15. Snakes In Suits. The Psychopathic Dance

Avoid manipulation of any type

I would make the latest edition of “Snakes In Suits” a mandatory part of any training for all HR and management. If you’re interested further in the subject I recommend Robert D. Hare’s “Without Conscience the disturbing world of the psychopaths amongst us”

“The more that you understand about how psychopaths operate, the better prepared you will be to avoid manipulation…” Of any type!

“…the phases that make up the parasitic lifestyle adopted by many psychopaths:

  • Assessment of the individual’s potential utility, weaknesses, and defenses.
  • The use of impression management and manipulation to  ingratiate themselves with the individual and then to siphon off resources.
  • Abandonment, the phase in which the individual is no longer of use to the psychopath.

We have found repeatedly, in the cases reported to us in emails, letters, and interviews with victims, that many did not know that they were dealing with a psychopath until it was too late. While the specific details of each case may differ, the feelings, attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes the victims described seemed to form a pattern or process….

Phase 1: Tempted By The psychopathic Fiction

First impressions can be deceiving. Unfortunately, the first impression you will have of a psychopath are positive. Their manifest charm, attractive appearance, verbal fluency, and adroit use of flattery and ego-stroking are seductive…With psychopaths, what you see is not what you get …It is prudent to exert at least a modicum of cautious, or even suspicious, evaluation of new social encounters…At the very least, you should re-evaluate your first impressions as more information about the individual becomes available, and be prepared to make a speedy exit if things are not beginning to add up or if you are feeling uncomfortable.

Phase 2: Taken In By The Psychopathic Bond

Subtle charm and manipulation techniques may convince you that a psychopath likes who you are. During long conversations, he will try to convince you that he shares many of your likes, dislikes, traits, and attitudes. This typically is covert, not stated openly; in fact, psychopathic manipulation can be so subtle that you might arrive at this conclusion just by hearing the psychopath’s life story. Of course, psychopaths create their stories carefully to take advantage of your hot buttons and weak spots. In all the cases we have reviewed, a common theme was the victims’ desire to find someone, a life partner, who shared their values, beliefs, and life experiences. You will feel excitement at this time, believing that the psychopath genuinely likes and respects you. You may also ‘know’ that the relationship, whether personal or professional, will grow.

The psychopath will also convince you that his integrity is without question and that honesty and trust are the basis for the relationship. At this stage, most individuals report having shared a goodly amount of personal information with the psychopath, believing that the things they had learned about the psychopath’s life were true and deeply personal. They did not suspect that this was blatant deception…

Psychopaths eventually guide you into believing that the two of you are unique, very special, and destined to be together. They portray themselves as the perfect friends, employees, or business partners and while the grooming will take considerable time and effort on their part, it will be subtle and persistent. At this point, you do not know that the psychopath bond is a sham; it does not exist except in your mind.

Awareness of and sensitivity to the psychopathic bonding process is good preventative medicine. Be wary of falling for someone’s story too quickly because solid relationships take time to develop and grow. If you feel that this person is too good to be true, try and prove yourself wrong.

Phase 3: Collusion in the Psychopath’s Game ( The Psychopathic Fiction)

Once the psychopathic bond is firmly established, you will find that your hot buttons and weak spots are an easy means to gain your compliance and to reaffirm the relationship (although you will not be aware of this at this time). …Healthy relationships tend to be in balance, with each person giving and taking. Psychopathic relationships are one-sided; you give and the psychopath takes (money, a place to live, sex, power, and control.)

Although in many cases, friends, family, and coworkers see what is going on and may try to warn you, you will not listen. The psychopath reinforces the isolation….Once isolated, you will have little defense against the manipulative psychopath.

If your boss or coworker is dominating you, or if you are on an emotional roller coaster with a partner, seek outside confirmation. If you find the interactions are damaging, it is time to end the relationship. Often, family, friends, and coworkers can assist you or provide you with emotional support as you transition out. In abusive situations, you may need to get the advice and assistance of the authorities or other trained professionals.

Phase 4: Manipulated By self-doubt, Guilt, And Denial.

The opportunistic, deceptive, and manipulative behavior of psychopaths can be as bewildering to the victims as they are devastating. Many victims blame themselves for whatever is happening, while others deny that there is any problem at all. In each case, doubts and concerns about the psychopath in your life morph into doubts about yourself.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to convince those in the grips of a psychopathic bond that they are being misled, or that they do not have a complete picture of what is going on. Even when data are presented to them… they exhibit denial. When you are consumed with self-doubt, guilt, and denial, it is very difficult to help you. The best that family, friends, and coworkers can do is to help you get professional assistance… counseling with a trained mental health professional” or just letting you know that they’ll be there for you.

“The problem is particularly difficult when the psychopath has co-opted others and convinced them, including your family and close friends, that you are the cause of the problem….If you are lucky, others may still see the situation for what it really is, and you should seek out their advice. In an organizational setting, these can be coworkers with no utility to the psychopath, former victims, or the organizational police…

Phase 5: Escalating Abuse

Should victims raise questions to the psychopath about his or her behavior or decide to ask the psychopath about inconsistencies they have noticed, they risk retribution. At first, the psychopath may vehemently deny any improprieties and turn the game into an attack on the complainant. At this stage, most victims will feel ashamed that they doubted the psychopath and will come to doubt themselves even more. Should they persist in expressing doubt or concern, though, they will certainly suffer escalating abuse at the hands of the now irritated and angry psychopath. This abuse can take many forms but usually affects us in three ways: psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

Physical abuse, the most obvious, may appear as blackened eyes, bruises, cuts… Often, as in the case of abused spouses, physical aggression is unreported. Family members, friends, and astute coworkers try to intervene, but often they can only stand by helplessly because you refuse their assistance. Any type of physical abuse is dangerous, as psychopaths – along with other abusers – tend to escalate their attacks over time: seeking help is mandatory.

…Individuals abused by psychopaths feel they are not themselves or something is wrong with them; they feel lowered self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, self-doubt, and psychological pain…. ‘What did I do wrong?’ Because your thoughts and feelings affect how you behave, you begin to do poorly on your job, being easily distracted, agitated, reticent, or overly emotional. Criticism (‘You’re too fat; no one else will love you!’), threats (I’m not putting up with this anymore, I’m leaving!’), or intimidation (‘Don’t make me hurt you!’) are common manipulation and coercive techniques.

If a victim of abuse, you should seek advice and counsel from those around you or, depending on the type of abuse, the authorities” and in the UK campaigning charities.

“Phase 6: Realization and insight                                                                                     

Eventually, the unexplained lies, inconsistencies, negative feelings, and feedback from friends and family reach a point when you will begin to realize that you have been a pawn in a psychopath’s game. It will take a lot of validation and a lot of time for this realization to sink in, but once it happens, you have crossed the threshold to recovery.

Once you understand what has happened, it will upset you even more, as you may feel like a patsy or fool…‘How could I have fallen for these lies?’…Rather than seek out…confirmation…of your new view of the psychopath, you may tend to avoid others…Clearly, you should check your bank account, credit cards, personal documents, computer, cell phone, and other valuables. It is important that you distance yourself and take action to protect yourself from further contact and retribution.” Seek protection from the authorities if necessary.

“Phase 7: Work Through Your Feelings Of Shame.”                                                                            

Shame makes you feel responsible for what has happened to you. It is important to remember that the only person responsible for abusive behavior is the abuser. “The second reason to seek help is that the shame itself leaves you vulnerable to continued psychopathic manipulation. Consider some abused spouses who, despite beatings and verbal assaults, beg their abusive partners to take them back. Be aware, though, that it is just as easy for a psychopath to use your shame against you as it was to use your flaws, lacks, and fears in the first place….

Phase 8: Anger And Vindication                                                                                                            

By the time victims contact us, they are typically in this stage where they feel intense anger and rage toward the person who manipulated and abused them, and they want to get even… It is critical to work on angry feelings with a trained mental health professional as rumination over past events can be equally problematic, sometimes exacerbating the emotional pain.

Some individuals, in fact many, want to unmask and ‘out’ the psychopath. It is unwise at this stage to broadcast your thoughts and feelings or to make accusations about the psychopath on social media, emails, texts, or a website. Consider your current emotional and psychological state of mind. You may be in the midst of intense thoughts and feelings that preclude you from acting rationally. You may be in a weakened state and unable to deal with any retaliation from the psychopath. However, if a crime has been committed, certainly notify the authorities

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