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Archive for July, 2009

The nature of the “abusive personality”

Unfortunately clinicians and researchers often tend to interact with a specific segment of our society and to develop their own ways of describing the problems of the people they work with. For example, there are professionals who work with clients who have “personality disorders”, there are professionals who work with criminals in the justice system and there are professionals who work with perpetrators of domestic abuse/violence.

Each of these three groups of professionals has their own lingo for describing very similar people with very similar patterns of behavior. Each group also has a different “theoretical orientation” or view of the problems of humanity.

Because those who work with family abusers often lack experience with sociopaths in other settings they do not know that family abusers are sociopaths.

Where does that leave you, a victim or family member of a disordered, abusive individual?

We Can Only Do What We Can Do

By Ox Drover

I was thinking about a blog post and reply that had gone on between another poster and myself on Lovefraud about trying to “help” others see the “light” and get away from their own personal psychopath.

I mulled over what I had done in my life in trying to “fix” others by coming up with a solution that they could take to ease their pain from their prior bad choices. I would wrack my brain up and down, left and right, to try to come up with a “plan” that would help these people “fix” whatever mess they got into of their own free will.

Some people would call this “co-dependent” and others would call this “enabling.” Whatever term you want to apply to it, I called it “helping,” but the bottom line is that this behavior on my part was not “helping” these people, it was me trying to take responsibility for the consequences of their bad choices or bad behavior.

No Shame, No Gain

Unless your abusive partner can feel shame for his violating behaviors, he will make no gains. That’s why I say, no shame, no gain.

By “gain” I mean, of course, the permanent ceasing of his abuse.

This rules-out sociopaths who, by definition, will lack the capacity for shame necessary for personal reform. This is worth repeating, as basic as it is: the sociopath is beyond help, beyond reform. Only his victims can help themselves by escaping, and healing, from him.

And yet shame alone isn’t enough to produce gain. It’s what the abuser does with his shame that’s critical. If he projects his shame defensively into, say, “blame,” then he is going nowhere fast. And unfortunately, all too often this is the case.

And so yes, no shame, no gain. But maybe it’s more accurate to say, no “owned” shame, no gain. Or even more accurately yet, no “responsibly processed” shame, no gain.

BOOK REVIEW: Getting It Through My Thick Skull

Finally—the word “sociopath” is being applied to a high-profile case that doesn’t involve a serial killer.

Mary Jo Buttafuoco, wife of Joey Buttafuoco, shot in the head back in 1992 by Amy Fisher, the “Long Island Lolita,” is telling her story. And the first words of the introduction are, “Joey Buttafuoco is a sociopath.”

Getting It Through My Thick Skull—Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know, has just been released. Why did it take Mary Jo 17 years to write the book? Because it was only in 2007 that she realized the truth about Joey Buttafuoco.

Perhaps you remember the case. Mary Jo got shot. The police said her husband was having an affair with her assailant, who was 16 at the time. Joey Buttafuoco denied the affair, and Mary Jo believed him, defended him, and rallied friends and family around him. But the cops were right and she was wrong—her husband was sleeping with the teenager. Then Joey Buttafuoco said it was all Amy Fisher’s fault—and Mary Jo believed him again.

Dr. Donald G. Dutton explains that personality disorder is the cause of domestic violence

For the past several years Donna and I have attended the Battered Mothers Custody Conference and so we have been able to interact with domestic violence experts. Both of us were surprised to discover that although most of the worst spousal assault perpetrators have personality profiles indicative of sociopathy/psychopathy this fact is not recognized by many experts.

I have worked to become well acquainted with the scientific literature regarding intimate partner violence because I teach psychology of gender and because I very much want to understand why people who should know better often fail to diagnose sociopathy in perpetrators. This failure to diagnose has lead to intimate partner violence being erroneously interpreted as a gender issue related to male domination of females. This flies in the face of the real statistics which show that there are equal numbers of female perpetrators. The failure to recognize personality disturbance in female perpetrators has lead to male victims being further traumatized.

The Lovefraud Version of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”

By Ox Drover

When we were kids most of us have heard the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, in which a very narcissistic emperor who wanted the most beautiful and wonderful clothes in his kingdom. Here is just a little bit of a different version.

Once upon a time there was a very narcissistic emperor who was very dumpy, unattractive, and had a very large nose, but he thought that if he had the most beautiful clothes in the kingdom that he would be very attractive to the ladies of the court. Even though he was a married man, he loved to have the ladies of the court admire his new clothes and tell him how handsome he was.

One day a couple of psychopathic con men were in a tavern trying to figure out a way to con someone who would be vulnerable to their scam and had lots of money. They finally came to the conclusion they would try to con the emperor.

Please do not engage abusers

Yesterday, Lovefraud had an intruder. I saw this guy’s first couple of posts, which struck me as odd, but not necessarily offensive. I decided to keep an eye on him.

Before long, however, several longtime Lovefraud contributors began attacking this individual. I thought the attacks were unwarranted.

We have had occasions in the past when people started accusing newcomers of being sociopaths. I think this is a very dangerous thing to do based on a few posts that may sound different from what we generally see here.

Meaning is missing

Experts have found that 65 percent to 90 percent of the meaning in human communication comes from nonverbal cues—tone of voice, gestures, posture. That means when the primary form of communication is via words on a computer monitor, 65 percent to 90 percent of the meaning is missing.

Posted in: Donna Andersen

Finally, Jeffrey Marsalis convicted of date rape

Two years ago, I wrote, with great frustration, about the case of Jeffrey Marsalis, who is an obvious sociopath, for those of us who know what they look like. The guy met women on Match.com, claiming to be a trauma surgeon, an astronaut, and even a CIA agent. He invited them for drinks, drugged them, and while they were unconscious, raped them.

In June 2007, six women—all young professionals—told exactly the same story in a Philadelphia courtroom. But the defense convinced the jury that they were nothing but vengeful, lying women who willingly had sex and then regretted it. Jeffrey Marsalis was acquitted. See:

Fake doctor Jeffrey Marsalis acquitted of date rape

Marsalis was tried twice, and acquitted twice, in Philadelphia. But there was another case against him in Sun Valley, Idaho. And this case had a crucial difference: The victim went immediately to a hospital, a rape kit was performed, and the police were notified. This time, unlike in Philadelphia, there was physical evidence.

BOOK REVIEW: Trading Places, a true story of overcoming abuse

Trading PlacesPeople who have not been entangled in abusive relationships often ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” By reading Trading Places, by Natalie Hutchison and Mary Turner Thomson, you begin to understand.

Natalie Hutchison was reproached as a child, ignored by her first husband, then physically abused by her second husband. Finally, she decided enough was enough. Natalie escaped the abuse, went back to work, started a business, and in 2006 won the Barclays Bank Trading Places award, given to individuals who overcome tremendous personal adversity to turn their lives around.

Natalie had health problems as an adolescent, and she tells how her parents reacted to her medical issues.You see the seeds of self-doubt being planted. This is how it starts. This is how some women become primed to be victims of abuse.

Mandatory sociopathy/psychopathy education for judges and DAs

I am late getting my blog done this week partly because I have been helping a crime victim get justice. I hope at some point to be able to share the entire story with you but for today I want to share part of it and not yet name the offender. The offender is in prison for kidnapping and physically assaulting (torturing) a child.

The victim’s mother provided me an official copy of the sentencing transcript where the defendant plead guilty to those crimes. He was sentenced to 3-12 years in prison. It is unclear to all of us exactly how it is determined if the defendant serves 3 years or 12 years or something in between.

The sentence of 3-12 years was handed down after the defendant and his attorney made the case that OCD caused him to torture the child. There was apparently a psychiatrist and a psychologist who diagnosed OCD and prescribed medication for same.