Observing a Psychopath
Years ago, I rented a car and drove over a mountain pass to pick up the psychopath and his minion from his job site. On the drive back home, I chose a different mountain pass because it was shorter. This 400-mile scenic highway climbs through some perilous stretches of hairpin turns and steep drop-offs. I knew it would be a white knuckle drive. At each twist and turn, with every oncoming car, I imagined us careening over the cliff.
Psychopath rode shotgun while Minion sat behind him in the backseat. In my rear view mirror I could see Minion’s eyes and he could see mine. Psychopath gave no indication that he was anxious but in my peripheral vision I could see his right hand on the door’s hand rest. As we approached each turn, he would grip the handle tighter and then he’d relax his grip when we’d made it past. I knew he disliked not being in control. Minion commented on the dangerous curves and I mentioned that I could see Psychopath tightening his grip at every turn. Minion replied, “Wow, you must have really good peripheral vision because I’ve been watching your eyes in the mirror and you haven’t taken them off the road once.”
I have no doubt that living with a psychopath for 25 years has trained my peripheral vision. Instinctively, I had developed a habit of not looking at his face but still watching for movement from the corner of my eye.
Psychopaths Need Attention — Please Don’t Feed the Psychopaths
Peripheral vision is an important tool for observing a psychopath, both in the literal sense and figuratively speaking. This is because the psychopath never stops lying. He never stops performing his scripts, as long as he thinks he has an audience.
Peripheral vision allows you to observe without giving him the attention that he desperately requires in order to prey on his victims. This pathological desire for constant attention serves his narcissistic need for supply. Without attention, he has no one to perform for, nobody to exert his will over, nobody to con and manipulate.
A psychopath tailors his performances to mirror his victims. He becomes whatever you need him to be.
Because he lacks a nervous response, he can put on the most convincing act you’ve ever seen. When you’re observing his performance, you don’t just watch, you FEEL what he wants you to feel.
Psychopath used to rage if I didn’t look at him while he was talking. “LOOK AT ME WHEN I TALK TO YOU!” he demanded. “If you look away, I’ll start over from the beginning!” Then he would start over, very slowly, dragging out some convoluted explanation, as my eyes glazed over with boredom.
Without your undivided attention he can’t pull his con. His lies are powerless if you aren’t listening. He has to be able to watch your every micro-expression so he can tailor his mask to your reactions. Psychopaths are obsessed with observing and understanding our facial expressions. Our facial expressions tell them whom to envy, so they can choose their next prey. Facial expressions validate that they have successfully accessed our emotions and hooked us in their games. Finally, our facial expressions tell them when they’ve won the game as we stare in shock and awe after they’ve pulled the rug out from under us. By not giving them our attention, we deprive them of the feedback they need to play us.
Why We Believe the Psychopaths’ Lies
I watched the Psychopath lie to everyone he ever met. It boggled my mind but he explained why he lied. He explained that most people are vicious and will eventually turn on you for no reason, so his lies were simply preemptive protective measures. I trusted that, with Psychopath’s vast experience and superior understand of people, he must be right. I also believed that he trusted me, knew that I loved him and therefore, he had no reason to lie to me. So I believed he didn’t lie to me. Of course I was in deep cognitive-dissonance and denial because I had heard him lie to me many times. Yet, I still believed.
There are several reasons why I believed his lies. First, I had never imagined that anyone could lie ALL THE TIME. So if I didn’t have absolute proof of a lie, I believed it must be the truth. But on the contrary, psychopaths never stop deceiving, it is their nature.
Secondly, there was no reason to lie to me. None that I could imagine. If he was lying to protect himself then he didn’t have to lie to me. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to hurt him. But of course, he knows his intent to harm others will likely be met with a desire for vengeance. His lies were not preemptive defense tactics against enmity, they were his exit strategy.
The third reason that I believed his lies was because when he lies, he performs with his entire body. Every phony expression, every practiced movement, testifies to the veracity of his statements. He has no nervous response that would betray him.
I’ll never forget the day I realized he was trying to take possession of my business accounts. My mind immediately recalled the previous day when he had taken me into his arms and said, “Honey, I LOVE you!” It felt so real, the acting was superb. But a 180° change of heart doesn’t happen overnight, so I realized then, that his declaration of love had been a sinister lie.
Since that day, I have observed many psychopaths lying audaciously to me. I knew they were lying, but they seem so real, my emotions responded to them as if they were telling the truth, even though I knew they weren’t.
Our Empathy Makes Us Vulnerable to the Performance
When we pay attention to a psychopath, it triggers their performance: facial expressions and body language coupled with a stupendous lie. With each performance, his facade is fleshed out and solidified in your mind because human beings are not expecting to interact with two-dimensional cartoon characters. We expect to find three-dimensional human beings like ourselves.
Figuratively speaking, we can think of peripheral vision as a way to allow the psychopath to turn his focus on another victim while we observe the show from a different angle. As he is performing for the new victim, he must turn to face his new victim so he can mirror them. From this angle we can see that he has all the depth of a thin mirror or a paper cut-out of a human being.
Finally, we must keep at the forefront of our minds the thinness we’ve seen because when the psychopath mirror turns again to face us, he will magically appear three-dimensional once more. If you have the audacity to question the depth of his being, the psychopath will use charm, pity or rage to convince you that you didn’t see things correctly, you’re crazy or just dumb. Of course he’s a fully dimensional human being, he will tell you. Can’t you see that now? With his rational explanations and his Oscar winning performance, you just have to believe him.
If you find yourself faced with a dramatic performance, I recommend you turn away and only observe with your peripheral vision. Let the drama queen perform for someone else while you take notes.
I’m sad for the victims of this violence but at least it has opened up awareness and dialog about what misogyny really is. It is scapegoating of women. When we try to be politically correct, we silence ourselves so that we don’t offend anyone, but we offend ourselves. It’s time to shine a light on this like we do racism.
You know, Sky, reading that article above I was sort of stunned by the quote
“I’m sexually attracted to girls. But girls are not sexually attracted to me. And there’s a major problem with that — a major problem. That’s a problem that I intend to rectify. I in all my magnificence and power, I will not let this fly. It’s an injustice that needs to be dealt with,” Rodger said in one of the videos.
Not once did this man think that the reason girls would not be attracted to him might be THE WAY HE ACTED” SO he recognizes that the girls are not attracted (inspite of his fancy car and sunglasses) so he BLAMES THEM because they do not want to sleep with him.
HE (in his mind) DESERVED to have women, beautiful women, not paid prostitutes, fall all over him sexually because he was SPECIAL. My take—this man was such a narcissistic psychopath and his frustration at not being adored drove him to seek revenge.
The parents called the police on t his guy and the cops DROPPED the ball on this one just days before the rampage. but actually with this kind of character, only incarceration forever stops them. It was just a matter of time until he picked another venue.
You are right though,many men’s attitudes about women are very demeaning.and women are seen in many parts of the world as chattel rather than human beings. Yesterday’s news reported a woman in Pakistan beaten to death by her family for marrying a guy they didn’t like and she was pregnant but her OWN FAMILY beat her to death to “recover their honor”
It takes eons to change people’s prejudices, and now the “PC” culture of our society denigrates you if you don’t go along with today’s version of PC however repulsive it is to you. If you are not FOR this or that then that makes you a BIGOT and being a bigot today is like being a communist was in the 50s and 60s, it makes you totally worthless and open to attack.
(shaking head here) having been a woman or girl my entire life, I am aware of how different cultures in our society view females versus males. In my own family, the male children were more valued, and my rural community it was that way to some extent pretty much right on up to present, though it is less than it was in earlier generations.
Good link Sky, thanks.
I watched some stuff on the internet yesterday, about this kid. I was really bummed that when they visited his apt. he was able to appear soft-spoken, non-threatening, and calm. He even wrote that if they had only checked his room he would have been busted.
I saw the You tube video of him talking about being a 22 year old virgin, and how wrong he felt that was, and how he was going to rectify the situation. As he spoke he made sure his face was at a flattering angle, he looked to be posing for the camera, he pouted his lips. He was blaming, pity-ploying, and seducing all at the same time. It was obvious he was exhibiting some highly narcissistic traits.
He showed many red flags. But, if the police weren’t willing or able to take his OWN PARENTS pleas for intervention with more seriousness, then how can someone so skilled at deception ever be intercepted?
Sad, sad, sad…
Slim, I haven’t watched any of his videos or read any of his writings because to me it is a waste of my time and energy. I save my empathy and concern for his victims, I don’t need or want to read his drivel…just hearing about it second hand is good enough for me. This young man I think you are right is HIGHLY narcissistic, b ut I think it goes even further into PSYCHOPATHY as well because no one but a psychopath has that much feeling of ENTITLEMENT. One of his friends said he tried to teach the guy how to “talk to girls” but that the guy wasn’t willing to learn anything, because, I think, he felt entitled to the girls throwing themselves at him and refused to think that maybe, just MAYBE that HE might be needing to change the way he treated others.
Of course the fact that his parents were wealthy and treated him to all the expensive cars etc played into his feelings of entitlement. I don’t think his parents, who sound to me like good folks, realized what they were doing by indulging him so much, but they TRIED to get him help, tried to get the police to intervene. I think the cops DROPPED THE BALL big time by not investigating more. But you know, I can relate to the cops and others blowing off my warnings about my own son. Fortunately, SO FAR the parole board has listened to me.