When a shiny object captures a psychopath’s attention, watch out.
They are intensely goal-driven, and their attention is as narrow and focused as a laser beam. When they see something they want they will do whatever it takes to get it.
Psychopaths actually see people around them as objects, so this is not simply a metaphor or an analogy. And they have a desire to possess the object that sparkles and shines and catches their eye. When you are that shiny object, you are in serious trouble. Unbeknownst to you (and apparently to the psychopath as well) you are commandeered to play a part in an unconscious cycle the psychopath must repeat in order to remain intact.
When a psychopath sets his sights on you — the shiny thing he becomes fascinated with – he idealizes you, just as someone would after seeing a shiny new car in a showroom window. At that point, he will see you as nearly flawless. Of course no one is flawless, especially to a psychopath. But somehow, he really believes you are when he is idealizing you.
Inevitably, he will be disappointed.
As the psychopath gets to know you he starts seeing what he considers weaknesses. To a psychopath weaknesses are contemptible. His inherently fragile image of you as a flawless object inevitably cracks and shatters, and he sees the horrifying truth – you are only human. The shiny object isn’t shiny anymore. He is disgusted and he loses interest. That’s when devaluation begins.
He now sees you as pathetic. He may stick around for a while since he’s getting some need fulfilled – sex, money, maintaining the illusion of a marriage, or something else — but while he’s fulfilling that need, he will manipulate and abuse you, believing you deserve it. And he will enjoy doing it because it gives him a feeling of contemptuous delight.
For a psychopath, to know you is to hate you. You didn’t really do anything wrong (although he wants you to think you did). Likewise, you weren’t idealized for anything you truly were, only for what the psychopath imagined you to be. But you are a real person, not a product of the psychopath’s imagination. The psychopath is not capable of understanding that.
To know you is to hate you
In a normal relationship, as we get to know someone we learn each others vulnerabilities and accept each others flaws. That’s precisely what creates emotional intimacy. But with a psychopath, it’s the exact opposite. And many of the things they see as flaws are just normal human behavior. In fact, many of these things are our strengths. But in the psychopath’s world, things are topsy-turvy. The psychopath sees our strengths as flaws, and sees his flaws as strengths. Things like love and trust and compassion make us fools who are easy to manipulate, while their ability to lie, manipulate, and act without remorse makes them strong and superior.
In the psychopath’s world, things are topsy-turvy
A psychopath who read many things I’ve posted on this site thought much of it was ‘spot-on’…except for one thing. He repeatedly (and politely!) took issue with my claim that a psychopath’s goal, from day one, is to cause harm. He said this wasn’t always the case. He said that although he was incapable of falling in love, he did sometimes become fascinated with someone. And he said that every time he did, he quickly lost his infatuation because the person ‘blew it.’ When they did, he thought they were pathetic. After that, he would become abusive.
I didn’t believe him. I stuck to my claim that it was all about harm from the beginning. But with further reading and learning, I found out he may have been truthful.
ETA: Please keep in mind that even if a psychopath does become ‘fascinated’ with someone from time to time, at other times they most definitely DO set out with an agenda. The psychopath I spoke with never denied that. He took issue only because I said they ‘always’ do. I continue to believe that the psychopath who victimized me did set out with an agenda from day one.
Even if they do start out as ‘fascinated,’ harm is inevitable, so this discovery doesn’t change things in any consequential way. Idealization (and fascination) is not love, and it will always turn into devaluation, which always causes harm.
But the reason behind it, if true, is damn interesting.
According to Dr. Reid J. Meloy in ‘The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics, and Treatment’ — a challenging book that an integrates the biological and psychodynamic understanding of psychopathy, and is considered the definitive book on the subject — devaluing enhances the psychopath’s grandiosity and sense of superiority. He experiences exhilaration and contempt (“contemptuous delight”). Devaluation is driven by unconscious greed and envy. The psychopath’s hatred creates wishes to destroy the object, which in turn eliminates his envy.
It is important to understand that envy is hatred of the good object, and greed is the desire to have all the ‘contents’ of the good object (and now I know why the psychopath I knew told me so many times that he was a vampire).
“What he gets he spoils and wastes; he feels frustrated and deprived, and the greed and demand start again.”
Devaluation is a form of ‘splitting’ (seeing things as all good or all bad) that empties the psychopath’s world of people and values.
Psychopaths experience a “zero state,” an inner feeling an emptiness, which is the closest they will ever get to depression, according to Meloy. Yet devaluation perpetuates these feelings of emptiness by warding off any object that would empathize with the psychopath’s plight.
So why must the psychopath continue to devalue? Meloy says the psychopath must act out this manipulative cycle repetitively and compulsively in order to experience feelings of exhilaration and contempt, which perpetuate his feeling of grandiosity. If the psychopath were to inhibit this conscious behavior, for whatever reason, it would cause conscious envy and rage, and lower the psychopathic threshold for violence. The manipulative cycle is a ‘purification process’ for the psychopath, which projects all the bad onto the victim of his manipulation. It is described as a narcissistic repair of the psychopathic process that restores a primitive and defensive equilibrium. They need to do this because their grandiose self is threatened with intrapsychic rupture, but must be kept intact.
The psychopath will continue to ward off others by devaluing them, Meloy says, but also continue to seek out victims. Once he finds a victim his greed and envy cause rage and sadism, and the victim is devalued and destroyed. When that is accomplished, the cycle starts all over again. They move on to the next shiny object that captures their attention and repeat the never-ending cycle.
For a neuroscientific explanation for a psychopath’s behavior, please read:
Ultimately, what motivates the psychopath isn’t of any real importance to victims. Whatever their motivation, their behavior it always results in serious harm. I simply offer this as an interesting theory.
…If you’re wondering if you are encountering a psychopath, read this book and you will know without a doubt.”
“Quite relevant and helpful, written in a useful down-to-earth-style which emphasizes the practical. Obviously written from direct experience.”
“The truth shall make you free… the description of typical behavior and common reaction to that behavior was more helpful to me in freeing myself than all the books on what a psychopath, sociopath or narcissist is”
“Excellent, excellent book! It brought me understanding and closure!”
“Invaluable. Having been in a relationship with a psychopath for many years, I desperately needed some insight into what had happened and why. I have gained a tremendous amount of strength and knowledge toward healing from years of abuse by reading this book. One of the best.”
“Five Stars. Very helpful.”
“Insightful and informative! This book provides a good understanding of psychopath’s traits. It’s very helpful the author broke it down in different subjects for giving the complete view of a psychopath.”