Saturday, January 26, 2008

Profile of a Psychopath (characteristics of some, but not all, spiritual abusers)

Not all spiritual abusers are psychopaths, but many of them do demonstrate these traits and behaviors that are common to psychopaths. It is wise to be familiar with the characteristics when considering new situations wherein you are a subordinate. Tobias and  Lalich (pgs 72 - 79) offer these defining characteristics of the psychopath (with comments also copied from their text), based on the writings of both Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare.:

  • Glibness / Superficial Charm (They are able to use language effortlessly to beguile, confuse and convince... Frequently, they have the capacity to destroy their critics verbally or disarm them emotionally.)
  • Manipulative and Conning (They do not recognize the individuality or rights of others... "The manipulator appears to be helpful, charming, even ingratiating or seductive, but is covertly hostile, domineering.... [The victim] is perceived as an aggressor, competitor, or merely as an instrument to be used....The manipulation inevitably becomes the end-all and is no longer qualified by....reality." pg 257 of "Unmasking the Psychopath")
  • Grandiose Sense of Self (Paranoia often accompanies the grandiosity, reinforcing the isolation of the group and the need for protection against a perceived hostile environment.)
  • Pathological Lying (Psychopaths lie coolly and easily, even when it is obvious they are being untruthful... These manipulators are rarely original thinkers.... For this reason, followers are more apt to invent or go along with all kinds of explanations and rationales for apparent inconsistencies in behavior. "I know he must have had a good reason for doing this.... He did it because he loves me even though it hurts...")
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt (For psychopaths, the end always justifies the means. There is no place for feelings or remorse, shame or guilt. Cult leaders feel justified in all their actions since they consider themselves the ultimate moral arbiter. Nothing gets in their way.)
  • Shallow Emotions (While they may display outbursts of emotion, more often than not, they are putting on a calculated response to obtain a certain result.)
  • Incapacity for Love (The leader's tremendous need to be loved is accompanied by an equally strong disbelief in the love offered him by his followers; hence, the often unspeakably cruel and harsh testing of his devotees. Unconditional surrender is an absolute requirement. The [leader's] love is never tested however; it must be accepted at face value.)
  • Need for Stimulation (Thrill-seeking behaviors, often skirting the letter or spirit of the law, are common among psychopaths.... The psychopath has a cool indifference to things around him, yet his icy coldness can quickly turn into rage, vented on those around him.)
  • Callousness / Lack of Empathy (Psychopaths readily take advantage of others, expressing utter contempt for anyone else's feelings. Someone in distress is not important to them. Although intelligent, perceptive and quite good at sizing people up, they make no real connections with others... Psychopaths are unable to empathize with the pain of their victims... When and if the devotee becomes aware of the exploitation, it feels as though a tremendous evil has been done, a spiritual rape.)
  • Poor Behavioral Controls / Impulsive Nature (Like small children, many psychopaths have difficulty regulating their emotions... Rage and abuse, alternating with token expressions of love and approval, produce an addictive cycle for both abuser and abused, as well as create a sense of hopelessness in the latter. This dynamic has also been recognized in relation to domestic abuse and the battering of women.)
  • Early Behavior Problems / Juvenile Delinquency (They often "get by"... conning.)
  • Irresponsibility / Unreliability (They may be totally oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they inflict upon others, something which they regard as neither their problem nor their responsibility. Psychopaths rarely accept blame for their failures or mistakes. Scapegoating is common, blaming followers, those outside the group, a member's family, the government, Satan -- anyone and everyone but the leader. The blaming may follow a ritualized procedure such as a trial, "hot seat" denunciation, or public confession... Blame is a powerful reinforcer or passivity and obedience, producing guilt, shame, terror and conformity in the followers.)
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior / Infidelity (Sexual acting out of all sorts [is] usually practiced by cult leaders. Conversely, there is often stringent sexual control of the followers... In any case, due to the power imbalance between leader and followers, sexual contact is never truly consensual and is likely to have damaging consequences for the follower.)
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan / Parasitic Lifestyle (The flip-side of this erratic life planning is the all-encompassing promise for the future that the... leader makes to his followers.... The leader is the first to proclaim the utopian nature of the group, which is usually simply another justification for irrational behavior and stringent controls... The leader's sense of entitlement is often demonstrated by the contrast between his luxurious lifestyle... They may complain of being "burned out" due to the burden of "caring for" their followers, sometimes stating they do not have long to live, instilling fear and guilt in their devotees and encouraging further servitude.)
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility (Leaders change their image and that of the group as needed... [They] have an innate ability to attract followers who have the skills and connections that the leaders lack. The longevity of the group is dependent on the willingness of the leadership to adapt as needed and preserve the group.)