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ASK DR. LEEDOM: Are there psychological tactics for dealing with a psychopath?

I received this question from a woman who is divorcing a man she believes has the traits of a psychopath (according to the psychopathy checklist):

“What psychological tactics can you suggest in dealing with a psychopath? There must be some tools and strategies to stay a step ahead. I’ve read books on identifying liars and tried to educate myself on strengthening my position in recognizing The Predator. There has to be some guidelines somewhere on How to Ride That Horse. I have had hundreds of horses throughout my life and pride myself on being able to ride anyone that crosses my path. Although this horse has been the most difficult and I continue to be dragged, trampled and kicked, I continue to get back up, dust myself off and try again. I have learned much and he has been a great teacher…..but in the final stages of our divorce, he is throwing some wild curve balls and I’m desperately trying to stay in the saddle. I ride all my horses softly, gently…..Can you offer tools for the arsenal?”

Before answering this question I want to make some important comments. Many people have reasons for needing and desiring relationships with people who are very sociopathic/psychopathic (sociopaths). In my view, there are only two legitimate reasons for having interactions with someone you believe may be “a sociopath.” The first is that the person is your boss and you haven’t yet found another job, and the second is that there is a court order commanding you to. That the sociopath is charming, attractive, wealthy, your son, daughter, friend, lover, mother, father or some other relation, is not a good enough reason to risk yourself and others.

Whenever you interact with a sociopath, you not only risk yourself, you risk others. Sociopaths weave a web of deception that is supported by the many relationships they have. If people refuse to participate in the sociopath’s life he/she will be very limited in his/her ability to harm anyone. Sociopaths/psychopaths know how to surround themselves with people who give them legitimacy in the minds of others and who serve as “cover.” They will use anyone for this purpose, especially ministers, priests and rabbis, and of course, children.

If you desire to have a relationship with a known sociopath there is something wrong with you. That something can be ignorance of the disorder and its dangerousness. A sense of grandiose invincibility and a love of risk taking can also feed into this desire. If you are an adventurous risk-taker, take up blizzard mountain exploration or sky diving, but keep away from sociopaths. Many people write me with a tone of wonder, awe and admiration for sociopaths. Save your wonder, awe and admiration for the Grand Canyon, the pyramids of Egypt, or the true miracles of life, please. (Here I am referring also to the women who send love letters to known killers and serial killers.)

Those comments out of the way, how can you cope successfully with a sociopath/psychopath? First, remember that these people are Driven to Do Evil. Just like you wake up every day and feel your drives and desires, sociopaths/psychopaths wake up every morning and “It’s show time!” Whereas your goals are intimately related to the love and compassion you feel for others, a sociopath’s goals are intimately related to his/her desire to gain power over others. If you don’t understand this at the core of your being, you will not be able to deal with sociopaths. Second, imagine a moment what your life would be like if guilt, empathy and compassion did not enter into your decision making processes. Imagine that your decisions were based solely on your judgments regarding what would benefit you.

Now imagine both together, a Drive to Do Evil and no guilt, empathy or compassion. A sociopath is a sports car with an accelerator and no braking system. Now you can see why I say only an ignorant, crazy or suicidal person would voluntarily choose to ride this horse, or drive this car!

I have just armed you with the mental picture of the sociopath who you are compelled to deal with. To successfully cope, keep this picture in your mind at all times. Ignore any of the sociopath’s actual appearance or behavior. Keep all conversations brief and to the point. Set firm boundaries and never give an inch. Insist that you get everything due you, and that the sociopath abide by his/her end of any court orders, or job descriptions. Most importantly, STOP expecting that the sociopath will behave like anyone other than who he/she is. A sociopath is a person who is Driven to Do Evil and who lacks, guilt, empathy and compassion.

To make this point further, let us consider our friend’s analogy of the psychopath and our relations with him/her to the horse and horseback riding. Horses are domesticated animals. Domestication means they have been bred to have the capacity for submissive behavior and impulse control. These two (submissive behavior and impulse control) are supported by a very complicated biology that includes hormones and brain structure. The psychopath lacks both the brain structure and hormonal profile to behave submissively or even consistently cooperatively. The best horse analogy to the sociopath is the horse who dies in the process of being ridden because s/he lacks the substrate for domestication. This horse is not a challenge, s/he is a waste of time and energy.

So stick with the horses that have been beautifully trained to compete in the show ring, and who lovingly wait by the fence for you to appear. These horses enjoy cooperation and don’t mind having to submit occasionally. The untrainable horses are a complete waste of time. Surround yourself with people you know to be primarily motivated by love and compassion. To do otherwise, is a complete waste of time and energy.



139 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: Are there psychological tactics for dealing with a psychopath?"

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  1. bluemosaic says:

    Thanks Dr. Leedom,

    Great article, many good points. The main things that speak to me are that when we are unaware of the disordered personalities, a spath may seem to be someone who is deserving of our love , time and attention because we accept and have empathy for the flaws we see as being normal and human. I am not perfect, and I did not expect perfection out of him. I also thought that I could love him safely, despite the cracks in his character, not realizing that his underlying intent with me, was the exact opposite of what I was being told daily by him.

    Dr. Leedom states;
    ” Surround yourself with people you know to be primarily motivated by love and compassion.”

    This is possibly the best piece of input for living life safely that I have ever heard. Exactly at what point I knew this was not his motivation, I cannot recall, but I know it will be a requirement to my ever allowing another human being into my close circle of friends, associates and most certainly, any man I ever consider for a relationship. I no longer give people the benefit of assuming they have a heart and soul with good intentions. I watch, wait, evaluate what I see. I am going to learn to close up my head, mouth, heart and inner self, (boundaries!), so that anyone in the future will only be allowed close association with me, once they have shown what thier character and intents truly are.
    A last big lesson, choosing not to get on a horse that has a bloody trail of broken, bruised previous riders. I will not think so arrogantly of myself, that I am different and can love him better, bring out the best in him, naively assuming that my kind -loving nature will result in his being able to be faithful, kind, caring and true to me…when the history of his life shows he has not managed that with any other woman before me. I will tell myself, “step away from the big- frothy-mouthed -angry-mean-spirted stallion”…he may be pretty and exciting…but in the end, I will end up in the dust, thrown and a mess!”

    Thanks to all for the constant education this site gives, to help us all live safer.

    Bluemosaic



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  2. jm_short says:

    Dr. Leedom,

    I’m so glad you included “son” in your list. The pain of rejecting a child is immense and I have often thought of what I’d do if he ever stopped “splitting” and reached out. He’s BPD. Was abandoned by his father as a small child.

    Both being with him, and being without him is a double edged sword. At least with a despicable lover or spouse, once you recognize what they are, you can deal with the loss. When you recognize what your child is, they are still your child. I don’t think I will ever get over the pain of not being able to trust my own son. But rejecting him would defy every concept I have of maternal love that’s at the very core of my being.

    Any thoughts on how to possibly reconcile this?

    Joyce



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    • gotasixthsense says:

      Joyce,
      I have been watching my husband struggle with this as his daughter was diagnosed APD. She lived with us for a year and caused so much pain and havoc in our home. When her rages became violent, she went to live with her mother (again) which by the the way is also NAPD.
      My husband has very little contact with his daughter, but it’s not by his choice. She only calls or texts when she wants something. He has been quite generous with her demands until recently when he told her no. She replied with nasty things about me and told him she was “done with him”. He says he knows what she is but holds onto hope that she will get better. It pains me to see him want a relationship with her, full knowing she is not capable. Whats worse is that his younger daughter has been manipulated by their mother so horrifically, we have only seen her 3x in the past 4 yrs. As far as we know, she is not a sociopath like the other 2.
      I will never know my husbands pain, but I want to help him. Any thoughts?



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  3. jm_short says:

    Sixth-

    Most of us who struggled to raise these kids, weren’t aware of their disordered mindset throughout their development. We may have known their behavior was odd and mean spirited, but we didn’t know any specifics about character disorder in order to evaluate what we were watching and experiencing. To some, it comes as a relief to know there was a reason behind it.

    I wrote my book, “Carnal Abuse by Deceit,” primarily because the nightmare of my son’s deliberate departure broke my heart. Had I not conducted the research and analysis to put all the pieces together, I don’t think I could have survived. And I hope my story conveys a sense of what, as parents, we’re up against.

    Along the way, I read a few books that helped enlighten my path. Dr. Leedom’s book was excellent, and Dr. Hare’s book on psychopathy gave me a grasp of the behavior patterns I’d seen, but didn’t recognize what they were. I’d encourage you, and your husband, to read as much as possible on the subject. While it won’t change his daughter’s behavior, it will give you some inner peace.

    All the best-
    Joyce



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  4. kaya48 says:

    To everyone here on lovefraud
    Today was the day. We settled in court. It was definetely in my favor and I am so grateful to my attorney. Thank you for all of you here to give me encouragement and hope. I was married to a sociopath for almost 20 years and today was the day that I am finally free.
    The court decided he must pay permanent alimony. He cheated, lied and betrayed and them discarded his family. Did he really think it came without a price? Really?
    Now I can go on with my life. He is out of it. Today is a day of celebration. Thanks again.



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    • NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

      kaya48
      Absolutely Wonderful news. More than wonderful because your outcome is encouraging for us who wait for someone to see the truth of what they are, but also because it really is the beginning of the best years of your life.

      Bravo! Celebrate big!



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    • HopingToHeal says:

      Kaya48,
      Great news for you! I’m so glad that you were given what was rightfully yours. Today is a great day for you for sure. Best wishes for a bright, joyful future that is full of peace.



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  5. kaya48 – that’s great. Good for you!



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  6. jm_short says:

    Kaya-

    Just wanted to add my congratulations as well! It’s soooo wonderful that you prevailed! And it’s heartening for many lovefraud followers to see that the courts can get it right, sometimes!

    Hopefully, the more enlightened society becomes regarding this problem, the more success stories we’ll hear!

    All the best!
    Joyce



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  7. Stargazer says:

    Kaya, congratulations! After everything you’ve been through, you deserve a second lease on life.



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