Steven Wolhandler, JD, MA, LPC knows how abusive and manipulative people prey on the emotions of good people – and how good people can protect themselves. He offers a radically different view of these Emotional Predators and provides practical effective solutions. For Emotional Predators, life is a strategy game to dominate and control, and you are either a player to be defeated or a game piece to be used. Without empathy or remorse, they’ll ruin your life, and traditional approaches will make things worse. You’ll learn 5 essential steps for protecting yourself, valuable guidance for safe relationships and over 30 specific defensive tactics for:
- Distinguishing romance from intimacy
- Restoring your self-esteem
- Removing your emotional triggers
- Using gratitude and humor
- Playing their games better than they do – without becoming like them
- Screening professionals to be sure they can help
- Regaining control in family court
- Breaking an addiction to an Emotional Predator
- Re-balancing power in your favor
- Adjusting beliefs that keep you trapped
- Responding strategically, instead of reacting emotionally
Q – Tell us about your book?
It’s called Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators” Neutralize the Users, Abusers and Manipulators Hidden Among Us. It’s a no-nonsense and radically new approach to understanding and dealing with abusive and manipulative people who fly under our radar and wreak havoc with our lives. It presents a new paradigm for understanding the True Nature of these Problem People – and practical effective steps and tactics for protecting yourself. It is a conceptual breakthrough and a practical tool.
Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators offers Serious Help for Dealing with Seriously Difficult People.
Q – Who did you write your book for – who should buy it?
I wrote it for every good-hearted, decent person of empathy who is dealing with an abusive, manipulative person, or recovering from dealing with an abusive, manipulative person – or who might need to deal with one in the future (which is everyone, because abusive, manipulative people are epidemic in our society). Unless you’re a hermit, you would benefit from the eye-opening insights in this book.
It’s a book that almost everyone I know should read, particularly anyone who’s been abused and manipulated by an Emotional Predator, or who is currently involved with one.
Some other folks who ought to have this book are: anyone dating or in a troublesome relationship; all good-hearted people in – or about to be in – divorce court; and all decent lawyers should also find the book invaluable for themselves and their clients.
Q – Is there a central message in the book?
There are two – one in Part 1, the other in Part 2.
The first one is that the current operative paradigm of our culture and the mental health (and other helping) professions is decades out of date and does not help us when we’re dealing with the epidemic of toxic narcissistic manipulators – Emotional Predators. In fact, the advice you are likely to get and your natural (culturally bound) instincts will make things worse! But a new paradigm is available and my book lays this out in simple, easy to read language.
The second one is that real practical and effective help is available. It is not hopeless if you find yourself in, or recovering from, a relationship with an Emotional Predator. There are ways to fortify yourself and effectively deal with them to protect yourself. The trauma of being mistreated, abused and manipulated by a horrible person can be avoided and healed. You can re-balance the power between you and an Emotional Predator. You can neutralize the threat they pose.
Q – Why do you call these toxic people “Emotional Predators” – what other names/labels have they been given?
This is explained in Part 1 of the book, but briefly, Merriam-Webster defines a predator as “a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm them.” The Oxford dictionary defines a predator as “a person that ruthlessly exploits others.”
Emotional Predators have been called many things:, Personality Disordered, Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths, Borderlines, Hysterics, Character Disturbed, Narcissistic Sociopaths, Sociopathic Narcissists, Malignant Personalities, Malignant Narcissists, Toxic Personalities and Covert-Aggressive Manipulators. They’ve also been called jerks, hustlers and con-artists.
I call them Emotional Predators because they feed on the emotions of others – they’ll tune into your emotions to use as leverage for their manipulations.
Whatever label we use, a fundamental underlying attribute that distinguishes Emotional Predators is their lack of empathy, conscience and compassion.
And like all good predators, they are skilled at hiding their true nature and what they’re up to. Most of them appear charming, seductive and wonderful at first. The less they are seen for what they really are, the more dangerous they are.
Q – What is the most important idea you are sharing in your book that will add value to the reader’s life?
These people – the manipulators, sociopaths, narcissists, etc – are not like everyone else and to treat them like you would treat others and expect the same result is dangerous and unrealistic. Emotional Predators want what they want. They want it now. To get it, they will do whatever they think they can get away with. To them, life is a game and you are either an opponent to be defeated or a game piece to be used.
Most or all of your normal responses – and the advice you’ll get from most mental health and other professionals – will make things worse. The book is a guide and a resource tool on how to be effective and turn things around – it also educates you about how to spot and avoid these problem people in the future.
In Part 2 of the book, I explain how you can adjust your core stories about who you have to be with others in order to be a “good” person so your core beliefs don’t leave you vulnerable to emotional manipulation.
Q – What are the 5 steps of protecting yourself that you set out in the book?
Part 2 of the book provides specific tactics and techniques to insulate yourself from Emotional Predators’ abuse and manipulations and divides those tactics and techniques into five strategic steps:
Step 1, Identify Emotional Predators (Chapter 3)
Step 2, Know yourself better than they know you (Chapter 4)
Step 3, Be Flexible about how you define yourself (Chapter 5)
Step 4, Avoid and Disengage when possible (Chapter 6)
Step 5, Be Strategic when you do engage (Chapter 7).
One example of an important strategy in the book is to be aware, not naive. Know yourself and how you blind yourself to things you don’t want to see – because those blind spots are where Emotional Predators hide. “A problem understood is a problem that can be solved.” The most dangerous threats are the ones you don’t see coming – so expand your awareness of yourself and those around you.
Q – What is the “True Nature of the Problem”? – Explain the new paradigm for understanding and dealing with abusive and manipulative people – and the difference between it and what you say is the outdated but still largely operative mental health paradigm.
There are people who are not like the rest of us. They are skilled at presenting a facade that seems normal and being charming, appealing and winning. But they lack Empathy, Conscience and Compassion. And we make a fundamental mistake when we believe that – because we have empathy, conscience and compassion, everyone else does as well. Conscience and compassion require empathy the way a bicycle requires wheels.
The outdated paradigm that is still the way most people try to understand toxic people has roots in psychoanalysis and psycho dynamic theory – which came out of the Victorian era when the Zeitgeist was “Don’t even think about it”. This repressing (pushing away) natural desires created neurotic problems of guilt and shame for sensitive people who do have empathy and a conscience.
The problem people of today are not neurotic – they have disturbed personalities or character. They lack empathy and conscience. The Zeitgeist of our indulgent era, starting around the 1960s is “Just do it”. So the approaches of traditional therapy, rooted in post-Victorian times, don’t work with today’s epidemic of character-based, selfish, manipulative Emotional Predators and they make things worse.
Q – How does your book fit with other books in the area?
In Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. George Simon and The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout, and Without Conscience by Dr. Robert Hare – are the main foundations on which, Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators, is built. Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators expands on and explains in easy to understand language the messages of those books – and it adds extensive, user-friendly practical steps for real world protection. All these books are calls to pay attention to what Dr. Simon calls “the phenomenon of our age.”
Q – You say that even “experts” don’t know how to help and that Emotional Predators are drawn to enter “helping professions” like mental health and law. Why is that?
Emotional Predators crave the experience of controlling and dominating. This means they seek out professions that put them in positions of power over an emotionally vulnerable population, professions like: politics, law (lawyers, judges and law enforcement); education; spiritual leadership (priests, imams, rabbis, gurus and spiritual guides); medicine; corporate management; and (last but not least) mental health.
Emotional Predators are in other professions too – and being in the professions I just mentioned doesn’t mean someone is an Emotional Predator: many fine people are in all of those professions. But these professions attract Emotional Predators and have a higher percentage of Emotional Predators in them than are in the rest of the population.
So in addition to a mental health professional, attorney or spiritual guide not knowing the true nature of the problem you’re dealing with and operating from an outdated paradigm for understanding toxic, problem people – any one of these professionals is more likely to be one of those problem people than the rest of the population. So my book explains how to carefully screen professionals before hiring them.
Q – You say that common approaches like trying to change them and following the Golden Rule make things worse. Why is that?
When we try to change an Emotional Predator, we reveal information about what we value, what we want. An Emotional Predator uses that information to manipulate us. A core strategy of protection is to keep your feelings and values – your core beliefs – hidden from the Emotional Predator.
Following the Golden Rule – to treat others the way you would like to be treated – works great when you’re dealing with others who also follow that rule. But Emotional Predators do not follow it. The Golden Rule directs you to be generous to others because you’d like others to be generous to you. But the more you give an Predator, the more they take – and they only take. It’s a one-way street.
An Emotional Predator will never do a selfless act; they’re always after their own gain. They use everything you do and say for their own benefit and at your expense. Decent people don’t realize that Emotional Predators can’t reciprocate and will mistreat people who follow the Golden Rule with them.
It’s much more helpful to follow what I call The Golden Rule Turned Inward: and treat every aspect of yourself the way you would like to be treated – to treat yourself with forgiveness and compassion. Respect yourself enough to draw reality-based boundaries.
The book discusses other common approaches and beliefs that make things worse with an Emotional Predator, things like: sharing your feelings builds intimacy and improves relationships; understanding “unconscious” reasons why the other person is the way they are
(versus understanding their behaviors) will help; and explaining to another person how their actions negatively impact innocent people (appealing to their conscience)
Q – You say that playing a manipulator’s game better than they do does not make you one of them. For example, you recommend practicing deception and controlling information, and provoking them when possible, with things like passive aggression (that they use so often). If you do what they do, how can you be different?
Although it may sound shocking, repugnant or distasteful, it’s essential to learn to play an Emotional Predator’s games better than they do. As they say, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
Using Emotional Predator tactics against them doesn’t make you an Emotional Predator. They use tactics to get what they want for themselves, without regard for the negative impact on innocent people. They do this repeatedly and relentlessly as part of an enduring and pervasive pattern of behavior and perception. They’re not restrained by empathy or conscience.
In contrast, you use those tactics only to protect yourself and your loved ones, and you always consider the negative impact on innocent people. You use them temporarily and selectively, not pervasively. Your empathy and conscience always restrains you. An Emotional Predator lacks empathy, conscience and introspection. You have all three.
An Emotional Predator uses tactics offensively and relentlessly. You use them defensively and selectively.
Q – What positive practices can fortify your defenses and also enhance your life that reader will find explained in your book?
Some of the tactics for regaining control of these situations that the book explains in details include: respond strategically, don’t react emotionally; don’t show what you know; don’t be provoked (don’t take the bait); practice gratitude and humor (they are available even in the bleakest times); take the long term view (you really don’t know how events will turn out); and build a community of safe, screened people. There are many more, including an in depth look at Self-victimizing beliefs that leave you vulnerable and alternative beliefs that protect you.
Q – This is a bleak subject – what positive take-aways/information/messages does your book offer?
You can find joy, humor and peace, and be immune to the manipulative abusers who are hidden among us. You don’t have to put up with abuse and manipulation. Real effective protection is available, so don’t lose hope.
As my book explains, what looks like a disaster may be a blessing in disguise. For example if your children’s other parent is an Emotional Predator, consider that your children have the gift of learning first hand about selfish, emotionally manipulative people as they grow up – and entering adulthood able to recognize and avoid them (as you weren’t able to do). My book will help you
to educate yourself and your children about the true nature of Emotional Predators and how to protect yourself.
It’s obvious from the political and environment situation that it’s time to raise the standards for human behavior, particularly from government and business leaders, and demand decency, empathy, conscience and selfless kindness – and to reject selfishness, deceit, oppression and greed. By recognizing and neutralizing Emotional Predators in your life, you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, you’re also helping to improve things for everyone. You’re contributing to a cultural shift toward new norms of decency, norms that recognize and condemn Emotional Predators for the selfish, conscienceless jerks they are.
Q – What’s been most rewarding about publishing your book?
The feedback from readers that it is super helpful in ways other books have not been. The most common feedback I get is “I wish I’d read this before I met my ex.” For those readers, my book will help them spot and avoid the next Emotional Predator who appears in their life.
Q – How would you describe your writing style?
Conversational and straightforward. I strive to avoid using jargon and technical psychological terms as much as possible, and when I do use them, I explain them clearly in easy to understand language. I wanted to make it easy and useful for lay people – like ai was talking to a friend.
Q – What was your main reason for writing this book?
Repeatedly counseling people one at a time, and having them tell me I ought to write down in a book what I was teaching them – and realizing that I could spread this important information to more people if I put it in a book. One client I’d seen for whatever she could pay, years later contacted me when her children were older and she had more time to ask if I needed any help – and she really impressed on me the value of this information to so many people. She encouraged me to write it down and she helped me clarify and organize early drafts.
Part of the reason for writing the book is to try to reach others who are like I was when I became an adult who think they’re savvy, but don’t know what they don’t know.
Q – Do you have any suggestions for authors just starting?
Have at least one person who believes in you and what you’re writing to support and encourage you – and get good editing which can be from friends who know writing and the topic. Check your Ego and ask yourself honestly whether what you want to say is really useful to others – or are you just indulging yourself in things better kept in a journal?
As Bob Dylan said “And I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” It helps to know what you’re talking about.
Q – Do you have a favorite part of your book?
I like Part 1 (chapters 1 and 2, the first 42 pages) because it sums up the big picture really well and stands alone as a great short book. And I like Part 2 pages 43 through 251 because it is the nitty gritty practical steps of protection, in great useful detail. But if I had to choose one part, I guess I’d say Part 1. After reading Part 1, you want to learn the strategies and tips in Part 2.
Q – Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Protecting good-hearted people.
And also changing the social and mental health paradigms for understanding toxic selfish people and calling out those people and their behaviors as unacceptable. Changing the social and professional norms away from greed, narrow self-interest and domination – and toward empathy, conscience and compassion – toward decency.
To help make a better world one reader at a time.
Q – How can readers reach you with questions?
Readers are encouraged to email or call me through http://www.Emotionalpredators.com
Thank you, Steven Wolhandler and iRead Book tours.
Please freely copy and distribute this post, but be sure to include that it was written by Steven Wolhandler, author of Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators. (It’s copyright, Steven Wolhandler, 2019)
About the author
Steven Wolhandler, JD, MA, LPC is a psychotherapist, mediator, arbitrator, custody evaluator, national consultant and retired attorney. He has decades of experience dealing with, and learning from, difficult and manipulative people, and helping their victims with penetrating insight, effective solutions, warmth and humor. He lives in Colorado, consults with people internationally through www.creativeresolutions.org.
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