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Twenty-six-year-old Jackson MacKenzie, one of the founders of PsychopathFree.com, originally self-published his book Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People three years ago. It took off. This September, an expanded version was rereleased by Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin.
DomesticShelters.org:You became a sort of reluctant expert in psychopaths after dating one, right?
JM: It was my first relationship [after coming out]. It started out like a fairytale. You meet this person who is identical to you in every single way. They say you’re perfect and flawless, but they hone in on your insecurities. It went from idolization to constant criticism, minimization, lies, threats. I thought I had gone insane. I went from being the most happy, cheerful person in the world and within span of three months, was transformed into an insecure, fearful, truly crazy-feeling person. I was in the relationship for a year. The end of it was just a big mess. Through therapy, I learned about sociopaths and their relationship cycle of idealization and devaluation, and it just clicked. It was the missing puzzle piece.
DS.org: How do you spot a psychopath?
JM: They’re social predators. They’ve spent their lives learning how to mimic human emotions. They’re charming, but not over the top—they’re cute, innocent. The one thing to pay attention to is the flattery and the instant connection that they manufacture with you. It’s really about, ‘Wow, we have so much in common!’
The red flag is when a psychopath latches on to you. You will find yourself very quickly entering a relationship and will talk about getting married—they will consume your life. You’ll get nonstop texts from the time you wake up until you go to bed. Things that normally take a while in a healthy relationship will go much faster.
More signs include pathological lying, absolutely zero remorse, having no empathy whatsoever—they are psychologically incapable of doing that.
Psychopaths are constantly surrounding themselves with exes and potential mates. They dangle these people in your face and wait until you react. The goal is to make you feel inferior and drive down your self-esteem so you rely more and more on them.
Don’t focus too much on the label—whether they’re a garden-variety jerk, an abuser or a psychopath, you’re not in a good relationship if these red flags apply to them. You have to learn how to identify toxic people.
DS.org: You say your book is a survivor’s guide – so, how do you survive these types of relationships?
JM: I know it’s not possible in a lot of abusive situations, but there has to be no contact [with the psychopath]. Once apart, you have a lot of cognitive dissonance—‘Oh, it wasn’t really that bad. It’s probably all me.’ You have to put that boundary up and say not only am I not going to see this person, but I’m not going to text or call them, or have a Facebook friendship with them. The longer [survivors] spend with no contact, the more everything starts to make sense.
DS.org: Did you have any idea your website PsychopathFree.com would take off the way it did?
JM: I did not expect it at all. I started the site in 2011 with three other friends as a way to tell my story and work through some things. The site is for all ages, genders and sexual orientations. Our nonprofit status was just approved. One of our big initiatives has been reaching out to the young adult community. We find most young adults don’t even know about psychopaths except for serial killers, but this has nothing to do with murdering people. So we run awareness campaigns to teach young people about how to spot manipulative partners.
DS.org: What would you say you’ve taken from this experience?
JM: It’s hard to say it was a blessing in disguise … it was more like an opportunity. I’m not grateful it happened, but I’m amazed at the outcome. After all of this happened is when I started becoming a much more genuine person. I would actually talk about my writing. I formed much, much healthier friendships with people who were positive, kind and caring.
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