By September 10, 2007 25 Comments Read More →

Psychopaths use our best qualities against us

I am a person with a very strong sense of responsibility. If I make a commitment to do something, I honor my commitment. Generally, being responsible is considered a positive quality. But it is the quality that made me stay with my psychopathic ex-husband far longer than I should have.

I knew he was taking money from me. I knew he was lying to me (although I vastly underestimated the extent of his deception). I didn’t love him anymore. So why did I stay? I had married him, and to me, marriage was a commitment.

I’ve written before about how psychopaths find our weaknesses and exploit them. The scary truth is that they also exploit our strengths.

Nurturing qualities

It takes a special person to work in human services fields such as nursing, teaching, social work and counseling. People who choose these professions are usually empathetic, nurturing and supportive. Again, these are generally viewed as positive qualities. Psychopaths use them against us.

Dr. Robert Hare writes in his book, Without Conscience:

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to spot and use “nurturant” women—that is, those who have a powerful need to help or mother others. Many such women are in the helping professions—nursing, social work, counseling—and tend to look for the goodness in others while overlooking or minimizing their faults. “He’s got his problems, but I can help him,” or, “He had such a rough time as a kid, all he needs is someone to hug him.” These women will usually take a lot of abuse in their belief that they can help; they are ripe for being left emotionally, physically and financially drained.

Exploiting competence

Psychopaths can exploit any type of competence or expertise. In his book, The Psychopathic Mind, Dr. J. Reid Meloy describes a process that he calls “malignant pseudoidentification.” He says mental health and legal professionals are particularly vulnerable to it.

Here’s an example of what happens: A psychopath is dealing with a lawyer. The lawyer has healthy self-esteem; he believes he is intelligent and competent. The psychopath compliments the lawyer’s intelligence and competence. The psychopath also subtly imitates the lawyer’s mannerisms, and, after engaging in some personal conversation, discovers that he and the lawyer have shared interests! Imagine that! The lawyer’s self-esteem is further enhanced, and he begins to identify with, and feel bonded to, the psychopath.

I can relate to this phenomenon as well. My ex-husband was always complimentary about my work. He kept telling me what an asset I’d be to his entrepreneurial ambitions (even though they were unrealistic). I was pleased that he recognized my talents. I fell for it.

Awareness is the key

It’s bad enough that our vulnerabilities can cause us problems with psychopaths. But so can our strengths? How do we protect ourselves?

The key is awareness. Awareness that psychopaths exist. Awareness of their ploys and tricks. Awareness that when our instincts are telling us something is wrong, we should listen.

Then we can use our strengths to help us heal our vulnerabilities, without becoming a victim.

25 Comments on "Psychopaths use our best qualities against us"

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  1. duped says:

    I took you into my heart,
    My home
    Shared my child,
    Even gave you your own

    These gifts you took
    With occasional gesture
    To keep me hooked
    While you enjoyed your leisure

    I gave my faith
    My trust and forgiveness
    Only to be exploited and used
    By your sickness

    Have I not paid enough
    For your mistakes
    The torture I endure
    So you can reclaim erroneous stakes

    Our child cried
    While you slept through the night
    Never cherishing mornings
    Until claiming a right

    You feel entitled
    To that which was and is not yours
    Didn’t work, earn or sacrifice
    Effortlessly watching others own the chores

    Weakness is your plight
    While you leverage the strengths of others
    To empower yourself
    As means to have your druthers

    To not hate
    Is my challenge
    While I resist the bait
    And protect from revenge

    For twisted perceptions
    Designed to avoid
    Accountability for actions
    And the consequential void

    Now I know what a sociopath is
    Can’t change my mistake
    But can fight to save my kids
    And limit your take

    Do us a favor
    And go far away
    Climb into a hole
    And save those you may

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  2. holehearted says:

    Fran, I have to say… OH MY GOODNESS!!

    During all this insanity, he would get my favorite eggplant parm, get my coffee how I liked it when we were together, help me clean my car etc.

    I was like awe, he’s really trying.

    BULL it was all a con… just like everything else in our relationship… all the nice things he did for me… con con con

    He will con this new crazy woman into marrying him, having his baby for him, etc… and who knows what else… and then cheat on her most likely and who knows what else…

    Ha they know eachother for three months and they are trying to move in together when there first date was at the psych ward, their second date in a tent at a park, and their third date at the motel.

    (Though I can’t judge this is how he lured me in too.)

    It’s a patterns I think when he is done with one… he goes back to the psych ward to pick up his next victim.

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  3. robxsykobabe says:

    This post is great!

    Im a therapist and, having been in the field for 11 years or so, I feel I ‘understand’ pretty well.

    My ex would TOTALLY use my ‘profession’ against me…example:

    When angry over being accused or insinuated that he had acted ‘shady’, he would use words and phrases I use such as…’Its offensive to me that you would do…or say…”-“You have been highly disrespectful towards me and I am expecting an apology”-“It is an insult to my integrity that you would…”-

    After he would say these things to me, things he doesnt even know HOW to say, he would follow it with, “c’mon, and YOU study human behavior” or “as a person who studied human behaviors you would think you would know…”

    It was as if he was trying to ‘act’ like me…a normal person with normal emotions but he didn’t know how to do it, so, as he’s watched me in different situations, HE took on my persona when it fit HIS needs…

    He’s SUCH an ass

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  4. OxDrover says:

    Dear R-babe,

    Oh, yes they are GREAT mimics—just like my parrot is, but you know, I think my parrot has more sense of what words mean than the Ps do. He knows angry words and he knows words that are “sweet” and how to use them approporiately, but the Ps don’t seem to really get it and use them appropriatelly all the time. LOL

    BTW, I understand your use of the word, “ass” but please don’t insult my donkeys! They are a bit narcissistic, but they are NOT psychopaths. LOL ROTFLMAO ((((hugs)))

    This is a great article and somehow I seem to have missed it in my reading through all the archived articles from the start of LF. Don’t know how I missed it, it really is a great one, and yep, they definitely use our strengths and responsibilites against us! BUT we can put those same strengths to work for ourselves now that we are not wasting them on the UNchangeable dorks!

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  5. one_step_at_a_time says:

    ouuu, glad this one was dragged out of the vault.

    oxy – you made me laugh aloud about your N asses.

    and robxsykobabe, one of the spath’s other dupes calls her, ‘a lying sack of shit’. Crass but, somehow it is sooo descriptive.

    i think you need a little button to wear on your jacket, LED, ‘HE’S SUCH AN ASS!’ It would light up immediately upon your remembering a bad memory, or when in contact with others at risk of being sucked in by the anal void.

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  6. jelltogether says:

    This article is so true. I think that my spath totally was attracted to me in the first place because he knew i was nurturing. He honed in on me right from the start.
    He knows how to pick women who fall for his bs then charms them into thinking that he is so wonderful. I have never met a bigger liar in my life. I have found out so many things that make me sick to my stomach about him. He has absolutely no conscience at all. I am sick that I was ever attracted to him. I remember friends telling me to beware of him but I thought that they were not seeing the wonderful man that I saw, Ha, they were seeing the real him–the liar, the cheat, the sick person while i was blinded by the smooth charm that spath’s have. I was at a real low point in my life when I met him and now I know that he really exploited that and saw his opening. He knew that I was getting money from my divorce, he helped me out of several thousands of dollars. His newest victim, I have heard, inherited money from her late husband so he is all over that. I wish I could take out a billboard warning women in the area he is living that says “Beware, sick man pychopath will take everything you have, give you heartache and take your money!”

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  7. aussiegirl says:

    Petite –

    I am dragging this older thread back up because I believe that the article would be a good thing for you to read. xx

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