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The Meaning of MacGuffin — 145 Comments

  1. Great article, Sky, you keep amazing me with your writing. This is some deep thinking, and also applies to others besides psychopaths who use this device to get us to do what they want us to do. There are lots of people who may attain the level “drama queen/king” and yet not be a psychopath, but ALL psychopaths use thilis.

    It is up to us to learn what is real and what is a play–many times our families of origin assign us a “role” in the family drama and will do whatever is necessary to keep us playing that role, whether it is scape goat, or family bad boy, or the “fixer” of every one else’s problems. If we try to break out of that role, to quit playing our assigned role, they will abandon us or worse, punish us. Psychopaths also use this device as well, assigning us a role to play in their drama rama. Many times we don’t even realize we are in a drama or play, we are just like a puppet and they pull our strings and make us dance to their tune.

  2. Thanks Oxy. You’re right, it’s not just psychopaths that manipulate through drama, it’s anyone who is disconnected from reality and creates their own reality. I think that’s why the cluster-b’s (also known as the “dramatic personality disorders”) tend to run in a spectrum. The severity of the disorder is based on how disconnected the person is from reality and how easily they believe their own lies.

    It’s bad enough to realize that you’ve been manipulated into a “role” for a play, but then when you find out that you were manipulated by a CARTOON character, who has no concept of what it’s like to really FEEL anything…it’s mind boggling.

    • I played the assigned role my entire life, that’s what is so frustrating to me. I just didn’t realize that I was in a drama on a “stage” and that by playing my role I was following a script.

      Don’t know if you ever read any of Eric Berne’s books, “Games People Play” is a great introduction, but after you learn the basics advance up to SCRIPTS PEOPLE LIVE. I read those books multiple times but I did NOT get the message that I was doing exactly what the book described, living a SCRIPT that someone else wrote, produced and assigned my role.

      When I went to quit the play, the current producer, my mother, had to do what she could to bring me back, punish me for failing to live up to her expectations and play my role, so she gave it to my DIL, gave her money to play the role (the carrot) all in the name of love of course, and all she expected was that DIL would be so “grateful” she would jump to mommy’s every whim, well of course that didn’t work out. LOL

      DIL was tired of dancing someone else’s tune and she decided to abandon my mother’s script and write her own.

      Of course my mother was TERRIBLY incensed that DIL was a “traitor after all I did for her” —-well, what about all I did for mommy dearest? I took care of her 24/7 for 18 months instead of taking care of me and when I got to the point I could no longer do it (and frankly she didn’t NEED a slave to jump to her whims) she betrayed me.

      While I don’t think my mother is a psychopath, I think she is SET in her drama and her role, and there is no changing it, and if you don’t play along then you are “abusing” her—after all she did for you. She says that forgiveness means that you immediately trust that person again, forget what they did, funny thing though, I have never known a person who holds a grudge better than she does. “do as I say, not as I do.” Perfect example.

      So a person doesn’t have to be a full blown psychopath in order to cause devastating harm to others, sometimes they actually don’t even realize it, or they think that because they are “right” it justifies whatever they do. It never even occurs to them that they might be wrong. Heaven forbid that they might be wrong.

      Think of the middle ages and the religious persecution…think of the 9/11 guys, all those folks thought they were doing God’s will by killing the infidels the heretics. They aren’t psychopaths per se, but they are just like my mother, fanatics. Hey I finally came up with a “diagnosis” for my mom, she’s a FANATIC. It’s the best word I can use to describe her. A true believer, a real zealot. Death to the infidels and those who won’t play the role I assign them.

  3. From my own experience I went through with the first psychopath, and then even more of them right after the first nightmare, is that psychopaths do feel but of course will never own what they feel: pure hatred, rage, envy, contempt, utter helplessness and powerlessness at one extreme and infantile king/queen baby narcissism at the other extreme. Hard to categorize such slime as “feeling,” because it’s so out of the realm of what could be called sane, except of course for the real infant who naturally outgrows the narcissism stage, unlike the psychopath. After Psycho #1 pulled her main destructive scheme on me after scripting it so carefully for over a year, two years later I spotted her on the Internet and once I outed her she began chasing me under continued anonymity with the most insane ranting and spewing imaginable (targets would be bored if they read it LOL because they’re all alike, as you pointed out Skylar). That spewing was only the tip of a neverending mass of rage, I know. Yet it belonged to her and her alone. They certainly will never claim these polar extremes of emotional insanity but they own them lock, stock and barrel, and they will leave this Earth with them. They have no choice in the matter. 🙂 Classifying them as “feelings” is really a stretch LOL, because what they feel – and own 100%, whether they like it or not – is beyond repulsive, beyond comprehension, it is so dark. Only those who get really slimed get a glimpse of that horrific insanity. That “cartoon from hell,” as you put it (I love that description.)

    I get more from your articles every time I read them, Skylar. Your shining light on how the “movie” works is a huge help to me. That is their M.O.

    • Ancient Heart,
      it’s hard to say exactly WHAT is happening with their bypassed emotions, because in order for them to bypass the emotion, it would have had to be somehow noticed first — I think. And just the fact that they are reacting to these repressed or bypassed emotions — creating drama meant to induce an existential crisis, — seems to indicate that emotions are in there somewhere.

      I knew a spath that raged. After one episode, I waited about 20-30 minutes and went to ask him, “are you still angry at me?” He said, “oh no. I never stay angry very long.” I smiled at him and said, “yeah, I know, it’s called ‘shallow effect’ ” His eyes went wide and he gritted his teeth, but he didn’t say anything. I think he was angry again. lol.

      • Yep, that is it. They BYPASS by projection all that murderous envy, rage, and primal terror etc. they themselves own right onto their victims. I think their shallow effect is just another mask too. Oh, the anonymous raging was such a giveaway! THAT was the real psychopath exposed. A murderer. A serial killer profile if there ever was one. That was in 2011.

  4. Sky, the discussion of the MacGuffin is brilliant – this article lays out the reasons FOR the symbolism and mirroring, and puts it into a perspective that I can identify with.

    The story-telling that spaths engage in is phenomenal – better than ANY fireside camp stories and completely believable because the “audience,” or targets, literally FEEL a connection with the predators that was deliberately cultivated BY the predators using their own strengths and vulnerabilities.

    An example of this can be taken from my interactions with the female-ex-con-sociopath who claimed to have had miscarried twins in her 8th month of pregnancy. She even produced a photo image of the ultrasound as “proof” of this phantom pregnancy. She did this because I had expressed my own feelings of love and concern for my sons on numerous occasions. SO……..to cement my “connection” to her, she told this sad story about losing her own babies after an emotionally tragic experience which, according to her own narrative, “caused” her to go into labor and deliver stillborn twins.

    Now, this woman wove this story before I ever learned about her convictions of “Theft By Deception” and subsequent incarceration in the women’s State Penitentiary. But, even without that information, I noticed that she spoke about these “twins” with words that were meant to incite emotion, but that she did not display ONE scintilla of emotion about this tragic event. Not one tear for this tragedy squirted from her eyes, and not ONE hitch in her voice indicated a single emotional reaction to having lost two infants. It was INCOGRUOUS with what a “normal” person would have expressed, and I “knew” that something wasn’t right with her, even at that point.

    So, in essence, what this woman wanted to accomplish was a solidified emotional connection on MY part, and it only caused me to question her validity. Her mother, with whom she lived at that time, never once spoke of these spontaneously aborted twins OR anything else that would have confirmed this. After I learned of her convictions via an anonymously mailed packet that outlined her arrest record and convictions, her mother DID speak about the “twins” and said that she wasn’t certain that her daughter’s account was true because she had never known that she had been pregnant, much less miscarried, during that time.

    Spaths and ppaths are better actors than ANY trained and noted professionals. They absorb the words, emotional responses, and vulnerabilities of their targets and regurgitate whatever they believe is an appropriate story or response. With the second exspath, this is evident because his “concern” and “care” for me and my sons was spot-on before the nuptials were spoken. After that, the acting waned and he began to settle into a zone of comfort that his quarry had been snagged and that he no longer needed to court me or woo me using my OWN dreams, strengths, or vulnerabilities to do so.

    What a terrific article, Sky…..and, a superb catalyst for discussion!!!!

    • Truth,
      that’s funny how the woman carried her “prop” of the ultrasound. I wonder where she got it. Gary Ridgeway used to carry pictures of his kid and show them to his victims to make himself appear “normal” and “safe”. My own spath carried pictures of me and my cats. He would explain that my cat was his “son”. But then one day he told me, “I just get some really weird looks when I tell people that my son is a cat, so I’m not going to do that anymore.” Of course, I thought it was so funny and laughed. I thought it was SUPPOSED to make people give him weird looks and then laugh. But that wasn’t actually his intent. His intent was to appear “caring”.

      It still gives me the creeps when I contemplate such a flat existence. The reason spaths can act so easily is because they don’t really exist when they aren’t acting. There isn’t anything there. There is ONLY the acting. I don’t think their acting is really that good, it’s just that you and I couldn’t conceive of someone who is ALWAYS acting, so we accept that there is a real person in front of us. But there isn’t, it’s just a cartoon.

  5. Skylar,

    This is, for me, the single best description of my experience that I have ever read. I have my visceral understanding of everything you write about, and this article quite beautifully articulates what my gut knows so well. As I read this pictures kept flashing in my mind: the audiences, supporters, perpetrators, and MacGuffins. All of them streaming by….

    The part that felt the most profound for me is how by manipulating us into emotionally buying into the cartoon promise, the end result is loss of trust in our own instincts, beliefs, values. The feeling we are left with that WE betrayed OURSELVES.

    That is the ultimate disabler, huh? I spent nearly a year not eating, sleeping, or really functioning at all trying to find my own heart and mind. I never imagined I would trust myself again.

    The truth is, though, that instead I came back MORE trusting of myself, connected to my loved ones, appreciative of the small stuff, and self ‘contained’.

    As Oxy says, and the purity of the pearl reveals: Where we are injured and heal we are stronger.


    • Slim,
      I know exactly what you mean. While writing this I kept flashing on all the minions he had chasing me and betraying me during the last con. The cops, the neighbors, my own sister and my best frienemy. It was unbelievable. Until I figured it out. When I knew that the game was to isolate me so that I’d have nobody to turn to, nobody to run to, that’s when I knew who I COULDN’T trust. I couldn’t trust anyone that he knew about, so I found some old, old, old friends that I’d lost touch with around the time when I met the spath.

      While at first the betrayal leaves us feeling paranoid, we DO have an advantage that the spaths don’t have, we can learn from the betrayal. By dissecting the experience, reliving it and really looking at all the elements in it, we can get more out of life than we ever imagined. Now we not only recognize spaths, but also all of the other shallow people in our lives. And we know what we can expect from shallow people, right? DRAMA!

      Months after I left him, he called and asked me, “Do you know who you can trust?” I said, “yes.” because I can trust myself to figure out a con and to recognize a spath.

      Of course I still get slimed, just from being in their presence or even thinking about their repulsive beings, but it’s better than not knowing.

  6. Deep article, Skylar!

    I so totally agree with them having to act all the time, because there is nothing there otherwise. Heck, his most exuberant acting was when he was ‘angry’ and having a temper tantrum. Somehow it never had the intended effect on me. I just kinda looked at the theatre from the sideline and it certainly did not make me connect at all. It was just ‘too much drama’.

    My father and I we both have an equal extraverted temperament (which typically tend to flare each other up). I’ve been used to some flaring arguments, raised voices, slamming doors since I was a toddler. One of the oldest sound tapes (you know those giant Revox tapes) of me was when I was 3 and you hear me throw my toys around and angrily shout at my father while he was trying to play with me, “You ruined it! You messed it all up!” Next, you hear me stomping off towards the Revox tape machine and when my mom asked what happened I just respond in a factual, but moping voice. Apparently I was trying to build some toddler trainpath and he messed up the idea I was trying to execute… My dad has the habbit of wanting to help by giving unasked advice or tell me how to do stuff better before I could try stuff out myself. He just wanted to help me avoid mistakes he made. And he would do it passionately. As a child, I reacted as passionately to defend my rights to euhm make mistakes and learn from them… LOL. So, I am kinda used to some one-on-one thunder and lightning bolts. But the ex-psychopath was just so over the top, that even then I felt it was ‘unreal’. I knew somehow it was some sort of act. Sure, it were fights, but for some reason I never felt like he was actually really angry. I just tended to ignore it, and found it even somewhat comical.

    On the other hand, because I knew subconsciously that it was an act, it never made me feel unsafe. I did not fear him at all when he was playing out his drama.

    I am trying to wonder though what the McGuffin was in my case. Perhaps I can’t come up with one, because maybe I was immune to them? Can you give some examples for it?

    • Jill,
      your description of your toddler tantrum is adorable!

      Your spath’s MacGuffin was himself. He made you want to rescue him, fix him, make him a better person. Sometimes, they use additional MacGuffins along the way, but the role of helpless infant in a dirty diaper is one of their favorites. I’m not even sure they are aware of doing it.

      That’s pretty much what my MacGuffin was too. At the end, I was supposed to believe that he was being stalked by homeland security and I was supposed to be afraid for him and want to rescue him.

      Getting us to give them money are the “little MacGuffins”. The money is always for something that will make you feel better. You bought him tickets to travel and paid his expenses so he could be with you. Those little MacGuffins kept the game going. The big MacGuffin was “true love” and a “soul mate”.

      That was also where he inserted the biggest betrayal, when you realized that he never loved you at all. That he wasn’t even capable of love. That was where he tore off his mask and introduced you to cartoon hell.

      • Ok, that makes sense. I didn’t really wanted to rescue him myself, but I wanted to give him the opportunity to rescue himself. For him that would have seemed the same initially. But there was a difference: it made me stop giving the little MacGuffins altogether after a year or say no at some stuff early on already. He tried to push a guilty trip on these things at times, but that never really worked. That’s why I guess he resorted to the robbery and outright thieving behind my back.

        • Jill,
          we think we see a person with potential. All babies have potential.
          It seems like if we just help them this one time, they could take that hand up and become something better. But the spath will self-sabotage JUST to see your dismay. Then he asks for help again. Once invested, a person is more likely to help again because, well, this time it will do the trick. But it doesn’t and then he keeps asking again and again.

          This is exactly what Cleckley described in those case histories, in his book, The Mask of Sanity. Cleckley would help the spath to see their problem. The spath would lucidly parrot back what Cleckley explained. The spath would show great insight and potential to be released and not re-offend. Then to Cleckley’s surprise, the spath would be brought back to the hospital having done the same or worse than before! It was shocking to Cleckley and I’m not sure whether he ever understood that the spath was doing it just for that shock value. He was the spaths’ dupe because he CARED.

          • Jill, in my situation, the MacGuffins were: money; cloak of respectability; “safe” mother figure.

            Sky, it’s the empathy and desire to “see the best” in every human being that the spaths use to manipulate their targets. I was convinced that, in both disordered marriages, both of these sad, pitiable, and tragic individuals HAD potential and that they could REACH that potential if they had unlimited encouragement and support. Well……..what a crock of hooey!

            Spaths only have “potential” when it suits them. If personal achievements will factor into their grand designs, then they will undertake those endeavors as a means to an end. But, typically, they NEVER follow through. It’s all grandiose blather that will never come to fruition because they lack “sincerity.”

            As for the props…..the female-ex-con worked in a hospital setting before she was arrested, charged, and convicted of “Theft By Deception.” Since I’m not an attorney, I can only surmise that this crime is identity theft and involves falsifying documents and forgeries. So, given that, the ex-con most likely procured the ultrasound image where she worked.

            Acting. Performance. It’s amazing how convincing spaths can be as long as the Gorilla Glue holds their masks on……

  7. ” Psychopaths like to say that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

    Spathx actually asked me once…..because he was trying to convince me that I was just thinking myself into having a hard time believing his love for me, excuses, etc….he so badly wanted me to be the problem. Or at least he wanted me to believe i was the problem. ANYone but him. he said to me…..”You just get this sh-t in your head and you keep telling your self and telling yourself until you believe it. You know how when you tell a lie enough times you believe it?”
    Again…..there is Dorothy…..confused dog tilted head……huh?
    Another thing minimized, ignored and not confronted.Keep the peace Dorothy….until you just cant stand it another minute or your too exhausted and confused to hold your tongue any longer or your hormonal levels are out of whack…..just hold your tongue. You know what will happen if you don’t….

  8. Dorothy,
    they do drop these “tells” don’t they. They have mastered deception and they’ll tell you all about it. But of course they never implicate themselves.

    My spath is a con man. pure and simple. But if you tell someone about how you pulled a con, then it makes you look like a con man and then nobody will like you. So spath came up with a new name for a con. He calls it a “gravel”.

    The “gravel” came to be when he said he was flying low over a river and some guy came out of a house and took pictures of the N-number on his helicopter. He said that the guy was some tattle tale who was probably going to turn him in to the FAA so he had to get those pictures away from the man. Spath went and got some fishing gear, then he walked to the river near where the guy lived and pretended to be fishing. Then when the guy came out, he befriended him and brought up the conversation about “that helicopter that flies low over the river”. The guy brought out the pictures and showed them to spath. Over the course of several visits, the spath determined that there were no copies (this was before digital cameras were ubiquitous) and convinced the dude to give him the pictures so he could give them to the FAA and make sure that the helicopter pilot got busted.

    All this happened on a gravel bed by the river, so he called it a “gravel” and he bragged about it all the time. By renaming the con and calling it a gravel, the audience never realizes that they are hearing about a con. To me, at the time, and to everyone else, it just seemed like spath had outsmarted a cranky man that lives by the river.

    • Nice poem Dorothy!

      I got your email, but I really can’t add anymore than what we’ve discussed: ignore him.

      Jill’s idea to keep copies of all emails is really good because he will continue to slander you. All spaths do that.

      • Yeah…..Im keeping everything.
        Like I said in a prior post…..I was believing, even spoke about it on 180 very early on…..that I “cheated on him” at the beginning of the relationship. Not like a hide it kind of cheating affair, kind of hard to explain. When I came across an email that I happened to have had because I recovered it off my server, I read it and the light bulb went on!! He had so convinced me that the truth was as he was presenting it that I was believing it.

        I think that is what he’s trying to do with this slander BS but I’m not buying it NO WAY!! I know exactly what I said, how i said it and why I said it! Not going to work. BUT…..because I know the truth….that is how he is able to pull the emotional puppet strings. He knows I know the truth and more importantly…he knows I know he knows the truth.
        OMG!! It’s just so ridiculously childish! I feel angry at him and embarrassed for him at the same time.

        Somehow I’m feeling this kind of feminine vibe about him. I can’t really describe it. It involves his mother in a way. SOMETHING VERY DISTURBING! Like a merging of sorts.
        She was out of town once and he made dinner for me at her house…..how romantic, right?? LOL He got up from the table and tended to something, the microwave door I believe and said…..”Oh my god, I’m becoming my mother”. But he seemed like he liked that? Weird weird weird! I ignored it but it made me feel really uncomfortable.They are VERY united….allies. SICK
        The Poem…..I think I’m going to stick with…
        You face the end it comes again
        you face the end alone to spend

        I like the sound of it but Im not 100% yet.
        I’ve got a huge poem story that I’m working on. pages and pages of notes. It’s driving me crazy! I just keep thinking of more and more lines but I can’t wrap my head around getting them in sequence. I really want to finish it just to get it out of my head! Its just THERE! like always!

  9. Skylar, Just wanted to ask/ tell you, I seem to have all kinds of problems with the comment edit feature. Just kind of a FYI thing.

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