How the messages we hear all our lives keep us vulnerable to sociopaths

Outraged blonde woman with arms crossed on white backgroundEditor’s note: Lovefraud received the following email from a woman who signed it “Tired of Being Targeted.”

My son’s wife sends me nasty text messages and leaves insulting voice messages. Then she complains to her husband I’m being rude and disrespectful to her. It’s crazy making and she’s clearly projecting.

In the past I took the high road and didn’t tell him but all it got me was year after year of estrangement from my son. With nobody to speak in my defense and expose the truth and her unfounded slander habit, I finally decided to send him a long letter and copy him on all her text messages. I’m now waiting to see if he’ll respond. Even with the facts squarely in front of him, I realize he might still go along to get along with his wife.

Why is it so many younger people lack good reasoning skills? Why is it people tend to believe the first thing they’re told? Mark Twain once said something about it being easier to deceive somebody than to convince them they’ve been deceived. Perhaps you could write an article so others can benefit from understanding ‘projecting’ and ‘crazymaking.’

I just got tired of pussyfooting around nice. It seemed to me the more I ignored her bad behavior the more I became a target. There’s a therapist who said he was so tired of therapists making excuses for people’s bad behavior such as them having a bad childhood or something. He said some people who came from a bad environment grew up to be good people. Some who grew up privileged grew up to be bad people. He mentioned something about shaming these people calling them out on their bad behavior.

One of the reasons I sent my son the e-mail was because I was tired of being targeted by evil people and didn’t want my daughter-in-law piggyback on my ex-husband’s slander. My son (an engineer so it’s understandable) is a ‘true believer’ he stopped thinking early on and is committed to faulty beliefs and any new facts are not brought to bear. I like to call this ‘lazy brain syndrome.’ You can quote me on that, too.

I can tell you stories about my gaslighting ex you wouldn’t believe. Looking back I realize I was so gullible! It would have been nice if somebody sat me down and explained to me how I should listen to that little voice inside of me that says, “Something ain’t right here and why am I now in Kansas?”

Tired of Being Targeted

Donna Andersen responds

Dear Tired,

First of all, I am sorry for what you have endured from your daughter-in-law, and I can understand why you are Tired of Being Targeted.

You asked, “Why is it so many younger people lack good reasoning skills? Why is it people tend to believe the first thing they’re told?”

When it comes to recognizing and understanding sociopathic behavior, I’m afraid that the problem is much more complex than poor reasoning skills. The way I see it, there are three major failures in society that enable sociopaths to engage in, and get away with, their atrocious behavior:

  1. We don’t know that sociopaths exist.
  2. We don’t understand psychological manipulation.
  3. We aren’t taught to use the one tool that can protect us

Clueless about sociopaths

Approximately 39 million people in the United States may have exploitative personality disorders antisocial, narcissistic or borderline. These are the people I refer to as “sociopaths.” Most of us don’t know they exist.

In 2011, the scientific journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience published an article that examined previous studies of the prevalence of personality disorders in the United States and around the world. The authors examined five American and four international studies, dating back to 1989, and the studies consistently showed that about 10% of the general population has personality disorders.

The most recent U.S. study is the scariest. It found the following percentages of exploitative personality disorders among non-institutionalized people aged 18 and older:

  • Antisocial personality disorder – 3.6%
  • Borderline personality disorder – 5.9%
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – 6.2%

These are the people who live their lives by exploiting and manipulating others. Add them up and it’s  15.7% of the adult U.S. population, or just over 39 million adults.

So 39 million people go through life taking advantage of us, and most of us don’t know they exist. How does this happen?

Cultural myths that blind us to danger

All our lives, we hear cultural messages in church, school and the media, like the following:

  • “We’re all created equal.”
  • “We all just want to be loved.”
  • “Everybody has good inside.”

Unfortunately, these statements are not true for everybody. They are true for the approximately 84% of the population who are capable of normal love and empathy. The statements are not true for the approximately 16% of the population who have antisocial, narcissistic or borderline personality disorders.

No one tells us that there are exceptions to these feel-good maxims. No one tells us that human predators live among us, and that we need to protect ourselves from them.

In fact, we hear messages that put us in even more danger, like:

  • “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
  • “Give him/her the benefit of the doubt.”
  • “We all have issues/problems/flaws.”

The bottom line: We don’t know that we are surrounded by personality-disordered people who want to take advantage of us. And when we do experience or witness bad behavior, we’re told to explain it away.

Psychological manipulation

All of this sets us up for psychological manipulation by the sociopaths.

Human beings are social animals, and our survival as a species was assured over the millennia because we developed the ability to trust each other. Trust is built into our DNA.

When sociopaths target us for manipulation, the first step is taking advantage of our trust. They use love bombing, deception and the pity play to reel us in. Once we are hooked, they increase the psychological pressure through tactics like information control, gaslighting and intermittent reinforcement.

We may eventually suspect that something is not right in our relationship. But this can lead to cognitive dissonance, which is the mental stress of holding two conflicting beliefs at the same time, or the discomfort of being presented with facts that conflict with our beliefs. When this happens, many of us dump the facts in order to keep the beliefs.

So what happens? The sociopath keeps the pressure up, and psychological bond we feel with him or her becomes stronger and stronger. In time, we can lose our “agency,” which is the capacity to act independently and make our own decisions. That’s why it is so hard to break free of the exploiter.

Listening to the inner voice

Tired, you are right in that the answer for all of us is to learn to listen to our inner voice. Our intuition also developed over the millennia, and its purpose is to warn us about predators.

And what cultural messages do we receive about intuition? None! In fact, instinct is pooh-poohed. We learn that we’re supposed to be rational, and make judgments based on evidence and proof, not on a gut feeling.

Anyway, given society’s general cluelessness about sociopaths and manipulation, I would guess that your son may need more than better reasoning skills to see what is really going on. For him, recognizing the truth of his wife’s behavior and how it is affecting you may entail:

  1. Understanding that sociopaths exist, and they are everywhere
  2. Believing that his wife is targeting you for no reason
  3. Overcoming cognitive dissonance the woman he married is engaged in mean-spirited behavior towards his mother
  4. Accepting that his wife is disordered will not change

This is the path all of us have traveled in order to escape the sociopaths in our lives and make amends to the people we have hurt. It’s a very difficult journey.

Cultural conspiracy?

But let’s get back to the big picture of our cultural messages:

  • We are surrounded by millions of predators, but no one tells us about them.
  • We are encouraged to trust everyone, including the predators.
  • We are discouraged from listening to our intuition, which protects us from predators.

I’d hate to think of a massive conspiracy, but it seems to me that our culture is set up to make us vulnerable to sociopaths.



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29 Comments on "How the messages we hear all our lives keep us vulnerable to sociopaths"

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Wow. A MUST read.

Thank you Donna.

Thanks for the very cogent summary of what goes on all the time in our society (and others’).

We are surrounded by millions of predators, but no one tells us about them.
We are encouraged to trust everyone, including the predators.
We are discouraged from listening to our intuition, which protects us from predators.

I will keep these in mind often, and share with others as needed.

I think the most effective tool that works in favor of personality disorders is the difficulty in understanding that they have a different brain than normal people have.
We wonder how they can do such things and still look at themselves in a mirror. We wonder how they can be so stupid. This is the application of a normal brain to an abnormal brain. They have no problem looking at themselves in a mirror because they have no conscience, guilt, remorse, or shame. They are NOT stupid. Their brain is different than ours. For example, NPD’s will act according to their lights EVEN TO THEIR OWN DETRIMENT. Are they then stupid? Not at all – their reasoning does not compute with us.

Still and even so…no contact…different brain or not.

I think there is more to the answer why people believe the first person that tells them something.
people are gullible
or do not see the other side right away,
but a group of people getting together and saying something , then others jumping on the band wagon , can have devastating effects.

yes the general public does not know, and are told in churchs see the good in everyone , but not all churchs in fact some, such as mormons are the ones doing the exploitation. By using religion, and sticking together !

My ex used to fantasize about having his own cult. Top reasons to have your own cult – you can have sex with anyone you want because you are the chosen one, everyone gives you their money because you tell them to, you can make your followers do anything you want them to do. [sex, money, power – the classic spath triad]

My preteen son summed my ex psychopath’s motivation when he said, “Mom, xxx just wants to be God.” That was pretty much it in a nutshell, that he wanted all the power and everyone’s worship.

wow that is very scary . Look at Warren Jeffs used his self appointed title prophet to marry 12 year olds, to get boys that he raped (age 5 ) to remain silent. That was to have power over them (LOST BOYS) . Get parents to take their teen age sons to the hwy and tell them not to contact them again, (competition for the young girls , they got rid of them . The book ESCAPE , is frightening.
AN AMERICAN FRAUD , JD tells of a man who disobeyed not giving the prophet his fiance , then refused to go on a mission, other mormons surrounded him on the prophets command and castrated him . Yea very strong bond over people ! In AZ 85% of judges are mormon males. SHAMFUL JUSTICE /

Great article! I’d like to ask: does this apply to people from from poverty stricken countries who are willing to exploit westerners? I’ve seen many cases like this – even men who have children with a westerner and leaves them when they get a green card (or its equivalent).

sunny- There are churches that support the loving treatment of women.

uhlene47- I think there are some from poor countries who exploit western women.

no interest, after this atheist ,
who put these evil doers on this earth?

I won’t reply because I don’t think it would be productive but I wish you well.

not interested in looking for crying towels,
just hard facts
what makes people believe the first person who tells them lies?
I don’t think that was addressed here.
BTW in my case it was “religion” a cult that stuck together and went against me , bigger turn off.
They are well known in AZ , and get into government , stick together. Anyone hearing my case knows this is a railroad job. A gang of thugs lying and spreading lies.

Sunny, for religious cults look at the site Freedom of mind resource center. The site creator was sucked into a cult in college with his family & help from ex cult members he escaped (story on his site). He returned to college obtained his masters & started counseling ex cult members and helping family loved ones out of a cult.

He has authored several books. See amazon. One is Freedom of Mind & he just updated another.

Google: “Steven Hassan Bite” model (this is who a cult, domestic abuser, gang, drug cartel, sex trafficker, pimp suck people into their group.

Also google:


sociopath smear campaign (the lies they are spreading about you now)

sociopath triangulation

sociopath pity play manipulation

In addition actor Leah Remini ex Scientology member has a new show on A & E called the Aftermath. That might help you to know you are not alone. See A & E .com. for more info.

Know that cult leaders are sociopath & psychopaths!!! SO you are in the right spot but just need to research more about mind control & brain washing & Freedom of mind resource center can help.

Watch Donna Anderson’s videos up at the top of Lovefraud site under the video tab. Also read every thing up there which will help you to see how the sociopath cons everyone to follow their demands.

I’m sorry you are enduing hell. Wishing you all the best.

Take care.

ps Sunny, do a search up at the top of Lovefraud on “steven Hassan”…Donna has written about his book.

Btw I have read his book and it opened my eyes to exactly how my ex manipulate me into dating him, moving in with him & marrying him & keeping me stuck in a marriage because he controlled my mind just like a cult controls their followers minds.

Donna’s books also helped

It’s a combo of Lovefraud site & Freedom of mind resource center that will open your mind.

Not sure if you were in the Mormon Church or not in AZ but Steven Hassan written about them & has videos on this cult on you tube. But if not you will be able to read the book and apply it to the cult you were in just like I did being married to a sociopath.

no interest, after this atheist ,
who put these evil doers on this earth?

thank you. no I wasnt a member of this cult, but can see how they together all manipulated the entire system.
They have their short stops all over the place.
even the corrupt judge. shameful and wicked.

‘Tired of Being Targeted’ wrote that she got tired of being ‘nice.’ Overlooking a one time episode of bad behavior that is likely a mistake or result of a bad day is nice, but not speaking up to expose the daughter-in-law’s repeated lies may not be the nicest thing to do. It is possible to be assertive, to stand up for what’s right and to expose lies while still being nice, if one sticks to the facts and avoids name calling and contempt. It is not ‘mean’ to stand up for oneself and to require that others treat one with respect.

In current culture, any kind of discernment of bad behavior is often considered not nice. It’s not in vogue to identify evil. There is an excuse for evil choices – bad childhood, etc. In earlier times, people recognized that evil, bad choices, and dangerous people exist. Women were taught that there are men out there who will try to take advantage of them in various ways. Women were protected to the point of being restricted – maybe the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

One of the major problems with our general ignorance of psychopathy, (even though there are tens of thousands of research papers on the topic), is that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is controlled by psychopaths. Psychopaths in power are thus in control of the information dissemination. Nobody (in Med School, either) has a clue about psychopaths although there has been a proliferation of neuroscientific studies of psychopaths in the last 5 years. (Just search for psychopath on PubMed.) This means that children don’t get diagnosed, and we never face the issues of psychopaths in society. David Kupfer was the psychopath in control of the DSM-5, so of course, it is corrupt. https://nopsychos.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/the-corrupt-dsm-5s-missing-psychopathy-diagnosis

Wow…that is certainly eye opening.

Thank you for posting.

A great read.

This may be why therapists miss that the client is dealing with a psychopaths.

The idea that everybody has good inside is particularly erroneous.

We do need to understand that psychopaths exist and they are everywhere.

As this says, most people don’t know psychopaths exist. I was not aware until I had an experience with one.

Donna- Why is the article ‘Preferred Prey’ no longer taking comments? It is a really good article IMO.

I am so sorry you have gone through so much!
Yes, some people don’t know what we know here on LF and end up deceived and hurt…. 🙁

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