Con artists are a special category of sociopaths. In fact, most if not all are also psychopaths. If you were tricked by a con artist, I would say you are in good company, since all three of the authors on this blog were also fooled by con artists! This week one of our readers posted her story as a comment to ASK DR. LEEDOM: FAQ #1 “Why is this so hard for us mentally?” Her post illustrates many of the important characteristics of a con:
In 1998 I was ripped off by a con artist, whom I met through a personal ad. I was going through a very serious depression at the time, and that’s when I met him. He seemed like a breath of fresh air, very intelligent, different than other men I had met. He seemed very supportive of me, and what I was going through with my depression.
He asked me “what are your goals”. I realize now, that this is how he tricked me – into believing that he was going to help me achieve a few things–I said I wanted to move into a home – he helped me find a home – but guess who was paying the high rent of the home??? ME. Once I moved in with him, he had COMPLETE control of me, and was using my credit. He convinced me to order a variety of credit cards, and buy all types of things for this home that we were living in, stating that he had money invested in the stock market that would take care of it all.
When I look back on it now, I realize how stupid I was, but at the time, I was going through a very serious depression, was not thinking clearly, and allowed this jerk to manipulate me. He would go into these screaming rages, and this is one of the ways he controlled and intimidated me into doing what he wanted.
We were only together for six months, because when the money ran out, he was gone. While I was out of town, he took off, and moved a lot of the possessions (which I paid for) out of the house.
I had to declare bankruptcy, my good credit was ruined, and I lost an apartment that I had paid for – as he convinced me to take out a mortgage on my apartment & he would invest the money for me, and I would get an excellent return on the money.
I was too devastated to pursue the guy in a civil law suit, and am trying to move on with my life – this happened almost 9 years ago, but still remains fresh in my memory as though it were only yesterday.
How does one ever get over the heartache of being taken by a con artist??
The first thing to notice is that con artists target vulnerable people they meet in settings like ads or the internet. In my case, I was a single mother who was still healing from the loss of a relationship, and I met him through the internet. Depression, anxiety and losses make people vulnerable.
The second thing to notice is that con artists sense what lovers are looking for and pretend to be that person. In particular, they pretend to be emotionally intelligent and caring. They are also charming and fun to be with. The fun part serves to relieve sadness in a person suffering from depression or getting over a loss.
The third and most important thing to notice is that con artists play upon our dreams. I had an experience identical to this woman’s. One day shortly after our marriage my husband asked me, “If you could do anything in the world you wanted to do, what would you do?” I told him I would start a substance abuse clinic where people could receive needed treatment irrespective of their ability to pay. My husband then said, “I’ve accomplished my own goals, now I am going to make your dream come true for you…”
Con artists know when they get your dreams they get you. They then simply do the Bait and Switch Game. You see, they bait you with your dream then switch to something else. They do the switch slowly and subtly over time. Psychologically, the victim doesn’t want to see the switch because then he/she would have to give up on the dream.
By far the most painful, difficult aspect of healing for me has been the fact that my dream (which was basically altruistic) was used to hurt me. Many victims just want a stable, happy family for their children. When these motives, which come from goodness, are used for evil, the effect is particularly damaging. I think that con artists do this damage intentionally, trying to actually murder by suicide. They are on such a power trip, they get enormous pleasure from destroying people. That is a subject for a later post.
So how do you get over having been conned? First don’t give up on your dreams. In my case, the dream changed. I realized that if I worked at it, I could prevent many more cases of mental illness or addiction than I could ever personally treat. Thus my dream transformed into something else.
Second, don’t give up yourself. Your dreams reflect important values and qualities you have. Even though it is very painful to have these used against you, it is even more painful to lose yourself. Don’t let the con artist take any more from you than he/she already has.
Lastly, have the courage to keep working on your vulnerabilities. If depression made you vulnerable, stay in treatment. If loss and loneliness made you vulnerable, work to find more healthy outlets. Take good care of yourself, don’t abuse substances, be sure to exercise and eat right. Write down new goals for yourself and make a little progress in those goals every day. Lastly, give yourself positive messages about making progress and being the good person you are. If you are doing all these things be patient, better times are just ahead.