You know what’s funny? I wanted an image for this article that actually compared psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder. Guess what? It doesn’t exist. People seem to be very comfortable having these two totally different things conflated.
I can go to a thousand places on the internet and find article like the one I am going to go through today. They all make the exact same mistakes and try to conflate their version of psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder. My last post dealt with some of this, but it seems necessary to explain why they are wrong. It’s one thing to point it out, it is quite another to explain how they are wrong.
Let’s get into this.
The predictable yet completely unexpected and devastating pattern of a relationship with a psychopath involves three stages: Idealize, Devalue and Discard.
Immediately, in the first sentence, she is incorrect. Psychopathy has nothing to do with this pattern, it is specifically related to NPD, not psychopathy. This is not a good start.
These relationships start out like heaven on earth… but end in a place worse than hell.
When you’re targeted by a psychopath, you will become and unwitting opponent in his or her or her game of power and control. When stage one — the idealization stage — begins, you believe you’ve found an exciting, romantic relationship and that you’ve met the love of your life… but what you’re actually entering is a game of sorts, one you’re guaranteed to lose. Through manipulation, the psychopath takes control of you and the relationship. Inevitably they will become bored with you, and then through devaluation and abuse, the psychopath will damage you emotionally, psychologically and spiritually and leave you deeply traumatized.
She does not provide any basis for this. Nor does she provide any reasoning for this pattern. She simply makes the claim that it is so. Let’s go into her article a bit more.
This stage is often called “Love Bombing.” The manipulator will saturate the target in as many ways possible with love and adoration, without a moment to come up for air. They’ll spend as much time as possible with the target, and keep in frequent contact. There will be many verbal declarations of appreciation and of their feelings about you and all your wonderful qualities, and amazement at all the things you have in common or at how lucky you both are to have found each other. You’ll believe it’s the best thing that ever happened to you, so you won’t even suspect what’s really happening.
The psychopath is not able to bond with another human, but he is good at getting another to bond to him. This is known as the psychopathic bond. The idealization stage creates that one-way bond, which is what makes you vulnerable to the manipulation and abuse that will follow. Even if the psychopath is, at the outset, genuinely attracted to you (which is possible), they will end up devaluing and abusing you.
If the psychopath is motivated by genuine attraction in the beginning, they will still manipulate you. He or she will inevitably become bored with you as well (and blame you for it), which results in devaluation and abuse.
Again, she provides no information about the reasoning that a psychopath would ever do this. She claims that this creates a one-way bond. What would a psychopath want with that? There is no chemical love in psychopathy. Even this author has admitted as such in other writings. So what could the payoff be for someone that is psychopathic? Psychopaths aren’t going to bother with this because it provides us with nothing. We do not have the necessary emotional experience to make this a reasonable claim. She never gives even a hint of reasoning.
Because psychopaths don’t have emotional empathy, they objectify others. He or she never idealized you as an individual; you were only idealized as an object of desire. As such, their interest is shallow and short-lived, and they move on to new sources of diversion and pleasure. It’s too bad that by the time this happens, you’ve already pinned your hopes and dreams onto him or her.
Psychopaths don’t objectify people. That isn’t what is going on. No attachment means that they aren’t affected by your suffering. They likely will not have any idea that you are experiencing pain due to their presence in your life. We all see the world through our own lens. This is one of the reasons that I will say that emotional empathy is not that great. You are always going to view a situation through your own experience.
Psychopaths are no different. If you don’t call us, or worry about us, that’s great. We don’t want that. We will see you not calling as a benefit, while you might be trying to communicate that you are angry with us. It would never occur to us, seeing the world through our lens, that you’re upset. If we don’t call you, it’s because we have no interest in that behavior. You might see it as playing hard to get, being angry, not wanting to seem too eager, or any other emotional reason that we would never even consider.
The perfect “honeymoon” stage lasts until the psychopath has hooked you, and then stage two — the devaluation stage — begins. Manipulative tactics are put into play to gain power and control. The non-stop love and admiration is replaced with hot-and-cold behavior that suggests the psychopath is pulling away, which is known as intermittent reinforcement, a very powerful manipulative tactic that puts you on an emotional roller-coaster. A psychopath is skilled at what’s known as “dosing,” which means giving you just enough attention and validation to keep you on his hook. You find yourself tolerating continually worsening treatment as you try to hold onto the formerly wonderful relationship, which diminishes your self-respect. It seems counter-intuitive that treating you badly would make your attachment stronger, but that’s exactly what happens and how intermittent reinforcement works. This attachment is called a “trauma bond.” It is also responsible for (and identical to) the phenomena of Stockholm Syndrome.
There is a reality that she is apparently unaware of. Psychopaths in relationships do not need to do anything to have all the power. A friend of mine explains this in this way:
The one who loves least in the relationship controls the relationship.
Yup, factual. Not comfortable, I get that, but factual. The psychopath will always love least because we do not have chemical love. There is no reason to go through some ridiculous hoops that are going to make us have to deal with your emotional upset to be the ones that are in control. There are definitely ways that psychopaths can cause pain in a relationship, and I am working on a series about that right now. Devaluing a person serves no purpose for a psychopath. If I chose someone to spend time with, and then change my mind, I leave. No need to torment the person.
Psychopaths are always going to be self-focused. How you think about yourself, how you dress, your intelligence, they were all up to par when you got into the relationship in the first place. It isn’t going to suddenly change. We also don’t place more value on a person than they deserve. Our opinion isn’t going to change for some emotional reason, and devaluation is definitely emotional in nature.
“The more infrequently the crumbs of love are offered, the more hooked you are. You become conditioned, like a rat in a cage.”
If the psychopath was “genuinely interested” in you, the manipulation and devaluation is employed to gain further control of you at the beginning of stage two. But as you become less exciting to him, he starts to feel contempt for you and genuinely devalues you, because he blames you for his waning interest and disappointment. When the devaluation becomes increasingly cruel, you stay because you’ve been manipulated into accepting poor treatment and thinking less of yourself. You also stay because you’re still holding onto the memory of the idealization stage. Fearful of losing that completely, you go into denial and tolerate increasingly worse behavior. You’ll experience cognitive dissonance as the truth about him comes into your conscious mind but is battled by your denial; your thoughts ping-pong back and forth relentlessly as you try to figure out what’s really going on.
Nope. Sorry, but this is ridiculous. Would you like to know what psychopaths want out of relationships? They want you to be fun when you’re around, and not a drag when you’re not. How would any of this behavior provide that? Also, why would a psychopath want you to change? if you were fun to begin with, acting this way would certainly make you way less fun, and again, we are self-interested. I am not interested in changing a person from who I enjoyed, to someone I do not want anything to do with. Psychopaths don’t bond. If we suddenly think that you are a waste of time because you have things that are a pain to deal with, we will just leave. No need to destroy you personally. We’re just out.
By now, your self-respect—along with your self-confidence, peace of mind and dignity—have been severely impacted. In stage three, things get much worse. At this point, the psychopath feels real contempt for you and feels you deserve abuse. Contempt is one of the few emotional states a psychopath can experience.
the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
When a psychopath feels contempt for someone, that person is in a dangerous situation. Harm (emotional, psychological and sometimes physical) is inevitable.
She is incorrect. Psychopaths don’t feel scorn or contempt. We can have a cognitive version of this, but not an emotional version. Take for instance the murders of Sylvia Likens or Junko Furuta. I have cognitive contempt for those actions. Sadism makes no sense to me at all. You would have to have emotional investment in the first place to be able to feel contempt or scorn. Psychopaths don’t. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news for all the sites that want to make psychopaths out to be sadistic monsters, but you are full of it. You wish you weren’t, but you are. Oooo, here comes one of those very sites now.
The psychopath discards his ex-lovers with a degree of vitriol and hatred that astonishes his victims and exceeds any boundaries of normality.”
Good lord, you literally know nothing about psychopathy. Like. At all. This is just so far off the mark. First of all, psychopaths do not feel hatred or vitriol. That would be way outside of our emotional experience. Don’t you love it when these authors say things like, psychopaths have shallow emotions, they’re like robots without anything deep emotionally at all,
BUT THEY HATE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING ON EARTH!!!!!!
Seems to me that a little logical consistency is an order.
After a period of abuse driven by contempt, the psychopath will discard you. Or you may be the one who finally puts an end to it and walks away. Either way, you come to the realization that your relationship was a fraud from day one. Victims experience betrayal, deep disappointment, a profound sense of loss, anger, self-blame, shame, bewilderment and incredulity.
The stages of the psychopathic bond are what describes emotional rape, which is devastating. Some people find little understanding or support from those who are close to them, because others often see it as a typical ‘love gone wrong’ situation. It is far more than that. Please make sure you get the help and support you need as you recover from this experience.
Again, psychopaths do not feel contempt. Explain something to me. Why would a psychopath be with someone just so they could sit there in contempt all the time? Let’s take this argument, and pretend psychopaths can feel any of the things that she is claiming. Why would they do any of this? Explain your reasoning, woman. You can’t just spin a story about how psychopaths can’t love you, but they will destroy you for no reason whatsoever, other than they are a monster. That is ridiculous.
So let’s talk about where these things come from.
It is very important to understand the motivation for this pattern, and to do this we are going to utilize the excellent writings of Elinor Greenberg over on Quora. She is an expert in NPD and has worked with many patients with it. It is important to actually use an expert in this sort of thing while writing articles about it.
What is the basis for the three stages that some people with NPD utilize in relationships? According to Dr. Greenberg, it is due to their internal workings. It is important to note that not all people with NPD follow this pattern, but it is also important to note that this pattern is specifically seen in NPD.
Let’s look at what Dr. Greenberg says about this behavior.
Stage 1—Courtship: “Love Bombing”
Many of my clients have used the term “Love Bombing” to describe how blissful and well-loved they felt during the “Courtship Stage” of their relationship. They were told, “You are the most wonderful woman in the world. You are perfect. Even your flaws are adorable!” They were taken to wonderful restaurants, showered with thoughtful gifts, and received daily texts telling them how they were perfect and special. At this stage, the man may even talk about marriage and want to plan a summer vacation together.
What is going on: Although some narcissistic men are players and are not sincerely expecting to spend the rest of their life with you, many are perfectly sincere when they tell you how perfect you are. Unfortunately, they are not actually seeing you at all, only the role in their “Love Script” that they have projected onto you. You have value in their eyes because they believe that they are finally going to get everything that they want in a mate. It is all about them, not you.
If you would like to better understand why someone would ever construct a “Love Script,” you might want to consider how many times you have listened to your girlfriends discuss their perfect wedding: the details of their dress, what the bridesmaids will wear, and whether the affair will be rustic or formal. In its own way, the “Wedding Script” is a shortened version of the “Love Script.” The main difference is that she is only planning a day around her desires, while he is planning a lifetime—and, of course, most women would not give up the man they love simply because he is not willing to perfectly fulfill her wedding fantasy. The person is more important to her than the “picture.”
As the two of you get to know each other better, your narcissistic beau begins to notice the ways that you do not fit into his “Love Script.” The romantic fantasy is still intact because he believes that you are still potentially perfect, just in need of a bit of guidance. As he has spent his life playing a role and pretending to himself and everyone else that he is perfect, special, omnipotent, and entitled; he does not see anything odd in asking you to play a role as well. He will begin to make suggestions on how you might improve yourself—translation: how to fit his script better.
Example: Jim and Carole
Jim: “I want every man at the party to see how beautiful you are. Please, take off that outfit and put on the one I picked out for you. You are so incredibly sexy in that short red dress and heels.”
Carole: “It just doesn’t feel like me. I would be more comfortable in lower heels and the dress that I picked out.”
Narcissistic One-Mindedness and Lack of Empathy: Now they have their first real fight because Jim cannot believe that preppy, conservative Carole does not want to be the sexiest woman at the party. This is an example of Narcissistic “One-Mindedness”—the inability to understand that viewpoints other than their own can also be valid.
Jim’s behavior also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for how Carole is feeling. A lack of empathy is a hallmark of narcissistic disorders. Jim and Carole actually never do get to the party. It is more important to Jim that he go there with his vision of the perfect woman on his arm, than simply go and have a good time with Carole. If he cannot be the envy of every man there, “What’s the point in going?” he thinks.
Stage 3—Devaluation & Object Constancy
If you resist being made over to suit your man’s ideas and insist on being yourself, he will first be puzzled and then he will start to devalue you. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from narcissistic disorders do not have “object constancy.” Object constancy is the psychological term for the ability to maintain your positive feelings for someone while you feel hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or angry with the person. It is usually developed during childhood, but it requires that the parents who are raising the child have that ability themselves.
Object constancy is the glue that keeps relationships together. Everyone has disagreements, but if you can remember that you love the person while you are fighting with him, it limits how much damage you are likely to do to the relationship and each other.
If Carole, in the above example, had gone along with Jim’s desire and been persuaded to put on sexier clothing, Jim would have been satisfied. The romantic glow would have returned and his hurt, anger, and disappointment would have vanished because she had changed to fit his “Love Script.”
But because Carole refused, whatever little amount of object constancy that he possessed has now disappeared and along with it, Jim’s positive feelings for Carole. Now that Carole is off her pedestal, no longer perfect, and not amenable to persuasion, the devaluing begins.
The purpose of the devaluing is two-fold: Part of it is simply an attempt to change Carole so that she will fit into Jim’s “Love Script” and the other part punishes her for not giving him what he wants. If being nice has not gotten Jim what he wants, he is quite willing to be nasty. After all, without empathy or object constancy, there are no negative emotional consequences for him. His capacity for real interpersonal intimacy with a woman is quite underdeveloped. Devaluing Carole is just another tool to get what he wants.
Jim: “I don’t understand how you can be so stupid. Why would you pick a fight with me over something like clothing?” (And now he has reframed the fight as all her fault). “You dress like a lawyer, not a beautiful woman who wants to be attractive to men. Don’t you even care how I feel?” (Again, he is reframing the situation with him as the victim, not Carole).
Drawing a Boundary: This is the time to either leave the relationship or draw a clear boundary that says that you will not accept being spoken to like that. If you do not, he will take it as permission to continue to devalue you whenever he feels annoyed. The good times will gradually diminish, and the bad times will increase.
Many women try and ignore the devaluing in the hope that it will go away on its own and the lovely “Love Bombing” will return. Unfortunately, it will not return because he no longer sees you as the perfect embodiment of all his relationship fantasies. You are off your pedestal.
Now that you have resisted your narcissistic mate’s attempts to remake you to fit his “Love Script” and he has gotten used to devaluing you without significant consequences, he is likely to shift to attempting to control you. Why, you might ask, does he not break up with you at this point and go find a different woman, if he is so unhappy? The answer is usually the following:
He would have to admit that he was wrong to choose you—and narcissists cannot take the blame for anything without feeling deeply shamed.
He takes it as a personal attack on him when you refuse to go along with his plans.
Dominating you makes him feel powerful again. When you said “no” to him, he saw your lack of submission to his wishes as you trying to dominate him—something he believes he simply cannot allow.
Jim: “We are not going out of the house with you looking like that. You had better change or else.”
Carole: “But I like the way I look.”
Jim: “Too bad. Everyone knows you have no taste. Either change or we’re not going out.”
The attempts to control you are likely to escalate. He may start treating you like a small child and review your every decision.
Jim: “I noticed you made plans to see your sister on Saturday. Don’t you think you should have checked with me first? Call her now and tell her you need to cancel.”
He may also start reading your emails and texts and comment on them. When you tell him not to do this because you want some privacy, he makes it about you and not him: “What? Do you have something to hide?”
Stage 5—The Discard
If you stayed long enough to reach this stage, your self-esteem and sense of inner calm are likely to be in tatters. If you are not living together or married, your narcissistic man may pick one last angry fight, leave you in tears, and throw a final devaluing statement about you back over his shoulder as he stomps out the door. Others simply disappear and will not reply to your texts or calls, leaving you without closure and forever puzzled about what happened.
You are actually quite lucky if any of the above occurs. If you are living together or married, It is likely to get even uglier. He feels as if he is the aggrieved party and you have been nothing but a disappointment. He once thought that you were his princess, but now he can clearly see that he has to take his glass slipper and look elsewhere.
Look at that, an actual explanation, and it’s not based on, because I say so, and all narcissists are evil monsters that just want to get into a relationship, control the person and intentionally destroy them. There is an actual emotional and cognitive process that is creating this behavior. This is a place where some cognitive empathy is necessary. These people writing articles like this do not try to understand the reasoning behind the pattern, so their explanation is
Neither psychopaths nor people with NPD are evil. I am not here to throw them under the bus. what I am here to do is to give people more information so that they can begin to actually understand what is happening in the mind of a person that does behave this way. Psychopathic relationships have their own problems, but this is not the pattern of a psychopath. It is really unfortunate when people are so vitriolic, and yes, that most often applies to neurotypicals because they have deeply felt emotions, about things that they don’t understand. I have seen the fallout of relationships with people with NPD, and it is nothing like the end of a relationship with a psychopath.
Let’s start actually drawing some lines around these concepts that people are so fond of smearing into a state of unrecognizable chaos, and let’s start trying to see the reasoning behind behavior that is upsetting. I get it, going through what is listed above would suck. It sounds terrible. It has a reason for its existence, however, and it isn’t narcissists are the devil. Apparently, these behaviors can be seen in schizoid personality disorder, but they exist for a totally different reason. Their reason for doing it also comes from an emotional motivation, but that motivation is very different from that of the person with NPD.
People conflate psychopathy and NPD because they are poorly educated. They are assisted in their poor education by writers like these. The people that choose to write about these sorts of things should be required to actually know what they are talking about, but this is never the case. People like this want to blame their unfortunate relationship choices on the other person simply being evil. It would require them to step outside themselves and consider that the world doesn’t operate on their whims, instead it is full of many different sorts of people, all seeing everyone else through their own lenses, and assigning to them motivations that only they understand.
Psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder are so vastly different that it would be amusing to me if someone thought they were one and the same. That is, if it wasn’t so frequently done, and to the detriment of those with either one of them. It would be quite lovely if these sorts would stop trying to write about things that they have no concept of. It would change the world in many ways.
If you would like to understand NPD accurately, please follow Elinor Greenberg on Quora. She really has a deep understanding of the condition and explains it very well.
Another excellent article by Dr. Greenberg on NPD: