Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mirroring and narcissistic, psychopathic love and war. Soul mate? Not so fast!

name of cartoon: "Psychopathic Mirroring"
image is © Lise Winne
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contact: LilacGroveGraphics (att)

Narcissists and Sociopaths use mirroring in order to draw people into relationships. They also use mirroring during arguments.

For the sake of convenience, I sometimes use the word "psychopath" to cover many Cluster B disorders, including the worst kinds of narcissists, sociopaths, malignant narcissists and individuals who plan elaborate cruel deeds directed at others.

In order to draw someone else into a relationship, the psychopath is looking for someone to endow him with narcissistic supply (i.e. to identify him as someone worthy of paying attention to). I thought the definition of narcissistic supply by Sam Vaknin (a writer from Isreal diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who wrote the book Malignant Self Love among others) best explained it:

To the narcissist his "achievements" can be imaginary, fictitious, or only apparent, as long as others believe in them. Appearances count more than substance, what matters is not the truth but its perception.

The opening to his book reveals why psychopaths might need to mirror others:

What is a personality disorder? When the personality is rigid to the point of being unable to change in reaction to changing circumstances - we say that it is disordered. Such a person takes behavioral, emotional, and cognitive cues exclusively from others. His inner world is, so to speak, vacated. His True Self is dilapidated and dysfunctional. Instead he has a tyrannical and delusional False Self. Such a person is incapable of loving and of living. He cannot love others because he cannot love himself. He loves his reflection, his surrogate self ...

... He feeds off other people, who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest - in a word, to assure him that he exists. Otherwise, the narcissist feels, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions ...

... NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the Narcissist. It infects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the Narcissist. In other words: it is contagious. It is my contention that Narcissism is the mental epidemic of the twentieth century, a plague to be fought by all means ...

Mirroring becomes the path to intimacy for the psychopath. I'll demonstrate using "PS" for "potential supply" and "Psycho" for "Psychopath".

PS: I love making pottery on the potter's wheel. If I can get through my job, that is what I find to be most enjoyable when I come home from work!

Psycho (with intense, smitten look): I love making pottery too! Pinch pots! Yes, I learned that at summer camp! But I'd love to learn the potter's wheel just to be close to you!

PS: Wow! That would be great! You're really interested in learning how to do this?

Psycho: Of course! When do we get started? Tomorrow?

PS: What about your interests. Tell me what interests you.

Psycho (looking uncomfortable): Why don't you tell me what interests you! I'd much rather see if we are compatible.

PS: Well, I like restaurants off the beaten path. Like Indian restaurants, Mexican food, Greek food. I'm not one for all-American fare. I like light meals, you know?

Psycho (reaching for her hand to hold): I'm exactly the same way.

As first meeting turns into weeks, the psychopath seems to want to spend all of his free time with you. It is like a whirlwind romance where he only has eyes for you. He'll probably call constantly, boasting to his friends about his "new love", telling you that all his other "loves" were nightmares and how sweet you are in comparison, how much different you are, how much better you are than all those others. He'll seem to have all the same interests and views that you do (politically, spiritually, emotionally, interests ...). He may cuddle up to you and say things like "a penny for your thoughts..." to gain more intimacy and knowledge about you. He'll want to know everything he can about you (he is a lot more interested in all of your deepest thoughts, feelings and desires -- and he seems intensely focused on you in a way that he doesn't exhibit towards others -- and in fact, he seems rarely distracted from you). He'll be concerned about every one of your little aches and pains, baby-ing you when you get sick, maybe have dinner ready for you when you get home. He may always want to sit close to you, perhaps a little too close, touching you and bringing you in for hugs and hand-holding, perhaps eat off the same plate, feed you, service you sexually. Indeed, psychopaths aren't reserved about touching (they want you to know that you have such a powerful effect on them). They may have their arms around you as much as possible (to melt your heart towards them).

In fact, many victims report that psychopaths seem so perfect at first, an amazing dream that has come true, someone they have been waiting for their entire lives, a soul mate. In fact, many psychopaths make the pronouncement that you are their soulmate within a very short period of time (whether within weeks of dating, or just after a few months).

And mirroring the other person is how they get you hooked in.    

According to this post, thinking you have found your soul mate is the first sign of a psychopath.

Some of the other signs are posted on this blog post (but for the sake of brevity, some signs include any kind of boasting where they paint themselves as better than others, where everything that has gone wrong in their other relationships is the other person's fault, where they want something from you that will make another person jealous ... there are many others, but that is a start).   

Many psychopaths have experience mirroring with charm and intense gazes, and they see that it works wonders for them, so they use it again and again on different victims. It is the way to make the biggest impact on other people's lives: everyone they draw in will probably believe in their soulmate pronouncements.

It is a lot of work for them initially, but the point is to draw you in enough so that they can begin to get what they are after through their association with you.

But they also want to make an impact in other ways too. Most psychopaths draw you into being their soulmate to exploit you for something. Perhaps they want your money, or status, or for you to be their slave and helper ... there is always some ulterior motive other than being in the relationship with you because they enjoy your company and value your views, thoughts, emotions, experiences, personality, interests, opinions, autonomy, decisions, relatives, friends, social circle, cultural background and work ethic.

In fact, most psychopaths will very slowly and carefully begin to show you that they don't value any of these parts of you, and they will try to strip you of it all, little by little, and piece by piece, over time. They do it first through giving advice, perhaps lecturing you a little, putting on some pressure here and there, pointing out where you might be indebted to them. They might infer every now and then that you don't know what you are doing, hoping that you will lean on them for advice. This may eventually turn into an ultimatum or two, if they think they can get away with it, if they think you are hooked into them enough. They are constantly testing the waters to see what they can strip you of, how much they can intimidate you, how much they can use you.

What ends up happening in the end is that you have no voice in matters which concern you. In all abusive relationships, victims have very little voice, or no voice. They begin to be reprimanded for having a voice (i.e. "that's stupid", "that doesn't make sense", "we aren't doing it that way; we're only doing it this way", "I don't care what you think", "I'm not going to listen to this" -- and so on). They start to talk to you as though you are a child who needs to learn lessons or has to be scolded. They might lean into you to give you a lecture, interrupt you, shout over you or point a finger at you as though you should be ashamed of yourself. They make it known they will intimidate and humiliate if they don't get their way. Victims quickly understand that the relationship doesn't exist to serve both people's needs; it only exists to serve one person's needs.

When victims discover they are being groomed to accept blame, abuse, threats and being controlled, the abuser can actually feel betrayed by the victim's discovery. They know that the person will not make good narcissistic supply, because they cannot be fooled any more and they aren't acting like a marionette. So either the perpetrator discards the victim right away, or they try for guilt trips, attacks, guilt-shifting, diversion and confusing the issues before resorting to a discard.

How do abusers do this? they mirror here too. Almost all abusers, when confronted, will blame instead of talk reasonably about issues. Abusers are especially known for blame-shifting, a kind of mirroring, at least in terms of duplicating the confrontation aspect. Everything the abuser is accused of, rather than thinking about it and trying to come up with a resolution, he counters it in some way, trying to thrust "fault" onto the victim. Abusers often accuse victims of what they are guilty of.

Eventually the relationship will turn into a kind of arrangement where the psychopath will expect his other half  to have the same thoughts, agendas, motivations, feelings, etc, that he has. Indeed, the more the partner can mirror the psychopath, the more happy the psychopath will be. However, even here the mirror can't be a perfect replica, and any deviation is seen as a flaw (and flaws by nature, will mean that to the psychopath that he is the superior being, and that therefor you must bend to his will, a thought process that also is too common among suicide bombers and other kinds of terrorists).

According to this post in The New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope:

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you eventually discover you are there to revolve around them and to serve them. You can only imagine the shock that happens for people when they get seduced into something they think is the best thing that ever happened to them and it turns into this kind of relationship ...

... If you divorce a narcissist, it’s not going to be a normal divorce because if you leave the narcissist, they never get over it. They seek revenge, and the court system is an incredibly great platform for a narcissist. That’s where they can just continue the battle with the partner and continue to seek revenge, and that’s what happens.

The PBS mini series The Widower follows real-life sociopath/psychopath and murderer Malcolm Webster, which I found to be particularly accurate in terms of how narcissists and psychopaths act in terms of charm, presenting a false face with false intentions, control, abusing people who don't go along with them, how they manipulate people and how they try to destroy people who either fight against being dominated and abused, or otherwise challenge them or show autonomy.

The series portrays Malcolm Webster as a charming but ultra controlling manipulator who uses, and then punishes women who are doing, saying or thinking anything he deems to be independent of his control. He meets most of these women in the medical field, a field which is brimming with empathy-style personalitiesones who psychopaths and narcissists love to target.

In all cases, he tries to convince the women that he found his ideal soul mate in them. He particularly moves in on women who have money. As his real-life wife, Felicity Drumm, stated in this Wikipedia article, he was "very extroverted, likable, funny, amusing person to be around, he was good company." She tells her story, including how plausible he sounded in his explanations, including his need to be on her bank account book, and why she was sleeping too much (he was drugging her) in this UK Daily Mail article here. His third major woman, Simone Banajaree, stated that Malcolm Webster ..."was so caring, so attentive, he would open the car door for me, make sure that perhaps dinner was ready when I came home from work. You couldn't have wished for a better person ... 'A real charmer' would sum him up very well. But he seemed an honest kind of guy as well."

Like a lot of victims who have a hard time trusting and moving beyond the experience of being betrayed, Simone Banarjee, also did too (read here).

Read an interview with all of the major people who were taken in by him, here.

When these women didn't agree to all of Malcolm Webster's agendas and accept him as the authority figure of their lives, they were often drugged, and their murders planned.

The difference between a sociopath and a narcissist is that a sociopath can break the law and kill, but not always, and a narcissist will do everything he can to hurt and destroy a person without breaking the law, but not always. Sociopaths are capable of not inflicting physical damage or killing especially if they are getting closed in by law enforcement, and narcissists are capable of killing especially in domestic violence situations-gone-wrong.

As has been stated, psychopaths operate under the premise that their "victims" confer and agree with them at all times. They charm and sweet-talk victims. They demand complete loyalty, help and submissiveness, often without giving it in return. They bend the truth to garner attention, sympathy, accolades or lovers. They experiment manipulations and they continually test their victims for loyalty. But they are hypocrites when it comes to them being loyal: they always seem to have another supply/victim ready in case things don't work out with their present victim. They are mostly incapable of sharing the power and decisions with others. They idealize, devalue and discard victims, though narcissists will generally do it through rejection, silent treatments, shunning or mobbing, and sociopaths will generally do it through threats, false imprisonment and harassment, and sometimes through physical injury, destroying property, drugging, staged accidents and/or murder. They pursue victims by putting their victims on pedestals ("I love you more than anyone I have ever met ... you're better than ---") or convincing them that they are a soul mate (they mirror the other person's likes, dislikes, interests, style, concerns and act like the perfect lady or perfect gentleman to gain access). They are intensely ardent and pile on the flattery. The mirroring is their way of establishing an intense connection (while working on getting the victim reliant, dependent, hopelessly in love and loyal to them, while also continually working at getting victims to accept guilt and punishment if the victim should ever dare to act or think autonomously).

As has been stated before, psychopaths can seem like ideal lovers, parents or siblings, and they can be charming, outgoing and more affectionate than other people. They love bomb everyone who they want to influence. They can also sound more plausible than their victims because they are expert liars. They also know how to put on the tears and play the victim or casualty of a tragedy to garner sympathy.

For instance, narcissistic mothers are notorious for trying to garner sympathy for having an insane child (a child that behind closed doors she is actually abusing, a child that "acts crazy" only because the child has PTSD from the abuse). Narcissistic lovers might try to garner sympathy for having a clumsy ill spouse (but behind closed doors that spouse is actually being beaten and is ill from the stress of walking on eggshells). So there is this dark side to psychopaths who charm others: they are ultimately takers, they seek to get something out of a relationship with their victims whether that be money, possessions, service, sympathy or notoriety. Getting something out of someone else always means a lot more to them than the relationship itself.

Once they are exposed as takers, liars and shams, they feel a need to devalue their victims in order to preserve themselves so that they can move on to the next supply/victim they have idealized in their minds. While they can sometimes move on with ease and plausibility, eventually their deceptions and using others can catch up to them. While they think they are careful in planning evil deeds, they often count on a premise: that their victims won't want to live without them (for narcissists) or that their victims will be too afraid to challenge them (for sociopaths). Either way, they are not as good at covering their tracks as they think they are. Again, reference the mini series The Widower to see how police eventually brought Webster to justice.

Lying becomes so second nature to narcissists and sociopaths that they use it in too many situations, too often. Malcolm Webster pretended he had leukemia, something he could easily get caught at, and which made little sense in terms of getting the girl. These personality disordered types eventually get caught by the many, instead of by the few, leaving behind too many victims, with too many cover-ups and over-explanations for them not to fall under notice.

When challenged by a victim as to why they acted so cruelly, they will mirror there too (projection). If they rejected you, they will often say, "No, you rejected me!" and list all of the times the victim got called into work, or decided to play golf with a friend, or anything that can be construed as rejection. If they stole something from you, they will say something like, "We know you are the real thief in this relationship." If they beat you up, they have been known to inflict bruises upon themselves and call the cops to confuse law enforcement as to who the real victim is. If you ask them not to bring up certain subjects, they will want the same. Mirroring in this way is meant to confuse authorities, but also to confuse victims (ultimately it is a form of gaslighting). It is their way of trying to get away with abuse, to get the authorities off their tail, and to get their victims compliant, apologizing to them. They also hope and even demand that their victims owe them something for being so disloyal, for not going along with the agenda of being abused and tortured.

Mirroring/projection is typical of school bullies too. As a teacher and mandated reporter, I am required to report all situations where someone is being hurt, even if it is difficult to tell who the real victim is. All abusers have immature mentalities when it comes to feeling entitled to hurt someone else. "He hit me first!" "No he hit me first!" "I told him to leave me alone and he won't leave me alone!" "I tell him to leave me alone all the time! He always comes around! He wants to join my group, but I tell him we don't like him!" And so on. Mirroring/projection doesn't end just because a person is 60 or 80; the psychopath probably learned as a child and they continue to use it -- unless they have become one of the enlightened few (unlikely).

Why do narcissists mirror?

There are many theories.

One has to do with "the lost self." Narcissism passes down through the generations, so narcissist parent terrorized the child, then that child became narcissist 2 who terrorizes their children, and so on, and so forth ...

As a child, in order to survive abuse, the budding narcissist had to sublimate his real self in order to please his narcissistic parent. This is why narcissists are so inept at self reflection, because they don't know who they are. They only know who they are by a role they were taught to play by their disordered parent. They were often expected to be perfect, and to perfectly execute demands put upon them. If the children weren't acting as the parent required all of the time, they would either be humiliated or punished. Many of these kinds of children wore themselves out trying please a parent who was impossible to please. They wanted to receive the kind of love and caring they saw in normal families, only to be spurned, chastened, degraded, given the silent treatment for long periods and unjustly disciplined.

They were constantly shamed if they didn't do what their parents wanted, which included taking on an identity their parents wanted them to have. Shame became an intolerable emotion for them, because it usually came in tandem with severe reprimanding and penalty, perhaps snubbing, disdain and extreme forms of isolation unless the child behaved the way the parent deemed acceptable. So narcissists do anything they can to avoid feeling shame. This is why they can't take criticism and why they go on the attack if they feel they might be criticized: attacking is a way to slough off any shame. It is like a game to them: when feeling attacked or shamed, attack back and try put the shame on the other person instead, a disgusting, neanderthal reaction, but one that was learned in childhood.

The sibling relationships were probably dysfunctional as well. When the parent was terrorizing sibling 1, sibling 1 pointed the finger at sibling 2 to avoid being abused. All siblings were expected to serve their parent and compete for their parent's love instead of having a mutual caring respectful relationship with each other. Children were probably not allowed autonomous thoughts, interests and perspectives without constant interference and demand from the parent. So, in order to have an identity, they either adopted their parent's identity (mirroring: becoming another narcissist, usually a golden child role), or they became repulsed by what was being expected of them, having little respect for how their parent behaved, being willing to become rejected by the parent to pursue their own dreams and loving relationships, living separately or independently from the parent (black sheep, scapegoat), or they became sullenly quiet (lost child), or they tried to entertain their parent (comedian). These are also roles typical of alcoholic families.

If there is only one child in a narcissistic family, the child vacillates between being a scapegoat and a golden child, depending on the parent's whim. If there are two children, one becomes the golden child and the other a scapegoat.

When children mirror the narcissistic parent, the child, of course, becomes another narcissist. They take the identity of that narcissistic parent into all of their other relationships, and parent their own children in the same manner. The theory goes that the child became narcissistic to survive abuse by showing the parent that they (the child) was just like them. Narcissists like to be flattered, so what better way to do that than to adopt all of the parent's likes, dislikes, interests, thoughts on issues, perspectives, personality and agendas. The child does anything to avoid being looked at as a separate individual with separate perspectives, dreams and thoughts to avoid being punished and ostracized. The child is sometimes used to help the parent bully the other children into compliance. The child does anything to avoid feeling ashamed and humiliated, as they feel they would never recover from the trauma. The child does anything to avoid responsibility in his relationships, so fibs and points the finger at others, starting in the early home with his siblings.

The budding narcissist is actually the weakest of the children because he is not willing to take a stand against the parent's power and control agendas, to do what is right and moral, to search for his own perspectives and identity instead of the inferior subservient one his parent thrust on him, to treat others with integrity, justice and respect instead of adopting the parent's craven abusive plans and behaviors.

So, if you notice you are being mirrored by a potential sweetheart or someone who was mean to you in the past: watch out!! There is usually a narcissist or sociopath behind that mask! Take a lot of time (and I mean a lot!) to see if that person's interests are really theirs or if they've just adopted yours to get into your life to use you and abuse you. Look at their past relationships, see how their parents behave, see how they resolve conflicts before committing yourself.

In many folk songs, lovers who mirror and pretend to love are called "mockingbirds".
Here is one such song called "The Mockingbird's Voice" by Claire Lynch (from You Tube):

More on Abusers Blame Victims for What They are Guilty Of -- coming in a future post.

Further reading:

Mirroring -- from Wikipedia

How the Narcissist Projects His or Her Behavior Onto You 

How Bullying Works: Projection and Scapegoating 

Psychopathic and Bullying Projection

Adult Bullies -- in the workplace

How Narcissists Use Mirroring to Lure in Victims -- as sales technique

a general article about narcissism, why they are arrogant, abusive and mirror others

How to Spot a Psychopath -- from the Psychopaths and Love blog 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your exploration of this psychological issue.

    I will self-reflect, to take better care of myself and others.


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