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Archive for August, 2008

Crimes of Persuasion: Schemes, Scams, Frauds

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman who was married to a con artist for over 5 years and she didn’t know it. The man she met online, had married her representing himself as a “hedge fund manager.” She helped him entertain clients who invested in his company. He also had a business partner, someone who had known him for over 10 years. That business partner was also conned and lost a great deal of money. It turned out that everything about the man other than these two very real people was a sham. Every word out of his mouth was spoken as part of some pathological lie. The man is without doubt a sociopath/psychopath and con artist.

Chilling portraits of sociopaths in film

There have been countless depictions of sociopaths and other predatory personalities in film. Most are pretty bad, incomplete and/or inaccurate. But some have been dead-on.

And so I’ve canvassed my memory for what I regard as several notably excellent portraits of sociopaths in film. I’d be curious what you think of these performances (if you’ve seen them), and eager to discover, through you, new film/television portraits of sociopaths that ring disturbingly true.

In no special order, I’ll start with the original foreign film, The Vanishing, 1986 (not the subsequent and lame Hollywood remake). The Vanishing delivers-up one of the most sinister depictions of a sociopath I’ve ever seen. The fright derives less from graphic violence (there is none) than from the movie’s success at immersing you into the compartmentalized world of its principal character, who is seamlessly managing the presentation of a normal, well-adjusted family man, as he simultaneously and covertly pursues his secret life and morbid agenda.

A list for leaving the sociopath behind

by AlohaTraveler

How many of us have a list, or know someone who does, of the ideal qualities we are looking for in THE ONE? I think these lists can sometimes cause us to miss out on someone quite wonderful because we get so attached to a check list. But that’s another topic. I have a different kind of list. It could be called the list of EXACTLY what I DO NOT want in a life partner! This list has helped me to heal and come to terms with the reality of the Bad Man.

While going through my things this morning, I found a piece of binder paper with a list I had written about the Bad Man in the early stages of my healing. It was written sometime within the first year after I had left him. The list represents a free flowing string of words and phrases that describe the Bad Man.

Fake Rockefeller to be interviewed on Today Show

A jailhouse interview with “Clark Rockefeller,” who authorities believe is really Christian Gerhartsreiter of Germany, will be broadcast Monday and Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show.

According to an article on MSNBC.com, the bogus Rockefeller now claims that his ex-wife knew he wasn’t really a Rockefeller, and used the name to advance her career. Still, he insists that he doesn’t remember if he is Christian Gerhartsreiter, and he grew up in New York City.

UPDATE 8/25/08 – See the first Today Show interview.

Rockefeller in the New York Times

I wonder if the Today Show interview will be as clueless as a story in today’s New York Times.

Plastered across the front of the Sunday Styles section was a half-page photo of Gerhartsreiter’s scruffy face, next to the headline, Ready-Made Rockefeller.

After the sociopath is gone: Inspired Change

I receive a weekly newsletter from Brian Willis at Winning Mind Training. In his latest newsletter he quotes Lon Bartel, a law enforcement trainer in Arizona who said, “People change out of desperation or inspiration. Desperation results in short term change. Inspiration, results in powerful and lasting change.”

When I was in relationship with the sociopath, I made desperate changes. Living in constant fear, I was desperate to keep him happy. In my desperation, I contorted and distorted myself to fit the image he told me I had to fit. Most of what I did was about keeping him happy and my life, as it were, intact. Often, the changes I made were ‘inspired’ by his anger. I would do just about anything not to have to experience his anger, and he knew it. Because I believed him when he told me I could never be free of him, I didn’t look beyond the narrow corridor of my life with him, to see that away from him was where real change happened. Away from him was where my freedom started.

Esther Elizabeth Reed: Profile of a female con artist and sociopath/psychopath

Sociopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder is a psychological disorder that affects about 4 percent of the adult population. The extreme form of this disorder affects 1 percent of the adult population and is also called psychopathy. Among those with sociopathy/psychopathy, there is a spectrum of severity and the traits/behaviors that make up the disorder are also found in non-disordered people. These observations have led the American Psychiatric Association to consider a prototype approach to diagnosis. I believe the prototype approach is very useful to both professionals and the educated public so I will explain it.

The prototype method of diagnosis involves describing what someone with the disorder is usually like, then comparing a person to that prototype. Thus the degree of sociopathy/psychopathy can be assessed using the prototype approach. In this and later articles, I intend to examine con artists using the prototype approach and both the psychiatric criteria for sociopathy and the PCL-R criteria for psychopathy. You will see that the prototype sociopath and the prototype psychopath are similar, but that psychopathy more closely fits con artists.

The sociopath in couples therapy

I do much couples therapy, and occasionally have had the interesting, if disconcerting, experience where one of the partners is a sociopath, or has significant sociopathic tendencies.

Unsurprisingly, it is always the nonsociopathic partner who is occasionally successful in dragging his or her sociopathic counterpart to counseling. The sociopathic partner, just as predictably, will have no collaborative interest in the relationship’s improvement. However, he or she may be sufficiently selfishly and manipulatively motivated to attend.

For instance, the relationship may offer conveniences the sociopathic partner does not want to see end. The nonsociopathic partner may have reached wit’s end and may really be prepared to end the relationship, arousing the sociopathic partner’s concerns that the gravy-train, as it were, may be over.

This can be the sociopath’s inducement to try to “patch things up with,” to “settle down” the nonsociopathic partner, in order to salvage the perks of the relationship. (The quoted phrases are meant to capture the sociopath’s condescending, self-serving thinking.)

Domestic violence is not a battle of the sexes, it’s a battle against sociopaths

Back in June, a New Jersey judge declared the state’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to be unconstitutional. Judge Francis B. Schultz, of the Superior Court in Hudson County, determined that it was too easy for someone who claimed domestic violence to get a restraining order.

The ruling was controversial. When I first read about the case, I was astounded that a court would take such a stand against domestic violence victims. Sandy Clark, associate director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, considers New Jersey’s law to be among the best in the country, according to NJ.com.

New Jersey’s law

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is strict. Some of its provisions include:

  • Police must respond to calls of domestic violence victims.
  • If there are any signs of physical injuries the police must arrest the abuser.
  • Police may also arrest the abuser without witnesses or signs of physical injuries.

Speaking up after the sociopath is gone.

It was just a name in the subject line of an email.

I knew the name. How could I forget it? It was the name of the man who had betrayed my trust and my love for the four years nine months of our relationship.

Curious, I opened the email and read the words of a woman whose daughter’s girlfriend is engaged to a man named ‘Jack’ (not his real name). I think he’s the same man you knew, she wrote. I read your website and the article from when your book was published. Do you have a picture?

I wrote back and told her I had burnt every picture I had of him. She sent me one by return email. Is this the same man? I’m really scared for my daughter’s safety. Conrad and my daughter’s friend have been living with us for a couple of months. He’s made lots of promises. Lots of commitments to do this, do that. None of them have come true.

Are all psychopaths/sociopaths criminals and are all criminals sociopaths?

When Donna and I talked with Dr. Hare last week, he addressed the question of whether or not all psychopaths are criminals. He also sent us a paper he wrote on this topic. He said that it is possible for a person to score high on the PCL-R and not have an arrest record and not to have committed felonious crimes. He insisted, though, that “antisocial behavior” is central to the disorder and is found in all people who score highly on the PCL-R. The paper he wrote has the following quote regarding Dr. Hervey Cleckley, the psychiatrist who wrote the first book describing psychopathy.

Cleckley (1976) noted that he was “in complete accord” with the description of the psychopath as “simply a(n) … antisocial individual” (p. 370). “Not only is the psychopath undependable, but also in more active ways he cheats, deserts, annoys, brawls, fails, and lies without any apparent compunction. He will commit theft, forgery, adultery, fraud, and other deeds for astonishingly small stakes, and under much greater risks of being discovered than will the ordinary scoundrel.”