Top 8 Takeaways from Psychopath Free
My thoughts on this book:
Psychopath Free is one of my all time favorite books on the topic of understanding emotional abusers. The author (Jackson MacKenzie) really does a great job of explaining how these relationships and dynamics unfold, and because of this, the book is incredibly validating. There is SO much more within the book that I didn’t include in these notes, and hands down this book is worth reading, and even re-reading on a regular basis if you ever start doubting what you are experiencing or if you are debating about going back.
If I had to pick my favorite part of the book it would have to be the “Psychopath-Free Pledge” (which is takeaway #8) I just love this pledge, and think it’s a great north star in which to steer into as we navigate new relationships and friendships.
Here’s my list of my top 8 takeaways from this book:
- Toxic people condition us to ignore our intuition, and we must learn to trust it again. Instead of judging outwardly, we need to perceive inwardly. Good people make you feel good, bad people make you feel bad. Be very careful about dating and making new friends after getting out of a relationship with a psychopath. You are incredibly vulnerable, and odds are you don’t even know it.
- Get a “constant.” Think of someone you love that consistently inspires and never disappoints. How does your constant make you feel? So you feel unhinged? Anxious? Jealous? When you are away from them, so you spend hours analyzing their behavior and defending yourself? No. You feel peaceful and calm. You know where you stand. You don’t need to understand why you don’t like being around a person. The constant grounds you and makes you stop wondering if it’s you or them.
- Identity Erosion. The psychopath strips you of your dignity by taking back everything they once pretended to feel during the idealization period. They make a mockery of your dreams, subtly suggesting that you may not be the one for them after all—but nonetheless stringing you along for the added attention. After grooming you to be dependent and compliant, they use this power to manufacture desperation and desire. In a whirlwind of emotions, your fantasy gradually shifts into a nightmare.
- Destroying your boundaries. They condition their victims to feel ashamed, inadequate, and unstable, and they break them down through belittling, teasing, and manufactured jealousy. Your self-esteem is worn away through a calculated “mean and sweet” cycle. Slowly, your standards will fall so low that you become grateful for utterly mediocre treatment. You will excuse your partner’s bad behavior, unable to acknowledge the painful truth behind your relationship: something has changed. You rearrange your life around them to make yourself available for them. You begin to initiate contact more and more trying to get back their attention and affection. Their responses feel hollow at best. You exaggerate their positive aspects to anyone who will listen, so you can continue to live the lie yourself. When things end, your friends and family will be shocked by how differently you describe them.
They may begin putting you down in front of others under the guise of joking, and if you have a problem with it, you are hypersensitive. You go along with it, playing the role of the crazy, unintelligent partner whose only purpose is to entertain them. With time you will come to believe this façade. All the while, they will sprinkle intermittent reminders of the idealization phase. If you reach a breaking point, they will always be ready to swoop back in with promises of unlimited love and affection. They will never take the blame for their behavior, these superficial distractions will be enough to convince you that they’re still the person you fell in love with.
- If you start wondering if you are “bi-polar” (or abusive, manipulative, crazy, too sensitive, too emotional, etc.) after you relationship with them, and you’ve never been this way before, think twice before accepting their diagnosis of you.
During a relationship with a psycho, you are likely to experience a range of emotions that you’ve never felt before: extreme jealousy, neediness, rage, anxiety, and paranoia. After every outburst, you think to yourself if you only hadn’t behaved that way, then maybe they’d be happier with me (or wouldn’t have left). Think again. These were not your emotions. They were manufactured by the psycho to make you question your own good nature (as well as your sanity and perception of events).
Serial provokers are experts at seeking out flexible, easygoing people. They exploit this quality by constantly provoking their target with covert jabs, minimization, veiled humor, and patronizing. The target will attempt to avoid conflict by remaining pleasant, choosing to forgive, and excuse this behavior in favor of maintaining harmony. The serial provoker will continue to aggravate the target until they finally snap. Once this occurs, the provoker will sit back, feign surprise, and marvel at how passive-aggressive, angry, and volatile the target is. The target is expected to remain calm and peaceful no matter what, while the serial provoker feels entitled to do whatever they please.
They provoke an emotion, deny it, spin it, blame you, and then forgive you and state that you need to work on your issues.
- Word Salad. Conversations from hell.
- Circular conversations. Often about the same issues. Nothing gets resolved. You’ll think you worked something out, only to begin discussing it again two minutes later, and it’s as if you never said a word the first time around. Why are they so friendly with their ex…again? Why are they suddenly not paying attention to you…again? You get sucked back into this crazy argument only to feel crazy and high maintenance when they decide that they are sick of arguing about this and can’t handle your issues.
- Bring up past wrongdoings and ignore their own. If they cheated and you are a recovering alcoholic, they’ll bring up your past wrongdoings. Were you late to the first date two years ago? Then you can’t be upset when they haven’t talked to you in three days. If you bring up any wrongdoings, then you are a bitter lunatic with a list of grievances.
- Condescending and patronizing tone. Throughout the entire conversation they will have the calm, cool demeanor—almost like they are mocking you, gauging your reactions to see how much further they can push. When you finally react emotionally, that’s when they tell you to calm down, raise their eyebrows and smirk, or feign disappointment. Conversations, like everything else is a competition with a psychopath.
- They accuse you of doing things they are doing. It goes beyond projection, they are smearing you with their own flaws and are seeking a reaction. After all, how can you not react to such blatant hypocrisy?
- Throughout a word salad conversation, you’re likely to experience a variety of their personalities: good cop, bad cop, demented cop, stalker cop, scary cop, baby cop. If you’re pulling away, then you may get a glimpse of idealization. A little torture with empty promises (future faking). You’ll be left wondering who you’re even talking to, because their personas are imploding as they struggle to regain control. It’s as though the devil itself was unleashed in a desperate fit of fury after being recognized: twisting, turning, writhing, spewing, flattering, vomiting.
- Their actions never match up with their words. You are so frequently disappointed, that you become relieves when they do something halfway decent—they condition you to become grateful for mediocre treatment.
- What in the world just happened? You’ll find yourself in conversations that leave you drained. You will spend days (or weeks) obsessing over the argument. You’ll feel exhausted, and like you didn’t accomplish anything. You will feel the need to defend yourself. You’ll try to have a million preplanned arguments in your head, ready to respond to all the unaddressed points that you couldn’t keep up with. You will try to come up with a diplomatic solution that evenly distributed the blame, and therefore gives you both a chance to apologize and make up, but in the end you are the only one who is doing the apologizing.
- Gaslighting and Projection. Is when the psycho distorts reality—often with trivial lies and wrongdoings—to bring about a reaction and then deny that it ever took place. If you are like most victims, you are probably very easygoing and will hold off reacting for as long as possible. When you do finally speak up, the psycho will either rewrite history or reject that the incident ever even occurred. You may start to doubt your own sanity as the psycho slowly erodes your grasp on reality. Gaslighting isn’t usually blatant abuse. It could be as simple as them saying they are going to do one things and then doing something totally different—like going to the gym and instead they go out to dinner with a friend. If you find out it was a lie, and then bring it up, they’ll likely deny that they ever said they were going to the gym. You’ll find yourself repeating the conversation, only to discover how petty you sound—and how much you are annoying your partner. In a normal relationship it doesn’t matter if plans turn from one thing to another, but with a psychopath nothing is as it seems, and you find you are always getting sucked into ridiculous, pointless (and petty) conversations that make you seem like an obsessed detective.
- If you present truth, like a text message or an email, the psychopath will punish you with silent treatment and turn the entire conversation around on you for being paranoid and crazy. You’ll slowly learn that open communication will not be a part of your relationship.
A relationship with a psychopath is a no win situation—no matter how much they hurt you—it’ll still be your fault.
Psychopaths project and blame you (and others) for their own behavior. They’ll accuse you of being negative when they are the ones who are incredibly negative. They gaslight you into believing that your normal reactions to their abuse are the problem, and not the abuse itself. In their mind, when you feel hurt and angry because of their silent treatment, broken promises, lying, or cheating, there is something wrong with you. When you call them out on their dishonest behavior, you’re the abnormal one who is too sensitive, too critical, and always focusing on the negative.
This is the brainwashing process: they act inappropriately, turn it around to make it your fault, deny that they did anything, and then blame you and make it your fault—so now you are blamed for something that supposedly didn’t even happen. They will dump all of the blame on you for the looming failure of the relationship—the problem is, it never had a chance to begin with.
“The Detective Rule” If you find yourself playing detective with someone, you should remove them from your life immediately.
Only you can know if someone is harming you. Only you know what is best for you. You can decide whether or not you like the way you feel around someone. No one can ever tell you that your feelings are wrong. Remember the question: How are you feeling today? The answer is all that matters.
- The Psychopath Breakup Checklist:
- Covertly sprinkle hints that they are interested in someone else.
- Repeat step 1 until you finally react
- Calmly imply that you are being oversensitive and jealous.
- Give you the silent treatment for being sensitive and jealous.
- Repeat Step 4 until you start to self-destruct
- Use your self-destruction to convince the new target that you’re crazy, that the way the new target doesn’t feel like their cheating is wrong.
- Use you self-destruction to convince their friends that you’re crazy; that way they have full support from their fan club when they replace you.
- Begin to patronize you and explain how much your unstable behavior is hurting them.
- Choose the most insensitive way imaginable to dump you,
- Wave the new target in your face to show how happy they are without you.
When the breakup occurs, it will be so casual on their end, but you will feel nothing but emptiness—like your spirit has died.
Triangulation again. Their favorite time to triangulate is right after the breakup.
They are waiting for your reaction—and if you don’t react, they will invent a reason to talk to you, making sure their latest profile picture is displayed front and center. They may request an article of clothing or something obscure.
After the breakup they will minimize everything that happened, warning you not to create any drama. They will be full of shallow, pseudo pleasantry, talking down to you, which of course provokes a reaction. All the while they expect you to be pleasant and polite to them or you will be labeled as bitter and jealous.
They’ve moved on with the new target, making you wonder if perhaps they really are capable of love and capable of an amazing relationship. They will gleefully parade their latest victim to the world in order to evoke jealousy and drama, which is already a sign that they haven’t magically grown a conscious. As their new relationship unfolds, you’ll start to notice every little detail about the idealization of this new person—things you always wished for but never received. Perhaps they moved in with them right away or married them, when they would move in or marry you. Maybe they are posting pictures all over Facebook of them together, but they never wanted to post pictures of the two of you together. Basically, it feels like you were a bothersome speed bump along the way to their true fantasy. …And here’s the difficult thing to understand: someone else was feeling the exact same way at the beginning of your relationship.
Every idealization is going to be different, which is why it always seems like the next person is getting something you didn’t. Additionally you are at rock bottom while the new person is on cloud nine, which makes the situation that much more unfair. They fact that the psycho moved on isn’t a result of your action, they would have done this anyhow.
This is why going no contact is so important, because as you obsess over them and their new relationship, it will only make you feel worse—and you’ll wonder why this new relationship is lasting longer than yours did. You will feel inferior and inadequate—and their actions are designed to make you feel that way.
If you end the relationship, prepare yourself for the psycho to potential stalk and harass you for months or years. This is because they’ve lost power and control over the situation and over you. If you were discarded by them, and they aren’t making an effort to reopen contact, consider yourself lucky (even though that feels hard to do because you feel so low).
Inferiority and comparison. Infidelity leaves long-lasting insecurities and feelings of not being good enough. This can take years to get over. Now compare this to the psychopath’s triangulation. Not only do they cheat on you, they happily wave it in your face. They carry none of the usual shame and guilt that come with cheating, and this can be incredible damaging and traumatizing.
Their behavior doesn’t make sense, and so you try to make sense of it by projecting a normal human conscience onto them, in an attempt to explain away their unexplainable behavior.
But once you discover psychopath, sociopathy, or narcissism, everything starts to change and make sense. You are horrified that you let this darkness into your life. All of their “accidental” or “insensitive” behavior finally makes sense. You try to explain this to friends and family but no one seems to get it. This is why being validated matters—because then you discover you aren’t crazy. You end up having to let go of your past understanding of human nature, building it back up from scratch. You realize that people are not always inherently good. You begin to feel paranoid, hypervigilant, and anxious.
After the discard, most survivors end up feeling a kind of emptiness that cannot even be described as depression. It’s like your spirit has completely gone away. You feel numb to everything. You worry that your encounter with this monster has destroyed your ability to empathize, feel, and care. …But rest assured, your spirit is still there. Wounded, but still there. As you begin to discover self-respect and boundaries, it slowly starts to find its voice again. Ultimately, you will leave this experience with an unexpected wisdom about the people around you. Your spirit will return stronger than ever before, refusing to be treated that way again. You may encounter toxic people throughout your life, but you won’t let them stay for very long. You will see mind games and manipulations for what they are. You will seek out kind, honest, and compassionate individuals. You deserve nothing less. This newfound strength is the greatest gift of the psychopathic experience. And it is worth every second of the recovery process, because it will serve you for the rest of your life.
“If only” moments. A big part of the denial phase is still believing they must be interested because of how amazing things were when you were in love. It doesn’t seem possible that they could already be in love with someone else (and it wouldn’t be possible in a normal relationship). You believe that what you had with them was unique and special, something that they frequently reminded you of during the relationship.
You spend a lot of time wondering what you could have done differently to save your perfect relationship. You look back on every single moment that led to the “downfall” and wish that it hadn’t gone that way. You think of creative ways to fix the things that you supposedly broke. Examples:
- “If only I hadn’t confronted them about their ex, then we’d still be together.”
- “If only I hadn’t traveled that weekend, then they wouldn’t have cheated on me.”
- “If only I’d bought them a nice gift, then they would have realized how much I cared.”
- “If only I’d pretended nothing was wrong when they gave me the silent treatment, then they wouldn’t think I was so needy.”
- “If only I wore a different outfit that day, then they would have found me more attractive.”
None of these things justify how you were treated. Love should be like a deep rooted tree, not a sailboat. If you have to walk on eggshells to save your relationship, then there is no relationship.
You may even have a few optimistic thoughts where you dismiss this whole abuse thing, and think that one nice gesture or conversation could get things back on track. It won’t. This is what happens when one person refuses to take any responsibility for their actions, while the other is willing to absorb all of the blame if it means keeping the peace.
- The Psychopath-Free Pledge:
- I will never beg or plead for someone else again.
- I will never tolerate criticism about my body, age, weight, job, or any other insecurities I might have. Good partners won’t put me down, they’ll raise me up.
- I will take a step back to objectively look at my relationship at least once a month to make sure that I’m being respected and loved, and not flattered and love bombed.
- I will always ask myself the question, “Would I ever treat someone else like this?” If the answer is no, then I don’t deserve to be treated like that either.
- I will trust my gut.
- I understand that it is better to be single than in a toxic relationship.
- I will not be spoken to in a condescending or sarcastic way. Loving partners will not patronize me.
- I will not allow my partner to call me jealous, crazy, or any other dismissive accusations.
- My relationships will be mutual and equal at all time. Love is not about control and power.
- If I ever feel unsure about any of these steps, I will seek out help from a friend, support group, or a therapist. I will not act on impulsive decisions.
If you’d like to join in on the book club discussion, you can find us here: Thrive After Abuse Book Club
…How about you? What were your takeaways from this book?
- If you are interested in buying this book, or reading more about it, here is a link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1UpWFY3 This is an affiliate link—it doesn’t cost you anymore to use the link, and any funds go towards supporting the site.
- The book club book for July is “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker and here is a link for that book: http://amzn.to/1trGpvT This book is currently a “Kindle Unlimited” book so it’s free for Kindle Unlimited members.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.