Interview With Sandra Brown, Author Of ‘Women Who Love Psycopaths’ And ‘How To Spot A Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved’

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Many people wake up one day, and find that  life isn’t at all what they imagined it to be. The relationship they are in is probably the worst nightmare they could possible imagine – but still, they stick it out, making excuses for their partners outrageous behaviors, hoping that from tomorrow it will be different, but it never is.


I asked Sandra L. Brown, M.A., CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education, who is a specialist psychopathology, if she would answer some of my questions on the subject, to which she agreed. If anything here rings true to your own relationship or a relationship of a loved one, or if you would like to educate yourself further on the issue, please check out The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education.

RT: You are the founder of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction &   Public Pathology Education. Could you tell us a little about the institute and how it came to be?

SB: We are part of everything we experience. The years of being exposed to pathology as a child had a big impact on me. I was learning about psychopathology without ever realizing it. It was creating my career. My father was narcissistic; other more distant family members were also pathological. My mother divorced my father. He was later murdered by a Psychopath. My mother remarried a charming man who turned out to be highly sociopathic.

I became involved in victims rights after my fathers murder. I went on to college and got a master degree in counseling and started my specialty focus in cluster B personality disorder. For the first 10+ years I worked in trying to treat cluster B disorders. Treatment outcomes are laborious and part of the disorder is that it does not sustain positive change. (outside of consistent therapy). I also began to run support groups for the partners of cluster B’s and the children of cluster B’s. It was then I became interested in helping not only family to understand what cluster B disorders are, but helping others to identify them to avoid the inevitable harm that happens from trying to create emotional intimacy with these types of disorders. Today, the institute is one of the leading experts regarding the relational harm produced in these relationships. Our work has been called ‘pioneering’ and we provide the widest range of services for the children of and partners of cluster B’s. We also provide professional training for mental health providers, the legal system, domestic violence agencies and other first line responders who are likely to encounter cluster B’s or their partners.

RT: Why do you think Public Pathology Education is so crucial?

SB: I created the term ‘Relationships of Inevitable Harm’ because there are no happily ever after in these relationships. People who have this level of pathology have not only unsuccessful relationships; they have destructive, dangerous and damaging relationships. Partners, who have far less pathology than the Cluster B, are always always always negatively impacted by exposure to that much pathology. In fact, over 50% of the partners (even without the experience of violence in the relationship) will come out of the relationship with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

Pathology is the single most negative impact on society. Who stalks? Who abducts children? Who perpetrates parental alienation? Who creates high conflict divorces? Who has repeating patterns of domestic violence? Who has pathological lying and conning? We are almost always talking about cluster B disorders when we are talking about the most egregious behaviors. But they are often also the most successful, charming and un-detectable. Dr. Robert Hare, the Worlds leading expert on the worst of the cluster B’s, the psychopath, calls them ‘Snakes in Suits’. The lack of public pathology education means people have no way of identifying them before getting into relationships. Successful female attorneys, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, pilots, and accountants… have all been reduced to impaired status and put on disability to recover from these relationships. If that was a medical disorder they had to recover from, there would be a foundation and there would be a billboard campaign across this country. But it destroys people and no one has championed the cause.

RT: By your own calculations, over 60 million people are affected to some degree or other by other people’s pathologies in the United States alone. Anything from being murdered to abused, to having your   kids harmed, your bank account drained, or your things stolen. You   also say that most of the pathological s are untreatable. It’s not  as if you can send them to therapy and they will be cured. What do you think should be done with pathological, and if they can’t help the way they are how can they be held accountable for their actions?

SB: Is Alcatraz still for sale? That was one idea. Since it is not a crime to be a pathological, it’s only the behaviors that are caught that might be a crime; the best way of helping to deal with the issue of pathology is in prevention. While schools are teaching about bullying in middle school, we could be teaching how to identify the worst forms of pathology. Who do with think Bullies are? Cluster B’s bully.  We are using the wrong language in what we are teaching about dating violence, stalking and bullying. We need to add the dimension of ‘Who Does That?’ if we only look at the behavior and we don’t look at the mental health of the person we will never connect the dots.

These people are not insane. They know right from wrong and pick wrong because it’s more powerful, effective and enjoyable. They are responsible for their actions. But I think understanding the permanence of the cluster B disorders helps the hopeful victim to understand ‘What you see is what you get’ and move on.  We have had more success in teaching victims the neuroscience of the cluster B brain than domestic violence shelters have in teaching the ancient power and control wheel.

RT: Briefly, how would you define a pathological?

SB: The cluster B personality disorders: histrionic personality disorders, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anti social personality disorder and in addition sociopaths and psychopaths.

All of these have the basic inability to grow to any authentic emotional spiritual depth, and inability to sustain positive change, outside of ongoing therapy which no one is going to consent to, and the inability to develop insight into how their behavior affects others. With these inabilities is coupled a reduced empathy, and for some no conscience and remorse. Also, part of the hard-wiring is an impulse control problem which is why these are the people sent to Anger management, batterer intervention, etc.

RT: Most people would immediately think of sociopaths and psychopaths at  the mention of psychopathology. Sociopaths and psychopaths might be the most dangerous of all pathological s, since they totally lack a conscience or any social skills and are not likely to grow one any time soon. What are the other kinds of personality disorders that are pathological?

SB: They represent the far end of the spectrum with almost no conscience, empathy or remorse. But the other end of the spectrum, those with borderline, narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders, presents problems too. Their reduced empathy is enough to harm others. Their impulse control problems make them violently risky. Their hard-wiring of not learning from experiences means the behavior doesn’t change while the victim keeps hoping for change. To see the neuroscience behind these disorders is to understand these are serious disorders that even therapy or medication are not going to control completely .

RT: Can a person have several of these pathologies? For example, could they be both borderline and narcissistic? Does the exact diagnosis make a difference to the people whose lives they will touch?

SB: These are considered cluster disorders so most of them have more than one disorder, which is why the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) clustered them together. You get overlap. That is why you always see reduced empathy for instance in narcissists but also in antisocial. They all have impulse control problems, etc. Because they share similarities in behaviors across the disorders, they will often meet criteria for more than one disorder within the cluster. But in addition to that, most of them will also have mood disorders and often addictions. So when you write a list of their probable DSM diagnosis, it is quite complex.

RT: What is it about pathalogicals that makes other people get romantically involved with them? If you meet them on paper, like in this interview, they sound like no one you would want to go near,   yet a lot of people find themselves deeply immersed in relationships with pathalogicals. How do you explain this?

SB: Pathology emerges in childhood. They often become aware of their differences. They don’t feel like other people so they don’t behave like other people. The desire not to be targeted for their differences encourages their adaptability as children. They are human psychologists and study others so to mimic and parrot. While they do not have adequate empathy, they have learned if someone cries, pat their hand or make their face look a certain way. They must over compensate for areas people would notice so they often become quite engaging, charming, or just outright liars, in order to appeal to others. They are often successful and bright. They have been compensating since childhood, so by the time they are 30 they have had a lot of years to improve their approach.

RT: Am I correct in saying that one of the most common personality disorders and maybe the hardest to recognize would be borderline?

SB: We know and identify more BPD than some of the other disorders. BPD is often more recognizable early on because of the anger, impulsiveness and overt out of control behavior. But that does not mean it is the most predominant. Because sociopaths and psychopaths hide well behind successful careers, they are often unidentified. 1 in 25 people have no conscience which has a lot of overlap with sociopaths and psychopaths. So I think we aren’t identifying those who hide well.

RT: What is borderline personality disorder and how does it affect relationships?

SB: Everything I mentioned above: impulsiveness, chronic anger, emptiness, neediness, low empathy. You can’t build a relationship on that.

RT: Say you meet a nice, charming guy (or girl). Is there any way you can tell right of the bat that this is a person you should stay away from?

SB: Women should do background checks. In my  book “How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved” is a red flags dating list of behaviors that could be a clue. Women should also date slowly and believe what others tell her. So many women were clued in by other women and thought it was jealousy when they were actually being warned. Women need to get more mature about accepting info, and stop carrying the mentality of a high school girl when others are trying to give life saving info.

RT: Not everyone who is a bit off beat, strange, or even violent or addicted is pathological. How do you tell the difference between   those who are pathological – and no amount of treatment will be able   to help them, and those who are not pathological, and with the right   counseling could be helped?

SB: You probably can’t. If someone is a ‘counseling project’ from the get-go, why in the world would you want to date them? Don’t start with someone who needs a mental health tune up. You are not in a relationship to fix someone. Women with lots of empathy need to find a place to exercise that, like at the homeless shelter or animal shelter, not in their personal relationships. They begin with the belief ‘everyone has something’ and take in people who are in need of help. She won’t be able to tell the difference between pathology and just help, and then she’s in the relationship and it turns out to be pathological. If someone needs mental health help, tell them to go and get it and come back when they can present their most healthy self for a relationship.

RT: We know that pathologicals come from all walks of life. They can be rich or poor common workers or white collar professionals. How about the women (and men) they get romantically involved with? Are there any common denominators among them or could this literally happen to anyone?

SB: We found a lot of common elements related to women who get in relationships with Cluster B men. Many of the elements did not fit the stereotypical ‘victim profile’ traits. The research was done testing temperament traits for unusual elevations, which is exactly what we found.  Off-the-richter-scale type elevations in some major areas that contribute to not only why they are attracted to, but tolerant of, the most dangerous persons. Some of the heightened traits included hyper empathy, tolerance, attachment, trust and loyalty. Half of the book Women Who Love Psychopaths covers the women’s traits and the amazing similarities among those who get involved with Cluster Bs.

RT: Romantic Relationships with pathological are particularly hard to leave. In a way, this defies logic because they are also absolutely terrible to be part of. Could you explain why it is so hard to leave such a relationship?

SB: Fear creates trauma bonding which increases the sensation of attachment. The longer the fear, the deeper the attachment.

RT: Obviously being in a relationship with a pathological has a lot of  fallout and long term effects on the other person. Could you share with us some of the things a victim of a pathological relationship would have to deal with?

SB: Depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, loss of a job, productivity, chronic time in court, inability to sleep and function.

RT: What are the obstacles a victim would face when trying to leave a relationship like this?

SB: The pathalogicals are the people with the worst control issues and impulse control problems, which are a deadly combination. Abuse, stalking, child abduction, 60 times in court, broken restraining orders,these are the things a victim could expect.  Victims need a safety plan made with a professional. This needs to be planned ahead of time.  You can find out more about this here.

RT: What help is available to them and how would   they go about getting it?

SB: The institute offers books, products, safety planning sessions, phone sessions retreats and referrals to therapists.

How falling in love with a narcissist has changed me forever.

Breaking up with a histrionic or narcissist? Be prepared for the battle of your life! While you are an emotional basket case, he is as Cold as Ice! While you are left holding down the fort and dealing with the real-life responsibilities, he walks away from everything leaving you to mop off his stage and pay his bills. He will punish you in ways you couldn’t possibly have ever imagined… …. and not even acknowledge it to himself! Why? Because he’s off charming the socks off of new women as if your years together didn’t even exist! And to him they didn’t! The narcissist has a ‘counterfeit heart’!

Narcissists tend to make very good first impressions on others. They are excellent actors and can fool almost anybody, even trained individuals. However, they have counterfeit hearts. Underneath their brilliant exterior lies a man that is self-centered and self-focused, dishonest, irresponsible, disloyal, and lacking emotions, remorse, and a conscience. These men live with a false sense of grandiosity and specialness and are easily found to be arrogant and deceitful. Underneath their fake exterior is an empty fraud who seemingly is lacking a human soul.

“Women know how to fake orgasm. Men know how to fake an entire relationship.” ~ Sharon Stone

Of course, you will never see this in the beginning of the relationship with a narcissistic man. Many women do not see any of these awful qualities until the relationship gets serious because both the narcissist and his prey tend to idolize people in the beginning of relationships.

And being idolized feels good – so good that we often willingly overlook the red flags.

Unfortunately, the narcissist is sociopathic in that they often see themselves as victims, and lack remorse or the ability to empathize with others (did you notice that [according to him] ALL his ‘exes’ were ‘psycho bitches’? THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN MAJOR RED FLAGS WAVING IN YOUR FACE FROM EVERYWHERE ON THAT ONE – BUT IT PROBABLY DIDN’T REALLY HIT YOU UNTIL ‘YOUR’ RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM WAS OVER!!). (More on this later…)

See, narcissistic men haven’t the ability to see their own negative actions or the detrimental roles they play in their relationships with others. The narcissist is a deceptive man and the most common form of his deception is his own self-deception. He truly believes he is perfectly innocent of having committed any wrongdoing – ever.

He holds himself completely blameless for any part in the breakdown of your relationship (or ANY of his past relationships). Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology from this man, or even an admittance on his part of being partially to blame – for anything. He believes he has done nothing wrong, as he is just so wonderful! (At least, in his own mind.)

The narcissist doesn’t care about your problems or your feelings. He has absolutely no regard or respect for anyone’s feelings; he is completely without empathy and is never above taking advantage of others for his own personal gain. He is constantly hungry for praise and he will go on a feeding frenzy for the adoration and admiration he desperately seeks with every individual he comes in contact with. He is a legend in his own mind, and deeply living in a fantasy world built on his own imagined self-importance.

“The narcissist can neither give nor receive love. He cannot empathize with the pain and suffering of others. Although he is often incredibly charming and draws many people into his ‘enchanted circle’, the narcissist is incapable of true intimacy. At the core of his life experience, the narcissist has emotionally and often financially harmed so many. He has treated others with cruelty, ruthlessness and indifference too many times. Ultimately, in the depth of his unconscious, he knows he is an empty fraud” ~Linda Martinez-Lewi Ph.D.

Nothing can be more painful than breaking up with a histrionic narcissistic man. He will not take it kindly – not because he will grieve the loss of you (you mean nothingto this man) but simply because you will have embarrassed him. And damaging his ego is a totally unforgivable sin to the narcissist! I’m afraid you’re about to become his next victim, so be aware of his soon-to-come character assassin of you, your family, your friends, and even your children. (Narcissistic men [they all hold an actor’s award] will say just about anything about another in order to protect their perfect ‘image’.)

Whether or not this has happened to you, it is still a very painful realization when you come to discover that you meant absolutely nothing to someone you loved very much. The realization that this man never loved you(don’t delude yourself) hurts beyond compare. It is hard to understand that a histrionic narcissist loves only himself, and, if anything, considered you more a ‘love-rival’ than a ‘lover’.

He was with you for the ‘benefits’. His benefits could have been something as simple as getting his needy ego stroked, or being taken care of financially, or maybe it was something more, like status or opportunity – but whatever his benefits, being loved by you or being in an intimate relationship with you was not one of them. What I mean to say is ‘love’ and ‘relationship’ are not considered benefits to him!

You will find that you have changed during the course of the relationship with a narcissist. You will walk away completely far removed from the beautiful woman you were when you entered it. You may have gone from soft, sweet and feminine to hardened and bitter. From trusting, open and receptive to suspicious and untrusting. From self-assured and confident to being full of self-doubt and insecurities. It will take some hard work on your part to let this damaged part of you go and find your old self again.


For most of us breaking up with a narcissist can leave us feeling confused, devastated, and untrusting of all men in the future.

Usually, when a relationship ends both parties grieve some, both parties have regrets and both parties have done things that they feel remorseful for.

But not a narcissist! He walks away from you with a cold, callous disregard. He feels nothing.

A narcissist will avoid looking at you – even if you are sitting right in front of him. This is his way of ‘dismissing’ and ‘devaluing’ you. All narcissists do this and, of course, there is nothing about these actions that are normal, but your mind can’t conceive this and so it tries to understand. However, there is no making sense of the ‘senseless’.

A narcissist can turn from loving you to discarding you almost abruptly as it took for him to ‘idolize’ you after his first meeting you. Uh, what was that? About one date would you say?

“Abuse is an integral, inseparable part of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The narcissist idealizes and then DEVALUES and discards the object of his initial idealization. This abrupt, heartless devaluation IS abuse. ALL narcissists idealize and then devalue. This is THE core of pathological narcissism. The narcissist exploits, lies, insults, demeans, ignores (the “silent treatment”), manipulates, controls. All these are forms of abuse. ” ~ by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

The narcissist has to be NUMBER ONE, the CENTER OF ATTENTION, THE BIG CHEESE, the MAIN ATTRACTION. If he is in a situation where he fears not getting the adulation that he feels he deserves, such as with your friends or co-workers, or even in a club that you frequent (translation: your territory), he will be extremely uncomfortable, either claiming a headache, feeling ‘bad vibes’ in the place, or simply getting angry. He may insult or dismiss everyone there as ‘substandard human beings’. A narcissist cannot share his limelight with anyone, not even his spouse.

It is especially hard to let go of a relationship breakdown when you can’t find any rhyme or reason to the way it all unfolded. We think that all people are good people and can’t understand how someone could so easily just dismiss us as if we never existed.

Truth is, you didn’t exist to the narcissist. He is so totally and completely self-centered to the point of his being the only person in his life – ever. You simply were a temporary ego-boost. A narcissist supplier (an enforcer and validation of his self-love). His mirror.

You were taken in by his phony charm simply because you trusted men. And now you are left with doubts, insecurities, questions, and extreme hurt that one you cared for could so easily ‘dismiss you’ and then walk away completely unmoved and untouched by the experience.

You want him to hurt, too. To show sorrow. To feel remorse.

So that you can feel important again. Like you mattered.

But you didn’t. And it has nothing to do with you. He simply is unable to care for anyone other than himself, no matter whom they are. And deep inside you know that you have just wasted years of your life on someone who is an empty fraud. It’s like you imagined everything; nothing was real. He was a masterful actor when he was getting his ego fed; but now that he is not getting his narcissistic supply from you anymore he simply – and completely – has totally erased you from his life. It is important to remember that narcissists are ‘plotters’ and he has been plotting the destruction of the relationship since the very first moment his charming, but fake persona met you.

Expect your world to fall apart whereas his world will remain unscathed – as will his emotions. OOPS, pardon me, I made a mistake! Make that “his ‘lack of’ emotions”. Narcissistic men haven’t any empathy for others, and will never take any direct responsibility for any pain they may have caused. They will never acknowledge their wrongdoings, or apologize to you, because they truly believe themselves to be perfect. They project all their faults and flaws onto you, accusing you of the very things that they, themselves, are guilty of.

In fact, throughout your entire relationship, you probably were lead to believe that you were the problem when in actuality it was their narcissism that was at fault. You have subconsciously learned to take his attacks personally, because he is so very good at manipulating the people around him.

Narcissistic and histrionic men play on the fact that most of us are trustingand forgiving, and that we want to believe in them.

Narcissists are all about their image, and they spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting their false front, or their ‘image’. He’s forever aware of his impression on people, and he knows exactly what ‘face’ to put on to draw people into his ‘magical circle’ of followers – all with the intent to enhance his own self-exaltation.

Whatever his career, special talent, or gift may be he will spend days, weeks, months, YEARS perfecting it. If he is a lawyer there is no winning a legal argument against him. If he is a musician he will practice the same tune over and over again, each time trying to make it even more perfect than the time before. If he is a doctor he will try to out-diagnose all his colleagues. If he is a salesman, he will read every book on the market on the art of sales. Perfecting his persona for the sole purpose of gaining admiration is the only thing he holds important, and the only reward he needs.

He is an expert at even fooling himself into thinking he is larger than life and, unfortunately, the more positive the feedback he receives, the more trapped in his mirror he becomes. He would rather have adoration from complete strangers than a deep meaningful relationship with a loving partner. His image is superficial and covers up his complete lack of inner awareness. He is, quite simply, an expert fake, forever on the search for a true acceptance, but never daring enough to show his ‘real self’ for fear of not receiving it.

The sad thing is, because he feels he is loved for his fake front, he never truly feels loved for his real self, and this just further enables and encourages his narcissism.

The narcissistic mate displays many typical psychopathic characteristics. He may have falsely displayed deep emotion toward you (when he was in your good graces). In reality, he was less concerned with you than with making himself look good. In the romance department, a narcissist or a histrionic man has an uncanny ability to gain your trust and affection quickly, disarming you with his charm (i.e., “What a beautiful necklace; you have such excellent taste in jewelry“) and captivating you with his many grandiose plans (i.e., “I want to start a business with you that is something we can build together“). If he cheats on you you’ll probably find forgiveness for him – maybe even blame yourself for his infidelities – but one day when you’ve had enough, he’ll leave you with nothing but the breath-taking epiphany that your whole life with him has been a lie. He’ll also, most likely, leave you with an empty pocketbook, too. Of course, by this time he’ll already have a new ‘sucker’ under his wing, and could care less what he has done to you.

Yes, living with, loving and leaving a narcissistic man is an experience unlike any other! You are left deeply confused and weakened by the abuse.

***“My narcissist was mad at me every single day. In fact, I can’t remember even one day that he wasn’t angry, grudgeful, judgmental, and insulting.”

He wants you to pay for his inner pain, and he will do everything in his power to punish you and push you over the brink. Your mind can’t rationalize that these men are not ‘normal’, and so it tries to make sense of their behavior.

Yet, the narcissistic ex continually acts in abusive, bewildering and confusing ways. He is not above committing destructive acts. When the breakup becomes a reality, it is likely that his ‘false persona’ will completely disappear all together and you will most likely experience the most hurtful of behavior from him. He is completely lacking in empathy, and – since he is not receiving any admiration from you anymore – he will dismiss you and discard you as worthless to him, consequently dropping any fake front that he use to put up in order to keep you in the relationship.

In the end I was left feeling like a shell of a person. To think this was someone whom I lived with for 2 years and loved deeply. I will forever be changed by this experience. If he could get over on me with my New York City street sense and smarts then he could get over on anyone.  He met me when I was on top of the world. By the time he was done I had lost almost everything and everyone I loved. that was when he looked me in the face and said I do not love you anymore…. And days later was on to stalking the next girl.  This is the true facts of what I lived through and I felt compelled to share this experience to warn others. The best thing that ever happened to me was the day that sociopath left.

The day I started working on me! And forgetting about him and the mess he left for me to clean up. I decided it was time to invest in me.  I developed my own fix my self course.

I took some online courses on Meditation and Self Love which were great and cheap.

I just started doing little things everyday that made me feel good even if it was has simple has a face mask. If it made me feel good I did it and slowly it started working.

Self  love and heal yourself  back to you!

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