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By March 12, 2016 11 Comments Read More →

Gut Instinct Isn’t Enough

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Chapter 8
Gut Instinct Isn’t Enough

Everyone talks about “gut instinct,” but what is it? Is it really something you feel in your gut? In your heart? In your head? Does everyone have it? Are some people better than others at listening to their gut?

I’ve never talked to anyone who doesn’t believe that’s the case. People seem to believe that we all have a “gut instinct” about things, and that some people are better at recognizing it than others.

When we were dating, Wyatt and I used to walk along the railroad tracks next to his house for hours. They were abandoned tracks, but they still smelled of creosote and oil and tar. The gravel was pierced by only a few weeds with the strongest tap roots, weeds that looked like dandelions to me but that never produced flowers. They speckled the gravel bed like green stars.

The tracks took us places that cars couldn’t reach anymore. If they ever did. One of those places was an old cabin that was falling in. It was made of square, hand hewn log, and it had been perfectly symmetrical before one corner of the upstairs loft collapsed and blocked one of the four matching square windows—two on each side.

We’d creep inside and poke around. It was only about ten feet by twelve, so it wouldn’t have taken long to explore except there were layers of newspapers all over the inside walls that they’d used for insulation. Somehow they’d survived the weather. I guess the sidewalls had stayed strong and the roof was still there. Hardwoods last for centuries. I wondered why the one corner of the loft had collapsed, and I wished whoever owned it would come fix it.

The newspapers were bewitching. I’d stand in one spot and read the first layer. It was news from maybe 1868. I can’t even remember the exact dates now, but it seems like I read the news from a span of twenty or thirty years. And it was similar to the news today. A couple had recently wed. Someone had been recently robbed. Politicians were fighting. And so on.

The language was more formal; the situations described were more proper—at least in the retelling. I’d get lost in the stories, and I can remember Wyatt coming to stand behind me and wrap his arms around me and nuzzle his chin in between my neck and my shoulder. My “gut instinct” fluttered. He whispered in my ear.

“I love the way you get lost in these stories.”

He squeezed me for a moment and stood still, seeming to cherish the love.

“You’re a different kind of person, Helen. So passionate.” He wrapped his hands around my hip bones. “I love everything about you.”

I turned to meet his eyes and held his gaze with the kind of warmth that feels like uninhibited love.

I believed that’s what it was.

Was my “gut instinct” wrong about Wyatt? I’ve asked myself that question a million times since. When someone seduces you and only later belittles you—or wraps his hands around your neck rather than your hips—it’s easy to wonder about “gut instinct” and personal failures. Should I have been looking for red flags? Maybe. But the issue when you’re dealing with a psychopath is that the red flags you might expect are most often not what you get.

I come back to this point again and again because when we overestimate our ability to “get” people through our “gut instinct,” we are more vulnerable to charming, high-functioning psychopaths. Because they can make us feel so good, so loved, and so understood. The red flags we expect—like little signs of a deceitful nature or callousness or flakiness, or even what we call love-bombing—these red flags are not always going to be there right away. Just as there are master criminals who never get caught and sloppy criminals who do, there are also psychopaths who never expose themselves and psychopaths who do. Your chances of “getting” a masterful psychopath through your “gut instinct” aren’t great. These people are called “disarming” for a reason. Because they disarm you.

If you marry a high-functioning, masterful psychopath, you will eventually see their other side. You’ll come to understand, painfully, the inner workings of someone who doesn’t care about anyone but who thrills over manipulating anyone and everyone. But don’t expect the world to see or believe your experiences. Because people on the outside are still standing in the glowing light of your partner’s psychopathic charm. And believing that their “gut instinct” would alert them to any issues.

 

 



11 Comments on "Gut Instinct Isn’t Enough"

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  1. Bev says:

    And there you have it.

    That’s just it, isn’t it? The people who do not know the P well, keep on believing in them, keep on just basking in their phony glory.

    When you realize who they truly are, and leave their life, you are made to look crazy, because nobody else sees what you see.



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  2. Rosie Jackson says:

    Read “Dangerous Instincts” by former FBI profiler, Mary Ellen O’ Toole. I highly recommend it!



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  3. Amadeus says:

    The real problem is that gut instinct is rarely enough, especially if your sociopath has crept up on you, slowly and carefully.

    I started leaving my sociopath/narcissist that terrible day. I’d known her for nine years, we’d been lovers for one. I was her ‘saviour’, always trying to fix that poor little broken bird, to make up for all the terrible things that others had done to her. And then one day, it hit me as she lay sleeping: a powerful, deep, visceral feeling that it would never end, that the hole would never fill, that she would keep on taking, all with that wonderful smile on her face, until all the spirit was drained out of me. I would never have that partner i dreamed of, that adult, mature, independent woman I felt she could be. Instead it was more like living with a black hole: the more of yourself you threw in there, the deeper the hole grew, the greater the gravity until your soul was crushed under its weight.

    This instinct – this sense of emptiness and doom – was so strong it made me ill, badly, for weeks, during which I broke up with her. But that’s never enough, because in the end “Sorry my love, but I have a bad feeling about all of this” really doesn’t cut it when you’re dealing with a Cluster B personality. It won’t win you any arguments (certainly not that!), but also won’t help you overcome the crushing desire and guilt that attends upon loving a sociopath, both from within yourself and from her.

    The gut instinct isn’t a saviour, but it is a brake, a violent alarm bell that says “No further!”, and (thankfully) it’s stopped me doing some terrible things, from commiting myself fully to that life (I’ve had it more than once, the second time made me stop that fateful taxi drive, get out, throw up on the side of the road, and turn the taxi around). But it isn’t a way out, it’s not an escape. For that, you need to do so much more than listen to your gut.

    It’s four years later, and I’m still just crawling past the edge of her event horizon…



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  4. NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

    It felt like a trap, all that blame, how others said that I “should have known” or that I ignored the red flags. Only, those red flags didn’t show until he was discarding me.

    Oh yes, there were incidents, but they were nuanced. There was NO way to know the meaning of them. He explained them all away. There was his habit of keeping me “safe” from certain people, the family of his ex-girlfriend of course. I “understood”, though, b/c she was upset he refused to marry her. So how was I to realize that he REALLY was controlling who spoke to me?

    That GUT instinct they tell you about is warning but I was totally befuddled what it was warning me about. Something off? Yep, but I attributed it to his FAMILY, all of whom were OVERT controlling two faced abusers. I thought my ex, like me, was the family exception. I had been the one who stuck with my birth family, trying to be loyal and loving until they crossed the line and did something unforgivable. Then, and only then, did I give up on them and “divorced” them.

    The truth is, you may not realize the truth until way down the road with these types. My ex was covert, VERY careful about his image and he was able to keep people apart. I never met the skanks he screwed, they lived in the next town and was not part of my world at all, only part of my STD infections… which is how I found out about them. My ex also had long term long distance flings. He traveled for his hobby and so every time he was in their town, he stayed with bimbo1, bimbo2, bimbo3. They ALL knew he was married, I was the one deceived, the bimbos were not.

    You DO need more than to listen to your gut. You need people willing tell the truth… but unfortunately TRUTH is in short supply… people don’t want to get involved, or they are part of the ruse, or they only know the part of the elephant that they can feel themselves… used to abuse but don’t know how the manipulation is being accomplished, they don’t know what it means either (thus GOOD decent people can be enemies b/c they think a victim is the crazy one, rather than the one who is in the midst of crazy making behaviors.)

    As I said before, if you have escaped alive, YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES. If you are confused and in enormous pain, believe it or not, YOU are one of the Lucky ones b/c you are on the path to freedom…you just don’t know it yet.



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    • Delores says:

      That is so true. Often others think the psychopath is wonderful and you are crazy or others see it an do not tell you. I had children with one so my escape was never complete now he tries to use my daughter to abuse me. I have been fighting for my freedom from him for 50 years. Now I have complete no contact and an estranged daughter.



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      • AnnettePK says:

        So sad about your daughter. Is there any hope she’ll come to her senses in time?

        My ex psychopath had a daughter and stepdaughter from his first ex wife. He spread all kinds of lies about her; and her daughters were estranged from their mom. After a couple of years of fake ‘marriage’ to the psychopath, the daughters were not talking to me either, and the spath was spreading versions of the same type of lies about me to them and everyone else.



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    • seekeroflight says:

      “As I said before, if you have escaped alive, YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES. If you are confused and in enormous pain, believe it or not, YOU are one of the Lucky ones b/c you are on the path to freedom…you just don’t know it yet.”

      This.

      “The truth is, you may not realize the truth until way down the road with these types.”

      Also this. The more digging I do, the worse stuff I find. I have a feeling some of the worst things of her past I may never know about. Someday this stuff will catch up to her or she will do something new and get caught and I’ll see her name in the news. This is my prayer. Until then, I can only pray for the current and next victim, whoever they are.



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  5. AnnettePK says:

    In addition to listening to one’s instincts and what one is actually observing, old fashioned wisdom regarding not hurrying into a relationship, and not engaging in sex, until enough time has passed to observe a potential partner in a variety of situations interacting with a variety of people. And enough time for any shams about his career and financial stability, and any other lies he might be telling, to come to light.

    It helps discern a person’s character to know his friends, his business relationships, his work history, the stability of his family relationships.

    How a man makes a woman feel can be a guage. Although spaths flatter their victims with positive attention, it usually isn’t too long before something he does or says makes one feel upset or uneasy. If talking to him about it doesn’t solve the problem, (which would be the expected outcome with a balanced positive healthy relationship), and one continues to feel bad, that is a red flag. I overlooked how the psychopath occasionally made me feel bad, and blamed myself in some rationalizing way. These were the earliest red flags that I missed, long before I found out he is an abuser, pathological liar, pedophile, cross dresser, etc. etc. He’s pretty good at what he does, he’s still successfully duping a lot of people.



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  6. Mistea1 says:

    Gut instincts: Here’s what I learned about gut instincts. When I was in college I took an acting course. The instructor taught us how to invoke the feeling of anger in response to a scene requiring it. Can’t remember how he did it but I responded with the correct feeling as he described it.

    I was totally flummoxed because I had always thought that feeling was akin to grief and sadness. I was shocked. In rethinking my past later I realized that the parents had had me suppress feelings of anger and I must have sublimated them to grief.

    Then 10 years later came the narc. I had this persistent feeling in the pit of my stomach that started to hook me to the narc and i thought this feeling was akin to grief and longing. Logic told me this wasn’t right but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

    Finally, somehow, I related that gut feeling to the lesson I had learned in acting class. So it wasn’t grief after all it was white hot smoldering anger at that so and so for trying to put one over on me, deceive me etc… like my parents did.

    Right then I could feel my cheeks catching on fire and I just sat there while the flames burned hot and high and in the next instant I could feel it burn itself out and I sighed in relief.

    Two nights ago I had to be in the presence of the narc at a social event. I had a very small gut feeling and when he bagan a small incident designed to get to me I correctly identified the feeling of anger and it seemed as if the identifiying of it was enough.



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  7. Stargazer says:

    When I first met the sociopath back in 2008, there were red flags for something but I didn’t know what. He dazzled me with seemingly sincere compliments. He loved my taste in decor, my cooking, he thought I was beautiful, etc. He didn’t want to leave my house. He stood very close and kept touching me. The behaviors were very odd. The only thing was, I didn’t know what they meant. I didn’t know what my gut was telling me. Stalker? Or just a guy who was really intrigued. My history with men in the previous 15 years was that they were always running away. They were unavailable, unattainable. This one was trying to get closer. Therefore, I mistakenly decided these were signs that he was genuinely interested and available. I thought I’d hit the jackpot. He was not like the others. You’re right, it’s hard to ferret out the red flags, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I certainly know now. I would never have guessed the sinister games and deceit that were lurking just below all the sweet nothings and continual promises. I didn’t know people like that existed. Sometimes it’s still hard to fathom because it was so long ago. This site reminds me that they’re out there.



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