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The sociopath in couples therapy

I do much couples therapy, and occasionally have had the interesting, if disconcerting, experience where one of the partners is a sociopath, or has significant sociopathic tendencies.

Unsurprisingly, it is always the nonsociopathic partner who is occasionally successful in dragging his or her sociopathic counterpart to counseling. The sociopathic partner, just as predictably, will have no collaborative interest in the relationship’s improvement. However, he or she may be sufficiently selfishly and manipulatively motivated to attend.

For instance, the relationship may offer conveniences the sociopathic partner does not want to see end. The nonsociopathic partner may have reached wit’s end and may really be prepared to end the relationship, arousing the sociopathic partner’s concerns that the gravy-train, as it were, may be over.

This can be the sociopath’s inducement to try to “patch things up with,” to “settle down” the nonsociopathic partner, in order to salvage the perks of the relationship. (The quoted phrases are meant to capture the sociopath’s condescending, self-serving thinking.)

The couples therapy environment provides little cover for the sociopath who, for this reason, will prefer generally to avoid it. The reason that sociopaths fare so poorly in disguising their sociopathy in a couples therapy situation is that, facing an aggrieved partner, the sociopath will struggle, and often fail, to produce responses of convincing sincerity and depth.

In other words, the sociopath’s fundamental defects of empathy and sincerity, in the emotional hotseat of couples counseling, are at risk of being flagrantly unmasked—sooner, typically, than in individual (court-mandated) counseling, where the sociopath, safe from the spontaneous challenges and disclosures of his or her abused partner, can more effectively misrepresent and deceive.

Couples counseling is inadvisable when a partner is a suspected sociopath for several reasons. Among them:

1) The therapist does not want to enable the belief (especially the nonsociopathic partner’s belief) that a nonabusive, honest relationship can possibly evolve with a sociopathic partner.

2) It is inherently humiliating for the nonsociopathic partner to make him or herself vulnerable to a partner whose only capable response to that vulnerability is exploitative. The therapist does not want to collude in this process.
3) There is the risk that the sociopathic partner, who is probably blaming and possibly vengeful, will use his or her partner’s complaints during the session as a basis, after the session, to punish him or her for having had the audacity to expose him or her.

This risk, incidentally, applies to any abusive individual in couples therapy. Narcissists’ abusiveness in this situation will arise most likely from their sense of entitlement—for instance that their partners owe it to them to always make them look, and feel, good (in private and public).

For sociopaths, exposure may be experienced as a sort of defeat: their mask is uncovered; their leverage as an operator—and with it their parasitical lifestyle—is threatened. Their game may be over. They may be mad.

One accidental benefit of stumbling upon a sociopath in couples therapy is the chance it affords the therapist (who recognizes it) to be a professional (and desperately needed) witness for the nonsociopathic partner.

The therapist may be in a position to provide the vulnerable partner, in subsequent individual sessions (after the couples counseling has been appropriately terminated), critical validation, information, and lifesaving support.

All of this presupposes the therapist’s ability to identify the sociopathic partner. When the couples therapist fails to identify that he or she is dealing with a couple in which one of the partners is sociopathic, the ensuing counseling process will undermine all of the nonsociopathic partner’s interests.

In failing to expose the sociopath, the counseling, by definition, will be abetting the sociopath. It will be structured on the false pretense that two reasonable clients are having problems with each other that they’ve co-created, which will not be the case. This false assumption will support the unequal, exploitative playing-field the sociopath has sewn all along.

For this reason—especially if your self-esteem has been battered in a relationship—I encourage you to explore assertively with a prospective therapist the extent of his or her experience with narcissistic and sociopathic personalities. Your inquiry should be met with absolute respect. A defensive response should rule the therapist out, as should vague, general responses, along the lines of, “Well, yes, I’ve worked with these kinds of clients. Is that what you’re asking?”

The answer is “no.” That’s not what you are asking. You are asking for a more substantive response, characterized by the therapist’s interest and patience to discuss in some depth his or her clinical background with the personality-disordered population.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)


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94 Comments on "The sociopath in couples therapy"

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Reading this reminds me of my brother. Before he married his wife she arranged couples counselling because they were going through a rough patch. They went to a few sessions and then he stayed away because, in his words, “that guy was stupid, he didn’t know what he was talking about”.

I’m guessing the therapist probably 1 ) didn’t take kindly to my brother trying to run the session – I know my brother, he’s a control freak; 2) challenged my brother’s ignorant assumptions and 3) actually held him to account for his actions.

My brother’s favourite insult is the word “stupid”. Everyone is stupid except for him. He is the only one who knows the right thing to do. And of course, you can’t possibly know yourself. He knows you better than you know yourself. I’ve been told this by time – I don’t know myself, he does.

I used to feel sorry for his wife until I realised she was as manipulative and hypocritical as he is. They make the perfect couple. I’m just sorry for their two young children, having to bear the burden of those two parents. I made the decision to be NC with both my brother and his wife so unfortunately there is nothing I can do for the children.

This is a great article. It’s interesting to me that to deal with a sociopath you have to see things in an entirely different way. It’s all about understanding their motivations. I do think sometimes counselors accidentally open the S’s eyes to the fact that they ARE sociopaths.. not all of em know it. Not that that makes any difference in the end, they likely just put that knowledge into their arsenal of tricks.

This makes me want to be a couples counselor..lol

Steve,

Thank you for this enlightening article. It’s been a very long time since I was married to my x psycho. I wouldn’t even have considered couples therapy as I was very young and oblivious to the term of personality disordered individuals.

I just knew the guy was inherently messed up. I got to the point where I would plead with him to get out of the house, go somewhere away from me for a time, leave me alone.

He was always “up in my business” following me around the house, checking up on me in whichever room I was trying to seek solitude. Man….he drove me bonkers!

Years later after our divorce, I visited him at his auto mechanic shop as he offered to fix my car for free, which was totally surprising as he wasn’t all that altruistic. Always looking for the next con for his own selfish needs.

When he walked out of the building, I gaped at him. He looked terrible, as if his self indulgent lifestyle had caught up with him and was showing on his sallow face. He said I hadn’t changed a bit, except maybe I was taller. Whatever. I’ve always been a moderate so maybe that’s why I looked a heck of a lot healthier than him.

Breaking up with him was so beneficial for me and by the time I kicked him to the curb, I was done with the abusive crap.

Hopefully people who read your article today will realize they’re in a situation where the best and only resolution is to cut your losses and flee. It’s a pointless endeavor to love and truly care for someone who can’t love or care themselves.

Odette,
Your brother sounds like so many creeps I’ve met in my life. The controlling, arrogant type that you just want to strangle they’re so irritating, so exasperating.

I know it hurts, doll, to realize he is pretty much the same dude as your x psycho, but as painful as the truth is….it has set you free and you can breathe a whole lot easier and think a whole lot more clearer by shunning him completely from your life.

They say blood is thicker than water, but if your blood relative is a predator…..time to clean house and go eternally no contact. It’s the only way for us to maintain our sanity and hard earned peace and happiness.

Dear Steve, ten months into the relationship, I sought counselling with a very well known UK counselling service for marital, relationship problems. The ex of course declined the offer to attend. I paid for 6 sessions to try and understand what was happening, why I was on a roller coaster. The counsellor wrongly ‘diagnosed’ that I was in a relationship with a commitment phobic man. After these sessions, i went back to the ex quite a few times. After it ended and I discovered that the ex was a Narcissist, so much of what he did fell into place, once I realised that I had been set up, I couldnt wait to jummp out of the relationship. I then went back to the counselling service to tell them that they wrongly diagnosed and that had I have known more, I would have jumped ship earlier. They said that because he (the ex) was not present, it was difficult to come to a steadfast conclusion. i told them, that over the six sessions I had given them PLENTY OF information, that if they had known what I was dealing with, they possibly could have alerted me as to what kind of relationship I was in. I told them, that I had paid for their guidance and I felt that the guidance had been inaccurate and that I suggested maybe their counsellors know more about anti socials.

John Bradshaw recently said that most of the violence done in society is done by the shame based. I pray for the day that family courts into which people find themselves recognize systematic parental alienation and the usual sole custody as child abuse. Right now we have actual groups founded and headed by lawyers, e.g. Randy Burton with his Justice for Children http://www.justiceforchilden.org that repudiate the credibility of Parental Alienation while they purport to be saviours of children, intervening for women mostly and for free to take the kids from thier fathers. But who said that sociopaths cannot creep into and attain positions of authority, right? In fact it is often one trait of a sociopath and sociopathic (addicted) systems. Read too Anne Wilson Schaef’s, When Society Becomes An Addict, Harper and Row, 1986.

If I could do it all over…If I only knew what I know now about P’s,N’s and S’s. I would have had the strenght to leave my x-boyfriend father of my daughter the day he kicked me in the stomach at 5 months pregnant. I urged him to go to therapy with me…to save our relationship….not a chance….he knew what he was. He used to constantly say, “my way or the highway” and “I am God”! Very, very controlling and manipulative. I felt like my life was taken from me the day I met him. And in the end he did manage to convince my daughter to come live with him. So we are estranged now. She is a teen ager and is self absorbed now but I worry that she will be just like him. Underneath it all I know she has a good heart. I just hope she stays awake to that.

But if I were to do it over…I would have left when I was preganant and have no contact what so ever. I would have followed through on the domestic violence charge. I was in a blind feeling of “love” for this guy who did not even love me. He would not have my daughter today if I was smart back then. She would not even know who he is.

I would not have had to go through 12 years of court battles 6 custody and 6 child support. The pittance of support I received (only when he was under pressure by the courts) did not even cover the ten’s of thousands of dollars I spent with attorney’s.

The out and out lies and deceipt…his spit in my face….which is a moment I will never forget…..the hammer thrown down the hall at my head. The cabinet door slammed in my forehead….the glass door he broke that came crashing down on me. I am lucky I am alive!

But what was to come next was due to my low self-esteem….a result of the abuse of my past. I lost everything to a con-artist P.

I have been through years of therapy. And it did help me get strong. But that does not make it completely better for you. Because along the way many people will critize you. They will try to get you fired just because they don’t like you because you have “problems”. Or “how could your daughter leave you?” So you learn to keep away from people because of that. You have very little friends because the situation made it so. But how many people are truly your friends…ask youself this…”do they have my back?”

These psychopaths are very distructive….so I advise anyone who is in a relationship with one to RUN AWAY…..QUICK

Dr. Steve–
Thank you for the post and validation- therapy WITH a psycho is pointless and dangerous.

As far as alerting a client that someone they describe, who you the therapist has not met, is psychopathtic….perhaps a validation of their complaints and discussion of the type of people who present such symptoms.

I think a lot of therapists have wasted their time and mine- by making me flounder….I don’t have a psych degree. Though I have now realized after round two with a psycho that I was vulnerable b/c of my narcissistic mother who is also a pathological hoarder ( I see much of hoarding as narcissistically driven- it’s power).

As far as shame- I just blogged on it. And I agree,scoeity sufferes from those who feel shame but no guilt…psychopaths. They are embarrassed at being judged afoul of norms, of being accused of wrong-doing, but do not feel guilt for hurt inflicted on others.

http://holywatersalt.blogspot.com

Not embarrassed…pissed off. Annoyed, someone questioned their magnifience.

Dear Trish,

You truly have been through hell…but are STILL STANDING!

I agree with your definition of REAL friends–“do they have my back?” If not, at best, they are just acquaintences.

In many cases casual “friends” (acquaintences) and “work friends” and sometimes even REAL friends, just don’t “get it” about what is going on in your life if there is a P involved, or if a family member is a psychopath. They can’t comprehend the depth of the despair you are in, the completeness of the devestation.

In our own deep pain, their lack of understanding and possibly lack of empathy or sympathy may wound us further. After my husband died a dear acquaintence came to my house and said “I know just how you feel.” I became FURIOUS at her because I knew she had never been married, much less seen her non-husband burned over 95% of his body. HOW COULD SHE SAY SUCH A THING? She did NOT know. Later, I knew she was just TRYING to be kind and sympathetic, but AT THE TIME her comment threw me into a RAGE.

There is a lovely lady here in Arkansas who teaches grief counseling and I have had the pleasure of attending some of her 2 day seminars. Just our empathetic PRESENCE is all that is required to comfort the grieving. “presence” is more than just “physically being there” but that is the first part of it.

Here on LF we do the same thing by ACCEPTING the truth of the poster’s stories, and by just listening to it. By validating that they are HURTING. It also helps that we do KNOW about Ps and the devestation that they cause in their victims. That we understand the grief cycle, and the going back and escaping again.

I’ve never been to couple’s counseling, much less with a P, though I had suggested that to my P XBF, but we never went. He didn’t want a “healthy” relationship, he wanted a “wife” to present as a public display of what a “respectable person” he was, while he continued his cheating.

I can’t even imagine being in a relationship where there was long-term physical beating. I’ve been beaten up once each by my P-bio father and my P-son, and know of my uncle beating his wife for years and years, but I can’t even imagine enduring that trauma over and over.

To all those who have endured that and survived and gotten out and started on the healing road, my greatest admiration for you for STILL STANDING. God bless you all, you are daily in my prayers.

“All of this presupposes the therapist’s ability to identify the sociopathic partner.”

And that’s assuming a lot.

Just anecdotally, reading about this on the internet for years, and having known a couple of people with sociopathic (or otherwise abusive) partners… it seems therapists are inevitably human, and sometimes have their own issues which prevent them from recognizing a sociopath, and fully comprehending what all it entails.
Seems to me like in far too many cases, sociopaths successfully blow smoke up the therapists’ dresses.
In one story I saw on a message board a few years ago, there was a woman who actually described her female marriage councelor being downright FLIRTY with her abusive husband, right in the sessions.

Worse, usually by the time a couple goes into therapy, the emotional abuse has been so severe for so long, the victim seems hysterical, and therefore makes it easy for the sociopath to paint them as a crazy person… which seems to me leads to many a therapist to focus on the victim’s “problems” – which then becomes secondary trauma to the victim.

Add to that the fact that I think there are more sociopathic (or otherwise disordered) therapists than anyone realizes. 🙁

And I don’t think it’s fair to defend the therapist who fails to recognize the disordered partner they’ve never met, who’s been described to them in intimate detail. I mean come on. I don’t need to see the duck to recognize one that’s described to me. No one expects a formal “diagnosis”, but it should be pretty obvious that the person isn’t normal, isn’t healthy – and I don’t think it’s breaking any medical ethics to inform their patient the behaviour isn’t normal.
But no, therapists often PUT UP WITH THAT KIND OF PARTNER THEMSELVES, and continue to hope their disordered partner will change, etc.. So why on earth would they encourage their patient to break it off.
If a patient comes to a therapist and tells them that their romantic partner is a habitual liar, mooches, or has cheated multiple times… calls them names or belittles & berates them in public & private…. Heck, the therapist doesn’t need to diagnose the romantic partner, to point out that if the patient has asked this partner to change, and they haven’t, to encourage the patient to take care of themselves. No, I really think many a therapist thinks they’re doing the patient a favour by telling the patient what they want to hear — “do this and your partner won’t cheat on you” or “do better and your partner won’t belittle you”… when that’s bad advice in ANY situation with any relationship – even with normal people, let alone sociopaths! But plenty of therapists give that sort of advice regarding relationships – like they’re coaching a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends & influence people.

As for the Father’s Rights spam post… I can almost laugh at the brazen attempt on a web site like this.

You described my experience so well. Thank you for posting this.

I was very fortunate to have stumbled upon a marriage counselor who was able to see through my ex. She was like a lifeline to me. I needed to be able to ask “Does this make sense to you or am I the only (crazy) one who can see this?” about so many things. It was reassuring to have someone validate reality without twisting it or denying it.

My ex would say one thing in one session, then claim the opposite in the next session. Having another witness who couldn’t be browbeaten into thinking she must have made a mistake, forgotten, heard wrong, or misinterpreted him was a HUGE relief to me.

A favorite technique of my S: If you’re lying, keep on lying louder and longer than the other person can hold out. Because if you drown them out or outlast them, it must mean that you are right and they are wrong.

Thank you for your reply Steve. Yes I understand what you say, but I am disappointed that they were not able to put together all the things I was telling them, so that at the very least they could tell me it was manipulation, because my ex was very very clever and most of it was done covertly.

Dear Steve, thanks for your post. It helped me a lot! I only found out now why my “marriage counseling” I did myself (at age 12!) to “fix” my parent’s marriage was a complete failure. My mother is a narcisst and my father (a very eloquent lawyer) has psychopathic traits, a fact I discovered about 4 months ago while I was going NC with my psychopath x-friend. This evening I could cry for the first time FOR ME at how mean both of my parents were letting me doing this horrid thing. I just now realize they both played with me all the time, and in the end of the “counseling” they “found out” that they can’t live together, quite the exact opposite of what I attempted. My father came afterwards to me and suggested my mother see a psychiatrist, and my mother tried later to attempt suicide. It was one of the biggest desasters in my life. They still are together somehow at present. It happened 34 years ago. I must say this site is so very important for me and I just now can put the pieces together I was always wondering about. Slowly I can see the “big picture”. Thanks you all! Hve a very nice evening!

Lilbelle-
I am so sorry. They are just evil creatures. Monsters.
They must be feeding off one another.

I hope you are doing better. : )
God Bless

This is what can be so frustrating is that I would seek outside help (therapist) knowing that our relationship was in trouble. I myself had been in therapy for many years (prior to my ex P relationship) and have learned the many benefits that if one is willing to be open and honest with the therapist and oneself that both can achieve in this type of environment. Only one therapist knew what was happening in our relationship and she tried so hard to get my ex P to open up to her but my ex P quit stating that “she didn’t like talking about her self”. I did beg her to return to our therapy sessions but she refused to return. I did allow her to quit and I too stop going hoping (thinking) that we could work on our problems together without the therapist help. BIG MISTAKE! Our relationship only got worst and then at one time hit rock bottom. I did try a few another times but still nothing good came out of these sessions due to the fact she “learned” how to response and reply when discussing our relationship and how I “needed” to change which I did. Only problem nothing else would (change)! In short I got so tired of hitting a brick wall I just gave up and quit even trying to get us to therapy anymore.

What really bugged me so is that I knew therapy works! So I couldn’t understand why in God’s name it wasn’t “working” for “US”? Of course I know now but back then I didn’t even know about things like a Personality Disorder NPD BPD and Sociopaths. I know now!

Dear James,

it is frustrating to “try everything” and not get any “success”—Sigh, I think most of us have been there, in therapy or not.

Relationships take TWO (or more) people working together, if only one is “pulling their weight” then the relationship/family isn’t going to be successful. No matter how hard one of the pair of a couple “pulls” if the other one isn’t dong their share the “wagon” isn’t going to move very far.

I had a pair of steers once (oxen) that one of the pair was a lazy bugger, and he would not pull his share of the load, when you have a situation where one side is pulling and the other not, the wagon or cart tends to “go round in circles”—of course I had the ultimate “motivator” and could make him pull his share, but I constantly had to be on him to get him to share the load. Unfortunately, in a marriage or relationship, it sometimes just gets to the point that it is better to pull the cart yourself than to try to pull the entire load going round in circles, yoked to a mate that won’t even try. Or worse, yet, one that keeps kicking your feet out from under you so that when you try to pull, you fall down.

The thing you do know though, James is that you did the best you could with what you had to work with, and that nothing you could have done would have made it better.

WP,

I am sorry that you feel so negatively towards therapists. I’m a therapist and, no doubt, have had my own disappointments which I’ve shared on this site regarding the lack of knowledge in the field about sociopathy/psychopathy. It is extremely important that therapists and psychiatrists understand what it is, how to detect it and what the victim experiences. In addition, the recovery of the victim is unique and this must be addressed as well. Many a therapist fails to a)recognize sociopathy and b)treat victims effectively. But there is a reason for this that I will get to.

I do have to say, having been in the field for over a dozen years, yes, I have run into personality-disordered therapists. Yet I have encountered more sociopaths in other fields than in my own. In particular, I met too many a PDI working in law-enforcement and for the legal system when I worked with the NGRI (not guilty reason insanity) population. And I’m not talking about my former clients. You will find them in all fields and especially those where they can exert the most power. I don’t even need to go into detail about politics, the medical field or the money-hungry corporate world. But does that include the mental health field, yes. However, I don’t believe we are brimming over with PDIs more than anywhere else.

I work with WONDERFUL people who go more than the extra mile for their clients. BUT people do need to be aware. Just as you can’t necessarily trust that cop who is there to “protect and serve” you can’t blindly trust someone just because they come with the title of “therapist”. If they are giving you advice that you know is unethical then by all means leave and report them. No therapist should gloss over abuse or work with a client on ways to change their abuser or to change themselves to prevent the abuse. That is not OK. I, personally, have NEVER experienced that in the field. Therapy is not about saying what someone wants to hear. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. If that’s been your experience then I’m sad you encountered that. You don’t need me to validate for you how wrong that is.

I actually find my experience very much the oppostive of that. I have worked with clients for YEARS who choose to remain in abusive relationships. I call it as I see it and in those cases I am the one pointing out the abuse that either they can’t see or won’t acknowledge. I’ve had clients tell me that they know what’s going on but they’ve invested too much time to leave now. Or THEY believe they can make it stop. Or they know about the abuse but that’s the only family they’ve got. I am not shy about informing these clients that their mental health is not going to improve while they willfully remain in the abuse cycle. Often it is a struggle to work with them to get their self-esteem to a level where they have the courage to leave. Or even to break through denial so they finally acknowledge what’s really going on. Then the road to recovery begins.

But to validate your feelings, yes, the field is imperfect. But to the defense of therapists, I attended one undergraduate and two graduate schools. I learned about psychopathy at each institution but was taught about the “bad” cons who usually end up in jail. Those who’s behavior is overt and obvious. I was never taught about covert abuse nor how to detect it. I did not know what an “everyday” sociopath was until my own encounter. As far as I knew they presented like the court-ordered antisocials or NGRIs I work with. They present VERY differently than the man I met. A man who was no stranger to me from years ago and who was highly respected by my friends. One of whom got me together with the S. He fooled me, has fooled his family who believes he’s merely “depressed”, fooled his late wife plus a whole community in which he volunteers and participates in various athletic events. He was recently widowed when we met up again. So his “pity ploy” was believable. A very real “front” to cover a very pathological and abusive man.

So striking a nerve and saying what I have been wanting to shout from the hilltop, BECAUSE I’M A THERAPIST IS THERE SOME REASON I WAS SUPPOSED TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IN MY LIFE DID NOT SEE? WAS I TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE HERE ON LF DIDN’T INITIALLY SEE THEMSELVES IN THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES? Isn’t it fact that when you’re caught in the web your reality gets distorted through the abuse and you end up thinking you’re the crazy one? Because my ex didn’t hit me was I supposed to see through his lies, manipulations and gaslighting? Was I supposed to know ahead of time about his “other” life up where he lives as we were in a long distance relationship? Did I somehow choose to PUT UP WITH THAT KIND OF PARTNER in a manner that was different that any one of us who, indeed, put up with it until something got us out of that web? NO ONE has a right to point a finger at ANY therapist who has been abused as we are, IN-FRICKIN-DEED, no different in our vulnerabilities than YOU! You are entitled to your opinions WP as I am entitled to mine.

My opinion is that you, WP, are completely out of line to blame the vicim by making any assertion that a therapist ,or anyone for that matter, “puts up” with abuse and thus by holding out that the abuser will change, in turn, fails to encourage others to break it off with their abuser. You don’t need a therapist to tell you how absolutely wrong that statement is. How disrespectful and tactless. If you have an issue with a particular therapist I encourage you to take it up with them. But by making that statement about therapistS you give way too much credit to any of us. We are humans, not gods. We are victimized more often than the norm because of who we are and what we do. WE are the one’s who hold onto HOPE when our clients’ own families give up and abandon them. We are the one’s who remain by their side and PRESERVERE through the storms our clients bring to our doorstep. We see through our EFFORTS and HOPE and PRESERVERENCE that CHANGE CAN AND DOES HAPPEN. Just as many, if not all of us, on LF held onto that hope in our own lives that those we fell in love with would change, so do therapists. Do you really think it’s a choice? If so why do therapists go to other therapists for therapy? If we are so talented to be able to see things so much more clearly in our lives than anyone else is with theirs, why don’t we just counsel ourselves? I HOPE I don’t need to answer that for you.

SO LET ME MAKE THIS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR. NO ONE CHOOSES TO BE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP. THERAPISTS ARE THE #1 TARGET OF SOCIOPATHS BECAUSE FOR A LIVING WE HAVE CHOSEN TO SUPPORT OTHERS AND TO GIVE OF OUR TIME, ENERGY AND RESOURCES TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE. WE ARE BLEEDING HEARTS, AND AS SUCH, DO MORE GOOD THAN THE BAD THAT YOU HAVE IMPLIED.

Is there some reason that therapists are supposed to know more than the rest of the world who is also VERY MUCH in the dark about sociopathy? Do we not state repeatedly on here that our friends and family don’t even get it? It’s not exactly common knowledge. Yes it NEEDS to be. But do me a favor. Just one tiny favor. Please take your energy and negative opinions about therapists and use it to educate a few. Therapists aren’t ignoring something they DON’T KNOW ABOUT. I am a damn good therapist and I had no idea prior to my own experience what the hell a sociopath was.

Whatever you choose to do, I can promise you this. Every day I take my experience and knowledge into the office and educate co-workers and clients. Every day I turn my horrible nightmare of an experience into something positive by planting seeds. Every week I see my own therapist and spend a lot of the time educating her as well as analyzing myself so I can be my healthiest. I not only have a responsibility to myself to be healthy AT ALL TIMES, s-experience or not, but I have a responsiblity to EVERY client who walks into my office. Being a therapist is not a fluff job and no I do not advocate for anyone to walk in my shoes or ignore any concerns in their lives because I may have similar ones in my own. And guess what folks, I AM NOT A RARITY. I am part of the NORM.

I understand a need to vent about bad experiences and/or disappointments we have had regarding the mental health field. But for the majority of us who give our best to do what we do…please don’t generalize. Please don’t put therapists on some unjustifiable and untouchable level that dehumanizes us. And please don’t ever blame the victim, I don’t care if they’re a therapist or not. This post just absolutely breaks my heart and, yes, in that, it pisses me off.

We live in a country where those who work in the human services field make so much less money than anyone would believe. Our country puts it’s money into technology and the military and pretty much everything before the human services field. We are bottom feeders. Insurance companies pay us less than most other fields, if we are paid at all, as some only recognize a social work degree and not a counseling degree. Others will only pay for a limited number of visits when more are needed. Here in VA the standards for getting licensed are much higher and more expensive than in most other states. Yet we still choose to do what we do because the pay off in seeing someone make progress, of achieving their goals, of being able to hold down that job, or improve their relationships or live successfully everyday with schizophrenia or depression or bipolar disorder, etc., is worth it.

Maybe someday our country will start investing in it’s people rather than it’s industry and it’s reputation. Maybe then people will stop biting the hands that are reaching out to them to offer HOPE. Yep, that same damn HOPE that “made” me a victim of a sociopath and almost a corpse. I will not give up that HOPE nor my FAITH in mankind because it is the fuel for what I do. There are far more decent and wonderful people out there than there are sociopaths right now. Just like there are far more good therapists out there than bad ones.

“Lucy”

Dearest Oxy, have a WONDERFUL time with your son. I’ll be checking back in with you and all the great folks here in the near future. Thank you, so, so many of you, for being so supportive and loving to me and one another. This site is such a gift. I’m taking a little respite. If you hear from Henry please tell him that I’m thinking about him and cheering him along.

We can re-build those rafts when we need them, right Oxy? No need to keep dragging it up this mountain anymore? Gosh that post hurt my feelings more than I can express. I suppose it’s a bit obvious by my response. Took my breath away. I haven’t cried this hard in a long time. I have been doing so well and need to keep on that path.

I know nothing written about therapists here is directed at me. I do. But yet it is so personal. I didn’t know. For the love of God I didn’t know. I thought he was the love of my life. I thought he really loved me. I almost lost my life, almost gave it away and he wanted me to die. One day he’s asking me to spend the rest of my life with him, the next he’s journaling about ways to kill me. God I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t think clearly anymore. Couldn’t see clearly. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I stopped talking to my friends and family. I had to stop counseling others and find a safe place to get help away from my clients and colleagues. I couldn’t do it anymore. I lost what I love the most. My heros who walk into my office everyday and fight to make it. I couldn’t help them anymore. I couldn’t help myself. I was so confused and so ashamed. Oh God this hurts. What a trigger.

I can imagine the joy my ex got at seeing the wretched mess I became. What victory. Made the therapist think she was crazy. He told me this would happen. Told me I’d have a hard time forgiving myself. I just can’t be here right now. It’s starting to feel unsafe. God I hate triggers. I know no one intended it but it hurts like hell. I am a damn good therapist. My greatest flaw- I have an overabundance of faith in people. My greatest gift- I have an overabundance of faith in people. I can’t lose that. It is who I am. I can be wiser with it now but that faith in mankind is what makes me a damn good therapist. Not perfect, but human. I’ve never even pretended to be perfect. How the hell was I supposed to know? Why do people think we are to blame because we don’t? I’m no different than anyone else. We’re no different than anyone else. No one here saw it right away so why attack us for being human? I’ve attacked myself enough for all of us. I’ve bore enough guilt and shame and blame for every therapist that failed any of us. But it was not intentional. Neither was it intentional in failing myself. I’m sorry.

I’ll preface this by saying that I was only with my psychopath for less than 6 months. He was of the classic conman variety.

At some point he mentioned that he had been to counselling. (I remember asking him if this was related to his marriage break-up, to which he responded in the negative.)

In (what I now can see was) a very arch response, he commented that they just “didn’t know what to make of me, just couldn’t classify me”. He said this with quite a degree of triumph and glee.

Well, within a couple of months of extricating myself from “the fog” I certainly WAS able to “classify” him. I definitely think now that he KNEW he was a psychopath, and was taking great delight in observing others not being able to figure this out.

While I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, I now see the significance in the fact that he had a collection of psychology books on his shelf. And this was a man who was decidely low-brow in general demeanour, had few books, never read that I saw, and was generally disdainful of things intellectual (except of course in the very beginning when he was most heavily faking everything!).

What is interesting to me is this strange juxtaposition of general lack of education (and utter incompetence at getting on with life in a generally acceptably successful way) with this “cunning” that is able to encompass somehow the fooling of psychology professionals – AND, not to mention, non-professionals in this field like me who are highly intelligent, highly discerning, and in the aftermath, shocked to the core that I could have been a victim.

Takingmeback,

Or Lucy, as the case may be. I wish I could print out your reply to WP, go back in time, and shove it up the wazoos of the two detectives who blamed ME for not seeing the criminal acts of my ex-P.

I had to endure being shouted at about how the detective was tired of “you women” who “wait” until “it becomes a state problem.” I, like you, was totally fooled. I had no idea. I thought he was the complete opposite of what he turned out to be, because that is what he presented to me.

I share your frustration. It seems nearly half the world blames us victims for “not seeing,” and the other near-half blames us victims for “making up lies about such a nice person.” The rest are here on LF.

Here’s a good question… What are people thinknig when they drag, pester, or beg their “partner” into couple’s therapy?? I mean if the person is reluctant to go in the first place, what good will the therapy do?
And if your relationship is so bad you feel you need couples therapy, and your partner is so disinterested that they don’t even want to go to couple’s therapy…
How good a relationship is that?
I would never want to be in a relationship where my partner wasn’t at least equally interested in the relationship.

Seems to me that a lot of people who go to couple’s therapy really need just to re-evaluate their worth to themselves, and realize they deserve better than a lonely relationship.

I realize society puts a great deal of pressure on people to pair up. But even in the most single-hostile environments, it’s much nicer to be single (even if to just have options), than to be so lonely in a relationship with someone with a serious personality disorder.

takingmeback:
Please don’t put words in my mouth (so to speak). Of your whole post, I’m at a loss to even know how any of this responds to my post. It’s like we’re in 2 completely different books.
Obviously you’re upset, so I’m going to try to ignore what seems like attempts to insult me. Apparently there’s been some misunderstanding you’re reacting to, and I don’t know if there’s anything at all I can do for you in that regard.

But I will try to clarify.

I never made a sweeping generalization about the profession.
Perhaps I should’ve been more specific.

I am concerned about the rose-coloured glasses people seem to have regarding therapy for certain things – specifically relationships.

I’m not anti-therapy at all.

I just think that couples therapy, marriage counceling, and going to therapy to fix a relationship is a pie in the sky hope. I think expecting to fix relationships by means of therapy is an unrealistic expectation on therapists. And an unrealistic expectation some therapists put on themselves & their profession.

What Steve Becker said about a therapist doing better to help the patient examine their responses to a jerk’s behaviour (I’m paraphrasing, sorry)… than to label the jerk…
I think all too often the therapist and the patient, perhaps both with unrealistic expectations, or perhaps the patient at cross-purposes with the therapist… It winds up being a relationship coaching thing.

And point blank, I don’t think there’s anything one person can do, not do, do better, do less, to make another person like them more or less, or make another person behave differently toward someone.
There’s nothing you can do to control other people’s feelings & behaviour, I believe that wholeheartedly. Even holding a gun to their head, they still make their own choices.

I really believe a relationship works and is productive for all parties, or it doesn’t and it’s not… and you can’t put a square peg in a round hole, no matter how much benefit you think would come of it if you could manage it. Some people just don’t mix, and they need to stay in seperate bowls. This is especially true, of course, when it comes with ordinary people trying to mesh with sociopaths.

The only way I could see therapy working to make a relationship better is if the patient is actually doing detrimental stuff they ought to stop, and therapy helps them with that (not the relationship directly).
For example, if the reason you’re having trouble in relationships is because you scream & shout at everyone, then yes, you may see an improvement in your relationships if you get therapy for your hostility issues. If you’re having a problem in your marriage because you have a gambling problem and have spent all the family’s budget on your online poker addiction, then getting therapy for the gambling problem might indirectly help your marriage.
But if the reason you’re having relationship issues is because the other person in the relationship is behaving in detrimental & destructive ways or mistreating you… Well how could therapy for YOU possibly remedy that?

Well, only if YOU change – either learn to like the mistreatment, or get away from the relationship.
What other advice can anyone, therapist or not, realistically give?

Even dragging the person into therapy to get help for it will do no good, because a therapist is just a human too – they’re just as incapable of making someone else behave differently. Therapists are not gods or angels & have no magic wands to control other people.

But I think sometimes, unfortunately, some therapists think they can – just as some people, regardless of their profession, labour under the illusion that they can exert control over things they can’t realistically control. It’s a human temptation, however irrational. And we’re all vulnerable to that unreasonable course from time to time. Some more than others.
And it’s not about relationships. It’s about everything. It’s the human condition.

Even multiple advanced degrees in psychology isn’t going to levitate you out of the human experience.

And expecting therapists to be floating outside the human experience is a recipe for disaster & disappointment.

When a therapist labels a patient’s boyfriend as “commitment phobic”, that naturally gives the patient the idea that the boyfriend does love them, they just have fear, and then they commit themselves to helping the boyfriend overcome that fear. FIrst, even if they are commitment phobic, and that’s their only problem… a romantic partner is the very last person to councel them and take a theraputic role in trying to get them to overcome a phobia. It’s inappropriate, and puts the relationship on a course of inequality – the woman becomes the boyfriend’s coach instead of his partner. If he’s not commitment phobic, and just incapable of commitment (a sociopath or whatever) – then it’s just as hopeless.
I think the point that Brenda was making was that if she knew he was a sociopath, and how hopeless that is, she wouldn’t have wasted her time trying to get him over his phobia. And what Steve Becker’s point is, that giving any label at all is tricky and potentially wrong, and it’s better cost-effectively, to come at it from another angle.

As for law enforcement. It’s a no-brainer that it would be a profession that would look very appealing to sociopaths & narcissists. Just like Mount Everest, by its very nature, attracts an inordinate proportion of sociopaths & narcissists.
Any profession, movement, or group that affords any type of authority, prestige, notoriety, power, etc. (or even the appearance of those things), is going to be particularly attractive to sociopaths.
Sadly, I think we’re at a place in society where mental health professionals are starting to appear as people with power – probably more power than they actually have… And with vulnerable patients, that profession, too is, I believe, becoming more & more appealing to someone of a narcissistic or sociopathic persuasion.

I would be willing to bet, if there was a reliable study done, that the ratio of narcissists & sociopaths is much lower in professions dealing directly with waste management or sewage treatment. At least none of the clever ones without police records. LOL

I had decided to try to help her and see my Therapist, after him trying to disscuss her childhood and getting no responce he then advised me to be very aware of what was going on around me and make notes as time went on we kept going to him he started to ask me questions of certain things that were going on, i told him it reminded me of the movie Fatal attraction, his eyes grew, while going to borders i picked up a book called getting help, i started to read it and a light went off, i should have gotten a hold of this book last year and saved myself alot of heartache.

Dear Takingmeback, AKA “Lucy,

((((Lucy))))) I think he hit a trigger, darlin’, but you know, you have some valid points, and frankly he has a few, though I would NOT say that thre is a HIGH percentage of PDs in therapists, there are some. I worked for a therapist/office manager who was definitely PD’d–I turned In my notice after the first rage she went off on at me.

What I am hearing from you Lucy, my dear, is a bit of projection about how you are feeling you SHOULD HAVE KNOWN–Sweetie, that is the SAME STICK I used to beat the crap out of myself, but it is NOT VALID.

We (you and I ) are HUMAN…so get over it….we make poor decisions sometimes, poor judgment, don’t use the knowledge we have, do denial, fail to see things we probably should have, have chemicals in our brains, have emotions, want to believe the best in people, want to believe that people can change for the better, we are caring, loving, forgiving people who do our best to be “nice to others”—-and we “gets tooked” sometimes.

Sometimes I DID FEEL ARROGANT that I wouldn’t be taken, that I was BETTER than all these other people–women who went back over and over to abusive relationships with their BFs and Hs—BUT IN MY ARROGANCE I didn’t realize that I was doing it to my son, I was letting HIM abuse me, over and over and over and over. “Informed Denial” as Aloha says. I had that Denial routine down PAT. I was good at it.

I actually had a hard time forgiving myself for that arrogance. A BIG HARD TIME, but you know I surmise that your biggest hard time in forgiving yourself is for BEING HUMAN, for being gullible. At the same time you seem to be indicating that you should not be “held to a higher standard”–HOW COULD YOU HAVE KNOWN? You Couldn’t have known. You aren’t psychic I don’t think, and neither am I. I agree, neither of us should be denigrated for being HUMAN.

I’ve actually had “friends” (now X-friends) say to me “How could someone as smart as you be so badly fooled?” CAUSE I’M A FREAKING HUMAN BEING, DODO!

My dear “Lucy”—QUIT BEATING YOURSELF UP—YOU COULDN’T HAVE KNOWN. Now you do, and now you can spread that knowledge to others that you work with and to your clients. yOU KNOW THAT I HAVE THE HIGHEST RESPECT AND ADMIRATION FOR YOU. You are a wonderful, insightful therapist and I think are a great asset to LF and the other people here (me for one, for sure) so be good to my friend, “Lucy,” or I will have to get my Iron skillet out again! ((((hugs)))))

Oxdrover: I’d swear none of you read my original comment at all! LOL

I wrote:

“Add to that the fact that I think there are more sociopathic (or otherwise disordered) therapists than anyone realizes.”

I did NOT write that I think there’s more disordered therapists than in any other professions.

I DO think there are more sociopaths & narcissists in some professions more than others. I think therapist/psychologists might be higher on the narcissist list than say, rubbish collectors. But I wasn’t even talking about ratios or statistics in my first comment.

It’s like nobody read that sentence completely – I said “MORE THAN ANYONE REALIZES” – not more than lawyers or more than police officers. I said “more than anyone realizes”. Or at least I mean more than MOST people realize.

My point is that I think people often FORGET that therapists can be sociopaths too! Or have issues that interfere with them – maybe only at certain times, but it’s there.

I really think most of the time people assume that psychologists are somehow levitated above normal human frailty. They put them on a pedestal, so to speak.

Therapists, I believe, are just as likely as any other human, to get cancer, behave co-dependently, fall in love with an alcoholic, get an ingrown toenail, be in a car accident, or have issues.

They can also be sociopaths.

Just because I say that isn’t the same thing as saying all, or even most, therapists are mentally ill disfigured amputees with ingrown toenails enabling drunken spouses. 😉

Sorry, WP, I did read it, and I agree with you “there ARE more than people realize”—we are NOT elevated (mental health profession in general) above others, we DO have PPDs and BPDs in our midst.

You do have some valid points, and I defintely agree with much of what you say. My main point to Takeingme back, was about her REACTION to your post, it was a “trigger” for her—not that you said any thing bad, but because of the place SHE was in, it upset her. Triggers are not always bad things, either, because they show us that we have some UNRESOLVED ANGER to deal with.

She and I respect each other and I wanted to comfort AND confront her about this. She would have done the same for me I would hope. She is a great lady and a wise one, but we ALL have problems dealing with the aftermath of our wounds.

FACING those things in a safe and loving environment, like here, is a good thing. I’m not in anyway criticizing you or what you wrote at all. Naive or un-seeing therapists can do a lot of damage. Also, people who are FORCED into “therapy” seldom (ever?) get any benefit out of it, and actually Ps have been shown to become more cunning and learn the “words” that go with “healthy” to turn against their victims after therapy, i.e. it makes them WORSE. Many times too, they make the victim appear to be crazy while they are the “cool, calm and collected” member of the pair, which is AWFUL for the victim.

The hardest part, I think, for us medical andmental health professionals in admitting that we have been conned, is to stop beating ourselves up and EXPECTING SUPER HUMAN INSIGHT in ourselves. We are just as, or possibly MORE SO, vulnerable to the con. We can see it many times in others, but NOT IN OURSELVES. That’s the “catch 22”—I know that I beat the crap out of myself for a long time, but I am now giving myself permission to “be human” and to “be mistaken” or to “make poor choices.” I have never had any problem with allowing others to be “human” —-just me. Not that I thought I was always right, I knew I wasn’t, but I EXPECTED ME TO BE.

There was also a time when I was arrogant about women who went back and back and back, I just “didn’t get it.” NOW I do get it and I am ashamed of my own arrogance. It, however, was a human failure because I didn’t get it, but now that I do I have “repented” of that arrogance, and I have also quit beating myself up about it. I destest arrogant people (as most of us do) and here I WAS ONE. We all have to accept our own faults, and our own behaviors that allowed us to get sucked in, or to stay in, or to go back, and FORGIVE OURSELVES as well as get over the bitterness in our hearts for t hose predators that hurt us—and learn to be more cautious and to NEVER TRUST ANOTHER P and to be able to spot Ps before they hook us.

“Pride goeth before a fall” and I was sure proud and arrogant that I would never let my husband/BF etc hit me, but I let my SON hurt me over and over and over. Realizing that was a HUMBLING EXPERIENCE for me, and I needed to be humbled, so that I could “get it” and have more compassion for the rest of the victims. “Walk a mile in their shoes” It was a good lesson for me.

OK, I didn’t sleep at all last night so here I am at home trying to sleep quite unsuccessfully. So long for the respite. I need something to do that doesn’t involve staring at the tv or reading another book.

WP, I reread your post and I wish I had paid more attention to your first sentence.

“Just anecdotally, reading about this on the internet for years, and having known a couple of people with sociopathic (or otherwise abusive) partners” ”

This put it in perspective for me. Whether you believe me or not I did not put words into your mouth nor was that any attempt to insult you. What comes across to me in your posts IS honestly hurtful. It sounds very ignorant and that is not implying that you are stupid. But I don’t think you get it at all. Most simply because you have very little idea what we’ve been through.

By that first sentence I surmise that you’ve never had an intimate relationship with a sociopath. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I woud believe that if you had, you would not make any satements such as this:

“But no, therapists often PUT UP WITH THAT KIND OF PARTNER THEMSELVES, and continue to hope their disordered partner will change, etc.. So why on earth would they encourage their patient to break it off.”

Ouch! Do you maybe, sort of, kind of have anything to back that up? Some stats lying around somewhere? You truly believe we, therapists, often do this? Let me reassure you. I, for one, do not look to date a sociopath/psychopath. In addition, I prefer to keep my work at work.

Saying that a therapist or anyone PUTS UP with an S/P assigns blame to the victim whether you meant it or not. That is the most grueling thing to experience. For anyone to think we saw it and just ignored it. Do you think we’re daft? Surely you don’t. So please understand that is how it comes across with statements like that. And please be careful with your words when you’re blogging to a group of people who’ve been victimized.

Please also be more cognisant of saying things such as “But no, therapists often…” You can think or believe whatever you choose. But as a therapist working amongst them year after year, I don’t have the same experience or perspective as you. I can say that I do not find that they put up with disordered spouses. On the contrary, my colleagues have very wonderful spouses. Are we still #1 targets and easy prey? Yes. But I don’t know any who’ve married or PUT UP with an S/P. I didn’t as I broke up with my ex. Only you don’t break up with an S/P and get away easily. Even then he wasn’t obvious. Before my experience I would have thought it must be. Now I can see how people get brainwashed without even knowing it’s happened. I see why countless people commit suicide each year as a result of these relationships. I don’t expect you to get it. But I’m asking you to respect something you’ve never experienced and be careful not to say therapists or anyone else “often do” anything. We are not gods and neither are you. No one here’s omniscient or omnipresent so to make that claim is invalid.

I honestly find you very fortunate not to have had the experience that most of us here have. I would never wish it on anyone. Not ever the ex himself. I’m not a sadist nor a masochist. I’m a very confident, independent and intelligent woman. I have never felt a need for a man but thought it a nice addition to my life should I meet someone and fall in love. If you knew me, you’d know that I don’t PUT UP with anything. Was I in denial, yes. It’s a defense mechanism and it these situations it does a great deal more harm than good.

Two more things if you’ll so oblige. The next sentence.

“And I don’t think it’s fair to defend the therapist who fails to recognize the disordered partner they’ve never met, who’s been described to them in intimate detail. I mean come on. I don’t need to see the duck to recognize one that’s described to me. No one expects a formal “diagnosis”, but it should be pretty obvious that the person isn’t normal, isn’t healthy – and I don’t think it’s breaking any medical ethics to inform their patient the behaviour isn’t normal.”

It is absolutely NOT breaking any ethics to point out abusive behavior to clients. But here’s the twist, we’re talking about S/Ps. Not only is the field not nearly as aware of them and how to identify them BUT it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for anyone to do so. Usually the victim is already disillusioned and in their web before they have a chance to see it. They are bonded, in love and have been conned by a master manipulator. These are not men or women like you see on Cops. These are people who don’t necessarily yell or hit. They appear like you and me. They “blend” in quite well. And their tactics incudes methods used in brainwashing. I could not see it. So not only do we have clients coming in for therapy who are a wreck and falling apart mentally and physically but they often a) don’t know what’s happening or b) have been convinced they are the crazy one. So based on the lack of info in the field and the state of most victims, I do defend the therapist. If a client outrightly states what you posted, then hell yes, you point out the abuse. But that is not always the case and especially with the S/Ps.

I told a psychiatrist what was happening to me and I thought I was losing my mind. You know what I got? Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder! I do not have Bipolar Disorder. I was later diagnosed with PTSD. But I was a fraction of who I was before the S/P and of who I am today. I reviewed what I told the doc and guess what? There’s no way she could have figured it out with what I said. I hadn’t even figured it out yet. I wasn’t sure what was him and what was me. He is highly narcissistic. I truly started to believe that I was him! But by the grace of God I am not. You think who in their right mind would think that? How could a therapist be convinced she had a disorder she doesn’t have? Easy. Date a highly narcissistic psychopath. So I do defend the therapist unless it is outlined in black and white. Which it has never been before to me.

In fact, now I’m the one who knows the questions to ask and I’m finding myself directing clients here to LF to check out the information when I get a hunch. You know, sadly enough, those few have come back and confirmed it. Their worst nightmares came true. At least now they are have an idea of what’s happened and that truly it’s not them. These folks did not come in reporting abuse. I observed them in session, tracked their symptoms and obtained info about their situations and low and behold. However, I also have the antisocials and narcissists who are trying to convince me that it’s their spouses and family members that abuse. But being in their presence week after week and seeing the patterns and talking to family members. Not true.

So you agree that we are not perfect, don’t have magic wands and are fallible. Then please don’t say you don’t defend the therapist who doesn’t see it. Again, I suppose you’re coming from the idea that victims come in with these full fledged reports. Again, not my experience.

And finally,

“Heck, the therapist doesn’t need to diagnose the romantic partner, to point out that if the patient has asked this partner to change, and they haven’t, to encourage the patient to take care of themselves.”

Um, and we do. Individual therapy is about the individual client. If they bring “someone else into the session” by focusing strictly on them, we usually either invite them to bring that person with them (which I know you believe is a waste of time but , again, my experience has been very different than to call it a waste) or stay focused on the client. You cannot counsel someone who’s not there. You cannot assess someone who’s not there. You cannot observe interactions between two people when one is not there. We go by the client’s self-report and they are the focus.

So did I read your post as insulting to therapists, yes. I am a therapist and I obviously believe in family, couples, group and individual therapy. Naturally we will disagree on this. As a survivor of a psychopath did I find offense to your post. Again, yes. We are not in two different books. We are in two different chapters. You’re pre-psychopathic experience and I am post. May, God-willing, you never make it to my chapter.

I have tried to be as specific as I could. Again, I am not putting you down. I do not believe you are were trying to put me down either. I hope, perhaps, this post will shed some light for you. You can, honestly, bash couples therapy all you want. You can bash the whole profession. But please don’t write as if you know what we do, who we are and what our intentions are. Please don’t throw a psychopath into that mix and place further blame either. That’s all I’m asking.

And as I have been in the profession for years, I do not know if psychology is attracting PDIs or not. Do you have any information regarding that? If so, I would be interested to read about that. I agree that the mental health field is a dangerous place for them to be. I would truly like to know if this is, indeed, happening more often now. I have not met many along my way.

In fact, I really would like to know what your experience has been with therapy and therapists for you to have formulated your opinions and beliefs. That’s always helpful to understand why you have come to the conclusions you have.

Peace,
“Lucy”

I once had a therapist who tried to seduce my boyfriend behind my back! When confronted, she had no remorse for what she’d done, and she accused me of having the problem. I do agree that there are a lot of therapists out there that have no business practicing. Some of them are not licensed psychotherapists and go by other labels. Sociopaths are everywhere, and they certain can hide under the auspices of psychotherapy. On a humorous note, does anyone remember Kimberly on Melrose Place? She ended up becoming a therapist to the same people she had tried to kill in the previous season. And they trusted her!

I would not recommending blindly giving your trust to any therapist. You should be able to check their reputation out first.

DEar “Lucy”

Sorry ou didn’t get any sleep, and aren’t sleeping today either. Been there and done that myself a few times, in fact, still struggling with good sleep on a regular basis (sleep apnea and all that entails) hopefully you can now get some good sleep. (((hugs)))) “Lulabye and good nite” (singly quietly) LOL

Your above post is very good, and specific and you seem to be back on your track of your usual wonderful posts. I do understand how his post could have triggered you though.

PTSD does make ME TEND TO BE defensive and easily triggered, though I am starting to get better since the EM therapy. I think you know that there are few people here that I think have more insight than you do, or that I respect more than I do you. ((((Lucy))))

Oxy,

Yes, i am uber-sensitive to this. I have been triggered. I am angry. I am angry from the past and I am hurt by the post. Yes, I agree there are PDIs in the field and they don’t belong there. Yes, I agree that it’s a waste to ever bring in someone who doesn’t want to be there. I don’t treat clients who don’t want to be there. What am I gonna do with them? Play checkers? Drink coffee and chat about the weather? And yes, it can be more dangerous to have the S/P in therapy where they can learn how to con people better.

You know how to infuriate an antisocial PDI? Keep the focus on them and give them no reaction at all. Last week one of them threatened to stab me in the back when I went out to the parking lot to my car. She said she’d paralyze me and wanted to know what I would do. My response, “Well, I assume someone would call 911 and I’d be taken to the hospital.” Her response, after a minute of watching her jaw clicking as she grit her teeth she finally said she would go to the hospital as well if she got hurt in the altercation herself. Hmmm…I didn’t ask her what she would do LOL. Next question, “So how does this correlate to what we were talking about?” Nice attempt to redirect the conversation. Didn’t work.

And what did I do after the session? Go to my supervisor to discuss how to end therapy with this client. It is a waste of my time. I have said it repeatedly. There’s nothing therapeutic about it. I am a pawn that she is trying to play with. Been there done that. It’s not a game of control here, I have better things to do than entertain a psychopath. Yet now if I terminate therapy will she then go off and kill random people as she’s threatened? I have no idea. You may see me in the paper being blamed for a dozen deaths because I couldn’t cure her.

So am I angry? On so many levels. I can’t help her. I can’t throw her in jail as she hasn’t done anything. I can’t hospitalize her because she knows what to say to get out of being detained and what would that hospital do but infuriate her more? But it’s my neck out there on the line if she kills someone. That’s the way this society functions.

So reading a post that says we put up with sociopaths in our personal lives, we fail to pretty much call a spade a spade and we fail to encouarge our clients to take care of themselves. Yeah that upsets me. Life is not that simple and it’s not that black and white. Are there some horrid therapists out there. Yes! But have some respect for thsoe of us who work our assess off.

In addition, as I’ve shared before, I was also diagnosed with PTSD in 2005. Why? Because I was the lucky therapist to walk in and find a dead client who had overdosed. Yay. So put a therapist down or even insinuate itmaking any generalizations and yeah I’m defensive. And especially in regards to psychopaths. If anyone had any idea of what we see, what we hear, what we witness, they’d stop before getting that last word out. I am good with people, I find myself very effective wtih my clients. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to counsel again after my ex. But I am. And do I defend what I do. You better believe it. You want to express an opinion go ahead just name it that…your opinion. Hell, name it your personal experience with someone. But don’t generalize.

So ,yes, there are negative aspects of the field. But my point is the same. Don’t ever come from a point of view which dictates what a therapist does or what they like to do or anything like that post. And don’t say it on a website where there are victims of sociopaths. Because you never know. You might run into one pissed off therapist who has been victimized like me!

takingmeback: I read your first sentence, about being sleep deprived and perhaps you’re in a bad way emotionally right now… And your focus on my comment about the people I’ve known who’ve had marriage counceling that went wrong…
I stopped reading, because I don’t think it would do either of us any good at all. I’m feeling very uncomfortable already. We’re clearly not on the same page. It feels like we’re in different volumes, written in different languages.

The fact that I haven’t been to marriage counceling myself is supposed to mean I have no clue about suffering, enduring the bad actions of ruthless people, that I don’t understand what it’s like to be mistreated, used, abused, or taken for a ride?

It just means I haven’t been to marriage counceling with an abusive spouse.

Way to jump to conclusions. 😉

Did it occur to anyone I might have the opinions I have now BECAUSE OF the trauma I have endured?

Ox:drover:

If you asked anyone who knew me, they’d all tell you I constantly say “Pride goes before the fall” – it being one of my favourite sayings!

Just because I don’t post all the details of my past personal humiliations & tragedies on the world wide web, doesn’t mean I haven’t been living life, experiencing suffering. It also doesn’t mean I’m at odds with people who currently do talk about what’s happened with them.
It just means there’s reasons nowadays that I don’t tell everyone I come into contact with all the intimate details of the hardship I’ve had in my life immediately upon conversing.

One of the big reasons would be that I do my best to no longer act on that feeling the need to make everyone else understand what I’ve been through, what I think, and what I feel. This is my personal decision.

But I have to say, that “shenpa” got me by the tail today. 😉

My first impulse would be to pour out all my trials & tribulations, the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve experienced… the people I’ve known, the wrongs done to me… to try and make you guys understand.

But that’s not really going to get me anywhere. I know that now. It won’t cure the uneasy feeling I have of feeling like I’ve been painted a villain. It won’t make anyone else stop feeling pain. And it won’t make anyone be nice to me. 😉 And most importantly, it won’t make me feel any better about being misunderstood in the first place. I just have to feel that until it passes.

And believe it or not, for those of you currently suffering from a recent serious blow… there will come a time when those of you in the very depths of suffering will get through it, the pain will subside, and it will come to the point where it’ll take more effort to suffer than to not suffer. I believe this to be true. It’s my experience, at least.

Of course there was a time when I felt that if I allowed myself to stop suffering, stop railing , I would be diminishing the importance of something. Like if I allowed myself to heal from wrongs done to me, that I would be, in effect, condoning the wrongs. I realize now how that thinking didn’t help me, and didn’t really change anyone else or change any other circumstances either. Indeed, it made things worse in some ways.
The post on forgiveness is especially relevant to this, for me.

Taking me Back and Oxy… Howdy. i certainly can not keep up with all the post now that I dont have internet at home. I think it was a positve move for me. I have a question? I have been seeing this therapist, she is very nice and mild and meek. She told me she was a athiest and her life dream was to be on oprah and talk about being a therapist. Any way that is all good and fine. But this is my question. Iwant to talk about the past 3-5 years of my life with Mike. I have a life full of crap. But I have dealt with it. Intellectually I know why and how and who and what mike is. I know who I am. I don’t live my life ruminating and complaining about the past. Most of the tome I am very focused and happy. I have said goodbye to the illusin, the actor that played his part so well. No more sad songs for Mike. But the unbelieveable extent that he decieved me criminal. I have ptsd or I am in shock with the truth of what has happened. I don’t want to drive one hour to my therapist and listen to meditation tapes with the lites out. I want to fuckin talk about what happened. She just says things like , it’s amazing what bad people make good people do. I say a physciatrist, and he got it he validaterd me. He siad Mike (BPD) would just as soon kill you as look at you. Am I out of line?

and oxy I will take you up on that bet. Mike will never knock on my door again….

Dear sweet TAkiingmeback,

I do understand, that’s why I had to retire after the PTSD from my husband’s death, I just couldn’t do it any more. I really do know how hard it is for you to work with these people and have PTSD as well. I was babbling, and I can tell you HOW HARD IT WAS for me to be “on the wrong side of the clip board.” I am just glad I did have sense enough to realize I couldn’t go on and that I COULD retire (I was 57). I took a big financial hit for retiring so young, but at the same time I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s life, and It was a wise decision. Also, I know with all t his other stuff that went on later, I would not have survived if I had also been distracted by work—I wouldn’t have had the strength to not only leave my home for my safety but to abandon my job as well. I put too much in it. I know that you do too.

Sometimes I felt like I was walking on shards of glass barefoot, because I couldnt’ help people and I wanted to. It is frustrating.

After my husband’s death I was so “hair trigger” that I went off on someone who told me (meaning to be kind) “I know how you feel.” NO, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL.!!!! Another sweet friend of ours came to the house (drove 7 hrs to be there) after my husband’s death and that night she kept chattering and chattering (anxiety, not knowing what to say) I couldn’t focus with her chatter and I kept asking her to stop talking to just be quiet and go to bed. She then went off on another chatter session about how she had offended me and oh, sorry, etc. and I WANTED TO KILL HER if that is what it took to shut her mouth. I really did want that very minute to kill her if that would make her shut up. An “over reaction”? YEP. Then, I felt so guilty for being so angry and over reacting. I think I ended up comforting others more about the death of my husband than anyone did for me.

I do understand how easily PTSD allows us to be triggered, and boy have I been. It is getting better now with the EM therapy and with just healing in general. I’m gaining back my “reserve energy”—whatever you want to call it.

The mammoth amount of strength you have to continue to function and to interact with these people in a professional setting is so admirable. I do hope though that you are taking care of YOU as well. Your response to that P was absolutely great! They really don’t know what to do when you don’t react to their threats.

My P-bio father threatened to kill a man once if the man didn’t do what he wanted him to illegally and the man (I admire him so much) just shrugged and said “Well go ahead.” I wish I had been a fly on the wall, because I can only imagine his reaction when the man showed no fear and wouldn’t cave in to his threats. My P-bio-father forever after had a special hatred for this man. He also had a forever after special hate for me too, because I wouldn’t cave in to his demands. I think that is in many ways why my P-son has a special hate for me, because I did thwart some of his schemes when he was a teenager, by calling the police and turning him in when I caught him with stolen goods. Back when I was still talking to him he kept telling me that I “shouldn’t have done that” and I kept asking, “what would have been a better alternative”? He didn’t have an answer, but the next person who “ratted him out” was the girl he killed in 1991. They don’t like to be thwarted. Or redirected either.

Get some sleep, my friend, or take a walk and burn some of the adrenaline off and then sleep.

My son C will be here in 2 hours and I’ll be spending as much time as I can with him. I am going to be gone part of the weekend doing “private duty” nursing with a friend who had knee surgery Thursday and whose wife is a traveling nurse and has to leave for her job early in the morning. But I will be back and forth from their house to here during the weekend. When I am gone, it will give him and my son D time to be together too without me interfering with their “guy talk” LOL

takingmeback,

I have read your last few posts, and I wanted to speak up on your behalf. I do not feel it is the job or obligation of a therapist to diagnose a person he/she has never met. I think it is an added bonus to a client if the therapist has gone through the same thing. It can sometimes make the therapy more effective. It can also be counterproductive, if the therapist still has unresolved issues in that area. Ultimately, the focus of therapy should be on the client herself (or himself) and helping empower them to set their own limits and draw their own conclusions. The client is always free to seek other support and opinions. I talked to 2 or 3 counselors and a variety of different people when I was looking for answers. I even googled “sociopath” which is how I found this site.

I think clients don’t always have reasonable expectations of their therapists. But this can also be part of the therapy, in helping the client understand why they feel this way toward the therapist (as you’re no doubt already aware of). Sometimes this can be where real therapy starts.

When I was talking about bad therapists, I was referring to the percentage of them who are legitimately screwed up and should not be helping people.

Oxy, I slipped back into angry mode again LOL. I admit I’m very defensive regarding this topic. I don’t make any bones about that. I have been triggered. Ugh!!!

But in forgiving myself I struggle a lot with even realizing when I saw anything. I can easily look back now that I’m not tangled up in things. But honestly, this man was not a stranger to me, he was respected by our mutual friends who knew him better than I did. He was in a good profession, had a nice family, at least for the time I spent with them. He volunteered a lot of his time, had friends, etc. But the catch was the fact that he had lost his wife to Leukemia less than a year before. Being long distance, knowing that information, I truly believed he was depressed. When he said he was self-sabotaging I believed that as well. I thought perhaps he felt guilty in our relationship after losing his wife. He said it was sad she had to die for him to be happy and to have the chance to be with me. He said it was an awful marriage until just before she got diagnosed (like a year before she died) made my heart go out to him. Why wouldn’t it? I thought I made him depressed because we were so happy together. I wanted to let him go and give him time but I loved him so much. I thought it was me being inpatient not allowing him to grieve and go off and do the things he needed to do for himself. But I started to feel alone in the relationship. I blamed myself for reacting to that and he always had a great excuse for why he needed to do something for himself. I thought he needed love and attention and support.

The more time we spent together the more I started to see negative moods. I didn’t understand the irritability and asked questions. He got upset with me. I thought he was just sensitive talking about his loss and that’s why he clammed up. Then he was always saying bad things about his late wife and he said maybe it was easier to be angrier at her than to cry. That makes sense in grieving too. But he detached from me. I know now that he was never really attached emotionally. The gaslighting I didn’t see until later. He focused on the fact that I didn’t give him enough space and time to figure himself out. He focused on the fact that I did break up with him and hurt him. But nothing from that point on made a difference.

He withheld everything from me that I asked. Always needing more time. Then I found out he was lying to me. Telling me one thing and telling his sister another or his online blog buddies something different. We were states away. I had no one else to check in with. Then I realized that He talked about marriage right away and he would daydream outloud about our life together. He named our children. He made plans of when we were getting engaged. He planned our trip to Puerto Rico where I’ve always wanted to go (yeah, never made it). He told me he was moving in with me when he came back from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (a previously planned trip with his ex g/f). He gave me the one-carat Tiffany diamond ring telling me it will stay on my finger until we were engaged by the spring. He did all this.

And when I got scared because he seemed to be drifting away I got punished. But I didn’t see that then. He cried a lot. Always following a good time together. I thought again the he felt guilty, like survivor’s guilt. It was always tears over work or his house that he hated where his wife died. T made make sense.

I’ve shared a lot that he did that I now see as sociopathic that I don’t need to recall here. I don’t question his narcissism. I don’t question his own words that he thinks he’s antisocial. Or his words that he never forgives, has no empathy and has never really loved anyone. The contradictions, all it. All of it so quietly blended in with was could have been real. But in the moment I saw a sweet man who never yelled at me, never raised a hand to me and who was often crying. I felt like a total bitch for hurting him any more. But in the end, it was never about me. All that kept the focus on him and the rest is history.

So Oxy, am I to blame for not seeing something? Am I to blame for making mistakes? I broke up with him and I tried. I never let him off the hook with his inconsistencies. But it didn’t go on for long. Just long enough to witness one complete face-to-face Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. That’s when I broke down. He scared me and started showing signs of paranoia. I lost touch that night. I came home called my mother and said that I needed help. I had believed I was the horrible impatient one causing him grief. But what I saw that night wasn’t a grieving widower and something clicked. I didn’t know what it was. That was the beginning of the final chapter.

Do you know when I was there that night, I went to use the bathroom before heading home and I saw the ring he had given me sitting on a table in the hallway. I took it Oxy. He later asked me why. I don’t know why. When I realized I had it the next day I waited a week to tell him what I had done. I live two states away. I had to figure out how to safely get it back to him. I was so ashamed. I don’t remember a lot about that night. Something clicked and them the lights went out. It scared the crap out of me. I was terrified.

The night I returned the ring I emailed him to tell him about it. He laid into me online like he had never done before. Said I wanted him to come to my house and set himself on fire in front of me. Accused me of hating him and wanting him dead. He said a lot of horrible things. And I had loved him. Even then. But it was over. There was no turning backk. I knew I had to get away and was scared about my mental health but I was lost.

That night I overdosed on the mood stabilizer, anti-depressant and anti-anxiolytic they had given me. The mood stabilizer had caused me to crash into a deep depression pretty quickly less than a week before. I had called the doctor for help but I didn’t get a response. I was afraid to stop the medication because I truly thought I was going insane and didn’t want to get worse.

So I emailed my ex, told him I was bringing the ring back and I’d put a note on the passenger’s seat of the car with his address in case I didn’t make it. I couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t about losing him in the end. I didn’t want to live because I lost myself. I couldn’t function anymore. I had taken the ring and couldn’t figure out why. I wasn’t present anymore. I felt like I was already gone. I was no good to anyone and most certainly not to myself. I just wanted some peace.

I called my mother on the way there. I kept telling myself I was saying goodbye. A part of me said no way. But I knew. Then I hit the state line of Maryland and PA and started taking pills. That’s the last thing I remember. I woke up in the hospital ER.

In the hospital was the first time someone suggested that he was a sociopath. It still took me several weeks until someone gave me information on his aliases and all and it finally sunk in. A few months in and out of denail and then acceptance. He was believable. That I have to say. But the more truth that piled in the worse reality got.

That’s the story behind the deception.

Stargazer: I never watched Melrose Place… but you made me think of the therapist on the show Eureka – sci-fi show about a cloistered secret town of brainiacs – like a big think tank with contracts with the government or something.

The therapist character is CREEPY. She gets up to some really sinister behaviour…
I gotta think that this is art imitating life… It’s that it’s happened to enough people – bad experiences in one of the worst possible situations to have a bad experience – when vulnerable in therapy … and it’s worked its way into pop culture.

I’ve never had anything worse than an unproductive therapist personally. Yet just hearing about the woman whose therapist was FLIRTING with her abusive husband during marriage counciling… that sort of story sticks with you. I’m sure it’s not something she’ll EVER forget, even if she left her husband and found the best therapist on earth for individual therapy. I can’t forget it. And I didn’t even know the woman – just read about it on a forum.
Oh, and the worst part about that was – other people on the forum had to tell this poor woman that the therapist was doing something wrong. The poor woman was beating herself up with self-blame thinking that she was out of line for feeling jealous, that it’s not healthy to be upset about that, that she should feel okay if the therapist has a good flirty relationship with her husband. This husband had her so beaten down with twisted ideas about what’s appropriate or acceptable… she didn’t even realize the therapist was acting unprofessionally.
And believe me, there was no mistaking it.
There was touching involved – and I mean caressing of forearms & knees – between the husband & therapist, not to mention the giggling. That was what bothered the woman the most. The therapist giggling with the husband while she was constantly on the verge of tears.
And this poor wife thought she was just being inappropriately jealous.

The whole story shook me to the core.
It was so bad that at times I wondered if it was all some internet hoax. You know, someone making it up. But the woman’s posts seemed so genuinely hysterical… I wondered if I just WANTED to believe it was all made-up.

Thanks Oxy and Stargazer,

Oxy, have fun this weekend! Stargazer, thank you for your comments. I have been let down by therapists too. I don’t deny there are bad one’s out there. The one I saw when first diagnosed with PTSD was not so great. But he was nothing compared to other horror stories I’ve heard. I have heard of others who didn’t keep very professional boundaries, who made it more about them than their clients. Yeah, I’ve heard a lot. It’s sad.

I understand what WB was essentially saying. But I still found some of their statements offensive. Whether WB intended to hurt my feeling they did. And at this point I am sad. If I didn’t like nurses and knew someone was a nurse by profession I would understand if they were insulted at my take on things. I would read what they had to say. I would even apologize hearing if I hurt their feelings which doesn’t mean that I’d changed how I felt. I suppose I should apologize to WB for offending them as well. However, they wouldn’t read my post I suppose.

Did I not point out what hurt my feelings and what I found offensive but agree to most of what WB wrote in that post? But, WB, doesn’t have to read my post. Afterall, I’m just sleep deprived right. Bet I wake up tomorrow and still feel the same way :)). I’m not emotionally in a bad way despite the rants or the details of my experience. Or being triggered. There’s a reason it triggered me. I didn’t like it LOL. They don’t have to like what I wrote either. But despite was some may think, I have a right to my opinion. The fact is if someone’s gonna post what they don’t like and make such statements as if fact then they need to be able to handle a response.

I just love how it must be me. Oh, yes, it must be me. How absolutely invalidating can one get? But thank you Stargazer for sharing with me. I do appreciate it :))

In my coaching practice, which is largely about effective communications, I’ve found it useful to educate people about “sociopathic interactions.” From a practical perspective of helping my clients deal with daily challenges, in work and personal relationships, it seems to help them with self-defense and also getting satisfactory results from an interaction, if that’s possible.

A sociopathic interaction, as I define it, is one in which one party wants to dominate the other person, weakening or obliterating his or her boundaries and sense of self. And I suggest that my client use a “follow the money” type of thinking. Who gets something out of this? Who loses? And if you are the loser, how critical is that loss to your sense of control over your own ideas, ethics, plans and integrity?

In these interactions, the dominator typically exploits “soft spots” in a person’s relationship with herself. (Most of my clients are women.) These are areas where she has internal arguments with concepts, feelings or imperatives that make her feel inadequate or less than she should be. Not sure if you’re attractive? Not sure if you’re accomplishing what you should be at your age? Not sure you’re work is acceptable? Not sure you’re a good person? Not sure if you’re really lovable. These are entry points for a clever dominator, who will offer “solutions” in exchange for you agreeing to abandon your own reality in favor of a “better” or “more useful” one.

As I am in a consulting mode with these clients, and they have come to me to expand their horizons and teach them new skills, it’s interesting for us to explore how our relationship is different from this description of a sociopath interaction. In a lot of ways, it’s the same. The relationship with any teacher or guide involves opening yourself to other realities with the goal of meaningful change in your life. So how is this different?

All learning relationships involve trust and vulnerability. The test of whether this is healthy at any given moment is how it makes you feel. Learning can be uncomfortable by it’s nature. Absorbing anything new requires a reordering that is often both intellectual and emotional. Discomfort alone is not enough reason to think it is unhealthy. But when that discomfort includes a sense of being disrespected, of lack of interest in who you are or how you feel, that’s a very good warning signal. And I find that, no matter how beaten down a client may feel about a situation or guilty about her part in it, the desire to be respected never goes away.

The opposite of sociopathic interactions are ones in which both parties are clearly aware that they are equally real as separate human beings, and equally deserving of maintaining their own realities. Statements like “this doesn’t work for me” or “I had something else in mind” can test the quality of the interaction. If those statements elicit a personal attack, rather than an exploration of why the feelings exist or what would work to relieve them, it’s pretty clear that one person is attempting to dominate in ways that are designed to loosen the other person’s grip on her own identity.

Nobody’s perfectly angelic. Most of us are socialized to be codependent or have issues that cause us to want to do a little manipulation of another person’s reality, In these discussions, people may recognize that their communications can be sociopathic as well. I tell them that you can flip over any sweetly adaptive codependent and find ruthless sociopathic tendencies. If safety or love is our drug of choice, then we’re going to behave like addicts. Which is, pretty much by definition, behaving like a sociopath, because we use our relationships to get what we want, caring only enough about the other person to make sure they want to give it to us. It’s more socially acceptable to hijack someone else’s reality in the name of love than it is to get them to lend you money for a drug fix, but if we don’t really care about what they want how or it diminishes their ability to make their own choices, as long as we get our fix, then there’s not much difference.

I’ve written here before about non-violent communication (www.cnvc.org) and how it tends to straighten out these kinks in communications. The premise of NVC is that we can easily develop respectful and mutually successful relationships if we are willing to recognize each other’s needs. Human needs are common — things like the need for appreciation, understanding, support, personal achievement, community, safety. When we find out how to express these things to each other — and NVC provides a discipline for doing that — we can easily get to the reasons for conflict and ways to get both persons’ needs met.

Sociopathic interactions are not like that. Either there is no interest in needs that don’t relate to the dominator’s objectives, or certain needs are magnified to create the illusion of weakness, or the dominator will analyze and judge and create great structures of theory and opinion about the other person, all designed to establish their “authority” in questions of what’s real. In the opposite of sociopathic interactions, people don’t analyze, judge, give opinion or try to fix the other person. They listen, check to see if they understand the other person, want to support the other person in articulating their feelings and the needs behind them. Because understanding each other is a prerequisite to anything else happening that is authentic, truly shared, and mutually productive.

This is basic communication theory, but it’s also a fundamental skill in taking care of ourselves. Paying attention and respect. Walking in your own shoes and understanding that other people walk in theirs. That kind of respect toward yourself and others is the cornerstone of love that comes from appreciation and celebration of another person’s presence.

Again, the difference between that and sociopathic communication is quite clear. Because the sociopathic communication is not interested in the other person, but what the other person can give. The real objective, the thing that is sought or valued, is always something other than you. And most of us can feel that, if not right away when we’re being recruited with charm and promises, relatively quickly when we discover that what the other person really wants is something we can do for him or her. The relationship, per se, has no intrinsic value. It’s just a tool to provide something else, and when that something else is given, the reason for the relationship is over.

I read a novel recently that pointed out the US is generating sociopaths at a higher rate than any other country in the world. I believe it, because I think our society is based on unloving principles, judgment and criticism rather than understanding and compassion. What it means to be human is increasingly a function of harsh standards associated with spending capacity and success in power-based systems. We have to work harder to love ourselves for who we are, to be actively compassionate to ourselves and others, and to hold onto our own reality against cultural manipulation of our self-esteem.

Being alert to sociopathic interactions — our own as well as other people’s — is part of the path to becoming emotionally independent, reducing needs-driven behavior, and learning to expect and foster mutual respect.

I started this, as usual, long piece in response to Steve’s very interesting post. And the questions it raised in my own mind about how you recognize a sociopathic partner, if you can only talk to the other person. When I was dealing with a sociopath in my own life, I went through a few therapists, all of whom saw that I was dealing dysfunctionally with relationships, but none of whom realized that my self-esteem and internal coherence was being manipulated by someone who viewed me as a means to his personal ends.

Looking back, I know that I was uncertain about myself and my perceptions, uncentered. These therapists were responding to what I said was wrong. That the relationship wasn’t working. That I was hurt and confused. But what not one of them grasped was that I was being targeted. That whatever weaknesses I had, and I had many at that point, there was something outside me that was just as important to my situation as what was going on inside of me. If I had come in with a cast on my leg, or a fire report about my house burning down, they would have understood that I was dealing with a real-life trauma. But my reporting about my relationship issues didn’t communicate clearly enough that I was dealing with a source of trauma that wasn’t all in my own head.

That was why I developed this effort to teach people to recognize sociopathic interactions. Whether or not you’re actually dealing with a sociopath is less important, in my mind, than whether or not you can get to a satisfactory result in an interaction or a relationship. Dealing on a real-time basis with communications that either do or don’t meet your needs, making a virtue out of staying in your own reality while respecting others, learning that true compassion and connection emerges from healthy self-interest and self-empathy, these are tools that both protect us and enable us to be fully human.

On the flip side of that, we can come to recognize that intensely seductive attraction is most likely related to a “soft spot” in our relationship with ourselves. That the pain of being misunderstood or disrespected or put down in anyway is really important, a big red flashing sign that something is wrong. And the healthiest response is to take our wounds seriously, and care for ourselves. Caring for ourselves involves both self-empathy and recognizing that the trigger for those feelings may not be our friend.

With that perspective, dealing with sociopathic interactions requires one thing. Stop feeling in any way, just for the time it takes to get it concluded. These transaction have their own logic, and it is all logic. Make your choices about what your willing to trade for what they have to offer, if you have to deal with them. Keep your mind on the outcome. Forget about being nice or kind or sweet or getting approval in any way. Remember the other person doesn’t care about you, just what you offer, and do whatever is necessary to get what you want out of the interaction or, if there’s nothing you want, just get away.

These are deals, not relationships. Deals in which the dominators plays basically without rules, except whatever it takes to win. It’s impossible to win in these transactions unless you play the same way, and even then the cost of winning may be more than you want to pay, in terms of behaving like someone you don’t want to be. It’s better to walk away, if you can. Being able to have feelings and compassion makes our everyday life easier and more satisfying. But sometimes we have deal with a sociopathic interaction, especially in work and business. If we understand that we’re basically dealing with a kind of robot eating machine, at least at that moment, it helps to unplug our feelings and keep us focussed on getting through it intact.

At the same time, there is great power is letting go of needing approval. In everyone’s life, there are times when we have to choose results over relationship, when what we want or need is so vital to us that we don’t care what anyone else thinks or wants or feels. At that point, we are being the socipathic side of these interactions. Understanding that we DO that, and why and how we do that is another thing that makes us more sensitive to what’s going on in our communications. It’s okay and necessary sometimes. We make these choices based on our values.

But if we feel the unmistakable signs of being targeted — the outrage of breached boundaries, the sinking feeling of wounded self-esteem, the confused feeling of losing control of our own identities — it’s time to make those choices. Dealing with someone who isn’t motivated by a desire to know you or to develop a relationship with you, and who is interested in using you to get something else, is a good and reasonable trigger for your own sociopathic behavior. Not in the sense of exploiting that person. But in the sense of looking at the person as a means of getting what you want. Which is to hold onto yourself, walk away with your integrity intact, and move on to something more rewarding. Sometimes, I joke to my clients, the universe sends us tests. These interactions are tests of how much we really like ourselves.

Dear Takingmeback,

I am so sorry you got so blindsided by this guy! What a creep. “Lucy” there’ s no way any of us can realize someone is not who they say and present themselves as until we see different. YOu did eventually see what he really was MEAN if nothing else, hateful at the very least, and dysfunctional, and when you did you got out. The fact that you had given him so much, trusted him somuch before you found out the truth is just what happens.

I sure as heck don’t “blame” you for not seeing. You were emotionally “blindfolded” in several ways. I also see that you, like I did, and like many of us did, “excused” the inconsistencies “he was tired” or “He was grieving” etc etc. We try to give the “benefit of the doubt” to people in general and for sure to those that we love.

I know I have made mistakes, I have made judgment errors, I have been irritable, I have etc etc and so I try to give others the “benefit” of the doubt because I know I’m not perfect, but I have been so “giving” that I got to the point I might as well have put “patsy” or “door mat” on my back or forehead and let them tromp all over me.

I’m still a giving and caring person, but I have wiped the “tattoo” of “door mat” or “patsy” off my butt and my forehead! I have drawn strict boundaries on unethical and hateful, abusive, disrespectful behavior. No more “second chances” for some behaviors.

I am working really hard to NOT enable anyone, and also to keeping my boundaries firm. To confront inappropriate behavior in a reasonable and calm manner and protect myself from involvement with anyone with red flags waving.

I have seen the red flags in every P relationship I have ever been in, and in some I didn’t realize they were red flags, or what they meant, NOW I KNOW–and I will respect my instincts, my feelings and my own dignity. My first order of business is my own self. Protecting and nurturing myself. Loving myself, accepting myself. I think if I were ever an “abusive parent” it was TO MYSELF, not my children. I took up where my mother left off, following her plan exactly.

Now I am not only not going to let her abuse me, I will not abuse myself. I don’t intend to let anyone abuse me, or use me any more. I recognize abuse now for what it is. It is nice to live in a P-FREE world, my own little world with only people that I love and that love me, that treat me with the respect I deserve. I think its the first time in my life I’ve been P-FREE. It is a heady feeling.

Now, my son will be waking up after his nap from his long trip and I’m going to go spend some time with him. You guys have a good weekend. I’ll check back in from time to time.

Khatalyst,

Wow…thank you very much for providing more valuable insight, more beneficial instructions on not only recognizing the mechanations of pdis and the preceeding process of dealing with their deceptions so to exclude them from our lives completely, but also the knowledge you suggest in learning better communication in all aspects of our lives in relation to every one we meet and are involved with.

I distinctly remember your last post a couple of months ago as I read it repeatedly. It was so riveting, compelling, brilliant and thought provoking that I consider it a must read for any person who is still reeling from the fallout of loving a predator. And for those of us who have recovered and have healed from the grief, sorrow, and devestation committed against us.

You mentioned in that past comment on how you viewed your x sociopath as if he was in front of a blue screen without you are any other person as part of the scene. He was “performing” to himself and by himself.

You said that it may seem awkward and unnatural, but when I followed suit with the various people who I consider to absolutely be personality disordered, it was astonishing how lucid I became after this most productive practice.

It wasn’t awkward at all for me as pdis totally believe that they are solitary entities unto themselves and that everything they do is considered satisfactory for them and their selfish ego driven desires and twisted logic and reason (or none at all as the case may be).

They are the purveyors of chaos and destruction. Oblivious to the truthful concept that we are ALL connected to one another, to nature, our beautiful planet and it’s critter inhabitants, and to the universe.

That every single act of kindness, compassion reverberates across the cosmos as does every act of evil.

Only the selfish, egocentric acts/deeds of evil wreak total havoc and allow for unnecessary tension, sadness, annihilation, devestation, obliteration to continually harm the ones who wish to be happy, healthy, loving and loved.

And the lovely acts/deeds of kindness, sincere compassion and love create positive, life affirming, harmonious proof of the innate goodness in many people which should never be dismissed and disregarded in this spiritual war we are all participating in now.

God bless, peace…love…and joy. 🙂

Henry,

I’m sorry that I missed your post earlier! You are so not out of line. You should be talking in therapy. Meditations may be taught to help you learn to reduce anxiety on your own, as needed, and to redirect thoughts but it shouldn’t take up the session. At least that’s my opinion. There needs to be time for you to share and process stuff.

I am confused about the self-disclosure with the Oprah thing and being an atheist. Did you ask her or did she just tell ya. Self-disclosure of personal info should not be happening often. It is only used when it’s somehow a benefit to the client. I don’t know how you can benefit from knowing her dreams about being on Oprah. Oh my!

I’m wondering if your psychiatrist can give you a referal to another therapist. As you said, he got it. I know I usually tesuggest that people address their concerns with the current therapist first. But it’s up to you. If you just don’t click, then you don’t. The therapeutic relationship is hugely important. I encourage you to make sure you let the next one know about the trauma/PTSD and abuse from a BPD. You want to make sure they have experience with both. And I do think it’s helpful to find someone to talk to rather than just to end therapy. If I’m hearing you correctly you just need to get it out!

Night Henry. It’s late for hopefully this makes sense. Hope it’s helpful.

“Lucy”

LOL…still loving the typos!

khatalyst: You make a lot of sense. And what you’ve talked about, in that many therapists, in many situations, approach relationship problems as being what I’d call “internal” is exactly the problem I have with therapy for fixing relationships. It’s something I see as this Dale Carnegie coaching ‘how to win friends & influence people’ approach. Or basically, how to make yourself more lovable, or less bad… or something like that. Not that a therapist would say that explicitly. Maybe not even that the therapist realizes that’s how the patient sees it. It’s a sort of change yourself to change other people strategy.
Or it’s all about, for example, how to work on YOUR anger issues. When, ahem, maybe there’s no anger issues internally coming from nowhere… you’re angry because someone is repeatedly hurting you. You’re angry because you live in pain & fear on a regular basis because of the situation you’re in.
It doesn’t really work to work on anger issues. I mean even if you’re not involved with a sociopath, but just a garden variety flakey person (lol) – someone who’s not invested in the relationship the way you are… Even working on your self-esteem isn’t going to fix the relationship, because it doesn’t matter how well you think of yourself, or how well you treat yourself… if you stay in a relationship with someone who’s mistreating you & obviously doesn’t think very well of you… you’re going nowhere fast.

It’s kind of like you get a cut, and you do your best to care for it. You clean it, you bandage it, you maybe put some neosporin ointment on it or something… and you can do all that, but if someone comes along and they’re allowed to rip off the band-aid, and mess with the wound with a dirty bristle brush every time you get it bandaged & soothed a bit… all the ‘self-care’ in the world, every day, is not going to succeed in healing that cut. You can’t convince yourself that intrusive dirty bristle brush isn’t a problem. You can’t just say, “I’m not going to let it bother me.” and feel zero pain. And you can’t do that with emotional pain causing things either. You have to feel the pain when something hurts. There’s no way out of it.

Most forms of pain serve a purpose – any medical doctor will tell you that.
It’s the old joke:
Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”
Doctor: “Well, stop doing that.”
It’s the same thing with emotional pain.

A doctor won’t just prescribe pain medication to someone with chest pains from heart disease!
But I see that many an unhappy person with circumstances they could even fairly easily change to alleviate their emotional pain, instead be given anti-depressents… to basically mask the emotional pain.
That’s not to say I think anti-depressents aren’t helpful in a myriad of patients/situations. I do think they’re a viable tool, and in some cases necessary & very helpful. I’m NOT anti-medication per se.
But I think our culture (not to mention pharmaceutical capitalism) is breeding a situation where anti-depressants are seen as “happy pills” for people forcing themselves to live unviable lifestyles, more than theraputic aids for people suffering from true clinical depression.
That said, I think sometimes psychiatrists are put in untenable positions. A patient will point blank refuse to see the benefit in changing their situation, and the doctor is left with only the option of a band-aid medication, or risks looking like a sadist. “I’m living the American dream, I SHOULD like this. I don’t. So give me the pills.”

I also think a lot of the psychological and religious teachings on pain & suffering are misconstrued.
For example, people with a superficial understanding of Buddhism (and I’ve seen this a lot over the years!) will have this misunderstanding in that suffering is eliminated by not feeling pain. Which is a ridiculous impossibility. That’s just not the case. The Buddhist teaching is that suffering is eliminated by recognizing the pain, and then yes, feeling the pain. The suffering is avoided by a change of attitude and/or a change of circumstance. That’s putting it simply, of course. Point is, the Buddha didn’t claim he felt no pain from a physical cut, or an emotional blow. The issue is what you do with that pain, and with yourself (physically and/or mentally) in that situation.
I’ve seen this with Christianity too. The concept of “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is somehow misconstrued as disapprove of the bad thing someone does, but continue to have that bad person in your life. When I think that line is referring to the concept of staying away from revenge in your heart & in your action. It doesn’t mean let the dangerous violent criminals out of the prisons & invite them over for dinner. I believe there’s a place in the Bible where Jesus warns against taking meals with evil-doers. He says don’t hate them, he says don’t seek revenge, but he also says don’t invite them over for dinner.

I think you’re right in noticing that our culture today seems to not only breeds that power model of (anti)communication/interaction – it actually CELEBRATES it. All one has to do is look at the current climate in the political arena to see that. Political disagreements have been going on since the beginning of time – but I find the public divisiveness of recent years to be truly staggering. It’s not only socially acceptable to have a politcal discussion that is based on personal insults and even name-calling – it’s actually held up as the ideal public political discussion. Mud-slinging is a must. You don’t just say you don’t like the U.S. president’s political decisions, you say he looks like a monkey and that he has the intellectual capacity of one. You don’t just say you think someone wants to spend too much tax money on social programmes, you call them “a bleeding heart” (as if compassion is inherently bad).

Dear Khatalyst,
I just want to thank you for your post! It was a great help for me and was a very important central piece missing in the puzzle I am putting together since my early childhood. I could see the pieces and I am collecting them since age 5, since I discovered that my parents and our family are not like the others, but it all did not make sense. Especially the part of the universe that sends us tests. I redid the test repeatedly. It was like on the portrait of Samuel Beckett in the National Portrait Gallery in London: “Try again, fail again, fail better”. I wish to all of you my dear therapists a very nice weekend. Libelle

Henry DEAR!! I would say that if you dont feel right with the therapist you have – then dont go, or find another. I hope you doing ok Henry. I was just in town and the ex saw me before I saw him and he put his hand over his face to hide – the shameful b…….d.

Henry,

Clarification….loving my typos. I seem to be making more and more of them since you started coming here less often. Me thinks it’s because I miss you!

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