Optical illusions: autostereograms and sociopaths

Editor’s note: The following essay was contributed to Lovefraud by Kenneth Royce at Ken discovered that a “friend” was a pathological liar, serial thief and con artist. “Though he made off with over $10,000 of my property in a very complicated scam,” Ken says, “it’s had the ironic benefit of outing him for the sociopath he is, and thus warning many other unsuspecting people.”

Autostereograms produce an illusion of depth using only a single image. The image is usually generated by computer, by repeating a narrow pattern from left to right. By decoupling eye convergence from focusing operations, a viewer is able to trick the brain into seeing a 3D scene.

How to see a 3D autostereogram

With your face about six inches from the image, look through it as though it were a window (and your trying to see something beyond it) and then move slowly back (keep the same beyond focus). You will see a 3D image come into view.

This is called “parallel viewing” because your eyes are unfocusing slightly (i.e., diverging towards parallel) as if seeing something beyond the 2D image. The muscles inside your eye that control the focusing lens relax. Various autostereograms are at

The sociopath’s autostereogram

Sociopaths train the unsuspecting to see differently. They train us to see the autostereogram image of their story.

Of their lie.

The mind muscle that controls mental focus is coaxed into relaxing. In the hands of an experienced sociopath, we do this unknowingly. Their goal is for us to transpose reality (the flat 2D nature of their shallow lives) for a mirage (their fictitious 3D image of accomplishment, success, bravery, generosity, integrity, etc.).

We are taught to not only see their mirage, but transpose it for reality—and keep transposing it until we forget what the reality ever was. The more relaxed your focus, the more intense and real the mirage will become.

Another helpful parallel is that once you’ve seen a particular autostereogram several times, it is much quicker to see that image than any new autostereogram. You’ve conditioned your mind to expect what it has already seen, and you will almost instantly bypass the 2D for the 3D.

You now seek the lie. Over time, and without conscious effort, you will
routinely forsake reality for a mirage.

You can blink, or even close your eyes for several seconds, and not lose the mirage because”¦you’ve…retained…it…in…your…mind. Your focus has become so casually relaxed that you’ve lost focus altogether.

To act within this mirage as if it were reality will confuse your friends and family, and they will question your judgment, loyalty, and even sanity.

At that point, you are fully operating within the sociopath’s construct, a dreamworld created solely for his enjoyment and benefit. He controls the rules and pace of the game, and thus the outcome.

He takes. You give. He wins. You lose. That is the probable outcome, and you won’t figure out that you’ve even lost until long afterwards. It may take months or even years to fully realize the hugeness of the lie you lived in. Once you do, you will be ashamed at what you retrospectively see as your own foolish trust.

How do I avoid the sociopath’s mirage?

By knowing how it feels when your mind’s focus is being relaxed. It’s a brief odd sensation, like putting on somebody else’s glasses. If you comport yourself past that sensation, you will lose your own focus. Remember, “decoupling eye convergence from focusing operations” is the 3D trick.

This odd sensation is your B.S. detector, especially when they are acting.

The “Hey, wait a minute!” reaction is your subconscious trying to get your active attention that something is wrong, untruthful, contradictory, dangerous, or even evil. Whenever “something doesn’t add up”…trust it!

Whenever you feel it, immediately stop listening to the speaker, mentally step back and regain perspective. Instantly challenge the prima facie untruthful and exaggerated. Don’t be shy—cry Bullsh*t! Seek independent corroboration. Consult with his/her former friends, lovers, business partners, etc. Sociopaths usually have extremely bad credit.

Keep your eyes open. It is possible to spot them before they strike. Selective distrust is the parent of security.

Once you’ve confidently identified a likely sociopath, coolly disengage ALL contact, and quietly warn others to beware.

What if I’m already in the mirage? How do I get out?

The sociopath’s 3D lie can only be seen from only one vantage point—the one you’ve been slyly placed at (through trust and gullibility) and subsequently anchored to (through familiarity and loyalty). If you shift (even slightly) your perspective…the image will vanish.

Usually, somebody will say that one thing that finally jolts the return of your mental focus—if only momentarily. The mirage will then vanish, if only momentarily, and that is your chance to maintain your focus by piecing together the lies told to you.

These mirages are fragile things. They require constant vigilance by the sociopath to maintain the viewer’s limited perspective and relaxed focus. (This is the purpose of frequent pity-ploys. It is emotionally impossible to simultaneously pity yet suspect deceit. Your mind can do only one or the other.)

Escaping from the sociopath’s mirage and returning to reality is an uncomfortable process. It will take much time for your mind to reorient itself. This often engenders considerable confusion.

Time away from the sociopath can allow your mind to regain its focus, but usually that isn’t enough. You will need the surrogate focus of your friends and family who haven’t been fooled by the mirage. Give what they say (no matter how painful or embarrassing) a chance, and hear them out.

Contact others who have been conned by the same sociopath; you will validate each other and this is incredibly relieving and comforting. Soon, the mirage will no longer have any influence over you, and you’ll wonder how you ever believed it at all.

My hunch is that one’s opportunity of seeing through a sociopath is most keen at the very beginning. Once you’ve let your mind go “cross-eyed” in order to “see”/believe the lie, it’s too late. You’ve already reprogrammed your vision by then to see differently, which makes seeing the truth very difficult. A good jolt is usually required to “snap out of it,” but by then the damage has already been done.

The eyes see only what the mind has prepared itself to observe. “Hear hoof beats. Expect horses, not zebras,” as sci-fi author Robert Heinlein once wrote.

In short, people see clearly only at the very beginning, or at the very end—and very rarely during the middle.

You’ll avoid incalculable grief if you learn how to consistently see clearly from the beginning.

Common Law Copyright 2007, Kenneth Royce. All Rights Reserved.

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Yea Ox, ME TOO!!! I would love to see all your faces to go with your beautiful names!




I picture Oxy like a younger version of the granny in Beverly Hillbillies, with the same kind of spunk. ha ha I’m probably waaay off base.

BTW, if anyone wants to email with me (LL, Sky, One, Oxy, etc.), it would be fun to exchange pics. I know I can remember people’s lives and stories when I can put a face to the name.


Ox are you around?

Gosh I’m feeling so down from my dating flop.


I actually had a dream that I met Oxy. She was very young in my dream, around 30 or 35.

It was several weeks ago. funny how the brain works.
In the dream we were working in the same office building and when I went into her office, there she was and I was so happy to meet her. LOL.

Isn’t that funny, Oxy? I don’t know why I would dream of you, I think at that time, when I was having a melt down over my parents, I just kept thinking of you, and wishing you would save me. Like, you would have all the answers. That’s how it felt in the dream, I felt like once I got to meet you, when you opened the door to your office, everything would be OK. but we know that isn’t reality. I have to deal with my parental issues just like you did with yours. it sucks so bad that I can’t just get it over with.

Oh well, we can dream… right?


One-Joy, darling you are absolutely right, I was a prig, and I couldnt find my anger, and then WOOOSH!! Out it all came!! SPLATTT!!
And you were so forgiving of me being so holier than thou, and you GOT it that at the time it reminded me of spath daughter cussing at me as a teenager.
And now I say the F word more than most, and no-one ticks me off or calls me a Hypocrite!Least of all you my sweet sister! I love you.
You So get where I am now, and you are so understanding.Yea my wicked humour is coming out now as Im healing!
Witty so GREAT to hear you back again with us! Must crash now, just wanted to say I love all you guys.
Mama gemXX


I just want to comment on the original post. If you have a betrayal bond that develops in the mirage, it is very difficult to get out of the mirage. You may understand it all intellectually, but then all of sudden you are overwhelmed with a great longing to see the creep again. In the book BETRAYAL BOND, the author says that is a normal stage to go through and refers to those feelings as cravings. He goes on to discuss the things that support those cravings, the emotional reactivity, such as high arousal. I wish he had spent more time on how to combat all that, he provides some exercises, but not much on a few of the things.

As far as the shame, my therapist stressed, put the shame where it belongs….on him. Give him all the shame she told me.

Do we have responsibility? Yes, we have the ability to respond. That is responsibility. And next time, we’ll know better how to respond.

I see the same dynamic in animal rescue work, responding to a cruelty case. The rescuers will inevitably turn on each other….you didn’t give the right antibiotic, so that animal died. You didn’t get the animals out of there soon enough…etc. Meanwhile the abuser sits in the background, gathering sympathy for how overwhelmed he was, he tried his best etc. BS!!! He caused the whole horrific situation!!!!!!!!! But it is amazing how little anger gets directed to him….even if cruelty charges are filed. Sometimes yes, the rescuers do get angry at the abuser, but since they can’t reach the real target, they turn on each other, like family dogs barking at a strange dog outside the fence, who suddenly stop barking at the strange dog, and turn on each other. Transfered aggression, because they can’t get to the real target.

And we transfer our aggression from the real target (who we can’t get to no matter what we do, except through NC and let’s face it, that never feels that satisfying), inward towards ourselves.

Ox Drover

Dear Neveragain,

You bring up some very VALID POINTS! Thank you for discussing this, and I think many times you are right. I had a therapist tell me once that “the only valid (adult human) rescue is to drag an unconscious person out of a burning house.” That’s a pretty harsh, but you know, the more I live and learn, the more I think she is right.

Your analogy of the family dogs is a good one. Thanks. Lots of food for thought here.


I loved those points too. It’s very interesting that you have observed this happening in animal abuse rescuers.

Rene Girard describes something like this in the scapegoat mechanism. He describes 2 kids fighting over a toy and the violence escalates, then a 3rd kid who happens to be a small weakling walks by and wants to play. The first 2 kids will stop fighting and both start calling the 3rd kid names and run him off. Suddenly there is peace.

He describes this transfer as being the origin of language because humans are able to substitute one victim for another. We can use one thing to symbolize another and that is basically what language is. Language is a complex system of sounds or signals that symbolize other things, people or ideas.

so interesting…

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