The Tangled Web: A True Story of Lies (Paperback)
In the popular imagination, the term "psychopath" is equivalent to "serial killer." This, however, is a distortion of the truth. The psychopath, the person who functions with little or no conscience, takes many forms. He or she is far more likely to appear to us in the form of the con artist, the pathological liar, the swindler, the bully, the manipulator, the sadist and many other "subspecies" who suffer from the same dysfunction. Fundamentally, all psychopaths believe and behave as if the rest of us are merely tools to be used for their own self-serving purposes, then discarded when our usefulness to them has ended. They have no concern for how their behavior affects us. In addition, the danger they pose derives not simply from their behavior, but also from the fact that they wear what has been called a "mask of sanity," luring us in with their intelligence, their charm, their seeming concern for our welfare, then snaring us in their web of deceit, manipulation, and damage. They prey not only on our ignorance and innocence, but also on our wants and weaknesses, often recognizing them when we don't, which makes them even more effective in their efforts to exploit us. The damage they cause to society and to the individual is incalculable.
Thankfully, the vast majority of us will never encounter the psychopath in the guise of the serial killer. Unfortunately, we are far more likely to encounter one of their "lesser" forms, which can, however, do just as much to damage us as their murderous counterparts. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of the less captivating menace that lurks all around us, that is far more likely to ensnare, damage, and possibly destroy us. The stories, the lessons, that come from them are no less dramatic and far more important.
In this book, I recount the details of my ten-month relationship with "Johnny," a psychopath whom I first encountered in the late spring of 2001 and with whom I was directly entangled for the next year. Apart from being a master manipulator, a vindictive bully, and a white-collar criminal, he was first and foremost a pathological liar who wove intricate, convincing stories about himself and his life-and others-that were designed either to reinforce his sense of self or to manipulate those who ran afoul of him into serving his psychopathic needs. In this book, I also recount my attempts to untangle the intricate web of lies about himself and others-and me-that he wove not only throughout that time, but also in the months that followed. Further, I attempt to analyze his seemingly incomprehensible behavior and place it into some kind of comprehensible psychological framework. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I try to detail the way in which these "characters" (an appropriate term, I believe, since they interact with us not as people, but as personas) operate, so that hopefully the reader can recognize and avoid becoming snared in their web of mental illness.