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Overcoming the hype to educate people about sociopaths

Lovefraud recently received the following email from a reader whom we’ll call “Eleanor.”

Thank you for your wonderful site Lovefraud! It has helped me tremendously. I am still with my sociopath husband, but am quietly and surely planning on leaving. We have a few children so it really makes it more complicated.

He has now gone up to the next stage in what I’ve read sociopaths love to do. I’m so thankful that I read about it before he did it and know how to react and what to expect! He’s started to call up my family, giving them a sob story about how broken he is and how I won’t get any help (we’ve gone through a few counselors, with no obvious results as they’ve all been taken in by his acting abilities).

Now my question to you is, knowing he’s doing this, how can I have my close family not be influenced by him or believe him? To know it’s useless to fight him that’s a given (except in court, I will do whatever I can so that he doesn’t get custody of the children). But what can I say to my family to let them not take sides, realize he’s lying to them, and have them not believe him? I tried to tell them this but his authentic depressed behavior got to them more. I don’t want to be left alone without any support and want to catch this in the bud.

After I read your wonderful site I realize he’s been doing this for years. He’ll see I’m talking to a specific friend too much, and suddenly she’ll stop calling. I tried hard to think if I did anything to offend her, and I didn’t. Before I just had vague suspicions, but now I see clearly that he probably called her or her husband and spread lies that I told about her (I have only said good things about her, so there’s nothing truthful that he could say that would be bad). This has happened with past counselors also. One I finally had the courage to call and told her what he said that she said, and she was very upset and said she never said that about me and she’ll clear it up.

People don’t know

The problem Eleanor faces is that people in general do not know that sociopaths exist. They do not know what sociopathic behavior looks like. So because people do not understand that there are people who intentionally feign distress and unhappiness, casting themselves as the victim, they do not realize that what they are witnessing is nothing but an act, and they are being conned by a sociopath.

Eleanor needs to educate her family about sociopaths, but she needs to do it carefully. If she rants and raves that they should not to believe her husband because he is a sociopath, they will probably look at her like she is nuts. In fact, her husband may already be telling them that he’s very concerned about Eleanor, because she’s becoming mentally unglued. The family may begin to think that the husband is right, and Eleanor does, in fact, have mental issues.

Why would they think this? Because they probably believe that sociopaths are all deranged serial killers. If Eleanor’s husband hasn’t killed anyone, or if he isn’t violent, then she must be nuts.

Silence of the Lambs

A few days ago I watched The Silence of the Lambs. This is, of course, the movie that features Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic psychopath.

Even though the movie came out in 1991, I’d never seen it. I don’t like horror movies or scary movies, so I never wanted to. But since we spend so much time talking about how people don’t understand what a psychopath really is, I figured I needed to see the movie that created so much misinformation, so I ordered it from Netflix. I was so apprehensive that I actually had nightmares several days before watching the film.

Two things struck me about Silence of the Lambs. First, Jodie Foster was really young in the movie. Second, no wonder people think psychopaths are all brilliant, cold-blooded serial killers.

The movie won five Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress for Hopkins and Foster, along with Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  The American Film Institute named Hannibal Lecter, as portrayed by Hopkins, as the number one film villain of all time.

In the beginning of the movie, the medical director of the prison where Lecter is kept says, “Oh, he’s a monster. A pure psychopath. So rare to capture one alive.” And Lecter does display psychopathic behavior. But his behavior is so off the charts that I don’t know if there are any real-life cases as bad as he is.

Lecter is highly manipulative. The problem, however, is that his manipulation is obvious. His evil is obvious. And, of course, the guy is in prison for crimes so heinous that they put him in a straight jacket, strap him to a gurney and put a full mask on him to prevent him from literally biting someone’s head off.

I can see how the image of a psychopath from The Silence of the Lambs could be seared into someone’s brain. Unfortunately, the cartoon image of Hannibal Lecter may prevent people from identifying the real psychopaths who live among us.

After watching this movie, I feel like my decision to use the term “sociopath” on Lovefraud, instead of “psychopath,” was correct. No matter how many academic papers psychology researchers publish about the behavior of psychopaths, they’ll never be able to overcome the image of Anthony Hopkins ripping a cop’s face open with his teeth.

Red Flags of Love Fraud

Lovefraud’s goal is to educate people about sociopaths and what they’re really like, especially in intimate and family relationships. Towards that end, today I am sending my second book to the printer. It’s called, Red Flags of Love Fraud 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath. Here’s the description from the back cover:

What everyone who wants a loving relationship needs to know about social predators

Charisma, charm, so much in common and sexy too—is your romantic interest a dream date, or a sociopath? Millions of these social predators live among us, and they don’t look or act like serial killers. Rather, they present themselves as the love you’ve been waiting for all your life. Red Flags of Lovefraud identifies the clues and patterns of behavior that may indicate your partner is actually an exploiter. This book explains why you may be vulnerable, how the predators seduce you, how you become psychologically bonded, and how to break free of the trap.

I asked a former employee, whom I hadn’t spoken with in many years, to proofread the book. It turned out that she, too, married a sociopath. She told me, “If I’d read this book 10 years ago, it would have changed my life. Literally.”

My hope is that people will read the book, recognize the behaviors and realize that they’re dealing with a sociopath. My bigger hope is that people will read the book, learn the warning signs, and avoid becoming involved with a sociopath in the first place.

Explaining the behavior

But back to Eleanor she’s dealing with a husband who is full manipulation mode, trying to remove her support system by lying to her family and friends. My guess is he’s also running a smear campaign, subtly disparaging Eleanor to make her less credible.

First of all, I am really glad that Eleanor had the nerve to tell one of the counselors what her husband said.  I’d be interested to know how that situation plays out —does the counselor start to get what is happening? Or does she fall for the husband’s lies again?

As far as the rest of her family is concerned, I think Eleanor needs to thoroughly educate herself about exactly what a sociopath is and how they behave. One way to do it is by reading Lovefraud carefully. She should learn about the key symptoms. She should even be able to quote some statistics about how many millions of sociopaths live among us.

Then, when appropriate opportunities arise with individual family members, she can present this information coolly and calmly. In fact, when her husband does something right out of the sociopathic playbook, she can explain how it is typical sociopathic behavior. For example, his sob story about how broken he is is an example of the pity play.

It’s important not to get upset or angry while conveying such information, because that would create the image that Eleanor is nothing but a scorned woman.  People can’t listen to someone who is upset; they put up their defenses. And, presenting this information while upset could play right into the hands of the husband, who is probably saying that Eleanor is mentally unbalanced. So the best way to communicate this information is dispassionately.

What else can she do or say? Do you have any suggestions for Eleanor?


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114 Comments on "Overcoming the hype to educate people about sociopaths"

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MiLo,
I HEAR you bore! I bow to your boringness!

Eleanor,
As Milo said, “be boring”. Don’t just be boring when he is pushing your buttons, be boring ALL THE TIME.
As the man explained to me, when the spath-woman came home and asked, “would you like to go out for dinner?” The man would answer, “oh, I don’t care.” If she pressed for an answer, he said, “you decide.” or “that sounds fine.”

These work because the spath is always looking to find out what you care about. If you don’t care, the spath can’t find a hook.

As 20-years said, “they are acting ALL THE TIME.”

So you must act all the time too. Act boring. Every moment of every day, they are in predatory mode, looking for a taste of emotional supply. When you’re boring, they go look elsewhere.

If he thinks you have gone to the doctor for depression and are now on prozac, that can be a good excuse for a change in your behavior. Just get the pills and every day, flush one down the toilet. So if you start to show less interest in your children and he thinks you are on prozac, that MIGHT work for you. It sucks to tell you to behave like a refrigerator mom around your kids, but if it gets you custody in the end, then it will be worth it.

Do NOT make any decisions based on your emotions. That is what he is counting on. Spaths suppressed their emotions long ago so they don’t have access to them any more. You aren’t going to suppress yours, just don’t react to them until you are out of danger. I know it’s hard, it’s like the urge to breathe, but you can’t breathe while you are underwater, you have to wait until it’s safe.

20-years,
yes we do seem to be on the same track. I think they imagine that we are as 2-dimensional as they are, but only because they can’t imagine what the 3rd dimension is like, having never experiened it. Just like I can’t imagine the 5th and 6th dimension. I think that there are mathematical equations and models that explain it, but I still can’t imagine living in it. Spath know we have something they don’t but they think that it is as shallow as their own facade. So if they could just have your car, you mannerisms, your hair, clothes and your crown and scepter, they can be you as authentically as you are. To them, a thing and the symbol of a thing is the same, there is no difference. A lie IS as real as the truth to a spath.

As George Castanza said to Jerry Seinfeld: Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it.

Skylar,

That is a hard thing to do. I think spaths specifically pick more emotional types so they can use it. So obviously it’s hard to repress these emotions. What everyone is saying is very logical so I will have to try and that’s it. I’m worried about pretending I’m on prozac, he might use that against me in court to “prove” that I’m an unfit mother as I’m depressed.

I loved what you told 20-years. It’s very deep and so enlightening! My spath can’t relate to me doing something ultruistic just for the sake of helping – for him there’s always a ploy; I’ll help this person so that so and so will think I’m great and I’ll get a promotion…

so this ’backspathing’ and Gray Rock thing what is is about.

I need to make you I have all options available.

Thank you

You know explaining about sociopaths is hard. Today and on several occasions I have tried in vain to educate my mother about spaths.
My mother deserted my father when I was a kid for a sociopath.
Presently she is 82 years old. She was about 40 when this happened.
Her ex-2nd husband never contacted her after their 2 yr. relationship which did include marriage and desertion.
He cleaned her out financially. And she still doesn’t get it. I explained to her today about sociopaths and how if anything happened to my present husband I wanted to change my name because I didn’t want ex-spath to look me up thinking he could live off me. My mother then went on how my ex and hers were no good drunks and would never come back because they had too many women in their lives who would look after them.
I then went on and said mom, if he should get spath burn-out and he’s old and can’t get it up and all his female supply is gone or has no more use for him he may come a knocking.
I reminded her of my aunt’s ex who deserted her when she was 21 and showed up in her old age because his supply was gone. At that point no one wanted him and he was sickly and was looking for a nurse maid, a warm bed, and hot meals. My aunt took him in out of pity against family advice and shortly after he passed away and my aunt got stuck burying him because his kin would not come and claim his body.
Even when he was sickly and dying he managed to dress himself and go hang out in the clubs looking to pick up the girls. At that point my aunt no longer cared because she was housing him like a patient out of pity.
My mother knows all these family stories and she still doesn’t get it even after she was a victim herself. I give up trying to explain it to her.

Joanie,

She isn’t going to get it…any more than my egg donor is going to get it that my psychopathic son sitting in prison isn’t going to get out and be a great guy! LOL They are set in their ways and at 82 they are not interested in finding out the whys and wherefores.

Give it up girl! You’re beating a dead horse! LOL

I was married to a Sociapath for 8 years, I always new something was wrong, but not until his Specialst put a name to his problem, did I know what it was,I ended the marriage 5 years ago, and to get back at me he turned 2 of my daughters against me, with so many lies, I have tried so hard to talk to them but to no avail…he is not there father….
I am out of ideas now, and just try and get on with my own life,
I have a wonderful son and lovely friends…..But he still has my daughters and 3 of my grandchildren

cullen51: i am so sorry for you and I sympathize with your pain. It is difficult grasping the truths and realities of the situation, I know. Sometimes it’s a moment to moment struggle. But, you have to remember your value and your worth as your own unique individual. If you leave them be, I believe your daughters will eventually come back to you. They will eventually come to see the truths for themselves. Rest your weary mind and rest assured that all good things will come back to you.

The best thing you can do is to focus on yourself.
Take care of yourself; eat right; stay as healthy as you can and try to live life as fully and as completely as you can.

Take it from me, unless you turn your back on it, it will eat away at you and your conscious and that is uncalled for. Stand in what you know is right. Nothing else matters.

My blessings are with you.

They call me Dupey

Eleanor,
It’s great to see you posting here, and even better that the comments here are helping.

You certainly raised a good topic, and the answers appear to be helping many of us too!

Re: your initial question about his influence on your family: I still think you’ll need to have a bit of patience until you can separate the saints from the swine in your own family. And it’s really important to do that. I’ve seen this over and over; a ‘path’ exerts all kinds of influence but almost always over a long time; as we say on here, they play the long game. But just as it takes time to expose a predator it can also take time to expose the predator’s assistants (or the predator’s admirers and enablers). And, in my experience, it’s the predator’s assistants that actually are the most dangerous because you don’t see them coming and don’t have your guard up. Once people have unmasked themselves and you truly know who’s who you’re in a much better position to salvage a relationship with the decent ones.

But for the (hopefully decent) people who just don’t get it yet, perhaps you can find a good book or movie with a character whose behaviour is similar to your husbands and drag it around with you to your relatives. Don’t show it to them, just leave it at the front door with your purse and keys, or have it sitting in your open purse – somewhere where they can see it but you aren’t ‘showing it’ to them. And if they ask, just act nonchalant: “Oh it’s just a book I’m reading. Recommended by a friend.” That way, if any of them get curious and ask to borrow it, or ask what it’s about, you can tell them the story without ever connecting it your own situation. If it’s close enough to your husband’s modus operandi they’ll add 2+2 and get 4 if they’re ready, and draw a blank if they’re not. Be prepared for a lot of blanks, btw…

As for the depression thing (and that was a brilliant idea btw!), you don’t necessarily have to go so far as to actually get a prescription if you’re not comfortable with that. You can perhaps just talk about how you’re so tired these days, you don’t know what’s wrong with you, perhaps your thyroid is off. Talk up all the symptoms of depression that people talk about when they don’t want to admit they’re depressed (and that I’m pretty sure you feel when you’re with him!). You can add in that you’re a bit ashamed of feeling that way. That might actually make him happy that he’s ‘got you’, and he’ll get bored after a while. A depressed and despondant victim isn’t as good as someone whose emotions are exploding, but it’ll do in a pinch for them to get their fix. But only around him. When he’s not around, it’s important to remember to enjoy the sunshine and freedom and be the person you were meant to be!

This is definitely the most difficult thing about dealing with a spath: his minions and the other enablers.

Annie, yes, anytime you can drop off books or movies, it will turn the tide, even if just a bit, it adds up.

The reason I mentioned prozac is because my spath was extremely agitated when he thought his friend or I were taking it. He said, “I know BF is taking prozac, though he denies it. I can always tell.” He was really mad about it. BF denies taking prozac for more than a week, it didn’t agree with him. But spath would come home and rage about it. WTF? He disapproved vehemently. I believe it’s because BF emotes ALOT and spath was addicted to it. When he wasn’t getting it, it made him mad.

Later, my own doctor prescribed it and I tried it. Spath was very irritated.

I understand Eleanor’s concern about how prozac might make her look, so I think your idea about getting a thyroid test is great. That’s just as valid (and likely to need treatment) for a medication which could really help. And it’s a great excuse for a change in behavior. I took it for a few years and it made me much calmer.

The problem with a victim who is depressed is that the spaths just smell blood in the water and will up the ante. Prozac isn’t something he can mess with, nor is thyroid. But admitting that you are depressed makes you too vulnerable.

When I read what I just wrote, it blows me away, that I’m sitting here figuring stuff like this out. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined anything this bizarre. It’s not normal to have to figure out how to stop other people from “feeding on you”. It’s just not. How did I get here?

Skylar said: The problem with a victim who is depressed is that the spaths just smell blood in the water and will up the ante. Prozac isn’t something he can mess with, nor is thyroid. But admitting that you are depressed makes you too vulnerable.

Well, you’re not exaggerating! My spath was the VP and then Pres of a private firm in Manhattan, NY. He would tell me (when I was on that mighty high pedestal he placed me on until he had no use for me anymore), I need to let him/her go NOW because it will be easier for me and easier on him/her.

But, but, but, I would sputter…I thought you told me his father was dying, he was in the middle of a divorce, his daughter had attempted suicide, etc. Yes, he would say…that is why it is is easier to do NOW.

But, but, but, I sputtered…that’s hitting below the belt. That’s cruel! You’re not like that, I countered.

Within months of our son’s diagnosis of a then terminal diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor, he promptly and efficiently made mince meat of me in the Manhattan kangaroo matrimonial courts! No mercy. None. Nada. Ha!

Can’t say he hadn’t told me what he was capable of.

Yup. Educate people about sociopaths.

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