently hold his idealizations. And he finds their collapse, over and over again, discouraging and deeply disillusioning. But instead of recognizing the futility of his need, he will blame the formerly idealized object for failing to have remained as perfect, and perfectly satisfying, as he demanded.

The narcissist loses something urgent here, namely the key to his feeling of vitality. Inarticulately, he feels betrayed; and in his sense of betrayal, he feels angry, even enraged.

Enter his “contempt.” The underbelly of the narcissist’s idealizing is his contempt. The narcissist tends to vacillate between experiences of idealization and contempt. In either case (or “state”), others are regarded as objects—objects, we shall see, not quite in the sense that sociopaths regard others as objects.

For the narcissist, others have an obligation to maintain his peace of mind. In the narcissist’s world, it is on others, through their cooperation with his demands, to ensure his ongoing inner comfort and satisfaction. When meeting his demands, others are idealized; when disappointing him, they are devalued contemptuously.

What else does the narcissist demand? The narcissist on pretty much a constant basis demands various forms of reassurance. It may be reassurance of his attractiveness, superiority, special status in a girlfriend’s eyes (and history). He may seek reassurance of his virility, that he is still feared, respected, admired, idealized, and otherwise perceived as impressive.

For the narcissist, such reassurance, even when felt, proves always only temporarily satisfying, and is translated as something like, “I’m okay, for now. I’ve still got it. I’m still viable.”

In his pursuit of reassurance, the narcissist is a very controlling individual. His controlling tendencies arise from his desperation—his desperation, that is, for the reassurance he demands. And desperate people tend to be heedless of the boundaries of those who have what they want.

The narcissist, for instance, may grill his partner controllingly about her ex-boyfriends in order to establish (demand assurances of) his unique, special status with her. Or, he may text her during the day compulsively, in the guise of his interest in, and love, for her, when, in fact, it is not about his love or interest but rather about his demand to know that she is thinking about him that drives his invasive behavior.

He will rationalize his invasiveness as his thoughtfulness and love of her. And he will feel entitled to an immediately reassuring response, anything less than which will activate his anger/rage.

The narcissist’s legendary self-centeredness, to some extent, is a function of the fact that so much, if not all, of his energy is invested in resolving anxious questions about his present standing.

He is vigilantly afraid lest his present, fragilely, and externally supported status be upended, a development he struggles to tolerate. Consumed as he is with obviating this disaster, he has little energy left with which to be genuinely interested in others.

How about the sociopath? What’s his deal?

To begin with, the sociopath lacks the narcissist’s insatiable underlying neediness. Unlike the narcissist, the sociopath’s violating behaviors stem less from a deep insecurity than from his impulsive or calculated greed, and especially his basic view of others as objects, as tools, to be exploited for his entertainment, amusement and ongoing acquisitive agenda.

The sociopath is a more purely exploitative individual than the narcissist. For the narcissist, others are desperately needed, and demanded, as validators. Athough the narcissist will use and exploit others, he does so typically with the ulterior motive of reassuring himself, on some level, of his persisting viability.

For the sociopath, others are his potential “play-things,” their value a function of the gratification that can be extracted from them.

The less validating you are, the less worth you have for the narcissist.

The less exploitable you are, the less worth you have for the sociopath.

Said differently, the narcissist uses others as a means to establish (or reestablish) the sense, and view, of himself, as special, impressive, dominant, compelling, whereas the sociopath uses others more for the pure amusement of it; more for the sheer entertainment of seeing what he can get away with (and how); and/or for the immediate satisfaction of his present tensions, itch, and/or greed.

The term “malignant narcissist” seems to me to describe the sociopath more accurately than the narcissist. This term has been used to describe megalomaniacal individuals whose grandiosity and sinister appetite for control (over others) better reflect, to my mind, psychopathic processes of exploitation.

The “malignant narcissist” is, to my mind, driven by the sociopath’s (or psychopath’s) pursuit of omnipotent control over those he seeks to exploit. He is a power-hungry, often charismatic, ruthless and exploitative personality whose grandiosity serves more psychopathic than classically narcissistic purposes.

Don’t misunderstand me: The malignant narcissist is someone whose most toxic narcissistic qualities have attained malignant status (hence the concept). In the end, however, he is as coldblooded, callous, exploitative and deviant a creature as the most dangerous sociopath.

Does it matter, finally, whether a cult figure like, say, Jim Jones, who led hundreds of his followers to mass suicide, was a “malignant narcissist” or psychopath? Not if you regard the terms, and destructiveness of the personalities, as essentially indistinguishable, as I do.

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

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This is an excellent explanation of the differences between narcissists and sociopaths. Thank you so much.


Well Steve, you absolutely let me know who and what I was dealing with. My bosses, their cronies, and my EX were all sociopaths.

I was dead in the water before I ever met them.

What gets me about my EX is, he could act normal all the time. I never saw his mask slip. However, my bosses and their cronies loved to show me their evil side … always allowing their masks to slip in my presence. They could put on or take off their masks at the flip of a switch. They made no bones about allowing me to see their true evil at the same time, someone else could walk into our conversation at work … and their socially accepted masks would go right back on. The other person would walk away, never suspecting a thing.

I had no idea my EX was one too. That’s how good he is/was at hiding his true self from me. It wasn’t until I dug out all the paperwork he left behind throughout my home that I saw the facts for what they were … versus all the lip service he gave me. To this day, I have never let him know that I know what he’s about. Not that he cares. We just never had a conversation about it. So, I’m sure somewhere in the future if he ever seeks me out, he’ll just keep that mask of the good guy on when he see me … thinking I would never know how evil he truly is.


Jim in Indiana USA

Good article, Steve, thanks. And I like your ending point…to paraphrase…Does it matter?…both are still dangerous and toxic to their targets.



This is very well written. The differences are well explained, although they seem to overlap. Throught reading, I kept thinking, which is he? Is he a narcissist? Is he a sociopath? is this going to be an article that makes it seem as though it’s all unimportant unless he has done something “criminal” as described by law?

So I appreciate the last few sentences in that they are dangerous to us, regardless of the strength or extent of the disorder, and regardless of what we call them. Even when an individual hasn’t done quite enough to be arrested, it doesnt’ make them less personally, emotionally and psyshologically dangerous, as most of us have experienced. When one disordered individual can drive others to change their lives and belief systems or even want to take their own lives because of the abuse they have provided, they are dangerous. They are evil in the deepest and darkest definition of the word.

Elizabeth Conley

Thanks Steve,

I think people need to recognize that Narcissists and Sociopaths are virtually indistinguishable in terms of how they eventually effect their targets. In that regard diagnosis doesn’t matter. In terms of recognizing the hazard a person presents, recognizing both is important. Narcissists and Sociopaths are significantly different with respect to life history, affect and motivation.

Amusingly enough, the Narcissist and Sociopath I dealt with have a long term relationship with each other. The Narcissist thinks the Sociopath is a violent, volatile, dangerous person. He hates and fears him, but is willing to use the S’s reputation as an expert to prop up his reputation. The Sociopath loathes the Narcissist, believing him to be a complete phony and a liar with a history of sly cons. Nonetheless, the Sociopath is more than willing to charm the Narcissist in exchange for certain perks.

They understand each other well, and have a longer relationship with each other than they have had with anyone else I’m aware of.

Disappoint the rest of us often enough, and we’ll gently recuse ourselves from the relationship. Disappoint a Sociopath or Narcissist, and they’ll do their best to hurt us to the greatest extent they are capable. Then they’re perfectly willing to “start fresh”, and can’t understand why we’re wary. “Can’t we forgive?”

The only reason we have to be aware of the two types as distinct is so we can see ’em coming.

The Sociopath I dealt with: Charming, Openly vain, Craves excitement, Violent criminal history, No sense of responsibility, usually loads of fun to be around, parasitic lifestyle, capriciously alternates between cruel and kind, unspeakably vicious to those who are kindest to him, astoundingly, uninhibitedly, openly exploitive

The Narcissist I dealt with: Works to convey impression of almost painful to witness humility, Socially adept most of the time, squeaky clean, preoccupied with personal status and superficial appearances, parasitic lifestyle, probably unable to control overwhelming compulsion to launch startling direct personal attacks in very public situations and long term covert smear campaigns in more private settings


Interesting article. Mine was a tried and true S. The other trait I noticed about him was the chronic but subtle pathological lying. Or twisting of the truth (i.e. I promise to repay you within 30 days) Or just not exposing the truth (i.e. taking someone else to a wedding, or sneaking around with someone) or being dishonest to himself about his reality of no job, in debt, no direction (life is wonderful, gonna go buy a new CD and CHARGE IT today) as well as boldly looking me in the eye when caught in a lie and denying it or quickly fabricating an explanation or feeling overwhelmingly confident enough to say “well you have no proof, show me the proof first”… Narcissists dont seem to have that trait as a main component to their evil personality.

Elizabeth Conley

“Narcissists don’t seem to have that trait as a main component to their evil personality.”

The narcissist works much, much harder to conceal his/ her dishonesty and is far more likely to be extremely skilled at gaslighting. The narcissist I know has off-the-scale thespian skills. He fools most of the people, most of the time.


Elizabeth, I agree. The N/S/P that I dealt with was an artist of sorts. He has fooled many and some for a very long period of time. The drama associated with his behavior, his daughter’s behavior…..ALONE should have been the red flag that drove me away. The drama and tears that flowed each time he told me a lie and dramatic story of pain and suffering and military imprisonment and secret missions……ALONE should have been a red flag.

They read us like a blind man reads braille and they count on our truthfulness and ability to empathize to assist them in their art of pathalogical lying and drama to fool the best of us. I won’t change my ways or my belief system, my ability to empathize, or my desire to be there for others. I will, however, be able to set more clear boundaries and identify the drama more clearly than before. The red flags are’t so gray anymore. The signs of real emptional abuse will stay with me my entire life.


Its just an awful way of living/being/existing. Nothing is real. Everything is for personal gain/self satisfaction and gratification and exploitation. How in the world do they relate to their healthy family members/friends/coworkers – when they see the love and empathy and honesty and respect and connection in those lives. Do they feel like Aliens in this world and just continue on ignoring it. Do they not feel a certain disconnection from “the norm” in society.Wow, just the reality of what they do, who they are, how they operate – seems like such a hollow existence, and it literally starts to suck the life out of well intended, hard working, caring individuals who get involved with them. At least that was my experience. Bottom line tho, I allowed it to happen or rather continue.

Elizabeth Conley

“The drama associated with his behavior, his daughter’s behavior”..ALONE should have been the red flag that drove me away. ”

Having lived drama free for a few months, I’ve gotta hollar Ahyyyymennn! Not having that constant deer in the headlights “what next” anxiety it so delightful. Where drama is concerned, I really don’t care why anymore. There will be no attempts to analyze, sympathize or excuse, just a quiet goodbye.

I love sleeping through the night. Really and truly, it is my truest pleasure. I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME SNORE!!! It is pure bliss.


LOL Elizibeth, I hear you with the sleep issues. I have worked way too hard (and sometimes slip back into) analyzing mode. I know all the truth that I need to know. The rest is like There is no real answer to why sometimes……it’s simply BECAUSE THEY CAN !!

Jim in Indiana USA

E;izabeth Conley-“Disappoint the rest of us often enough, and we’ll gently recuse ourselves from the relationship. Disappoint a Sociopath or Narcissist, and they’ll do their best to hurt us to the greatest extent they are capable.”

Favorite Lovefraud saying: “The Truth will set you Free, but first it will piss you off.”

The corollary: “When THEY see the Truth is setting YOU free, it REALLY pisses THEM off”

Time to be careful, have a plan to escape, and NO CONTACT!

Ox Drover

To me the “terms” applied to these TOXIC people are NOT IMPORTANT. I use “psychopath” most of the time because Hare did and it seems to “fit.” Liane’s article about what the correct term is (or is not) and how the PROFESSIONALS need to get their chit together and decide on SOME term and stick to it. LOL Semantics!

“TOXIC personality disorder” covers them ALL. For clinical and legal purposes there may be a NEED for a defining term, but for OUR PURPOSES, we know they are TOXIC. My egg donor does not fit any particular clinical diagnosis and so I invented my own of “psychopath by proxy” in that she does the “work” and “bidding” of my P-son.

In the END, all we NEED TO KNOW is that these people have some level of some of the same patterns of USING AND ABUSING others. There are also “degrees” of violence,, some use emotional violence and lies to punish their victims, and control them, others use physical force and even murder. Does THAT make a difference? Yes, in terms of the kind and extent of irreversable damage they do, but the bottom line is, they are TOXIC and the only way we can survive is to get clear of the CLOUD OF POISON FOG that they emit.


And when you think you have them figured out, along comes another one with a slightly different way of presenting.

Dr. Robert Hare notes that talk therapy is not helpful and may even be harmful with a psychopath, because it offers a higher level of “training” in how to manipulate others. The S/P I was involved with had all sorts of fine words, many of them from the AA Big Book, and from counseling sessions he’d attended. He didn’t rage, he would just go silent.

He would move large, ugly pointless cast-off pieces of office furniture into the living area, which was already piled high with his moving boxes. “I need three desks for all the areas of work that I’m doing.” The desk sat, unusable, blocking half of the sofa. He refused to move it, refused to discuss it. It was too heavy for me to move. This wasn’t greed, it wasn’t exploitation. It was pure malice, practiced with a charming grin on his face, and a refusal to even acknowledge my complaint. HE could sit and watch TV, but I couldn’t see over the desk. (No, I NEED the desk for my work, and that’s the only place.) This lowlife wasn’t working, and later when he was “working” it was all about actively choosing to create destructive campaigns that were disguised as “help.”

Sorry — take GREED off that list of traits. This “exploitation” was all about controlling space just to harm me. I was the one who was making money. In ways I couldn’t see and didn’t understand, he used the time to ensure that my business was fully and completely destroyed, and so was my ability to pick up and start over.



Good post. I at times still wrestle with what exactly I was involved with. I guess I do because he viewed me as such a prize in the beginning — it showed the world that he was pretty good to hook me and I gave him a constant source of emotional support.

And then the D and D began.

You’re right. End of the day it doesn’t matter exactly what he’s called. He’s absolutely destructive and toxic to me.

Elizabeth Conley:

“The Sociopath I dealt with: Charming, Openly vain, Craves excitement, Violent criminal history, No sense of responsibility, usually loads of fun to be around, parasitic lifestyle, capriciously alternates between cruel and kind, unspeakably vicious to those who are kindest to him, astoundingly, uninhibitedly, openly exploitive.”

Mine didn’t have the violent criminal history. His was nonviolent — stealing paycecks. But that difference is a fine shade of gray. A criminal history is a criminal history is a criminal history.

It was his unspeakable visciousness to those who are kindest to him. I would have done and did do everything I could to help him rebuild his life after he was released from prison. His treatment of me was so cruel, exploitive and yes, vicious. I’ll never understand how he could treat me, who was so in his corner, in such a manner.

Elizabeth Conley


As you say, criminal history is criminal history. I happen to agree with you that violent or not, carelessly criminal behavior suggests S.

When Narcissists commit crimes, there are many layers of protection between them and getting caught. There are also a lot of rationalizations between them and the knowledge that what they’re doing is wrong, much less criminal.

As a rule, narcissists don’t get caught committing crimes. When they do, it’s because they’ve become totally fearless as a result of long term success in fooling most of the people, most of the time.

Sociopaths don’t mind being wrong, and they don’t worry a whole lot about being caught.


My sociopath was just weird. He’d do stuff that didn’t make sense, like throwing away most of his stuff. He shopped and was constantly buying more things. He’d buy things until he was broke or at least said he was broke. I think buying things is all that gave him pleasure.

I’m glad that he’s gone. Even with all this stuff over my head I still feel happier. Sometimes it’s bad, but it mostly because I can’t make my heart understand how he could do these things.

Ox Drover


My P-son was so DUMB with his crimes that it did NOT take a “rocket scientiest” cop to figure out who the guilty party was with ANY of his felony crimes.

He was SO ARROGANT though about how “smart he is” and how DUMB the cops were that the actually thought, I believe, that he would get away with his crimes. Even after being caught repeatedly as a juvy and then as an adult and doing time, he killed the girl who “ratted him out” in the crime they were committing together, even though it was so POORLY PLANNED that again there was NO WAY they would NOT have been caught. This is a kid in the 99th percentile of IQ. You would think he would have “planned” a bit better, but he didn’t. Maybe it was because his impulse and foresight were not yet fully developed as a teenager when he committed the majority of his crimes. His latest attack on me was a bit more subtle and he arranged it so that if anyone got caught it would be his buddy that actually pulled the trigger.

Of cours3, when I cottened on to the fact that I was being stalked to be killed, and took off into hiding, his “buddy” changed his plans and discarded my P-son for his own benefit and he and my X-DIL stole money from my egg donor and were going to take off, leaving my P-son high and dry!

If they hadn’t tried to kill my son C (I am SURE that was the X-DIL’s idea) they could have gotten away with two paid for vehicles and $50K, but because they tried to kill C, they got caught, got nothing but jail time and lost ALL of the assets they had…both are afoot, both had no clothing or other things when they came out of jail/prison, etc. So they sure didn’t “think ahead” with their VERY POORLY PLANNED SCAM. Even if they had managed to kill C (and I thank GOD that they did not) they would NOT have gotten away with it I don’t think. (though I do know a local P who did get away with a cold blooded execution style murder of his GF’s husband) he was tried but got off. His GF who was an accomplice turned on him but she was so pathetic on the stand they let the man walk. She did get the husband’s money though.

Sabinne, a lot of the things they DO will NEVER MAKE SENSE to you. I am glad that you are having more peace without him than with him, even with the crap he is pulling. (((Hugs))))


Good heavens, Oxy. I’m so glad you made it out alive. Thank god, my ex doesn’t care enough to kill me. For once in my life, I am so glad that I’m poor–my ex would have left me a husk, in dumpster or chopped up in a freezer somewhere if I did. I would feel sorry for the mealticket he’s with, but honestly she knows he’s a monster and doesn’t even care. I want to tell the cops that if she disappears to not look any further than him. I know he’s capable of it.


I am new to this forum and EVER-thankful for it!

I’ve been dealing with a socio/narcissistic (malignant, I believe) on and off for about 3 years. While he has been very generous and has done a FEW nice things, I’ve done 10x as many in return.

Whatever. I met him and entertained his “nutball” behavior during a rather downtrodden time in my life, when my mom was living in my home — dying of cancer. (I have forgiven myself for my entanglement.)

I’m thankful that my own pain wasn’t so much that it caused me any *true* harm —- but, I am ashamed of my fascination with the offender.

I fancy myself to be an intelligent lifeform, and my fascination with the offender lies within cracking the code of the “kiss ‘n kill” behavior — and its HUGE extremes, with ZERO notice/warning nor explanation.

While I never initiate contact with my personal socio/narc offender, I am always compelled to respond to his contact. (What’s up with THAT?! I think it’s just idle fascination…. albeit, could be dangerous. I get that. I protect myself always.)

Lastest? Invited (BEGGED/PLEADED/CRIED TO) me to *just* dinner and conversation, worshipped me (insincerely, natch — with acting and MUCH eye-rolling from me) throughout the brief evening ……………. and INSISTED on writing me a $3k check as a ……… GIFT.

I took the check.
I deposited the check.

NOTE: I did NOT “need” the check. I was thinkin’ … “oh wow! After all the socio/narc behavior … I get a PRIZE! WOO HOO!”


When I left him that evening at 11pm, he phoned me at 11:45 to make sure I got home alright. (… you know, because he CARES! LOL!) He also *begged* me to phone him in the morning when I woke up.

Did it.
No answer.
Called again later.
No answer.
Left a text msg thanking him for a “wonderful evening for his generous gift.”

Here we are ….. 2 days later; no return calls, BUT:

an email pops up for me, which states (AND I KID YOU NOT!!!!!):

“I just got your email about a GIFT!! Are you high! I offered a short term loan only. Why on earth would I GIVE you $3,000!! I have stopped payment on the check. Please do not contact me again.”

My keyboard suffers the only casualty, as it received my spewed first cup of coffee this morning.

So — they go OUT of their way to invite you to be … injured BY them?

This is how they get off?
That’s IT????


Surreal: Yep. That’s a great story! It looks like it has all the elements, all in a two-day period — woo, flatter, dump, and injure!

The variations are — they marry us so they can inflict more pain because it’s harder for us to run away. They maintain other so-called relationships on the side, so they have more people to hurt (control, toy with, manipulate) in more ways. They are likely to have no limits on who they will mess over just to maintain their sense of power. Gaining the trust of a child to then harm the child so that the MOTHER is emotionally/psychologically/legally injured would be just another variation.

By the way, does he owe you money? Was he paying back a loan that you made to him? (as Oxy would say, ROTFLMAO!!!)



Agree with Rune — it’s got all the elements.

My question for you — why do you even respond? NC is the way to go.


Hi Rune & Matt!

I feel dirty and guilty, because I already admitted that I’m “fascinated” with the behavior.

Also, I mentioned that I’ve not been harmed in any lasting way. (If I didn’t say *exactly* that — I meant to, and I apologize.)

YES, I have cried real tears.
YES, I have found myself in the fetal position on my bed for half a day …..
…. because of him.

BUT — it was only during my very, very vulnerable time — and I’ve forgiven myself — and I understand why I was able to be vulnerable to it.

That said, it doesn’t excuse my fascination!!! I’ve always been genuinely interested in human behavior. I consider him a ‘fluke’ in my life.

I respond to his “on again” wish for contact because the fascination continues.

I do NOT excuse his behavior, but I wish to study it and learn about it.

As an aside ….. a HAPPY aside — I feel as though my experiences with this particular shytehead gives me the opportunity to help others who even *HINT* at dealings with similar lifeforms.

I dunno.

I want to help people…………….. because I’m …………. normal, feeling, thinking, breathing, caring, loving.

If I do something against my better judgement and am harmed by it, I know who to blame. Myself. I have no such intention.

This very sick sick SICK behavior is similar to my inability to look away from a head-on collision on the highway, with body parts all over said highway.

I’m thankful for my own grace and compassion — yet, feel guilty for wanting to …………. look.

Make sense?


RUNE said: “woo, flatter, dump, and injure!”

Yes! That IS the modus operandi.
What the phuck?
How does he think he can continually do this and not reap wrath from the Universe?



RUNE also said: “hey maintain other so-called relationships on the side, so they have more people to hurt (control, toy with, manipulate) in more ways.”

Oh, WOW!
Also, dead on!!!!
In fact — he *gave* his “crackberry” the other night, so I could SEE all the other wom… Errrr……….. VICTIMS.
I only wish I had a photographic memory to have remembered all their phone numbers, but:

Can I save someone who’s already up to their eyeballs IN it?
Those women would prolly view me as “a woman scorned” or jealous or somethin’…. ya know?

It felt helpless, for me.

Ox Drover

Dear Surreality,

Welcome to LoveFraud, glad you are here.

I am “fascinated” about WHY you took the check in the first place.

Your “fascination” with something you know is toxic, to me, is akin to playing with a rattlesnake and being “fascinated” by its behavior.

I STRONGLY suggest you stay around here and read about the Ps and learn LONG DISTANCE about them, not up close and personal! LOL I also suggest that you figure out why you are fascinated with playing with “fire” because as I see in (IMHO) you are playing with fire, and don’t know why.

KNOWLEDGE=POWER and that is I think what you need, knowledge about yourself. I didn’t really start to “heal” until I quit worrying so much about what they are or what they did, but figuring out WHY I was vulnerable. I know some of the “whys” you were vulnerable, and obviously you do too, your mother being ill and dying is enough to make one vulnerable…I learnd why I was vulnerable and it has now freed me to no longer be fascinated with THEM, but to repair the missing pieces of MY psyche that allowed me to be vulnerable, and it was much more than my husband’s accidental and tragic death 4 1/2 yrs ago. Glad you are here, this is a healing place, for US!


Hiya OxDrover….

My only explanation is that ……… considering all I know about the offender (his family, his friends, his liaisons) … if he’s capable of being truly harmful to anyone — it would be to someone that doesn’t realize he’s a sociopath.

I do realize he is one.

I took the check, because I felt I was “owed” something…. even though I didn’t ask to be “paid” anything.

It was a “gift.”

I had zero expectations about the check. In FACT, my experience is that you can put yourself in danger by *rejecting* the “generosity” of these types of psychos. I didn’t wanna risk that.

While I thought the check would *probably* clear (written from his corporate law firm checking account), I was also not surprised about the email ‘notice’ received this morning.

Nothing about him shocks me.
I’m impermeable.

I feel thankful that I didn’t ask for the money … OMG! Can you imagine? What if I’d actually asked for money?????!!!!! What if I needed it?! Oyyyy.


Anyway, I’m interested in discussing the BIZARRE behavior … the things they say and contradicting things they DO…. and …… why!

Don’t you wonder why?

I mean, is everything just thrown into the “oh, well — s/he is a sociopath!” basket?

That’s the ONLY explanation?

Can they be branded or tattooed to be identified by others????
I think it should be a law.


Surreal: Their brains are wired differently. Their motivations are different. They don’t think like you, they don’t want what you want. What they want is likely something that will make sure you DON’T get what you want.

If you have a desire, they probably want to thwart it. You may not even know you have a desire, but they may choose to set it up so you HAVE a desire (give you the check) and then take it away. The thrill is in jerking you around, manipulating. “Call me when you wake up!” so that when you call, he won’t answer.

Why do you want to mess with this insanity? How about hanging out with people whose minds you CAN understand? Where you will know that they mean what they say, that their jokes are jokes, and their sincerity can be trusted!


Hi Rune,

Yes, I understand the thrill for them is in seeing pain from their victim. I’m guilty of wanting to know why. Apparently there’s no answer other than, “they’re wired that way.”

Okay! I’ll get with that program. 🙂

I have many real friends and family. I think that’s why I’m still more fascinated than injured. Everyone has identified the behavior as “sick” or “psycho” or “sociopathic.” And, I agree.

Just curious, is all! 🙂

My contact with the culprit is intermittent — not often — like once every 3-5 months.

Is it possible for you to understand that I can be fascinated yet NOT “taken” with anything at all about him? 🙂
Please consider that, okay?



Perhaps I am wrong, but I detect a bit of intellectual pride in your attitude toward the disordered person in your life. You find his behavior “fascinating.” That attitude–and believe me I know this from experience–is just the sort of thing a “high IQ, high-functioning” psychopath looks for. Lives for, even. Their hatred is so pervasive, and their hubris is so massive, that they are COMPELLED to make fools of EVERYONE they interact with, in some way. This is why they lie even when the truth would be better for them. They MUST deceive. It gives them a rush, a charge, to think that they have “pulled one over” on the world.

It’s the same sort of charge they get by inflicting pain on others, as Rune notes. MRI imaging has shown that their brain’s pleasure center lights up when they successfully deceive someone, or when they witness pain.

Even if you have a genius-level IQ, you are still no match for someone who is DEVOID OF NORMAL HUMAN FEELINGS. You can’t study them. You can’t outsmart them. You can’t trap them with clever wordplay or cross-examination. You can’t get the truth from them. The only thing you can get is HURT and HARMED.

Because, as Kathleen Hawk has noted, your emotions put you at a disadvantage.

Don’t play with the psychopath. He is not worth your time. Better to study tapeworms, or ticks, or some other parasites. They are fascinating in their own way, and they can’t write bad checks.


When I was in Thailand, I watched the snake handlers interact with their cobras. They obviously loved their snakes. They wrapped them around their arms, necks. They kissed them. They loved them. Astoundingly, the snakes seemed to be trustworthy, as long as they were with their own handlers.

I would trust a Burmese cobra before I would trust an S/P.

Elizabeth Conley

“I detect a bit of intellectual pride in your attitude”

…and that’s all I’m gonna say – ever.


You might try reading some of the recommened books on spathholes. Alot safer than what you are doing.


Hi Tood,

I totally agree. I wasn’t tauting my intelligence inasmuch as proclaiming how happy I am that I can no longer be harmed by the offender.

I do worry about others, though.

I’m accountable for the interaction — all of it, in my opinion. I’d not agree to have any further interaction, either — because this latest ‘episode’ was by FAR the most bizarre yet. (I think his condition grows worse with his age. He is in his very late 50’s, I’d like to mention.)

I only feel empowered because I’m not emotionally involved as I was 2.5 years ago. Whew!

But, I do take your warning very seriously. I wouldn’t play with this fire again, because I just do NOT know what kind of harm he’s capable of … when he “gets it” that he can no longer play on my emotions. I tend to think that’s when it REALLY gets dangerous? (Am I on track?)

Thanks for responding.


The article in Nov. 10, 2008 New Yorker magazine, “Suffering Souls,” is interesting. You might also google the FBI summit on the shooters in the Columbine high school tragedy. Harris was diagnosed as a psychopath — he was the one everyone thought of as “nice.”

Is opn

There is something that I really need to talk about. So I will blog it. I do not mean to offend anyone. I am trying to understand the S and if these situations had more of an impact on him, to be meaner because of them? An S is an S no matter what, I realize there are different degrees of an S.

The S that I knew had a relationship/marriage for 18 years or so. The spouse left him for another, of the same sex. Later she told him she knew this was always her. I believe the more bizzarre side of the S’s motivational behavior were contributed by this relationship and how it ended.

Then I came along. He already was madder than heck and had stewed on his past relationship for 5 years. I think this made him more sick with this revenge thing he displayed on me.


Is Opn: Now, take your statement above and change it around … to you being the married person for 18 years and your spouse walked out for another. Would you take anything out on the next person you dated? I don’t think so. I think you would have a heart to heart with the next person you dated and tell them that you feel very vulnerable in X, Y, and Z areas. Not, and I repeat not, abuse the next person you should date.

Believe me when I tell you this … his marriage lasted 18 years because he lied to her too. There is no excuse to abuse anyone. Period. They abuse because they want to. Period.



Maybe I can put a touch more of gloss on the perspective you are seeking. I am a member of Mensa. Yes, have a genius level IQ. And like your ex, I am an attorney. More to the point, I my specialty is criminal defense.

If any body should know that all ex-cons lie and a fair majority are sociopathys, it should be me. But, me, the so-called genius attorney fell for an ex-con who is a sociopath. And I wouldn’t wish what I went through for 15 months on my worst enemy.

If you’re looking for intellectual answers, I suggest you read “Without Conscience” by Robert Hare and “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout. Also work youcr way through the archives on this site.

That said, I can tell you from personal experience that this, for lack of a better term, science experience you are engaging with is a no-win proposition. The one thing that EVERYBODY on this site can tell you is that there is no winning with sociopaths. No matter how smart and disengaged you think you are, THEY WILL ONLY WIN.

Let’s look at the instance of the check he gave you. Whether or not he owed you the money, he still won. You are still going to be absorbing the costs of depositing a check which had the payment stopped. There is always a cost with a sociopath.

More to the point, no matter how much you avow that you are disengaged from the sociopath in your life, the problem is you are still applying a normal, rational person’s way of aproaching problem solving to somebody who is not wired that way.

The energy you are expending on your 3 to 5 month fliratiions with danger would be better spent on a relationship which has a future. You will never figure out a sociopath and never win with one. Cut your losses and move on.


Is opn:

I am gay. But, I did the straight married thing for awhile. As far as your ex-S’s marriage went, his ex was always gay. She just couldn’t admit it to herself.

She probably stayed in a bad marriage as long as she felt she was getting something from it. I mean, think about it. Every marriage has its trade-offs which most people outside of it have no idea what they are

I suspect his ex finally reached a point in life where she got honest about (a) her sexualiy and (b) the fact that she was married to a sociopath and couldn’t take it anymore.

What your S is mad about is she is the one who discarded him before he could discard her.

Is opn

He will hurt you when he doesn’t get his way. Sounds like a tantrum to me. No, it was the S.

Lately all of the S’s sick, gross, eerie, putrid comments have been filling my head, … and leaving. I am writing them all down as they come in a journal. Why?, to see what had been spewed to me all this time and the craziness of it all.


Thanks, Matt — I’ve been looking over both of those books on Amazon, tonight. And I suppose I am looking for discussion about the sociopath, in general, instead of a “support group.” So, you pretty much nailed it.

I did spend 8 months of frequent contact with him several years back, but these days it is only an evening every 6 months or so. I used to think his problem was strictly alcoholism, but now I’ve learned that it’s far more evil and unfixable.

No way would I flirt with it again. I would prefer to enjoy life. 😉


Is opn – I have this unresolved and until you said this (I thought I was only one who had this take on it) but there is just something so STRONG in my belief about his past having stagnated him/his growth/his emotional intelligence. He says his childhood was unremarkable, very supportive parents, very involved with school and always a good student. (He and his parents are estranged from his sister… but she was one of the first that “Cut him off” over family issues… he showed up at her home to make amends/discuss the family rift and she wouldnt answer door and never took his calls. He gave up. He had a few relationships in highschool (usual breakups etc.) and then his College Love of his Life… moved in together after college, vows of marriage, head over heels (beginning of bad spending habits – spoiling her, gifts, etc. possible pregnancy which in the midst of the scare she told him she had to transfer and work in another town – he was devasted and heartbroken/but she made promises of continuing the relationship, he got van, moved her into what he didnt know at the time was a new place for her and a guy she began seeing. HE LOST IT. LOST IT. She sent him an email (I saw it) day before she was to marry the other guy – for him to please come rescue her. (N/S/P???) He did not go. She subsequently told him she named her childs middle name after him. After that relationship is when he said as he puts it “Learned the most valuable lesson of a lifetime about women”. They became a game, a toy, an object, something to screw and play head games with. Needless to say I spent years and years and years trying to debunk his views, show him compassion, patience, kindheartedness, FRIENDSHIP, you name it – I was going to open his eyes to women that dont intend to hurt/harm/use a man. AND GUESS WHAT I GOT IN RETURN ….HURT,HARMED AND USED. But I am certain that while this guy had the potential traits of an S, they did not come full surface until he experienced horrific emotional pain and god onlly knows what he went through in his childhood as far as emotional/physical abuse that may have contributed to his diagnosis. But I believe there is something genetic as well as environmental atmosphere from some point in his past that set him off on the path of exhibiting the personality traits and eventually becoming a full fledged S. I know some will not agree with my take on this. And I respect that. But it just my view now, today, in the place that I am in the healing process.

Is opn

Matt: Re: his ex finally reached a point in life where she got honest

Yes I think she had become honest with herself, and realized this relationship was destructive and moved to where she really wanted to be, but I don’t think she truly knew he was an S and never will. In the S’s former relationship he was different. He took care of the one child they had, she was never home, busy career, in many clubs, causes and things.

In the divorce he won custody. (The child got to choose). Yikes. He fooled the psyches and the courts.

There is NC with our child/ren. On both sides, mutual and will stay that way.

Do you think that an S plays the same games with all of their romantic involvements?, and changes the tactics slightly if they are not working?

What the X’s X said to me recently was that the S, was a dim wit. She thinks he is slow. A mask he wears to appear to be slow, quiet, kind. She is coming around to a new definition of him after our talk.

I guess there is hope for me to have survived him. If she can laugh him off as being a dim wit, I can laugh him off as an S and NC.

re: What your S is mad about is she is the one who discarded him before he could discard her.

I never thought of it this way, is this why he walked out on me so many times? Before I could do it to him? History repeating itself in another form.

The S still plays her, she plays back but I think it is on the surface. But that appears to be enabling to me. Anyhow she seems very fulfilled with her career, relationships, and clubs and causes. Living through an S has made her life better.

There is hope to return to a balanced life without an S, to rule and destroy my world.


Is Opn,

I wondered and questioned some of the same things. The XS/P was married for 26 years. I was married for 22. I felt that he was 1. stable, having been married for so long (being naiive and assuming that longevity of marriage means something to everyone. 2. He took a high moral stance regarding men cheating. (then later told me he had a short affair because his wife pissed him off) In the beginning they are angry. They just hide it better. In the end they are angry. It’s probably the only emotion they truly feel.

I later learned that “short” affair lasted a year and a half. He lied to her too. I also learned that his marriage lasted so long because his wife NEEDED him to survive financially and didn’t (still doesn’t) want the truth. He wants to believe his own lies and even when I found him in bed with someone he was convinced it was ok because I drove him to that behavior. HE REALLY BELIEVES I VIOLATED HIS TRUST BECAUSE IN HIS MIND I WOULD HAVE CHEATED ON HIM ANYWAY. I was the one who couldn’t be trusted. Are you kidding me? And STILL I try to make sense of it all????? There is no sense to the nonsense !!!!

He was so stereotypical of what Steve wrote above. Most of them are. I was idealized. Loved it. Loved him for it. And the more he started realizing that I wasn’t that perfect reflection he hated me more and more and showed his disrespect by violating me, ditching me, cheating on me, leaving me over and over. Or did he really hate himself? He abused me as he despised his reality?


It’s all very bizzare and I find that the more I ask why and try to make sense of it all the more confused I get. All I know is that I was on the road to becoming “fascinated” with his behavior, in the meantime he was abusing me verbally, emotionally, and psychologically as my brain and heart were working to find the answers to the fascination of how could a man treat me so badly while I loved him so much? Because he is trash. Because he is sick. he is not injured. He is no longer abused. he is a grown man making these choices.

My therapist asked me during a session if I ever saw those people who are fascinated by snakes… know they go into dark caves to pick up the snakes and inevitably get bitten about a dozen times a day. They have been bitten so many times that they just become immune. So what’s the purpose of the fascination with the snakes except that you later become numb to the poison? …….. It doesn’t mean anything really and why would we want to live our lives like that with a snake who bites over and over and over because it SIMPLY IS WHAT THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY DO.


Is Opn: Although I respect Matt’s opinion, I could also suggest that your S’s ex-wife was so traumatized by her relationship with him, that she decided she would rather be with a woman than a man.

My understanding is that women who have had a damaging, high-conflict relationship with a man may feel more comfortable turning to relationships with women, even if that is not their usual sexual preference. I also understand that this is more likely to happen with women than with men — that men are much less likely to turn to men for comfort without being substantially attracted more to men than women. I would also say that the possible damage is that a woman may make that decision, and then break the heart of her female partner when she changes her mind about her gender preference.

I do believe that human sexuality operates on a spectrum with some people more polarized in their preference, and some people genuinely available for same-sex or opposite sex relationships. I do think, though, that trauma can push someone in a different direction.


Is opn:

“Do you think that an S plays the same games with all of their romantic involvements?, and changes the tactics slightly if they are not working?”

Sure do. There have been enough people who have posted on this site who have learned that their ex-Ss have run the same drill or previous and subsequent releationships right down to using the same lines on the others and taking them to the same place. If they want something/someone badly enough I think the more organized of sociopaths can change tactics. But, I think they are the exception rather than the rule.


Matt: I saw the guy I was with run a script so many times. It was like he didn’t really have the capacity for an original thought — he just borrowed from others. I think he would watch for new ideas, but he couldn’t improvise, because he didn’t really KNOW anything!

I truly believe that our creativity comes from a heart center. I dreamed about the S/P the other night: in the dream he did not have a physical heart. I wonder what the dream was trying to tell me?


Is Opn,

RE: Matt’s post above. I was a bit obsessed with trying to find out whether I was the only one in this entaglement of abuse and lies. I felt like maybe it WAS me who was causing it. Maybe there WAS something wrong with me…… and as you can imagine I heard that from the S/P almost every day. It was all my fault. And his daughters and sister maade excuses for him and so it must have been me.

Until I had a conversation with the woman with whom he had an affair four years earlier and learned that he met her in the same exact place he met me. Said the same thing as he approached her. Told her the same lies and stories. Took her to the same places for weekend vacations. He left her often. he told her he was almost divorced and had been separated (but he had never left his wife) and he just up and ditched her one day, never to be heard from again.

Although I found some comfort in knowing that it wasn’t me, my fault, my issue……. it angered me more. He talked like his relationship with her meant nothing. He just “slept with her” because his wife pissed him off. Well he did the same thing to me…. and probably to her,…… and probably many others over the 26 years he was married. AND HE WILL AGAIN.



I have a dream interpretaion book. There is nothing in there about dreaming about a heart. I think it is what it is…… no heart. LOL

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