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Sitting with the sociopathic client

Sitting with an antisocial or sociopathic client is an interesting experience—for a while, anyway, until it grows tedious”¦almost boring. There is the initial curiosity about, and fascination with, the client’s antisocial behaviors”¦their nature”¦breadth.

Perhaps there’s even a certain rubbernecking interest in the train-wreck of moral turpitude these clients present—with their staggering patterns of ethical and moral debaseness. Admittedly, it can be breathtaking, on certain levels, to behold the magnitude of their abuse of others’ boundaries and dignity, accompanied by missing feelings of accountability and remorse.

And the interest in the experience with such clients persists a bit longer when you are dealing with someone who is “intelligent.” There’s something just inherently more compelling, at least initially, about an “intelligent” sociopath who guiltlessly transgresses others in the gross, chronic way that sociopaths do, versus the less intelligent sociopath, whose intellectual limitations seem to dim, however unfairly, the spectacular nature of his violations.

But after a while, as I say, sitting with the sociopathic client, however intelligent he may even be, grows tedious. It’s not unlike the experience of discovering that someone you expected to find extremely interesting (and perhaps did, initially) is, at bottom, really a boring individual with little to say or offer. There’s something anti-climactically disappointing in the discovery of the individual’s gross limitations. 

With most sociopathic personalities, in my experience, this sense of disillusionment—of  of having to face the reality, ultimately, of their emotional vacuity—occurs in the work with them. As different in temperament and intelligence as they may be, ultimately sociopaths prove to be highly ungratifying clients to work with. This is because, regardless of their ability to talk the talk, they are, ultimately, unable to make themselves genuinely accountable for their actions, the fact of which, after a while, simply grows tiresome.

The sociopathic client just doesn’t feel, in a heart-felt way, so many of the things he “allegedly” is ready to own, or the reforms he is “allegedly” ready to make; and when this becomes clear—as it always does—a certain tedium, boredom enters the sessions.

This boredom, I think, arises in the recognition of the futility of making a real connection with the sociopath; also in the futility of his making any sort of real connection to the pain he’s caused others, and will continue to cause others, despite his superficial assertions of regret and remorse.

And so this is where the big yawns threaten to emerge with regularity. It’s the feeling of having your time wasted, which is exactly what the sociopath is doing. He is wasting your time, as he wastes everything from which he doesn’t derive a personally, selfishly compelling benefit.

It is that moment of untruth—that moment when it becomes clear that, no matter how verbally interesting and, perhaps, even engaging he may be, the sociopathic individual finally lacks anything substantive to say, feel, or aspire to. Lacking this substance, the possibly initially engaging experience with him yields, ultimately, to the sense of being futilely engaged with an emotional cipher.

That is, for a while his charisma, charm and engaging qualities, if they are present, may compensate for the missing underlying emotional substance. But there is a shelf-life for this compensatory entertainment before the tedium of his barren inner emotional life begins to weigh down the experience of him. There is a limit to hearing the same repetitive pronouncements of intended change, pseudo remorse and responsibility.

There is also a limit, beyond which it becomes increasingly oppressive to sit with the sociopath, who in one breath may claim responsibility for his violations of others, while in the very next withdraw his pseudo-assumption of responsibility and abruptly rationalize the very behavior that, only moments before, he seemingly repudiated?

This is the sociopath at work. Sitting with him can be an interesting experience. But as his particular, underlying emotional disability surfaces, the interest leads, surpisingly quickly, to a feeling of ennui”¦almost oppression.

(This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake only and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)


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309 Comments on "Sitting with the sociopathic client"

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And that Steve is the very reason why they have to frequently move on from, jobs, relationships and friendships! They always come undone and a boring, opinionated soulless person emerges that becomes difficult to be around or even listen too.

I love your line “There’s something anti-climactically disappointing in the discovery of the individual’s gross limitations”

But the words Disappointing should be in BOLD letters LOL!!!

Hello Steve,
This article touches on the evolution of my relationship with my husband and my little secret. I was bored. Not bored like he was; he was constantly looking for entertainment and I ran myself into exhaustion trying to keep him entertained b/c if I didn’t, then he felt entitled to turn to others…and other women…

But he became boring, this man who started off so exciting, with so many views that I agreed, and who enjoyed outings and explorations into the countryside. Boring b/c it became clear, he didn’t actually BELIEVE his opinions, they were just that way in order to get something from others. He didn’t STAND for anything! All that morality? Didn’t MEAN it, it was a ruse to have people fall all over him. The outings/explorations? Went on the same ones over and over with no meaning attached. Eventually when he was cheating, he’d take other women to “our” wilderness spots, and they’d be SO impressed that he’d take them to such beautiful places, but they didn’t notice that the beauty and the outing had NO meaning to him.

My husband was like 50 first dates. And nothing more. No depth. No comittments to the ideals he SAID he had. Not even controversy b/c he didn’t believe in anything, just looking for his next entertainment, his next date. And in a marriage, that is BORING. No emotional meaning to anything, no caring about anything beyond entertainment, added up to being a boring guy.

GREAT first date. Boring in the end. (albeit, terrifying, drama, soul wrenching emotional fallout) He was NOT interesting in DOING anything WITH his life beyond a play date.

Your article, so right on about this aspect.

Wow Steve,
I’ve always thought that THEY were the ones experiencing ennui – an oppressive boredom that makes you feel desperate. But you noticed it from being in their presence.

Maybe they slime us with their boredom so they don’t have to feel it alone. Being so shallow must be boring to them too. That’s why they feel the need to constantly create new stories and lies: to stave off the ennui.

And wasting your time, well that’s just another way of saying he is stealing your life. Sociopaths all like to other peoples lives. whether it be through murder or assisted suicide, or plagarizm, or wearing your skin, pretending to be you, enslaving you or just wasting your time catering to them.

Amazing insights, Steve.
You hit on so many aspects of the sociopath with this article but those two really struck a chord with my own experience.

Great article, Steve!

Ah yes, that borrrring feeling! In so many ways, they are all alike.

You are right the dumb ones are horrific, but the smart ones can be “interesting” ‘for a little while, but even they are like a hologram, they appear okay, but just NO SUBSTANCE.

Some of the smart ones I have known are indeed accomplished individuals in their careers or professions, but even the interest that engages pales after a short time when there is no substance of caring humanity underneath it. What difference does it make if someone is a great athlete, inventor, war hero or coach if they are also so narcissistic and/or abusive to others and don’t even have the empathy to realize that their great deeds, however great, taken all together don’t equal one act of genuine kindness and compassion.

A wonderful physician I worked with some years ago and I kept a “running joke” about neurosurgeons, about whether only arseholes (read psychopaths) became neurosurgeons or whether it was becoming a neurosurgeon that made one an arsehole. I’ve known some neurosurgeons who were great at their profession but were way poor excuses for human beings, in fact, it seems to be the case with surgeons of many kinds. Not sure why, but I’m not the only one to “notice” this trend in the field.

Good article, thanks.

Skylar,
Yeah yeah yeah. I keep agreeing with people here on Lovefraud and LOVE it, b/c I had SO many years of being invalidated.

Your Phrase: “Wearing MY skin”, yes my husband took credit for all that I did, as if HE thought of it and carried it out. At the time, I dismissed myself as being petty about who took the credit didn’t matter as long as it got done. He’d claim ownership of my ideas based on MY moral beliefs which made HIM look good. But in the end, everyone condemned ME as the parasite who did NOTHING, and gave me NO credit for anything (therefore it was moral for them to help him hide assets when it came time to divide them.) When I left, I said he stole my young years, but bigger truth is he WASTED my years b/c he knew the kind of person he was and knew he was incapable of giving what he pledged.

Maybe that’s part of the intense pain when they discard us, b/c they hijack the best part of us and then take it with them when they go, leaving us feeling emotionally raped.

What an interesting article.
The vacuity of those creatures is so much, they’re so dispassionate emotionally and without substance but they’re so talkative and energetic that cheat a lot of people, included people with some substance and moral criterion.
I find them very boring with no inner resources, always sucking other people energy.
What a different world it would be without them. No perfect at all of course but considerably better.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

Steve: ‘That is, for a while his charisma, charm and engaging qualities, if they are present, may compensate for the missing underlying emotional substance. But there is a shelf-life for this compensatory entertainment before the tedium of his barren inner emotional life begins to weigh down the experience of him. There is a limit to hearing the same repetitive pronouncements of intended change, pseudo remorse and responsibility.’

oh yah!

And so this is where the big yawns threaten to emerge with regularity. It’s the feeling of having your time wasted, which is exactly what the sociopath is doing. He is wasting your time, as he wastes everything from which he doesn’t derive a personally, selfishly compelling benefit.

Yes, and that’s why I think when it was said that grieving an involvement with a sociopath is a burden because it is “a HOLE in one’s life“, it was phrased quite aptly.

There’s also this quote that comes to mind..

How does one wrap their hearts and minds around the idea that there was no relationship? That the months or many years we spent with the psychopath/N simply existed in our own minds, because we assumed the other was normal and they let us fill in the gaps with our own humanity? All those wasted years and energy. For nothing. Who can gaze into that abyss and not flinch? Who can live without certainty? Who can live without certainty of closure? If it was one big fat lie, what will fill the hole? We need to fill the hole, connect the gap, in order to heal. How will we do it? How much disbelief can we bear?

– from A Soul With No Footprints, Invicta

Excellent article, Steve.

Dancingnancies: I was just thinking today that very same thought. Allowing myself some sleep-deprived self pity while driving I ruminated on just how much of my heart, my innermost thoughts and dreams I shared with her, while all the while she had her mind on something completely unrelated — probably what a fool I was and how easy I was to manipulate…

On the other hand, realizing that I was talking to a wall all those years has made emotionally uncoupling from her all the easier — there is simply no one and no thing to grieve over. Sort of like when JR Ewing woke up from his season-long nightmare.

Steve,

Oh, another excellent article. It has been 3 years since I was (finally) bored out of my mind, and the world is such a better place for me. It is so weird, how bored I was, but how it took being out of the situation before I could actually register the truth of it. The guy I hung out with was interesting for about a month, then he was just a repetitive loop of poorly recorded blather.

So true: when someone’s words are not backed by actions which are consistent with their stated intentions they become not only confusing, but just plain dull. There isn’t the excitement that comes from seeing someone take on a personal challenge and show genuine growth. There is never the reality of shared intention and accomplishment. People who don’t change/grow are tedious.

Now that I am not being drained of my energy, not bonded to an abuser, and have done a lot of healing, I am interested in my friends, in my family, my health, love, work, and things I totally lost touch with.

Your articles have been a huge part of my self inspection, questioning, education and healing.

Thank-you.

Shock

It would be hard to discern ANYTHING they’re thinking at any given moment, who knows?

I had a very enlightening meeting today on behalf of another child (not mine) who is in treatment for a particular issue (will not say what here). I offered to be a support system, but on a limited basis. I laid out the boundaries to which I was willing to do this and expected absolute cooperation. First sign of trouble, GONE!

I sat with two therapists and this child, as well as my son, to make this happen.

What an enlightening and very powerful meeting. The SHARING of information with validation, not being told I’m WRONG was amazing to me. It felt sooooo much different than ANY conversation with my ex spath. One of the things I recognized right away was the DEPTH of the conversation…as well as in the SHARING of information….a willingness on BOTH Sides to learn from the other. VERY powerful for me after years of running into a brick wall.

This is an incredibly difficult, but also eye opening time for me. Still sorting through so much garbage….but actually having contact with the outside world and being VALIDATED means EVERYTHING to me right now. I realized how important validation is for my recovery.

It makes it SO hard that I was the OW. Just like in therapy the other day….my exPOS ENJOYED that I felt like a whore. That he treated me as such. That was the intent. I’ll NEVER forget the look in my therapists eyes the other day when I described this to him…red faced and pissed off, “THAT”S BULLSHIT!” I realized today, while having this incredible exchange that my spath wanted me to believe I was a whore. A no good. Nothing without him validating me. ALL OF IT, bullshit!!! A projection never spoken yet acted upon. All a result of the endless amounts of drama and pain he caused……….because he is empty…a void…they need the drama, the constant, erratic need for stimulation……to survive the hellish, evil individuals they are..

GOD it felt SO GOOD, to be VALIDATED!!!

LL

@Skylar: “Maybe they slime us with their boredom so they don’t have to feel it alone.”

I *love* that line! You could replace the word “boredom” in that line with any one of a number of negative feelings and the quote would still work!

@Oxy
I totally hear you about surgeons. I worked in a hospital for years; we had an internationally respected surgical dept. so they weren’t *all* like that, but they were certainly common enough to provide years worth of ‘work stories’! It seemed to be true as well for the other doctors who also wielded a scalpel from time to time (particularly obstetricians/gynecologists).

I eventually changed to the Financial Services industry. Turns out that traders have an almost identical personality profile to surgeons! And I’d hazard a guess that the ratio is even higher in that profession. They don’t hire them for their personalities – that’s for sure!

yes, shocknawe- i definetely think that clueing ourselves into their “true nature” awakens several and continuously emerging “Ah-HA!” moments that certainly seems to help clear the fog. It IS good, refreshing to know that it WASN’T US, IT WAS NEVER US- it was them, as hard as they may have tried to have us believe otherwise. I guess what is really grieved, then- is the TIME that was STOLEN from us. That may prove to be difficult to get through… the precious time and energy which we could have spent elsewhere. To them, it is just another day in the life- scamming, manipulating, ruining.. they’ve got nothing better to do, and it is quite pathetic any way you look at it.

Dear Steve, Thank you for this timely post. I read the article from Ravenless before I read your’s because the title spoke to me. Now after having read both, I know God is directing me.
The SP whom I have really not been in contact with except briefly(30 seconds or less). called me today. WHY I SAY to my self why now after 4 months no contact. I know why–he didn’t destroy me the first time.
Boring—you hit the nail on the head and slammed it home with one swing.
I WILL NOT allow him to waste any more of my time. He is alone now and is seeking comfort and someone to listen to his “poor pitiful me” story. What a crock and how absolutely trite and boring. The dandruff on my dog is more interesting. Your post and Ravenless are so timely for me personally. I am so grateful to both of you for your time and generousity. Thank you very much. Peace.

Ox,

I agree with you about surgeons too. I think I addressed this in another thread somewhere else with you from a medical care perspective….the frightening reality that my health would be in the hands of someone like this.

Am I correct in saying that you’d trust someone like this with your health rather than someone who was not sociopathic vs. “normal” (PLEASE correct me if I am INCORRECT), as I cannot recall the thread nor the reasons for this, just that I recall there was a reason for the answer you gave about it as to the reasons why? Is it because a psycho would be more likely to gleen a “great image” via being a “Great surgeon”? In other words, for them it’s an IMAGE/MONETARY ONLY issue??

Please clarify this for me!

LL

LL

Would I be in very VERY big trouble here if I said that I think Sandra Brown (as well as Donna and everyone else here) really GETS the P/S/N stuff?

I ordered her book, “women who love psychopaths” which led me to her website and column. IT is SO right on, as it is here…

Has anyone read the book here and what do you think of her?

.LL

dancingnancies:

I’m right there with you. I read and closed the book on her — as Steve says,”(S)he is, at bottom, really a boring individual with little to say or offer.” But I think of those wasted years and I wish I could turn the Wayback machine on and get them back — especially since it was before the great recession.

As it is, I slog through the Motions and Orders to Compel, and through them am forced to relive something that now has the polar opposite reaction in my memory than it did before my awakening. There’s no joy in sifting through the ashes, only hard won wisdom.

LL, I am not a fan of Sandra Brown….I do not believe she is the expert she presents herself to be. I have a copy of the first version of the book she co-wrote with Dr. Leedom which I think is excellent. I have not seen the version of a book by the same name she later came out with on her own.

That is all I will say on the matter of Sandra Brown.

On surgeons, I would go to whatever surgeon I thought was an expert in his/her field regardless of how narcissistic I thought they were. For a primary care physician or specialist in any other field, I would not generally continue go to a narcissistic physician.

LL,
I’m with Oxy re: Sandra Brown. Personally, I was very disappointed with Women who Love Psychopaths and do not agree she gets the s/p/n. I think what she gets is that it’s a great best selling category. But if she makes sense for you, then that’s all that matters.

BTW, did ya notice? You should be experiencing deja vu. Your therapist is channeling ME.

Shock,
The awful realization that I had WASTED 25 years of my precious life hit me in the stomach like a lead weight. I had to find a way to make sense of it. That’s when I decided to learn all I could about spaths. It was the only thing I had a head start on. So I learned and the more I learned, the more I realized that I had more to learn about ME. And that this was what was meant to happen to reveal my own flaws to me. Too bad it took 25 years but that also is a clue about who I am: much too patient.

Katy..

LOL!! Yea, I get it.

Not sure I agree with you about sandra brown though, or ox either. I”m sure there are reasons for your disagreement/disapproval of her, but I’m not sure I see why. She seems right on with the experiences. If she’s turned into a rather Narcissistic or Spathy creature as a result of her “infamy” I don’t see it yet.

Lots of good things said about her book.

If you don’t care for her, I wonder why. I think she has the psychopath element down pat.
What am I missing here?

Ll

LL

LL, the thing about books is they work for you in the space you are at. Therefore, where Sandra B is weak for me may not resonate for you at this time. When I found her, I had read a LOT of self help and brain books. I think she glosses over certain aspects which signals to me that she’s superficial b/c if she did know, she would not have stopped at such weak conclusions. But that does NOT mean she is N or S.

(my “library” is kinda funny if you know that my husband convinced me I was stupid, yet medical textbooks were casual reading for me. )

Katy,

HIlarious! I love my medical textbooks 🙂

I”ve read Bob Hare’s book, as well as martha stouts. Admittedly, not much more beyond that with regards to the psychopath. I’ve read quite a few trauma survivor books though. Ironically, I found out about Women who love Psychopaths ON THIS SITE…and a review of the book, so I bought it today.

I did go to to her site and read her columns. I think she more than “gets” it with regards to the pathological relationship. Perhaps not put into terms that are similar to a DSM-IV or a medical textbook, but in simpler terms, I thought she had the psychopath and the women involved with them, pretty accurate.

THis is a great lesson for me in that psychology is NOT an exact science. Everyone will have differing opinions. There are certainties, I think, with behaviors with regards to psychopaths, but I don’t think there has been nearly the groundbreaking work that needs to be done to register and regulate this as a true disorder to which is widely accepted and understood. I also see the VALUE in investigating VARIOUS works of others to make sense of and draw a conclusion of my experience that I can process and deal with.

I have a tendency to over analyze things, Katy. I love to read and will read just about anything I can get my hands on.

And even still, I don’t think that the experts, or those who claim to be of sociopathy, really have the right to say they’re EXPERTS.

But I think their victims sure as hell do.

LL

lesson learned, I was here late last night,
thrilled for you that everything turned out OK!!!!!
I was worried :/
LUV U!!! xoxoxo

LL,
I love how fast you are moving forward. It’s a testament to your determination. You’ve changed so much since your first posts. I’ll bet that not having cancer really helps too!!!
(((hugs)))
The stuff you are facing about yourself cannot be easy. there will be more but you’ve shown what you are made of: Solid human heart. Not steel, not stone, but real human being. You are soooo impressive.

About Sandra Brown: I have not read her book; have only vsited her web-site and read many of her articles. To me, it seems that she gets it. I think she’s got a lot to offer, but….at a price. It all seems like it’s about profit, to me. That’s what I don’t like about her! It’s just the vibe I get from her.

Wow. It is so helpful to have that aspect of life with a P articulated like that. Fairly early on in my 27 yrs with the P, I went into a deep clinical depression after he had had a heart attack. In the midst of it, I realized that NOTHING that could come out of his mouth was of interest to me. NOTHING.

But at the time, belieivng his lies about how much he loved me blah blah, I felt guilty, and felt that if I left him I would be the immoral, selfish one. Especially after he had had a heart attack, I would be the selfish bitch if I left him. Then came the depression during which time I was acutely aware that I could not leave him, and that I was in an empty, dead relationship.

As could be expected, he totally ignored my condition, and left me to work it out on my own. So I did all kinds of mental contortions to get back the “spark” etc.

I also remember well the feeling of working so hard to keep all the balls in the air, of carrying all the dinner conversations, with the kids, and with just him, of trying to stimulate our conversations, of trying to keep things interesting somehow- when we were together. He was just a blank slate.

Eventually, I knew that when he entered the room, there would be no joy. He sucked all the air out of the room, and out of me.

The regrettable thing is, I felt guilty for not loving him the way he claimed to love me, and stayed out of a sense of duty, and moral correctness. He played the role of superlative family man, extra righteous, extra dedicated husband and father, hyper responsible and committed, blah blah.

Needless to say, the shock of finding out finally and unequivicably that he really was an empty shell, and had no feelings for me or others was pretty overwhelming.

The only thing that did keep things intersting, in a negative way, was the constant drama and crisis- mostly about $$, that it turns out now, were all fabricated for my consumption, designed to keep me fearful and dependant, dancing around him as the guy to save the day, the guy who would “come through” for us.

Like Dr. Steve says, they really are time wasters. And love wasters.

Peace.

(((((((((((((((( Shabby ))))))))))))))))) !!!! Seems like awhile since I’ve seen you around?? Love you too!!!

Sky- That means SOOOOOOO much to me. Thanks for saying that. I don’t feel I’m moving, but …..I’ll not give up pushing ahead.

Kim- I would tend to agree with you on that, however, there are others who write books and profit from it. I don’t see anything innately wrong with that. I think if you know about spaths and you write about them and you help other women/men doing so and you have a gift for doing it, why not???? It’s not wrong to make a living while also helping others. The helping professions with a wide variety of specialties, medical/mental health etc, are examples of that. But if your stuff becomes famous….well, MORE will be informed with the work done and hey….maybe you could buy yourself a nice house too, or reach out even MORE in avenues that weren’t possible without the cash flow.

LL

Oh, LL, I agree. I think she deserves to profit from her book.
But her web-site is full of training seminars and such, all expensive, and in my experience, most victims don’t have loads of money for this kind of treatment.
I get a lot out of LF and it’s free.

I think about all the precious time that has been wasted, spent being an emotional wreck over the crap that the spath pulled (that was unnecessary to begin with), trying to rectify “mistakes,” agonizing over the latest trouble that had developed (somehow being brought to my attention), just an absolute waste of time. The spath is a drama-maker, creating undending headaches. Once I realized how he is as a person, that he is lacking in the smarts department, I get frustrated, angry that I spent so much time being unhinged over his stupid problems (trying to solve them), pulled into nonsense.

Kim

I TOTALLY agree with you. I really do! I could never afford her training seminars, although if I COULD, I might consider it. There is LOADS of info out there, not just here, but elsewhere too. I think the MORE information that is put out there, the BETTER for those who are suffering from this kind of trauma.

I think this site is wonderful and I”ve learned SO MUCH from all the articles, as well as posting my experiences, thoughts and feelings and receiving validation. It’s critical to recovery, but using JUST this site as a source of info without other sources, therapy, medications, what have you, to move past this and heal, isn’t appropriate. That’s just MY opinion. It’s helped me a lot to read different books, my therapy, meds…and blog and read here more. ALL of those elements combined help me soooo much!

That this site is free, in coming to terms with our experiences is actually invaluable. LOTS here have been taken financially and don’t have the means to buy books, go to seminars, etc. This site can be life saving. And that has not escaped me.

LL

Blue,

I completely understand. The drama-crazy making was the biggest element of confusion for me, I think. I got addicted to the drama. Never knew when the hat was going to drop. The peace NEVER lasted. Always off balance.

I’m starting to come to terms with pathologicals in general. That has been hard for me to accept. I’ve spent a lot of time not being able to walk through the door to the rest of my healing process, because I’ve been projecting normal into abnormal. Until i can completely embrace that and integrate that into my brain, walking further ahead is going to be slow.

LL

lesson learned,

I have the day off, wanting to let you know how happy I am for you, that you got a good report back from the doctors. The waiting for test results can be a trying, difficult time. I’m glad you’re through that part of the process.

Back to my earlier post, it’s too bad that it took so long to realize that the spath I know isn’t as intelligent as I thought he was, thus, the reason he has so many problems. The trouble for me is that I stupidly ASSUME too much about others (attributing qualities to them that they don’t necessarily possess), getting myself into trouble, taking too long to figure things out.

blue

that is a VERY good point, oh and thank you for saying that about my results! I’m pleased.

Anyway, I’m not sure stupidly is a great way to accurately describe yourself, although I understand that it might FEEL that way (I sure do at times), but I think you make a great point about attributing qualities to them that they don’t necessarily possess. That’s projection. Projecting normal into abnormal. The other day in therapy I was projecting all over the place. But really, I think what it is, at least for me, and maybe something for you to chew on, is just boundary issues, ya know? I think that’s one of the keys in not allowing ourselves to get into situations or as you put it, trouble with people like this. Having a good understanding of myself and my boundaries and what is toxic behavior and what is not (this is the process for me right now because I grew up in a very toxic environment), will give me the gift of discerning better, others motives and/or intentions. Toxic=bye bye. 🙂

LL

lesson learned,

I know you are – what a relief to not get bad news about one’s health.

The posts that I read are beneficial, helping me to “get on down the road.” I’ll read how someone handled a situation and I can apply their remedy to myself, all of it being good.

Last night, I was SO ANGRY with psychology, stuck in the labels. I think it’s important, in the beginning, but am finding that psychology is a very subjective science, to which there is no single label or definition that anyone can agree on. this throws confusion into the mix with a lay person who knows nothing of psychopaths and that the science is relatively new without a lot of new, mindblowing research for someone like me looking for solid answers. It seems somewhat contradictory to me to see things like “The Ten Signs you may be dating a sociopath” and then while blogging, talking with others, even my therapist about it, that because one cannot PROVE that one is a psychopath, that the likelihood that this person will carry on his/her destructive behavior without a diagnosis is very unsettling, very painful when trying to understand, and somewhat invalidating to simplify into terms such as “Well it’s just toxic and that’s all you really need to know”.

I don’t buy that.

If we cannot apply an appropriate label to our experience, which is FAR FAR different than just your average “toxic” individual, of which I’ve also had relationships with (let’s also define toxic here), what information is considered accurate within the realms of psychology that validates the victims of these people?

How can we put out the ten signs that you’re dating a sociopath, only to find out that you can’t “label” someone with this disorder and then it just moves into, well it’s just toxic, blah blah blah…

Something about that just really disturbs me. My therapist and I continue to debate this topic. Not all abusers he has seen are psychopaths. it is a different animal altogether. It is RARE to find a therapist who is knowledgeable about this issue and prefers to label a person “toxic” that a victim has been in a relationship with, dangerously assumes that “toxic” can be fixed, because there ARE situations to which it CAN, if they are NOT pathological.

I’ve seen that happen too. It’s not as common as I’d like to see, but it DOES happen.

I understood what “toxic” meant from my perspective, what I knew when I was with this man, abuser for sure, but place the elements of a relationship with a sociopath and you have a totally different ball of wax altogether.

I’m at the point in the process where I’m still trying to integrate the dynamics of a sociopath into my psyche, FAR different than just an “abuser”, or someone who is “toxic”.

I think this elements is SO crucial and critical to understanding the differences.

And there is a difference. Just like Steve’s article here represents. He “gets” it….and I’m often absorbed in these articles and read them over and over, because assuredly a professional who clearly understands the dynamics of sociopaths also understands the toxic levels to which they truly are. And thus, this article from those in the true KNOW helps to validate my experience, more than any other right now, at least from a professional perspective. It would be interesting to sit with STEVE for an hour and listen to HIS perspectives from a professional viewpoint. Because the LABEL is accurate.

Far different than just a simple, “he’s toxic and that’s it”.

Just my thoughts for the day.

LL

Steve,
Your post has really affected my way of thinking about spaths. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since reading it. There is something so profound here. It’s like a new layer of concepts have been uncovered.
I have felt better, in so many ways since I read it. I can’t explain why or how, at this point. Thanks so much.

LL,
I agree with your thoughts.
One of the reasons I didn’t dump my lying sack of shit after reading “People of the Lie” (at age 17) was because Dr. Peck went into describing “evil”, just as your therapist did. Evil is a word that’s been around for so long and the term has become almost subjective. “Toxic” is the same. For centuries, spaths have gotten away with murder because the labels have been evocative of the supernatural and it instills fear in people rather than understanding. Consequently, the spath-supply spends her time running away from spath and running right into another one, rinse and repeat.

Finally, we are getting to the point where we are getting this personality disorder and how it meshes with our own vulnerabilities. That is key.

I think that is what is so interesting about Steve’s article. I kind of know how spaths think but I’ve always wondered how they feel – apart from the rage and envy. How does it feel to be so shallow and two-dimensional? The answer: it feels like an oppressive boredom. A boredom so overwhelming that they will do anything to escape it. It explains so much of what they do. It explains why exP had to re-enact the story that his friend told him about having sex in a boat. They don’t have a single original thought in their heads. That’s why they are constantly needing to feed on us: our looks, our values, our possessions.

Blows my mind. My spath sister did the same thing when we were growing up.

what comes to mind is….
WHAH, WHAH, WHAH………

How can a therapist, who is spending an hour or so with a client, presumably to ‘help’ this person in some form, sit there and listen to …..
WHAH, WHAH, WHAH…….for weeks on end…..without yawning.

Good post Steve……Thank you!

skylar,

My question for myself is, now that I’m getting mored knowledgeable about sociopaths/psychopaths, what is the meaning of it in our lives, what are we supposed to do with this information? Is it just supposed to be something that we now know about, but that’s all? People do not believe that there are sociopaths/psychopaths in their midst – too far-fetched in their way of thinking, especially if the person is someone that they interact with, supposedly have a relationship with. Maybe, just having the information that we have is for our benefit alone, knowing who to avoid in the future?

LL, I think you are IMHO getting too “hung up on” LABELS.

“A rose is a rose…..” no matter WHAT YOU CALL IT.

First off a person can only be “officially labeled” a psychopath/sociopath/anti-social PD if they have been assessed by a trained professional who has the credentials and training to make that diagnosis. PERIOD.

Secondly, 99.9% of real psychopaths are NOT going to go to a trained professional for a diagnosis, though some do get one involuntarily while in prison. Not even all of them in prison are “diagnosed.”

Abuser=toxic=psychopathic=sociopathic=narcissistic=arsehole= whatever you want to call it.

The point is that putting a “sticky label” on these people, or tattooing it on their foreheads doesn’t make a doggone bit of difference in the end. Even if you tattoo’d it on their foreheads most people aren’t going to really get the difference any way, and educating 6 BILLION people on this planet isn’t an easy or quick process. Even educating 300 million (or whatever the US population is) isn’t all that easy to do either. We still have a high percentage of people who are functionally illiterate or read on a 6th grade or less level so getting across the finer distinctions of psychopath vs sociopath vs jerk-face or arsehole is much more difficult that Saying “a person who abuses you thus and so, or is mean to you etc” (i.e. a “bully”) is toxic and you should get away and stay away from them” It is a CONTINUAL process to educate every new generation to refuse to accept bullying, just as it is to educate every new generation to read….none of us are born knowing how people should treat each other or expect to be treated. We have to learn one day at a time.

We can’t fix or educate the world about abusive behavior and abusive people, but we can do it like we teach people to read—one person at a time, 1 letter at a time, 1 word at a time.

Whether you call it “reading” or “literacy” doesn’t really matter, it is the bottom line of communication by symbols that works. Same with “psychopaths” or “abusers” the CONCEPT is the same–one person using/hurting another–whether it is a big hurt or a small hurt, it is hurting someone. Just a matter of scope I think.

Blue,

I think it’s more than that. One has to know EXACTLY what they’re dealing with first, in order to proceed to next step in healing. The next step, once the idea of what a sociopath is and does (VERY BIG HURDLE TO GET PAST), is where it turns into….how did I get into this?? Why? Why did this happen to me or why did I allow this? That’s where I believe the meaning happens, but that meaning is MEANINGLESS unless you understand what you were dealing with in the first place. I think I understand more about my involvement and why, rather than the sociopath and his behaviors. Just as this article describes and why it’s SO validating, at least for me, is because Steve gives the label MEANING from a PROFESSIONAL perspective. And it is uncannily accurate in describing ALL our experiences with spaths. It’s another layer of the onion, for me, that is now off, which uncovers yet another layer. I’m a rather deep thinker. I ponder these things, in part for my own healing, but also in part in perhaps helping other victims of spaths, understand their experiences too in the future, as well as understanding my part in it all. i see some very dangerous and unsettling assumptions made when this moral illness is generalized into terms of “toxic”. There are MANY toxic people in the world and while I don’t disagree that we need them in our lives, necessarily, there ARE others who have been or are toxic that DO have the ability to recover. psychopaths/sociopaths DO NOT have this ability and while resembling abusers (as they are abusers) there is a BIG difference between your run of the mill toxic abuser, who is NOT personality disordered and those that ARE personality disordered.

The distinction for those those who are NEW to this, is critical in trying to accept what happened to them and UNDERSTANDING what a sociopath truly is. This is why Donna and others, are reaching out in communities, educating others, etc, about it in the first place. But once the seriousness of this disorder is “downgraded” to the generality of toxic, you’ve got a victim who may believe that this is REPARABLE……..WHEN IT IS NOT!

Blue when you understand, fully and completely, EMBRACING the idea of a pathological person, the healing process tends to move a little bit faster. what I’m noticing about my process is that the stumbling block is projecting normal into abnormal. For example, “He’s going to be so happy with someone else, the new woman!!”, then of course, this kind of ruminating leads to all the “good” memories shared with the spath.

I read on another site how critical it is to understand PATHOLOGICAL behavior because is it REALLY going to be better with HER?

Questions to ask yourself. What is the relationship history? Did it get better for the other women he was with? Did he get better FOR YOU? There’s your answer. Another article here that didn’t expound on that a lot, but the meaning behind it is clear, past behavior is a good indication of future behavior. This is not applicable to those who are toxic or victims who have empathy and may have made some poor choices in the past, and want to RECOVER from it, this is applicable to the SOCIOPATH, who is a DIFFERENT ANIMAL altogether!!! This is why the distinction is so crucial, especially for newbies. Those of us trying to wrap our minds around this.

I’m a VERY determined person and while I’m experiencing a great deal of pain, what I”m noticing, as I accept and integrate the information about sociopaths is that when I start to “ruminate” about him, I keep myself in check and have to replace that with the BAD THAT HE DID……he is NOT capable of being REAL or of DEPTH with anyone, thus BORING!!!!

My spath did not get better with his two ex wives, he did not get better for me and he wont’ for the next victim either because he CANNOT CHANGE HIS PATHOLOGY!!!

It is important blue to have the information about a sociopath, particularlly from a PROFESSIONAL perspective, as well as with others who have shared the experienced, BUT, it’s also important to understand WHY we got involved in the first place and look deep within, work on the vulnerabilities or past abuse, get stronger, so we CAN avoid them in the future!

BOTH elements have to be in place, otherwise, the choices will be repeated.

LL

Ox,

I do understand what you’re saying. I GET THAT, BUT, if that is so, why are we educating the public specifically about sociopaths, such as with the ten signs your dating a sociopath if it’s not just a “label”? Why all the articles here if labels do not apply specifically to sociopaths/pychopaths?

Why not just call it, “Ten signs you’re dating a toxic person?”

Do you see what I”m saying here?

While I agree with you about toxic, I think that if you don’t have a label to apply to it, then WHY are we labeling it? The label is only important in understanding the CONTENT to the meaning of that label. When I found out I had fibromyalgia, it was an ENORMOUS relief, because NONE of my prior physicians knew what was wrong or how to “label” my condition. When I found out about it, I got books and read online as much as I could about the illness, the CONTENT…..and it DID have meaning for me.

It isn’t just about labels in and of themselves, ox, it’s also the meaning.

LL

One year after our marriage, we went to a sociologist for some counseling. These sessions were started shortly after I found out about his affair, during the many times when he was working out of town while I stayed at home with his children. My concerns included a lengthy list of his self-loving actions and a total disregard for my feelings even on our honeymoon. Needless to say, he charmed the (woman) counselor and they both ganged up against me. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly heard about that counselor justifying him over me.

My husband will NOT admit the truth even when he’s caught in a lie. I fail to understand his constant need to distort the real facts to justify some sort of self promoting story that he’s told.

He controls everything. He frequently withholds my mail from me…including invitations to his grandchildren’s birthday parties last year. If I fail to attend a celebration with him, no one is aware that he’s only given me 20 minutes notice that he’s going to a child’s house (without ever mentioning a b-day party). His kids seem to have the impression that I’m not attending events because I’m mean and don’t like them. (Of course, regardless of my past requests, no one ever takes the initiative to actually contact me over the phone to verify that I received an invitation in the first place.)

Yesterday, while getting a check from the checkbook (I called him to verify that I could take one to pay for a painting class), I noticed an opened B-day invitation and envelope (addressed to the two of us) that was peeking out from under the keyboard of one of his computers…here we go again!

I read the card and wrote down the information prior to putting it back where I had found it. I thought about what to do regarding my discovery…confronting him has always led him to attack my questioning and then treat me like crap…so, simply asking about the invitation wasn’t even a consideration for me.

This morning he handed the invitation to me this morning. (I assume that either one of his cameras recorded a video of me, or perhaps I hadn’t placed the card back into it’s former position and got caught. )

He then said that he must have inadvertently placed it in a pile of his work mail. He found it and just a minute before showing it to me, he had opened it!
I told him…NO, I saw the opened invitation yesterday when I got a check from the checkbook.
He repeated that he had just opened it up…I repeated NO, I saw it “opened” yesterday!
He repeated that he had just opened it…No you didn’t…why are you continuing to lie about this when we both know the real truth? He mumbled something about opening it and then walked away.

Unlike him. I would have crumbled and admitted to the truth. Why try to justify a lie even when the truth is so obvious! It’s almost as though he’d have rather have a body part removed (someone else’s, of course) than admit he lied.

Why must these people defend their lies to the point of exhaustion? How nuts is that? Of course, regarding those of us who have believed even 1/3 of their fabricated stories, how do we look to them?

bluejay,
In my last post, when I said the word KEY, I had a vision of a key going into a lock. I know what the key looks like because I can see it. But I can’t see the inside of the lock so how do I know what it looks like? Well if the key fits, then it looks like the reverse of the key.

A sociopath is like a key, because we can see his external behavior. We can study his behavior. In addition to having all the typical socio attitudes he also tailors his behavior to hook us. In that way he reveals our innerselves to us. He reveals our weaknesses, which are how he hooked us AND he reveals our strengths, which are how we escaped him. These are inside of us but we are like a lock and hard to see. The sociopath is the key that helps us see inside our selves.

Knowing about sociopaths also helps us see HOW NOT TO BE. Often times we can rationalize some of our less than moral behavior but seeing what happens to someone who indulges in immoral behavior really helps give us an incentive to re-think that rationalization.

So the biggest reason for studying the P is to learn more about us. There is also the opportunity to help others. That opportunity doesn’t come along every day, but I will FOREVER BE GRATEFUL to the stranger in the sushi bar who saved my life by giving me the benefit of his own experience with narcissists. He suffered at the hands of his malignant n father and n-mother and n-brother.

LL,
watching you go from “why did he do this” to “what is he?” is amazing. I can clearly see that you are “getting it”. He isn’t from this planet, the outer-skin is one he borrowed. Labeling him has allowed you to explore him, define him, put a boundary around him and pour all the things from your WTF? bucket into his gaping mouth and let him swallow them because you have no more use for them. They are his convoluted logic. Trying to make sense of him is like trying to make sense of a schizophrenic. Impossible because they are not experiencing the world in the same way that you and I do. THEY know this and put on a mask to hide it. THEY know that if we could see how they experience the world, we would recoil in disgust and boredom. It would probably be like being transported into a really bad porn film with no plot and being forced to live there for the rest of your life with no escape. aahahaahaahrrrhhhh!

confused,

Am I understanding this correctly by your post that you’re still living with this man?

If so, may I ask why?

I think you made a very critical point, confused. Because that’s exactly what they do. They lie, even when the truth would be easier. He sabotages you by not giving you the invitations or notifying you about them. Creates a lot of drama with others too, right?

All of it, completely unnecessary, it’s just what THEY do.

LL

Sky,

Your post was amazing. I love how clearly you articulate to us all. And you’re RIGHT too 🙂

I really look forward to your posts and that of One too. Well, shoot….everybody here now that i think about it lol!

LL

I just read my previous post as though it had been written by someone else. Reading and responding to “someone else’s” issues distanced me enough to think more about what I had written.

I think I get it! (Ok, I understand a little more, maybe.)

Why do crazy people defend their lies even when the truth is so obvious?…In my case, perhaps my H quickly learned that after repeating his lies enough times, I will eventually become frustrated and just give up fighting. When I ultimately give up…in his mind he has defeated me, maybe?

His lie repetition tactic works well against me because I become BORED into submission.

confused.

I think you’re onto something, but I think the evil within is a bit more sadistic it seems….if you tell this man over and over not to repeat the same behavior and it does it repeatedly, what does that tell you?

I think you’re right about in his mind he has defeated you. You’re also right that if you just give up and don’t confront, and stay….you’re submitting to him. It’s about power and control, Confused.

You’re seem very bright. You’re “getting” his motives.

LL

Skylar,
I love your insights. Yes, one of the most painful things with my husband was that nothing was sacred with him. He took events that I thought should have been special between just us, and he recreated them over and over with others. We were interchangable b/c it was the event that he valued, not the person.

He recreated scenes from tv shows/movies. One time he made a birthday lunch for me on the gazebo of our town hall, a romantic gazebo where everyone entering the town saw that garden area. He hired a man to play the accordian, and table with snow white cloth and a lunch server. All romantic looking to the public, they all loved it. I was mortified at being on display, used to make a picture/an image for him as being the loving romantic husband. It was the talk of the town for days. Townspeople did NOT see that he only talked to the musician, not me. But he did tell everyone I was ungrateful and hated it (which was true but had he done it at the city park where we would have had some privacy I would have been happy.) So he used not just the event but the telling after made himself appear extra good and me extra bad.

AND…Like when I took him to MY swimming spot on the river, sacred to me b/c of it’s serene beauty. That’s where he took woman after woman b/c he knew from me what their reaction would be. Everyone of them thought it was “THEIR” enchanting spot, none realizing it was HIS WIFE who showed it to him in the first place. He utterly destroyed my sacred soul healing place for me.

Yes, recreating the EVENT b/c that is what entertained him, whereas me, my feelings, myexperience as the wife did not matter.

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