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Clinically Sitting With The Sociopath

It’s disconcerting, no question about it, working with someone who’s antisocial, with real sociopathic qualities (forgetting, again, for the moment, the hell of living with such an individual).

Recently, I’m struck again, in my work with a client I’ll call Howard, by the brew of certain qualities, certain attitudes, certain defenses that strike me as forming a rather sociopathic orientation.

Howard is 19. He understands the suffering he’s causing others in his life: he can “talk the talk,” meaning that he “gets it” on a cognitive level. He can say, for instance, quite accurately, what he’s doing, why it’s wrong, that it’s wrong, even that he feels bad about it.

How badly he really feels is highly debatable. In my view, not nearly as badly as he claims, and certainly not nearly badly enough to make real efforts at change. In our sessions, I confront him regularly with my perception of the discrepancy between his assertions of remorse and regret, and what he’s really willing to do about them?

I see him as someone who can hear my challenges without reacting very defensively. His undefensiveness may seem like a good quality, and maybe it is; but it’s also likely that it stems, to some extent, from his ultimate unconcern with what I feel about, and think, of him. That is, I suspect it stems in part, at least, from his relative indifference to my (or anyone’s) view of him.

When I say he’s undefensive, I mean this specifically with regard to how he fields my confrontations. He is fairly placid in his absorption of them. On another level, though, he’s quite defensive in a classically narcissistic/sociopathic fashion: On one hand, as I’ve noted, he can seem remorseful (quite regretful) for his misbehaviors and abusive attitudes.  But if you should probe him at all—not just accept his statements of remorse at face value—he predictably lapses into his truer position: this is a position from which his abusiveness is  always, ultimately, rationalized as a response to his perceiving himself as having been victimized, persecuted or otherwise treated unfairly in some fashion.

Now he is canny enough to attempt to disguise this pattern, especially with initial assertions of politically correct sounding accountability. But always, with a little prodding, you will bring him back to his true experience in which self-justification for his abusiveness and an attitude of unaccountability prevail.

Just as noteworthy: no matter how many times you point out to him how rapidly he shifts from taking “seeming” responsibility for his behavior to abruptly abdicating responsibility for the same behavior (again, rationalizing it as a response to others’ persecution), he is rather uninterested in this contradiction and basically unconcerned to reconcile it. He just doesn’t find this contradiction particularly troubling, peculiar, meaningful, or worth his time to look at.

This is a highly sociopathic quality and attitude.

It seems to reflect the “glitch” that allows this personality, in his blithely untroubled, incurious fashion, to verbalize awareness and regret over his abusiveness and exploitiveness on the one hand, while on the other (almost simultaneously) to rationalize it as a valid reaction to his perceived, or contrived, victimization.

When I confront him routinely with this contradiction, he may give lip service to the validity of my observation; but always, his interest to explore it, to own its possible ramifications, is superficial and transient.

Similarly, he will periodically assert his desire to cease his hurtful behaviors; then, in the next minute or so, when presented with evidence that he’s continued the very behaviors he’s claimed to want to cease, he may say something like, “Well, maybe I’m really not that motivated. To be honest, I’m really not.”

The honesty itself could almost be seen as admirable. But the problem lies in his blithe disinterest in the rapid, contradictory nature of his assertions. He isn’t embarrassed by this. Point it out to him and he’s almost bored, like a kid who’ll say, when inconvenienced, “Whatever.”

I regard this pattern as a sociopathic form of indifference to the contradiction between one’s statements, and between one’s statements and ongoing actions. What’s striking isn’t the contradictory content itself, but the missing shame and embarrassment when confronted with the nature of the discrepant communications.

This can leave me shaking my head, privately, in a kind of amazement. But even if I were to shake my head in visible amazement, while Howard might notice it, and might understand why he’s left me shaking my head, you can bet he wouldn’t care to make any more sense of himself to me than he cares to make sense of himself to himself—which is very little.

(This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake, not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)


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Dear Steve,

WOW!!! This is a very ______ description of the psychopath’s indifference to the opinions of others. Notice I left a _____ blank following the word “very” because frankly I cant come up with a word that “fits” and really says what I want it to say. “Good” isn’t enough, “great” sounds too trite, I am just gobsmacked by this article and I’ve read it through 3 or 4 times and my mouth hanging open and going “yea, yea, right on, ohhhhhhh…..” over and over.

The indifference of Howard toward your opinion of him is so well described that I can visualize him sitting there in the chair slumped in front of you. OMG! I’ve also seen “Harolds” who will instead of this indifference become ENRAGED at being confronted, my own little darling offspring for one….but once when he was in court mandated therapy and I was in the room with him and the therapist he pulled a Harold on both the therapist and me….funny though, I don’t think the therapist “GOT” what P-son was though…I think P son had snowed him in their private sessions between the two times I was with them.

That rapid, contradictory flip flop between what they say (yea, “politically correct hype”) and how they are behaving I think is what makes therapy counter productive for them, they can use the PC WORDS and phrases to snow people with their “good intentions” instead of the people seeing their actions. THANKS, Steve. This is a hum-dinger of an article! Yea, I think that’s the particular technical term I was looking for “a hum-dinger of a description” of a psychopath in therapy! LOL Thanks!

Steve interesting, Oxy it sounds comical in the darkest possible way a psychopath in therapy! lol

Steve you say:

“the problem lies in his blithe disinterest in the rapid, contradictory nature of his assertions. He isn’t embarrassed by this. Point it out to him and he’s almost bored, like a kid who’ll say, when inconvenienced, “Whatever.”

That is why therapy is futile and confronting a psychopath with the psychotherapeutic skills that would normally yield a benefit will only end in one way- with the therapist shaking his/her head and the psychopath rock solidly unreached, unrelated to and sadly unengaged with

Thanks Steve, unfortunately WAY too many of the articles apply to me, mostly the ones about “1001 things I did wrong in dealing with a psychopath” LOL At least I am getting to where I can LAUGH about these things instead of have them :hit home” with me and go into a crying jag that lasts for a week…and yea, I’ve had that happen!

Every day I am here at LF I find so much new to ruminate on or to think about or just apply to my life and thinking and the things I do. It seems like it is a never ending supply of great analogies, great thoughts, great philosophies or just great conversation about life and how to live it in a way that is good, productive and satisfying. I can’t think of any place on the planet that has more great folks or just plain smart people than Have collected here at LF thanks to our hostess Donna! Man o man, what a great place to learn things and meet interesting folks. Your contributions here Steve have always been enlightening and thought provoking. Your teaching has been productive with me, and this one just was a HUMMMMM-DINGER!

This kind of crazy talk has been hard to really put my finger on, like your head is swimming after talking to them. And Steve, you’re right about the nonchalant attitude, they are not bothered by their contradictions and expect us to except WHATEVER they say.

They can contradict themselves in the same sentence and be very earnest in their desire for you to believe all of the nonsense coming your way.

I need to re-read this article because it was an ah-ha moment in regards to the conversation I had with spath this morning. Nonsense!

Dear Hope4,

It is back to what Dr. Bob Hare said in Without Conscience, about they know the WORDS but not the MUSIC. Trying to get across the meanings of words like “love” and “honesty” is “trying to teach a pig to sing, it frustrates you and pitheses off the pig.”

I saw that behavior over and over and over and somehow didn’t “ah ha” what was actually going on….until about 4 years ago the last time I saw P-son in prison on a visit there and he was ONE SECOND talking about “but mommmmm what would Jesus do” and the next minute, the next second, he was looking at me with those “Charllie Manson” eyes and saying “You wouldn’t like me very much if you knew just how horrible my crime (murder) was, way worse than the cops even knew.” then, PRESTO-CHANGE-O, he was back to “but mommmmm, what would Jesus do?”

The change happened in the blink of an eye it was so fast, and I GOT IT that time, I really did. It was like Bob Hare’s words popped up inside my brain. I felt like I had been hit in the face with a bucket of ice water that chilled me to the marrow. I knew then he was EVIL, there was NO redemption, no going back, and no changing. He did not care what Jesus would do…he was using that to manipulate me, to make me feel guilty to twist me to what he wanted me to do—lighten up on the crap he was pulling. Help him do what he wanted me to do, even though it was dishonest.

I’m not sure why it took me so long, Hope4, but I think we reach it when we are ready and that “ah ha” moment comes. STeve’s articles give me quite a few ah ha moments too.

Oxy,
yeah, they have a weird connection with words BECAUSE they don’t have a connection that ties it to emotions.
A few days back I posted a link with a video showing the brain scans of psychopaths during MRI or some other imaging. The p’s and some controls were shown some words on flash cards and the MRI showed which part of the brains were being affected. During emotionally charged words like Love or Hate or Kill, the Normal controls lit up different parts of the brain vs. neutral words. But with the P’s nothing changed. Furthermore, the part of the brain that they were lighting up the most was the back of the head. I think that part of the brain is Also known as the SNAKE brain because even reptiles have that.
My xP once came home Raging because one of the espresso girls had gotten a tattoo and was showing it to her friend.
He said, “I bitched her out and I told her that she might as well pick the petals off a flower – tattoos are so disgusting.”
Well the reason he hates tattoos is evident in his choice of words (which he was always getting mixed up). At some point he had heard the word, “Deflower” and he liked the sound of it. He knew what it meant and he was attracted to the word because he is a pedophile and likes the idea of ruining something innocent, more than anything. The tattoo pissed him off because he had plans or fantasies to “deflower” this young girl and she beat him to it by “deflowering” herself in his eyes. She was no longer supply. Boo Hoo.
They give themselves away because no one is as stupid as they are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaTfdKYbudk
Here it is, they use SPECT to image the brain.
MRI showed no differences.

Thanks for the vid link Sky, but I can’t go there now, as my air card allotment is up for the month until tomorrow. So have to stay away from videos.

“deflowering”—LOL oh, well. He missed out on that one. LUCKY HER!

Steve:

You have it all completely wrong!

The guy in your story is NOT 19 and he’s NOT called “Howard”!
Hell, he’s NOT even in America!!!!

His name is B——– and he is 47 and he lives in Australia!

(So exact a description that it made me feel all creepy and nauseous…)

Steve,
this is very interesting to me too.
I read a book called, “why does he do that? inside the minds of angry men.” It might be helpful to you.
Lundy, the author, says that these abusive men abuse because they feel entitled to. As my xP would say, when I asked him why would he do something so damaging to our finances and our relationship, “because I can.”
Lundy goes on to explain that the abuser benefits from his abuse, or else he wouldn’t do it. How? Depends on the abuser, but ultimately, what they all get is feeling of power. “Because I can” says it all.
So, to follow on that logic, what is it about abuse that makes him feel powerful? OUR REACTIONS. He can make us supply him with DRAMA at the drop of a hat. And he will. I remember the way the exP would wield the TV remote, it was bizarre to watch, when he clicked it, he would wave it like a magic wand. FOR EACH CHANNEL. PICTURE IT. weird. Why? Well, he loved TV, he called it “The TV God” and it provided him with entertainment. They have need to be able to feel powerful and soothe their little infant fears with immediate gratifications. Drama makes him feel better, so he abuses.
One way to make him stop is to not react as he expects or give him a different pacifier.
Well, I went off on a tangent…I really wanted to talk about what makes them feel entitled and why they won’t change.
Since it’s all about them and their power, they will only change if they percieve that their behavior is not most beneficial to them.
You may have read the posts between Kathy Hawk and myself, when I explained that I don’t have boundaries. I’m a door mat sometimes. But not when I’m SHOPPING!
I have been trained that the customer is always right. I FEEL ENTITLED, to “Demand the Best for Less” (Target motto). I’m such a freaking power shopper that I will stack a coupon with a price match and a rebate. Once I made $400 by buying $18 worth of cough drops. Most people are in shock when they see me in action. I’m psycho shopper. This seems normal to me.
the other day my BF pointed out that I act entitled when I shop WHAT? ME? I realized I have a different personality when I shop because the merchants and our society has trained me that way. The customer is always right, He who holds the gold makes the rules. That is a narcissistic hook and I fell for it. When I’m shopping I FEEL MORE POWERFUL. It feels nice. I like it. Why would I change. In fact why not get addicted to shopping? I actually made money sometimes.
But that narcissistic addiction to power “shopping” has gotten many people into debt, just for that “high” and I realized that I didn’t actually GET power when I was shopping, I was GIVING it away as I was lured into one unnecessary purchase after another just because it was free after rebate.
I read in “The Art of Selfishness” that you can’t convince most people not to do evil, but you can convince them not to appear stupid very easily. No one wants to feel stupid, it’s a narcisstic injury.
So my point is that when I try to understand the stupid psychopath, I try to remember when I most acted as stupid as they are. Shopping is my most narcisstic moment.
If you can find a way to convince Howard that he is not gaining POWER, but losing it, when he abuses, you might be able to redirect his need for power. Perhaps point him to the remote control. Show him how to wave it around to get DRAMA.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

aussie – donna may ask you to remove his name. i think there is a prohibition against naming them on the site.

Oops! Got carried away and forgot myself. I will try to go back and edit if it will let me. Thanks for letting me know. x

Dear onestep –
it worked. All gone. I will try to be a good girl from now on….

Aussie,
You better be a good girl! LOLOLOL!
OMG… I agree with you…… 50 and in the US and J—. Is his name!!!! What you are calling nonchallant is where in my experience that I inserted “arrogant”, grandiose! And nothing really to be arrogant over! Only the “super hero” in their mind!!!! and NO accountability for their actions or decisions in life! No credit, no money in the bank, no heat in a house where there is winter and cold, a life full of unfinished projects and on Ebay buying more!!!! Level 1 -2 hoarder! WTF? is that? Don’t forget about the porno addiction too!!! OMG!!!! Prince Charming turned into Prince of Darkness! He had a 5 yr plan to fix up the house….RIGHT BUD! The thing is falling down around him to this day! BUT there are big boy toys in the yard!!! IMO… sell the toys, get a job, sell all the crap on ebay, throw away the porno sites and GROW the fark up! 50 years old!!! OMG!!!
Thanks for reading
soimnotthecrazee1!
Thanks Steve for this post!

Reminds me of the time the S lied to me, telling me his friend talked badly of me, because I had “drank too much” on a friday night ( I didn’t act out or anything, at all. I just went to the bathroom and gagged a bit, and when I came out I was confronted by the S who said he was really “disappointed” in me. )

Of course, i did nothing wrong. It was absolutely retarded that i was being talked down to, and blamed for his friend leaving ( it was midnight anyway, so his friend left because it was late. I was talking to his friend the whole night, we were on good terms. ) ..

Oh, and he quite easily let me out the door, while i was drunk. I couldn’t even walk straight. ( I was leaving cause i couldn’t believe that he was blaming me for that.. ) I lived about 20 minutes driving away, so think about how serious that is.. I told him the next day, i wouldn’t even let a friend have driven home drunk. What the hell?

There’s a lot more to it to– i won’t explain it though. Too much to go into. The golden nugget is what he said the next day, after I kept defending myself, saying I didn’t do anything wrong. Everyone gets drunk sometimes, especially in college on a friday night. We were all just sitting on the couch watching a movie. Nothing was even happening. He offers me a drink every time I go to his place! He finally admitted to lying about his friend not really talking badly of me ( because I wouldn’t accept what he said, and he just wanted to “appease” me at that point. ie : my feelings are getting in HIS way… ie : Not simply “forgetting” what he did. ) then he goes, “I’m sorry but the only reason I did that was because you got too drunk.”

I’m sorry… BUT i’m not sorry and it’s really your fault.

Really Repulsive. repulsive isn’t even the word… i didn’t drive home drunk incidentally, i’m not about to put myself at risk and everyone out on the road- Instead i pulled over on a close street and sobbed in the car, and he wouldn’t answer his phone, deliberately. I waited til I was sober which was about an hour or more, and then drove.

He was getting a kick out of hurting me for no reason. And putting my life at risk. And he had the nerve to say I’m sorry, ( after a lot of words had been exchanged and I deleted him from my Facebook ) BUT yada yada yada…

Does that even make sense? “I’m sorry but I did it because you…” That is not even close to an apology, considering I did NOTHING wrong.

The real kicker about sociopaths, the real boundary-crosser is that when they have severely wronged you, they feel ENTITLED to your forgiveness… or they think they don’t have to be forgiven, because they didn’t do anything! I’m sure everyone here has heard, “What do you want from me?” When the situation calls for remorse, sympathy… Imagine hitting a person with your car, then shrugging… expecting them to smile and go “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry for getting in your way. I’m sorry for possibly marring your car with my epithelial cells and blood.”

Kathy Krajco ( Author of Narc-Attack.blogspot.com ) said it most succinctly … what Sociopaths do are committing the Sin of Sodom ( No, the sin of sodom in the bible is not about God condemning gays… it’s about taking advantage of someone.) In Sodom & Gomorrah it was two angels.. who were offered a place to stay by Lot… Sodom & Gomorrah were subsequently destroyed by God because of the treachery… the people of Sodom & Gomorrah said to Lot, “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” even though Lot had promised the angels hospitality, a place to stay for the night. It is a rape of trust. Read the verse here : http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+19&version=NIV

Kathy Krajco wrote :

” The black art of torture is all about this skill in making the victim offer himself (or seem to offer himself) to the instruments of torture. This is the aspect of torture that torments the victim so for the rest of his or her life.

When you cannot resist, you at least have the comfort of knowing that there was nothing you could do. But when you have the power to put up some resistance and don’t – when you in effect say, “Here, take me and do what you will with me” – you feel like an abject worm.

The SHAME is unbearable. No exaggeration: it drives people to suicide.

For, what does it mean when a person accepts pain for another’s pleasure? That goes against the instinct for self-preservation. So what happens to the victim’s self? The victim no longer belongs to him- or her-self. The victim is possessed by the abuser. Like an arm or leg of his for him to use or abuse as he pleases.

It is the ultimate degradation. The victim ceases to exist as a person. No human being with the ability to resist and a spine will submit to it. You have to (morally) break a person’s back to make them docilely submit to abuse.

So, for the sake of the victim’s mental health, you must NEVER deny him or her the right to put up a fight.

Denying a person under any kind of assault this right is what theologians call the sin of “extreme perversity,” otherwise known as the Sin of Sodom, which a certain kind of rape – RAPE, not sex – is symbolic.

It violates the laws of nature and the innate instinct for self-preservation. If the victim knuckles under to psuedo-moralistic pressure to not lift hand or voice in self defense, he or she will hate themselves and become a suicide risk. That is forcing people to commit the worst breech of faith there is – with one’s very self. It’s self-betrayal, what Joan of Arc called the “most wretched treason.”

The victim NEEDS to know that he or she did what they could to resist their abuser! Don’t EVER try to stop the victim from doing that! ”
read whole article here : http://narcissists-suck.blogspot.com/2008/06/kathy-krajco-self-preservation-under.html ( not krajco’s blog, just a quoted article. Kathy Krajco has passed as of May 2008, Rest in Peace. )

No Aussie Girl (and Steve Becker), You’re mistaken. He’s 50 and it’s not a counselling session. It’s one of MANY discussions I am trying to have with my husband about lying, or about running around with other women, or about withholding info so the wrong financial choice was made, or about, or why people close to him hate me so much, or that our daughter is only going to grow up once, or that abusing our ranch animals is BAD etc. etc. etc.

But no matter what, the outcome was that I was the one making a big deal out of things and why am I so difficult and just can’t move on, must be b/c I am too emotional.

Katy

one/joy_step_at_a_time

i love this thread. we can name without naming….what they are, who they were/ are to us.

aussie – i would hate it if someone were ever ‘good’ on my account.
i would love to out the flaming [email protected]#$%^&* on lf. donna does case studies, but she hasn’t been inclined to do one on my spath. she’s infamous, so there is press about her, and lots of stuff online – inc. a pending case for fraud. she’s really nasty; her joy in life is to con con con as many peeps as she can, at a time, in a year, with a focus on truly fucking over a few…wonder if she has an actual goal in mind when the year rolls over, or if she just happily gets to a dozen per year and she’s ‘good’?

dancingnancies,
thank you so much for your post.
I had forgotten about Kathy Krojco, she was a fountain of wisdom. So much so that after she passed, some people got together to continue hosting her website.
She really KNEW about narcissists.
I recommend everyone here check out her knowledge.
She was tortured by a narcissistic sister her whole life. The sister bought a house and moved in across the street just so she could torture her. She knew that Kathy had a heart condition and sure enough, she eventually succumbed under the stress. But not before she left her wisdom on a website.
My exP fantasized about surrounding me with neighbors that would hate me. An elderly couple lived next door and they must not have found anything to hate me about. But the old genleman had a heart condition. He went over there and RAGED at the man, then he came back and said to me, “I almost gave him a heart -attack hahahaahha.” They look for weaknesses. God they are soooooo evil.
RED FLAG, shoulda known. But he had convinced me that the couple were vindictive and rotten and I should hate them. It’s called projecting.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

sky – thanks for posting kathy krojco – when i have more time i will read – i have a whack of Ns to deal with.

Dancingnancies, Thanks for your post. I think you are spot on about shame.
I read, “Story of O” about 15 years ago, when I was a Lit major, mostly out of curiosity (I really dislike pornography), and found so much more in this book than titillation. I wouldn’t say it is “well written”, but it has a depth about it, and I think speaks of those things you mentioned above.
In the end, O is no longer able to use language. She is debased to the level of animal….this is interesting because I’ve looked into, “trauma theory of Literature” a bit, and one of the assertions of that theory is that trauma is unspeakable..that there really are no words for it.
In ‘story of O” everything that O indures, she indures willingly.
Some critics have suggested that the book is really about a religious experience where O surrenders her will and life to God. I’ll leave that for you to decide. Just thought you might be interested.

Steve,

Another wonderful article, describing my husband to a tee. It’s frustrating to deal with someone like this. When I read about your client, “Howard”, I could totally comprehend what you were talking about, experiencing, in relation to your therapy sessions with him. Thank you for your ability to describe what many of us have experienced, putting it “to paper” (so to speak) about sociopaths. It really does me good (it’s a relief) to read your articles because you “get” what all of us have faced in connection to these disordered souls.

Hmm kim, that’s an intriguing premise. I’ll def have to check that out, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

There have been some real incredibly valuable posts lately. The quality blows me away. I’ve gone back to reread and wow, the insights are life affirming and humbling.

dancingnancies: “the shame is unbearable”.

SO right on.
I just wanted the world to crush in on me and never be conscience again. So I drove my car into a post that I knew would collapse the building on me.
Why?
B/c in one sentence, I realized that overwhelming truth that I HELPED him turn me into a “worth less than nothing” THING. I agreed and agreed to endure little things, b/c they weren’t worth ending a marriage over.

But eventually more things happened than I had time to recover from, things that crushed my sensibilities and in one moment of clarity, “what does that say about YOU!?!” he crowed, he said after telling me no one would care. Worth. Less. Than. Nothing. And I HELPED him make me so. He did it by mindfduking my sense of morality, it’s was a mind game for him. Strategy.

His special pleasure, to manipulate others to do his will and then when they realize they’ve been duped, show them how they did it to themselves while he skates off scotfree. I’d seen him to it to others, but I was his masterpiece b/c I had that moral code that pissed him off so much. (he thought my moral code implied I was better than others. I couldn’t get him to understand that what my moral code did for me was make me feel right with myself.) The shame of being the instrument of my own abuse made me want to die.

The barn post that everyone said would collapse didn’t. I could NOT find a reason to NOT die ….but for that one promise afterward to my daughter to never end it.

Dear KatyDid,

I’m glad that you were not able to “end it” and that you promised your daughter not to….suicide is so painful to those left behind that love us.

The Shame should be HIS not yours, but so many of us accept that shame as our own, when it should not be ours. I hope that you can put that shame and blame where it belongs, on HIS shoulders and not on yours…you did the best you could with what you had at the time you had it…we all did, but now we know better and we can do better, and part of it I think is to quit “feeling” the shame that should not have been ours in the first place.

If I kick my dog, even if it hunkers down and takes my beating and kicking, the SHAME for the beating and kicking should be MINE not the dogs, but that dog will accept the shame and blame for not deserving better, but we are smarter than the dog and able to reason better, so we CAN put the blame where it belongs and I hope you will be able to start working on that.

You did not deserve to be “beaten or kicked” and even if you hunkered down and took it, it still does not mean YOU should be ashamed—he is the bad actor, not you. ((((hugs)))) and God bless.

Hi You all,
Been gone awhile raising kids and treading water but still lurking quietly. I had to post after this great article since me and mine are in biweekly meetings in order to co parent. Unfortunatley the contradictory nature of his personality as Steve notes, is making that quite difficult… but it keeps us off the court dockets. It just causes me to leave meetings shaking my head.

He has picked up enough in these meetings to now want to agree (verbally) with all that I do as a parent so we are “on the same page” whereas he started out saying he would do things his way.

BUT he still sends messages through the kids, refuses to communicate with me, and follow court orders regarding financial expenses. He LOOKS really cooperative but When the constradictions are mentioned he puts the counsellor through some head games.

I am concerned that the counsellor is not catching on. This is tricky business so I keep quiet. It seems that theinterpretation of best interest of the children is for us to get along..or appear to no matter how devious he is being.

I dont want open conflict and so choose to avoid him as much as possible . We only email with him and I have strict no contact. But I know he is manipulating and undermining me covertly and overtly (by not providing information or using the kids as messengers) It is a tight rope for me and quite stressful at times.

I termed his behavior harrassment getting close to me and the counsellor indicated that I need to explore alternate reasons for what he had done…I know this man and his intimidation games and do not want him near me. All my friends and counsellor agreed with me . I worry now that this is turning on me.. .Comments anyone?

Dear Flowerpower,

Do you think it might help to print out the article Steve wrote on this, or a list of the ways a sociopath works to give to the counselor? I think this ARTICLE might be a good one to give to the counselor.

The “us appear to be cooperative” is so true—JUT THE APPEARANCE of “normal”—(head shaking here) I hope that he will lose interest in you and your kids sooner rather than later. Good luck and God bless ((((hugs)))

thanks Oxy. Losing interest is NOT what the counsellors want. That is not good for the children, it is said. The children have a better relationship with him now than they ever have but they dont see the real side.

I dont dare define him as a socio-I went there once and was told he isnt. He is narcissist by diagnosis with some other traits.

I do think the new DSM will give us something to talk about, but I see that the counsellor is now sympathetic maybe to his “illness” and wants me to take a different view.

Meanwhile, he told me he would kill me last year, he denies all wrong doing. The denial is what scares me….and now I am supposed to think getting near me in public when I am alone is “safe”…

BUT I will give the children the look of reduced conflict and of course I never bad mouth their Dad.

However he wants the PUBLIC appearance of being my friend and of being harmless. I tried this for awhile and got burned — it is like playing EMOTIONAL RUSSIAN ROULETTE. I cant handle the unpredictability and contradictory nature..it is the crazy making.

Dear Flowerpower,

I hear you, and I wish you could convince your counselor of what you are dealing with, but I do understand the concept of “illness” and how sympathetic you should be. PUKE MY GUTS OUT!!!!

I understand that YOU cannot want (openly) for him to lose interest in the kids, but MAYBE he will lose interest in them….let us hope and pray he does. Being with him is like your kids having a pet rattle snake! I wish the courts could see that having “two parents” when one of them is a psychopath is not in the best interest of the kids. God bless. Hang in there!

Kim, as an ex-masochist (mostly in fantasy), I have my own ideas about “O”. I think that the abdication of power is a relief to people who are crippled by shame. No power = no screw-ups. And that kind of relief can be so exhilarating that it’s like going through the looking glass to another world where you’re free of all the weighty dark gloop that blocks freedom and happiness. Or at least that’s the theory I developed when trying to figure out why I was so fascinated by submission. To my non-surprise, when I finally realized there was no reason for me to be carrying around all that shame, the fantasies lost their power and actually became kind of icky.

But Steve, I really meant to be writing you about how much I enjoyed this piece. You paint such a vivid picture, you sitting across from this ethically ambidextrous character wondering when his need for internal consistency is going to kick in.

I have a memory from the last days of my relationship with the sociopath, when I’d given him the deadline to leave and we were having one of our final conversations. As he was walkng away, he said in a kind of lamenting cry, a voice that begged to be understood, “I’d do anything up to and including murder to get my writing published.” And that, in a nutshell, was his excuse for all that he’d done to me — the financial exploitation, the deliberate destruction of my self-esteem to keep me “pinned down,” the infidelities that were to him “escapes” from this involvement that was so beneath him, the use of my resources and personal reputation to make himself seem like more than an indigent bum, etc., etc.

I can’t count the times I heard that I had made him a better person or, when returning after one of his periodic abandonments, that he’d really thought about his behavior and he was determined to be a better person.

And I was bamboozled by it all. I figured if he could even speak in those terms, he had a conscience. That his relentless and ruthless drive to climb up out of his humble beginnings in the (adoptive) family of a laid-off steelworker, a venue where someone as gorgeous and charismatic and brilliant and talented as him was clearly placed by mistake, was sort of touching and noble, at least in the clarity of his vision of who he wanted to be. And the few earlier times when I’d pulled myself together to boot him out of my life, I met that sad little boy who begged me not to abandom him.

Jeez. And this was the same guy who sneered at me when I cried and told me “weakness is unattractive.” And told me how he went into classrooms and new jobs looking specifically for the requirements for a “minimum A” and once he knew that he proceeded to “please the fool.” And how some people were just “food people.” And in our first year, when he thought he’d succeeded in draining $20K out of my corporate bank account, he told me “tried but he just didn’t feel that way about me,” and walked away for the first time, thinking he had money in his pocket. (I spoke to the bank’s lawyers and got the money back.)

There’s lots more of this, the many faces of the horrible ex. But there’s just one more that’s worth mentioning. We were living together in California, and I was operating under the assumption that the whole problem was that he hated and distrusted himself, and I decided to make a stab at breaking through that. So I spent a couple of days gentling him through a discovery of what he might care about other than himself. Finally he began talk about how upset he was about unfairness — judicial, familial, academic, gender-related. And he explored the possibility of using his writing to illuminate these injustices and motivate people to take action against them.

It was the first time I’d ever seen him completely mindblown. He looked like a person I’d never seen before. Until that moment, neither of us had seen any credible evidence that he devoted much thought to anything but his own ambitions and desires. It was like he was experiencing a kind of hope or belief that was completely new to him. When he left the room, he left the house and didn’t come back for a long time. When he returned he was more cold and vicious than usual. I believe managed to discredit the memory of these conversations or convert them into some other bit of the plausibility he used to manuever in non-sociopath society.

Steve, I think these people have broken psyches. There is the wounded “natural” child caught like a fly in amber and the hard superstructure that serves both as prison and protector. The inner neediness and desperation of the immature center is transformed into resentful distrust, a focus on power and control, and a robotic self-sabotaging, socially implosive conviction that failure is unacceptable. And the strange relationship between these two characters is what makes these people so internally incongruent.

I’ve never known anyone in my life as needy as the sociopath. Except perhaps my father, who was another one. His boundaries were like 100-foot thick walls. No trust. Reinterpreted love as volunteering for victimization. Would not let himself be satisfied with anything. Only felt pleasure in pursuit, dominance or oversized sensory experiences.

It would be interesting if you could probe a bit into his feelings of being ripped off with an eye to making contact with the inner little one. Unfortunately, the shell probably won’t let you. He’ll mention it in passing because it’s the rationale for pretty much everything, but if you pry, his aversion to showing vulnerabilty will kick in and he’ll block your access to anything like authentic grief or need for nurture, or he’ll use your interest to play you, just for the hell of it, or rather because he has something to prove about how phony you really are.

There’s just no way to win. The construct is a perfect machine for denial of pain and addiction to winning.

Or that’s how I see them.

I read this and in my experience with one, have seen the shell ripped off. It was tragic. Like a child drowning…in shame and self condemnation but with no identity or concept of love.

All of this is a toxic coping mechanism. And yes tied to SHAME which is so damaging. I think the only answer to reducing the numbers of them is prevention through intervention in childrens lives..they must be offered healing and the place to overcome the shame.

Screening for a genetic tendency or somehow identifying at risk kids (genetically) if possible..

I do believe there can be conversions but in my case the entire family dynamic is deceived and cant see the need for help. So sad.

All of us should be thankful for self awareness and that we are not like this! But for the grace of God, there go I…

Kathleen Hawk,
When I refer to quality writing, you are one of the main ones. Wow. Your insights blow me away.

Responding to your last post, I liked my husband to a weeble. those little toys. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.

A few times, I think I got through to my husband. Some logic and truths knocked him off center where a normal person would experience an epiphany or a paradigm shift. He’d walked away but he always came back more determined than ever that I did to him what he does best, that I manipulated him, and after that then all logic, reasoning, truths were Moot. He wobbled but regained sociopathic balance.

you said it flower power.
but for the grace of God… we were protected somehow, Ithink that the same thing that creates P’s creates supplies. My parents created 2 P’s and 2 supplies. first daughter is a saint, then the evil brother was born, then me (perpetual supply), and my socio baby sister brought up the rear.

What happened to create the situation where his shell was ripped off? I’m very curious, I would love to see a shell-less spath. do they look like a snail without a shell? you know, a slug?
Kathy,
sounds like a perpetual paranoia machine.
That is fascinating that you were able to break through, even if for only a moment.

Skylar,

I’m thinking the slug is right on! Avert your eyes because they are hideous!

I thought I got through to mine a few times when he was like a vulnerable little boy. It’s like he has a hole that can’t be filled so he fills it with unhealthy things like control, manipulation, sex, games, lies, anything to make sure he has control because that little boy is not aceptable.

The exposure is extremely sad to see. That is why I find grace for him BUT must protect our children and watch how he affects them.

He had a psychotic breakdown, thought he was being punished by voices and sounds he heard. He had ongoing severe crying spells.

The specific time I saw the tragedy of it was when he was weeping and saying in a little voice. “I dont know who I am, I am nothing, can you tell me who I am”.

It is heart wrenching, disturbing, and more than anything makes me incredibly thankful . He knows what he does, he can help his choices but he is addicted and has many who want him to stay there…the family dynamic plays a huge role. They are all deceived and are prisoners to this.

He is not a slug, he is a human and is not well. Even now, the memory of that moment reminds me that all humans must be valued or it reduces us to that level. BUT I do believe in consequences to choices and in the case of these people, they can be evil choices that need severe consequences.

Thank God for a sound mind ladies,and that we are all able to grow and learn . I used to think I could help him now I know just to stay away..it is like a fire..stay away or get burned.

In my personal opinion (which some people may disagree with), I don’t think they are “broken”. They are evil, no doubt, but not broken. There is no wounded child, there is no child in there, period. They are soulless, imho. In my opinion saying that he felt for the injustices of the world was something he gleaned ( read : copied ) from someone else. Heartfelt? Hardly. Never. Ever.

Of course.. they would LOVE for you to believe they are broken, and need “some of your love” to transform that “brokenness” into “wholeness”. So you project your own fantasies of healing their “inner child” to realize.. often when it is too late. There is no inner child- just, nothing there at all. A black hole.

Part of their “knowing the words but not the music” is this in fact : they never felt it in the first place. Love is as real to them as Santa Claus is to Stephen Hawking. As Jesus is to an Atheist.

The sociopath always made a great point to “show” how much he “cared” about injustice… poverty… insisting that I should give my food to the homeless ( Steve’s article “When bad people do good things” illuminates this idea ) posting on Facebook.. “Donate to Haiti!” ( after seeing the same thing posted everywhere else ) … ( But if you probed these further, you could see it was for people to “see how humanitarian he was” it was all a sham. )
But one day I told him something that I’d heard. I said, “You know, they say the reason that people so readily shun homeless people (ie : avoid ) is because the homeless represent to them, what they most fear for themselves.”

He didn’t get it. I had to explain it over and over. He still didn’t get it. Why? Because in order to understand a statement like that, you need empathy. He lacked it entirely.

There are varying degrees of psychopathy ( not that any are less severe than the other ) so I suppose not everything can be put into neat little boxes.

PS : They don’t have any feelings.

Dear Dancingnancies,

RIGHT ON!!!! Great insight into the emptiness of what is NOT there inside the psychopath–

Yes, there are degrees of psychopathy, I agree, but it is like “tall” or “short” where does short stop and tall begin? It is, I think, the PATTERN in most cases, but also the individual acts.

Charlie Manson didn’t do all bad acts, nor did Ted Bundy, but the INTENSITY of the fewer bad acts they did was HIGH. Some psychopaths do “low-er level” abuse but lots of acts, and some do fewer acts, but of Higher intensity. (Murder, rape and other sexual offenses, etc) The ones who do the “high level intensity” though, I do not think are ever safely released into society and frequently re-offend if sent to prison and then released. Prison sure doesn’t seem to do them any good. I realize that incarcerating people “forever” isn’t a popular, “politically correct” concept, but for violent crimes I am convinced it is the ONLY solution (and that makes me a “radical” I am sure in some people’s minds) but I would incarcerate violent people forever and let a lot of the non-violent “criminals” do community service and manual labor for the public good. Maybe My idea wouldn’t work, but what we have NOW isn’t working either! LOL

Oh, well when I am dictator it may not be better, but it will be DIFFERENT! Vote for Oxy for dictator!

oxy, yep exactly. Just because a psychopath does not kill people doesn’t mean he’s any less dangerous. Sure, he fits his actions neatly under the radar of society’s laws ( as you said, repeatedly ), but they are just as harmful… Manson and Bundy are the few psychopaths that were serial killers so everyone thinks, “Oooh, so psychopaths = serial killers” Wrong again.

Yes, I saw the black hole and still say “but for the grace of God…” so what is their purpose???

Hopefully to show us that we can go through this and come out joyful, stronger and wiser for having seen and experienced it, because I was so naive before.

Oxy for dictator!!! I do agree, lets lock them all up with no chance to come back to society..they have forfeited that right. Make them grow their own vegetables (no meat) and be self sustaining ( that would reduce the numbers right there). Any deserted islands they can inhabit??

Or maybe I have that backwards..any deserted islands the LF survivors can retire on??? on the other side of the world of course ( see I did learn something) lol.
Okay, Ms. Dictator, add that to your platform…

I’ll vote for you if you promise the trains will run on time 🙂

I personally think that the island should be for the spaths and the scammers. Leave them there together with no way off the island until they kill each other off with their scams, their schemes and their destructive cruelties.

The last one standing should then be bronzed and mounted as a reminder to the rest of us that once there were spaths, but that we overcame their evil. (Now there’s a thought that makes me smile on an otherwise grumpy & gloomy day…)

Absolutely, the trains WILL run on time! A mule and 40 acres for everyone, and a chicken in every pot–except for the psychopaths! LOL 🙂

The Bible talks about people with a “reprobate mind” and I think that is what applies to the psychopaths, as their consciences have been seared and they have developed “reprobate minds” without “natural affection.”

I think there is a turning point at which the psychopath reaches a point of “no going back” or “no return” sort of like an alcoholic or drug addict drinks or drugs so long that their brains are damaged to the point that they CANNOT quit drinking unless physically restrained by someone or locked up. They no longer have the ABILITY to stop, to choose to stop if that makes any sense.

I don’t think that my son COULD develop a conscience now or STOP being dangerous. I don’t think he has the ABILITY to fear anything.

You can shock a flat-worm enough times that you can “train” it to go around something, but you cannot “shock” or “punish” some of them enough that you can “train’ them to do a different behavior to avoid another shock. Some psychopaths are trainable To at least AVOID a shock, but some have NO fear, and my P son is one of those that if he thought he could kill me even if he KNEW HE WOULD BE KILLED IN THE PROCESS he would still try to kill me because he would still VIEW THAT AS A “WIN.” It is hard for me to grasp that concept of “win” but it is the only thing that makes sense. He truly believes that he is a “success” in life, that he knows how to run the world, how to live in the world, when all he has ever done as an adult is to live in prison. He does not realize that everyone in the “free world” views him as nothing but another LOW LIFE CONVICT—even “trash” that is free views him as a “low life,” but he can’t see himself as anything but a SUPERIOR being. DUH????

Talk about delusional and with narcissistic grandiosity!!! He has it in spades! He lives in this fantasy world of how grand things are going to be when he gets all the family money (not enough to make him rival Bill gates for sure! LOL) and gets a “Playboy centerfold” girlfriend and a Corvette and gets rich and famous—-and everyone envies him, etc. AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN, at BEST he will get out and live in a half way house, work in a McDonald’s and lose all his teeth without a chance for a set of dentures, and he won’t have a girl friend who has not got a criminal record or has more than 3 teeth of her own. That is BEST case, but in all likelyhood he’ll spend the rest of his life until he gets old and sick in prison, or die in prison and be buried there with a number for a tombstone.

Oxy,

My understanding of the” grandiosity ” is that it grows bigger with more problems…it is like a bigger “cover” for them to hide behind. My ex is so much more obnoxious in all that than he ever was. It is his coping mechanism since he cant be embarrassed or admit it was him.

And yes that is reprobate. They cannot face the truth..too painful. And that leads to death…really it is tremendous pride to the point of delusional sickness. And yes killing the target (cause) of all their problems is win for them. So watch your back.

On a humorous note, He sounds like the perfect manager for the Island of Spathdom.

But no girlfriends allowed there,,well okay IF they are fixed and toothless. LOL

Wow!!! This article gives wonderful insight to what would happen IF a sociopath was treated by a therapist they could not manipulate!! This article matches the previous wash machine analogy from another article on LF. Great info.

Believe me flower, I do watch my back, and as long as he breathes he is a danger to my life and the lives of my other two sons. I’ll keep him in prison as long as I can and then if I have to, deal with him getting out however I have to to be safe.

This article addresses my assessment of a friend who has moments of clarity about her situation and often seems more than happy to apologize for what she did/said.

But then, the other attitude comes around, almost in a cycle: So many people have abused her, how could you say that to her, she thinks this or that attitude or behavior is a crime against humanity, blah blah blah.

No connecting of the dots between the two people: the observer of the spath, and the spath herself.

The only common thread is judgment. She’s always somewhere between apologizing and asking for an apology. I’ve tired of it. It’s exhausting. The Court of the High Drama Priestess is in session! “Off with her head!”

@Kathleen Hawk: Go hang out in some do-gooder organization, fighting injustice, or with a journalist or lawyer with such a “conscience,” and you’ll find people there with an eerie resemblance to this guy you describe. Isn’t it amazing how convenient social justice moments are to people looking for cheap salvation from their own narcissism? Maybe they even sincerely believe they’re directing their badness into a “good cause.” But ultimately, they’re destructive. Watch the dynamic. Watch who floats to the top. Ask quietly about people who had to leave because of criminal charges, violence, or other bizarre circumstances.

Not to be cynical about social justice movements. I’m committed to such things. But watch the rhetoric versus the results. It’s very illuminating.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

sistersister – well said. i have experienced the same thing many times over in movements.

Can spot the ‘righteously’ angry lime lighters a mile off now- got to interact with one just last week. I made nice with him, but I will always watch my back around him and avoid working with him ever again.

Dear Sister,

You have a valid point there, and the people who do flock to “social justice” groups or volunteer groups (doo-gooder) tend I think to be ones who are wanting attention (narcissistic) or want control all the while protesting their “good intentions” when they get caught being Ns or Ps. LOL Good take!

As for your “friend”–I’m with you, “off with her head!” Get them out of my life! Just too tiring to deal with them and not worth the trouble!

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