Into the Mirror… and Out Again

Psychopaths know they have to hide what they truly are in order to win your heart. A psychopath knows you would not want anything to do with him or her if they didn’t. And when they’re trying to trap you, who do they pretend to be? You.

That means… you fell in love with yourself. Before you let an image of Narcissus admiring his own reflection send you running, know that self-love is healthy and vital to self-worth. Strong self-worth is your most powerful ally in life. And it’s a fact that people like others most who are similar to themselves.

It is understood that psychopaths mirror us. They become a mirror and reflect us back to ourselves. Here’s how that happens, according to Marriage counselor Gary Cundiff, MFT. He believes that psychopaths select targets based on their best qualities. After that, the predators morph themselves into copies of their targets so they appear to be perfect partners:

“Using each piece of information, they create the disguise — a mask carefully constructed to look like their prospective target. Flawlessly, they weave a picture of their mark… precisely reflecting the brightest, most honorable aspects of your personality, sewing in the most desirable and wanted details, literally stealing your persona, mirroring this image back, without the defects of character, flaws and shortcomings…

…The attraction is irresistible. People are attracted to those who are similar to themselves. By transforming themselves into a reflection of their prospective prey, the psychopath becomes the most alluring figure imaginable, and the propensity to trust that person becomes compelling.

As a result, you experience a sense of oneness like none other. At the emotional center of this connection is intensity never felt before, making the appeal addictive.”

After the psychopath we can find ourselves in the darkest place we’ve ever been. Often the last thing we feel is self-love. We’re far more likely to experience shame, self-blame and self-loathing to have fallen for a psychopath. But the truth is you didn’t fall for a psychopath — you fell for yourself. When all is said and done, what rises like a phoenix from the rubble and ashes is a deeply buried treasure — love for yourself, the love you were born with and deserve to have today and every day, no matter what. It is yours to keep, forever.

I didn’t truly love myself until after the psychopath. I don’t give him any credit for it since it certainly wasn’t his intention; in fact, his intention was quite the opposite. But I can honestly say I wouldn’t change what happened for anything, because of what I made from it. To take such devastation and slowly transform it into resilience and strength and self-love is powerful. It’s alchemy. Each and every one of you has that capability by virtue of your unbreakable human spirit and the light it emits, which can never be extinguished.

My wish for you is that within the devastation you are able to find a thousand treasures, the first and the greatest being love of yourself.

This post was inspired by an email I received today from a reader named Don. He included a poem about mirroring and self love for me to share with all of you. He’s in a dark place right now, but light is beginning to find its way in (or should I say, out). His poem follows these words he wrote to me:

“Currently, I am in the constant darkness of depression and entangled with the utmost feelings of sadness, fear and so much more. However, there still is a glimmering hope of humanity left in me… Please do as you wish in regards to publishing my poem. I may have written it but it belongs to the world. May it help even a single other person heal.”



She mirrored you.
You fell in love – with yourself.
Broken down in its simplicity,
is that not the absolute best thing in the world?
You found love – the perfect love.
You found yourself and who you want to be.
Be yourself.
You have learned how to love
By all things learned.
And you have found out,
just now,
in this moment – what love is.
Know thyself.
Love thyself.
Know thyself again.
There is more to learn.

– Written November 28, 2015 by Don S.

♥ Thank you for reading.


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39 thoughts on “Into the Mirror… and Out Again”

  1. Depressedempath

    Excellent post Adeline and Thankyou Don for the heartfelt poem. For a long time I wished that I had never met the psychopath. But now I know it has made me a better person because I found out, through the mirror, who I was. So I am stronger for the experience, a better person and am comfortable with who I am.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, DE.

      it has made me a better person because I found out, through the mirror, who I was.

      If anyone is considering revenge, I can think of nothing better than that. They walk away with nothing, and we get the prize. Just as it should be.

  2. Sole

    Beautiful poem and beautiful post, so much wisdom. It gives me hope. Hope that all I went through these past 15 years with the narcissist was not in vain, that through the pain and suffering I learned to love myself, and that is exactly what happened. And like Adelyn said, this is the best revenge.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Glad to hear it, Sole! Thank you.

  3. Linda

    Wonderful post, wonderful poem! Indeed, it took time for me to begin to recognize the benefits of my encounter with the psychopath: I thought he had only stolen my peace, and a part of my heart. With time away from him I began to find new strength, self-love and confidence… the irony of the predator leaving gifts when he only sought to leave destruction! Don, thank you for your courage and generosity in writing and sharing your poem. Your desire to help others to heal is proof of the beauty of your spirit, offering these brave words while in the midst of your own darkness. Stay strong… there is light ahead!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, Linda! And thank you for your words to Don. I hope he’ll find them.

      It is an irony, indeed. They underestimate us.

  4. Lori

    Thank you for this article and the poem. It is always comforting to know others truly understand.

    I have a question. I found out last week the psychopath I was involved with committed suicide. He shot himself. He’d tried to get in contact with me a few times, asking if there was a chance for us again and of course I did not respond or contact him. I found out about his suicide and have mixed feelings. Sadness because it brought me back to what was the worst experience of my life. Pain because of how hopeful I was before it all went so horribly wrong. I am not sad he’s gone, though, and for that I feel some guilt. He can’t hurt anyone else, he can’t do that to another woman again. I thought he held himself in too high of esteem to ever do such a thing. I admit I was stunned and still can’t believe it. What drives such a person to suicide?

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I can understand how you would have very mixed feelings, Lori. From what I understand, psychopaths commit suicide when they know their game is over and there’s no other way out. Some serial murderers kill themselves when they’re caught and jailed (Israel Keyes, Ariel Castro and many others). It’s a ‘practical’ decision, not one resulting from emotional angst. Maybe the psychopath you knew was in some kind of serious legal or financial trouble. Or maybe life felt pointless and tedious, that could be another reason a psychopath might kill themselves.

      “On the one hand, it is hard to imagine someone who thinks so highly of themselves wanting to end their own life, but on the other hand if environmental and social constraints stem their self-serving desires, then perhaps life becomes not worth living.”

      Here’s what one psychopath had to say about it:

      “For me, I don’t have a great love of life. In fact I have a bit of a death wish, but it’s because life seems so pointless and tedious sometimes, not because I actively feel a lot of suffering.”

      Thanks for your comment. Best wishes.

      1. Lori

        That makes sense to me. I worried for the last two years about his next victim. He tried to get me to insure myself and name him as the beneficiary. I left him – that got me to wake up and finally save myself. I had no proof he was going to harm me. Just the belief that he could was enough. I wondered if he was escalating and I would read the local news to see if he was involved in anything so I could step up and tell them that I thought him capable of bringing harm to another person and maybe it wasn’t an accident. That was my life. So now I feel, finally, safe. I felt a thousand pounds lift off of me when I heard he had killed himself. I felt free. Relief. Sad for his sister who found him and who loved him unconditionally, knowing who and what he was. That’s all. Your response helps me make sense of that final act. Thank you.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          I’m glad it helped, Lori. Best wishes.

  5. BetterBe Anon

    I love your posts. It’s like waiting for a little treasure to pop into my email inbox. I think that’s because each one is a little snippet, a new little angle from somebody who GETS IT!

    I read something similar about mirroring the best bits back at us. It makes so much sense, but it’s so CLEVER!

    My P recently mirrored back a gesture of mine from across the room. It’s the weirdest feeling. I don’t know if it was intended for me – I don’t think so. It was just something he’d seen me do. It was the first and only time I’ve seen him use that gesture in that way. He was going through a Pity Play stage. And my immediate reaction was LIKING the ******! Then I realised what I was seeing. It is SO powerful.

    So I’ve been thinking about the persona he used to mirror back at me. Hmmm. That’s the best bits of me, huh? Hmmmm again. :-)

    But it works!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, BetterBe. I find my “little treasures” here in the comments.

      It is clever and it does work. Even if it’s something small, like the gesture you saw. Usually we don’t notice those things. We’re very receptive to people who seem similar to us, even if it’s subtle or subconscious.

    2. lola

      I agree BetterBe Anon! Little treasures indeed!

      1. Adelyn Birch


  6. BetterBe Anon

    I forgot to add – they can mirror FEELINGS as well! That’s the interesting part – it’s not just body language and word useage. I’ve not read this anywhere else but I’ve been observing and studying my P. It’s fascinating. He completely flatlines on deep emotions but he CAN mirror feelings. He actually tunes into a feeling and expresses it. Recently when he’s been attempting hoovers there’s been a specific feeling / role that he slips into first which I can sense a mile away. When he made the non-verbal gesture that I mentioned in my previous comment it came with a specific feeling – and I’ve only just realised it was MY feeling! A true chameleon in all senses of the word. And when it comes to a new mask – I’ve seen him try out three from a complete standing start – first he goes for it and hopes (and it’s pretty excrutiating to watch), then he gets the outside physical / verbal act right and THEN he gets the feeling right. Fascinating or what?!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      It was fascinating to watch the change in persona. Sometimes it was such a drastic change that he seemed like an entirely different being. Chameleons, indeed.

      Yes, their mirroring goes well beyond the physical. They sure do mirror our emotions (which is also what fools us into thinking they have empathy). They also mirror our needs and desires — such as a desire for an ideal partner and the feeling that “big search” is finally over; or a need for an adventurous romance, or an escape from our routine, everyday life, or a need for appreciation. They might pretend to be very appreciative of some quality we have that no one else seems to take notice of. When they do, we think “Ah, this is someone who can really see and understand my good qualities!” Some of these are needs we don’t even consciously know we have, but they’re actually pretty universal.

      1. BetterBe Anon

        And there was me thinking I’d found some new insight! It makes so much sense on so many levels – needs and desires in particular, and why he’s Teflon-coated. They are SO good at what they do.
        That said every day he gets more and more transparent to me. And I can feel my joy in life returning. I suspect the two are connected, which is why we have to go on this search to understand them.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          Teflon! But even that wears out after a while.

          I found the same thing you did; he became more transparent when I figured out how he did what he did. At first he seemed like a true magician. After I put it altogether, he seemed like a 10-cent charlatan in some seedy backroom freakshow.

  7. lola

    Wonderful post. My ex became me! I suppose that’s why I missed him so much after I broke up with him. He was fantastic company because we enjoyed so many of the same things. Everyday with him felt like a vacation. I remember feeling so grateful to have finally found a man who suited me so well and because he was so amazing, I overlooked ALL of the bad. However, Mr. wonderful couldn’t sustain the perfect image for very long. The bad eventually became torturous. I remember thinking that I was at an actual fork in the road. No matter which path I chose, there would be great pain. If I stayed with him the pain would be indefinetly sustained because of his constant cheating. However, if I left him, I knew the pain would eventually and gradually dissipate. So, I chose the path that has lead to a happy ending! It was a long long and difficult journey, but I am so happy I had the strength to travel it.

    Sometimes I still miss him, but then reality jolts me back. I remember that he is a diabolical creature. He has now assumed a different identity, dazzeling a new woman, I feel so sorry for her. One thing is for certain, he is lying to her too. I am sure she’s caught in that trap of indecision:wanting to leave, yet wanting to stay. She, like all of us who precceder her, will one day be faced with that same fork in the road.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You are one strong woman, Lola. Whichever fork we choose will be painful. You were able to think rationally and keep your best interest at heart by choosing the one that would be less painful in the long run.

  8. lola

    I don’t know how rational I was. I lied to myself and denied the truth of what he was doing for a long time. It got to a point where I could no longer lie about it anymore. His dispicable behavior forced my hand. I had to leave. How could I be with a man who was having sex with so many other women and men. Women was bad enough, but men too?! That’s when I realized we actually had nothing in common. How could a man, who thought like me, do what he was doing. This really twisted my mind into knots.

    Once confronted, he showed me who he really was. He showed me his cruel, mean, vindictive self. He launched a huge smear campaign, so people would think I was the crazy one making up stories about him. I kept asking myself, “Who is this man?” At the end, there was no semblence of the man I feel in love with. I really greived because I missed that man so very much. What a psychopath does is worse than betrayal because there was never any love at all. I couldn’t even say, well, we loved eahother once because the relationship was just an empty void. I was in love with nothing at all.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      It wasn’t that you lied to yourself; it was probably cognitive dissonance at work. We can’t hold two conflicting beliefs at the same time; it’s too stressful, so one of them has to win. If we highly value our relationship with someone, CD can make us rationalize and explain away an awful lot of bad behavior, and cause us to accept the rationalizations and excuses that person gives us. When it got to the point where those rationalizations and excuses were overwhelmed by the truth of the matter, you left.

      What they do is true betrayal. It’s the betrayal of never having been loved, but only made to believe you were for the purpose of cultivating feelings of trust, love and loyalty to use later on to manipulate you. It is the infliction of the deepest wound against a person with a heart and soul. In Dante’s Inferno betrayers were sent to the Ninth Circle, the lowest level of hell. Those of us that experienced betrayal understand why.

      The Unique and Powerful Harm of Betrayal

  9. lola

    Wow. Thank you for that incredible explanation. Which wolf wins? The one you feed. And I fed the wolf who was pretending to be a sheep, knowing in my gut that the “sheep” was just a disguise. I really felt like I was insane doing this. He’d cheat and I would forgive the stupid, ridiculous explanations. I would tolerate intolerable behavior. Thank you, now I understand why. My brain could not hold an image of two conflicting men, I fought to believe the best in a man who had NO best!!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You’re welcome. Most of us did the very same thing, Lola. It all comes down to that illusion they create in the beginning. That image we had of them as our soul mate is powerful, and it makes everything that followed possible. It’s not something you can just walk away from. Even when you know the truth, it rips your heart out. In fact, it makes it much worse, because the truth is the realization of the betrayal. It takes an awful lot to get to the point where you can think that something that despicable could actually be true. It’s the polar opposite of what we believed was true.

      1. lola

        Fantastic. That’s it Adelyn!

        Are psychopaths aware of what they’re doing? Do they follow a time tested proven strategy? They must know how to get a woman to fall in love. If this is true, then at what point do they stop pretending their in love. Is it all conscious, or is their behavior a natural by product of their disorder.

        My ex has many long time friends. They don’t know the man at all. They watch him go from relationship to relationship and they simply believe he’s unlucky in love. They believe his stories that the women were crazy, possessive, not a good match, liers, etc. It’s astounding how so many people by into the lie!

        And then, what’s the end game for the psychopath? I read the comment above about the psychopath just ending his own life. Is that what they all do eventually? Maybe they don’t put a gun to their head, but maybe they do something incredibly risky and stupid that puts them in harms way, so their life will end.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          Most of them don’t kill themselves. A lot of them do risky things, not with the intention of ending up dead but willing to risk it for the thrill. Since they’re more willing to take risks and they need intense stimulation to feel anything, they’re attracted to extreme and inherently dangerous activities like jumping off of very tall buildings in a single bound, while wearing a parachute. It’s my personal theory that a good number of BASE jumpers (and wingsuit fliers) are psychopathic. It is truly a crapshoot, and people who do it say that’s part of the “appeal.”

          Hmmm… Does this look appealing?

          Psychopaths often establish a relationship with a target based on a hidden agenda from day one, the only goal being victimization. They are human predators who completely hide their real identities and create a tailor-made persona to gain the trust and love of their victim so they can control, manipulate and devalue them. Self-gratification is what drives them.

          Sometimes they pursue a relationship without an explicit intent to victimize and harm. They can become “fascinated” with someone because of their their beauty or intelligence, or the belief that they’ve met their “equal.” This doesn’t change the fact that psychopaths end up hurting anyone they get close to, and the combination of mechanisms that makes this happen is a complex matter, and is explained below.

          “Fascination” is another word for idealization, a mental mechanism in which a person attributes exaggeratedly positive qualities to another. Even if they are initially fascinated with a person, a psychopath will inevitably be disappointed as they find out this fascinating object is human and has what they consider intolerable flaws and weaknesses. At that point idealization turns into its opposite, devaluation. Devaluation means attributing exaggeratedly negative qualities to another.

          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 cause 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. When greed and demand start again, the cycle must be repeated with a new person.

          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 or her 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.

          This process causes a great deal of damage to the victims, who are left confused and devastated.

          The psychopath will continue to ward off others by devaluing them, Meloy says, but also continue to seek out new victims. Once a new victim is found, 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.

          What is a Psychopath?

  10. lola

    WOW and YIKES! This is exactly what happened to me. Initially, the psychopath was so fascinated with me. He wanted to get into my brain and swim in it. He was so interested in everything I had to say. I was also beautiful and sexy LOL! He used to tell me how lucky he was to have met me. Then, I discovered he told a FWB how we were not a match sexually. I was crushed. I wondered why he told this to the FWB, but not me? I also wondered if he really believed this, why wouldn’t he let me go. After learning this, I broke it off with him, but he talked his way back into my life. I stayed, believing he must really love me, otherwise he would have just left. This set me on a pattern of breaking up and then getting back together. With every reconciliation, I tried so hard to be enough. Bla bla bla….. It was exhausting. Thinking of it now, exhasts me and bores me.

    Thank you for the wonderful reply. I now understand why! He was driven by envy. He needed to make me feel bad, so that he could feel superior. It makes so much sense.
    I never understood why a man who was initially so hot for me suddenly turned cold. It turns out he has also become bored with the FWB. I guess she’s not so interesting anymore since I am no longer in the picture. I think he enjoyed her because he knew how much it hurt me every time he was with her. I always found out. He stopped seeing her after we broke up. My absence removed the thrill of the encounters.
    Isn’t it odd how all psychopaths are the same?!

    Thank you!
    PS NO. Jumping off of anything does not seem like fun. In fact, I feel distress at the thought of it. Jumping off anything would be agony.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Just looking at that photo makes my palms sweat and my heart race. Someone would have to be fearless to do that. I think it’s a great way for psychopaths to get their thrills, though! I wish more of them would take up the sport ;-)

      P’s will either pretend to idealize us or actually idealize us. Either way, it turns out badly. Mine pretended. When I watched him grooming my replacement, it was like watching what had happened to me. He was formulaic.

      1. Lori

        The psychopath I was with I believe could not longer craft a love bomb. In his mind. He had gained weight when I was with him (he blamed me, he said I cooked too much food) and he was going bald. I wondered when I found out about his suicide if he felt he could no longer attract a woman or would have to work too hard? He tried to get me to go back because I used to be so compliant and easygoing.

        I don’t thank him for anything but my experience with him forced me to take a long, hard look at myself and ask myself what within me made me stay and how could I keep this from happening to me again.

        I am not the person he knew. I have learned to become an advocate for myself. That is priceless.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          It is priceless, Lori! I’ve become my own mama bear.

          I’ll take a guess and say that it probably wasn’t due to a crisis of confidence because of baldness or extra weight. Psychopaths have a trait called “fearless dominance” — a tendency toward boldness that includes such traits as a desire to dominate social situations, charm, willingness to take physical risks, and an immunity to feelings of anxiety. The qualities associated with fearless dominance could be adaptive in situations requiring bold action. The one I knew was 65, short, gray and half bald, yet he came across as incredibly attractive. It didn’t slow him down.

          It’s too bad he didn’t leave a note explaining why he did it. Now you’re left wondering, and I’m sure that could take someone’s imagination to many places. I’m sorry you have to deal with this after you went through so much with him already. I know your situation isn’t the norm, but suicide is hard on the people left behind. I wish you all the best.

          1. lola

            I read someplace that psychopaths make excillent soldiers because they don’t have anxiety when fighting in war. Another interesting fact: My ex never wanted to watch emotional dramas or love stories. He chose the movie, always. We had to watch action, suspense thrillers or forensic murder mysteries, the kind of movies that kept you on the endge of your seat. Consequently, around Oscar time, I was always at a loss because we never saw any of the nominated films. How many times can one watch Transformers? He was such a child.

            1. Adelyn Birch

              The Transformers? LOL

              It’s a popular myth that Ps make excellent soldiers. There’s a lot more to being a soldier than killing, things psychopaths aren’t exactly known for; being part of a combat unit requires social cohesiveness (bonding) and a lot of teamwork.

              “The failure to form emotional connections with peers or tolerate superiors makes them difficult to train, especially in an environment where each soldier’s life literally depends on his or her teammates. But those who pass that test become a kind of secret weapon for an army: merciless fighters whose self-preservation skills and ability to kill without remorse can be consciously utilized by their superiors.”


          2. Lori

            He did leave a note, ,but it’s been two years and and it would terribly inappropriate for me to ask his sister if I can read it. So I don’t really know, I can just speculate but I don’t spend much time there. It’s not healthy. Even in death he can try to snare me but I won’t allow it.

            1. Adelyn Birch

              Ah, I see. Well, it’s normal to speculate. I know I would. I’m glad you won’t let him snare you, and I hope the things I’ve said will help you with that.

  11. janes aka Lady Vigilant 2

    Don, Thanks a million !
    your poem touched the deepest part of my spirit. THANK YOU FOR SHARING !

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thanks a million, Janes AKA LV2! I haven’t reached the entire world yet, but I’m getting there one blog post at a time…

  12. Broken

    Wow… Happy & Confused Tears I cry… Iv always loved,yet,always longed for it in return…

    1. Adelyn Birch

      May you find what you seek, and deserve—genuine love.

      1. Broken

        Thank You… I don’t believe I’ll ever open to receiving ,,, only giving…

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