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Apr 112014

charles mansonToday one of our new bloggers, Johana, mentioned that her daughter had a “reptilian look” and I got to thinking about “THE LOOK. Those of us who have dealt with psychopaths have usually seen “it.” I’ve tried to put  a description of “THE LOOK” into words, but I just can’t do it. There is no basis to describe it, but it is like the supreme court justice said about “por-nography”–”you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.” The best “picture” I can come up with to illustrate “THE LOOK” is the news photo of Charlie Manson taken shortly after his arrest. I lived in Los Angeles at the time Charlie and the “family” were arrested and like many people, I stayed glued to the tube watching their antics in court. One photo actually gave me chills, even back in those days when my own little psychopath was not even walking yet. That photo has “haunted” me ever since. Even then I knew that “THE LOOK” gave you the feeling of looking directly into Satan’s eyes. Something, as Johana said, “reptilian.” Now that I have come to know some psychopaths all too well, I realize that after Charlie was no longer on the news, I had seen “THAT LOOK” on the faces of others. The faces of others who turned out to be malignant and Machiavellian. I’ve seen plenty of people “spittin’ mad” over this thing or that, but no matter how mad they were, they never had “THE LOOK” with those cold reptilian eyes. It is said by philosophers that the eyes are the “windows to the soul”—on in the case of “THE LOOK” windows into the insides of someone who doesn’t seem to have a soul…someone who can hurt you and not care, in fact, hurt you and glory in the suffering they cause, just because they enjoy doing it.

I’ve told this story before, but “THE LOOK” on the face of my son, one day several years ago on the last time I visited him in prison,  when he was bragging about how “much worse my crime is than the cops even knew.” We had been chatting “nicely” and he was trying to convince me to do something that was not something I wanted to do, I don’t even remember now what it was, but I kept saying “No, I won’t do that.” Finally after some time and apparently being frustrated with me, he “presto-chango” in an instant went from a pleasant look to “THE LOOK” and said to me “If you knew how horrible my crime was you wouldn’t like me very much, it was much worse than even the cops knew.” It literally happened in a split second, like he had been wearing “the mask” before and took it off, and I immediately thought of the photo of Charlie Manson I had seen so many years before. I felt like I had been suddenly hit in the face with a bucket of ice water I didn’t see coming. I think I must have had a stunned look on my face, and I said something to the order of “what could be worse, Patrick, than shooting a young girl in the head? Did you rape her first? Did you burn her with cigarettes? What could be worse?” Then just as suddenly as “THE LOOK” appeared, it was gone and he was back to “but Mommmm, what would Jezussss do?” I left that day and never visited him again. I was stunned, and I realized exactly what I was seeing. I was looking into the eyes of EVIL. A person who had no guilt, no remorse, but instead, was actually proud of what he had done and how cruel it was. Even then, it still took me months to process what I had seen, and what it meant. “THE LOOK” is part and parcel of those who have no conscience. It isn’t anger, it isn’t even rage, it is worse than anything else I can even imagine. While I refer to the LOOK, as “THE LOOK” it really isn’t even just one expression on someone’s face of being angry, frustrated, or enraged, sometime it is a smirk, like T. J. Layne, the murderer, had on his face in court at his sentencing when he pulled aside his outer shirt revealing a tee shirt he had painted with the words “Killer.” Up until that moment, he had appeared very polite and quiet in court, saying “yes, sir, and  no sir.” But that day the mask dropped and he showed THE LOOK in the form of a purely evil smirk.

TJ LaneWhile I think that many  people who have little or no conscience have learned how to maneuver and manipulate people to get what they want (“supply”), but I think “THE LOOK” must be inborn. Research  has shown that humans have all kinds of “instincts” just like other animals do, things that are inborn within our genes that make us want to walk, talk, attach to others, to love and hate, have joy and experience sadness and loss. Research has also shown that people high in the psychopathic traits have brains that are literally hardwired differently from “typical” people. They react differently to stress, attention, impulsiveness, and many “feelings” and emotions are different than in typical people who are not high in the traits. As we learn more about  what we can expect from people with little or no conscience, we can observe them and how they behave. We are not going to just meet one or two in our lives, there are between 1-4% of the adult population who qualify as full-blown psychopaths, and many many more who are high in the traits. Psychology is not an exact science yet, but with the new fMRIs and other objective tests much is being learned about the roles that genetics and environment have on what we are and what we become. Just like our genes determine what color our eyes are or how tall we are, genetics plays a big part is our personality. Watching for signs of “THE LOOK” is only one way in which we can be aware that someone may be disordered…whether you call it psychopathy, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or just plain “mean as a snake” it doesn’t matter. If people display lack of a conscience and a delight (“duping delight”) in doing bad things to others, then we don’t need these people in our lives. If they are someone we love(d) it will be painful to realize this, but we can heal, we can recover, and we can go on with our lives. Just like everyone else, I have my ups and downs, but over all I’m making FORWARD progress in coming to terms with what has been dealt to me in the way of a “hand” in life. It isn’t what I wanted, but it isn’t in my control. I have to accept what hand I’ve been dealt and “get on with it” in life. While there have been times I have felt like I had the most miserable things happen to me that anyone could have happen and not literally die of a broken heart…but you know, I have so many blessings, and I do my dangest to count my blessings. At one point I had a list of blessings, starting with the simple things like enough clean water to drink, a roof over my head, enough clothes to keep from being arrested, some people who did/do love me, enough food to eat, medical care, etc. Things we tend to take for granted, but shouldn’t. I would read my list every day to remind me that I wasn’t bereft of all the good in life. Spring is finally here and I’ve been doing “spring cleaning” and gardening….and enjoying the sunshine and warmth in the air. Today as I was working in the garden, I actually stopped, looked around at our little “hole in the woods” and realized just how happy and blessed I am, how good God has been to me. I stood there and literally wept with joy. Only a few years ago, I grieved so much I wanted to die, felt like I would die just from the pain. It’s been a long hard road, but those people who have shared with me, held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own, are precious to me, but in the end there are some things we have to do for ourselves, one is to be born, no one can do it for us, and  another is to die, no one can do it for you….the most important thing though, I think, is that we must do our own healing, even if we have support from those who have been on the road before us, we still have to do it for ourselves, but it sure is comforting to have someone who can say “I KNOW how you feel” and know they DO KNOW.

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  11 Responses to ““THE LOOK””

  1. Joyce,
    those are some ugly looks depicted in your article.
    I remember seeing “the look” but only catching a glimpse because I had to look away, it was too evil. Sometimes “the look” is a predatory stare with which they are sizing you up. It gives one the chills even when we don’t understand what it is.

    I’ve seen the most wicked look of “dupers delight” as well.

    Then there is the feeling of needing to take a shower after being in the presence of evil. I had that feeling of being slimed by a nasty person but didn’t understand that it was evil, only that it was a person whose mind was filthy, selfish, childish, greedy and shallow. Now that I understand it better, I understand that the person’s intent to do me harm was the “slime” I was feeling. My point is that I could see it in “the looks” they were giving me, I just had no idea what I was seeing.

  2. Yea, Sky, that was the thing with the Manson LOOK…sometimes he made an attempt to look “evil” and other times he was silly and other times he would SMIRK like T. J. Layne at his sentencing hearing.

    I didn’t realize what Manson’s “LOOK was at the time but it made me cringe like almost stepping on a snake makes you feel…like you almost got bitten!

    I’ve seen the look on my biological father’s face and I perceived it as RAGE…and on the faces of others and I didn’t realize just what I was seeing at the time, but I know now what it is and that we must protect ourselves from these people.

    They can FAKE all kinds of emotions, and they LEARN to act like they care, to say the WORDS that the rest of them expect us to say so they can hook us in, but they don’t have the typical feelings of typical people. I don’t think though that they can control what I believe is an inborn LOOK of evil. Whether it is the smirk LOOK, or the stare, it is still disquieting to those who recognize what it is, but also to people who don’t “know” what it is but who are discomforted by seeing it even without “knowing.”

  3. You know, Sky, I think you are right about the PREDATORY aspect of “the look” because predators in the animal world focus directly on the prey…like a cat stalking a bird, they stare directly at the intended victim, sizing them up, sneaking up…and I think the predatory aspect of disordered people is the same.

    It is interesting to note that in the animal world, prey animals have eyes on the SIDES of their heads lile horses, cows, antelope, but predator animals have their eyes in the front—“the better to see you with” as the wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood. LOL So humans as a whole have the “predator” eye placement and THE LOOK I think is the part where the hunter is stalking the prey, sizing them up, or threatening them.

  4. Joyce, I want to thank you for this article because, no matter HOW many times it’s discussed, the “reptilian look” is often misinterpreted. Johana seemed to “get it” about the disconnect in her daughter’s eye contact, and that is a blessing.

    Every spath that I’ve ever known or met has had the same expression on their faces – absolute indifference. EVEN when they are attempting to appear interested or “connected,” there is a distinct lack of human connection. It’s just like looking at a photograph – the image is there, but there’s no FEEDBACK.

    Now, there is another “expression” that these people display that seems to be as “animated” as they get, and that’s when they are in Predatory Mode. The intense stare – direct and intense eye-to-eye contact – that they cannot contain isn’t them “paying attention” to whatever it is that their targets are saying. What I compare this predatory stare to is what a cheetah uses to CHOOSE the sick, injured, old, weak, or newborn antelope in a herd before it begins to chase it down.

    For most empathetic people, we interpret that predatory stare as “intense INTEREST” in what we’re saying or attempting to convey. What we have trouble processing is that there truly are human beings that are NOT behind bars that are 100% predatory. It’s a challenge to reconcile that we actually may care about someone who doesn’t have the ability or capacity to care BACK, and their only “job” in this lifetime is to hunt and harm.

    EXCELLENT article, Joyce, and I agree with Sky about the images that are so familiar to us. I’d LOVE to post an image of the second exspath’s eyes – I often questioned myself because of the reptilian “look” and I simply passed it off (denial + cog/diss) as my being OVERLY sensitive – hyper-vigilant. Well, my gut instinct told me that the lights were on and that nobody was home – and, I didn’t listen to the gut. Dammit.

  5. Unfortunately disordered people have a LIMITED RANGE of emotions. They do experience intense rage if they are thwarted in any way, and that look of absolute rage is a scary look. I saw it in my son’s eyes, and I swear it SHOCKED me because he went from pleading and trying to get me to do whatever it was he wanted (I have actually forgotten what it was but it was against the prison rules) and then he SUDDENLY went from the “sweet look” to CHARLIE MANSON…in an INSTANT. My biological father also had that look of intense rage and it didn’t take much to provoke it.

    I have actually seen that same LOOK on my mother’s face as well, though I am still not sure she qualifies as a “complete psychopath” she does have some of the traits. The day she devalued and discarded me because Ii wouldn’t jump through her hoops as her personal servant was also “THE LOOK” and it said much more than her words. Outside the family she controls her angry LOOK but it will curdle milk I can tell you for sure.

    It, to me, indicates that there is nothing benign in their thinking or feeling.

    You know, Truthy, it is so good to not have to deal with people like that. I realize IN RETROSPECT (Of course hind sight is always 20/20 LOL) that I have danced to the tunes played by others my entire life, trying desperately to please them….forgiving them for whatever they do, not holding it against them…but now, I see that my entire thinking was out of whack.

    The number of “friends” I have is now limited, but the ones I have left are SOLID GOLD and as far as relatives are concerned, my adopted son is the only one who has ALWAYS stood by me, respected me, loved me, and has never betrayed me.

  6. I have seen that look. It can be very piercing or completely flat and hollow with nothing behind it. It depends on the person, the time of day and which bug has crawled up their arse and died.

    The piercing stare seems to be intense and has no ‘off’ switch as if they haven’t mastered controlling when and how to use it, or they just don’t care about doing so. The flat, hollow look can come and go as if they put on and take off their mask. Neither one do I have any use for and even less for the creature behind those empty eyes.

    • Phoenix, spot-on. My “previous self” never paid attention to anything other than gaining approval and/or acceptance, so I never took the time to step back and observe.

      These days, I’m rather flabbergasted at how MANY people just stare right through other people. It’s morbidly fascinating now that I have the ability to shut up and observe. EUGH……….

  7. I have seen the spath rage, going ballistic (punching holes in the wall, physically intimidating me, pushing his body up close to mine, threatening me because I confronted him about something), mainly seeing anger in his eyes. However, when we were dating, we attended a church service together and I recalled seeing a “completely flat and hollow” look come over his face, as if something else was seeing through his eyes. Evil is in these folks.

    • Good to see you back Blue, and yes, there is evil there. After seeing THE LOOK on Patrick’s face, I felt like I had looked into the eyes of Satan himself, it was scary. But it opened my eyes to what I was dealing with so I think it is a good thing to be AWARE of that LOOK and realize it is a symptom that we must heed.

  8. There are some faces you just can’t ”un-see” unfortunately. I looked into one of them when a disordered person bore down on me with a fixed , unblinking, empty stare and a smile on his face. The smile, which was more a smirk of utter self-satisfaction (he’s got me alone in a remote locale) was so frightening I couldn’t deal with my fear, and I disassociated to cope. I’d never seen an alarming smile before, except on movie villains and in documentaries about the likes of Manson. Actually, I always found those pictures of the innocent looking smiling girls who killed for Manson even more frightening than those of him.

  9. Yes, Rhiannon, those girls, though, were disordered in a weird way I think…the ultimate FOLLOWERS, maybe trauma bonded to him…I’m not sure what their “diagnosis” might have been but you are right…the LOOK is something you can’t forget when you see it on the face of someone who is “out to get you” SCARY stuff!

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