All abusers are in denial and tend to be comfortable lying, having years of practice (and no qualms,) and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser presents himself as a sincere, respectable person and benefits when people feel too uncomfortable to ask for substantiation or fail to look closely at evidence—if not ignore it—because of his charm and convincing manner. He also benefits when people self-confidently believe that they can “just tell” who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate.
over-intellectualization – victim tries too hard to understand and believes the manipulator has some understandable reason to be hurtful.
emotional dependency – victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.
Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim.
According to Kantor, the following are vulnerable to psychopathic manipulators:
too trusting – people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest. They commit themselves to people they hardly know without checking credentials, etc. They rarely question so-called experts.
too altruistic – the opposite of psychopathic; too honest, too fair, too empathetic
too impressionable – overly seduced by charmers. For example, they might vote for the phony politician who kisses babies.
too naïve – cannot believe there are dishonest people in the world or if there were they would not be allowed to operate.
too masochistic – lack of self-respect and unconsciously let psychopaths take advantage of them. They think they deserve it out of a sense of guilt.
too narcissistic – narcissists are prone to falling for unmerited flattery.
too greedy – the greedy and dishonest may fall prey to a psychopath who can easily entice them to act in an immoral way.
too immature – has impaired judgment and believes the exaggerated advertising claims.
too dependent – dependent people need to be loved and are therefore gullible and liable to say yes to something to which they should say no.
too lonely – lonely people may accept any offer of human contact. A psychopathic stranger may offer human companionship for a price.
too impulsive – make snap decisions about, for example, what to buy or whom to marry without consulting others.
too frugal – cannot say no to a bargain even if they know the reason why it is so cheap
the elderly – the elderly can become fatigued and less capable of multi-tasking. When hearing a sales pitch they are less likely to consider that it could be a con. They are prone to giving money to someone with a hard-luck story. See elder abuse.
Sociopaths have a profound lack of empathy for the feelings of others. They lack the internal feedback system by which normal people monitor themselves. (Most people call this “conscience,” which is probably as useful a term as any.) Sociopaths do not have this and don’t feel bad about abusing other people. It’s not that they feel bad and ignore it—they don’t feel it at all.
Sociopaths understand that they are different from normal people and learn to mimic normal behavior. This mimicry has a purpose: It gets the sociopath what he or she wants.
The sociopath hides his or her difference. After letting it show a time or two—and probably being punished by a parent as a result—the sociopath covers up the truth and keeps it covered. But the reason for hiding it is not embarrassment (the sociopath doesn’t feel embarrassment), but because it hinders him from getting what he want.
Since sociopaths have no empathy for others, making use of normal people feels just fine to them. Likewise, they feel no remorse.
Empathy, as viewed by the sociopath, is a weakness, and he considers himself superior, because he isn’t burdened by it.
Because they lack an internal feedback system, sociopaths are excellent liars. For example, they can often pass lie detector tests, since those tests register the effects of our internal feedback system, which they don’t have.
A sociopath is likely to maintain a group of people who believe wholeheartedly that he is a good, kind, honest person. He’ll work in calculated ways to create and maintain that opinion in them.
Why is it so hard to hold abusers accountable? Because they follow secret “rules” of their own. We call them tactics. Rule #1 is “Deny all wrongdoing.”Speaking about moral values is a common deception tactic used by individuals without a conscience. It supports a respectable public persona, which provides a cover for immoral behavior. Read about DARVO.
Reader challenge: What is #2 on the abuser’s secret list of rules?
The whole Nature/Nurture debate goes on in many realms. I have been thinking about this: Why do some people grow up to be abusive, and some do not? Why do some people endure impossible situations, but come out whole eventually, knowing the value of people and never becoming abusive?