If you ever find that you have reached a point of real satisfaction in your life, then as much as you should cherish and enjoy it, you should also watch out for psychopaths and other toxic people who will tend to hone in on your happiness right when it all clicks into place and will seek to undermine and destroy it.
There are several motivations for this, but the main one is that psychopaths are deeply unhappy people themselves and on one level they realize this. If they cannot experience what someone else has then the next best alternative for them is to step in and snuff out in another’s life what they cannot have in their own. Let’s look at the issue in more detail and also at how to defend against this happening.
Envy as a Crucial Factor
One of the first things to realize about psychopaths is that they are not creative beings in any sense and are instead purely toxic and destructive in their behaviour. Whilst most normal human beings take pleasure in the happiness and success of another, psychopaths actively hate to see others happy as it is something they do not and can never possess inside themselves.
The main emotion that underlies this is envy, the most destructive of all emotions and the basis for much of a psychopath’s behaviour towards high quality, successful individuals. Envy should be contrasted with admiration, where the person looks up to and wishes they had what the other person does, but ultimately respects the other person and does not seek to undermine them.
Envy is more toxic and seeks to take what the other person has for themselves, or even worse just take it away from the other person even though they cannot have it for themselves and just destroy it. Extreme envy would rather no one had happiness even if that includes the envious person themself.
Envy can be a malignant force in the individual lives of people but also the collective level of society, with the “politics of envy” focused on attacking people who have more, with slogans like “tax the rich” and so on. See Helmut Schoeck’s excellent book on the topic available on Amazon.
It is an unfortunate quirk of humanity that we cannot expect everyone to be happy that others are happy, even though we ourselves may not be envious or resentful and we are happy for others to succeed and have more than us. Sadly not all people are able to tolerate someone having more than them or being happier than them.
Psychopaths are most definitely one such group you should watch out for as one of their main goals in life is to snuff out the happiness of others. They realize they cannot have this happiness themselves and so they seek to destroy it in others they meet in their lives.
If you reach a point in your life where you “have it all together” and are happy, whether that is financial success, happy relationships, lifestyle or whatever, then you most definitely need to watch out for psychopaths and other toxic people entering your lives. They have an uncanny knack of honing in from afar on another person’s happiness.
The reason for this is that psychopaths initially do have a fascination with high quality, successful people and this is why they initially gravitate towards them in the hope of being able to “absorb” and have a piece of their success or their traits. Unfortunately this fascination later to turns to pure destructive envy once they realize they cannot just absorb these traits by osmosis and so they seek to undermine and destroy the person’s happiness or success.
There are certain people that have what toxic people want, whether it is virtues and traits, popularity, charisma and vibrancy or material wealth and success. It is important to note that these can be psychological or material assets that the psychopath seeks and they may be drawn to different people for different reasons.
However all quality people have something that psychopaths want to have, and when they realize they can’t they will seek to destroy it in you so you don’t have it either. These are the people this article is aimed at, so you can hopefully spot when a toxic person has entered your life and take steps to protect yourself.
How Psychopaths Undermine You
Just how a psychopaths goes about their business of destroying another person’s happiness depends on what it is they want. If it is your material success they envy, then they will often present themselves to you as a new potential business partner and they’ll be wanting a piece of your firm or barraging you with new projects they want to launch in tandem with you.
In this article though we will focus more on the psychological ways psychopaths undermine happiness in people. This is when their target possesses emotional traits and virtues or just an internal happiness without necessarily any external wealth that the psychopath wants but can’t have.
In these cases psychopaths most often undermine their target by creating psychological doubt in them. They will chip away at a person’s sense of reality and confidence and attempt to create doubts and issues out of nothing. They will try to convince the person they are unhappy when they aren’t! The simple equation in this scenario is as follows:
Psychopaths and other toxic people are not happy in their own lives. But instead of trying to make themselves happy, they would rather try and make you unhappy
This is a bizarre but very real mindset that happy and successful people need to watch out for in their lives. Psychopaths are deeply unhappy people but rather than fix themselves internally, they’d rather lay waste to the world and target good people around them to bring them down.
One common psychological trick they use to do this is to keep asking “are you OK?” in a way that implies there is something wrong with you. They may do this for example in social situations, or just in general. Of course there is nothing wrong with someone asking if you are OK but you will find certain people keep doing it in an invasive way, even though you feel perfectly fine and tell them so.
No matter how many times you tell them this though they will keep invasively asking “Are you OK?” “Are you enjoying this?” and so on in social situations for example, constantly trying to chip away and create doubts in you that there is something wrong. Even if you tell them everything is fine, it is as though the answer bounces off them and they keep trying to create doubts and insecurity in you.
In reality, there most likely is nothing wrong with you; they are trying to make something wrong and undermine the traits and virtues you have which they don’t. Maybe they hate the fact that you can enjoy yourself in social settings in a tactful understated way without needing to be the center of attention in the way so many psychopaths need to.
This is just one of many different tactics psychopaths can use to try and undermine a person psychologically and create doubts and insecurity. The key things is to pay attention to your gut feel and watch closely how people are interacting with you, especially if they have just recently come into your life. This kind of psychological abuse can often masquerade as “only trying to help”.
If you find them invading your boundaries in an excessive way and trying to create issues and problems in you when there aren’t any, then you need to take steps to distance yourself from this person and also watch more closely how they interact with others to spot for signs of personality disorder. See our Checklist page for some key traits to look out for.
Ways To Defend Yourself
There are some important steps one can take to defend themselves if they feel a person is acting in a way that seems to be undermining their happiness and creating doubts and insecurity in the person. Psychopaths often take advantage of kind natured and gentle people who may not often get angry or confrontational with others.
Some people can find it hard to “say the difficult thing” to someone and tell them to back off, or stop invading their boundaries and privacy, or whatever else the situation dictates. This is not a knock on anyone with these traits; some people are gentle by nature and prefer harmony to conflict, in fact most people do to some extent.
Psychopaths however take advantage of this fact in people who are not particularly prone to conflict or “pushing back” in terms of defending themselves, and they will just keep pressing further and further into them psychologically, invading their boundaries more and more and trying to create more doubts and play more mind games.
This can be countered by following some simple principles about who you let into your life and just observing closely people who do enter your life to spot for character traits, both good and bad. This is especially important if you are not prone to argument or confrontation to begin with. It is far better to stop a psychopath wriggling their way into your life than deal with them once they are there.
Here are a few simple rules to follow to keep toxic people from entering your life:
- Be very cautious about the people you let into your life. Give trust only when it is earned through repeatedly virtuous behaviour.
- Watch out especially for people appearing from seemingly nowhere and wanting to get to know you unusually fast, especially when you have things going for you like wealth, lifestyle, relationships, vibrancy and so on. Anything you have which could be a source of envy needs to guarded closely.
- Watch out for people “walking in step” with you and seemingly mirroring your every move despite having only just met you.
- Do not judge whether someone is a good person or not by first impressions or a superficial initial charm they give off (psychopaths are masters at this). You can only judge virtue by watching how they treat themselves and others (not just you) over a prolonged period of time. Only when this test is passed can you consider someone a genuinely good person.
- Do not feel as though you MUST let someone into your life if they show an unusual interest in getting to know you. It is your perfect right to NOT allow someone in if you have doubts and suspiscions about their motives. Even if your judgement is wrong in some cases it is still your right to make your own decisions as to who you let get close to you.
- Be very careful if you start to see people try to create doubts in your mind about yourself. If you feel fine, then as far as you are concerned you ARE fine. Do not let someone else try and tell you there’s something wrong with you, especially if this person has seemingly entered your life from nowhere in the last few weeks or months.
- You be your own judge of whether you are fine in yourself. Do not let someone else create doubts in your mind when there weren’t any before they came on the scene. Toxic people love to snuff out another person’s happiness by creating doubts in them through subtle, undermining comments.
Another thing psychopaths and other manipulative people play on is people’s fear of offending others by saying no or otherwise setting boundaries. Many of us don’t like to refuse something, to get angry, or to “create a scene”. Psychopaths will often take advanatage of this in certain people to just keep chipping away at someone psychologically, knowing there will be no “pushback” as the person is not comfortable with conflict and struggles to set boundaries.
It is therefore crucial that potential targets of psychopaths follow simple rules and principles like the ones listed above to make sure only solid, moral and trustworthy people are allowed into their lives on a close personal level.
Similarly all people need to learn to set boundaries, say no and be prepared for conflict on occasion even if this is not their default position and they must push through a great deal of resistance psychologically to do so. Setting boundaries is just another way of knowing, protecting and enjoying the self – see Charles Whitfield’s excellent book on the topic.
See also our Resources Page for more excellent books and videos on spotting and dealing with psychopaths and other toxic people in your life.