Masks and Emotional Vampires Here, There and Online
Relationship behaviors involving deceptive masking can be repeatedly and easily perpetrated on internet dating sites, thanks to the lack of stringent sign up measures and cross referencing between profiles. On the most basic level, members on some dating sites (not to mention between sites) can mask their activity by sequentially, or sometimes simultaneously, creating different user names with same photos but different locations.
One online user, age 54, on Superencontre has at least three different user names, such as: eole2012, gaetan 235, cotchou, for which the locations regularly change to different cities or countries. He has been flagged on a dating advice forum as a known player. Another user, age 51, has been seen under two different user names and locations in recent months on meetic.fr (linked now to match.com) triceasmuch : Paris, Ile de France, and chameleonsure : London, UK, which is not his country of residence. He claims to have had experiences described as marvelous and enriching with as many as 30 women, most found online, in the past 10 or less years, to keep a photo gallery of these many “conquests” on his wall and to have not a single regret. He has stated that following each episode his invitations to the women to then continue as friends are declined, and that he has made great efforts to keep himself out of internet search results. But why? What are these guys hiding?
Just a few months ago, I would never have thought I would find myself writing something like this, but the encounter that has provoked this blog has changed me. If, as it seems, our world is now increasingly littered with unwell people who happily use the cover of the internet to prowl for prey, then it is only fair to use the same medium to attempt to warn other villagers.
What is the masking on a deeper level that so often comes with those who play with others for sexual or emotional satisfaction? The word mask here is used to refer to psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of the persona or False Self that all of us use to some extent: ‘We might define this false self as the persona, that general idea of ourselves which we have built up from experiencing our effect upon the world around us and its effect upon us.’(Jung) This persona or mask can be seen as a normal protective part of being human but which becomes dangerous to the extent that buried behind it may be repressed, painful aspects of our inner reality, referred to by Jung as the Shadow. These then are all too often transferred onto others through projection. So, for instance, the person who denies his/her damaged self-esteem behind a grandiose mask, might well behave in such ways that it is their partners that stagger out of contact with them feeling like yesterday’s newspaper. It is a fascinating and deadly dynamic, sometimes referred to as emotional vampirism. You could also call it emotional rape.
Typically, relationship pairings where this is going on at a chronic level will involve one partner, such as the extreme narcissist, whose projections cause harm to others, with the codependent whose projections mostly cause self-harm by submitting to being controlled or more explicitly abused. At the more destructive end of the spectrum, there may be little or no consciousness of how both are acting out their denied Shadows. Sometimes the codependent person will seek help and become more aware but rarely the type who destroys outwards, their strongly constructed defense mechanisms allowing them to effectively use others to satisfy their needs. On the surface, their behavior serves them well so why question it? Why change something if not for the better – for them? But at root, their inability to question is also due to a need to rigidly uphold the persona/mask protecting them from a painful confrontation with their repressed aspects. Their defense mechanisms have, in effect, become their personality. The fiercer the defense of the mask and denial of the Shadow it protects, the more painful we can compassionately guess these would be to explore, and the more severe the collateral damage of their projections onto others.
As looked at below, such behavior often comes hand in hand with certain personality disorders, components of which typically include a lack of self-awareness and empathy. So one might say that these people don’t know what they’re doing and are pathologically unable to care even if they do. However, the shifting from online user name/location to another is a simple but telling sign that they do at least know they have something to hide and are therefore consciously cunning. A reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula shows us that the Transylvanian Count had to construct an extremely elaborate, laborious and time-consuming plan in order to access new prey in England. Nowadays all he’d have to do is spend 5 minutes creating a new dating profile located in the UK, set up a couple of dates, do a bit of shape-shifting and hop on a plane.
Relationship behaviors typical of Narcissistic and/or Antisocial Personality Disorder can be briefly encapsulated; sweep the target off their feet> idealize> test> devalue> discard directly, or by sabotaging the liaison. Until then, adept dissembling and manipulation are key to increasingly convince the partner that she or he is in a genuinely deepening relationship. Again, symptomatic of these disorders is an absence of empathy, conscience, and psychological self-awareness.
These personalities are very good at what they do and are not always easy to see coming. They quickly figure out the vulnerabilities and innermost desires of their target, and then skillfully play on them, able to impressively mimic expressions of sincere regard and feeling. Layers of masks. Even if your intuition scratches its head, you ask questions, resist, you may still be manipulated into second-guessing yourself by having your empathy, sympathy appealed to etc. etc. The games are many. Once in the “web” it can be hard to see properly at all until the mask custom designed to play you drops, revealing the true mechanisms and motives of the primary mask. These may be to test your submission levels to see if you are a worthy candidate for being controlled longer term (if not you will be discarded) or simply to sabotage and destroy the relationship if this happens to be the masked one’s emotional habit. You may have in fact been selected in the first place, consciously or not, because you were clearly not going to be submissive enough to qualify for long term use and were therefore tagged for the discard pile from the get go. A maze of perversions in the guise of love.
Even short experiences of this kind can be devastating, rather like being shot in the stomach three times over. First one mourns the loss of a seemingly blossoming relationship with an apparently wonderful person. Then one has to come to terms with the fact that neither was real. The third shot one may well deliver oneself, ashamed for having been too easy prey for whatever reason – some vulnerability, loneliness perhaps – and for not having come to the encounter with a phd in personality disorders, all the warmth and openness of an expert private investigator, and a handy, digital lie detector sneakily concealed behind one’s cell phone. Later on you may realize too that on a deeper level, you were an accomplice in the interaction.
Finally then, the one note of hope is that while the masked ones fiercely defend themselves from awareness, locked as they are into their warped modus operandum, we can move on and do better for ourselves. We can look at the story and reap learning about ourselves from it, accepting and exploring the possibility that we too may have still unresolved damage making us vulnerable to such encounters – we can grow and transcend. There is also a great deal of info on the internet on personality disorders, codependency, how to be not only healthier but smarter about dating, relationships and on and on. Get educated, aware, and beware! If you make an apparently interesting contact on a dating site, search their user name and then stated name when you learn it (if you find nothing, wonder why.) Between Russian prostitute mafias, Nigerian scammers and these masked individuals, internet dating has become a jaunt through a flowery minefield.
A Classic Outline of the Dance- based largely on personal experience. (N.B. In its more general sense, “he” is used here but masked performers can be of either gender.)
The beginning – reeling:
- He comes on strong – sweeps you off your feet – appearing and proclaiming to be very sincere
- He’s finally found you, his right partner and wants you to feel the same – in fact even if you feel things are moving too fast, you may make an effort to be as open as he appears to be, to hurry up and trust him.
- Soon makes future plans, refers to you as a couple – you…ditto above
- Is consistently considerate, appreciative, kind, attentive, romantic, passionate, open, listens, is willing to talk about anything, even difficult stuff, washes dishes – in short, seems too good to be true – and will turn out to be just that
- Tells you he’s never felt so close, found so much uncannily in common etc etc, with anyone before and wants to get even closer – by now this is sounding great; he’s so open, there does seem to be so much in common, there are bouquets of roses… why not?
- May say he has no baggage from the past – beware anyone who says this; they may indeed seem very well-adjusted, at first, but could easily turn out to have enough baggage to overwhelm a small airport
The Middle – unraveling:
- His behavior becomes less considerate and respectful, cancels plans, trips last minute etc – he’s already earned so much credit with you, you do your best to be understanding and flexible
- Creates scenarios that rock the boat, perhaps involving a technique called “triangulation”, e.g. his still-in-love-with-him ex wife suddenly becomes much more present in his life – you attempt to balance understanding with not being a doormat
- The scenarios escalate to where in order to continue together you’d have to adapt to an unhealthy degree; give up or greatly minimize interests unrelated to him, abandon other obligations, quickly rent out your home, move in with him with his ex now living right next door, etc – through the thick fog of your feelings for him your eyes start painfully to open as you see that your autonomy v. submissiveness levels are being tested and/or that he’s deliberately sabotaging the relationship. Or maybe he’s seeing someone else already and this is a convoluted way of getting rid of you. This might not occur to you till later. You’ll never know.
The end – reality:
- You try to negotiate. His discussion skills seem to have become extremely confused. So have you. He “loves” you but is no longer so interested in mutual respect and adaptation; that is now all yours to carry. You hear things like “I’m used to getting what I want!”, “You want someone to adapt to you”, “I need you to be more understanding” – you finally realize there’s something dreadfully wrong with this picture
- OPTION ONE: Stunned and bewildered, you call time out for both of you to think. But further reasoning with him is impossible. You’re not right for him after all. True; you won’t do whatever he wants. And the other tune he whistles now is that you dreamed up who you thought he was all by yourself; he had nothing to do with it. This is partly true. The “he” you fell for never existed; he made of himself a mirror onto which you could reflect-project your dreams. He was but a mask upon a mask and you just one in a long series of projection objects.
- He still wants to be “friends”. Sadly though, as a friend or anything else, in being driven by his denied Shadow, he has only the pain of that Shadow to offer anyone, making of himself an impermeable wall against which questions or self-questioning about his behavior only rebound. In order to be his friend you would leave yourself open to being manipulated some more, be a convenient backup and who knows what else. You decline, and embark instead on a hard journey of recovery after this far, far from marvelous experience.
Eventually I formed a very strong guess, theory, as to what was driving this masked one. He was a child when his mother fled from the home and his abusive, womanizing father. So he takes revenge on her through other women, projects onto them the feeling of worthlessness he must have felt at her abandonment of him, and repeats his early trauma, getting women to fall for him and then engineering a situation that makes them flee. In this process he also gets to continue and refine the legacy of his abusive, womanizing father. Perfect, and perfectly sad, unconsciously sick. What I experienced must just have been a variation of a script he’d played out many times before. Hence, the writing of this post in an effort to warn and inform potential future prey. The rest of my figuring out is about why I was vulnerable to someone like this.
- OPTION TWO: If he’s not predestined to discard you whatever you do, you stick around for more, thinking perhaps it’ll get better. But with people trapped by their lack of consciousness in such negative behavior patterns, the menu will almost certainly include increasingly weird mind, soul and perhaps body and bank-account bending stuff. So, yes, you could do that, for as long as you can stand it, or until there’s nothing left of you at all.
- Bravo. (Applause from an empty theatre.)
~ by vigilancemusings on April 15, 2012.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: antisocial personality disorder, chameleonsure, codependence, emotional vampirism, esteem, jung, masking, match.com, meetic.fr, narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, online dating, projecting, projections, psychology, relationships, sociopath