Stages of the Psychopathic Bond
Stages of the Psychopathic Bond: Idealize, Devalue, Discard
The predictable yet completely unexpected and devastating pattern of a relationship with a psychopath involves three stages: Idealize, Devalue and Discard.
These relationships start out like heaven on earth…but end in a place worse than hell.
When you’re targeted by a psychopath, you will become and unwitting opponent in his or her or her game of power and control. When stage one — the idealization stage — begins, you believe you’ve found an exciting, romantic relationship and that you’ve met the love of your life… but what you’re actually entering is a game of sorts, one you’re guaranteed to lose. Through manipulation, the psychopath takes control of you and the relationship. Inevitably they will become bored with you, and then through devaluation and abuse, the psychopath will damage you emotionally, psychologically and spiritually and leave you deeply traumatized.
The psychopath lures you with charm, attention, flattery, and other covert emotional manipulation tactics. He or she will say anything to get what they want because they lie without remorse, and what they want at this point is to win your love and trust. You’ll believe that you’re “soul mates” because they’re able to present themselves as your perfect partner.
This stage is often called “Love Bombing.” The manipulator will saturate the target in as many ways possible with love and adoration, without a moment to come up for air. They’ll spend as much time as possible with the target, and keep in frequent contact. There will be many verbal declarations of appreciation and of their feelings about you and all your wonderful qualities, and amazement at all the things you have in common or at how lucky you both are to have found each other. You’ll believe it’s the best thing that ever happened to you, so you won’t even suspect what’s really happening.
The psychopath is not able to bond with another human, but he is good at getting another to bond to him. This is known as the psychopathic bond. The idealization stage creates that one-way bond, which is what makes you vulnerable to the manipulation and abuse that will follow. Even if the psychopath is, at the outset, genuinely attracted to you (which is possible), they will end up devaluing and abusing you.
If the psychopath is motivated by genuine attraction in the beginning, they will still manipulate you. He or she will inevitably become bored with you as well (and blame you for it), which results in devaluation and abuse. You can read more about this in the blog posts, Genuine Attraction, Manipulation or Something More? and It’s Not You, It’s Me… and My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System.
Because psychopaths don’t have emotional empathy, they objectify others. He or she never idealized you as an individual; you were only idealized as an object of desire. As such, their interest is shallow and short-lived, and they move on to new sources of diversion and pleasure. It’s too bad that by the time this happens, you’ve already pinned your hopes and dreams onto him or her.
The perfect “honeymoon” stage lasts until the psychopath has hooked you, and then stage two — the devaluation stage — begins. Manipulative tactics are put into play to gain power and control. The non-stop love and admiration is replaced with hot-and-cold behavior that suggests the psychopath is pulling away, which is known as intermittent reinforcement, a very powerful manipulative tactic that puts you on an emotional roller-coaster. A psychopath is skilled at what’s known as “dosing,” which means giving you just enough attention and validation to keep you on his hook. You find yourself tolerating continually worsening treatment as you try to hold onto the formerly wonderful relationship, which diminishes your self-respect. It seems counter-intuitive that treating you badly would make your attachment stronger, but that’s exactly what happens and how intermittent reinforcement works. This attachment is called a “trauma bond.” It is also responsible for (and identical to) the phenomena of Stockholm Syndrome.
“The more infrequently the crumbs of love are offered, the more hooked you are. You become conditioned, like a rat in a cage.”
If the psychopath was “genuinely interested” in you, the manipulation and devaluation is employed to gain further control of you at the beginning of stage two. But as you become less exciting to him, he starts to feel contempt for you and genuinely devalues you, because he blames you for his waning interest and disappointment. When the devaluation becomes increasingly cruel, you stay because you’ve been manipulated into accepting poor treatment and thinking less of yourself. You also stay because you’re still holding onto the memory of the idealization stage. Fearful of losing that completely, you go into denial and tolerate increasingly worse behavior. You’ll experience cognitive dissonance as the truth about him comes into your conscious mind but is battled by your denial; your thoughts ping-pong back and forth relentlessly as you try to figure out what’s really going on.
During the devaluation stage, he or she will use an arsenal of covert emotional manipulation tactics. Learn about these tactics so you have a better chance of recognizing them in the future. No one is immune, especially when a strong emotion like love is involved.
Because your self-esteem has been lowered so drastically, you blame yourself for the state of the relationship and berate yourself not being enough for him. He or she doesn’t take responsibility for their own behavior, and blames everything on you. And in your state of mind, you believe it.
“From beginning to end, all this phony relationship can offer you is a toxic combination of fake love and real abuse. He constructs the psychopathic bond through deception and manipulation. You maintain it through self-sacrifice and denial.”
~Claudia Moscovici, PsychopathyAwareness
By now, your self-respect—along with your self-confidence, peace of mind and dignity—have been severely impacted. In stage three, things get much worse. At this point, the psychopath feels real contempt for you and feels you deserve abuse. Contempt is one of the few emotional states a psychopath can experience.
the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
When a psychopath feels contempt for someone, that person is in a dangerous situation. Harm (emotional, psychological and sometimes physical) is inevitable.
“The psychopath discards his ex-lovers with a degree of vitriol and hatred that astonishes his victims and exceeds any boundaries of normality.”
~ Psychopathy Awareness
After a period of abuse driven by contempt, the psychopath will discard you. Or you may be the one who finally puts an end to it and walks away. Either way, you come to the realization that your relationship was a fraud from day one. Victims experience betrayal, deep disappointment, a profound sense of loss, anger, self-blame, shame, bewilderment and incredulity.
The stages of the psychopathic bond are what describes emotional rape, which is devastating. Some people find little understanding or support from those who are close to them, because others often see it as a typical ‘love gone wrong’ situation. It is far more than that. Please make sure you get the help and support you need as you recover from this experience.
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