Going from anger to calm in an instant – a Red Flag of an abuser/psychopath
Guest post by James
Many ‘ordinary’ people can go from calm to angry very quickly given the right circumstances.
But only those with personality disorders (psychopaths etc) can go from anger to calm in an instant. It is a huge ‘tell-tale’.
[Update — James has clarified this even more: Going from anger to charming in an instant is a marker of psychopathy or similar personality disorder. See this comment by James.]
These people are life-time actors. They adopt roles to suit their circumstances and needs. And they know what they are doing yet will never admit it. It can do your head in. For anyone who hasn’t dealt with someone with a narcissistic or psychopathic disorder, I will try and give a verbal demonstration [an analogy / illustration].
The Actor’s deception
Imagine you are a fan of a certain TV actor in an ongoing soap opera. This actor is not very well known but you appreciate their talent. One day a friend says to you that they know this actor and can arrange a meeting if you like. You say ‘yes, of course’.
So you turn up for coffee at the pre-arranged time and place and sit down with this actor and are looking forward to talking about their role and how they approach it. But you find the actor is in character and will not come out of it to talk to you as he/she is in everyday life. You find it amusing and entertaining at first. But after a while when the actor will not acknowledge what they are doing, it starts to get weird and a little annoying and you are starting to wonder if this meeting was a good idea.
You thank the actor for their entertaining performance and say that you really would like to talk to the real person as you have many questions to ask. The actor stares at you feigning disbelief and shock and says to you, “I don’t understand. Are you suggesting I have been lying to you? Are you feeling ok? I am starting to feel insulted”!
Then, by chance and before you can think of how on earth to respond, a friend drops in and comes over to your table. You are about to introduce the actor when the actor jumps in and introduces him/herself as the character they play and has been playing to you. You don’t say anything to your friend. Your friend, not recognising the actor and not realising what is going on, is charmed and delighted with your ‘friend’ and their conversation.
After a little while, the actor excuses him/herself (while still in character) and leaves. Your friend tells you what a delightful person the actor was – still unaware that the actor was not being his/her true self. You try to explain, but your friend does not ‘get it’ and as you persist, your friend starts to look at you strangely and asks if you are ok. The actor was a perfectly fine person to them!
Your head is well and truly ‘done in’ by now and you are starting to sound and feel crazy even to yourself while trying to make sense of it all to your friend and to yourself.
That is what it is like dealing with personality disordered people and how you end up sounding crazy to others when you try to explain what is going on for you. And feeling crazy yourself by now.
These nasty people adopt roles and will not admit what they are doing even though they know that you know what they are doing. They persist because they know it is disorienting and distressing for you. Later they may drop the role and you may think you are dealing with the ‘real’ person now. But you aren’t. It is just another role. There is no ‘real person’ in there. Every encounter is with another acting role.
With personality disordered people [e.g. psychopaths] there is no true person there, no genuine empathy.
There is no genuine feeling there. They are just mimicking what they have seen others do. They are actors and very good ones. They study people to copy them when they need to.
People, and I have not been an exception, keep dealing with these psychopaths, narcissists etc thinking that they will get down to the real person. They keep trying to ‘connect’ with them but they are just getting conned again and again by another role, another act, because there is no real person under all the lies and manipulations.
There is no humanity there. No empathy, no compassion and no understanding or sympathy despite what they may say and despite how they may behave for the time being. They are consumed with meeting their needs now and nothing else.
Persisting in looking for, or appealing to, the ‘real person’ is a waste of time and will just do your head in. Expecting them to show sympathy towards you after they have abused you makes as much sense to them as you showing sympathy towards the tea cup you just dropped and broke.
Your feelings after you have broken your favourite tea cup are reserved for you and not the tea cup. It’s the same with these people. You’re a tea cup!
The text of this guest post was originally a comment made by James. Barb Roberts, the leader of this website, is grateful to James for giving permission for his comment to be featured as a guest post. The text has been slightly modified and added to, with James’s permission and contribution.
Additional note from Barb
It was Dr George Simon Jr’s writings which first gave me clear understanding that abusers pretend they have no insight into the fact that they treating you with disrespect. They pretend they don’t know they are abusive.
George Simon says that abusers (malignant narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, etc.) know full well that they are hurting others. They know…and they don’t care. When confronted about the way they mistreat you, they use a whole array of “responsibility resistance” tactics. One of their first tactics when confronted is to pretend they do not know they are abusing you.
AbusedHusband’s comment about his “wife’s” ability to turn the abuse on and off, and the situations she chose to do so.
Barbara Roberts’ comment about how abusers use “Demonstration Anger” — and how they can turn their demonstration anger on and off at will.