This week two people contacted me, both adult daughters of sociopaths. In one case her father and in the other case her mother has psychopathic personality traits. Interestingly, both disordered parents claim to be “Christian” and the theme of our discussions was the disparity between what the parent says and what they do. Both women shared the belief that this disconnect between words and action is particularly damaging to children. I agree with this assertion because I have also seen it in other cases.
Why would the disconnect between words and actions be so damaging to children?
Consciousness develops gradually during childhood. Consciousness means connecting words, thoughts and feelings to what is happening in reality. Many children naturally idealize their parents and so are inclined to believe the version of reality their parents present in words. But what if the words and reality don’t in fact match? Consider the following example a father wrote to his daughter from prison. Keep in mind this father is a repeat offender who has defrauded and ruined many including family members:
I have a lot of time to sit here and ponder the course of my life. I know I have wronged the family, and for that I am truly sorry. I have been so selfish and stubborn… I haven’t seen or talked to you in well over a year and I can’t help but wonder the rippling effect that sends into the demonic realm. I hope all is well. I love you with the perfect love of the Father.
This is a perfect example of the way a sociopath communicates. His agenda isn’t apparent until the third to the last sentence. His agenda is to manipulate her into having contact with him. But unless you are aware of how a person with psychopathic personality traits operates, you wouldn’t necessarily get that. He starts out stating a fact, he has unlimited time in prison to think. Then it’s progressively out of reality from there. He also connects her failure to contact him with something demonic, suggesting that things might not “be well.” He concludes by proclaiming he has “perfect love.”
I have been chatting with the recipient of this letter for some time and can tell you the father, in addition to ruining her mother’s life was extremely verbally abusive. A parent who abuses while saying, “I love you with the perfect love of the Father,” inflicts wounds that are hard to heal. How can a child make any sense of this experience?
Dissociation- dealing with the disconnect
The different parts of our brains that perform different functions are functionally connected. Experiences we have during childhood but also throughout our lives, determine the functional connectivity of our brains. When reality doesn’t make sense our brains automatically compensate to create a coherent whole. So for example, a child whose parent abuses and says “I love you” may deny the abuse or blame it on themselves. Children whose parents, and adults whose partners continually do one thing while speaking the opposite experience a form of hypnosis. In this hypnotic state they only focus attention on the parts of reality that support the version of reality given to them by the sociopath. (If you have a lot of time read my story and see how this happened to me with disastrous consequences.) But what are the consequences of a childhood or adulthood habit of self-hypnosis? We don’t really know the full answer to that question.
How to heal
The first step in healing is realizing what happened to you and understanding that self-hypnosis or dissociation doesn’t mean you are crazy. It is a functional response to differing inputs. The next step is to fight the hypnosis. Stop having contact with the sociopath. If you do have to have communication, do not listen to the words, try to keep present in your mind the real actions of the sociopath. Tell yourself, “actions speak louder than words.”
If you have experienced the disconnect between words and actions, I discuss here, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, “Do they do this on purpose?” or “Do they know what they are doing?” The answer is some do and some don’t. The ones that know what they are doing are perhaps more evil and the ones who don’t know what they are doing are perhaps more affected with psychopathy. No matter what, the sociopath makes a choice about what he/she does.