Two Lovefraud readers recently sent in articles explaining their views regarding their experiences with sociopaths. Their opinions are almost completely opposite from each other.
In The importance of recognizing the complexities of sociopath relationships, the reader “Andrea19” suggests a nuanced way of looking at our experiences with sociopaths. Yes, her ex-husband is manipulative and deceptive, she writes, but she acknowledges that she has her own mental health issues that contributed to the dysfunctional relationship.
The Lovefraud reader “Lanie19” takes a different view. In her article, I lived among sociopathic monsters all of my life, she comes out and says, “They are all monsters.” Her view is that it doesn’t matter if the person is a psychopath, antisocial or narcissist, they are all destructive.
If you haven’t read these articles yet, I invite you to do so. They allude to three important concepts that are critical to surviving sociopaths.
Concept #1: Millions of people living among us have serious personality disorders in which they exploit and manipulate the rest of us
We need to know that our world is full of dangerous people, and they don’t necessarily look like criminals or drug dealers. These people are fundamentally different from the rest of us, in that they do not follow the rules of civil society. They also do not have the ability to love as the rest of us do.
Lovefraud refers to this category of people collectively as sociopaths, which is consistent with the original meaning of the term. (For more explanation, read the Lovefraud page, What’s a sociopath?) They are pathological in their social relationships — they intentionally use, abuse, exploit and manipulate almost everyone of significance in their lives.
This is a massive problem. Perhaps 12% of the population are sociopaths — that’s 30 million adults in the United States. These disordered individuals are everywhere. They can be found in all segments of society.
Whether we realize it or not, we have probably all run across sociopaths in our lives.
Concept #2: Although all sociopaths intentionally manipulate and take advantage of others, they don’t all do it in the same way, to the same extent, or for the same reasons.
Lovefraud uses “sociopath” as an umbrella term covering people who would be clinically diagnosed as having antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or psychopathic personality disorders. These people all engage in manipulation and exploitation, but there are differences and distinctions among the disorders.
Psychopaths and antisocials are the worst. These are the people with no conscience and no remorse. Some are cold and calculating. Some are capable of violence. Some will target and even destroy others just to entertain themselves.
All psychopaths and antisocials are narcissistic, but not all narcissists are psychopathic or antisocial. Part of the difference is in the degree of malice. Psychopaths and antisocials will intentionally hurt someone, whereas narcissists are so focused on themselves that they don’t notice when they hurt people. Professionals have also identified several different varieties of narcissists. Some are blatant. Some are covert. Some think highly of themselves, and some seem to be acting narcissistically in order to cover up deep-seated insecurities.
Histrionics always want to be the center of attention and use people to get what they want. They are often sexually promiscuous.
Those with borderline personality disorder are probably the saddest cases. Women with borderline personality disorder were often sexually abused while young. Men with borderline personality disorder often experienced guilt and shame while young. As a result, they do not have a clear sense of identity.
Unlike psychopaths, antisocials and narcissists, borderlines suffer because of their disorder. But they still engage in manipulative and exploitative behavior with others.
Concept #3: Sociopaths figure out our vulnerabilities and use them against us.
Sociopaths are responsible for their vile actions.Through deception and manipulation, they take advantage of us. But how do they do it? By targeting our vulnerabilities.
My intention is not to blame the victim. But the unfortunate truth is that in many cases, we participate in our own victimization. This can happen in many ways. We may be lonely, depressed or anxious, and the sociopath promises to make us feel better. We have goals and dreams, and the sociopath promises to make them come true. Or we get so much satisfaction from helping others that we’re willing to give more than we get, to the point that we end up depleted.
This can happen to anyone. Why? Because we all have vulnerabilities.
A vulnerability just means that we want something. The sociopath turns whatever we want into a hook in order to catch us.
Key to surviving sociopaths
Taken together, these three concepts are the key to our survival. If we know that sociopaths exist, that they come in several different varieties, and that they use our vulnerabilities against us, we stand a chance against them. When we feel like we are being manipulated, with this knowledge we can recognize what is happening and escape before too much damage is done.
Forewarned is forearmed.