By | July 31, 2009 235 Comments

The nature of the “abusive personality”

Unfortunately clinicians and researchers often tend to interact with a specific segment of our society and to develop their own ways of describing the problems of the people they work with. For example, there are professionals who work with clients who have “personality disorders”, there are professionals who work with criminals in the justice system and there are professionals who work with perpetrators of domestic abuse/violence.

Each of these three groups of professionals has their own lingo for describing very similar people with very similar patterns of behavior. Each group also has a different “theoretical orientation” or view of the problems of humanity.

Because those who work with family abusers often lack experience with sociopaths in other settings they do not know that family abusers are sociopaths.

Where does that leave you, a victim or family member of a disordered, abusive individual?

To spare you the task of sorting through these three distinct ways of looking at the person who created havoc in your life, with the help of The Abusive Personality, I will present here more on the work of Dr. Dutton a psychologist who understand the personality profile of abusers.

First of all, I can say with confidence that individuals who abuse and victimize lovers, friends and family members are personality disordered. As Dr. Dutton points out on page 8 of The Abusive Personality, “Because IPV (intimate partner violence) occurs in a minority of relationships it cannot be explained by social norms. In fact, normative acceptance of IPV is low in North American populations. .. When people act in a chronically dysfunctional manner that violates the norms of their culture, their behavior is attributable to a personality disorder.”

Dr. Dutton makes a compelling argument that the “abusive personality” stems from what is known as borderline personality organization. According to psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, adult and adolescent patients with antisocial personality possess an underlying borderline personality organization. Attachment theorists also suggests an association between borderline personality disorder and antisocial behavior or even antisocial personality disorder. Dr. Dutton acknowledges that many perpetrators are violent and antisocial outside the family and many appear to completely lack empathy and remorse. All chronic perpetrators have an extreme inability to empathize with their victims and seem to only express remorse as a means of maintaining the relationship. These emotional deficits are considered to be diagnostic of sociopathy.

According to Dr. Dutton, both male and female abusers experience cyclical changes in personality that relate to abuse perpetration. These cycles, have interfered with understanding the personality of abusers. The cycles happen because abusers experience a great deal of negative emotion and they blame this negative emotion on those closest to them. After they “blow off steam” by abusing loved ones, they experience a temporary relief from these negative emotions. During the time they “feel better” they may seem like model spouses and parents.

In my opinion, there are four other characteristics of men and women who perpetrate partner/family abuse that have interfered with our understanding that these abusers are psychopathic and are truly sociopaths. These are:

1. The degree to which they cling to those whom they abuse.
2. Their high level of anxiety and other negative emotions.
3. Lack of abuse of strangers and non-family members.
4. Lack of criminal arrest for other offenses.

I want to address each of these characteristics by asking then answering the related questions people have asked me over the years.

Question #1 Does the fact that my ______________ keeps calling and doesn’t want to lose me mean that deep down he/she really loves me?

Answer#1 NO! Although sociopaths are not capable of love they are very social and most often want to count themselves in as part of a family, extended family and friendship network. If they are alone how will they be able to do what they do best which is abuse and control people? Also if they are alone, how can they use people to get the other things they want. Especially as sociopaths get older and their ability to charm others declines they tend to want to stick with those they have taken advantage of in the past.

Question #2 My poor _________ is just depressed/anxious/angry about being mistreated and abused as a child. Won’t my love and reassurance help him/her get over it?

Answer #2 NO! If your______ has a long standing pattern of abusing you and/or other family members it means something very important so listen. It means he or she equates abuse with being in a relationship, just like you equate love and caring with being in a relationship. Since that is true, your love will only make the person more abusive.

Question#3 My ___________ only abuses me and no one else so it must be my fault. Right?

Answer #3 NO! Your __________ would abuse others if he/she thought he/she could get away with it and will abuse anyone else he/she feels close ties with. An intimate relationship brings out abusive behavior in people who have a borderline personality organization.

Question#4 My _____________ has never been arrested can he/she still be a sociopath?

Answer #4 YES! Antisocial behavior is behavior that hurts other people. When this hurtful behavior is perpetrated by someone who lacks empathy or remorse it reflects psychopathy/sociopathy.

In summary, I recommend that all mental health professionals who work with the victims and family members of sociopaths read Dr. Dutton’s book The Abusive Personality. I also recommend another of Dr. Dutton’s books, The Batterer a Psychological Profile for victims of domestic violence. Order it through Amazon today with these links:

The Abusive Personality
The Batterer a Psychological Profile

Does anyone want me to try to explain what “borderline personality organization” is?

Is there anyone who still has trouble accepting that partner abusers are sociopaths?

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super chic

Hi. Yes, I am interested in learning what “borderline personality organization is! I was reading and thinking “what did I miss here?” This is a term I am not familiar with. Thank you for taking the time to write this interesting article! I have seen the “blowing off steam” phenomenon, usually followed by why it was the other persons fault it all happened. Questions #1 & 2 certainly ring a bell !!!!!!!!

Isn’t studying sociopathic behavior part of a clinicians or researchers education? Not even a teenie bit?


Dear Dr. Leedom,

If I had any doubts left whether or not my EX was a sociopath, your 4 statements above with the questions and answers certainly solidified my belief that he is one, for 100% sure.

I always have to research for myself before I can “believe.” (I like that aspect of myself actually!.)

And if I haven’t thanked you for writing and publishing, “Women Who Love Psychopaths” let me heartily thank you now. I read it first to validate my own assessment about “why” I was targeted. I am now reading it again to “solidify” former research about the psychology of these “critters” from another planet.

This current article is very timely, well-written, and pertinent. Thanks for writing it.


I forgot to mention my interest in borderline personality “organization” as you asked. I would be interested in learning more about this disorder but not because I am interested in learning more about the causes of my Ex’s disfunction. My interest would be in adding to my “arsenal” of info for educaional purposes of others. Very valuable, I think.


Question: Would the research being done about the cyclical nature of abuse fit the category of our informal description of Dr. Jekyel/Mr. Hyde? It seems to reflect that aspect, doesn’t it?


Dr. Leedom,

Thank you for another terrific article, full of useful information, and so accessible, which is deeply appreciated.

Please talk about borderline personality disorder — I find it confusing and would like to understand.

Best wishes,


Over here in OZ we have more information on borderline personality disorder than ANY of the other personality disorders or mental illnesses ! Libraries and bookshops and the net are filled with info on it ! It is literally everywhere. I don’t know why that is.
When you give us YOUR explanation of it, could you please make it as straightforward and succinct as possible ? Their are so many differing opinions and views over here!


I’d like to mention that another word that contributes to victims of sociopaths not being able to recognize them is the word “abuse”. MOST people’s minds interpret abuse as physical abuse. They don’t see the S constant attention needs, cheating, jealousy…all about me…traits as ABUSE. I get it but I have to admit that I kept questioning myself about my ex S because he was never physically abusive towards me although Biddy recently wrote and told me that he threw her to the ground when she tried to leave him awhile back and then threw her belongings in the yard. Trust me, he would HAVE never done that to me in a million years! He knew that my sons would have beaten him to a pulp and he also knew that I had already been in a physically abusive relationship prior to my involvement with him. He told me he would NEVER hit a woman, blah, blah. If he had of gotten physical with me, it would have blown his cover. All of her family lives out of state and they live 1/4 mile up in the mountains with NO nearby neighbors. That’s scary!

Hecates path

Dr. Leedom,
Wow! Reading this article was just one lightbulb moment after another for me! It totally explains why my mother who has never been formally dx’d as borderline but is a textbook example seems to “cycle” so regularly – to the point that in a discussion with a psychiatrist I stated she was likely borderline and he replied “Or bipolar given the cycling.” The comorbid nature of her disordered thinking/personality obscures a diagnosis.

This article also explains something that I have wondered about for a while… in my attempt to make sense of my ex S’s behavior – behavior that I now know makes no “sense’ to the rest of us – I realized that he fits the criteria for BPD, AntisocialPD, NPD… and in hindsight it appears that his behavior just before and during the “Devalue & Discard” (there were mini D&Ds before and after but this was the BIG ONE) was suggestive of Bipolar Disorder. As my therapist pointed out, (regardless of what you actually call him) that combination was the “recipe” for “one of the most disturbed, disordered and abusive people [she has] ever encountered” (by proxy) in her career. And *that* conversation was before I learned about sociopathy! He is an alphabet soup of the DSM -IV!!!

As this article and Dr. Dutton’s work suggests, though, the concept of the “abusive personality” accurately encompasses this multiplicity of personality traits/disorders exhibited by such severely disordered and destructive people. Perhaps a DSM category of Abusive Personality Disorder could end the debate about Sociopathy and AntisocialPD that has inhibited the “system” for too long. The diagnostic criteria would be almost too simplistic:
Multiple co-morbid personality disorders resulting in a history/pattern of exhibited behavior/traits that are abusive and destructive to self and others.

Can we nominate you and Dr. Dutton to the DSM revision committee??!!! The various LF authors could serve as an advisory committee…

Thank you so much for sharing this information with us. I have a mental list of “must read” information that I reccomend to others trying to understand sociopaths and this post will be added to my list of must read information.
Thanks again,

Hecates path

For those of you who are interested in learning more about borderline personalitydisorder/borderline personality oranization, I found two books to be especially helpful:
“I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me – Understanding the Borderline Personality” and “Stop Walking On Eggshells – When Someone You Love has Borderline Personality Disorder”

They are both really good books for understanding the nature of borderline personality organization. At the same time its been a while since I read “Stop Walking on Eggshells” so I feel that I need to give a disclaimer: the book gives suggestions for how to “deal with” the borderlines in your life, which are helpful when setting boundaries with borderlines (like a parent or boss) who are toxic and emotionally draining… however I don’t recall the book being explicit about “dealing” with dangerous, abusive, malignant people by the most effective means which is going NO CONTACT. It might have done so but it’s been a while since I read it… and truthfully the place I have found to be most informative about the value of going no contact is LF!

Ox Drover

Liane, this ONE ARTICLE clarifies more than the entire rest of the stuff on LF—and that is going a long way!!!!!!! thank you so much, so VERY much.


TNewman says (re Biddy a former LF poster who is now married to T’s ex husband if i got my info straight): “Biddy recently wrote and told me that he threw her to the ground when she tried to leave him awhile back and then threw her belongings in the yard…………..All of her family lives out of state and they live 1/4 mile up in the mountains with NO nearby neighbors. That’s scary! ”

TNewman, If my memory serves me correctly you warned Biddy about your ex, but she married him anyway after living with him awhile (in spite of him cheating on her and giving her std’s), then Biddy posted here for awhile. Now her husband has already shown abusive tendencies towards her. My own situation was no family in the same state as me and living with NO nearby neighbors like Biddy. It does sets up a scary scenerio indeed. I am glad you have been there for Biddy. I realize it is frustrating when they are warned and don’t listen, but I did was lost in the fog myself and I’m not sure a jackhammer could have blown me out of it for the longest in spite of “intellectually” KNOWING, yet I continued to make excuses and stay in denial or go against my own best interest–kind of like being stuck in quick sand I would struggle a bit to get free then sink back in etc.

I just want to say I hope and pray that both you and those of us here on Lovefraud will continue to be supportive of Biddy each and every time she comes round for support, or rather I know we will but for some reason I need to verbalize it. I know I went back and forth so many times, in spite of getting more and more info (and even after reading Without Conscious and thinking my ex would likely be a perfect score on the PCL-R), as I was sooooooooo mentally screwed up and on a sort of remote control by then, very dissociated from my feelings. I sense that with Biddy and strongly identify with her denial about her man and also with her isolation away from family or even neighbors . TNewman please keep us updated on how she is doing (as you get news) as I am very concerned for her. –Jen


Well, I have to admit I am somewhat confused by this article that seems to indicate that all abusers are sociopaths/psychopaths. I am not clear on “why” that would be. All people who commit murder are not s or p, and all rapists are not s or p, and all people who steal repeatedly are not not s or p and all liars are not s or p as other mental conditions or personality disorders also do very bad things. I thought a s or p had to demonstrate the severity of traits or characteristics consistently in ALL areas of their lives, so I am not sure I “get” why a person who abuses a spouse would automatically be a s or p, and maybe not just a really mean drug addict or really mean drunk or some other mental illness or personality disorder who goes off the rails every now and then. (and before I get flamed let me say I strongly am against domestic violence and I totally get it is toxic and it is wrong, but I just don’t exactly get why this automatically makes them a s or p as this article implies).

Does this research replace other research and information in numerous other books and articles, including from experts such as Hare who stated that approximately 25% (I think the figure was) of PERSISTENT spousal abusers are psychopathic? This leds one to believe that an estimated 75% must have some other disorder or factor playing into it. Not even all serial killers are psychopathic as some have other disorders, so I am afraid although I agree they are all toxic and some sort of disordered, I don’t get why a domestic abuser would “automatically” be a sociopath or psychopath. couldn’t one have led a perfectly normal and honest life up to say age 30 (for examples sake) then get addicted to maybe crack cocaine and whenever they get high on drugs become mean and abusive, but never be abusive any other time. then perhaps they kick the drug habit and clean up their lifestyle and never be abusive again. So what happened…….did they become a temporary psychopath, then recover from psychopathy?

So is all research leaning this way and overlaying all the former research? And does this mean since sociopath and psychopaths are not treatable in domestic abuse programs (I have read in various places that many people ARE helped through these programs and go on to learn appropriate ways to deal rather than abuse, but s or p’s do NOT learn and the program has no effect on them)–so what will become of domestic abuse programs to treat offenders if all abusers are all sociopaths and psychopaths and cannot be helped–will the programs be disbanded?

I am not trying to be difficult here, but I think these are serious issues and questions that need to be addressed if all abusers are going to be labeled sociopaths or psychopaths. I have not read the book in question, so I am not saying it ain’t so, I am just asking questions and wanting some sort of clarification as to where research is going.


But in rereading Dr. Leedom’s post it seems the Dr. Dutton is not saying all abusers are sociopathic or psychopathic, but that “chronic” abusers are personality disordered (which could include things other than sociopaths or psychopaths).

But then Dr. Leedom in one place in the posts says they are all personality disordered (which could mean various disorders and not just sociopathy or psycopathy), and then in another place she says they are sociopaths. Ok, it sounds to me this is just “her” opinion as far as them all being sociopaths and is not backed up by research, if I am reading this the way she intended???? Or maybe I’m still just confused by the post.


Dr. Leedom, thank you for sharing your professional opinion. I would like to respond to the two questions you ask in your post. I certainly feel that Psychopathy/ Sociopathy is a separate diagnosis and can never be applied to all abusers. Historically, it was linked to the APD and is now being considered as a separate diagnosis within the DSM V. The factor(s) that make an abuser carry such diagnosis are pathological lying, disregard for others, and shallow emotions. As we know, Borderline Personality Disorder is another diagnosis all together, not always associated with pathological lying. If anything, the emotional spectrum within BPD is extreme, not shallow. On the other hand, I appreciate your point that a socially deviant behavior is a symptom of social pathology, which is different from sociopathy/ psychopathy. I value your opinion deeply, but disagree with the statement that all abusers are psychopaths. I recently listened to Dr. Samenow’s seminar, titled “Inside a Criminal Mind”. He gives a very detailed and truthful description of the abuser, as well as the diagnosis. Lack of remorse (or partial remorse) is one of the pillars of the disorder. The grim outlook for the APDs is certainly not shared by those who treat BPDs and other PDs and find that abusers are capable of change and do learn and modify behaviors. Borderline organization is at the core of many PDs, but if it were used interchangeably with sociopathy, we’d only have one Personality Disorder listed. Thank you for allowing me to share my opinion.



The way I read it, and I could be completely wrong, is that Dr. Leedom was givng her opinion that all the “chronic” abusers are rather than all abusers are.


I would say that some abusers do can and do change and others do not. Having worked in the prison setting previously I would agree that some do and some do not and that it is a choice they make. For change to happen, no matter what disorder it is, the client has to truly want to change. If they do not want to change they won’t.


I can never understand why women need to talk to the ex-wives of their partners. I have always gone a million miles to avoid the “ex”- whatever”. There is something inherently unhealthy in talking to the ex rather than your partner. And even for the ex partner, once you have warned them it is probably best to detach.
Biddy is very lucky to have TNewman. For me, I had to reach my “rockbottom” of having no-one but myself left before I “got it”.
Of course we will ALL always be here for Biddy. We were ALL Biddys once.


persons with schizophrenia may become chronic abusers, unless their condition is properly treated. within certain environments, abuse is a survival strategy. This will start me talking about military, and I better not go there.

Ox Drover

Part of the problem of WORDS is that we each have a slightly different “definition” of the words—like “abuse” for example.

WHAT IS ABUSE? What is NOT abuse?

Human behavior is never quite a totally “square” peg or a totally “round” peg–because each human (except for idential twins) are UNIQUE, and each SITUATION is very MUCH unique in place, time and circumstances, so trying to catagorize “types” of humans let’s say in to “round” or “Square” or “trapizoidal” are all going to be quite IMPERFECT because NO two humans are going to be identical, or fit ALL the criteria of “round” or “square”—-

The other problem with catagorizing and defining people with “personality disorders” is that it must be done taking into consideration various professionals’ particular favorites in terms of definitions, experience, their own ego, etc. AND must be done by CONSENSUS.

One of my favorite “true-isms” is that a “Camel is a horse, designed by a committee.”

Everyone has to put their own “hump” on it so what you come out with is not necessarily the “best” design but everyone is placated by being allowed to “contribute.”

Since it is my belief that no two of us are going to be able to completely agree on the definition of what is “abuse” (and BTW that will VARY with culture and other variables) much less the other items that must be defined.

Personally, I think it might be better to define “personality disorders” like species and genus with sub-catagories.

Take Equines for example, they include the horse, the donkey (ass), etc. and within those, the various BREEDS. No matter what the animal “looks like” on the surface, they will fit within the catagory of “equine.”

QUOTE: LCSW: “in certain environments, abuse is a survival strategy” I would “redefine that” as VIOLENCE rather than abuse. I do not believe all violence is “abuse”, but like s/he said ‘A SURVIVAL STRATEGY.”

The DSM V which will be coming out soon, I do not have much confidence will be much, if any, better than previous ones at describing the various kinds of “personality” disorders than past ones have been. With professionals not being able to come together on definitions, symptomology, and causation, I think we will just have another version of the “camel” and who knows, this one may have 6 humps or six legs.


Oh, Oxy, I think this 11:53 a.m. is your BEST post!

Not sure I agree with you that VIOLENCE “ia a survival strategy” any more than I might think, as LCSW does, that “abuse is a survial strategy.”

Other than that, I am complete accord with your thinking above.

I almost completely disagree with LCSW’s theories — unless he/she could quote some studies rather than just personal experience, like in prisons. Chronic physcial abusers change? I think not!

I apologize for any disrespect that my opinion, based only on one experience living with a physical abuser for nearly 50 years, may be assumed.

As I think about it, the definition of abuse to any survivor or untouched person in the public, has to be qualified with adjectives, like emotional, psychological, sexual, and physical, in order for experts and victims to “speak the same language.”

With all due respect, I attest that I would still be living with my EX with the malignant hope that he could change, if LCSW had been my counselor — and probably be dead!!

Well, not really still lving with him. By the time I escaped, I KNEW beyond any doubt that he would not change but just continue to get worse. (No drugs, no alcohol, no prison record involved.)

I didn’t even seek out a counselor until after I had escaped to save my very life and that was to help ME heal from the experience.

The past 7.5 years have been devoted to trying to understand “what” happened to me. I wish I had taken classes with tuition and I’d have another degree!

Dr. Leedom’s theories are the first ones that brought the whole picture into place for me.

I don’t know if my R.N. daughter’s 10 year experience in a prison setting for sex offenders is any basis for “scientific” analysis. It was common knowledge among doctors, nurses, etc. that the firm opinion that sex offenders do not change was true.


This is one of the best articles I have read, thank you Dr. Leedom. I was always good at filling in the blanks and multiple choice, at school anyway, but when you apply it to unhealthy relationships it does validate what I already new. When you grow up in an unhealthy inviroment, abuse of any kind is normal. Normal until we hit rock bottom and are forced to ‘fill in the blanks.’


This article is AMAZING for me!!!!

I have not read anywhere else about the CYCLES of the relationship.

My Husband actually said to me “IF YOU CAN JUST PUT UP WITH MY CYCLES WE WILL BE OK.”


He would get close , to pull away – repeatedly, in different segments of time . But he was also cheating – affairs , sex sites – he was just cycling us all through – like if one frustrated him he would cycle over to the other.

We had some periods of what seemed more intimate loving times, and then he would distance again.

I would often tell him he plays with me like a toy only to put me back on a shelf when he is done.

This article pretty much confirms he is not only Narcissistic bit a Sociopath – which I knew from counseling.

Dr Leedom – more detail is certainly welcome

Just this week I posted on the over-diagnosis of bi-polar disorder – in reality many diagnosed BPD have IMPULSE CONTROL disorders, anti social…psychopaths



have trouble with the term SOCIOPATH because it sounds so ominous- so intimidating – so hopeless.

Not that NArcissism is much better –

So if he has repeatedly cheated, lied incessantly to my face about almost every facet of our 22 year marriage, has been financially deceitful, selfish, self-serving and reckless, does not see the impact of his behavior on our children, blames me for everything, has taken advantage of hids friends financially, hidden assets and investments etc, etc – he qualifies for the term SOCIOPATH?

I thought he could also be bi-polar because of his hypomanic episodes 4 or 5 times a year.

Perhaps he is more borderline influenced – ?


newlife – Maybe you dont need to label him. Somebody said a few weeks ago we were giving them super natural names. What if he is a S or a N or Borderline? Does it really matter what you call him? Do you think with just the right label you will understand even more? Or perhaps be better equiped to fix him? The person you describe is bad, and bad for you. A book that helped me more than any is Meaning from Madness by Richard Skeritt…I have really stopped trying to understand the X (because I never will) and work more on understanding me .


Henry you are right……

Doesn’t matter what I call him ….I receive the excerpts from Skerritt – yes -interesting in getting ourselves back on track…

Maybe I still fel too much shame allowing myself to stay in it for so long……….

If I label him ….it makes me less guilty???


yes – i felt that way too – if he is a scary disordered monster than it was all his fault and not mine. But I do remember that ‘somethings not right with him feeling’ and I am glad someone told me he was a sociopath, and that has led me to alot of awareness about personality disorders. I remember when someone recommended the book to me, just the title alone gave me hope that I could put some answers to the MADNESS…that s what it was, 3 years of madness. I think we can get saturated with the subject tho. My X has patterns that are very predictable, he fits all the traits of many disorders. I have my own demons to deal with and I have learned alot about things i didnt have a the end call it what ever – we must learn from this, and I have…



Just a hello to you…I think we are the same amount of time out of the MADNESS and toxic relationship…hope you are doing well and staying strong. I cannot believe I still have setbacks, but I am realizing they are just more growing pains as I keep going forward. Take care! Still think we should plan that LF Party on the farm! 🙂 – LTL


Hello Learn – I have setbacks also, but nothing in me want’s to go backto the madness. Hey that party should be on the oprah show, maybe she will fly all LF member to a Tropical Island – you reading this Oprah????


Why do we continue to love the sociopath?



In my opinion we continue to love the illusion that we though was a reality. After all we fell maddly in love with the S because he showed us the things he knew we loved (the cameleon). But everything was a fake. He also knew we would care a lot for him, based on the traits he showed us.

It is hard to let that illusion go. And that is why we suffer so much. We loved the ‘fake’ things he shoul us, but we hate to know they were all lies. We feel betrayed and that is a hard thing to accept. We have been hooked to an addiction (it was very good but yet was slowly killing us). Now we are trying to break free from the addiction.


I totally agree with Brihancy.
And – to put it into the context of this thread, I feel that BPDs are very different at the core. My parent is BPD – can be abusive, can be manipulative, can be the sweetest in the world, yet, has own character and tastes and even when acting to seek positive attention from others, does so knowingly and not with intent to hurt. APDs on the other hand will create the total illusion of truth, mimic your very nature, and then destroy it at the core. It is also the reason why the victims stay and not find the strength to terminate the relationship. We keep looking back at the dichotomies, and are not sure if we believe what we see (observe) or what we hear. With my BPD parent, its really straight forward for the most part, and we all learned to deal with it. The behaviors are not malignant, only attention seeking. It’s easy to get “sucked in” but in reality, there is no emotional abuse such as the one I encountered, when the castle (created for my benefit by the P) in the sky fell apart before my own eyes. “I promised? – So what? I changed my mind”. does this sound familiar to anyone?


yes very familiar but it was “Look I am sorry I f–ked up your life” hmm did he have a conscience maybe?


akalpita, you asked, “Why do we continue to love the sociopath?

I’ve thought about this for a couple of hours and realize that I don’t have an answer. I just do — but it wasn’t because I had been loving an illusion. I “saw” him quite clearly after the first 3 months.

I think I could describe my love for him (even throughout the “marriage”) was a member of the human race, a male person who had been created by God, worthy of being treated well regardless of how he treated me.

I wish him no ill (and that puzzles me sometimes for what horrible things he did) but I SURE AM GLAD THAT HE IS 1800 MILES AWAY.


Henry, it is past midnight but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your words and encouragement — especially the acres of lilies blooming — last Friday.

I think I already mentioned that but your story of how horribly your mother mistreated you has haunted me. You are a strong person to have survived that. You didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t have a mother like that — nor was I that kind of mother. I put the “plan” that God had given me last Friday into action this afternoon — and one result was that Daughter #2 firmly reunited with me. JOY She admitted that it was her father behind all the “junk” and that she had only good and kind memories of me. Another JOY.


Lily – That is wonderful news. I picked a bouquet of Naked Lady Lillies this morning and thought of you!!!! Dont take that out of context please…….


I have been able to easily put both N/S/Ps (that were) in my life squarely in the N/S/P category. They both met all “qualifications” perfectly.

I have a much harder time, though, trying to fit my abusive dad into the category. Abusive, but not 100% of the time. Non-apolgetic, (if that’s a word), but no cycles, just the apparent inability to process any emotion other than anger when under stress or perceived stress. Vents anger, places blame, cools off then all is well. No head games involved, no stringing along, no toying. No physical abuse. Hates to be inconvenienced, stressed if required to vary his daily routine. Deep seated need to keep certain image to outside world, but interacts with outside world as little as possible.

Those are the negatives, but he also is very generous with regards to money, and can always be counted on to help with a problem or emergency. Helps us fix our cars and with household repairs. Makes deliveries for my brother’s business for no salary, just for having something to do (he’s in his 60’s and retired). This sometimes creates problems with abusive outbursts toward my brother. He says it’s only about once a month this happens. Somehow he is able to shake it off and is still willing to continue with this arrangement. It would leave me shaking in my boots and cringing for the rest of the day.

So I’m not sure what label would fit him. Generally he seems like a normal, respectable sort of person. I’ve not had to experience one of his outbursts for a few years now. But as a child they were just about daily.

After the discussion with my brother the other day (there are just the two of us in the family), I’ve come to realize that I was the one that internalized everything. He got more of the physical “punishments”. I was constantly analyzing and trying to figure out how to make it “better”, wishing my brother would stop doing the things that set him off, wishing my mother would quit saying things that set him off, and then saying things to coddle him. And of course, trying to be “perfect” so the anger was not directed at me. Which at times antagonized my mother because it was always my brother that received the abuse, therefore she felt I never got mine.

Then she started drinking when I was in high school, so then I ended up playing “counselor” and mediator between the two of them, and maintaining the household chores. For the life of me I have no memory of my brother even being in the family at that time. She went to AA and stopped drinking after a couple years (I think, I can’t remember the time frame).

Anyways, long story the point of which being, I don’t know what to call my father, lol.

Ox Drover

Sometimes some of the “cluster B” (personality disorders of various kinds) people have anxiety that will be alievated by an “ourtburst” of anger/rage/tantrum and then they will be “okay” for a while until the anxiety builds up and is again released by another tantrum/rage/anger outburst.

These people are sometimes called “borderline personality disorder” or “histrionic” but can be any number of different labels BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS they do not experience emotions like the rest of humanity—-once their outburst of anger or rage (no matter how hateful or hurtful it is to someone else) they want to go back to “pretending nothing happened” and if you try to talk about, or work out the hurt that they have done to you, they become even more enraged. You must tip-toe around them to keep from “setting them off”—

Which exact disorder your father has, it really doesn’t matter because he is NOT going to “get better” and will continue to throw tantrums off and on.

My egg donor is very much that way, very controlling and I am No cotnact with her—can’t take the outbursts, won’t tolerate her control, and there is no compromise.

Just keep reading, researching and learning—first we learn about them, then we learn about ourselves, then we heal ourselves, then we live a good life. God bless.


“they want to go back to “pretending nothing happened” and if you try to talk about, or work out the hurt that they have done to you, they become even more enraged. You must tip-toe around them to keep from “setting them off—””

That is exactly my experience. Things only go along reasonably smoothly as long as you don’t step out of line. It doesn’t matter what you do – a wrong expression on your face, the wrong tone in your voice, anything can trigger them. Its like walking around with a live grenade.

Thats the only thing that I don’t get a sense of when reading alot of the comments on this forum —– how totally terrifying these people are.

There is plenty of discussion about the ‘walking on eggshells’, the ‘gaslighting’, the lack of love and all that but, to me that murderous fury which is always simmering just on the surface of these people which is the most terrifying aspect of them.

Every day as a kid I would dread the walk back home from school, my heart sinking and my throat getting drier with every step I got closer to home. I would be a shaking leaf walking in the door right up until I was 19, the feelings of terror, violation and injustice are as strong today (30 years later) as ever.


Just thinking about cycles. About mirroring, and WHY they can’t stand a mask longer than few months. Maybe because they cant make us NOT to see real face. We saw it, and they know it is a matter of time we will start digesting new picture we saw, and mask will slip.
When mask slips, they can see in our eyes how do we see them, they see THEMSELVES, the evil, and i believe it terrifies them. So we are both in denial phase. After the victim saw who they really are, game is over and no need to pretend – now they can hate openly. And they DO.
I dont believe they have no feelings, hate is feeling too, and they do hate us for knowing who they really are.

Ox Drover

Dear Bunny,

I think most of us have had that feeling, and I know I talk about “walking on egg shells” to keep from setting them off, is the way I describe it. The terror of doing something to “provoke” them and have them turn on me.

I am sorry you dreaded going home, that is not the way a child should feel coming home from school. And even worse, the child has no way to relate at all to those feelings of not being “safe” and “protected” at home. Home is where a child should WANT to go FOR safety and peace, not stay away from. Every child deserves a protection from that feeling. I’m sorry you didn’t get that either.

Many times growing up in that kind of environment makes us later think that is “normal” behavior and that we can expect that from others, I think it is part of what “sets us up” to be victims of later psychopaths.

I’m glad you are here at LF, this is a great place not only to learn about them, but about ourselves.


Many times growing up in that kind of environment makes us later think that is “normal” behavior and that we can expect that from others, I think it is part of what “sets us up” to be victims of later psychopaths. – said OxDrover.

Yes yes yes! This is how I lived all my life. Totally petrified to get anybody at all angry with me. Always either doing whatever possible to try and avoid it, or doing damage control, and always expecting the worst. Problem is tho, that sometimes it is true. My childhood best friend was extremely controlling. Would give me silent treatment if something didn’t go her way, and would be fine again as long as I was the one to apologize. I used to have to create reasons to apologize.

Then I had a boss very much like my father. Did not give me appropriate training then yelled at me when I made a mistake. Made me cry when I was pregnant.

I spent a lot of time as a young child, trying to analyze my parents and figure out what or who was wrong and why, and what could or should be done about it. Spent a lot of time alone outside as that was the only really safe alternative.

Yes, I was afraid to be at home with my parents, but still, emotionally/socially unprepared to be out in the world. Terrified of going away to college.

Into adulthood I’ve had many nightmares of my dad screaming at me and I will scream back – “just hit me and get it over with!!”

I told my husband last night that if he gets worse as he gets older, I’d rather just step out in front of a bus. I am not convinced he does not feel love, but I am positive he doesn’t know how to feel it appropriately, as his inflated sense of self gets in the way of it, and justifies the rage. He himself and his family have a difficult time being affectionate and demonstrative. But he’s never used it as a ploy to get what he wants, or to apologize after an attack – never apologizes. Though I have seen him do it in public to non-family members.

Bunny – I identify totally!


I’d like to know more about borderline PD. It does sound dramatic to say my mother is a sociopath. Especially to those who know her. They think she’s just so charming. All her craziness is due to the loss of my father.

I also wish someone would write a post about coping skills for people like me. My mother is a SP. But she’s going blind and we just learned that she may have dementia. How do we protect ourselves while making sure she doesn’t wind up on the street?

It’s been such a crazy year. My dad died. My mother was DXd with macular degeneration, had a bleed so she can’t drive (but did until we took the car). A couple of weeks ago she rubbed her eye so hard she dislodged the lens in her bad eye and tore her retina. That eye is now all blind.

My sister and I went to help my brother with all this. She seems so sweet and nice when she really needs help. As soon as the major crisis was over she was back to lying, back stabbing, blah, blah, blah.

The Dr thinks the only way she could have done that to her eye is if she wasn’t in her right mind. I think it’s possible that she could have done it knowingly due to extreme anger.

Anyway, guess I just wanted to vent a bit. But some coping help would be useful. It’s so stressful it’s so hard to describe. I feel so angry, but there’s no changing her, so pointless to talk to her. And I fear this is just the beginning now that she’s sinking into old age. I wish it were over.


I totally relate, Bunny. It is well over twenty years ago for me now, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that “special” kind of terror that no child should have to deal with.

Like most children of N/S parents, that terror has formed my life in such negative ways. It has impacted my choices, big and small, and rendered me helpless to form my own opinions, self-worth and boundaries. The terrorizing, even as an adult, continued until the day, eight months ago, I finally HAD ENOUGH and fought back with (gasp!) “I don’t care what your opinion is of me, Mom.” It was an epic moment: I was suicidal and she picked that particular moment to viciously attack me personally – not a normal reaction for any truly “loving” parent. Thanks to LF, I RECOGNIZED the dissonance, understood the motive and realized at that moment I had to be my best friend, and stand up for, protect, nurture myself the way I would do for anybody else I loved. Otherwise she’d have destroyed me WILLINGLY and would have gotten a lot of enjoyment from the sympathy and attention by her friends while she “grieved.”

You’d think I’d told her she was the spawn of Satan but, I guess to a control freak N/P, there is NOTHING worse than being told he/she is irrelevant by a former source of Supply.

In any case, that has led to unequivocable nastiness from her in an effort to force my will to bend and beg her forgiveness (no doubt with the requisite prostrations and IOU’s forever and ever for my wrongdoing in ever thinking her opinion didn’t matter). After all, why shouldn’t it? That tactic has worked for over forty years! However, I am now morphing it into No Contact on MY terms. That’s it, I’m done!

Already I feel so much better spiritually even though my life, financially and personally, is in absolute shambles as a result. I think I’ll really start being able to make some smart, healthy decisions for myself now that I’m not being influenced/pressured by the egg donor (thanks Oxy, for that great descriptor!) based on what will or won’t “embarrass” her or reflect on her.


there is not a label on this planet that could sum up the way these people actually successfully blend into society and maybe I’m a bit paranoid but when you start putting everything into “nutshells” I get nervous, the human species is a creative organism that constantly evolves, yet here we have the human equivalent of cancer cells as human, they destroy the good cells eventually ending in their own demise anyway…borderline personality is a clinical word that says nothing to me of the allure of these people, the charm factor the persuasiveness all the better to destroy you with…it really is red riding hood and the wolf “what big teeth you have” “all the better to eat you with” and the wolf was a borderline personality? I’m sorry but it just sounds so “We have it all under control because we can name things and label things and document it…its just a joke, these people are still destroying life…and getting away with it in a genius kind of way and we would need to start labelling, documenting and naming how we respond to them and what that says about us..


I guess the whole point of us “normals” putting labels on these folks is to really get to understand what has happened and, more importantly, prevent it from happening ever again.

Yes, it seems ridiculous on the surface that the people who have been damaged by the disordered pow-wow, trying to understand and heal through labels and naming, while the disordered themselves merrily go on their way, cutting a swath of destruction through other people’s lives. However, the only hope we, as a species, have of controlling this group is through knowledge.

It seems more and more people ARE picking up on it lately, though. Corporations, some financial leaders, even entire governments are referred to a sociopathic entities by the media because the label fits the behaviours. There is increasing pressure on courthouses, counsellors, social workers, etc., to learn the true meaning behind accusations of abuse and multiple convictions. It’s happening very slowly but it IS happening.

The more people that recognize the labels, the better. Maybe then people who have never personally experienced the gifts bestowed by the disordered can help put a stop to it before it really gets out of control.

Maybe I’m just being an optimist, though. It kind of stinks to think these people ARE the cancer of the world that we have no hope of getting rid of.


For those who care,
I think I got it. The Eggshells book on one of the preview pages, states that Borderlines feel feelings, like everyone, but they are very intense feelings, rapidly cycling and quickly changing. Because they are so incredibly intense, it’s hard to contain them. Psychopaths (APDs), like ThornBud noted, feel Hate, as the only viable emotion they are capable of genuinely experiencing.

it’s been few days without you all. I have done it on purpose, but felt lonely and came back. Thank you for sharing in this awful experience. I can’t imagine what it would be like had I not found this site.


Welcome back, PInow (Katya)

You were missed but it is true that sometimes we need a respite from even the wise advice and encouraging words. At least I do.

I’m glad to hear you “got it.” I’m rather positive my EX was not borderline but I have a friend who was married to one. Not fun! Are you perhaps thinking this “label” identifies your disordered person? If so, I hope knowing this new information will help you figure out the rest.

I agree with Jofary’s statement, “I guess the whole point of us “normals” putting labels on these folks is to really get to understand what has happened and, more importantly, prevent it from happening ever again.”

We, for sure, never want to go through this again!!



Yes its the steady march of my ex P and kind of unstoppable machine like way he sticks to his agenda regardless or in spite of the mayhem around him. He could fool anyone, his body language is a lie, he switches around like a chamelion. labelling him might help in describing him, spotting him, detecting him, avoiding him of course…i’m just despairing the fact he is still out there spreading poison…we all know him, there is a growing group of us…his sister, his mother, his father, his friends, his neighbours, his former girlfriend (still trying to get over him 3 years later, me (trying to forget him) 1 year after, As i said to his sister we can sit around describing him till the cows come home…and there is this almost resigned look in all our faces…we cant reach him!



Hate…the only viable emotion they are capable of feeling…thats the cancer cell element of them and the very very bad news about them…My ex P seemed to have put on a brilliant act…his sister agreed he is a master at lying without flinching. He stares with this completely trustworthy look, not a trace of sneering, very vulnerable open looking…and thats him performing the act and I defy anyone not to fall for it….its seamlessly convincing



I know that I could go through this again! in fact thats the only way I can go forward is to really know…yes this can happen again. I suppose like a fighter cell I have got to experience the cancer cell…let him destroy alot of me and then trying to group to gether with other fighter cells…his family and we are kind of circling him now…but how to deal with him? we attack cancer cells with radium!!! and they come back!!!! so we are all just talking about it…discussing various ways of approaching him..I would honestly say if he feels us closing in he will skip the country and go somewhere no one knows him..and start again…thats why maybe getting a criminal record from me might stop his ability to move around at least a criminal record is a signal to people….but every person i talk to i am scanning for psychopathic traits and even us “normals” have them as does society, we would not enable them otherwise…or treat animals and children the way we do…so I am going to turn it around in myself so that I am at least aware its in me too and thats where I can fight it best.

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