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The sociopath as your soul mate

A few years ago, I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which was the #1 New York Times bestseller when it was published in 2007. Gilbert tells her story of supposedly having everything career, marriage, home yet feeling depressed and unhappy. She left it all, got a divorce, and then spent a year abroad to find herself. She ate her way through Italy, studied spiritual practice in India, and sought to balance pleasure and divinity in Indonesia.

While going through her divorce, Gilbert had a relationship with a man whom she calls “David.” This didn’t seem to be a sociopathic relationship, just normally dysfunctional. Although they broke up, Gilbert, from time to time, pined for David. Her feelings came back to haunt her while she studied at an ashram in India. She was obviously despondent, so her wise and funny friend at the ashram, “Richard from Texas,” asked her what was wrong.

Here’s how Gilbert describes the conversation:

I was actually crying. “And please don’t laugh at me now, but I think the reason it’s so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate.”

“He probably was,” Richard said. “Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can’t let this one go. It’s over. David’s purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so a new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it.

Soul mate agenda

In my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, the #2 red flag is “sudden soul mate.” When you meet the sociopath, you feel like you’ve met the person you’ve been waiting for all your life. Why? Because the sociopath studies you, figures out what you’re looking for, and then transforms himself or herself into your ideal mate (at least in the beginning).

Many sociopaths actively push the “soul mate” agenda. In my Internet survey for Red Flags, 64 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “The individual said we were ‘soul mates;’ I was the person he/she was waiting for.”

Sociopaths, of course, are using the “soul mate” terminology only as a tactic in their strategy of calculated seduction. It’s part of the act, and their real agenda is exploitation.

But as much as I hate to give sociopaths credit for anything, they may, indeed, serve a purpose in our lives.

Hooking our vulnerabilities

Sociopaths look for our vulnerabilities and then use them to hook us. Their actions are certainly despicable. But the fact remains that we’re the ones with vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are often detrimental to our happiness, and perhaps even our lives. The sociopath offers us a solution to our problems, an answer to our prayers. It is fake, but we don’t know that until much later, when everything falls apart.

As we’re standing amid the devastation that used to be our lives, wondering how we got into this mess, the truth may be right in front of us: In some way, we were vulnerable.

If we’re honest, we can identify the weakness, pain or mistaken belief that may have been hidden even from ourselves, but the sociopath was able to find and use. Then, we have an opportunity to truly heal not only from the sociopath, but from the vulnerability that the sociopath targeted.

Shattered

This certainly happened to me. When I met James Montgomery, I was 40 years old, had yet to marry, and worried about my biological clock ticking. I was primed to be plucked. When I discovered Montgomery’s betrayal, and realized that my marriage had been a scam from the very beginning, I was shattered.

But what, specifically, was shattered? The walls I had built around my heart. These walls were based on my fear of being hurt, my disappointment at feeling so alone in life, and my mistaken belief that I was not worthy of love. The betrayal by James Montgomery caused me so much emotional pain that I could not contain it, and the pain burst out of me, taking the walls with it.

And with the pain and the walls out of my system, real love was able to enter my life.

Two-fold recovery

So was James Montgomery my soul mate? I guess it depends on how you define the term. Richard from Texas, quoted above, would probably say yes.

I certainly agree that James Montgomery demolished who I was and changed the course of my life. But I’m the one who worked to clear out the emotional debris and discover who I really am. And that’s what I hope you will do as well.

I am not making excuses for sociopaths. But I talk to a lot of people who have been involved with them, and usually, when I ask, they can identify the weakness that made them vulnerable to manipulation.

So make your recovery two-fold. Work on recovering from the sociopath. Then identify and work on recovering from the original vulnerability. Your life may change dramatically, and for the better.

Lovefraud originally posted this article on Nov. 11, 2013.

 

 


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12 Comments on "The sociopath as your soul mate"

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Dear Donna,

First, I agree Elizabeth Gilbert’s “soul mate” is very likely a sociopath.

Second, I think her friend, Richard, confused a soul mate with a “twin flame,” which is usually a brief relationship that leads to deep insight.

Elizabeth Gilbert should examine what she felt was so uncomfortable with a stable life with no drama. Instead of running away from everything, and herself, she should have sought counseling.

Wonder how she is doing now . . .

Yours truly,

Monica

What a great post, Donna!

I originally thought the second sociopath in my life was my soul mate but by “soul mate” I think of someone that is in sync with what I value and hold dear in my life. Even though the person I believed was my soul mate turned out to be a wolf in sheeps clothing in hind sight; I think he could have been a blessing in disguise.

In the end; his presence got me to self-reflect; I joined CoDA and started working on myself. I learned what I was doing to attract these types of disordered people in my life.

I’m stronger and self-fulfilled now. I know my vulnerablilities and I am in a relationship with a man that is willing to take “baby steps”. I’m calling my own shots in my life for the first time ever and I am listening to my inner voice.

So, whatever the true definition of a soul mate is….I’m grateful I made it through.

all guys/gals who are psychopaths have to do, is study their target, ask questions who they’re dating (if anybody is), who/what their friends are. trust me, if you’re in a bad patch (i.e. boyfriend suddenly gone, parents being difficult, etc,)..the psychopath will home in on you, like radar. And know, just what to say, how and when to say it. You/ll be ‘sucked in’ like a vacuum cleaner dustbunny in no time! The mean, rotten, empty side will come out later in tiny bits and pieces..and if you/re not paying close attention to these ‘signals’ and run far away, they/ve got you.

A baby chick’s shell is shattered as it escapes confinement and seeks a new life. Your beautiful article suggests that yes, some awakening processes are so horribly hurtful that we beg not to repeat them. It took two devastating crazy relationships, the second one much shorter than the earlier one before I got it. I’m so grateful for the education available today, as in Lovefraud, that was non-existent before. Thank you, Donna!

Is it really a vulnerability to respond to somebody (apparently) liking and desiring you? Is that not just a basic human need that we all want to have fulfilled?

Dorabella, that’s a very valid question to ask, and here’s my own answer. First, it is absolutely a normal human need to want to be loved, and to want a partner. Second, life is complex, and there are no hard and fast laws of nature determining whether or not a given person will end up in a relationship with a psychopath or other abuser. So yes, if someone does respond to (and get into the clutches of) a personality disordered individual, I do agree as far as saying it’s not necessarily a “vulnerability” on the part of the target. I’m sure there are many people with no special “vulnerabilities” who fall for a predator or abuser of some kind, especially if the abuser is unusually cunning and deceptive, and if the target is unaware of the existence and nature of such predators, as the majority of people unfortunately are—as Donna never tires of pointing out to us.

However, having said that, I have a motto that I like to trot out: “There are no certainties in life, but there are always probabilities, greater or less.” If someone is not particularly “vulnerable,” they’re far less likely to find themselves stuck with an abusive partner, and if they do, they’re more likely to do a prompt exit, stage right, and suffer less harm from the encounter. If they do have major vulnerabilities, the opposite is likely to happen They probably will end up with an abusive partner, sometimes a whole string of them, one after the other.

I personally like to use the term “risk factors” for these vulnerabilities, because it’s a term people understand in the context of diseases or other misfortunes in life. I don’t need to list the factors that make people prone to heart disease, say, or lung cancer, or highway accidents for that matter, because most people know what they are. Just because somebody smokes like a chimney all their life, say, they won’t necessarily contract lung cancer. They may live to be 105, only dying because they were too slow crossing the road, had poor eyesight, and got hit by a truck! On the other hand people who never smoked in the life can still be unlucky enough to contract lung cancer. In spite of those exceptions, we all know what the statistics are.

There’s a neatly contrasting pair of quotes about probabilities. A well known one is from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:11:

“…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong [and several other examples], but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

But that’s about the exceptions. This Biblical verse was memorably parodied by Damon Runyon, a notorious gambler himself, who said:

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong… but that’s the way to bet!”

That’s about the “rule,” the more usual case!

So what’s this got to do with “vulnerabilities”? Well, if someone gets stuck with an abusive, predatory, or otherwise disordered partner, it’s more likely that they did have vulnerabilities of some kind leaving them prone to victimization. What are these vulnerabilities (or “risk factors”) specifically? Donna likes to talk about “wounds” suffered in the past, which is a good generalization. I like to get more analytical and examine not only what these things consist of, but how they operate in terms of cause and effect. What “risk factors” can be involved? I’m sure they’re not all the same for everyone. People can be very different. Still, I think it’s helpful to divide these factors into two groups, interrelated as they are. Just for the sake of this post, I’d call the two groups involved “neediness” on the one hand, and “tolerance” on the other. The more needy and the more tolerant people are, the more likely they are to be victimized.

You pointed out quite rightly that wanting to be loved and wanting a partner are entirely normal human needs! But that invites the question: just how “needy” is any given individual? Some people are happy enough by themselves, or with the friends they have, while some are a great deal “needier” than others, depending on their individual makeup, but especially on their background and circumstances. That can leave them susceptible to exploitation. If someone loses a partner, if they’re recently divorced or widowed, they can be lonely and more needy than others for a partner. They can be prime targets for an exploiter. Other factors can play a part, even moving to a new town where they have no friends. I recall one poster here mentioning that as a factor when she met her psycho.

But that’s not all. Anyone who suffers from low self esteem–a topic you’ve mentioned yourself–or lacks self confidence, which to me is not the same thing, but can be nearly as debilitating–is likely to be needier than the average person for a love relationship.

To clarify the distinction I just made, I think “low self esteem” means being in the sad position of falsely believing that “I’m not worth much, so nobody is going to love me, and I don’t deserve anyone to love me.” As if every human being doesn’t deserve love!

I think “lack of self confidence” is not as toxic to the spirit–a person may feel they’re a good and worthwhile human being–but in spite of that they may still believe, for whatever reason, that “no-one is likely to find them very attractive.” “I’m not witty, I’m not smart, I’m not young, I’m not beautiful, I’m not strong, I’m not competent, I don’t earn much money,” or whatever their perceived “shortcomings” may be. The perception that “I’m not competent” is a particularly damaging one, because it culminates in the feeling that “I can’t survive by myself, so I’m all the more in ‘need’ of a partner to take care of me.”

Many of these toxic, soul-destroying beliefs are inculcated in childhood, where abusive or neglectful treatment by parents and other so-called “care”-givers inflicts damage on the child. Angry, disordered or incompetent parents send the abused child a message that “you’re bad, you’re worthless, you’re incompetent.” Even plain neglect, from a self-centered, narcissistic, alcoholic or drug-abusing parent, leaves the child with the subjective message that “you’re not worth bothering with, not worth anyone’s time and attention.” When Donna speaks of “wounds,” I think these are mainly the kinds of “wounds” involved, inflicted in childhood when the child knows nothing better about the world or about how healthy people would more properly regard or treat him or her.

This is not to exclude “wounds” inflicted later in life, especially during the teenage years of high school where kids can be cruel to others with their exclusion of the “out-group,” of the “non-popular” kids who weren’t “jocks” or “prom queens,” and may have been left feeling inadequate, particularly by rejection from members of the opposite sex.

Whatever the reasons behind all this, the point is that anyone who’s too needy will be prone to accept any partner who seems to be attracted to them, regardless of that partner’s faults or even cruelty, where a healthier person would reject such an exploitative partner. In particular, the notion that “I’m not worth loving” or that “nobody will ever love me” inclines the needy victim to cling desperately to any partner, no matter how abusive, who will stay with him or her at least some of the time, “because I’m never likely to get anyone better.”

On that score it’s significant how often partners of abusers have reported the abuser telling them “Nobody will ever love you the way I do!” This statement sounds deceptively similar to what someone truly in love might say to their loved one–that “I’ll never love anyone else the way I love you!” Yet in reality it’s backwards! The needy partner may be sadly likely to accept the first statement as truth: that nobody else ever will love them, so they’d better hang on to this person, however abusive he or she might be. Possessiveness, a form of controlling behavior, is naturally mistaken for “intense love.”

I’ve also heard it claimed, by a Ph.D. psychologist who dealt with many abusive relationships, that codependent people who end up with abusers are likely to feel especially in “need” of a partner as a distraction from their own problems. That’s to say, someone who has suffered wounds in their childhood and possibly doesn’t think much of themselves as a result may fear being alone, when they’re left to reflect on themselves and their past, and doing so brings only pain. To them it may feel necessary to “get involved” with someone else, despite the drama an abusive relationship incurs, when the drama actually saves them from dwelling on their own painful issues.

To make matters worse, excessively empathetic people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by abusers. One aspect of this is that they may have been more likely to give credence to what others, including abusive and neglectful “care”-givers in childhood, seemed to be “feeling” about them: that “you’re bad, you’re worthless” and so on, and taking it to heart, where a less empathetic child might process the experience more objectively.

All that is about “neediness,” which increases vulnerability to abusers. The other side of the coin is “tolerance,” which can do the same, though the two factors do interact. Some people are too tolerant of a partner who mistreats them, sometimes outrageously, where a less tolerant person would swiftly show that partner the door.

Here again, excessive empathy can play a dangerous role in leaving the vulnerable victim too tolerant of abuse. Empathetic victims are more likely to forgive abusive behavior, because they’re too inclined to feel sorry for the abuser or accept his or her excuses (a weakness that abusers in general “play on”), and not concerned enough for their own welfare! A more pragmatic and “balanced” person on the other hand is more likely at some stage to think “the heck with ‘feeling sorry’ for this person; what about ME? What is their behavior doing to ME?” I’ve noticed this in people’s stories of financial depredation, among other things. I ask myself “If I’d been in their position, I’d be seriously worried about handing over this much money to anyone else. What happens if I lose it? It’s mine, I need it for my living expenses, or for my old age, or whatever.” But some people are either too trusting, or else they’re not “looking out for Number One” in the healthy, balanced way they need to. They’re “feeling too much” for others. Needless to say, this is not just about finances.

I think also that “excessive” empathy–by which I mean too much for the victim’s own good!–is dangerous in other ways that invite tolerance of abuse. This is about misreading the nature of a psychopath or other disordered person, mistakenly accepting a predator or other abuser as “benign.”

Part of this, as Donna points out and I mentioned earlier, is that most people don’t know about the existence or nature of these predators. However, we do have ways of intuiting that somebody is probably “not normal,” that their behavior “isn’t right.” Yet it’s natural to seek an explanation for anything we don’t understand. So if we do sense that someone is abnormal, how do we explain it to ourselves?

Often an explanation is less important than the reality that such a person might be dangerous to us. Maybe they’re “just bad” in some way; who cares why? The trouble is that I’ve heard too many people say they “just can’t imagine” how anyone can be so cold, so heartless or so cruel as some of these predators are. It defies their belief. Yet the fact is that such predators exist. If some people find that truly impossible to contemplate, I think they’re handicapped by emotionally contaminated thinking, which overwhelms cold logic and is more likely in an excessively empathetic person. They can’t put aside the mental block of believing that all humans are “essentially” the same, and of trying to comprehend all humans through their own emotions and by projecting their own benign nature even onto the most monstrous abuser. We all do this as humans to some extent, but it does have its limitations, especially when some humans are radically different from ourselves. It’s not just that we’re often told “all humans are ‘basically good.'” It’s also that excessively empathetic people are prone to believe it, through the lens of their own nature. So that message fits seamlessly with their own “felt” beliefs, while the brutal truth about some disordered humans is to them incomprehensible. In consequence they discount the warning signs of being ruthlessly exploited, and tolerate the behavior because they’re too needy, too trusting, too forgiving, or all three.

I think excessive empathy can play another role in making some people tolerant of an abusive partner. Specifically, many victims are “needy” because they were mistreated or neglected in childhood, and they link up with abusive partners who report the same thing. These reports are not necessarily untrue. Abusers far more often than not usually do come from dysfunctional families where they themselves were abused. For various reasons, no doubt including their own innate personality traits, they processed the experience differently from the “codependent” person and turned out the opposite. I’m inclined to think in many cases–not all, by any means–that a codependent, victim-prone person from a similarly dysfunctional family background is likely to feel a special bond with an abusive partner for that reason in particular. “Haven’t we both suffered the same thing?” Maybe they have. “Then aren’t we both the same?” Well, no, they’re not! But the victim-prone partner is likely to conclude that “if this person is mistreating me, that’s simply due to the anger and distrust fostered by their awful childhood, just like mine.” With its dangerous corollary: “All they need is love, just like me, and that will make everything better.” But of course it doesn’t. That’s typically because the abusive partner was never “just like him or her” in the first place. It can also be because damage done by one method can’t necessarily be reversed simply by reversing the conditions that caused it. Even if being abused did turn someone into an abuser, they can’t necessarily be “cured” by being given more love. The upshot of all this is that a vulnerable partner can be too tolerant of and excuse the behavior of an abuser under the influence of these misleading beliefs.

Apart from that, anyone abused or neglected in childhood has often been programmed to tolerate or accept abuse, in numerous ways.

Being disregarded, disrespected, or abused is what they’ve been “used to,” so how is an abusive relationship any different? They may think “this is the way life is, and it doesn’t get any better,” whereas a person raised and treated better by healthier people would revolt.

They may have always had to serve the needs (emotional and otherwise) of their “care”-givers in childhood, merely to gain the attention of these people on whom their very survival as a child depended. They don’t see adult relationships any differently. Servitude has to be put up with, that’s all.

If they’ve ended up with low esteem as a result, some abuse victims actually feel, and have said so themselves, that they “deserved” the abuse heaped on them. So they tolerate it.

They haven’t been taught, observed or experienced the concept of “boundaries” in their family of origin. So in adulthood they fail to recognize, and therefore tolerate, when a partner is repeatedly invading their own boundaries and exploiting them.

Possibly worst of all, and certainly the most insidious and deceptive, some people fail to recognize abusive and controlling behavior as “abnormal,” because to them it isn’t! On the contrary, to them it “seems” normal, because it’s what they’ve personally experienced in the homes they were raised in. To them it’s “familiar,” and what’s familiar can seem comforting and doesn’t ring any warning bells. So they tolerate abusive behavior.

Ironically, truly “normal” behavior may seem unfamiliar to some of these people, and actually make them suspicious! Somebody being sincerely nice and respectful to them may seem “fake,” because the manipulative people who raised them were being fake when they acted this way. Their experience may have been that “niceness” never lasts, and is always superseded by abuse of some kind.

At any rate, it seems a remarkable fact that some people–not all, but some–actually gravitate toward abusive partners in preference to normal partners, whom they ignore or reject. Who knows why? There could be more than one reason. Some may feel that “I’m not good enough for a really nice partner, who’s bound to reject me in the end, so I might as well settle for the kind of partner I’m worth, even if it’s not much.” Some may feel paradoxically “more comfortable” with an abusive partner, however painful the relationship, because that’s more familiar to them than the kind of healthy relationship they’ve never known. Anyway it’s the kind of treatment they’ve been dealing with all their lives, ever since childhood, so they’re used to coping with it. And some psychologists have theorized that some victim-prone people are attracted to troubled partners more than healthy ones as a kind of “mission”: that if they never did succeed in getting the love they needed from an abusive or neglectful parent, they can hope to redeem themselves, along with their partner, by succeeding in “fixing” the partner and getting the love they’ve always wanted in return. Unfortunately this usually turns out a futile mission.

Whatever the reason, all these and other risk factors can lead some people to tolerate an abusive or predatory partner. This, compounded by their own neediness, is what leaves them more vulnerable than most to exploitation, often by a whole string of abusers.

So it’s not that being liked and desired isn’t a normal human need, or responding in reasonable ways to someone who appears to like or desire us. It’s only a matter of degree: of how needy we are for those things, how much we’re prepared to “put in” (or sacrifice) in order to fulfill those needs, and whether how much (or how little) we’re “getting out” in return makes it all worth it. Too much neediness, and too much tolerance, is what makes some people more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse instead of holding out for a fair deal.

This fine article was a rich source of observations. I knew nothing about Elizabeth Gilbert before reading it, and what I discovered was a shocking revelation.

“Amen” to most of what Monica said. There are three points here, which I’d like to comment on in reverse order.

Abandoning a marriage

First, I do think it’s tragic when somebody leaves an otherwise functional marriage, sometimes only to take up with an abuser who makes their life hell. It’s a sad story I’ve heard numerous times over the years on sites like this one. Just as Monica said, if they’ve got “issues” they should at least try working them out first with therapy..

In spite of that, investigation leads me to doubt that therapy would have done much good for Elizabeth Gilbert’s marriage. And I have to say my sympathies lie most of all with the innocent spouse (and all too often, children as well) who end up being abandoned, or deprived of a parent, frequently through little or no fault of their own. So admittedly without having read Gilbert’s book myself, at first blush I had to sympathize especially with her first ex-husband Michael Cooper, who invested eight years of his life with this woman only to be dumped. I hope Michael found a more compatible partner who was willing to give him the family life he’d hoped for.

As for what Gilbert is doing now, I can suggest answers to that question.

A case of “verbal abuse”?

Needless to say, the central message of this article, Donna’s point about fake “soul mates” (and Richard’s likewise) is well taken. But I do agree with Monica in disapproving of Richard’s misuse of the term “soul mate” by pressing it into service to describe a very different kind of relationship. This gives new meaning to the term “verbal abuse”: that’s to say, the abuse of words themselves!

It may seem a trivial point, but I dislike this misuse of words on principle, partly because it happens far too often and can erode our language. To illustrate what I mean, many current examples include the deplorably widespread misuse of “comprise” to mean “compose” or “constitute,” or the word “alibi” to mean an “excuse.”

A curious feature of these misapplications is that the proper meaning of the word in question is often turned on its head. It’s used to mean the opposite, or anyway the converse of its true meaning. Etymologically for instance the word “comprise” means “to take together.” So while the parts “compose” or “constitute” the whole, it’s the whole that “comprises” its parts, not the other way round. To speak of something “being comprised of” its parts is just nonsense. Similarly, an “alibi” is not an “excuse” for having done something wrong. On the contrary, it’s a proof that one did not do the thing in question, being elsewhere at the time!

Richard abused the term “soul mate” in the same way. Instead of the happy, harmonious, comfortable and lasting relationship most of us understand by “soul mates” (a favorite term of Wodehouse’s, among others; does anyone read Wodehouse these days?), Richard used it to mean the opposite: a painful, tempestuous, profoundly uncomfortable and above all transient relationship—no matter what learning benefits it might yield in the long run.

The problem is that if an inappropriate usage is allowed to take hold, the distinction between terms can be destroyed, and sometimes the real meaning of a term can be erased altogether. This is what Oliver Wendell Holmes, a great writer himself, called “the crime of verbicide.” Taking one of my examples again, we could be left with no single word to express the precise meaning of “comprise.” In the same way, Richard’s abuse of the term “soul mate” to mean the opposite seems to deny the existence of “soul mates” in the original, proper and most sublime sense of the phrase.

That’s what I object to most of all about this particular act of “verbal abuse.” Richard seemed to be voicing a nasty cynicism that I heartily deplore: the notion that “soul mates” in the original and happy sense of the term don’t exist.

This is nonsense. While I imagine it’s hard to find a “perfect” marriage in every respect, there are certainly vast numbers of happy, harmonious marriages where the partners might call themselves “soul mates.” As an example, my (sadly late) wife and myself were strikingly compatible in tastes, interests, and values, and so are plenty of couples I’ve known, or known about.

The danger of pretending that nothing approaching “soul mates” can ever truly exist is that it feeds into the socially destructive messages flooding our media in recent decades, emanating from a dysfunctional minority claiming that couples can’t expect to stay together for life, that marriage itself can’t even be functional, that it’s “obsolete” or even “oppressive to women” and all of that garbage. These people don’t seem to realize there are large numbers of happy and “working” marriages out here. Such negative messages can tempt some people to give up on marriage altogether, or else to “settle” for a bad marriage because they don’t believe they’ll ever find anything better.

Anyway I’d like to thank Monica for expanding my vocabulary. In my abysmal ignorance I can’t recall ever hearing the term “twin flame” before, and it’s certainly a valuable one. It’s what Richard should have been using instead of abusing the term “soul mates.” Considering Donna’s constructive view of her own life path, I imagine she might find a use for it herself.

Incidentally a quick “google” brought up this page from the Web, which people here might like to read:

18 Signs You’re Experiencing What’s Known As A ‘Twin Flame’ Relationship

David—and Elizabeth

The only remark I’d question is that “Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘soul mate’ [David] is very likely a sociopath.” This is not what Donna herself said, only that “This didn’t seem to be a sociopathic relationship, just normally dysfunctional.” (Hey, what does “normally dysfunctional” mean? Never mind, I get it!) So I’m wondering if this was just a snap judgment based on Donna’s article, or from actually reading Gilbert’s book and things she said herself about David. The reason I ask is because my suspicions lie in a different direction.

Gilbert’s is not a book I’m likely to read, but out of curiosity I did look on the Web, where Google Books has extracts from it. Unfortunately they weren’t as enlightening as I’d hoped, partly due to pages being omitted. Why did her marriage to Michael break up? She does admit there was “something wrong with her,” but she says her husband had his issues too—which may well have been true—though she seems to be using this as an excuse to avoid discussing what was wrong with her. At any rate, if she does, “Pages 13 and 14 are not shown in this preview.”

Similarly with David. It’s clear from page 22 that David was withdrawing from her, but that could just be because she herself was such a basket case that the poor guy just couldn’t deal with her. Unfortunately I didn’t get to learn what David was really like, because here again, “Pages 20 to 21 are not shown in this preview.” I suspect this tantalizing omission of the most crucial parts is deliberate on Google’s part. I would however point out that we’re only getting Elizabeth’s side of the story. I’d be just as interested to hear Michael’s side of the story, and David’s too, which could be very different from hers.

Baffled by that, I turned instead to Amazon.com. The book has over four thousand reviews there, and I had no intention of reading them all! Before even getting to those, I was struck by a curious fact. While Amazon said readers’ ratings average 4.3 stars, my calculations based on the numbers they gave averaged only 3.78. What’s going on here? Does Amazon fiddle their ratings to make books look more popular than they are?

While a large majority of readers liked the book, it still displayed the polarization often seen in reviews: a significant number disliked it just as much! One reader thought Gilbert’s book should have been titled Eat, Spend, Whine. “Whiny, self-indulgent, self-centered, self-absorbed, annoying, spoiled, privileged, pretentious, fake, superficial, artificial, a drama queen, a control freak, narcissistic“—that’s just a sample of these critics’ opinions of the author. Everything had to be all about her!

Envy may have played a role in their attitude. It’s not everyone with “personal issues” who can wheedle a six-figure advance from a publisher to finance a long jaunt through multiple countries to “find herself,” indulging in pleasures of every kind along the way. Which doesn’t alter the fact that she did have “issues” in the first place. But what kind of issues? And what was their supposed origin?

That last question is one I haven’t found an answer for. But in search of further information I turned to Wikipedia in an effort to discover “who is ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’ anyway?” Having learned already that she seemed to have problems with marriage in general, not just with her ex-husband Michael, I discovered that in 2010 she’d published another book called Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. It appeared to celebrate the supposition that she’d finally found true and lasting happiness with a man we might think was her “soul mate” in the proper sense: a “hot” Brazilian businessman named José Nuñez whom she met in the course of her earlier peregrinations.

Unfortunately it seems that she married him, not purely from the desire to be joined to him “until death us do part,” but because she felt in love with him at the time and marriage was the only way to get him a visa to live with her in the United States. If she didn’t want to move to Brazil to be with him, I don’t blame her, nor him either, in view of the atrocious Brazilian crime rate. However, just a few years later, in 2016 she left the guy—for a lesbian relationship with her “female best friend”! Granted, the “best friend” was suffering from terminal cancer at the time, which of course arouses compassion, but “compassion” alone is no cause to break up a marriage. So much for “commitment”!

The “best friend” is now dead, leaving Gilbert free to pursue another new relationship, and probably to get another lucrative new book out of this latest episode. When I first read this I couldn’t help wondering if part of her problem is that she’s bisexual, and never could find complete fulfillment with a male partner—or with a woman either. But I doubt that’s the whole story.

Rather, a major problem seems to be that Gilbert has trouble “committing” to anyone! And the biggest clue was in Wikipedia’s link to an utterly horrifying interview with Gilbert in the New York Times Magazine. It’s titled “Confessions of a Seduction Addict.” Gilbert admits she

careened from one intimate entanglement to the next — dozens of them — without so much as a day off between romances. You might have called me a serial monogamist, except that I was never exactly monogamous. Relationships overlapped, and those overlaps were always marked by exhausting theatricality: sobbing arguments, shaming confrontations, broken hearts. Still, I kept doing it. […]

[…] I can’t even say it was the sex. Sex was just the gateway drug for me, a portal to the much higher high I was really after, which was seduction.

Seduction is the art of coercing somebody to desire you, of orchestrating somebody else’s longings to suit your own hungry agenda. Seduction was never a casual sport for me; it was more like a heist, adrenalizing and urgent. I would plan the heist for months, scouting out the target, looking for unguarded entries. Then I would break into his deepest vault, steal all his emotional currency and spend it on myself.

If the man was already involved in a committed relationship, I knew that I didn’t need to be prettier or better than his existing girlfriend; I just needed to be different. […] The trick was to study the other woman and to become her opposite, thereby positioning myself to this man as a sparkling alternative to his regular life.

Soon enough, and sure enough, I might begin to see that man’s gaze toward me change from indifference, to friendship, to open desire. That’s what I was after: the telekinesis-like sensation of steadily dragging somebody’s fullest attention toward me and only me. My guilt about the other woman was no match for the intoxicating knowledge that — somewhere on the other side of town — somebody couldn’t sleep that night because he was thinking about me. If he needed to sneak out of his house after midnight in order to call, better still. That was power, but it was also affirmation. I was someone’s irresistible treasure. I loved that sensation, and I needed it, not sometimes, not even often, but always.

I might indeed win the man eventually. But over time (and it wouldn’t take long), his unquenchable infatuation for me would fade, as his attention returned to everyday matters. This always left me feeling abandoned and invisible; love that could be quenched was not nearly enough love for me. As soon as I could, then, I would start seducing somebody else, by turning myself into an entirely different woman, in order to attract an entirely different man.

[…]

In my mid-20s, I married, but not even matrimony slowed me down. Predictably, I grew restless and lonely. Soon enough I seduced someone new; the marriage collapsed. But it was worse than just that. Before my divorce agreement was even signed, I was already breaking up with the guy I had broken up my marriage for.

Just a little arithmetic here. Gilbert was born July 18, 1969, so her “mid twenties” would be a year or two either side of 1994. Her eight-year marriage to Michael Cooper formally ended in 2002, so it’s obviously her marriage to Michael she was talking about in that last paragraph, while the “guy I had broken up my marriage for” was David—whom she admits she “seduced,” not the other way round. Weren’t these men simply her targets?

I suppose there are “sex addicts” as well as pathologically “needy” people who do “careen” from one bed partner to the next, always in frantic search of something, never finding it. We might feel some sympathy for people as desperate as that. However, with Gilbert the cold, calculated, predatory nature of her behavior stands out with appalling plainness.

Of course, she did sound “honest” in that interview. Still, we’ve seen people even on this site like that woman from “Sociopath World” who were just as “honest” about their exploitative and purposefully destructive behavior. That doesn’t make it any better. And if Gilbert hinted at “guilt” over her serial homewrecking, or claimed elsewhere in the article that she’d “got over” these tendencies now, the article itself, as several readers said, is mostly a form of “humblebragging”—“Look what a bad girl I’ve been!”—while inviting us to “feel sorry” for her for being a “victim” of her own supposed “addiction.”

So what are some of the things I’ve learned about Elizabeth Gilbert? In summary:

– That she’s narcissistically self-absorbed.

– That she is, or has been, a serial cheater who has never stayed committed to any permanent relationship so far.

– That she’s been using people in the most deliberate, calculating and predatory fashion for her own self-gratification. She admitted herself: “I can’t even say it was the sex.” Rather, it was about the power she could exert over others by seducing them—never mind who got hurt in the process—and the “narcissistic supply” it brought her. She’s an emotional vampire.

– That she’s good at manipulating her own image, which includes consciously presenting herself as “the kind of woman he would want” as a tool for seducing her targets. No doubt they thought she was their “soul mate” too—until she abruptly discarded them.

– That she’s a restless person constantly in search of something new and different, possibly to alleviate the boredom for which psychopaths are well known.

– That the trigger for abandoning her marriage to Michael Cooper was her terror of having a baby. The thought of being chiefly responsible for actually caring for another human being for many years to come frightened her to death.

– That she can misuse words outrageously. Unlike Richard, whose misuse of “soul mate” was innocent in its intention, Gilbert does it to deceive and to manipulate her image. Note how she called herself a “serial monogamist” as a euphemism for what she clearly was: a “serial cheater.” When she publicly announced that she was dumping her husband José to shack up with her “best friend,” she had the brazen nerve to say she did it because “I need to live my life in truth and transparency,” that these “make my life more ethical,” and the new “couple” were speaking up publicly “for the sake of our own integrity.” So she asked readers to praise her for her pretense of “truth, ethics, and integrity” instead of condemning her for throwing her marriage vows to the wind! Daily Mail readers were almost universally scathing about that announcement. I suspect the only “truth” Gilbert knows is what she happens to want at any given moment.

– That she’s good at getting many readers to feel sorry for her in spite of—or even because of—her glaring character flaws. This brings to mind what Martha Stout said in The Sociopath Next Door about how these types want people to feel sorry for them.

– That she has enough charm and gift of the gab to make pots of money out of her messed-up life. I understand she’s worth 26 million dollars.

The picture seems clear. But what does it suggest about Michael, and David? Unfortunately I don’t know enough about them to judge. However, she did say that Michael was extremely opposed to a divorce, even though (if her word is to be believed) she offered to give him practically all of their assets in return for a divorce. No doubt she could afford it, since she had such a high income herself. But Michael apparently didn’t want the money so much as he wanted to keep her. I wonder if that’s because he’d become addicted to her, the way many people do to these personality disordered types.

What about her “twin flame” David?—“a gorgeous young man. A born New Yorker, an actor and writer, with those brown liquid-center Italian eyes” and a load more dishy stuff like that, whom she moved in with immediately on leaving Michael. I’ve no doubt she used the same seduction techniques on David that she’d honed to perfection in her past years of bedhopping. Was he also genuinely led to believe she was his “soul mate”? Then why did he pull away from her? It didn’t have to be because he was a “sociopath,” though she did call him “street smart.” Perhaps David was smart enough to perceive, after a while, that she wasn’t the kind of woman he’d thought she was, that all her blubbering and self-pity was just manipulation to keep the spotlight on herself. Perhaps he was one of her few partners who did not get addicted to her—and that’s something she couldn’t stand! It was narcissistic injury that left her so despondent.

Still, the immense popularity of Eat, Pray, Love goes to show how many people can be taken in by sympathy for a hardcore narcissist, or worse.

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