lovefraud3
lovefraud3

BOOK REVIEW: Evil Eyes—A daughter’s memoir

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing for Lovefraud as regularly over the last year. The reason is I have been working to get a research program off the ground. Objective scientific research on psychopathy and the family will inform a better understanding of the disorder and educate professionals about the needs of victims and family members. In a very exciting and lucky turn of events, an expert in “mixed methods” research has an office down the hall from mine at the University of Bridgeport, and l have recently learned a great deal about how to conduct this kind of research.

I have long appreciated that the usual mathematical approach to psychological research does not seem to illuminate the disorder psychopathy and its effects on the family. I am not the first to suggest this as a researcher. Kirkman used methods termed “qualitative” to study the impact of partner psychopathy on women. Researchers using qualitative methods can gain an appreciation for the actual experiences of victims. In mixed methods research, qualitative approaches and traditional quantitative approaches are combined to get the big picture of a phenomenon—exactly what we need here.

One way to perform a qualitative study is to review literature about a topic. So to cover the topic of psychopathy in parents as thoroughly as possible, I am going to review every book I can find written by an adult son or daughter of a psychopath/sociopath. As I finish the reviews, I’ll share my impressions with you. If you know of any such books, please comment so I can order and read them.

Books written by adult sons and daughters of psychopaths

The first of four books on my list so far is Evil Eyes: A daughter’s memoir by Cherylann Thomas. I already wrote a brief review of this book for Amazon.com and gave it 5 stars. Please everyone who reads this review go to Amazon and buy the book, or go to Google Books to download the ebook. It is important to support these authors by purchasing and taking the time to read their books. I took many pages of notes as I read the book and will share some of my impressions with you.

I only found one mistake in the book, but the mistake is cute and relatively harmless. For some reason it gave me a bit of a chuckle and made me feel a sense of fondness for Cherylann. She is not a mental health professional but actually does an excellent job of explaining the difference between “malignant narcissism” and “psychopathy.” In so doing she credits Sam Vaknin, a psychopath and self-described “malignant narcissist,” with coming up with the phrase “malignant narcissism.” While I am sure Sam would love to take the credit for this term, it was actually Psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, M.D., who coined the phrase and developed a theory linking malignant narcissism to the cause of psychopathy.

Cherylann points out that psychopaths are more impulsive than malignant narcissists and are less able to pretend to conform to society’s rules or portray a mask of normalcy. This idea is in agreement with Kernberg’s writing. She also states that she believes psychopaths hurt people on purpose for the sheer enjoyment of it, whereas malignant narcissists’ abuse is more a consequence of their selfishness. Although this thought is also in agreement with Kernberg’s writing, it might be important for the author to hold this view because she asserts that her father was a psychopath and her mother was a malignant narcissist (perhaps mother was not as evil?). Though by her many descriptions, it sure appeared to me that Cherlyann’s mother enjoyed the abuse she inflicted, and abused with the same malice and forethought that I would attribute to a psychopath.

What happens to children who have psychopathic parents?

Cherylann’s book describes the consequences of growing up with psychopathic parents as follows:

1. Children grow up never being loved and so come to believe they are unlovable.
2. Children internalize the abusive messages they receive and these become self-fulfilling prophesies.
3. The lack of socialization leads to poor impulse control and impulsive antisocial behavior that leads to guilt and more self-doubt/hatred.
4. There is an ever present feeling of sadness, guilt, self-doubt and shame.
5. Items 1-4 lead to suicidal ideation and attempts.

Cherylann correctly identifies that adult children of psychopaths suffer with emotional and psychological pain that does not fit neatly into diagnostic categories and that may not be that amenable to medication.

In reading between the lines of the book I also perceived that although Cherylann is a loving, caring person, and so was spared the genetic curse that leads to an inability to love, she does have temperamental traits that we see in children who carry genetic risk. These traits are not necessarily pathological. Reading the book, one gets a sense of inner restlessness, relative fearlessness and excitement seeking. Cherylann is a world traveler who seeks to get to know and connect with a wide variety of people sometimes to her own detriment.

A tendency toward substance abuse was present in most of the family and the severity of the substance abuse seemed connected to the severity of the psychopathy.

Most of the themes of the book are related to self and family experiences as listed below, these were the most important. However I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the frustration the author expressed with the psychiatric profession and its non-recognition of the needs of children of psychopaths. I share her sense of frustration and am also embarrassed by the perception that psychiatry is about pushing pills and making money for pharmaceutical companies.

Important themes related to family and self

The theme of desire for family connection was present throughout the book. Over and over, Cherylann reaches out to and connects with many members of her family who have psychopathic traits. The end result is usually some painful situation but before the pain, there is a sense of connection that seems significant and important to the author. Cherylann says in at least two places that the only way to deal with a psychopath/sociopath is to have no contact, however, she also demonstrates to us that this is easier said than done.

Related to the theme of family connection, the theme of a need to forgive the psychopathic parents was articulated many times throughout the book. A point I found very interesting was that the author had a fondness for her psychopathic father that she did not have for her psychopathic mother. This was due to the father being “absent” and not as emotionally abusive. Her psychopathic father was also fun and charming (as opposed to cold and mean to her the way her mother was). Cherylann’s experience with him differed from that of her half siblings who spent more time with him, and who were directly abused by him. It therefore seems important to reflect on each son’s or daughter’s individual experience with the psychopathic parent.

Also related to family connection, Cherylann provided many pictures of her family in the middle of her story. I was struck by the appearance of normalcy in everyone. The author also stated that her mother’s terrible psychological abuse was a family secret. I would call this theme, therefore, normalcy/secrecy.

The theme of finding meaning and spirituality was also present throughout the book. I found her search for meaning in suffering personally inspiring.

The theme of habitually encountering non-familial psychopaths was present to the extent that, while reading the book, I felt surrounded by psychopaths. Many survivors have reported this same experience to me.

The theme of clinging to loving connections as a way to bring meaning and continuity to self was present. Through motherhood and grand-motherhood, Cheryl felt anchored to this world and to her true self.

The theme of connecting with others who share the same suffering was present. Helping others further brings a feeling of continuity and wholeness to self and gives meaning and purpose to life.

Thank you very much Cherylann, this was a great contribution to our understanding. Today’s children of psychopathic parents will be protected when yesterday’s children who are now adults speak out about their experiences.

Cover image "Evil Eyes"

Again please read the book and comment if you believe I missed an important theme.

Evil Eyes—A daughter’s memoir is available on Amazon.com.

email
www.lovefraud.com


26 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: Evil Eyes—A daughter’s memoir"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. freemama says:

    I’m wondering if anyone else has had the experience of being “disowned” from their parent/s..? I’ve been scouring the net lately for support on this topic, but there’s surprisingly little there. Is it because it’s such a rare event, or is there simply a lot of shame? Most of what I’ve found deals with people who came out to their parents as gay. Not much exists for those who came from narcissistic/sociopathic parents. I’m starting to think that maybe my becoming a mother myself had something to do with my mother’s decision – like now that I’m a mom, I can see how horribly I had been treated. I would never even entertain the idea of doing the things to my son that she had done to me! Obviously a huge part of me is trying to make sense out of what will never make sense.

    One thing I left out that I know I shouldn’t have – I was raped when I was 12. A van pulled up to me and my best friend. My best friend ran, but I froze. They took me. When I finally told my mother about it 2 years later, she said I must never bring it up again. In later years, she thought it’d be really awesome to call me a whore, or accuse me of being a lesbian because I (understably) didn’t want anything to do with boys. I’d never so much as kissed a boy by then, but I guess I figured I had to make up for it to prove I wasn’t gay, because she hated gay people even more than she hated me.

    *whew* That’s hard to put out there, but I’ve bottled up so much shame and guilt for decades now that it’s going to make me sick. Again – these articles on effed up parents has given me so much hope. So many of us probably live every day thinking we’re the *only* people who have experienced this or that emotion. When we realize that others have made it through and become stronger for the experience, it gives us hope that maybe one day we can make that leap. The spath ex I get now. My N mom?? Oh man, not even close…

  2. Speaking_Up says:

    Freemama;

    My mother disowned me many times…mostly through the “silent treatment” if I did not do her bidding or suck up to her the way she insisted I do. In the end she was furious with me for tending to my Pfather in paliative care (she also had lung cancer but was not as far gone as he was). When I came home after he died I was “disowned” by all of his children for tending to him. I could not leave a dying old man with no one to care for him in his last months…that is NOT my nature but it seems to be my family way.

    Anyway, I came home and my MNmother (or psychopath, who knows), who also had this lung cancer, came up with a story about how bad her upper back felt. She called me several times in a day on one hand saying it was nothing, she stretched it by accident, on the other…how she couldn’t even roll out of bed to go to the bathroom. I went nuts because she was the LAST person I wanted to help by myself (the way I could feel her eyes burn into the back of my head while I was cooking for her was awful!). Her other children: One was on crack, another a severe alcoholic, and her golden child was just as malignant as she was.

    Anyway, she manipulated me when I got home from tending to pfather and I acted…I emailed all the kids and said I was not going to tend to mother by myself…that it sounded like she was very ill…and I needed help. My two brothers went to her and said I was saying she was dying (which she was, just not yet). she went into some weird manipulative rampage with me telling me I was a dark force of some kind wishing her to be dead (projection).

    She never spoke to me again, told the kids not to tell me when she was dying (and they didn’t until the day she died) and she cut me out of her will.

    Turns out she died by herself, in her bathroom. None of her children were with her. The sad thing is I would have been if she had let me in. I still feel terrible that she was by herself in her final days. I carry a lot of guilt and shame to this day. I am not cured just because they are dead. I have these tapes in my head about how horrible I must have been (because my mother said I was) and whenever something good comes my way I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I do not know if these feelings will ever go away.

    About being disowned and disinherited…as I said in my book, “You keep the money, I’ll keep my soul.”

    I read all of your comments and could add something to each of your stories…very touching and thank God some of you got out.

    My book has many twists and turns (and heartaches) but in the end I insist that I protect my grandchildren first (I’m 52 now) and foremost, and if I ever hear of child abuse by anyone I will be the first person to SPEAK UP.

    I am humbled by all of your stories.

    Cherylann

  3. Bubblewrap says:

    Its weird, I see my dad and mom in there but they are like watered down versions of the real thing. Today, my parents are quite loving ( as long as you don’t need them for anything) They seem to have nothing to do with me when Im down or depressed, or out of work…and they are like fair weather friends when I get back to work and feel chipper again. When I had some of the worst moments in life, my mother disappeared. ( first husband’s death, things like that ) I have had to be my own mother all my life. And I love to nurture others too, and have a garden to dote on too. But there were times we were beaten, sent to bed without meals for not helping out with the 11 other kids ( I was oldest girl, second oldest sibling and Mother ‘needed’ me) So I guess being a ‘caregiver’ is programmed into me. While everyone else gets a life, im cleaning and cooking for “mother” still. ( HELP!!! lol ) But this book is on the must have list. So thanks, going to Amazon now!

  4. Bubblewrap says:

    Cherylann, Im 52 now also, so there is still time for me. Can’t wait to read your book. I have no tolerance for child abuse, and even seeing it on a movie makes me freak out and bust out sobbing. There are some movies that get no farther than that scene… If I witness it in a store, nothing stops me from approaching that parent and telling them they need to chill, and calm down…they just need to relax, they’re tired, etc…because half the time, that’s whats happening, the baby is cranky, the toddler is impossible, the four year old wants candy, and mom is tired and thinking she has to lug this stuff home yet, make dinner… So I usually touch her arm and say, “Honey are you getting frustrated? I know you got a handful there, I bet you’re getting pretty tired huh? ” It usually helps them to know they are just that, and someone actually cares. You can see their shoulders drop a couple inches and they take a big breath, and smile and say ‘ yah!’ and the next thing I know they are smiling at the kids, and got a little pick me up till they get home. but I’ve never witnessed out and out abuse; that happens at home or in the car. God help the person I ever see doing that. And if I ever see a kid with bruises…lookout.

  5. Truthspeak says:

    The “Report Abusive Comment” option isn’t loading for the comment, above – obviously a spammer that probably knows the exspath in ways that I don’t even want to imagine.

    BEGONE! Before someone drops a house on YOU!

    (poof)

  6. Annie says:

    Truthspeak – I tried to report it, but got errors as well. I was able to load the “Report Abusive Comment” screen, but once I hit enter after the “Gotcha” verification screen I got sent to a 404 screen (Internet page not available).

    I’ll send an e-mail to Donna reporting this.

  7. Annie says:

    Thanks Louise. I’ve removed my sarcastic comment (above), since it doesn’t make any sense once the offensive comment is removed!

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Wordpress SEO Plugin by SEOPressor