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Why do psychopaths want to mess with your head?

puppeteer and puppet businessLovefraud recently received the following question from a reader:

Why is it so important to psychopaths to get inside someone’s head and “mess with them,” such as gas lighting, and other head games?

This particular Lovefraud reader has endured stalking behavior from a psychopathic man for years. He has put her under surveillance, driven her from apartments, interfered with her job, and more — for no discernable reason.

They were not romantically involved. He did not take money from her. So the question is, why does he bother?

Dominance behavioral system

It’s a question that goes to the core of the psychopathic disorder, and one that Dr. Liane Leedom has addressed in a scientific paper that is now being reviewed by a well-known journal.

Dr. Leedom believes psychopaths do what they do in order to satisfy their unending desire for power and control. She says that the dysfunctional behavior of psychopaths is motivated primarily by the dominance behavioral system.

This is very different from how mental health experts generally define psychopathy.

Usually, psychopaths are described as people who lack remorse or a conscience. This is certainly true, but it doesn’t explain why psychopaths go out of their way to torment other people. If they have no empathy, why don’t psychopaths just ignore people and leave them alone?

Pleasure from power

The answer is that psychopaths derive pleasure from having a physical, mental or emotional impact on others. They experience power and control as immensely rewarding.

Psychopaths love being the puppet master. They get a thrill out of pulling strings and making people jump.

A variation of this phenomenon is the psychopathic penchant for useless lying.

All psychopaths lie. When psychopaths are in trouble, you can understand them lying to get out of trouble. But many Lovefraud readers have noted that psychopaths lie for no reason at all.

They lie when they don’t have to. They lie when they would be better off telling the truth. They lie for the fun of it.

Dr. Paul Ekman coined a term for this: duping delight.

Convincing targets to believe something that is false is a way of exercising power and control over them. Psychopaths experience this as fun.

Evolution

Where does the dominance behavioral system come from? Dr. Leedom explains that its roots are in our evolution as a social species. Structures have developed in our brains that carry dominance impulses, and the circuitry is influenced by hormones.

So a psychopath engages in dominance behavior, hormones are released in the brain that cause feelings of pleasure, the psychopath wants to feel the pleasure again, so he or she engages in more dominance behavior. And so it goes, around and around in a vicious circle.

It is normal for people to have a power motivation. This is the motivation that makes us want to succeed, achieve and be leaders. Unfortunately, in psychopaths, the power motivation is out of control.

Criminal behavior

In some psychopaths, the drive for power and control leads to criminal behavior. They take what they want, regardless of whom it belongs to or who may be hurt.

Others, however, do not engage in behavior that is likely to have them arrested and prosecuted. It’s not that they have any qualms about breaking the law. It’s just that they would rather not have their lives interrupted by going to prison.

Many psychopaths, therefore, find more subtle ways to feed their need for domination. They engage in behavior that is immoral and unethical, but not necessarily illegal. They cause problems of the “he said — she said” variety. They compromise their targets, so that if the targets try to seek justice, no one believes them.

By taking a more low-key approach, psychopaths can have their fun, and keep having fun.

So they engage in lying, gas lighting and manipulation. They engage in low-level harassment — aggressive enough for them to get a thrill, but not aggressive enough to incite a response from the legal system.

Psychopaths mess with your head because pulling the strings feeds their desire for power and control.

 



23 Comments on "Why do psychopaths want to mess with your head?"

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  1. Jan7 says:

    Another EXCELLENT article Donna!!

    I have reflect countless times on first meeting my ex h….he played mental games from day one, not just with me but everyone.

    I felt like he put a bird cage over my head to control my mind…that’s the analogy that I use. Days after coming back from our honeymoon I felt like he put a ball & chain not around my ankle but around my neck. I hated being married to him from that point on because of his control & manipulation but by then he had total mental control over my mind.

    Between his gas lighting abuse, double think tricks, reward & punishment training, word salad, pathological lying, triangulation, hypnosis, trance, brain washing, mind control etc etc he can control anyones mind & he can push everyone over their emotional edge when he so desires without blinking an eye or without being caught in the act.

    So scary that he gets away with it.



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    • knownow says:

      Thank you Donna, for another great insight into psychopathic behavior, personally and professionally, for those who can’t fathom or believe how anybody could be so evil as to perpetrate hideous mental and physical destruction upon their victims.



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  2. Remembertoforget says:

    Thank you for this article!
    Another great reminder for me on the psychological madness I experienced!
    I only wished I would have involved the police, although he wouldn’t have gone to jail.
    He is good at wreakig havoc just under the radar!



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  3. jm_short says:

    Psychopaths are Narcissists and are all about self aggrandizement.

    When a person gets recognition for their abilities, the Narcissist will free-ride on their talents or abilities in order to grab the focus from them and attach it to themselves. They’re attention thieves. They have no original thoughts. They need to grab yours in order to shine.

    You’ll see it in colleagues at work who take your ideas and pretend they’re theirs. They’ll undermine you to superiors as you attempt to straighten out the problem and turn your work environment into a nightmare. As an author, I see it in people who pretend they created the concepts in my book and quote me, use my concepts, or my advocacy, with no credit to the source.

    Undermining you is necessary in order for them to bask in what they perceive as your sunlight. Using your ideas, even bringing you down, causes attention to themselves.

    When they see that people love you, care about you, or respect you, they try to usurp some of that caring by showing you up to your circle. Since they truly don’t comprehend emotion and feelings, their concept is that the adoration you receive is a transferable commodity, and they simply want to grab a piece of it.



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    • NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

      jm_short
      Thank you for this post. It answers a confusion I’ve always had. That my ex, and his family members ridiculing a couple of my accomplishments.

      I didn’t understand because I didn’t think of them as MY accomplishments, but as something that I was priviledged to be a part of, something that was of HUGE benefit to mankind. I never thought MYSELF special for it, but that the benefit was special and I was happy that it happened.

      So many people’s lives have been saved because of this particular lifesaving medical advancement and families got more time with their loved ones instead of planning a funeral. No tears but JOY, and I derived happy contentment knowing their relief and happiness.

      But my ex and his family trivialized this medical discovery until and then at the same time, would boast about what they knew of it (they knew because I told them).

      I remember during an episode of really vicious ridicule that I was less than nothing, and I said, “I don’t know how I went from being someone whom certain doctors used to fight to have on their team to being someone who isn’t worth the air she breathes.”

      Undermining us as being worthy desirable human beings is red flag of a sociopath relationship. My ex also claimed he did the work that I did, and people marveled how he cranked out so much output while I sat around the house. Well, I wasn’t sitting around. I just wasn’t telling the local community all that I did. He was.



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      • jm_short says:

        Not-

        You’re an empathetic person who receives gratification from the good you do for others.

        He’s a Narcissist who measures his stature by the image he creates.

        Winston Churchill had a wonderful expression that a psychopath could never understand….

        “What you get makes a living. What you give makes a life.”

        Joyce



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  4. stronginthecity says:

    It happened last night.
    After years of manipulation and lies I finally ended it once and for all.
    This was just a week ago. I told him I met someone else.
    Last night I believe he tried to climb in my bedroom window at 340am.
    Police were called. Found nothing except the back of a cellphone.
    My pets woke me up. ..
    They heard something outside.
    He has stalked me before and came into my house when I was at work.
    Stronginthecity



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    • jenni marie says:

      stronginthecity,

      I have to Congratulate you!

      I’ll be your friend 🙂
      Your kind words to me on a previous post made me smile and we have discovered we are the same age.

      It’s not easy to tell (him) something that might give (him) a turn off, such as telling them you met someone else. I can only wonder what that kind of news does to or for a sociopath. Depends on the individual, I suppose.

      It’s time to lock all your doors and windows at all times, and keep a record of any instance that (he) comes around, or you suspect (he) has been around. File a TRO time?

      Today I have 76 days with NO CONTACT, except for me flipping him off on April 9th when he saw me down by the river. I stayed away from the river for 3 weeks before I went back. I haven’t run into him again.

      Nothing about NO CONTACT has been easy. I don’t want to use the word “hard” to describe doing NC. I want to use the word “challenging”. The word “Probable” is the most important word for me to remember. Getting the sociopath out of your life is a PROBABLE certainty if you stick to your boundaries and enforce NC, no matter how challenging.

      I can admit AND attest to the fact that I am having a running conversation with myself that goes like this: 1 day NC….74,75, 76 days NC, keep going Jenni, it sucks that he was so effing mean. He is a SCRUB,and there is NOTHING about his life that I would have usually looked for in a man before I met NOMO, so I am not losing anything. Yeah, I keep having flashbacks. Memories of all the BS he pulled on me for 4.5 years that I had forgotten, or blocked out that make me feel like it just happened are making me feel angry, and sure, you bet I want to have a “do-over” of my reaction to his crap at that time, just so I can get it “right” this time and actually hear myself set a boundary and stick to it. He WILL find someone else. She will be manipulated just like I was. I imagine that she will be one of these three things : “Temporary” or “Ignorant” or “Temporarily Ignorant”, just like the dozens of girls he has been with in the past, including me. I was all three of these at any given point in time. Stay away from him Jenni. BE honest and STAY honest with yourself…. HE SUCKS AS A BOYFRIEND, HE HURTS YOU ON PURPOSE AND HE LIKES IT AS HE HAS TOLD YOU SO, AND HE WILL NEVER EVER CHANGE”

      May 20th will be 100 days NC.

      Dear Stronginthecity, you CAN keep him and his abuse away from you. It’s challenging. We are doing NC together and with many other LF peeps as well, and I wish you days of NC piled on top of more days and days of NC.

      It’s time to look at yourself. See yourself. Put yourself on your priority list. That lady in your mirror looking back at you does not have to waste any of the love you have left on a worthless relationship. Save some of it for someone who deserves it, including yourself.

      You can get him out of your sphere! You’ll see.

      Peace
      Jenni
      peace,
      Jenni



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      • stronginthecity says:

        Hi Jenni,
        So glad to hear from you! Boy I needed this. I had a terrible day at work yesterday and am thankfully working from home today. I have been suppressing all of the craziness with my expath and a coworker just said something at the wrong time and with everything else(my daughters dad dying of cancer)I lost it at work and I was physically sobbing like I had not in years. I woke up this morning with swollen eyes, a stomach ache and a red nose.Time to buck up and deal with this.
        Your message is well received.
        Congrats on the no contact! It must be hard to see him at the place you love to go, the river.
        I was going to ask why he flipped you off but stupid question. I know.Because he is a crazy fool. Mine actually text to me F#$5 you before so like I said stupid question.
        I can relate on your comment about him being a SCRUB, I too never pictured myself with a man like him either. No job, lazy, loser friends and MEAN, but in a quiet subtle way. I don’t know if you read about what he did on my birthday..that was carefully planned and calculated to a tee.
        As I was driving home yesterday, still crying I was thanking God that he was not there to come home to. If he was there I would have to sit there and listen to him ramble on about one of his crazy family members or stupid friends. He would not even notice that I was crying and wouldn’t care.
        I have no idea where he is and I don’t care. I am watching the house and making sure I lock everything up .
        I think about the attraction..what was it. Well now that I know all I do about spaths his charming ability…of coarse he is good at it. It’s ALL he is good at. They live for it.
        The other women, they will always be there.
        The only time when he would get upset with me is when I would call him out on his BS.
        I am DONE with abusive relationships and ready to find someone who loves the wonderful person I am and make real life plans and carry them out. A partner, an equal. Not a parasite liar that is crazy.
        Your comment that he sucks as a boyfriend is actually something I have said to him! It’s true.
        Your LF friend,
        Stronginthecity



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        • Remembertoforget says:

          Sitc,
          I wrote a list the other night…what are the things I was attracted to and there was nothing good, so the list has things about him not good even physical features.
          All he has is his fake charm- you can tell it’s fake, and sex. He has nothing else, he is a scum bag salesman. Sits on the phone and charms people all day.
          How fitting.



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          • stronginthecity says:

            Remembertoforget,
            Ahhh the list. I have been advised by many to do that.
            I started it one day..
            1. Sex. Then crossed it off because it started to get boring…
            I then crumbled it up and through it away because there was NOTHING else to write.
            Salesman..what a perfect job for a sociopath.
            At least he has a job…
            UGH!
            Stronginthecity

          • jenni marie says:

            Remembertoforget, I tried to make a list that didn’t include having sex with him (I knew I liked that part), about why I should or should not stay with him, and I couldn’t think of one single reason to stay with him….the should-not-stay with him part of the list filled up the paper front and back and I had to stop because I was getting so angry and jealous while making the dang list…..grrrr I am so glad he can’t add to the misery any more. I’m NC 79 days so far 🙂

          • Remembertoforget says:

            Jenni,
            Congrats on 79 days NC!

            The list Jenni, me too. The reasons to NOT be with him filled up front and back of 2 pages. Lol!

        • jenni marie says:

          Hi Strong,

          lol, it was I who flipped him off. It was another not so proud adult moment I spent on him.

          That day, he was in one parking area when I had got to the river, so I went round to the other side to park and eat my taco, but he had seen me and drove out of the lot and then past my car, he made a U-turn down the way, came back and pulled his driver side window right up next to mine and stopped.

          I paused for about 5 seconds, but I had already thought about what I would do if I saw him someday anyway, so I just let myself go with the plan and went into some kind of auto pilot… I turned and looked at him only long enough to calmly mouth the words ‘Eff Off’ through my closed window while I was flipping him off and waving him off with the same finger. I took another bite of my taco in classic “yes, I am ignoring you mike, style”, he didn’t drive off yet, so I started my engine as if to leave myself and he then sped off and went and parked back where he was before. I went over there too after I ate and shot my bb gun for about an hour while he sat in his car way over there, halfway behind a tree. Hindsight tells me that went back over there to subconsciously stand in the face of his danger, but unafraid of getting hurt anymore, and he would finally see that. lol. who knows. I’ve been trying to figure out a lot of stuff lately.

          Truthfully, he looked worn out and depressed and droopy, with some kind of disgusted with life look on his face. It must be so tiring putting on a fake front all day every day because it’s sure showing on him a lot lately. The man hardly ever genuinely smiled.

          I think I just wrote all that because I feel sort of glad that I was able to go with my plan to tell him to F**k Off and turn away from him when I ran into him, instead of appearing to have any other emotions of any kind. Grey rock.

          I’m having to deal with so many memories of the BS he pulled on me, but the last couple of days have been blessed with a feeling a being grossed out by the thought of laying next to him and his pervert mind.

          Sorry to hear about your daughters father losing a battle with cancer. I can relate to breaking down at work. I have mini-moments where I have to deep breath and force myself not to cry, while at the same time my job has somehow kept me sane because it distracts me from the stress of this break up for 40 hrs a week, just as well as it distracted me while I was with him for almost 5 years.
          I hope you have lots of days of NC days too my girl.

          Take care,
          Jenni M



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          • stronginthecity says:

            Hi Jenni,
            How are you doing today/
            Thanks for the response.
            You sound like you are doing well.
            I really liked your comment on them having to put up a fake front …I think about that myself.
            For me too, the thought of him touching me…yuck.
            It’s all so clear now.
            My job…I am usually ok there as you said it’s distracting usually but a coworker made some bat shit crazy comment and because I am hyper sensitive right now, especially to crazy people I reacted without thinking and got a “talking to” by my boss. I work at home Fridays because of my family situation(the ex husband is still alive but not doing well at all) and she(my boss) didn’t respond to my emails Friday after I left early Thursday sobbing I don’t know whats going to happen tomorrow.
            I could be escorted out …like so many others there but it is what it is.
            I do my job when I’m there but when a coworker is jealous because I work from home 1 day a week and personally attacks me I react.
            I’m not going to worry about it because it is what it is.
            One thing for sure, NC has been good because every day without the craziness is one day closer to being me again.
            Your LF buddy,
            SITC

      • stronginthecity says:

        Jenni,
        One more thing, my idea pf a vacation is the Four Seasons in Mexico, his is staying with family in a double wide and visiting people….
        Get it?
        Stronginthecity



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      • stronginthecity says:

        Jenni,
        I just reread your post.
        You flipped HIM off!
        Awesome. Good for you!
        I am giving NOMO a virtual flip off too, for you!
        You go back to that river and the hiking trails you love and if you see him there flip him off again!
        I actually smiled, thanks Jenni!
        Your Lovefraud buddy,
        SITC



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        • jenni marie says:

          Stronginthecity, oops, I just saw your post about re-reading my post, lol, sorry you had to read “the finger” story Again….. I didn’t see you had re-read the story, before I went and told it again….ROLF



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  5. Remembertoforget says:

    Sitc,
    I am so sorry you have gone through such terrorizing events!
    Stay safe, keep an eye open and call 911!



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    • stronginthecity says:

      Thank you remembertoforget,
      I am on the lookout as are the watch cats!
      Amazing how they woke me up when they heard someone outside.
      I am working home today and thank goodness I have retired neighbors who are out and about so I feel safe.
      Strong



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  6. Infinity says:

    This happens to me so frequently! I grew up getting this from my sister. No wonder so many other psychos have found me since.



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  7. From Me says:

    The idea of an out-of-control dominance behavioral system is pretty scary



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  8. Jan7 says:

    Donna, did you see this article on Dailymail. com? A domestic abuse agency posted fake Tinder dating profiles to show how quickly a online relationship can turn ugly & abusive…very powerful statement from them about online dating.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3070585/Domestic-violence-charity-creates-fake-Tinder-profiles-abusive-men-order-women-seeking-love-online-quickly-relationship-turn-ugly.html



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