Tag Archives: psychopathy

New article on Psychopath Free: “What if they’re not a sociopath?”

This post is in response to this new PF article, based on the idea that healing from a hurtful relationship is all that matters, combined with dealing with your own demons – which would normally be true, except for the situations detailed below. Here is the conclusion of the article:

The question “What if they’re not really a sociopath?” loses all of its significance when we come to love ourselves regardless of the answer.

To start with, the article conveys a warm, fluffy and appeasing feeling, detailing doubts which might arise and nuancing an individual’s response to a failed relationship – an introspection which would undoubtedly be positive … were the website not called Psychopath Free, claiming to teach people how to identify  and deal with monsters. Not people who at one point in time displayed toxic behaviours. Soulless, irredeemable monsters.

It matters when you have publicly labelled said person a sociopath

This label is far from a private matter, at one’s discretion to keep or discard, when it was turned into a public accusation, ranging from a circle of friends to the presumed sociopath’s own family. Where exactly does the hipsterism fit in once you’ve damaged that person’s life?

Of course, one might argue that they’ve also damaged yours in ways which are difficult to repair. But still, does that absolve someone of the wrongdoing of tarnishing another’s reputation?

When you broke up with a significant other specifically because you applied this label

Which I’m sure has been the case on PF time and time again – confused people coming across the “life-saving” information which raises their adrenaline, feeling self-righteous beyond the shadow of doubt and making crucial decisions based on it.

The sheer thought that a loved one is impossible to deal with by default has been breaking marriages and relationships apart. At times, had it not been for this black and white thinking, many people would’ve surely reconsidered.

While I believe that education about narcissism and sociopathy are essential to healing and sanity restoration (especially in the early stages as we break the chemical bond and learn to go No Contact), I think there is something very powerful about eventually releasing this duality.

That’s just it – they are essential to those who are genuinely involved with these types, not to the rest, who might think they are in a moment of desolation, to later brood over their assessment and find it impulsive and inaccurate. People can heal from heartache without resorting to this demonisation, which is anything but sanity when untrue.

He is basically saying that this “education”, as well as going no contact, is essential even to those who later question their judgement. In the vein of act now, think later.

With the risk of emphasising this for the hundredth time: even when a lot of heartache was involved, on one or both sides, it doesn’t mean one has to give up on the relationship, as if this were the only beneficial route. Assuming that ending it was for the best regardless, even if the label is later questioned, and that reading about disordered people was just a prop towards the “liberating” break-up even when said person was not necessarily disordered, is absolutely ridiculous.

When you claim to be an expert on sociopathy and coach others on the subject

Basing your entire expertise on your experience, “educating” others with fanatical dedication, influencing their lives (sometimes irreversibly) and suddenly turning around to say that it doesn’t really matter if your judgement was correct regarding said experience just doesn’t fly.

It is basically stating that your cut-in-stone perspective on human interaction just might be based on a murky, questionable situation, in which you just might’ve been wrong. In this case, the smallest of doubts matters a great deal. Because you might’ve – just might’ve – fed lorry loads of horse manure to all the people who regarded your approach as the absolute truth.

One of the most common questions asked during recovery is: “Was he/she really a sociopath?” Survivors ask this question over and over again, because for most of us, the alternative is the sociopath’s reality: “You are crazy, jealous, sensitive, paranoid, unattractive, unwanted.” And so we oscillate back and forth between these two realities: bad other, or bad self.

This binary excludes the middle ground – actual rationality and sanity, which admits the possibility of both individuals being wrong at the same time, to various degrees. One for saying hurtful things and the second  for taking them as the absolute reality of the other’s thinking, prompting them to label the other as a merciless sociopath.

There is no need for this radicalism, as if one were completely incapable of analysing matters beyond “I was right” versus “this person was right”.

This is not a healthy way to look at life and people who tend to think in black and white should not be teaching others how to handle their problems.

 

The post is followed by quite a few which are glorifying an empath’s ability to love, regardless of their presumed sociopath’s behaviour. I know this will sound cruel on my part, but in this context it seems like a self-gratifying exercise which does not address the real question – what if the people they labelled as such were not actually sociopaths?

This article not only implies but states it is beyond the issue for anyone “recovering” from a hurtful relationship. Is it really though? Is loving yourself enough to obliterate any damage you might’ve done to someone and any afterthoughts about what might’ve been in the absence of this label? And is loving yourself enough to give you confidence to keep “spreading the word” about disordered people, even in the absence of certainty that you have even met one? And regardless of the damage you might do to others who believe you know what you’re preaching?

The answer is logical.

Recovery Forums – A Tool Against The Family

For those of us of the opinion that the family as a concept is being pounded on with a battering ram, it’s easy to see how the ever-expanding identification of abuse (especially emotional) is aiding this ”progressive” quest. After years of observing this phenomenon, its role in isolating individuals within society is becoming clear.

Besides the fact that their gains are sometimes financial – for example, forums which charge for membership or sell a lot of improvised material – they are, even if not admittedly, part of the crusade to  elevate one’s transitory feelings to the rank of absolute truths, which is a typical SJW attitude.

Eager to capitalise on grief and confusion, these groups resemble ambulance chasers, mastering the art of convincing people to see victimhood in murky situations, in order to cash in on the profits. 

Akin to talented divorce lawyers, they strongly encourage exaggerating the harm one has experienced through rejection, emotional unavailability, instability, lack of support, criticism etc – thus making it easy for those who are momentarily displeased with a significant other to think they  should consider cutting contact altogether.

A few examples of the fallout of wrongfully identifying a significant other as a sociopath, psychopath or narcissist:

  • People going through a difficult time in a viable relationship or marriage can freak out and give up, to later regret it.
  • Break-ups and divorces can escalate into a huge mess, with children being particularly affected by a parent’s suspicion that their ex  is disordered, which can escalate into hysteria.
  • Parents can end up alienating children from their former spouses, to later realise the mistake, as well as extended family.
  • Adults can disassociate from their parents or siblings due to grievances they’ve kept hidden for years, suddenly convinced they are dealing with something more serious.
  • Teenagers can be – very easily – persuaded that the difficult relationships they have with family members (who often fail to provide emotional support at an optimal level) are in fact abusive.
  • Impressionable young people in general can start seeing disordered types everywhere and have an even more difficult time integrating into society.

To complete the process of isolation, another list of attitudes pushed by these groups as healthy, conducive towards healing.

  • Spending one’s precious energy overanalysing every word, gaze or gesture they receive on a daily basis, in order to identify hidden intentions (and finding oneself accurately described in the DSM as a result).
  • Blaming one’s upbringing almost exclusively for the decisions taken in real time.
  • Demonising any friends who show difficult behaviour and eliminating them from one’s life straight away.
  • Once out of  a romantic relationship, ossifying  selection criteria which make sure one will run scared of most potential partners.
  • Living with a pervasive sense of danger in relation to the outside world.
  • Unearthing mistakes made years ago by others, which are no longer relevant (excluding serious maltreatment which affects a person for life).
  • Identifying as a victimised empath to the point of muddying one’s sense of responsibility in everyday life and absolving oneself of all blame for one’s troubles, regardless of their nature or importance.

This is not only prevalent in romantic relationships, which are the prime target nowadays, our culture inviting people to wallow in dissatisfaction and constantly scrutinise their partners for the smallest clue of wrongdoing. It is reaching far beyond, as many start to analyse their past, sticking labels on those who raised them, in a bid to rid themselves of negative influences. As someone who has partaken in this hysteria, seeing it as a personal quest at the time, I can safely argue it has become a fad, and a dangerous one at that.

There is a positive way of going about changing toxic attitudes one has inherited from previous generations; that is part of self-improvement and a noble goal. The catch is trying, to one’s best ability, to understand those attitudes in their original context, instead of judging previous generations by today’s standards, in  Maoist fashion, eager to write off any wisdom passed on by them. As usual, balance is the key to everything.

People have grievances, from the mundane to long term issues which need addressed. Leaving them to fester in the basement of unacknowledged needs or frustrations can make them seem insurmountable; at times they rise to the surface like an overflowing septic tank, bringing a person into a state of crisis. This is not necessarily, in real time, the fault of those who share their life, though it might feel or appear that way – hence separation is not necessarily a solution to anything.

For abuse recovery communities, knowing just what buttons to push at just the right time is guaranteed to reel in some potential believers.

In this bid, they discourage forgiveness, open-mindedness and empathy, feeding one’s need for validation right away, before even having enough data regarding each case. Evidently, this does a major disfavour to those who are simply mistaking and would benefit from objective advice (though it is difficult to be objective with so little insight, which is why I’m against seeking advice on the internet on such complex, delicate matters). Rage and bitterness are parasites of the mind; they end up consuming their hosts.

No one on the internet is able to understand your exact situation. It’s impossible. Even if you wrote a novel for them to read, you still wouldn’t be able to paint the entire picture – let alone in a few paragraphs posted anonymously.

What they do is look for buzzwords which trigger them and identify with your feelings, without accurately understanding the cause (which might be unknown to you as well). It’s not you inviting them into your reality; it’s them dragging you into theirs.

They start by encouraging you to refer to yourself as a survivor of abuse. This label becomes part of your identity and, depending on how consumed you are by it, it can take over. For those who still post daily about ”their P’s”, some of whom exited the stage years ago, the label ”survivor” has doubtlessly become their identity. How toxic is that? If you were a woman who divorced Bob  five years ago, when asked to introduce yourself, you would not say, ad infinitum,  I’m Bob’s ex-wife or I’m the one Bob stood up at the altar or I’m the one Bob’s mother always hated. It’s the same thing; defining yourself by what you meant to someone else or what that person did to you.

That takes away from your  real identity, from your energy and vitality, not to mention optimism and confidence.

Last but not least, one has to consider that calling a loved one a psychopath or narcissist, especially publicly or over a prolonged period of time, can end up in a permanent rupture, which wouldn’t necessarily happen with other insults or grievances. It’s a very strong statement to make and should not be made lightly, especially at the nudge of an internet community.

The internet might seem like an immediate source of relief and comfort when we are dissatisfied with those closest to us; at times we end up using it in this sense for trivial reasons. It’s far too easy nowadays to air one’s underpants for all to see, only to regret it later. But at the end of the day, it’s those same people we collaborate with day in and day out; when it comes right down to it, we have them and they have us, through thick and thin (genuine cases excluded, of course).

The thought that we can get a balanced perspective on our intimate problems from complete strangers is a mirage, an illusion, as the only ones able to solve them are those who are directly involved.

 

“No Victim Blaming” Vs “Tough Love”

Everything generates trends nowadays – even recovery from abusive relationships.

Whereas logic tells us there could be numerous explanations for the way a relationship evolves, even when abuse (or aggression) is present, self-appointed experts in “healing” generally take two approaches – that of tearing the perpetrator apart or that of slapping the enabler around as a helpful wake up call.

Obviously, both are just as wrong and damaging, since they fail to consider human nature – that every individual is different and so is every relationship, regardless of common traits which make some of them comparable.

“Victim blaming”

Putting people down for being too credulous or hopeful is indeed a toxic attitude and those who routinely use other people’s mistakes to feel better about themselves are indeed pathetic. However, as with everything in life, extremes should always be avoided in order to preserve one’s sanity, especially if the person who is turning to such groups for help feels responsible as well for the relationship failing or for starting it in the first place.

Personally, I disagree with the idea of codependency, as people are so complex and evolve throughout life; they may be willing to accept abuse for some time and radically change later, without the need to brand themselves with lifelong personality issues. It has become a plight of our times to label ourselves with all sorts of abstract concepts which cannot be accurately identified and there are plenty shysters lurking to take advantage of our fear of being abnormal.

Then again I may be wrong and this approach may work for some people. It’s not for me to say what their approach should be and I find it totally ridiculous for them to be rejected by a peer support group as if they were “traitors to the cause”.

On Psychopath Free, one is expected to place all the blame on the person who was more aggressive and absolve oneself of it entirely. That cannot lead to realism or growth and can only help momentarily. Whilst not blaming others for their predicament is only fair, one should be given the chance to speak their mind about their own, otherwise support becomes a travesty.

Also, this article is great food for thought regarding one-sided views.

“Tough love”

Whereas persisting in a victim mentality doesn’t do people any favours, being bullied by overconfident (anonymous) “advisers” is just as toxic. This is known to happen especially on Lisa E Scott’s forum, not so much by the founder herself but by the two people who run the site, as seen here in numerous testimonies as well as on complaints.com.

You can read more about similar forums here and here.

A mixture of both

Another aspect I find odd is the refusal of Psychopath Free and The Path Forward alike to support those who cannot break away from the relationship in question (sometimes it’s simply impossible due to living arrangements, children etc., and other times members are understandably confused). These people are so self-righteous they reject anyone who deviates from the  sacred “procedure” they have established.

Of course, it becomes really twisted when they alternate the two approaches; Psychopath Free probably coined the unlikely combination. First they reassure the member to the back of beyond it was not their fault for persisting in the relationship and label those who accused them of being weak as cruel and superficial.

However, if that person refuses or fails to permanently break contact, they are swiftly booted out the back door. Hence someone can be considered normal while rejecting others’ warnings for years, but if God forbid, they do not apply the advice given on PF right away, they must be hopeless. Staff members will treat them with arrogance and disdain, as if they had failed to embrace the ultimate answer, the ultimate revelation. Beyond ridiculous, as usual.

While these two paths might keep a person above water for a while, in the long run they will lead to anything but sanity.

Psycho Buster Brigade

On several forums in the vein of Psychopath Free, the safety issue is just a pretext to achieve complete dominance over forum members. What they really seem to want is wilful players in their Psycho Buster Brigade game, which must, by definition, include active villains they can demonstrate their efficiency on. Your example can serve as psychological fodder for those who see a threat in everything that moves; they can fortify the idea their group is surrounded by enemies and infiltrators who must be dealt with promptly.

It’s a bit like saying “The world outside of this group is hostile and dangerous; that’s why we have to build this lovely compound on the hill.”

You realise very quickly you are in an “us” vs “them” scenario, where two
“armies” collide and you must choose the side of their heroic volunteers or be cast out like a Gollum figure slithering restlessly at the gates of their sanctuary.

As you notice from their site description, they think their amazing moderation is guaranteed to keep psychopaths out – meaning they are actively looking for signs of psychopathy among members. Sometimes they get carried away and identify one of their own, hence the saga with one of their moderators, who was apparently subjected to a vicious public attack. Which is what they do when you find yourself on the wrong side of them.

Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds ? Many have; it’s a cult film, no pun intended. Actually, I did get a mental glimpse of Lila Green when I read the comment denouncing “trolls” and “trouble makers” with such pedantic certainty,  in response to articulate descriptions of the PF  forum experience.

“Triggering”

Within days,  PF members will notice they are very exclusive about what can be discussed there; one cannot diverge a quarter of an inch from their fixed array of sub-themes and approaches, even if the new subject suits the general discussion.

On more than one occasion, members wishing to discuss an original idea have been abruptly told off on the grounds of their posts being “triggering” to others. Which makes no sense since their entire forum qualifies as “triggering” material; most of it is a venting space where people reminisce about the worst times of their lives. In spite of that, they find an abstract new idea threatening. In my view, this is a thought-stopping technique to ward off any originality; it has been absurdly applied in various contexts, in Pavlovian fashion.

Basically, you are only allowed to post in the following lines:

  • Responding in agreement to the articles they provide.
  • Posting personal stories and examples adding to the same ideas.
  • Opening threads which solicit these stories based on a common element.
  • Opening threads which criticise or mock presumed psychopaths or certain traits they have.
  • Opening threads about famous psychopaths or famous people you suspect are that way.
  • Chatting about trivialities.
  • Chatting about ways to improve your spirituality, health and the likes.

According to their Decalogue, former members and my own experience, it is forbidden to:

  • Talk about co-dependency. If you mention you suspect you are co-dependent, without placing that label on others or involving them in any way, you are almost immediately banned. They are so vigilant they’ll ban you for offending yourself!
  • Come up with a new approach to healing from an abusive relationship.
  • Come up with a different explanation for the behaviours discussed there, other than personality disorders.
  • Insist on quoting other authors on this subject as opposed to the site admin, whose quotes can be seen all over the forum.
  • Have a jovial attitude, especially if you are a heterosexual male. You are perceived as flirting with female members.
  • Not toe the party line in cutting all contact with the presumed psychopath in your life, however difficult that may be logistically. Believe it or not, other members will report you for it and you will be banned or publicly admonished and asked to leave.
  • Not toe the party line in cutting contact with that person’s family and entourage. You must perceive them all as a threat to you and yours and avoid them, even when children are involved that they have the right to see.
  • Question the validity of any points made by staff in their material.
  • Question any action taken by staff and defend other members they have targeted.
  • Fail to report your every encounter with the so-called psychopath accurately; they even have a “no contact” counter you should update regularly. If you seem to be in trouble at some point and fail to inform them of the outcome, you will be admonished as if you were a minor.
  • Express any doubt that a suspected psychopath actually is that way.
  • Defend the actions of someone who is accused of being a psychopath; you will be seen as a traitor to the cause, Westboro-style.
  • Post too much out of an excess of enthusiasm, even if you stay on the safe side of the rules. You will be told you are “flooding”.
  • See human interaction as a continuous grey area, as opposed to black and white.
  • Refer to material put out there by self-diagnosed psychopaths, narcissists etc.

Beside the “no contact counter”, which must accurately report what you do in your private life – as opposed to simply talking to members and staff – is a list of moods you can choose from. You may find it entertaining to select yours, without knowing how seriously they are trying to assess every member’s emotional state, tone, attitude etc, with the actual impression of being able to.

On more than one occasion members were told they didn’t seem to be suffering enough, or seemed too happy after being victimised. These sobering statements should pull the veil off anyone’s eyes, no matter how naive they normally are.

Free Thinkers, Inquisitive People and Other Trolls

One could argue that if left to evolve naturally, the discussions on many recovery forums could be beneficial, or at least provide some cathartic value for a short while. Also, it is obvious that staff involvement is sometimes needed to halt genuine trolls, who leave no doubt regarding their intentions.

Of course, since you stumbled upon this blog, you probably know a rational approach will never apply to today’s most popular forums of this type. Let’s take Psychopath Free for example.

There, safety is paramount, given that members are egged on to report each other on suspicions and feelings, instead of actual rule infringements. One is never sure who staff members are meant to guard them against – real or imagined – but rest assured that they are in position day and night. Here’s an encouraging message from the site admin:

People with ulterior motives & agendas can be hard to spot, but there are signs – for example, they do not seem to actually care about the well-being of other members, and instead come across as a bit fake, self-centered, and emotionally disconnected. You will notice EVERY topic always comes back to a lengthy, exhausting story about “My P”, even if the topic has nothing to do with them.

Trust your gut, always. Most of us already learned this lesson the hard way.

And use the report button! There’s one at the bottom of every PM, as well as posts (the little triangle with !). It’s SO fast & easy, and automatically shoots an email to every Admin so we can review it immediately, even if we are not on PF (which is more common for me now that I’m at work). There is absolutely zero penalty or grudge for a false red flag. It takes two seconds to review them, and I would rather get 10 in a day than 0. Reports are GOOD. We do our best to keep up, but with 20,000+ posts, we need to rely on our your intuition as well.

Which reminds me I forgot to call the police about the person who stopped in front of my garden and smiled for a fraction of a second; my gut feeling tells me she was going to steal my begonias. 🙂 Off the top of my head, this video hilariously depicts the paranoia some have about running into “psychos”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNwhaXLvkdU

Seriously, the above quote is beyond ridiculous and irresponsible from someone who plays the affectionate brother, if not the pretend therapist, to thousands of vulnerable people.

If those who focus on their story too much are exhausting, here’s an idea: maybe they should write a book about it and promote it as a study on psychopathy, like he did. They could then repeat each aspect a hundred times without becoming tiresome – and they might make a few quid as well.

So what exactly does it take to become a troll on Psychopath Free, aside from thought crimes, selfishness and suspiciously little emotion? Here is a more rigorous guide:

”As this site grows to traffic in the millions, it is only natural that trolls start joining us every now and then. Please be on the lookout for behavior such as:

  • Inflammatory comments
  • Condesceding attitude
  • Accusing anyone who disagrees with them of “censorship” or being unable to handle criticism
  • Sharing an apologist viewpoint of psychopaths (victim blaming, arguing that psychopaths are themselves victims)
  • Mocking others for (rightfully) being offended by their BS
  • Professing to have higher knowledge than others
  • Frequently the center of arguments and flame wars in threads
  • Hijacking topics with comments that have nothing to do with the original post
  • Accusing you of being “afraid of a fight”
  • Bossing others around. That know-it-all attitude is not allowed here.”

It’s funny how many of these lines describe his behaviour and that of his acolytes/ sycophants. Perhaps this blog should have been named Sycophant Free instead; it’s amazing how so many can read these arrogant statements, know they are subject to them and still not call him out on it.

Isn’t accusing someone of flirting or having a hidden agenda (without any proof) inflammatory?

Isn’t trying to guess someone’s thoughts and emotions, or lack thereof, condescending?

Don’t they claim to have the single viable approach to healing, aka “higher knowledge than others” and refuse to deviate from it one quarter of an inch, to the point of considering themselves above all criticism?

Don’t they label people in all sorts of ways for “rightfully being offended” by their BS suspicions and accusations?

Don’t they aim to boss others around to a ridiculous degree, as in  leave your partner right away or we’ll kick you out of this community, in the vein of the Exclusive Brethren?

This guideline is one of the finest examples of hypocrisy and projection I’ve seen on the internet so far (and the internet is a big place).

Besides trolls of the general denomination, there are “concern trolls”, “meddlers” and “troublemakers”. And of course, psychopaths. The rhetoric of all these categories is known as “psychobabble” and “word salad” (regardless of how coherent, logical or polite it may be). Here’s a further briefing by a moderator:

The really obvious psychopaths come on here and proclaim their pathology in the very first post and wear it like a badge, so that makes our job easy. But then there are the very covert, clever ones, who write prolifically, and infiltrate the forum as a regular member. They not only make ten people believe them, but actually make lots of friends and gain a “fan-club” and following of sorts. They come here looking for new supply because there is a whole pool of vulnerable people on recovery forums. This is also why we warn people about safety and befriending other people they don’t know when they’re fresh out of the D&D.

And here’s another cold, hard truth. If 4-6% of the general population is made up of psychopaths, what makes you think those statistics don’t apply everywhere? You can pretty much figure that 4-6% of the members are potential psychopaths too. And your friends list on Facebook? Same thing. People in your office building, a party, any gathering of any kind. Figure on 4-6% being psychopaths.

For all an outsider knows, they are banning people for the very fact that they are gaining a following of sorts with their ideas. Intelligent and creative people are usually charismatic and have a certain magnetism, whereas their forum policy is to quell any originality and put everyone in their designated place. The second paragraph is a push towards paranoia, as if anyone could know the repartition of psychopaths on this planet (the percentage being a mere approximation anyway) , in order to conclude there are some in every building and at every party. A person who lives by this creed will actually look for them in every social situation and that is plain sad. No wonder they end up seeing them everywhere.

From the same page:

You can help us catch the trolls! We really appreciate it when you report suspicious posts via the triangle icon and/or share your concerns privately with us via the Contact the Team link. However, please leave confrontations to us! Arguing with or otherwise engaging someone you suspect to be a troll will only make the situation worse. As Peace wrote, DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

Isn’t it downright awful for someone to communicate straightforwardly (without deception, sarcasm or any intent of manipulation) and be met by other adults with a thought-stopping do not feed the trolls attitude?  I can almost hear the sheep at Orwell’s Animal Farm going ”Four legs good, two legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!”...

This is what human interaction is reduced to over there. Inane finger pointing, labelling and all communication being regulated by staff, down to the last detail.

To think of it, it’s just sad.

Lifeline or Mental Trap: Can You Afford to Gamble?

We spend our lives hoping to encounter at least a handful of people who truly understand us in an age of fast-paced living, of the self-absorbed who treat us superficially, dismiss our feelings and ignore us when we are emotionally frail. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find our ideal community with just a few clicks? If we could find acceptance, reciprocity and unconditional support, as well as valuable guidance for our social problems? A meme of ancestral wisdom says that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

We find these communities when our need for support is so pressing that we often jump right in, taking them at face value and sharing our intimacy. They often seem to have answers to our deepest problems; they guide us in such a firm manner we assume they must know better.  We take their advice, making radical decisions about our relationships  – to later realise their knowledge was mere improvisation, their moral high ground was hypocritical and their empathy non-existent.

As  a disclaimer, this is solely my opinion, as a person who has sought comfort in online advice for various emotional and motivational issues. It is based on careful observation, honest introspection and the similar experiences of others. Also, I am not arguing there aren’t genuine communities based on abuse recovery, run by professional and empathetic people.

My focus is on the following aspects which come with forming part of  recovery groups run by wannabe life coaches for people who believe to be targets of disordered individuals (I’m trying to word this carefully).

  • A very limiting paradigm;
  • Black and white thinking;
  • A distraction from introspection;
  • The danger of a hysterical and paranoid approach towards others;
  • Toxic group dynamics echoing a cult atmosphere;
  • Replacing an abuser’s mental hold with that of the group;
  • Playing a part in other people’s game of status and recognition;
  • Suppressing one’s critical thinking to fit in;
  • Radical decisions one might regret;
  • Additional damage after putting one’s trust and privacy into the hands of the wrong people;
  • Ad hominem attacks from staff members (it has been known to happen).

We live in a world where duplicity can be found at every turn; TV programs about scams abound and we are generally worried about others misrepresenting their intentions. We are now wary of spiritual imposters as well.

The moral fraud of self-help is still virgin territory to many of us; the huge membership of these forums appears to give them validity. However, many of the recorded members were there temporarily; many were banned or left when realising the group dynamics. And the handful of devotees who have lasted for years are not necessarily better off.

When analysing what goes on there with a calm and rational mind, as opposed to their initial vulnerability, one cannot help but see how twisted the whole scene is and how different from what staff members promote.

Quite a few people who registered on forums like Psychopath Free, The Path Forward and Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (which no longer exists but was very popular in its time) describe the same heavy atmosphere, which leads to the conclusion that toxic recovery forums are fairly common. They typically mention the following:

  • A loving, non-judgemental facade, hiding a web of gossip and paranoia;
  • Financial interests (by pushing books, CDs, counselling sessions etc which are of no use to the member and refusing to refund, in spite of a refund policy; by charging for  membership and banning people for no reason);
  • The false comfort of a support network, taken away in an instant through absurd bans;
  • Administrators and moderators on a power trip, displaying the same behaviour as the disordered people they demonise;
  • Emotional damage as a result of being duped into trusting the group.

Although these sites do not claim staff members are educated in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, recovery from trauma etc., the abundance of material they put out gives an air of authority to the untrained eye and lures people in, only to notice an establishment run by immature, petty tyrants hunting others down for imagined offences. They refer to themselves and each other as experts in these fields, even if they admit their lack of actual training. And for many new members that is enough.

The crux of the matter is one’s chance of mistaking a difficult relationship, especially during a break-up, with a full-blown encounter with a psychopath or narcissist, meant to – as they put it on PF – destroy them as a human being.

My observation is that cruel behaviour is often caused by selfishness and insensitivity, which may be temporary or repairable. There are limits of course and no one can doubt the dysfunctional nature of a person who, let’s say, tortures animals, habitually beats up their family members, stalks and threatens others etc. But many of the traits found in the ”spot the psycho” list are common among normal people, at least temporarily.

If one is trying to establish someone they know is disordered and they are steering towards confirmation, their brains will fish out the worst episodes in said relationship and will find the very instances which tick the boxes, even if there were few serious ones over a decade.

Yes, decent people are capable of rotten behaviour in certain circumstances. No one, if judged solely by their list of mistakes, would be seen in a positive light.

If you are steering in that direction, to start with, it is essential to make sure you are as objective as possible.

Being angry, in despair over the break-up, bitter, strongly disappointed etc will definitely influence your capacity to analyse matters. The same for being bored with the relationship, wanting something new  and seeking justification etc. The same with being depressed and the problems in your relationship being a marginal cause in your depression. Also, be extremely cautious if you are on psychotropics or a user of any substance which can influence you at a psychological or emotional level. Also, be extremely careful if there is any chance you might be sleep deprived or exhausted by an overly demanding lifestyle (that can result in other people’s mistakes or bad attitudes being blown out of proportion).

I honestly believe, and I am not alone by far, that true encounters with psychopaths are far more rare than these forums claim. They want you to see psychopaths around every corner and become dependant on their way of thinking, which is based on paranoia.

Members will encourage each other in that direction not only out of the mere assumption the person claiming to have met a psychopath is right in their assessment, but in order to validate their own experience as well. They will see matching aspects which may be coincidental and will apply the label. When they have spent enough time doing so, surely it becomes second nature to think they have enough expertise.

Here’s a thought regarding the similar experiences members share.

When you are baffled by the similarities and say ”well, he/she must be a psychopath, look at all these stories”, you are going by the assumption the people being discussed there are genuinely disordered. You can’t possibly know that. Hence there is a 50-50 chance you and the others are participating in mass hysteria.

The truth is most people registering on such sites are very confused. They are looking to others for answers regarding matters only they know well enough to issue such strong judgements on. 

Once they are part of such a community, they feel peer pressure just like in any other; it’s very strange but true – the need to not seem chaotic makes some of them persist on that path (that’s how many people end up staying in cults!). Adding to that the self-professed expertise of the group’s leaders. When a person starts experiencing doubts and is confident they have made a mistake by labelling another as disordered, instead of closing that window and deleting the bookmark, they turn to the group for advice, assuming they know best.

And the group will always say one thing, and one thing alone.

Sometimes it may be good advice, and sometimes it may be destructive. But rest assured it will not be custom tailored. On such forums, one size fits all. Which is why you want to avoid them.

Alternative Approaches to Dysfunctional Relationships

In an age of quasi-robotic living, quick answers and quick solutions, we tend to see human interaction as less complex than it actually is; we sometimes want to divide people into strict categories to love, hate, respect, trust, disdain or fear.

We no longer look inside ourselves or to those around us for ways to address our conflicts, but turn outwards instead, in search of the  ”mathemathics” of human relationships, thinking somehow others have decoded them and we can take a quick course which will give us the ability to always control who we relate to and how. That is an illusion; life is unpredictable and so are human beings.

Obviously, there are  situations when people can pose a real danger to others and the latter need to cut ties with them immediately; I am not referring to them here. Also, I choose not to refer to work-related conflicts as I have found people who needlessly pick on strangers (such as employees, co-workers, employers) are usually nasty and should be avoided.

Personal relationships are always tricky; there are issues such as a common history, a separate and joint evolution, high expectations, errors not yet forgiven, unvoiced frustrations, misinterpreted or undiscussed emotional signals and communicational problems.

There could be multiple explanations and solutions for personal conflicts, yet the tendency today is to seek the fastest one – my partner/ my ex/ my parent/ my sibling is a disordered individual and immediate separation is my only chance to live a normal life. Of course, sometimes that is the actual case. However, after watching the dynamics on recovery forums and my own tendency to ply myself to this stereotypical thinking, my observation is that some people do rush to this conclusion.

I am not arguing those who erroneously reach this conclusion are not actually hurting –  when one is overwhelmed by depression, anger, confusion or helplessness, they are an easily gained audience by know-it-all types with a quick answer and an agenda of personal validation. From first hand experience, people in such states are so mentally tired they embrace any plausible answer which gives them certainty and a direction in life.

Once they are in a group of this type they reinforce their approach and echo it to each other; it becomes their reality; then, as opposed to considering psychopathy an extreme societal aspect, they end up applying this label way too easily.

I remember when I became aware of the modern shift towards cultural Marxism; I was seeing marxists everywhere. In the same manner, people who are on the look out for psychopaths live by the ”warning signs” and when one or two seem to be present their guard goes up immediately. This leads to many ”false flags”, so to speak, and constricts the lives of those who live in a permanent fear of encountering disordered types.

In my opinion, extreme disorders such as psychopathy should be the last option to examine – certainly not the first.

Even if a relationship is toxic, it doesn’t automatically mean one person is at fault, and even when one person really is at fault it doesn’t automatically make them evil. And even if they are evil to some degree, it does not make them heartless, which is what psychopaths are.

When partners end up arguing all the time for no specific reason and become estranged from each other, the root could reside in issues such as:

  • Unvoiced frustrations;
  • Fears, phobias, complexes, obsessions and other aspects left undiscussed;
  • Other emotional baggage popping up unexpectedly;
  •  Past events, unrelated to the current relationship;
  •  Depression, hormonal imbalance, midlife crisis etc;
  •  Substance abuse;
  •  Stress, sleep deprivation etc, which affect one partner in particular;
  •  A spiritual crisis;
  • Major cultural and educational differences which start showing overtime;
  • Negative parental influences which start showing at some point etc.

These are common sense suggestions, to which I can add the overall difficulty of being a man or a woman in this day and age, when morals and gender roles are so blurred. People grow and change; it’s truly wonderful when they can put up with each other for many years.

Our culture is replete with the dysfunctional relationship and family motif, which is omnipresent on television, in films, in music etc. It is also replete with false ideals and expectations for partners to internalise, seeking to turn women into little more than blow-up dolls and men into emasculated metrosexuals who never grow up. Marketers seeking to sell the illusion of eternal youth know exactly what buttons to push and have a devastating impact on our psyche; we are brought up with messages which go against our instincts and often cause us to be confused.

When intense conflicts with family members are involved, aside from different values, repressed childhood memories and generational differences, there is a theory that spiritual issues may be involved as well, as described by Dr Kenneth McAll in his works, such as Healing The Family Tree.  Whilst this approach surely isn’t for everyone, it is generally accepted that family secrets have a strong impact when they finally emerge.

Past generations certainly had their flaws, yet also their strong points. One is a double-edged sword – the principle of protecting one’s intimacy and the public image of those we love. In past centuries and decades, the family was thought to be a fortress and people stuck together. Of course, that can be very damaging when real abuse is involved and no one should be shamed or emotionally blackmailed into covering it up – which is what happens in cults for instance.

But today we tend to use the internet as a venting platform for our grievances, regardless of their nature and seriousness (or lack thereof). As a person who has been guilty of this on occasion, I know that type of exposure, albeit anonymous, does draw a wedge between people, as well as guilt and embarrassment when realising the exaggerated reaction. Just as some people can be cruel jerks at times, others can be oversensitive and react too strongly to behaviour which would otherwise be annoying, yet not a matter of life and death.

A person can mislead themselves and those around them into demonising another without having to lie, by listing the shortcomings and mistakes of the latter. Logically, if we all made an honest list of our own defects, mistakes, wrong turns in life etc, hardly anyone would preserve a good image. Hence they can collectively draw a false conclusion based on true facts, if that makes any sense.

My stance is not of accusing those who lash out when they get too emotional, or who temporarily see a person in the wrong light; that would be hypocritical. We live in a messed up world where we no longer know what healthy living is, where we keep more contacts than we can sustain and have little time left for reflection. In my opinion, by constantly exposing our intimacy we harm ourselves and those around us. Again, I am not referring to actual abuse, which should be exposed and addressed.