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Archive for March, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Legal Abuse Syndrome

“Victims are created in two ways: by violence or by deceit. Either type of assault immediately renders the victim hostage to the perpetrator.”

So begins the book Legal Abuse Syndrome, by Karin Huffer, MS, MFT. Lovefraud strongly recommends that anyone who has been victimized by a sociopath read this book, whether you have faced your perpetrator in court or not.

The book explains how people who have suffered injury at the hands of some type of predator often face further injury inflicted by lawyers and the courts, who can be, at best, disinterested, and at worst, corrupt. Legal Abuse Syndrome, Huffer says, is a form of post traumatic stress disorder caused by prolonged contact with the so-called “justice” system.

Along the way, however, the author answers many of the questions that those of us victimized by sociopaths have asked:

If I am the victim, why do I feel guilty?

The Moral Brain

Scientists are actively working on solving the mystery of what is different about the brains of people who have traits of sociopathy/psychopathy. Notice that I say “traits” because virtually none of the studies only include subjects who score above 30 on the PCL-R. These studies then by definition are about sociopathic traits and not psychopathy (see my post from last week). When I first realized that I had to understand sociopathic traits in order to properly raise my at-risk son, I studied the traits and organized them according to what I understood about human motivation and the organization of the brain. In my opinion, sociopathic traits form three categories, I call The Inner Triangle. The Inner Triangle consists of Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. To read more about the Inner Triangle visit The Inner Triangle.

The Borderline Personality as Transient Sociopath

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Steve Becker, LCSW, CH.T, who has a private psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and clinical consulting practice in New Jersey, USA. For more information, visit his website, powercommunicating.com.

It is not unusual in my clinical experience to see, sometimes, some quite chilling sociopathic activity from my “borderline personality-disordered” clients. When someone has a “borderline personality,” it’s quite likely, among other things, that he or she will present with a history of emotional instability; a pattern of chaotic interpersonal relationships; and poor coping skills under stress, reflected in self-destructive/ destructive acting-out and a tendency to suicidal behaving.

These unstable trends are not explained by a core psychotic orientation, although individuals with borderline personality can sometimes lapse into psychotic thinking when feeling hurt and rejected enough. Borderline personalities tend to see others in “black and white,” as either all-good or all-bad; they struggle to retain more flexible, ambivalent views of others. Others are either idealized, or devalued; these swings of perceptions can be sudden, volatile, and complete.

“He is the lie, from hello to good-bye”

Donna Anderson’s important latest post reminds me that one topic which will never be worn out is that of the psychopath’s lies and their impact on others.

This week I want to very briefly introduce yet another take on this inexhaustible topic. Everyone lies, but there’s something else at stake in the case of the psychopath’s lies.

To illustrate: you might say about any regular (non-psychopathic) person, “Things would be better if s/he was to lie less often. Her/his soul or psyche would be healthier as would her relationships.” That’s true. Now try this on for size and notice how wrong it seems: “Things would be better if the psychopath was to lie less often. His soul or psyche would be healthier as would his relationships.”

Weirdly, this is patently not the case. The psychopath will be just as sick/evil no matter how many or how few lies he tells. It’s not a quantitative but a qualitative matter.

Humans are lousy lie detectors

An article in last week’s New York Times magazine contained the following amazing statement: “Repeating a claim, even if only to refute it, increases its apparent truthfulness.”

Although the article had nothing to do with sociopaths, the statement made me think of my ex-husband, James Montgomery. Among his many lies, Montgomery claimed to be a member of the Australian military, a decorated Vietnam War hero, and a member of the Special Forces. None of this was true, but from what I can tell, he’d been making the claims since at least 1980 (we met in 1996). They’d been repeated many times, for many years—which apparently enhanced their believability.

Like most of us here on Lovefraud, I felt like a complete fool for being so totally deceived. Why couldn’t I see the lies? But it turns out that I have plenty of company. Psychological research indicates that in general, people can distinguish truths from lies only about 53 percent of the time. That’s not much better than flipping a coin.

After the Sociopath is gone: The gift of unconditional love

A couple of months ago I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. I’d been feeling discomfort for some time, but put it down to what I was eating, or simply the fact there was a lot of flu going around. And then, one Saturday morning I awoke to excruciating pain in my abdomen. I’d been having little mini-attacks off and on since Christmas, but they had only lasted a few minutes and once gone, could be ignored and even forgotten. But that last attack simply would not stop. My daughter called an ambulance and once in the hospital they told me I needed to have my gallbladder removed immediately.

After the surgery, I still wasn’t feeling up to par. I was constantly nauseous and tired. I told myself, it’s just the after-effect of the surgery. My body is ridding itself of the anesthesia and the gas they used to aid in the surgery. And then, one week after the surgery, I had another attack, this time, without a gallbladder to cause the pain.

Psychopathy versus sociopathy again…

I plan to review for you a very recent paper: Psychopathy as a disorder of the moral brain. Dr. Robert Hare is one of the authors. But, before I can get to explaining the moral brain part, I have to get past the first paragraph, so the moral brain will be have to be discussed more next week. As I sat down to translate this paper into plain English, I got stuck at the fourth sentence:

“Antisocial behavior by itself is a nonspecific symptom common to many conditions, so psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD, American Psychiatric Association, 1994) are not analogous constructs — while most cases of ASPD (sociopathy) do not fulfill the interpersonal and affective criteria for psychopathy (Hare, 2003; Ogloff, 2006) the behavioral features observed in these individuals are best explained by their level of psychopathy (Forth et al., 1996).”

Discrimination and sociopaths

“Discrimination” has come to be a dirty word. It brings to mind unfair treatment of individuals because of race, religion, gender, national origin, physical disability, sexual orientation or some other broad categorization. People have been killed, beaten, denied jobs, denied housing, prosecuted, persecuted and denigrated because of some demographic category to which they belonged.

All of this applies to one meaning of the word “discrimination.” But there is another meaning that is vitally important when it comes to sociopaths. Here are the two meanings according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

    Discrimination

  1. Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit.
  2. The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.

Created equal

So far, we’ve been talking about the first meaning. In the United States, there’s always been a moral tradition against this type of discrimination. In church, we’re taught that “we’re all God’s children.” In school, we learned that “all men are created equal.”

Eliot Spitzer and unrestricted sociosexual orientation

Knowing that I study human motivation, this week a friend of mine asked me to explain the motivations of Eliot Spitzer. To those of you who have avoided TV, and have not read Donna Andersen’s blog, Eliot Spitzer is Governor of the State of New York, but he is set to leave office on Monday. He was forced to resign after he was caught hiring prostitutes from a firm likely linked to organized crime. CNN reported that he may have spent $80,000 on prostitutes, but this is not a large sum if you consider that one encounter costs about $5,000. Now back to my friend, he stated, “I don’t get Spitzer, his wife is an attractive woman.”

Signs of a sociopath in Eliot Spitzer

In 2002, Time Magazine named Eliot Spitzer, when he was New York State Attorney General, “Crusader of the Year,” due to his relentless pursuit of corporate crime. He went after the giants of Wall Street, extracting large fines for illegal and unethical behavior.

That’s why his very public downfall has drawn so much interest. And that’s why, now he’s resigned as governor of New York in disgrace, the stories of his aggressiveness, his bullying, and his apparent belief that the rules did not apply to him, are so widespread.

When I first heard that Spitzer was implicated in a prostitution ring, I figured that if anyone had the dirt, it would be the New York Post. How right I was. Frederic U. Dicker, the state editor for the Post, wrote about Spitzer in an article entitled, Bully gets his comeuppance. Here’s how it started: