A Crack in the Fragile Shell

Throughout my research over the past year+, I’ve learned a lot about psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists (P/S/N). I’ve written about it in posts like “Authentic vs. False Self,” as well as others sprinkled throughout the past 18 months.

These personality disorders seem to have one thing in common: no one can really agree on a clear definition. Sometimes psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably. Narcissism is classified as a type of psychopathy, but, according to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, the Narcissist is only half sociopath, devoid of empathy, but still possessing a conscience and able to feel emotions such as love, sadness, and guilt.

From what I’ve read, some experts believe a sociopath is born, not created. Others insist, like other personality disorders, the problem arose out of childhood trauma.

Nature or nurture. The clichéd dilemma.

A few weeks ago, I saw the new Burton film Dark Shadows, based (loosely) on the ’60/’70s TV series. Whereas many a fictional vampire has been portrayed with symptoms of P/S/N throughout literature, television, and film, in this movie, it is the witch who is the P/S/N in Dark Shadows. And the-genius-who-is-Tim-Burton portrays this character’s inner emptiness visually. She is literally a hollow shell. When injured, her husk cracks, displaying the void beneath.

For that is what they are: soulless.



Today I read on The Experience Project that there is no cure for sociopathy. Apparently, “Neurosurgeons have pinpointed the roots of what causes a true sociopath. Specifically, it is damage to regions of the cerebral cortex. This is the area of the brain that most neurosurgeons point to as the source of love, empathy, moral compass, compassion. Essentially, it’s the emotional center of the brain.”

Sociopathy can be tested with an MRI. It is incurable, but the condition can be managed with a set of rules, or a code a la Dexter.

Read this harrowing account from a sociopath.

With women, I’ve been admittedly cruel. Often, I find the sweetest ones, the ones looking for love and fairy-tales. Girls that won’t sleep with a man until she is truly ‘in love’ with them, those are the ones I go for. I’m not into the **** type, (not that I won’t use one on a lonely night.) I give them everything they dream about until they are convinced we are going to get married and grow old together. After we finally ‘make love,’ I lose interest and fall off their grid. I have received emails and calls for months on end from hurt and devastated women. Part of me likes knowing how much my absences hurts them.

It seems that Psychopathy, and especially Narcissism, is created. Perhaps that’s the difference? I’m still researching it.

How are Narcissists created?

Narcissism is almost entirely about gaining control over others, as is codependent behavior. Narcissistic behavior is most probably a reaction to an adolescence completely dominated by a narcissistic and/or codependent parent (or parents), controlled in all aspects of his young adult life, in a period when he needed to be allowed to develop control over his own life. Healthy parenting involves reprimanding their children so that they know where the boundaries lie, whereas narcissistic parenting involves the parent(s) establishing complete emotional control over their offspring.

The narcissist lives in fear of losing control. He sees other people in his environment – at home, at work, friends, relatives and neighbors – as extensions to himself. He sees himself at the center of the world, the controller, an idol to be adored and admired; in his mind this makes it acceptable for him to abuse others – he continually trys to rearrange the ‘significant others’ in his life to look towards him, and admire him. (Source)

Often referred to as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the narcissist excels at creating a very believable , charming and compassionately loving mask. It is only a matter of time, however, before you see his teeth, and by then it’s usually too late. He has taken a huge bite out of your heart, if you’re lucky, and your soul, if you’re not. This wolf seeks only to consume and degrade others to try and elevate himself. As the incubus or a vampire in literature, he feeds upon his target in an attempt to fill the black hole gaping inside them, but it can never be filled. So he sucks them dry, leaving them used and forgotten, and moves onto the next victim.

They seem like the perfect boyfriend, and in the beginning, they are attentive, thoughtful, generous, and kind. You become enamored and are swept off your feet. Although you may hear murmurings from friends or family that he seems “too nice” or that they just “have a hunch about him,” you brush aside their comments. You only have eyes for him, and in those eyes, he’s “the one.”

The relationship moves quickly, and he makes you feel chosen and special, as if the secrets he shares are only between you two. He seeks your sympathy, telling you woes about his hard life and the many people who have taken advantage of or hurt him. He might even speak disparagingly about his “crazy” ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, and you swallow the one-sided character assassination without question…

The secret he hides from everyone is his cruelty and coldness, which eventually transforms from subtle to overt psychological, verbal, and physical abuse…He’s no longer kind but arrogant, and he’s never, ever wrong. Our narcissist has no empathy or time for you or the children anymore, preferring instead to live a moody life of self-imposed exile succumbing to addictions such as work, alcohol, drugs, or affairs…

The wolf only cares about one thing in his relationship with you, and it is winning. He will do everything in his power to destroy you in the process, to extract vengeance upon you and the children for “abandoning” him and asking him to change his abusive ways. (Source)

Now, I find the character of Angelique in Dark Shadows fascinating not only because of her ironic name, but also because Barnabas’s cruelty of using her for sex again and again before casting her aside for his true love is what made her a monster.

Barnabas is not a narcissist/psychopath. After all, not all wo/men who sexually exploit their partners are narcissists, psychopaths, or sociopaths, mind you. Some are just spoiled. Selfish. Or just displaying general assholery.

Angelique is a psychopath.

He made her a monster, so she made him one, too.

Similarly, the Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman (a film that tells fairy tales the way they should be told!), was also made by the cruelty of a man who used her and cast her aside. Even in fiction, abuse causes psychological illness and sometimes psychotic breaks. And the cycle continues.

Same goes for Sweeney Todd. A narcissist, or perhaps even sociopath in the case of that blasted judge, ships Benjamin Barker off to a prison colony for 20 years, then courts and rapes his wife before casting her aside. She goes insane. Barker, now called Sweeney Todd, is hellbent on revenge and kills loads of other people in the meantime because “we all deserve to die.” Why? “Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief. For the rest of us death will be a relief.”

Sweeney’s monster was made, too. He was made by the cruelty of a psychopath.

Whatever one calls it…If it’s a psychological illness, a damaged brain, or just selfish callousness, the result is the same. The intent, however is different, and that not nothing. Regardless, even if it’s an illness or brain damage, I’ll say the same thing I’ve said countless times before.

We all have issues. We’re adults. Yes your shit is scary to face. So is mine. So is everybody’s. Face your stuff and deal with it. Find some courage and self awareness. Grow.

And stop hurting people.

But, of course, they won’t.

As Mr. Todd sings, “The cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru.”

So, friends, the best defense we have against those without empathy and/or conscience, is to learn the signs and recognize them early.

“You are young. Life has been kind to you. You will learn.”

~ by omgrey on June 6, 2012.

23 Responses to “A Crack in the Fragile Shell”

  1. I know you are still hurting and want to warn others about the dangers of people like your auctioneer. But you are getting onto some pretty gloomy subjects. You promised not to vent your spleen, but I understand you needing to get the poison out of your system.

    I just hope that you can do a lighter topic soon. Reading these posts makes me feel like you are still in pain and want to lash out at the man who hurt you. I feel for you


    I hope you heal soon.


    • It’s not about lashing out. It’s about writing what moves me. It’s about processing and purging. It’s about coping and understanding and moving on from a severely traumatic experience. It’s about working through the confusion.

      It takes as log as it takes.

      I felt rather judged by your comment, Clint, but I can see that your intention was to wish me well.

      And for that, I thank you.

      I still hurt sometimes, but most of the time I’m pretty great. My research on these dark matters has become a fascination in and of itself, so it’s not really about him anymore anyway. I keep seeing the symptoms in fictional works, and I plan to have a very convincing psychopath in a future novel.

      As for the dark topics, Clint. It’s what I do, isn’t it? I write dark fiction about monsters, often charismatic monsters. Now I’ve seen darkness. I know darkness, and it will make my fiction all the more realistic. All the more horrifying.

      IRL, I turn into the darkness when it comes instead of running from it, for it’s by turning into it that one moves more quickly back into the light. And these days, most of my time is spent in the beautiful sunshine. Thank you for your concern.

  2. It is somehow implicitly accepted that sociopaths are somehow evil or souless because they do harm to society. On the surface, it works, nobody wants to be hurt, but look deeper and you realize how much that idea relies on xenophobia and entrenched social conditioning. The Narcisist pursues his own happiness much like everyone else, but instead of aiding his quest and helping him choose an antithesis that would not be hurt or rejected, we brand him an irregular, a crazy man, a sadist. Have you noticed? All of your definitions of P/S/N are made IN RELATION TO OTHER PEOPLE. Nobody analyzes the P/S/N from his own ego, i guarantee that.

    • On the contrary. I have deep sympathy and pity for these individuals. They live a very lonely life and a special kind of hell. Especially Psychopathic Narcissists.

      They’re miserable.
      They’re lonely.
      They’re empty.

      We all have our issues. I certainly have mine.

      I’m all for people pursuing their happiness, even narcissists and psychopaths and sociopaths, as long as they’re not doing do at the expense of other people’s happiness.

      The greatest problem with these types of disorders is that these individuals think that their lack of empathy or conscience elevates them above the rest of us. They are better than. No need to get help. They’re just fine as they are.

      People who accept their issues and work on improving them have my utmost respect. Psychopaths and sociopaths can learn to pursue their happiness without damaging others if they so choose.

      As I said in my last post, there are lots of people who will love them unconditionally if they would just be real about who they are and honest through their efforts to overcome their issues.

      I know I would. I have nothing other than compassion and pity for my ex. I love him still. And if he could be authentic and genuine, I wouldn’t care what his issues were or what label was placed on them. I’d be there next to him through it all.

      But he chooses to hurt instead of heal. He chooses the false face instead of the authentic one. Most P/S/Ns do.

      It’s easier.

      Although, it’s really not.

  3. You know what voxvorago, you’re right. Who are we to judge the actions of another in the pursuit of their happiness? Who are we to say Hitler was a horrible human being for pursuing the happiness he believed would come from slaughtering millions of Jews? Who are we to stop the serial killers?Because clearly they have a right to pursue their happiness in the slaying of innocent (or less than innocent) people at their leisure. How dare we question the rapists right to have his way with any and everyone he/she wants to because it makes them happy! I am appalled at myself and the whole of the world for having a sense of moral values and not just rolling over and letting any and everyone walk all over us because they have the right to do so. By no means am i saying they don’t have the right to be happy or pursue their own happiness. That is an irrefutable right born in every human being on this earth. But i will stand staunchly beside the fact that, their rights to happiness end when they infringe upon my rights to happiness. No man/woman has the right to chew anyone up and spit them out a used and hollow carcass just because it makes them happy. That would be monstrous. So yes, the social conditioning for many things are wrong and all of these individuals we “brand” as miscreants and dangerous and whatever other titles you might invent or label them with have their rights. But i will reach for my rifle and wave the constitution long before i allow anyone the freedom to abuse someone else because they have a “right” to do so. Pursue their happiness, but stay inside their rights don’t tread on mine.

    As for analyzing from “their own ego”…what monster looks into the mirror and says to himself, “Gee, i think i’m a horrible monster?” It is by the “fruits” of the person that the true measure of their being is formed. All too often a broken or deranged person is unwilling to see the havoc they wreak. Does this mitigate the trail of devastation they leave behind? No, it does not. Does denying their actions mean they are worthwhile and good people? No, it just leaves an untended trail of destruction. So yes, we judge people based on their behaviors, their actions, and their patterns. Why? Not because we are a bunch of judgmental bigots, but indeed because the person has manifest who they truly are at their core by how they behave. If one makes a pattern of chewing up and spitting out people to fulfill oneself this is the very definition of “the proof is in the pudding”.

    So next time you wanna play devils advocate, think about it before you open your mouth…or should i start practicing my Heil voxvorago?

    • Well said, Michael.

      “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

      In my article, I reference Barnaby & Angelique. Both “soulless” monsters, one a vampire, the other a witch, respectively. Although Barnaby’s cruelty to Angelique by casting her aside after having used her was committed while he was still “ensoulled.” Still human.

      His choices then defined him and caused Angelique’s subsequent wrath of spells. After losing his soul and having a couple hundred years to think about it, his choices and actions we’re far more “human” after he had been turned into a monster.

      Although, as once stated in the BBCs Being Human, the capacity for destruction, deception, and cruelty is wholeheartedly human. Something I enjoy playing with in my fiction, where the acts of some “human” are far worse than that of the “monsters.” This is shown in the brothel scene with Arthur & the other gentleman present in my Avalon Revisited.

      I’ll be writing about psychopathy & narcissism next week as seen in that show.

      Then, hopefully, I can move on to writing about “lighter” topics.


  4. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Loki from Thor/The Avengers, and whenever I say that I’m a lot like him, my friends respond with “But you’re not a psychopath!” I didn’t really get what they were saying until I read your post. I identify with Loki’s feelings of abandonment and overwhelming need to feel worthy and to please his father, and we both get caught up in ourselves. The difference is that while that makes me selfish and immature at times, I can still find a way to step away from my desires to care about others. As far as I can tell, I’m not going to snap and attempt to destroy humanity. Loki, no matter how pure his intentions were in Thor, doesn’t realize how many people he ends up hurting, and in The Avengers, we see what happens when his psychology illness takes over completely.

    • LOVE LOKI!

      I can identify with those feelings about Loki, too. Abusers were abused themselves, similarly to their targets. Psychopaths are created by abuse. So are most psychological disorders and illnesses, created by abuse. Abandonment. Neglect. Anger. etc…

      And we are all selfish and immature at times. We all get carried away by our emotions at times and say something that would’ve been best not said or at least said differently. In anger. In fear. In agony…

      But that ability to care for others, to empathize, is what psychopaths lack. They are incapable.

      Loki in THOR does know he’s hurting people, but he doesn’t care. Loki looks at humans as lesser beings, and that’s how Psychopaths/Narcissists/Sociopaths look at the rest of us, as lower beings. As somehow less-than they are.

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