As promised in my last post, “How to tell if you’re being manipulated,” this post deals with traits of those who become victims of psychopaths. (This in no way suggests a victim is to blame for having traits that attracted a predator. The predator is clearly the one to blame).
These traits apply to both men and women.
Traits of the psychopath’s vicitm:
- A general demeanor of vulnerability, which the psychopath can easily detect. Vulnerability can come from many things:
- Not having gotten love, support or validation from your family of origin (this is a huge risk; work on recognizing and resolving this)
- isolation from friends and family
- Loss of a job
- Being new in town
- Longing for a love relationship (another huge risk, unfortunately, and desperation increases your risk a thousand-fold)
- A strong need for attention, approval or support
- A previous victimization that is unresolved
- Long-term stress
- Loss of a loved one through death, divorce or a breakup
In other words, anything that causes anxiety or depression can create vulnerability. According to Sandra L. Brown, author of “Women Who Love Psychopaths,” the victim who is suffering from anxiety or depression enters the relationship “impaired.” If you’re impaired, recognize that you are at increased risk of attracting a psychopath’s attention. Read more about vulnerability and learn the best defenses against a destructive relationship with a psychopath
- Boredom. Feeling bored creates the desire for excitement. A brand new relationship can relieve boredom quickly, especially one with a “highly thrill-seeking, live-wire” psychopath, says Brown.
- Loneliness. If you’re lonely, your unmet social and emotional needs can create an opening for a psychopath to enter your life. Many lonely people are also bored, which elevates risk.
According to Brown, some victims don’t even know they’re lonely, bored, or living a small, confined life, but the psychopath knows.
Brown describes several “hard-wired” temperament traits shared by women who get involved with psychopaths. These are positive, wonderful traits that the psychopath uses as a weapon against the victim.
It may be surprising that many women victimized by psychopaths are outgoing, powerful and successful. Most have a bachelor’s degree or higher and have professional careers in law, medicine, nursing, teaching, psychology and upper-level management. How do women like these end up with psychopaths? They share many of these traits:
- Extraversion. Extraverts are at risk because they are commonly very curious, easily bored and sometimes impulsive.
- Excitement seeking. Excitement seekers don’t want a boring life, so who better to hook up with than a psychopath, who avoids boredom at all costs? Although they’re both seeking excitement, that’s where the similarity ends. The psychopath’s excitement comes from manipulating others, lying and carrying on multiple relationships at the same time. The victim’s excitement comes from having an active life or choosing a man who’s edgy or powerful and dominant, which describes most psychopaths.
- Disorderliness. A woman with this trait is a “free spirit” in the sense of accepting life as it is and “going with the flow.” It’s what enables her to tolerate the chaos in her life created by the psychopath.
- Competitiveness. Competitive women with strong spirits are able to “withstand the psychopath’s strong, dominant demeanor.” It also plays a role in her staying in the relationship after it becomes pathological; instead of cutting her losses, she wants to stay and “battle it out.” This makes the relationship last longer and increases the harm she suffers.
- Attachment. Women involved with psychopaths attach with “great passion and enormous depth.”
- Sentimentality. Women who score high in the trait of sentimentality tend to hyper-focus on the good memories of a relationship, which helps to hide the psychopath’s bad behavior. Even just a few positive memories can outweigh dozens of terrible and traumatic ones.
- Social sensitivity. The victimized woman who is socially sensitive is acutely sensitive to the needs of others, so she fall for the “empathy card” the psychopath plays early in the relationship. She also cares deeply about what others think of her, which unfortunately includes the psychopath.
- Motivation to please her partner and a high level of “relationship investment.” A relationship with a psychopath couldn’t happen without these two traits, according to Brown. Relationship investment is basically the sense of time, work and commitment that’s been put into it. If a woman has a strong sense of being “invested” in a relationship, she’s more likely to stick with it.
- Low Harm Avoidance. Women who score low in this trait are not aware enough of potential harm. They tend to be relaxed, carefree, daring and optimistic in circumstances that would cause others to worry. The look for the best in others, don’t expect to get hurt, and feel that they can deal with it if they do. “She’ll be blind to the danger of the oncoming psychopath,” Brown says.
Brown also describes character traits that put women at risk. She defines character traits as aspects of someone’s personality that determine their goals, their values and how they see themselves.
- Cooperativeness. A women who scores high in cooperativeness is friendly, empathetic, compassionate, tolerant and supportive. These are all wonderful qualities, and by no coincidence are just the traits the psychopath lacks. Her “overflowing” cooperativeness balances the highly unbalanced relationship and helps to hide the “glaring gaps” of the character traits between them.
- High degree of Trust. This extreme trust is also referred to as “blind trust,” or trust that is given freely before there’s any way to know whether a person is to be trusted or not. She will also give the psychopath multiple chances after he exhibits untrustworthy behavior, because of her traits of compassion and tolerance.
- High degree of Loyalty. A woman with a high degree of loyalty is a faithful and consistent partner, even when the loyalty is not returned. Even though this wounds her deeply, her tolerance, trust and hope will keep her loyalty alive even in the face of betrayal.
- Self-acceptance. It may seem counter-intuitive that a woman with high self-esteem could be victimized, but as Brown puts it, she isn’t on the lookout “for someone as brutal as a psychopath to systematically dismantle” her self-worth, self-validation, self-esteem; basically, the way she sees herself. The psychopath will reduce her strengths and magnify her weaknesses. Many women say the psychopath was initially attracted by her inner strength, yet it’s what he uses to destroy her. Her self-acceptance and inner strength is a direct challenge to his dominance.
- Self-trancendence and spirituality. Women who embody these traits want to help others — including the psychopath — to reach their highest potential. She may spend enormous amounts of time or money to further his success. For example, she may put him through law school (only to be dumped when he graduates).
Notice that most of us are described on this page. Most people are at risk, whether they think so or not.
Awareness of your vulnerabilities and traits that put you at risk is an important part of preventing involvement with a psychopath.
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