9 Stages of Involvement and Recovery with the Charming Abuser, Narcissist or Psychopath
Excerpted from an Interview with Paul Babiak Snakes in Suits and Organizational & Industrial Psychologist
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
Paul Babiak is an international business consultant and Robert Hare is a researcher in criminal psychology and an expert on narcissism and psychopathology. Their book, Snakes in Suits, When Psychopaths Go to Work is a fascinating book for anyone who has dealt with an intensive boss or coworker who ruthlessly wrecks havoc in the business world. Hare is the author of The Psychopath Scale.
Here’s a review about the book, Snakes in Suits, from amazon.com:
“Authors Babiak and Hare provide details of how psychopaths operate, carefully assessing possible allies and rivals, gaining the sympathy and assistance of the former and damaging the credibility and effectiveness of the latter. And they can be hard to stop– psychopaths are extremely adept at creating positive impressions with top management and decision-makers, so the complaints of others are frequently disregarded. Having encountered a number of people with traits similar to those portrayed in Snakes in Suits, I was particularly impressed by the authors’ differentiation between snakes who manipulate, snakes who bully and snakes who act as “puppet masters”– that is, wreaking havoc through third parties.”
Although the book is more about narcissism in companies than personal relationships, the stages of involvement and recovery are the same. Here’s a great quote from about being conned from the Survival-Skills-Fast-Track-Recovery web site: “We realize we’ve been abused and betrayed. We’ve been systematically targeted, deceived by their false mask of sanity. We don’t deserve this. We wonder where that wonderful person went. We seem to be living with Jekyll and Hyde. Well, we are. Grab your computer, library card, pen and paper and learn about these predators….”
The 9 Stages of Recovery
You are charmed big time! There is temptation and curiosity when you meet as your danger radar and defenses go down on meeting this charming, exciting, different and hard to resist person. You don’t realize that his charming manner is a facade designed to draw you in.
2. Psychopathic Bonding:
You believe that you’ve found the perfect relationship. Mr. Wonderful. He impresses and cons you that he shares your values, beliefs and dreams. You commit to an intimate or romantic relationship with him, but this fantasy portrait is only in your mind. Things go rosy at first and then his true colors come out and he becomes a perpetrator to your victim.
3. Collusion in the Perpetrator’s Game:
You go along caught up in the drama wanting to do anything to please him and readily give in to his demands, even if it not in your best interests. As time goes by you give up control. You may give up your place to live or a current relationship. Sex and power dynamics occur and this perpetrator ends up taking over your whole life.
4. Self-Doubt and Denial:
You blame yourself for the unhappiness the perpetrator causes in your life. You start to doubt yourself and tolerate increasing levels of abuse. You enter the Dreaded Denial Zone. You may have problem with friends and family who believe the façade of the perpetrator and they cut off supporting you. Even when the evidence presented to them, they may exhibit denial.
5. Abusive Manipulation:
Here we go. The drama begins. You take what he dishes out even though you notice his deficiencies and poor behavior. He denies any just criticism and turns your concerns into a game going on an attack at you. He may pull away to punish or manipulate you. This mind game causes you to blame yourself for the abuse asking yourself “What did I do to deserve that?” You convince yourself that is your fault, and become more submissive. You have fear of abandonment and so you negotiate yourself back into the relationship. Your self-esteem erodes even more
The perpetrator uses a barrage of subtle or blunt criticisms are used as mind control techniques. (Do a Google search about cult behaviors and mind control.)
His emotional tantrums and threats keep you off center; “I’m not putting up with your behavior. Don’t make me leave you. If you don’t go along with what I’m doing, I’m leaving, Glares and hostile gestures are used to keep you in line and maintain control. Also there are threats of intimidation trying to make you responsible for his violent behavior: “Don’t make me hurt you.” Intermittent hostile outbursts keep you wary.
The bad side effects that you experience as a victim increase: Emotional abuse, PTSD, anxiety, distress, depression, generalized fear, psychological damage, lowered self-esteem and worthlessness
On no! You start to realize that you are a pawn in perpetrator’s game and you’ve played the fool. This stage can take years if you don’t believe that you are worthy of anything better. There comes a time of enlightenment and you finally connect all the dots and see behind his mask. Finally there’s a behavioral straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The see saw-you go up and down but you are getting sick of the game. People caught up in the perpetrator’s bond tend to tolerated a lot and forgive his inconsistencies and lies but now there’s an event where you start to see clearly what you are dealing with.
The perpetrator will resort to feigned apologies if he wants the relationship to continue and may vow to work on it and give false promises. He may stay if he hasn’t exhausted all your resources or hasn’t found a new victim yet.
When his inability to really change and how your involvement with him has rendered you stupid, it finally becomes clear in your mind. Now you know what you have to do and start planning to take a step forward!
As Tina Turner said, “What’s love got to do with it?” (Watch Tina Turner’s movie of the same name several times.) Former victims report the ongoing pain and ask themselves, “How I could have fallen for the lies?” The answer is that you were playing with different rules-the rules of decency and caring. You were caught in the “bias of one” which was expecting others to treat you the way that you treat them. “The bias of one” mentality is being naive and believing that others will think and act the way you do. Not so! Now you are older and wiser.
Denial and the need to hide may set in. You avoid knowing the truth of your partner’s aggression and refuse to go for help or therapy as you feel too embarrassed to tell others. You feel like your entire world has collapsed and feel alone and everything have done for year has been for naught. Some partners even want to go back to the destructive relationship, instead, deal with the feelings of shame.
You acknowledge that the perpetrator is a predator and you’ve been preyed upon. It’s not your fault so you don’t need to hold onto the shame. At some point you begin to forgive yourself for making bad choices and then put the energy of feeling bad into moving forward.
8. Anger and Vindication:
You want to personally bring the perpetrator down. You want him to acknowledge what he’s done and give you a sincere apology. It is good to want these things but know that they will never happen. You finally start to realize that this will NOT happen. Get over it. You don’t have the resources and power that they do.
Some victims do go on to unmask the perpetrator by writing books, posting on websites, or by giving lectures to public to warn community about these kinds of individuals. Anything that helps you work through your feelings of anger is definite step forward. They lived and learned that their naïve, bias of one mentality was an error in thinking that they could no longer afford. The more victims learned about narcissism, sociopaths and psychopaths and antisocial personality, the better they felt and the faster their recovery occurred.
9. Release, Repair and Regrowth:
Survey the wreckage cast upon you and move ahead from it.
Now you can start to distance self from the perpetrator physically, geographically, psychically and emotionally. It helps to get transition people such as new healthy friends and a therapist who will support you in becoming independent.
You must maintain no contact so that shame cannot be used as a weapon against you by the perpetrator just as your flaws were used against you before.
Many victims have lost years off of life, life savings, family, friends, children, but most of all lost their innocence, which must be grieved.
What is to be gained is self-knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is power. Knowledge about why you needed to hook up with such a person equals growth.
Get him out of your life and out of your head. Allow no contact in flesh and or in your memory. This can be very hard to do, especially if you experience PTSD symptoms. Successful recovery means putting old beliefs and symptoms on the shelf and move forward focusing your energy on your future as that is when repair begins.
Repair your identity. Remember who you were before you met the person really helps self-esteem. As you note the lessons learned, you become stronger, more aware and more secure. Get around supportive, healthy people. With those years of misery behind you, you now deserve to be happy for the rest of your life.
Thanks to L. for sharing this information on the stages of recovery.
Please pass this on to those who might profit from the becoming aware of the patterns presented in it. Knowledge is power!
Here’s a great new book to help with divorce: Splitting: Protecting yourself while Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The Legal and Psychological Advice you Need by Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger.
See also Robert Hare’s article on the charming psychopath.