These questions are becoming more frequent nowadays so let's examine the situation and check out what's actually going on behind the scenes, so to speak.
But first, a quick note about the range of questions above. It may seem that there are a lot of different categories listed. However, lots of people are not aware of what a psychopath or narcissist really is. Many still think that a psychopath is a serial killer or a knife-wielding maniac that is an obvious nut-job. If that's the case and they are looking to label their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, then they will come up with things such as bully, , controlling, possessive or predator. The ex could easily be a narcissist or a psychopath but is just not recognized as such.
By no means am I suggesting that all bullies or 'possessive guys' are narcissists or sociopaths, but it's likely that many bullies, possessive people and predators are not actually recognized for what they are, narcissists or sociopaths.
One thing to keep in mind here is that there is no stereotypical narcissist or psychopath. You have on the one hand the psychopath who puts in the time and attention to get to be the owner of a major corporation and on the other you have the parasitic psychopath who has never done a days work in his life but sits at home all day pretending to have chronic depression and has everyone around taking care of him. There is also the psychopath who is a real party animal, a 'player', and you have the loner who lives on his own, is pleasant to the neighbors and who turns out to be a serial killer. All these may be psychopaths but on the surface they may seem to have little in common.
So someone who thinks that they attract bullies or who attracts possessive guys may be better off asking themselves the question 'why do I attract narcissists or sociopaths?'
In order to understand relationships with narcissists and sociopaths/psychopaths (I will use sociopath and psychopath interchangeably from now on in this article), there are a few things to keep in mind.
These people are called predators for a reason. It's because they go out and hunt for their prey. Literally. When they meet new people they size them up for their usefulness, they assess the target's weaknesses, strengths, fears, desires etc. If they think they can 'capture' the person, they set about it.
Narcissists and sociopaths control and manipulate those that have relationships with them. They change their victims' beliefs, thinking, decision making and behaviors. They also very much manipulate the emotions of their victims. They are so good at it, in fact, that their victims are on an emotional roller coaster most of the time.
The narcissist or sociopath changes people at a very deep level. Basically, the individual's personality is destroyed, the manipulator makes changes and these changes are frozen in place as the false personality or pseudopersonality. When family and friends say that you changed during the relationship with the narcissist or sociopath, (or when parents say that they no longer recognized their son when he joined a particular group) this is what they are referring to, that your pseudopersonality is very different to who you were before the abusive relationship.
Bear with me, this will all make sense shortly!
This pseudopersonality dominates your real personality and the pseudopersonality is programmed in various ways by the manipulator. It is programmed to take care of the narcissist, to defend the narcissist, to believe whatever the narcissist says, to put the wants and needs of the narcissist first ahead of it's own and it is also very dependent on the narcissist.
The pseudopersonality is often at odds with the real personality (which never disappears). The real personality may want to leave the relationship but the pseudopersonality needs to stay. The real personality may not like the behavior of the narcissist but the pseudopersonality is programmed not to argue or criticize the narcissist. The real personality may actually hate the narcissist or sociopath but the pseudopersonality believes it is in love with the narcissist. These contradictory ideas can make the victim feel that they are at war with themselves and can be very disturbing and difficult to make sense of.
The pseudopersonality is put in place with very strong influence techniques and it does not disappear on it's own when one separates from the manipulator. This explains, for example, why people often want to go back to the abuser after they have left, even though they know the relationship was bad for them. The pseudopersonality is programmed to be with the manipulator and it feels incomplete or inadequate or just plain miserable without the manipulator and there is a very strong desire to return.
Narcissists and sociopaths may not think in terms of pseudopersonalities. They are simply focused on molding your thinking and your behavior to what they want it to be.
The important thing to understand here is that the pseudopersonality persists along with the pre-programmed thinking, emotions, attitudes and behaviors even after the person leaves the abusive relationship or the mind control environment.
I already pointed out that when narcissists and sociopaths meet people, they size them up in a particular way. They are looking for an angle to control and dominate others (before someone tries to take advantage of them).
If someone already has a pseudopersonality, i.e., they have been in an abusive situation before (such as parents who were narcissists), to the narcissist or sociopath, it's as obvious as if they had this information tattooed on their forehead.
If you have seen the documentary, "I, Psychopath", which I highly recommend, there is a study where there is a video clip of 4 or 5 different people walking for a few seconds away from the camera down a corridor. Normal people had difficulty saying which person had been traumatized in the past. The psychopaths took only a couple of seconds to recognize the trauma victim.
In this instance, the trauma victim was moving her arms differently as she walked so it was the asymmetry that gave it away to the psychopaths.
There are many, many signs that let the manipulator know that a person has been in an abusive relationship before.
How someone deals with an authority figure, how they get angry, what they get angry at, how a person responds to a request for a favor, how a person takes criticism, how they deal with dissenting opinions, all these things can be dead giveaways to the narcissist or sociopath.
One particular thing is the person who apologizes a lot, even for things that are not their responsibility. In mind control situations (which include abusive relationships), the victims are blamed for anything bad that happens. The pseudopersonality is trained that it is at fault when anything goes wrong and this becomes a very ingrained habit. Even when the person has left the abusive situation, this pattern is one that persists and the person often apologizes for the least little thing, even if it's not their fault.
Another very strong indicator of previous abuse is the person who says 'thank you' a lot. People in mind control situations are used to being treated badly and so when someone treats them nicely they are very grateful and are often very vocal in expressing it. They may say thanks several times, they may say how appreciative they are and go on a bit about how this nice person has helped them so much and so on. This signal is obvious to anyone who is looking out for it, and a narcissist or sociopath knows they only have to do something nice for this person and they will be like putty in their hands.
The question 'why do I attract narcissists?' places responsibility on the victim. The presupposition is that there is something about the victim that actively draws narcissists or sociopaths to them. This is very important because it suggests that the victim needs to change themselves in some way to stop attracting manipulators.
A whole industry has been built up around how to 'change your energy' or 'change your beliefs' to stop attracting these types. (How do you measure your energy anyway, to know when it has changed, or changed enough, to not attract these types?)
Remember the idea about narcissists and sociopaths being predators? They go out looking for prey. They actively seek out signs of weakness and previous damage in people they meet. So they are particularly attracted to those who have been abused before.
You do not attract narcissists. They are attracted to you. We don't normally think in terms of zebras attracting crocodiles. It's more that crocodiles are attracted to zebras because the zebras are a potential source of food. This may seem like a very fine line but it's actually a very important distinction, for several reasons.
When you realize that narcissists and sociopaths are using mind control techniques to control their victims, it's important to also keep in mind that many of these techniques work outside the awareness of the victim. The victim does not actually know what is going on. The manipulator is deliberately hiding things from the victim. So if the victim is unaware of what is being done to him or her, he or she cannot be held responsible for what's going on. The responsibility for the relationship going the way it does lies with the manipulator. The manipulator sets up the relationship, they trick you into starting a relationship with them. Typically they spotted you way before you saw them. They chose you because they thought that you would be an easy target for them. That's why they were attracted to you.
It's common for a victim to say that at first they had no real interest in the manipulator but because he or she paid so much attention and showed interest, they ended up starting a relationship. They may even believe that it was their own decision to get involved. Closer inspection often shows that they were actually tricked into it.
Another myth about people in abusive relationships is that they go from one abusive relationship to another because that's what they are used to. Or their parents were abusive so they are familiar with that kind of thing and therefore they attract someone like their parents. This is absolute nonsense. No one goes out looking to be abused. No one seeks out a cold, hearted monster to constantly humiliate, belittle, criticize and take advantage of them. People just don't do that.
Read more about what happens in this article about manipulative men.
When people leave an abusive situation they typically vow never to get themselves into such a situation again. They may even avoid relationships for quite a while to make sure they don't suffer in the same way again.
If someone thought that they were going to give up their time, effort, energy, money, emotions, creativity, needs and desires in order to be a slave to someone who was cruel and callous, they would run a mile. Therefore the narcissists and sociopaths have to hide their true nature at the start of the relationship in the same way that cults hide their true nature until people are captured.
They present themselves as something they are not in order to fool you into getting involved with them. You then fall in love with this persona and when they drop the mask and act out their true nature, you wonder where the person you fell in love with went. But that person never actually existed. It was a persona invented to capture you. This means that the narcissists and sociopaths are responsible for tricking you into the relationship.
One more thing while we are here. There is no particular personality type or cluster of characteristics that is more or less vulnerable to being caught in a cult or an abusive relationship. The experts in cults say that there is a cult for everyone. What they mean is that if a person happens to be in a vulnerable state, or in a vulnerable situation, and they come across a psychopath who is offering exactly what they need or want, there is a high probability that they will be caught. This applies to anyone. So anyone can be caught by manipulators. Even some of the psychologists who work regularly with psychopaths still get fooled by them!
The take away here is that the question 'why do I attract narcissists or sociopaths?' puts some of the responsibility on the victim. Victims who continue to think that they have a big responsibility for what happened cannot fully recover. The belief that both sides had a part to play in the situation is very dangerous to the victim and prevents the victim from seeing just how much they were taken advantage of.
This idea is very significant because at the heart of mind control is the fact that the victim believes that they are making their own decisions. So the victim thinks things such as, 'Well, I made some bad decisions along the way,' or 'I let that happen, I let them treat me that way.' or "I should have stopped things sooner, but I chose to continue in the relationship.' The victim may believe and feel that these things are true, but a closer examination would show how the manipulator was behind the making of such decisions.
If somebody asks the question 'why do I attract narcissists?' the belief behind it is that they need to change something about themselves to stop attracting narcissists.
However, remember the narcissists and psychopaths have already considerably changed their victims. And they have changed them a lot. And, as we have seen, it's these very changes that let the next manipulator along the road know that the person has been manipulated before.
So what if you don't actually need to change yourself? What if there is nothing wrong with you? What if how you are now is a normal reaction to the way you have been treated by the abuser(s)?. After all, if anyone else went through what you went through, chances are that they might respond in some of the same ways as you did.
The thing that is missing for you is an understanding of mind control, narcissists and psychopaths. What's needed is a process of psychoeducation, a period of learning about what happened to you that allows you to actually undo all the changes that the manipulators have imposed on you, which then allows your own personality to resurface and develop again.
This means learning about how specifically the manipulator caught you, what influence techniques were used against you, what specifically they were doing to control your thinking, your emotions, your decision making and your behaviors.
The more you understand the subtleties of all these influence techniques the better because then you understand exactly what the manipulator was doing to you, and why, and only in this way do the effects of the manipulation disappear.
Working with an expert in this field is by far the best way to go about undoing the pseudopersonality.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?