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An Introduction to the Dark Tetrad

Human beings have both a light and a dark side.

Human beings have good and bad traits. However, we all vary in how consistently we have light versus dark patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For the past 15 years, there has been research on numerous dark personality traits associated with antisocial beliefs and behaviors, called the dark tetrad (DT) of personality. Psychological researchers agree that the DT has characteristics comprising a selfish, entitled social strategy characterized by hostile, controlling, and manipulative behavior.

The DT personality consists of four overlapping yet distinct antagonistic types. However, each type has unique dark features.

  • The grandiose or vulnerable, self-absorbed narcissist
  • The antisocial, arrogant psychopath
  • The manipulative Machiavellian
  • The cruel, cold sadist

As you can see, there are many layers to a DT individual. Therefore, it is not enough to label them “narcissists.”

DT individuals do not have a moral compass, so they will use, betray, harm, and exploit anyone to meet their needs for money, power, pleasure, or status. Moreover, DT individuals genuinely believe they are entitled to use others for their gain. They also tend to distrust others to justify their selfishness. Due to this highly narcissistic, insensitive mindset, they are mentally unwell, hence pathological.

That is why I also call them pathological lovers.

DT people are tricksters because they initially wear a “healthy mask” of being charming, confident, and generous to lure you in. The DTs’ curated mask of kindness hides their true deceptive, selfish, controlling, manipulative selves, making it hard to spot them and protect yourself.

That is why it is of great concern when this wolf in sheep’s clothing presents himself as someone to share love with. Uh-oh, when we fall in love with a DT person, we end up in a trauma bond. As a psychotherapist, I regularly find that my patient’s anxiety and depression come from being emotionally hurt, manipulated, and gaslit by a DT partner.

People who have been conned by a DT lover usually develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) from experiencing such a traumatic and toxic connection. DT individuals destroy their lovers and leave disaster in their wake. You must understand a DT individual’s manipulative tactics and behaviors to avoid falling in love with one. That is why I wrote my book Run Like Hell: A Therapist’s Guide to Recognizing, Escaping, and Healing from Trauma Bonds.



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