I am bigger than anything that can happen to me.
All these things, sorrow, misfortune, and suffering, are outside my door.
I am in the house and I have the key.
How is it that we have such a hard time identifying people who harm us? These people seem “normal” when you meet them. In fact, they go out of their way to be kind, funny, intimate and understanding. When we are immediately drawn to them, some of our defenses come down.
When do we decide not to listen to the part of us that seems wary? The small voice in us which acts as our radar, so to speak. Every time, without exception, I regret not heeding that internal early warning system.
I had a client who experienced an early warning when she met a woman several months ago. She appeared to her as the Mother she never had and because of this, she was needy and ignored her reservations as they came up. As time went by, the unacceptable behavior increased and again, she made excuses for her “friend” and overlooked the importance of those inaccuracies.
This woman invited herself to my client’s home and spent two days revealing herself in all her “glory.” It became the norm to be told what to do and where to go. She berated servers at the restaurants and when she was mean, the owner of the restaurant comped part of their meal. She clearly enjoyed making people succumb to her control and demands. She talked behind my client’s back to her husband while she was standing three feet away and within earshot. She wore inappropriate attire in the morning in their kitchen. During one of her 3 hour stories, (which my client had heard 3 times prior) she portrayed herself as the victim and vilified anyone who asked for clarification or interjected at any point. That weekend was her “show” and she controlled it like a master manipulator. It was intolerable for everyone else.
What was most interesting however, was my client’s reaction to her and the situation she allowed. She told me she found herself shocked by her friends behavior and yet she silently watched the horrific “show” unfold. She tried to keep the peace and hoped it would blow over. Unfortunately, it did not. After the houseguest from hell left, she had a difficult time regrouping, as the controlling behavior triggered other unresolved issues. These unresolved issues from her childhood sent her into “breakdown” mode and for hours, she processed until she slowly began to understand what had happened and why. Change can be difficult but ulimately healing if we allow it.
Here is what I suggested she change after her weekend from hell:
- Never again allow a situation to become so out of control.
- Physically remove yourself from any situation that makes you uncomfortable.
- Keep your home sacred and a make it a safe place.
- Do not allow anyone to diminish you or anyone you love without saying something.
- You and your husband are a team and if one of you are unable to set appropriate boundaries or take control, then the other must step in and make it safe.
- Continue to explore your beliefs and heal any vulnerabilities that you find.
I received an email that shared a story of a woman who was in a damaging and destructive relationship. Having been isolated from her friends and family by the psychopath, she found herself alone and vulnerable and checked herself into the psych ward of a prominent hospital to help her understand what had happened to her. It was at this point, a friend got involved and told her about my book Danger Has A Face, in hopes that it would help her understand the abusive relationship and find a way to end it without further damaging his friend.
This is my response to his email:
“Thank you for sharing this story. I feel for your friend, as I was in a similar situation—hence the book—-and I too contemplated ending it rather than face the continual onslaught of psychological abuse. What saved me and what inevitably saves us all, is the support of someone who cares enough to step in and stand by us or stand up for us, when we are unable or unwilling to do it ourselves. And, you did that for her—thank you.
As for a support group, you were right to suggest a group for survivors of psychopaths and a therapist that specializes in work with psychopaths. These individuals may appear like us, but they are nothing like “normal” people. Handling, surviving and healing from psychopaths takes a specialized group of healers. Believe it or not, there are therapists, physicians and judges that are unable to diagnose these types of people and therefore they give advice to the victim that may be appropriate for mainstream relationship issues, but is actually counterproductive and dangerous in dealing with psychopaths. Finding the appropriate help for dealing with this particular type of abuse is the hardest part.
She may experience a prolonged healing period and it may take years to rebuild her self esteem after the damage from her prior relationship. So often these survivors suffer longer than necessary, because their family or friends find the situation so “ugly” and quite frankly unbelievable and they choose to walk away and this leaves the victim alone and isolated. Thank you for giving her good council and supporting her during this difficult time.
As much as I have tried to stay out of the “line of sight” with the psychopath I know, by keeping a low profile, moving away, changing my name and publishing the book without my friends or family’s knowledge, if I can be of assistance to your friend, I would gladly come forward to help her. Please let her know she is not alone.”
Victims of psychopaths often report that there is something unsettling about their eyes.
It is reported that women especially, feel the psychopath before they even make eye contact. Once contact is made, they can actually feel as if the psychopath is ready to pounce; like a predator.
I have heard many people state that the eyes of a psychopath change when they get angry or they are lying. The eyes reveal more than what the psychopath’s speech and body language is suggesting.
Deceptive eyes are unsettling and disturbing. They are described as black—very dark and they get smaller, the angrier the psychopath becomes. The shift in their eyes signals the psychopath’s intentions. This is instinctive.
Watch for it.
I get asked “what is the difference between psychopath’s and narcissists” often.
Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in Psychopathy in the News (March, 2011)
“I would like to review the common attributes of psychopaths and narcissists:
-glib and superficial charm
-grandiose estimation of self
-need for stimulation
-cunning and manipulativeness
-lack of remorse or guilt
-shallow affect (superficial emotional responses)
-callousness and lack of empathy
-poor behavioral controls
-failure to accept responsibility for own actions
-a grandiose sense of self-importance
-is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
-requires excessive admiration
-has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations
-is interpersonally exploitive, takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
-lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
-is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
-shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes”
So often as we face the abuse and pain of a psychopath, we are caught in the midst of his/her chaos and we resign ourselves to suffer. We forget to look for the positive outcome.
Here are a few reminders when you are in the trenches dealing with a psychopath:
Be Selective: Only the best information is allowed “in” and only the beautiful thoughts.
Understand the potential of your mind: The power of your mind. Use it to defeat the abuser. The only thing we have control over is our thoughts. Never underestimate the power of your mind in the face of adversity.
Every day reflect on your purpose: Spend time reflecting on how you are living your life and how can you improve the next day.
Mental magic. Work it…and watch the life you want and deserve unfold…..
As we all know, the workplace is a perfect place to find psychopaths. Recently I was called in to consult with a small business who was having trouble with an executive. When I met him, he was all smiles and extremely accommodating and polite. He went out of his way to charm me and show me how adept he was in business. I could see why the board of this company was unclear as to what was really going on with him. Over the month I consulted with the company, I began to dig deeper and people started opening up about his behavior. I found that this individual was undermining the founder, lying to employees, threatening vendors and stealing from the company. He was so good at manipulating and lying that he had all the employees wondering what was real and what was happening. He kept the drama flowing so misdirection was easy. When he was held accountable, he easily and effectively blamed someone else. He stopped paying those individuals in the company who were “on to him” and they eventually left. The company slowly began to decline and as one employee said, “I’ve never worked for a company where when you fix one thing, 4 more break.” This psychopath created fear, uncertainty and false hopes. Once the information came to light however, the founder fired him immediately. As the founder remarked, “I was so busy putting out the fires, that I left him to manage the business. Now I see that he created the fires and manipulated us all.” But, true to a psychopath’s nature, he continued to harm and blame and has left a trail of destruction that will take this company and its remaining employees months to remedy.
When one door closes
but we often look so long
and so regretfully upon
the closed door
that we do not see
the one which has
opened for us