Was Your Ex a Narcissist or a Psychopath?

Uploaded 3/25/2023, approx. 11 minute read

There are many differences between narcissists and psychopaths, but today I'm going to focus on a very important distinction which should make it into any differential diagnosis.

Before we proceed, there are narcissists, people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, there are psychopaths, people diagnosed with an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder, although the label psychopath is much disputed and didn't make it into any of the additions of the diagnostic and statistical manual.

And there is a malignant narcissist, which is essentially a cross between narcissist and a psychopath, it's a narcissist who uses psychopathic techniques in order to secure narcissistic supply.

Psychopath who has traits, especially reactants traits, reactive traits, psychopath who displays behaviorsall in order to secure narcissistic supply.

And as I said, there are many differences between psychopaths and narcissists.

For example, the psychopath couldn't care less about narcissistic supply, he doesn't suffer from cognitive distortions.

Psychopaths could be grandiose, but their grandiosity is more inward, inward looking, internalized.

They do not externalize their grandiosity, they don't try to coerce or convince people to provide them with supply.

So psychopaths are much less dependent on people than narcissists and unlikely to be much less pro-social or communal than narcissists.

Additionally, psychopaths are defiant, they're reactant, they're contumacious, they detest and hate authority, they're reckless, much more reckless than narcissists, and above allthey're goal oriented.

Everything is focused like a laser beam on obtaining a goal.

The goal could be sex, money, power, anything, connections, access, entertainment or accomplishment. Whatever the goal may be, the entire being of the psychopath is focused on obtaining the goal and he becomes ruthless, callous, merciless, tramples everyone on his way and destroys everything possible just in order to obtain the goal.

While the narcissist's only goal is narcissistic supply and he is pretty happy. When he does obtain supply, the narcissist is malleable, gullible, pussycat, cutie pie.

Okay, Shoshanim, so what is the difference between these two that I've promised you to discuss today?


Cathexis means emotional investment in something or someone.

It could be a place, it could be an occupation or a vocation. Usually it is another person. It could be anything, literallyany investment of emotions in something or someone is called cathexis.

Now, cathexis is often channeled through processes of attachment and bonding, includingby the way, trauma bonding.

So when you get attached to another person, when you bond with another person, when you then you develop emotions and inevitably you invest emotionally in the dead person and it's called cathexis.

Now the big difference between narcissists and psychopaths, narcissists are always emotionally invested in shared fantasy, whether it is a friend, spouse, mate, an intimate partner, an abstract concept such as a nation or a religion, a calling, anything.

The narcissist is always emotionally invested in it.

Narcissists are rarely emotionally invested in other people, but they are very, very invested in their own fantasies and cognitive distortions.

Even in the phase of devaluation and discard, the narcissist is emotionally invested in it. It's negative investment.

This is negative cathexis, but there's still no process of deep affective withdrawing the emotions.

So the narcissist is always emotionally there and he is unable to experience or to access positive emotions.

So he is invested with negative affectivity, with negative emotions, including possessiveness, envy, hatred, rage, anger, and so on and so forth.

The psychopath, however, and the malignant narcissist, the psychopathic narcissist, who is essentially indistinguishable from a psychopath, at least behaviorally, if not psychodynamically, but both these types, the psychopath and the malignant or psychopathic narcissist, they are not emotionally invested in anything, in anyone, ever.

The first to observe this was actually Harvey Kockley in 1942. He was shocked and amazed by how psychopaths couldn't care less.

They couldn't care less about their careers, about their intellectual propertyabout their spouses, about their children and parents and the community and public opinion and the court system and law enforcement. They just couldn't care less.

Psychopaths and psychopathic narcissists do not cathect and they don't get attached.

The psychopath is what I call flat attachment, is unable to attach. It also has flat affect. Flat affect simply means that it has reduced affect display. He has poker face.

Most psychopaths have poker face. So you can't really tell what's going on behind these glass over eyes. Behind this glass darkly, there's a human form, but it doesn't emit any human signals. Nothing emanates from it.

That is the psychopath.

So the psychopath doesn't really care if he loses his spouse to another man. He couldn't care less if his work is stolen by someone. He couldn't care less if he's at risk. He couldn't care less if he's accomplished. He is not invested, for example, in his career. It's not a big Lebowski type thing. It's not someone who is deprived of ambition.

And a big Lebowski is actually a very healthy character. He is not invested in ambition, in competition, in pursuit of happiness. He's just happy. He's a slacker, wakes up in the morning and he has fun throughout the day.


The psychopath is not a big Lebowski. The psychopath doesn't care about his profession, about his job, about his career, about his reputation, about his renomé, about his resume, about his academic degrees. He couldn't care less about any of this, about the intellectual property he generates. Let others take it. He couldn't care less because he is not attached to anything. He's not invested in anything.

Now, you could say that the psychopath is anticipating loss the same way the borderline is anticipating abandonment and the narcissist is anticipating devaluation and discard. So you could say that all three cluster B types, histrionic, is a cross between them. You could say that all three cluster B types anticipate discontinuities. They anticipate an end. So nothing good lasts. It's going to end soon and it's going to end badly. And I'm going to feel bad. I'm going to feel hurt. And I'm going to feel devastated if I don't protect myself.

So each one of these types has a different kind of protection.

The borderline protects herself by switching to a psychop- secondary psychopathic self- state and acting out. The psychopath protects himself by simply not caring. It's a see if I care attitude. I couldn't care less. Do whatever you want. Do whatever you want to my wife. Do whatever you want to my work. Do whatever you want to my property. Do whatever you want to my freedom. I couldn't care less.

That's the psychopath's protection.

Psychopaths are very basic devices. I feel good. I feel bad. I'm afraid. I'm afraid. They there's no nuance there. And because there's no emotional converse, there is no context. And because there's no context, the psychopath cruises through life as if it is sliding off its back.

The narcissist defense is preemptive to initiate devaluation and discard as a way to separate from the significant other. That's why narcissists love-ball, psychopaths groom, is a big difference.

Narcissists love-ball because they are emotionally invested in the shared fantasy. They do believe the fantasy. They don't lie. They don't future fake. They are fully immersed in the fantasy and they consider it a reality.

The psychopath, on the other hand, stands apart from his own deeds and misdeeds. He knows damn well what he's doing. He's manipulative. He's cunning. He's skimming.

He realizes the difference, fully realizes the difference between reality and the fantasies that he's selling to others. He future fakes. He lies. He manipulates the psychopath, not the narcissist.

And of courseonline, all the self-titled experts make a god-awful confusion. They say that narcissists are gaslight, not true. They don't, psychopaths gaslight. They say that narcissists groom, they don't.

Psychopaths groom. I mean, it's a bloody mess.

But here you have one very important tool to tell them apart.

If your intimate partner or significant other suddenly dumped you, shows no interest in you, goes no contact overnight and over a dime, simply vanishes and couldn't care less what's happening to you, that is a psychopath or a psychopathic narcissist.

The narcissiston the contraryis liable to stalking, stalking and hoovering, will try to reenter your life somehow. He's very possessive, paranoid, watchful and so on.

Does just vanish, evaporate as though you had never existedand what you had believed to have been a relationship was nothing more but goaloriented. The goal could have been sex, could have been fun, could have been money, could have been access, could have been power, but you were just an instrument. You were a tool on the way to obtaining the goal.

And once the goal has been accomplished or once the psychopath had reached the conclusion that you are useless, you're gone, you're history and you are ancient history the next day. It doesn't take millennia. The next day you are erased, deleted from the psychopath's mind. You have never existed.

This transition is harrowing for the victims, harrowing and it's very uncommon with narcissists.

So analyze your past relationship.

If your exintimate partner still somehow is interacting with you, still wants to be in your life, still wants to know what's going on with you, is still jealous, still tries to hoover you, suggests to meet and to talk and didn't block you anywhere, etc. That's a narcissist.

The psychopath cold-bloodedly erases any trace of you and of what you had with him and he takes him on a slow day, three minutes.

Thank you.

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