When targeted by a psychopath,
we unwittingly become an opponent in a game we don’t even know we’re playing. The stakes are high and the odds are stacked in their favor. They make the rules, and play to win. How could they lose, with such unfair advantages?
On our first official “date,” the psychopath who victimized me did something incredible — he told me about the game. He came right out and laid it all out for me. He told me the object of the game, and the outcome. Yes, you read that right — he told me about the game. Of course he didn’t say it was a game, but that was the only thing he left out. Like some covert fortune teller, he told me my future. He could predict it because he himself would make it happen.
As we sat at a cozy corner table at my favorite restaurant, warm lighting glowed and his eyes seemed to sparkle as he gazed into mine. Looking sincere and hopeful, he told me he wanted our relationship to get off to a good start and stay that way. In order to do that, he said, it was imperative that the balance of power remained equal.
I asked him to explain what he was talking about. He told me that relationships go wrong when the balance of power becomes lopsided. He said that when one person cares more than the other they have less power, while the one who cares less has more power. The one with the most power would control the relationship, while the one with less would be miserable. He went on to say that this imbalance of power would lead to the end of the relationship as the needy, powerless person who cared more drove away the the person who cared less. (Notice the two main themes — power and control, precisely what a psychopath wants.)
I thought about it and it seemed he did have a point, but I asked him why he was worried about it in our case. I told him I was sure that as long as both of us cared about each other, everything would be just fine. We had a very special thing, so there was no reason to think about what might go wrong. He said he was concerned because that very scenario had happened in several of his past relationships and he didn’t want it to happen again, especially with me. He said he feared that he cared more, and I assured him it wasn’t true. The conversation only made him more endearing to me as I surmised that he was a thoughtful, sensitive man who was afraid of losing me, who didn’t want anything ruining the rare magic we had discovered with each other.
Boy, was I wrong.
I forgot all about that conversation, even as the game played out. I didn’t remember it until after it was over, when I stumbled upon this quote somewhere online:
“This is how they think. It’s all about who is in control, who is on top, who has the most power, WHO CARES LESS, WHO CARES LESS, WHO CARES LESS, WHO CARES LESS, WHO CARES LESS. Do I have to repeat it?”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I was made to play a sick game only he knew we were playing. He planned all his moves well in advance, and I played right into his hands.
The Psychopath’s Game:
Players: The psychopath and his unsuspecting opponent
Object of the Game: Power and control over the opponent
Strategy: Idealize, devalue, discard
The Winner: There is none
Psychopaths are driven to play this “game,” over and over, throughout their lives. One theory explains that it’s all about devaluation:
Devaluation is driven by unconscious greed and envy, according to psychopathy expert Dr. Reid Meloy. When the psychopath is envious, he loses his much-needed feelings of superiority and grandiosity. The psychopath’s greed and envy causes hatred, and that hatred creates wishes to destroy the object of his or her envy, which in turn eliminates the envy. When envy is eliminated, superiority and grandiosity are temporarily restored.
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.
“What he gets he spoils and wastes; he feels frustrated and deprived, and the greed and demand start again.”
When greed and demand start again, the game must be played again.
Meloy says the psychopath must act out this manipulative cycle repetitively and compulsively in order to experience feelings of exhilaration and contempt (contemptuous delight), which perpetuate his feeling of grandiosity. 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, but must be kept intact.
The psychopath will continue to ward off others by devaluing them, Meloy says, but also continue to seek out new victims. Once he finds a victim his greed and envy cause rage and sadism, and the victim is devalued and destroyed. When that has been accomplished, the psychopath’s need for devaluation will start all over again.
That’s the psychoanalytic theory. An alternate theory, one based on neuroscience, explains that it’s all about dopamine:
Psychopaths have a significantly exaggerated dopamine response when seeking a reward, such as when they’re pursuing a person they’re attracted to. According to this theory, they can feel “genuinely attracted.” Although they have this exaggerated dopamine response when after something they want, they have an abnormally low level of dopamine in general. Without strong stimulation (and the dopamine that goes with it), they feel bored, empty and restless. They’re also low on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of contentment. Since they require intense stimulation to get their dopamine high, when the object of their desire isn’t shiny and new anymore, they’re simply not stimulating enough to give the psychopath the high they need. When their dopamine crashes and the relationship becomes boring to them, they blame their partner for their loss of interest and devalue and abuse them. Since they aren’t capable of attachment, when the intense newness of the relationship wears off there’s no incentive for them to continue with it.
This search for an intense dopamine high—and the relief from the intolerable sense of bored emptiness they feel without it—drives the ever-repeating cycle of idealize, devalue, discard.Their lives are a continual, relentless pursuit of stimulation intense enough to give them the dopamine they need to feel exhilarated and alive. You can read more about this in the articles, Genuine Attraction, Manipulation or Something More? Dr. Rhonda Freeman Explains and It’s Not You, It’s Me… and My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System.
Whatever the reason they play the game, it is always the same: Idealize, devalue, discard.
♥ We know the psychopath’s game now, so we can no longer be the unwitting opponent necessary for them to get what they so desperately need. They will not keep playing a game they aren’t winning.
…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”