Is your stonewaller a sociopath, or someone else? Stonewalling, Part II

I wrote in my last article about stonewalling, that nefarious process (and pattern) of shutting down a partner’s communication either aggressively, or passive aggressively, the effect of which is to leave the “stonewalled” partner feeling voiceless, alone, dismissed, negated as a person.

Many sociopathic personalities stonewall, but many stonewallers aren’t sociopaths, so how do you tell the difference? What are some signs that your partner’s stonewalling is an aspect of his “sociopathy” versus, say, his high “conflict-avoidant” personality?

Clearly some individuals are terrible at dealing with communication in general and conflict in particular. Their stonewalling may be mainly avoidant. Their wish to “deny” that trouble is afoot, their deep discomfort with emotional sensitivity and vulnerability, their high levels of defensiveness, their sense of incompetence and even hopelessness to contribute to the resolution of differences and meet confrontation effectively, may cause them to retreat, shut down, or “stonewall,” less from an attitude of indifference, disinterest and dismissiveness than from anxiety and fear.

Some individuals “freeze” in the face of perceived conflict and take “flight” literally in closing the communication hatches. Their intent may be less to hurt you than to protect themselves, and even you, fearing as they do that danger could ensue from an engagement of your concerns.

This is still stonewalling, and its effect is still perfidious, make no mistake. But its origins may come from a less malign place.

While stonewalling, then, can arise from less malign motives, sometimes, too often, it expresses serious pathological aggression, passive-aggression, hostility, contempt and callousness.

Clearly when “stonewalling” is accompanied by cold indifference—any form of cold indifference—to the stonewalled party’s wounded response to being “shut down,” this is a sign of serious insensitivity.

To state it differently: when the stonewaller, as a pattern, shows contempt towards the stonewalled party’s disturbed reaction to his stonewalling, this alerts us that we are dealing with a deficiently sensitive individual who almost certainly can be located high up on the narcissistic continuum, if not in the range of the “sociopath.”

This isn’t to say that the non-sociopathic stonewaller will react with sensitivity to your experience of his stonewalling. That’s a bit oxymoronic—if he were particularly sensitive to his stonewalling, by definition he wouldn’t be a stonewaller. But his reaction will typically express discomfort with the impact his stonewalling has on you.

He won’t, for instance, like the more sociopathic stonewaller, characteristically lash out at you with blatant hostility and nasty, hurtful, degrading accusations in response to your complaints of his stonewalling. He won’t typically blame you.

More likely he’ll shirk away, convey a perhaps somewhat sincere sense of helplessness to offer up anything more than the inadequate silence he’s offering up, as if to say, “What can I say? I have nothing to say. I’m not trying to hurt you. I just don’t want to, or can’t, deal with this. Leave me alone. Give me a break. I’m sorry you’re so exasperated and hurt. That’s the way it is.”

You will feel shut down, but you will feel shut down by someone who can’t deal, who himself seems, and perhaps is, in a sense, paralysed and helpless to deal responsibly, thoughtfully, engagingly.

In contrast, you will have a different feeling with the more sociopathic stonewaller. When he shuts down your communication, you will feel yourself—I can’t stress this enough—the object of his contempt.

You will feel palpably, viscerally, his indifference to the impact his stonewalling has on you; his indifference will feel as traumatizing as the stonewalling itself, leaving you, in effect, doubly traumatized by the interaction.

There is a sense of shock—that is, his emotional indifference, his callousness, his devaluation of your emotional experience will feel “shocking.”

As I suggested, you are likely to feel his scorn, his scoffing; are at high risk to endure his insulting, degrading comments, along the lines you are making trouble, talk too much, always looking for problems, don’t know when to “shut up,” always have to “over-analyse” everything; that you are mental, miserable; but the key thing that will accompany these, and similarly patronizing remarks, will be, as I keep emphasizing, the “contempt” for your experience that will be dripping shamelessly from his mouth.

These are some of the red flags to heed that you aren’t dealing merely with an incompetent communicator who stonewalls, which is bad enough, but with a seriously, hostilely disturbed communicator from whom you need protection, and most likely, escape.

(This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake only, not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)

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Yay Oxy!
Do tell us your thoughts on it. Write an article.
It might end up being your favorite movie of all time. It’s definitely one of mine.

On the other hand…I wrote a book about my family of sociopaths and am only now getting the picture of NO CONTACT with sociopaths. I seem to be a sociopath magnet. No contact with sociopaths means just that…no engagement in conversation, no listening to their side of the story, notta, none.

Last week I made the mistake of visiting my psychopath father’s ex girlfriend for the night before driving four hours home. I knew she did drugs but did not know the extent of her problems. This woman was soon heavily drugged up on crack and herion and went on a psychotic rage…cutting the head off a stuffed doll, acting very bizarre with her motions and eyes – and then she started attacking me (verbally)! I was doing nothing but wondering how to get out of this overnight NIGHTMARE visit (I had my doggies with me and was worried about driving through the mountains at night).

It took me about 15 minutes of this craziness before I decided to pack my doggies up and run as fast as I could. I “unfriended” her on facebook without explanation…I have not picked up the phone to speak to her with her obsessive calls. I have not listened to her voice messages (I finally blocked her number). There is nothing she can say to excuse what she did and I want no part of that kind of sickness in my life anymore.

Am I “stonewalling?” No. I am doing what I preached in my book about my family…sometimes you need to RUN TO SAVE YOUR LIFE OR SOUL…and you need no explanation.

Thanks for the great articles, Cherylann



Well, of course there is a difference between what you did and “stonewalling.” To me, stonewalling is done to an INNOCENT person who did nothing wrong and is yet being ignored and given the silent treatment when trying to get answers or trying to communicate. What you had to do to survive or save yourself in my book is not stonewalling.

Ox Drover


I agree with Louise, what you did was NO CONTACT and that is self preservation.

It is good sense. Plus, in the future you will not elect to spend the night with ANY “drug user”—you will sleep in your car if necessary.

Ox…LOL…yes, I wonder why sleeping in the car didn’t occur to me?…I was so bamboozled and overwhelmed with fear I didn’t think…I just ran Got home at 5:00 am by the grace of God I think.

Allergic to Spandex

I used to be great friends with one of my former college professors, at that hotbed of spathery, Penn State. (I’m sorry, but Sandusky — by statistical probability alone — CANNOT HAVE been the only rotten apple in the barrel, in order for his abuse to have gone on so long.)

In 2003, in the second week of December, my mother died. Shortly after, Professor Spath stopped speaking to me. Cold. He had told me intimate things about his wife, his sons, his dogs, his dad, his life. I thought we were friends. But I got cut off. He came to my mother’s funeral ten days before Christmas, and when I called him for support on Christmas day, he accused me of “whining.” He said that he had “real problems” (diarrhea from the antibiotics he was taking post-dental work) and coldly derided me for crying on the Christmas day two weeks after my mother died. I let him have it for that in an email later, and all communication stopped.

This year, my dad, who was innocent of the Christmas-day mistreatment, sent me an article from the local paper saying that Professor Spath had published a memoir of his life. To name his field would be to identify him, but the subtitle of his memoir includes the word “pioneer,” which is like declaring yourself a “hero” — that’s a word you reserve for praising somebody else, if you’re slightly normal.

So, for shits and giggles, I called up Prof. Spath and congratulated him on his memoir. It was actually hilarious. When I asked him about the book (I’m a writer, so it’s perfectly normal for me to ask people about their writing process), he said, “What do you REALLY want?”

I decided to “go there.” I said, “An apology.”

He claims not to remember the incident, and accused me of hallucinating it because I take psychiatric medications. Um… No. Psych meds STOP abnormal chemical interactions in the brain. He majored in chemistry and should have known that.

He did tell me the thing I had requested that was “inappropriate” and had caused him to stop talking to me. Wait for it… I asked him to take my dad a lasagna or something, as he was now alone in the house with his severe grief. (They lived in the same neighborhood at the time.) According to Professor Spath, since he didn’t know my dad well, it was “inappropriate” for me to ask him to support my dad with food once or twice, as other random neighbors were doing.

Well! I now know that Prof. Spath didn’t just HAVE explosive diarrhea, he IS explosive diarrhea! I actually started laughing. All of my suspicions about this guy were neatly confirmed. Case closed. I got stonewalled right after Mom’s death, and have been for these past eight-and-a-half years, for asking Prof. Spath to show empathy.

I just hope his two sons (who were both disowned at one point… I wonder if he re-owned them), who were very much involved in sports, never had to come in contact with the pedo network in that town. Greco-Roman wrestling must be like heaven for pedos who like boys. Because their dad is a spath from hell, I don’t think he would have believed them if they had to tell on a pedo. I pray they were unharmed and are safe today.



What a f*cking idiot!!!!


Louise…….well said! I hope you’re feeling better today. Big hugs to you, my dear.

LadySweetG, they’re the WORST!!! People who are in positions of Power and Control, and they use their vocabularies to alter our perceptions. I’m so sorry for your loss and for how horribly you were treated by Professor Spath when you just needed support – what an Ass Hat. I’m glad that you’ve confirmed what you suspected and no longer associate with that jackass.



Thanks. I am feeling a bit better.


Louise, I’m glad to read it – HUGS to you.

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