Yesterday I found a nice surprise in my inbox—a comment from Rhonda Freeman, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist and psychopathy expert. She had come to answer a reader’s question, clarifying and expanding on information I quoted from her website, NeuroInstincts, which I’d included in the Love Bombing post. What she had to say is fascinating and gives greater insight into the workings of the psychopathic mind. What’s really going on in their head when they pursue a new target, and later when they devalue her or him? You may be surprised.
First, this is from the Love bombing post:
“Some experts believe that not all behavior in the beginning of a relationship with a psychopathic or narcissistic personality type is grooming, although grooming (which is intentionally manipulative) will be part of it. According to Dr. Rhonda Freeman, “the emotional high they demonstrate is quite likely genuine. Many are significantly stimulated and intrigued by their new partner. However, in addition to this ‘high’ there also tends to be manipulation… In his or her ‘game’ the psychopathic or narcissistic individual has the advantage. There will be pain for the unsuspecting trusting target… This is the nature of these disorders. No one is bonded to, appreciated or valued.”
Freeman goes on to say, “Unlike the excitement they have for their new target, the grooming component of their relationships is intentional. It is tailored to set the victim up for future use.” She adds that “grooming is purposeful manipulation with an end goal of taking advantage of the target,” and that grooming “facilitates an impression that the psychopathic individual is safe, generous and trustworthy.”
This created some confusion, as evidenced by reader Klarissa’s comment:
“It is hard for me to understand how the emotional high they have can be genuine but also manipulative at the same time. The giddy excitement when he would see me; he would actually blush! So, that can be real but yet they are also self aware and know they are manipulating us? Know they truly can’t feel or attach? He really seemed to believe he was the nice, humble, kind person he portrayed but there were times, looking back, I could sense his delight in duping me or manipulating me.”
Dr. Freeman responded to Klarissa’s question:
I wanted to explain what I meant by the emotional high of a psychopath being “genuine,” while the grooming on the other hand is intentional manipulation.
What is happening is two simultaneous processes. They absolutely have the ability to feel excited and stimulated by people and things — it the reward system of the brain. And it works almost too well for those with psychopathy!
In fact, research has found that their reward system is more sensitive than that of a normal person. Hence the reason why they (more than the rest of us) start off their relationships with intensity. It is genuine and they really are feeling that excited about you.
(The reward system is the system of the brain that kicks into gear when we are newly in love or attracted to someone. It makes us hyperfocus on people, crave them, think of them all the time and get butterflies at the thought/ sight of them. This is very natural and a system that we all have and have all felt it in action. Psychopaths have this system too of course, but the dial of theirs is set at a 10 (arbitrary number), while everyone else is a let’s say … 5)
Although psychopaths have this system that drives them to have this intense attraction and desire for their new target, their brain is also built to be a natural manipulator.
Because they cannot be exposed to something without taking advantage of it – they ‘fatten up their goose’ to eat later. They groom her. They let her know (in a manipulative way) what is expected of her, how this relationship will go and how he wants the experience for him to be when his excitement ends.
Most of the time, they do not know they are going to completely lose interest and hate their current mate (crash from their dopamine high – their reward system is over it — it’s not new anymore) – Many of them are of the genuine belief that they have truly met “the one.” They blame her when ‘their’ brain disconnects from the relationship. This is a dangerous time (emotional or physical or both) for the former object of his affection.
Because of this disorder, psychopaths are operating on two tracks when they are with a new partner:
Intentional manipulator AND their (involuntary) reward system.
Klarissa – The short answer to your question is: Yes – if he is a psychopath then it is highly probable that he felt very stimulated, attracted, and interested – it was genuine. That part was not a dupe.
However, if the person has strong psychopathic traits, then there was likely grooming mixed in there as well.
Hope that clarifies what I meant in the article.
Best to you all,
Abig thank you to Dr. Freeman for stopping by and explaining this psychopathic phenomenon to all of us! Be sure to take a look at her website, NeuroInstincts; the goal of the site is “to empower victims of emotional and physical abuse and to expand their understanding of the dynamics behind these toxic relationships, often from a neuropsychological angle.” There is much information on healing in the aftermath and a Men’s Corner as well, with plenty of info on female psychopaths.
Dr. Freeman also writes for Safe Relationships Magazine and the Aftermath website, an organization providing information and support for victims of psychopathy founded by Drs. Hare, Babiak, Kosson and others.
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