We’ve interviewed clinicians, best-selling authors, and global experts on the top of narcissism, psychopathy, and sociopathology. It’s past time to share the history of survivors. Our next guest, for her own safety, agreed to be interviewed under her pseudonym to discuss her book, her advocacy, and her experiences. She is an author and survivor of abuse at the hands of her former husband. Her book has been praised by survivors and clinicians as an extremely open, honest, and detailed account of what life is like when married to a psychopath. Please welcome MrsXNomore to Mental Health News Radio.
Questions asked and answered on the show are listed below:
Why do you use a pseudonym for your book The Secret Life of Captain X: My Life with a Psychopath Pilot?
Many Psychopaths are extremely litigious. I found myself in litigation 3 times after our divorce. My ex husband, an airline pilot, had his attorney craft a clause in our final decree of divorce preventing me from discussing the facts of our divorce, continuing to control me, as psychopaths love to do. My attorney said this clause was common but I couldn’t be silenced. I was driven to share my story and bring about psychopath awareness. The events in my book are true but names, locations, dates, and some identifying factors have been changed to safeguard myself as well as others.
I want to add that I am NOT a clinician (although I feel like I have a psychology degree after I finally figured out what happened) but rather a psychopath victim and now, most importantly, a psychopath survivor. What is your understanding of psychopathy?
Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation says it best “Psychopathy is a personality disorder signified by a pattern of lying, exploitiveness, heedlessness, arrogance, sexual promiscuity, low self-control, and lack of empathy and remorse” Psychopathy is believed to be one of the most highly publicized yet most misunderstood of all mental illnesses. Because of the mass media and Hollywood’s misrepresentation of psychopaths, they are far too often depicted as criminals, distorting the public’s perception of these unstoppable, untreatable (and it is unfortunately untreatable) social predators present in our everyday lives. Most psychopaths are not criminals, but are socialized and living among us.
Psychopaths are found in all walks of life and in every country in the world. Researchers believe that as many as four percent of the world’s population could be psychopathic. Within this population of psychopaths there are three times as many male psychopaths as female psychopaths. These social predators are masters of deception, charming us while they wreak havoc in our lives, leaving us in a state of emotional and financial ruin. If you think back to people in your life, to someone who caused you trouble, you might have known a psychopath.
What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath?
This is VERY complicated! The experts are still working at it, meaning the American Psychiatric Association with their DSM-5; their bible, the book The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders still doesn’t even mention these two terms but puts them under an umbrella of anti social personality disorders. Many experts use the term psychopath over sociopath, since there is a way to measure degrees of psychopathy with the PCL-R, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a psychological tool developed by Dr. Robert Hare, to assess the presence and degree of psychopathy in individuals. I believe there is no such tool to assess sociopaths. It is important to note that psychopathy is a mixture of symptoms that often overlap with narcissistic and other antisocial personality disorders. In my research, I’ve noticed that certain countries use one term over the other. There is even a rumor that when the movie “Psycho” came out, professionals started using the term “sociopath” as not to confuse the term with a criminal person, because not all psychopaths or sociopaths are criminal. Now the term “Psychopath” is the norm. Many (or maybe most!) are socialized, sometimes referred to as pro-social psychopaths. Both of the two best books on the topic use the two different terms.
What causes psychopathy?
From what I’ve read the brain of a psychopath doesn’t function in a normal manner. Dr. James H. Fallon of the University of California, Irvine uses Post Emission Tomography Imaging (PET scans) while Dr.Kent Kiehl of the University of New Mexico uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology to detect differences in the brains of psychopaths compared to non-psychopathic individuals. Their studies show psychopaths have structural abnormalities not found in normal people. Some researchers believe psychopaths have a malfunctioning or underdeveloped amygdala, a structure in the brain that processes emotions. Because psychopaths don’t process emotions normally, they don’t understand the feelings of others and feel no empathy and no remorse. Psychopaths do understand the difference between right and wrong, but they just don’t care. They have no concerns about the consequences of their actions. They have no moral compass, no conscience. Psychopaths are pathological liars with no stress reaction, so they are often able to pass lie detector tests. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used in the United States and, to varying degrees around the world to classify mental disorders. The current version of the manual, the DSM-5, doesn’t even mention psychopaths in its index, but rather clumps psychopathy, sociopathy, and dissocial personality disorder under an umbrella term; Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).This is confusing because the wording of the term antisocial in itself suggests that people with these disorders do not interact well with others. Psychopaths do interact with people. The DSM states that an individual with antisocial personality disorder may exhibit the superficial charm of a psychopath. Again this is confusing and it’s partly because of this confusion that there is much disagreement about the way the American Psychiatric Association handles the issue of psychopathy.
What were the traits that attracted you to your ex husband Captain X?
Tell us a bit about your story, I was given his phone number by a flight attendant in my apartment complex. I had just moved and knew hardly anyone. I also had trouble getting a job. When I phoned him he sounded SO charming. The first thing most victims of psychopaths say is that their psychopath was so charming! We seemed to have so much in common but in reality I found out this is called “Mirroring.” If I said I wanted to climb a mountain, he would say “Me too!” He treated me like a princess, buying me jewelry and other gifts and treating me to expensive dinners soon after meeting me. Later I found out this is called LOVE BOMBING. Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. This is a common practice with psychopaths so I urge your listeners to SLOW DOWN in relationships. Before I knew it I was engaged. Psychopaths are quick to marry. Years passed I went through infertility and an adoption, both stressful, but I never seemed to get the emotional support or empathy from him. Although he had a great profession, he always said “money was tight.” He controlled our finances and I trusted him completely. Then the emotional abuse and some physical abuse escalated except I was in denial. Twenty-two years into the marriage I discovered he had mishandled our finances. We were in serious debt. I was furious. All this time his parents enabled him, giving him money so I had no idea where the money went. Then I endured 3 major surgeries in 14 months with NO empathy whatsoever from him. It was hell! Two months later he handed me divorce papers and I hadn’t a clue! By this time I was so confused and had lost all my self esteem. Days later when he was on a trip I found out he was spending the family money on prostitutes. Eventually I found out he did this our entire 22 year marriage! When I confronted him, he grabbed my 17 year old daughter (who by now he had convince I was mentally ill) and took her from me. I didn’t know it at the time but this is called PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome. I didn’t hear from my daughter for 9 months after that. The pain was unbearable and I had nowhere to turn. I eventually moved out of our house to a small apartment and spent every waking minute trying to uncover what had happened to me. One day I was reading a true crime book A Dance with the Devil by Barbara Bentley and there it was, the word “psychopath.” Bentley’s book led me to Dr. Robert Hare’s book, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. After reading Dr. Hare’s book I was positive Captain X was a psychopath.
Although I was happy to find an answer to my puzzling life, I was also frightened of him. After receiving my divorce settlement, I moved out of the country to be away from him. I also hired a Parental Alienation Expert to get advice on how to stay in my daughter’s life. Then I spent 31/2 years writing my book. It was not cathartic. It was extremely difficult but the letters I get from readers put me in tears. People are so happy to hear that they are not alone.
What advice did the Parental Alienation Expert give you?
After listening to my story, she said to write a one page upbeat weekly email to my daughter, filling her in on my life and asking her about her life. She told me not to expect an answer but do it anyhow, no matter what. I chose the same day and time of the week and heard nothing for years. I often included photos of my new surroundings and friends, but most importantly I told her I loved her each and every time and that I would be there for her whenever she needed me. I often sent her photos of us together during her childhood. On Halloween I sent photos of her in costumes through the years. Of course I sent her birthday and holiday gifts. I do get emotional talking about this, but she is now 23 and on her own. We have come a long way and do see each other a few times a year and talk on the phone or Skype. It’s still two steps forward, one step backward. When I am with her I try to “stay in the present” and never talk about her father. Unfortunately she has no idea about what he did. If she ever asks I am prepared to gently tell her the truth. By the way, she said she loved the photos I sent her even though she never wrote back. You must NEVER give up on a child taken from you by a psychopath!
What are you doing now?
I have had no contact with my psychopath ex for almost 5 ½ years now. I have no desire to see him and oddly enough I feel sorry for his new wife. I know she must be so lonely and confused in her marriage with him.
I spend a lot of my time spreading the word about psychopath awareness. When asked about psychopaths, people often think of Ted Bundy! Most psychopaths are not criminal but Psychopaths are found in all professions, and in positions where they can wield power. Your doctor, lawyer, psychiatrist, professor, police officer, politician, your charitable organization leader, or your pilot may be a psychopath. Psychopaths can be found in the workplace as well as in the religious community. Extreme cases of “spiritual psychopaths” include Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple known for the 1978 mass suicide of 914 of its members in Jonestown, Guyana, and David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect who, in1993, led many to death under his spiritual guidance. Sadly, charismatic socialized psychopaths exist in the religious community where they destroy their victim’s core beliefs, fleece them of their money, and have been known to sexually abuse young children.
Psychopaths use their social skills and circumstances to construct a facade of normalcy, placing themselves in positions of influence—not for their service, but rather for the power. People find them exciting and dynamic, not realizing that they are climbing up in leadership in an effort to control and destroy people below. Children exhibit psychopathic traits, but until they reach the age of 18, when their brains are fully developed, they can only be considered to have a conduct disorder. Psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy are said to become even more adept at manipulation. Some researchers believe that therapy actually appears to teach We cannot fix these evil people. So far there is no cure or effective treatment for psychopaths. The best thing to do is to avoid them.
What do you suggest listeners do if they think they might be involved with a psychopath?
Read all you can to learn more about the topic. This is vital! I suggest Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert Hare, PhD and The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PhD. They are the two of the best books out there. Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak, PhD, and Robert Hare, PhD is a great book if you are working with one of these personality disordered people. You will see more resources listed in the back of my book. If you are being emotionally or physically abused PLEASE call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE – And finally, read my book. You are not alone!