Why are some people scared of us?

While in the height of conflict with psychopaths or those with psychopathic features, sometimes, we scare people. I don’t mean Halloween “scary costume” scary.  I don’t mean “things that go bump in the night” scary.  No, I mean “take a look at yourself” scary.  There are those around us who will see us go through what we do, and back away, simply because they realize that what we are experiencing or have experienced is just too strange and horrible to handle.

Maybe they don’t understand.  Maybe they don’t know what to say to us, as this is a special type of trauma.  Often, some of us give others a “pass” for those reasons.  That is perfectly understandable.  However, I believe that there are those who do know and understand, yet still choose to bury their heads.

Why are there those with such feelings of trepidation?  If they become involved, even with only the minor facts of our stories, they may be forced to face the possibility that they could be in our positions at some point in time.  It may be too unpleasant for them to imagine.  No one is immune to these experiences and the thought of our plights becoming theirs may be overwhelming.  Some may feel that is best to pretend as though this could not occur in their worlds.

How will we know?

We should not expect those around us to come out and express their fears.  It is possible that they are not even consciously aware of their feelings, actions or responses.  Nonetheless, if they are, in fact, afraid, it becomes clear before long, even though initially we may misinterpret that fear as something else.

What will they do?

They may pull away, be unwilling or unable to listen, or attempt to make light of our feelings on the matter.  They may suggest that we are not feeling the feelings we say we are or that we need to “get over it” and move on, offering little support.

What should we do?

While moving forward is important, it is a gradual process and will come in time.  If we encounter those who think this way, we should try our hardest not to internalize what they do or say, or in many cases, fail to say.  This is very important because we should not take on any more unnecessary burden.  It’s not healthy or helpful.  We do not need to process their baggage in addition to that with which the sociopath has left us.

It may hurt at first because it is unpleasant and frustrating, but in the end, as with much of the rest of the issues that surround these experiences, their reactions may turn out to be a gift.  As we grow and become whole again, we usually come to see the people who reacted in this manner very differently.  We may no longer like what we see.  We may come to see them as very “go along to get along,” and lose respect, because it is hard to respect those who stands for nothing.  We may come to realize that these relationships were littered with conditions.  The most important one being the demand for silence in our times of need.

As we recover

With recovery should also come some form of a rebirth, where we emerge better than we were before.  As I have said before, we may sometimes need to leave our old methods of quantifying “better” behind.  This may not materialize in the traditional sense.  For example, if stripped financially, we may never be where we would have been under different circumstances.  If faced to choose different career avenues, we may never achieve a level we once dreamed of.  In truth, the scars the psychopaths may be very deep.  However, that is not to say that once we do redefine, that we cannot find happiness and satisfaction.  We can.  Further, when we have little to lose, we may be willing to take some risks that go completely against our grains, but are sometimes necessary to excel.  What this means is highly individual.

In the process, we may benefit greatly from purging ourselves of the negative relationships, that surprisingly are not just attached to the psychopaths or individuals with psychopathic features who are or were in our lives.  We may need to take this action with those we “scare.”  We can only control our actions, so we must act in ways that benefit our health and well being.  With that, we will have energy for those who do matter.

In time, some may end up wishing they had handled things differently.  Many won’t be phased either way.  But maybe if they had, they would have learned a thing or two about their own strengths.  However, they chose their safety nets of silence, demonstrating only their weaknesses.

I recently saw an inspirational quote that stated, “hard times reveal true friends.”  That could not be more right on.  Real friends do not scare easily, they walk with us through this time as best they can.  Those who won’t, may not deserve to walk with us in our good times either.  These experiences give us the opportunity to see the difference in a world where sometimes things get murky.  Good luck out there!

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88 Comments on "Why are some people scared of us?"

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I know it is not my job to try to re-parent, yet find my relentless self asserting to DH to respect himself to his ex-spath, who is relentless in denying and counter-attacking, knowing full well that DH was doing the same to me for too long. It’s like extreme and ugly defensiveness. I have not been stolen from financially, as his ex was doing and is with her current spouse, though time and faith have definitely been stolen, as well as many things that 4Light2Shine mentions losing. In my case I’ve outlined DH’s hypocrisy strongly enough that he is seeing and admitting it, finally, and seems to be trying to stop that, and will at least relatively quickly apologize when he’ll still lash out. I watched Good Will Hunting, and was struck by how much DH is just like Will, who when I looked up his psychological profile, online it’s noted to be PTSD which a counselor told us he’d be surprised if DH didn’t need treatment for following marriage with his ex-spath, upon hearing some of the super manipulative blaming done by email still. Likewise following his abusive upbringing. DH has looked up some treatment options and providers, and is reading about the most successful treatment option for PTSD. He asserts his devotion to improving, which yes, I’ve heard is common. Though, as noted long ago, here, he is overall a really nice guy (to me in ways he chooses, and of course to others), until he feels under psychological pressure, by my being mad or something, where acting as if a grown up is no longer absolutely impossible, and he is improving. So, while I’m at the breaking point, because DH has given this a lot of effort lately that I’ve seen and heard, I am counting slight infractions still and watching those efforts very carefully. But I am definitely tired of doing and of my own choosing to do this/stay here.


It sounds like you are struggling with a lot on your mind today.

I am wondering if you have seen proof that his ex is a sociopath stealing money or if your husband has just told you this? Many personality disordered people will lie about ex’s, especially to keep you from talking to the ex directly. Just something to think about.

There are so many personality disorders and mental illnesses, that it would be difficult to fully identify one from a movie character description. I can suggest that you go to medlineplus.gov or nimh.gov to read through all of the medically recognized identifying traits of different disorders and illnesses to be more solid about what he could have in your opinion from observing him during your time together.

While people with PTSD can often have dissociation and be numb to feelings, they do not normally display a lot of the traits of a sociopath or someone with borderline personality disorder. People with PTSD feel empathy, don’t have a pathology of lying, stealing, have a fake persona, etc.

Many sociopaths, people with anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others will often “jump to” attention when they can tell you are ready to get away from them. My spath has repeatedly stated he will seek help by reading books and attending counseling. The books are never “right” for him so he quits reading as soon as he sees himself in them. He always sabotages the counseling or he goes in and pretends to be fine and, after a few weeks, gets an A+ from a therapist who doesn’t know he/she is being tricked. My borderline ex actually does go to his counseling most of the time, he does read books, he has a great deal of empathy, and he knows when he has crossed the line. However, when defensive, angry, regressing, etc., he will display sociopath behaviors…and then feel terrible about it and I believe doesn’t understand himself at all. PTSD can bring out some borderline tendencies. However, those usually tend to be less brutal behaviors like high anxiety, hypervigilence, some fear and some paranoia, and agitation.

I am thinking of you today and hope you will continue to share what you are going through so you can sort it all out. I would definitely suggest reading as much as you can about all mental illnesses and all personality disorders. There is a very good article in the Archives here (go up to the About link and choose the Archives link) which compares Borderline Personality Disorder to Sociopaths. It was very helpful to me. It is by Becker and you may have to do a keyword search, but you may also be able to go to the right side of the page and look through recent articles because I saw it maybe about 10 days ago. I may try to see if I can bring it back up for you on the left of the home page.

Also, look at all of Donna’s videos. Check out the Red Flags of a Sociopath. Go to those other medical sites. See if you can narrow down the behaviors to one or more of the illnesses your husband may have. Trust what you are experiencing and witnessing from him. He may truly be searching for his own diagnosis, but that can often be a ploy that can drag on for years where they will act in an unacceptable way and then learn “the ropes” for how to control you by being super nice, apologetic, gifts, withdrawing from you claiming they must “think,” making you think it is you, and on and on. There are similarities, but many abusive people come up with a special combo that speaks to you specifically so you will back off and the cycle begins again with them in control of you.

I know I keep repeating this a lot here. But, read as much as you can about everything it could possibly be. Patricia Evans has some excellent books about Verbal and Emotional Abuse. One of her books even has a contract each member of the couple creates, agrees to, and signs, with expectations of how unacceptable words or actions will be handled when noticed. You probably know his patterns better than anyone. At this point, I suggest that you start researching outside of him and what he says by educating yourself about what you are witnessing and experiencing from him. Take care of yourself today.

Really great article. Thank you Linda.x I have struggled with coming to terms with friends and even family members I scared ( yeah I was pretty scarey and extremely afraid and sad – its no fun) and lost when I was having such a terrible time – there are some I most certainly didn’t though… great to read today and so helpful and thought provoking.x

I feel very hurt by my family. I was constantly doing for them and their children for decades. I am also the family comic, and they got very angry for not taking care of them all during their traumas AND always being ready to put on a show! It has shocked me how hateful they have become. I am estranged from them. It was devastating to realize that I was loved for what I was doing….and for being funny….and when those things became too difficult for me, my family was very cruel.


I am so sorry that your family have been so cruel. I remember when reading others experience of trauma and depression on line when I was in such a bad place myself after the ‘relationshit’ and they’d say things like ‘I don’t know where i’d be without the support of my family’ I’d just start to cry!

I have posted somewhere else on this thread about how I believe that the devastation I experienced after ‘the discard’ ultimately left me with a healthier attitude to friendships. Which is all well and good but the process sucked:(

With my family – what happened for me was that in learning and understanding about sociopaths and Narcissists and trying to understand MY part in why I was so easily manipulated, I recognised that My mother had very strong narcissistic traits and to cut a long story short my sister , myself and her had been engaged in an unholy ‘trinity’ of behaviour with eachother in which I had been brought up as ‘the scape goat’… taught to accept the unacceptable, and almost never allowed to have personal boundaries or to expect my needs met – that I existed to meet theirs.(perfect plum picking for a sociopath)

I cut off all contact with my mother for 4 years.( I isolated myself from nearly everyone else too at the time – in my other post I have tried to say why I think that was.)

I recently started having contact with my mother again though – I feel ‘aware enough’ and strong enough now ( much reading on the subject of being a child of narcissistic parents, much thinking; from the bonkers to the rational!) but I am still very careful not to get into the old ‘dynamic’ and keep things short and sweet and make sure I have time outs from her. I think I have found a much healthier way of being with her than before. I don’t feel pain or anger towards her anymore, but I don’t forget who she is. ( caveat – I don’t suggest that everyone parents are narcissists that get stung by a sociopath or that anyone else should put up with narcissists just cuz they’re family… I’m doing what feels okay for me.x)

My sister has found it very difficult to empathise with what has happened to me.

It might be because she hasn’t had much practice due to our ‘family dynamic’.

It might be because she is the sort of person who cant stand to hear bad things because she cant ‘fix’ them.

Maybe its because she is the sort of person who’s value of others is based on how useful or amusing they are to her – I was not either anymore.

Maybe its because my depression was so dark and scary.

Her reaction was to ostracise and exclude, to exacerbate things rather than comfort. For example she never called me – but she did tell just about everyone she could that I was I was bi-polar – so helpful ( don’t have a problem with anyone who suffers from this BTW – but I am not) – and even ‘foaming at the mouth’!

She wouldn’t allow me near her child when she was born, threw family birthday parties and neglected to invite us…all this after always using me as HER emotional cheerleader… gas lighting? Punishment for no longer towing the line? her deciding I was too depressed and wouldn’t want to come to anything anyway?

Maybe one day we will rebuild our relationship – but it will be different because of my experience – I’m different – and maybe right now she doesn’t see anything ‘in that for her’ maybe she never will – but I cant be the scapegoat anymore. end of. this is a good thing. this will have to be fine.

A book I found helpful while ‘unpacking’ my family’s and my behaviours was ‘children of the self absorbed’ by Nina Brown. ( I know others haven’t found it so helpful but I did!)

Please keep trucking FFWR, and being kind to yourself, especially if no one else is. xx And I hope sharing a bit of my story ( or endless waffle!) will at the least help you feel that you are so not alone!


Thank you so much. Our stories sound very similar except it is my father who is an off-the-charts narcissist. It is interesting you said something about other family members creating “the holy trinity.” We were taught to worship him by my mother. Everything was said and done to keep him happy. I, too, was the big scapegoat in my family. I was beaten, slapped, verbally, and emotionally abused regularly. He moved us away from a progressive part of the country to the South where his belief system fit right in. I was 16 and one sister was 14. We had been socialized differently. I think that’s why he moved us. We actually thought our gender was equal! I now say that we were “sister wives” to my mother. We were lucky he did not want to sexually abuse us. If he had, my mother would have easily looked the other way. However, two of his brothers and one of their friends sexually abused us….and THEY are the ones he move us close to!

I am very isolated because of going through a trauma at work and really have no friends that I see. I have an ex-boyfriend spath who is now a lodger on a property I own and an ex-husband who I believe is borderline personality. So, some help from two people whom are both unreliable leaving me often feeling less than supported. This website and people like you posting support for me have changed the way I deal with both of them and the way I think about my future choices.

Thank you so much, blueskies. I needed a lot of support today as Lodger spath had surgery again yesterday and won’t be able to walk normally any time soon if at all. Today, because of the support I have from Donna, the posters here, and what I have learned here, I got off the phone fast when the conversation became one of “deceitful entitlement” with him. The last three times he was in the hospital, I felt obligated to call him and then I would take abuse. Today, I quickly said, “Well, I’ve got to go now (after returning his call). Have a good lunch.” I won’t call him again. He will have to do the calling and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t have a ride home….or any home. The support here has raised my self esteem up and I am so grateful.

There is another, darker reason why some people are uncomfortable with our revelations, sometimes even seeming to disapprove of them: they may be abusers and spaths themselves.
I suspect I’ve witnesed this many times: their reaction of discomfort when I describe my travails, and then, often much later–as if they’d spent some time ruminating on the issue–their coming out with an actual defense or “alternative” interpretation of the bad behavior I’d described.
It has always puzzled me…until very recently, with the growing realization that miscreants stick together on a basic level, to some degree at least.

I don’t want to be a downer after such a positive and inspiring article, but caution is always advisable when we are so vulnerable. I learned this the hard way during and shortly after my marriage to the spath, when I spilled my guts to new friends who seemed to care but later demonstrated that they were more focused on what they could gain financially by means of our friendship. And so while it’s certainly true that real friends stand by us when we are down and out, it’s also advisable to “Beware the friends you make in your misfortune.”
I must also state another dark truth–again I apologize for the pessimism, but this is the way I have seen it: during my darkest time–and it wasn’t when I was with the spath–certain family members who had previously basically turned up their noses at me suddenly behaved as if they were so caring and concerned. Maybe it’s simply that my previous good luck had never inspired their concern–and why would it? But it seemed it never inspired their affections either! Maybe they were jealous of my charmed life…for they were never friendly before disaster hit me.

liferaft, sadly I have to agree with your dark observations. I have experienced this firsthand. Think about it. If I am a predator running a pretty good front, good enough that you come to me seeking help or support from another freak, would it serve me well to really assist you ? Probably not. If you are getting wise to the con and want to warn others and share your insights, ect, I don’t want you blabbing, and drawing attention. What would serve me better ( if I were an evil shapeshifter ) would be to take you down a few notches, to punch holes in your story, to gaslight you, to sabotage your credibility with others. Anything to keep you down, depressed, anxious, confused, hey a full mental breakdown would really be convenient and useful. I’m very familiar with this stuff. Because my primary spath is female there is usually complicity already with any regional cluster B types so conflict of interest is almost unavoidable. Regarding friends, I feel you there too. Learning to reevaluate to see the difference between friends and people I’ve known for a long time. That’s been a tough one for me. I truly value my real friends much more than I used to. See I found something nice to say. Let’s end with that !

Liferaft – You are right that we need to be cautious about who rushes to our aid when we’ve been devastated by a sociopath – because sometimes it is another sociopath who sniffs easy, wounded prey.

About suddenly caring friends and family – I think some simply want to feed on the drama. There may not be any malicious intent – they’re just fascinated by the train wreck.

Dr. Karin Huffer, in her book “Legal Abuse Syndrome,” offers another explanation of why friends and family have difficulty listening to our stories. She says everyone has “protective filters.” She says, “if an individual begins to share with another and the data threatens the listener’s feelings of safety, they may try to divert the data or simply not hear it at all.”

Most people believe that there is good in everyone. When they come face to face with evidence that this may not be true, they may disregard the evidence rather than change their beliefs.

I’m going to put on my therapisty hat here for a bit…
There is a phenomenon called vicarious traumatization that is very real!!! When people either friends or family see your devastation but have no means to control the situation to help you ( for who can really mend a shattered heart) they may protect their own hearts by distancing themselves from you. This can actually be helpful in the long run if you allow it to be. They can be there for you after you scrape yourself off the floor and stand as a human being again. This I believe is what Karin Huffer speaks of when she talks about “protective filters”.
At the end of the day each one of us traverses the healing journey alone. Friends and family are wonderful landmarks. Only we decide how long to stop and take in the experience and when it may be time to move on.

Thanks Imara – very good points.

On reading this article, it occurred to me that thru all my trying to explain, what I was going thru, how it was affecting me and all the “sordid” details and realizations, No one has every really talked to me about it, they listened, shook their heads, the gradual nod, aha aha, but NO ONE really talked with me, I still don’t think they understand the complete devastation I felt and still feel to an extent, How my world was literally torn apart. I feel like an outsider with everyone except for a few in my life and my online support people….its very frustrating, I post stuff on my FB page but VERY few comment I think they just want it to “go away” like this kind of stuff doesn’t happen, but then they read or see a news article and say, WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN. Duhhhh if anyone had been listening……….I just hope it never happens to anyone I know, I would be there for them though for sure!!

I think part of it is not knowing what to say or how to react if they’ve never had the same experiences…

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