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What the sociopath experience has taught me

Recently, I had a run-in with someone who displays traits of a bully. Because of my experience with the sociopath, the abuser no longer in my life, I didn’t get bullied by his assertions that he was in the right and I was wrong, wrong, wrong — not to mention stupid.

Now, it is disconcerting to have an encounter of this sort. It is never pleasant to have someone yelling at me, or telling me I’d better do what they say, or else. In the case of this individual, the ‘or else’ was connected to his assertion he had the power to ruin my life in this city because, ‘he knows people’. He and his dad are connected and all it would take is one phone call, and wham! I wouldn’t know what hit me.

Once upon a time, encounters like that would have terrified me. Not because I believed he could make a phone call and ruin my life, but rather, because someone’s anger and bullying would have caused me to back down, run away, go underground or simply go silent. I would have been so scared of standing my ground I wouldn’t have had the courage to simply state, as I did in this instance, “This conversation isn’t about your threats, or who you know, it’s about what you need to do to right this situation.”

The first sign of trouble

The man in question is my landlord. Three and a half years ago when I moved back to this city where the debacle with the sociopath had unfolded, I rented a house in the inner city from a really nice couple. The husband took a job outside the country and the real estate market started to boom. He received an offer he couldn’t refuse and I had a new landlord.

I have never met this man though he’s been my landlord for about a year. My first encounter with him was when my original lease expired last March. “You’ve been getting a steal,” he said when he called to negotiate a new rental rate. “I paid $600,000 for that house and the same for the other three on the block. I’m upping your rent $800 a month.”

In this city of booming economics and excess, a leap in rent of that nature is not uncommon. With a vacancy rate of 0.1%, landlords have had free rein to call the shots. My landlord’s intention is to tear down the four contiguous properties he bought and put in upscale town homes. He’s having trouble getting his plans through an overburdened planning commission and is renting the houses on a month-to-month basis until he gets City approval. Because I liked my little house, it was convenient for my daughters and allowed me to keep my dog, I breathed deeply, did the math in my head and agreed to the rental increase. It would be a squeeze but I could just manage it until I could afford to buy something of my own.

One of the questions I had for him at the time was, “What’s happened to my damage deposit?” He assured me it was in trust and life carried on. Over the course of the past year we’ve had a couple of phone conversations but never met. In one of the phone messages he left, he told me he would be using my garage to store some things in. I phoned back and left a message to tell him that was not acceptable. I asked him to call, he never did, and I let the matter go.

When I let it go, I let go of my voice

A few weeks ago, my daughters and I noticed that the garage door was ajar. We thought possibly a homeless individual had taken up residence and decided to let matters rest. It was freezing cold out. We don’t use the garage except to store bikes, recyclables, empty boxes and garden equipment. If someone was desperate enough to use my garage for shelter, as long as they ensured the gate was always closed, and didn’t light a fire, I was not going to disturb them until the weather turned milder.

A week later, the cold snap lifted and I decided to carry the recyclables into the garage and check out the situation.

There was no homeless individual in residence. The door had been ajar because my landlord had stored several appliances in the garage.

I was angry. But cautious. My daughters had met this man when he came over with his brother to fix a toilet. They didn’t like him at first sight. “He’s creepy,” my eldest daughter said. “Sort of reminds me of C.,” she said, naming the sociopath formerly in my life.

I called my landlord and got his answering machine. My message asked him to call me back, immediately, “You do not have permission to store things in my garage,” I told him. He never called back. Time passed, Christmas loomed, busy lives hurried forward and I let the matter drop.

Opportunity knocks and bad behaviour rises

And then I got an opportunity for a house I couldn’t refuse. Friends were moving. I could rent/purchase their home, which I love. It’s in a great area of town. Beautifully renovated. Perfect. I take possession January 15. The monthly payments are less than my current rent, and the operating costs significantly lower as it is properly insulated and has all new windows.

I phoned my landlord at the end of December and left him a message telling him I was moving out by the end of January.

“I don’t have January’s rent cheque,” he reminded me when he promptly called back. “Oh. And what’s the earliest you can move out by?”

“If you deduct the earlier vacancy from my rent, I can move out by the 18th,” I told him.

“You’re required to give me a month’s notice,” he replied. “I don’t have to deduct anything.”

Hello? He asked me if I’d be willing to vacate earlier.

Warning bells started clanging. I asked him about my original $1200 damage deposit.

“I don’t recall anything about it,” he replied.

“When you bought the house, you told me you had the damage deposit in trust.”

“I did?” I could almost hear the shrug of his shoulders over the phone. “Whatever. I’ll be over later to pick up the rent cheque. Just leave it in the mailbox.” And he hung up.

I was concerned. I wanted to be sure the monies for the damage deposit were in a trust account as required by law. I decided to write a cheque for that month’s rent minus the amount of the deposit. I included a note telling him why the cheque didn’t add up to the total amount.

He phoned me the next day. “Where’s the rest of the rent?”

“Where’s the damage deposit?” I shot back.

In the land of paramoralisms, there is no sense in arguing

And that’s when the ”˜paramoralisms’ Dr. Steve describes so aptly started.

His arguments ranged from, “I paid $600,000 for that house (why it’s important I know this I’m not sure) to “I did you a favour by renting you that house when I could have rented it to friends.”

I told him the cost of the house was not germaine to our conversation, what was important was the fact he could not provide me proof about my damage deposit. “How dare you suggest you can’t trust me,” he said. “You’re the one who can’t be trusted. You’re refusing to pay the rent.”

“I’m not refusing to pay the rent,” I replied. “I’m holding a portion in arrears until you provide me the proof that my damage deposit has not been lost in the shuffle.”

His anger was palpable on the phone. He went on to tell me that I was unprofessional and untrustworthy.

“You haven’t acted in a particularly trustworthy manner,” I said and reminded him of the appliances being stored in the garage.

“It’s my garage,” he yelled. “I can do whatever I want with it.”

“Not while I’m renting it,” I replied. “You had no legal right to enter the property without notifying me first, especially after I told you that you couldn’t store things there.”

“Who cares? That was months ago. Anyway, you’ve only got a bunch of old boxes and cardboard stored on one side of the garage. The other side was empty.”

“Doesn’t matter. You violated the landlord tenant act. You had no right to enter the property without my permission.”

“And you’re just bringing this up now? What is your problem?”

Now, he was right. I had let it slip and was using this call to bring it forward. In the past, I probably would have backed down. Instead, I held my ground. “I left you a couple of messages asking you to call,” I said. “You never did.”

“I don’t have time to call you over stupid little things like that,” he replied. “I had a guy over to fix your washing machine within hours of your calling to tell me it wasn’t working.”

It’s up to me to keep myself on track

And that’s where the learning from the encounter with the sociopath in the past comes in handy today. Having gained an understanding of the tactics these subject matter experts on human manipulation use to control their victims, I did not fall prey to his aggressive assertions that he was right, and I was in the wrong. I steered the conversation back to the subject that was of most concern — my damage deposit. I did not back down. I did not yell back. I did not give him anything other than to repeat what I needed, for him to provide me proof that the damage deposit was in trust.

“Don’t tell me what I have to do,” he screamed. “I don’t have to prove anything. You have to give me my money.” And he hung up.

Because of my learning from the sociopathic encounter, I knew I needed to arm myself with additional information and to better understand my rights in this situation. I called the government agency responsible for landlord tenant complaints.

During the call, the man on the phone was adamant that I file a complaint. “We get very concerned when landlords indicate they don’t have a damage deposit properly accounted for,” he said. I told him I had withheld a portion of the rent monies. “You’re in arrears, but it doesn’t make much difference at this point if you’re moving out. You’ll be gone long before he can evict you. The matter of his handling of the damage deposit however, needs to be investigated regardless.” The man logged my call and inserted my landlord’s name into the file. “That way, when the investigator gets the file, he or she will have my notes and the landlord’s name to cross-reference against other files,” he said.

I don’t like being in arrears on my rent. I also don’t like having to play hardball, which is why I didn’t take action when I first determined he had stored things in my garage. Fear of losing my little home kept me from speaking out against his violation of our relationship.

The power of learning about sociopaths

Having been down this road with a master of abuse in the past, I know it is my responsibility to stand up for me, to turn up for my rights and to use all available resources to support me. In the fall, I let my landlord off the hook when I did not challenge him on his behaviour. In recognizing my responsibility in that situation, I take action to ensure I am not a victim of my lack of action today.

Encounters with sociopaths hurt. They destroy our trust. Our faith in humanity. Our belief in ourselves, our belief in others, our belief in love. These encounters harm us. But they are also opportunities to learn and grow and become wiser. In the aftermath of that encounter I am much stronger, wiser, more vibrant, more committed to living my life fearlessly and to not giving in to someone else’s assertions they know what is right for me. They don’t. And I will not give them the power to tell me they do.

I have learned a lot since the day the sociopath was arrested four and a half years ago. Where once I would have denied that there are people who spend their lives perfecting their art of manipulating other people, today I know the truth. They are out there. They exist.

They don’t have to be in my life, however, and won’t be, as long as I stay conscious, identify where I am at risk and educate myself about their tactics. I cannot stop a sociopath or a bully from being who they are. I can limit the impact of their antics in my life by knowing who I am. I cannot stop an abuser from being themselves. I can stop abuse in my life by being true to who I am. By being 100% responsible for every thing I do and everything that happens in my life, good and bad, I strengthen my resolve to live fearlessly, passionately and freely.


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10 Comments on "What the sociopath experience has taught me"

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I readily agree. I’ve learned what my weaknesses are through dealing with the men in my life that used me. I allowed my heart to be ravaged because I didn’t have a tight rein on my emotions. I found another really good site concerning matters of the heart and how we need to search our hearts to find out what we are seeking.
http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=858. It’s just one man’s opinion concerning issues of the heart based on scripture references. I know for me, I never had one iota of doubt that I would have my mind and heart messed with. I believed what they said. I figured if I didn’t lie to them, why would they to me? I didn’t know about the hidden agenda and all the signs. But going through that, has actually been a blessing in disguise. I’ve learned more about me. Them, too and to look for signs. Even those who appear very respectable. Watching how they react to different happenings, tells so much about their character. What a path to travel to get here, but I’m much more aware and so much more cautious. I, too, won’t back down when I know I’m in the right. I was such a meek, mild mannered woman before, not to say I’m a shrew, but I refuse to be made to feel less that what I am.

As I tell parts of my experience to people, three quarters of people I speak to are unaware of such goings on – but – there are also people telling me that my descriptions remind them of other people they have known or been out with, or that they know of someone who has a relationship with someone with personality disorder.

From the initial shock of betrayal to the next shock of realising I had been a target by a cunning and deceitful narcissistic man, then realising that my father was a narcissistic person (thats why I felt comfortable with my ex, despite his bizarre behaviour) has explained alot of what has happened to me in my earlier life. It has been like a double whammy for me, double the pain, dredging up alot of pain around being abandoned as a child, which my ex did in abundance.

Why my father abandoned us at an early age with no remorse, conducted a series of new lives with different women as though we never existed, had numerous affairs and was a cold hearted arrogant man, who made me listen to his lectures, bragging about himself. I couldnt understand why he was like this – now I understand everything and I understand what my mother must have gone through.

In the last year and a half my life has been turned upside down.

If I get fearful, I feel I am on the run, walking round, wondering if I am going to bump into him – scanning the crowds of people incase I spot him – it is like walking on eggshells.

Appt/mgr. I read your suggested passage regarding issues of the heart. Having just read Romancing the Shadow, I felt moved to say that I see many similarities about the way in which ‘sub personalities’ operate within the hearts and minds of people and how these personalities are especially triggered through love relationships.

When I first started going with my ex, i was just dealing with him, but as time went along, I became aware that other things were afoot in the background. At the time I could not find out what he was ‘up to’, also it felt like I was dealing with a multi headed beast who was running amok behind the scenes and that I was powerless to deal with. Realising that I was being led into dangerous territory, I jumped ship for the safety of my own soul.

To MLG, thank you for your kind words. I too am still hypervigilant, even today, there have been triggers. Sometimes I try to remain transparent by avoiding places where he might be, or times he may be around. There have also been times when I have looked at certain places to see if he is there. In a sense I am still harnessed to his tune.

When I first met him, he flooded me with cell phone texts and every time my phone rang I responded and I can remember thinking I was responding to my phone like Pavlov’s dogs! He regulated the amount of effort he put in, remaining aloof, so that I got used to putting in the effort. I answered all of his txts but he used to answer my ten texts with two txts – I was aware of all this, but just didnt understand why. I put alot of effort into trying to find out, but I wasnt looking in the right places and also I kept thinking that I couldnt accuse him of stuff if I didnt have the proof. I had alot of insights even at the beginning, but where I made my mistakes was where I was trying to get proof of his infidelity, I was looking for the lists of cheating signs, I checked on him many many times – and then one day I decided that I didnt need any proof, his behaviour was making me feel uncomfortable and bad and that was enough to want out.

I am hoping that if I have to gain from this, that I can use what i have learnt to heal and put to rest my childhood wounds too.

Beverly,
Jumped ship? Is that the same as leaving the island? Sounds so familiar. And saving your soul!!! I totally get that. I felt attacked at the deepest level of my being and I had never experienced that before.

MLG,
My heart used to skip a beat when I saw the make and model of his car, even if I was visiting a different island… isn’t it strange how they could effect us on a visceral level like that? I mean I know I gave him access to my deepest thoughts and feelings from the beginning… but still, the way he dissected me was out of this world.

I didn’t realize how affected I was by my encounter until a year or more after it was over. I was staying with some friends and having a conversation with the husband when I suddenly became aware that he was being manipulative in the conversation… and then I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me and the next thing I knew, I woke up on the floor. I fainted out cold and ended up with a big goose egg on the side my head.

I still have a dead kind of feeling inside. Does anyone feel that? I feel like I understand what happened to me now and I don’t long for the fake man that I loved.. he does not exist and I completely know that but still, there is this lingering dead feeling. I am dating a little but I miss that part of me that was hopeful and that believed in people. There is someone I am possibly interested in now. He wants to know what I am looking for in an ideal partner and all I can think of is “safe.” I don’t want romance or roses or big dreams of the future.. I just want safe. I am not even sure what I mean by that but it’s the only word that comes to me over and over.

Although I feel I have healed so much, I feel like my heart is so disconnected. I am also have some psychosematic symptoms (sorry about the spelling). I am embarrased to say but I figure this out myself. Whenever I think too much about how I was manipulated… or when I watch a movie and I see a character being manipulated or something about a character reminds me of the bad man… or even if they are talking about these issues on Dr. Phil, I get this weird tickle/cough/choke thing in my throat and it won’t go away. It’s so strange. I have learned when I get this mystery feeling, I can look back at what I was just thinking about and it is always something to do with the bad man. It’s almost like a nervous tic. Does anyone have any symptoms like this? Is this a question for Dr. Stever or Dr. Leedom?

Maybe we can talk about PTSD?

:o) Aloha… E.R.

Anyway, sorry I am just putting out my thoughts here. I wish I could talk to someone but this is the only place I feel understands. In fact, there was a counselor visiting the group home where I work this evening and in talking to her about personality disorders, I could tell she didn’t know what a sociopath was… not really.

ML:

“My fear kept triggering my anxiety that he was everywhere. Somewhere in that relationship I had made him omnipotent. I had made him a bigger than life character in a drama in which I was the victim because I believed I was powerless.”

To some extent, that’s exactly what they’d like you to believe. The ultimate mirror to their ‘greatness’ — if they cannot be loved, then by God, they will be feared!

Thankfully, it passes, doesn’t it? I was feeling a great deal like that myself for a time last year and even in January. Moving in the world like a meek, weakened shadow, afraid something bad would happen to my property or he’d do something new to threaten my sense of security and my psyche. It’s passed again, and I’m glad to be off his lame radar. All I want for Valentine’s Day is to know he’s moved on to yet another victim and forgotten all about my existence.

For me, I want to get to the place where I can trust again in other men and other circumstances. Where I don’t constantly question the motives behind another guy’s actions and where, when someone presents their vision of reality, I don’t doubt their sincerity.

Moving out of hyper-vigilance and back into the realm of benevolent trust of others unless they do something that warrants mistrust is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. It returns our power where it’s always been: in ourselves, and it strips the P of his (originally false, stolen) power.

Your words have helped me in the past six months. I just signed up recently but have been reading you since this summer, while in that same surreal world you mention of constant fear and worry. So, thanks for helping pull me out of it by writing about how you’ve made it through to the other side.

We’ll hopefully all get there, eventually.

In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Dr. Viktor E.Frankl, who spent years in the Nazi concentration camps, speaks to the human soul in times of terror and stress, and dealing with people who are “Sub-human” psychopaths (emphasis added by me)

He says about being admitted to the camp “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” He goes on to say “it is not the physical pain that hurts the most…it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all”

I have read Frankl’s bookk several times and it gives great insight into the anguish that the psychopaths inflict upon others. Most of us (Thank God!) have not suffered at the hands of our psychopaths to the physical and emotional depth that Frankl and others must have suffered in the prison camps, but he says “A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas…If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it fills the chamber completely. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is little or great. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative”

The spiritual and emotional trauma (and/or the physical) that we suffer at the hands of the psychopath(s) in our lives, as Frankl says “For every one of the liberated prisoners, the day comes when, looking back on his camp experiences he can no longer understand how he endured it all. As the day of his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to him like a beautiful drea, so also comes the day when all his camp experiences seem to him but a nightmare.”

Sometimes now, when I think about the psychopaths in my life–my biological father, my x-BF, my son, and all that they have done to me, to dehumanize, to control, to harm, for no reason other than their own joy in doing so–sometimes even now, it is starting to seem like a “dream” or a “movie that I saw once” and the connected fears and emotions are no longer there. I took, like Frankl, wonder how I EVER lived through it all and came out with any part of my sanity intact.

I have learned that the human spirit is remarkably able to recover given time and peace. Recovery is not “free” because we must work at it, get our minds around the pain, the injustice and the suffering, and come to closure and resolution with it. Learn from it. Heal mentally, spritually, physically and emotionally….and become better and stronger people because of it.

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