By | October 22, 2009 142 Comments

What All Sociopaths Have In Common

As we think about sociopaths, let’s remember that they can make diverse presentations, which can make it hard to know if (and when) you’re dealing with one.

Although sociopathy is a personality disorder, it’s complicated by the fact that sociopaths have widely diverse personalities.

There are smart sociopaths and dumb sociopaths; gregarious sociopaths and more withdrawn sociopaths; engaging sociopaths and paranoid sociopaths; calculating sociopaths and more impulsive sociopaths; socially skilled, and socially unskilled sociopaths.

There are charismatic sociopaths and sociopaths with dull personalities. There are sociopaths who may leave you feeling remarkably comfortable, and sociopaths who may leave you feeling extremely creeped-out.

Some sociopaths are physically violent personalities, while others are no more prone to violence than you or I.

Given this diversity among them, what, then, do sociopaths have in common?

I take a stab, below, at answering this question, which itself isn’t so cut and dried. But what follow are some qualities that I believe all sociopaths have in common.

All sociopaths are emotionally shallow.
While sociopaths don’t have a patent on emotional shallowness (nonsociopaths can be emotionally shallow), they do have this terrain thoroughly covered. All sociopaths, without exception, are emotionally shallow.

It’s not that sociopaths don’t have and feel emotions. They are human beings, inclined as they are to transgress others. They want things. They feel their discomforts, pleasures, cravings.

But what sociopaths lack, fundamentally, is emotional interest in others. They may be interested in what others have [for them]; that is, what others have [for them] may evoke, and even stimulate, their emotions. However, they are not interested, genuinely, in who others are.

The sociopath, for instance, may recognize, and even pay very close attention, to your mood. But his interest in your mood will hinge on how your mood affects his agenda.

He is like the amoral child who, watching his mother and shrewdly detecting her vigilant energy, decides it’s not a good time to lift the five-dollar bill off the kitchen counter. He has read her carefully, and perhaps accurately. But his interest in her state of mind, and emotions, is limited to the advancement of his agenda.

All sociopaths are disloyal individuals.
I see this as a truism about sociopaths. Sociopaths may seem and even act loyal, but only so long as they calculate that the cost of their loyalty hasn’t yet exceeded its benefit [to them].

As soon as the sociopath discerns that the cost of his loyalty exceeds the advantage, he betrays those to whom he’d apparently been “loyal.”

His self-interest, in other words, is paramount, and supercedes his capacity for self-sacrifice.

All sociopaths are habitual transgressors (without meaningful remorse) of others’ boundaries.
Whether calculating or more impulse-driven, sociopaths are habitual boundary violators, without genuine remorse for their hurtful effect on others. Some (not all) sociopaths “get off” on their exploitation—meaning that, for them, the process of exploiting is the motive force that drives their exploitation.

Sociopaths may be childishly fascinated by the exercising of their power to “push the envelope,” to “pull off” capers and dodge accountability.

Their lack of remorse—lack, indeed, of any form of genuine accountability—is one of the perplexing aspects of this personality disorder. And there’s probaby not a single explanation for this.

All sociopaths grossly lack compassion.
A lack of empathy is commonly ascribed to sociopaths, but I sometimes wonder if the sociopath’s lack of compassion isn’t a more germane descriptor.

Part of the problem with empathy is that people view it differently—arguably, there are different “types” of empathy that elude a single, unifying definition.

You will sometimes hear people say about sociopaths that, rather than lacking empathy, they actually use their empathy exploitively. I don’t see it that way. I view a mindset of empathy as the antithesis of the exploitive mindset—thus, someone feeling empathic (by my definition of empathy) could not use his empathy to exploit. That would be logically impossible.

But I think we escape this definitional confusion altogether when we consider sociopaths and the issue of compassion. In this regard, I assert that all sociopaths lack genuine compassion for others.

I’m suggesting that, even more than his empathic deficiency, the sociopath’s gross lack of compassion enables his infamous abuse of others’ dignity and space.

(See an upcoming post, Sociopathy: A Disorder of Compassion, for an elaboration of this idea.)

All sociopaths lack appropriate shame.
Sociopaths’ deficient levels of shame support their exploitive tendencies. Shame gives us pause, and sociopaths do very little “pausing.” Most of us contemplate the factor of shame, or prospective shame, in the decisions we make.

Our automatic, often unconscious review of how shameful we’re likely to feel following a chosen action allows us to think twice before executing it. It gives us room to cancel a plan whose execution we deem, on reflection and in anticipation, risks reigning shame down upon us.

Sociopaths lack shame to fear. Lacking shame to fear disinhibits them from pursuing destructive ideas that the rest of us, more often than not, will “pass” at.

Sociopaths are audacious personalties.
As I’ve indicated in several LoveFraud pieces, there is something audacious about the sociopath. He is prone to behaviors that leave the rest of us, whether as victims or witnesses, shaking one’s head. His levels of gall, hubrus are astonishing.

Where the nonsociopath, as just discussed, will find opportunities to scrap a bad plan, the sociopath is more likely to eschew prudent consideration (and reconsideration) and pursue the flawed plan, anyway.

His audacity—see my LoveFraud piece, The Audacity Of The Sociopath—is a curious and troubling aspect of his personality.

Sociopaths are liars and deceivers.
Lying and deceiving are close cousins, and sociopaths routinely do both. But this doesn’t make them necessary good at either (although they may be). A sociopath may assert, as if he really believes it, that he broke the world record in the mile, but this doesn’t make it a good lie.

The premise is preposterous; and so what’s most striking about the lie is its audacity, not its believability.

Sociopaths often, for instance, defend untenable positions from, it seems, sheer contempt for their audience. Consider this interaction:

Wife: I saw you with your secretary at Chile’s, today, at 12:15. You were kissing.
Sociopath: What are you talking about? I didn’t leave the office all day.
Wife: I saw you. Don’t bullshit me.
Sociopath: Yeah right. Ask Allen”¦we were in a meeting at 12:15. Go ahead. Why don’t you fucking call him and ask him?
Wife: I knew you’d say that. I already called the office. Allen’s in San Diego, and you know that.
Sociopath: You’re fucking crazy. You know what, stop fucking stalking me! That’s your problem. Maybe if you’d stop fucking stalking me you’d actually find something valid to accuse me of!
Wife: Don’t change the subject. You’re lying.
Sociopath: No”¦this is the subject. You’ve got a fucking stalking problem. So let’s not change that subject. You know what, honey? One of these days your fucking stalking’s gonna really drive me into someone else’s arms.
Wife: You were kissing her, John.
Sociopath: You know what? Fuck you. How ’bout that? Fuck you.

Rife with sociopathic machinations, this interaction starts with the assertion and insistence of a preposterous lie, then maneuvers quickly into deflection, gaslighting and other abusive strategies.

In upcoming posts, I’ll extend the list of traits that all sociopaths, I believe, share in common.

(My use of “he” in this article was for purposes of convenience, not to suggest that females aren’t capable of expressing the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)

(This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW)

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I was just reading yesterday a book by a psychiatrist- made a good point re: empathy.

They may have -mean act empathetic, but they are not SYMpathetic.

I plan onblogging on that soon.


“Sociopaths often, for instance, defend untenable positions from, it seems, sheer contempt for their audience. ”


This is sooooo on target !!!!!!! Filled with so much truth down to the exact words I have heard myself .

I experienced your sample dialogue repeatedly and always questioned my own sanity – maybe I was too insecure, maybe I was paranoid, too suspicious – too unforgiving of the first affair.

Even now – he is unable to have a conversation that makes sense.

Last night :

Me “I need to drop son off Friday night instead of you picking him up Saturday a.m. – later in the evening because I have to get daughter to her band trip by 5:00 am Saturday ”

Him: “Oh – it’s OK for you to drop him off when you want to but not OK for me . No NOTICE ?? Seems i deserve notice !!”

ME: ” No – I just got the schedule tonight. I am not asking for myself. – I have to do something for our other child. I just don’t want to leave son in the house alone or drag him out that time in the a.m. when he will be with you Saturday anyway. I’ll handle it if I have to – no problem.”

Him: ” Well it just amazes me you ask me for something but usually don’t even talk to me. I will take him earlier Friday ”

Me : “That won’t really work for me – I have to get his Halloween costume, exchange 2 pairs of pants for 2 that fit him so I need him to go, He has to pick out craft supplies for a school project and maybe even start it -although I don’t expect we’ll get that far in one evening”

Him ” You always have an excuse – ”

Me “No – I am not making excuses. Band is two days this weekend and son is with you this weekend. Next weekend is 2 competitions for daughter and Halloween . The project is due Nov 9 – that weekend before due date he is with you again. I have little time to get the project started and done on weeknights. He has his other homework , CCD and wrestling is starting. Can you just let me drop him off later Friday night or not ?”

HIM: “Stop yelling ”

ME : ” I am not yelling and I am done with the conversation ”


Phone rings ::

HIm: ” You know , I still don’t understand why I can’t take him earlier ”

Me : ” Are you going to get all the things I listed done ? ”

Him : ” Well …no ”

Me : ” OK – I am NOT going through another explanation. I’ll take care of it all myself ”


“Rife with sociopathic machinations, this interaction starts with the assertion and insistence of a preposterous lie, then maneuvers quickly into deflection, gaslighting and other abusive strategies. ”

This was everyday life , Steve – If I caught him lying, I shouldn’t have been snooping, when I found a condom in his pants pocket – a guy was giving them away as a promotion, I found a hotel room key in his pants – “Geez, I don’t know where that came from !!!!! Why are you looking in my pants ?” – I was doing laundry. OW called- “Oh she is just trying to get between us ”

Never any answers – always tried to re-direct it to my behaviors – but now I see it more and it is so DISTURBING to me – it makes my stomach physically hurt to try and process his logic now – and there is no way to offset it.

My only question is, Steve – is it automatic – are the defense mechanisms that automatic ?? – or is it with concious intent to derail us ??? Are they aware they are twisting reality for us??? Or is their reality so twisted ????

Thanks once again, for the education you continue to give us !!!




I forgot to add – the TONE of the conversation – the

CONTEMPT is so very thick in his voice – he even seems to

take the time to enunciate his words so the CONTEMPT comes

through even STRONGER ……

Ox Drover

Steve, your “conversation” with the wife and the P is GREAT! I actually about ROTFLMAO! I think you are missing a great career as a stand up commedian for people who have dealt with a psychopath! Thanks for making my day!


Steve, great post, so very accurate.
You said:
Their lack of remorse—lack, indeed, of any form of genuine accountability—is one of the perplexing aspects of this personality disorder. And there’s probaby not a single explanation for this.

It is perplexing but I think there is a single explanation for this: their sense of entitlement. They feel that they are entitled to do as they please without any consequences. If they please to see you suffer, then they are entitled to see you suffer. That sense of entitlement is what is inexplicable. It really has no sense or logic. What makes them believe that they are the center of the known universe? Why is it impossible for them to even consider that the rest of humanity is not made up of “imaginary friends”? We are real too.

I used to tell my xP, “I’m just a figment of your imagination, I’m not really here. You are actually talking to yourself.” It’s funny because he never responded to this. He didn’t agree or disagree, he didn’t even question why I would say this. It’s like he just took it as a fact. This was before I knew what he was. I wasn’t even sure why these words came out of my mouth. The best way I can explain it, is that I came to the realization that he never once tried to find out if I was happy with my life or asked me if there were things that I would like to accomplish. He treated me like a two-dimensional character with no hopes and dreams, just an extension of his hopes and dreams.


This describes the exp. This one (i don’t want to call him ‘mine’) is not exactly one of the smart ones, or charming to any degree, but as infuriating as any other I’m sure. The conversations are just like that and like newlife said, I never know what he thinks was agreed on in any conversation we have. Then when he makes a move on something its my fault because “you knew” or “thats what you said” or even “now, hb, thats what I told you”. I hate having to talk to him because of these head games. When he does make a direct statement of what he is going to do, he doesn’t.

I would like to give everyone a background of myself and to tell my story but I don’t know where I should post it so as not to take away from anyones article. They are too good and informative for anyone to loose sight of them over me and my story. I will say I have been reading here at love fraud for almost 6 months which has made the roller coaster of emotions and nc so much easier.

Thank you for being here lovefraud and thank you for all the wonderful articles that have kept me sane!


It has been three weeks since the ending of my relationship with a N or S (doesnt really matter as they are both horrible). And I am still in shock about what I have been through and shocked as well to find out they (sociopaths) are all the same. I feel as though have been to battle with some mythological creature or under the spell of one. I went from spending all my time/my everything with this creature to now spending all my time reading these forums, trying to heal myself or figure out what happened.

super chic

Very interesting. I feel discarded all over again! The way their minds work just makes me want to puke. I’m scared I won’t be able to spot one until it’s too late. Thank you for these insights, they are invaluable. It’s like the analogy you used in another article… we’re like a used up piece of chewing gum they spit out.


welcome. that’s what I call mine: a mythological creature from imagination land. I think this description is the most complete and accurate and encompassing way to describe our P’s. They are mythological because they makeup their own reality, pull off capers to keep the story line exciting, grip us in the spell of their drama and take us back to our childhoods when everything was possible. Then, in mythology, there is always a crisis that reveals the mythological creature’s tragic flaw and then someone must be sacrificed for the good of the community. Someone must pay the price to appease the mythological creature/god. A substitute victim is selected. (that’s us, the N-supply) Then they try to kill us because they are entitled to. Besides, as figments of their imagination, nothing that happens to us really matters. We don’t matter.



You name so accurately the mind blowing stunts The P pulls off
I wish I had known this before I fell for the whole package hook line and sinker.

But what sociopaths lack, fundamentally, is emotional interest in others. They may be interested in what others have [for them]; that is, what others have [for them] may evoke, and even stimulate, their emotions. However, they are not interested, genuinely, in who others are.



Hi skylar, and you are right but when one finally does wake up from the “spell” there are no winners or losers, heros or villians…I guess just “awareness” for the one who wakes up. I really dont know? Nothing makes sense. Did I need this experience? And like shabbychic I am scared I will not be able to spot another one until its too late or never have another love again because of fear.


okay, when i stop shuddering, i’ll write something meaningful about this post. for now, the chill up and down my spine says it all.


pilgrimage: i actually said that to the ex-spath/narc more than once!! he WAS a mythological CREATURE … even looks like one with his pointy ears and his pure black lizard eyes. i’m sorry you, too, fell for one of these sub-humanoids. i too spent my entire being caught in the web; then all my time here trying to untangle myself. i have 14 months NC, and the shock you describe endures. it’s hard to wrap a normal brain around such ‘audacious’ behavior.
please stick around and maintain NC. it’s the only way back to sanity. peace and TOWANDA!



You are a hammer that hits the head (nail head that is) every time. I love your mind and mad skills.

I don’t have anything to add but my gratitude for getting to read what you have learned.

As they say in AA: thank-you for sharing.


lostingrief- it is hard the NC rule but to survive, I guess one has too and btw “Towanda” I love that movie!:) I will hang out here and try to take in all the wisdom and healing words you guys have…thank you.


As it turns out I do have something to say:

I said that I love your mind and it got me to thinking.

I feel like I ‘lost my mind’ when I got entangled with a p.

Though admittedly I have always been a more emotional/intuitive person, my intellect a bit out of balance. I never felt so ‘befuddled’ before in any of my interpersonal interactions. But even more so after the assault, my emotional and intuitive intelligences have been working overtime, and my brain hasn’t been working on all four cylinders.

The mind games and gaslighting were so pervasive that I feel like I either unwittingly abandoned my mind as a any kind of help, or it just wasn’t any use– like a computer that got crappy data input.

I really feel relieved and elevated when my gut, emotions, and intellect are all ‘on the same page’.

So though I appreciate-am helped by- the feeling centered posts, the intellectual/solid ‘facts’ and ideas are waking up my brain circuits, my good old fashioned common sense. Helping to mend a giant hole in my thinking cap, if you will.

For me this feels holistic, if that makes any sense. As in I feel whole when all my ‘intelligences’ are working together.

Well, thanks again for plugging up the brain drain.


That’s the EXACT communication I had with the X. Thanks for putting into words.
I experience oceans of emotions about the relationship. Today I’ve been feeling rage at him, so I’m psychically sending my wrath though the ethers in hopes he suffers.



Excellent article. As I read your list of criteria I kept thinking “if I could sum up in one word what the common denominator is for this list, what would it be?” Oddly enough, it wasn’t the word “sociopath’. It was the word “predator”. You average predatory animal in the wild would exhibit every one of these traits (okay, they can’t lie, but they can be deceitful and manipulative through mirroring a prey’s beavior). Which just goes to prove that they really aren’t human.


Congratulations, girl. A year ago you wouldn’t have handled that conversation with the skill you did. What’s that old saying about a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing? Oh, yeah — and we should add “to a sociopath.” Obviously you threw him off his game which is why he called back. Yeah, you still don’t know if he’s going to pick up your son on Friday night. On the other hand, you didn’t rise to his bait and drive yourself crazy. Well done.


pilgrimage: NC is very difficult. and even after 14 months, still sometimes i just want answers, clarification, an apology, a reassurance that he loved me, or i want to rage, or ask questions — did his wife finally leave him, is he still with his new gf and their infant, does he ever miss me. but then, it passes, and the rage at being SO taken and used and abused (it’s taken me a while to accept and own that i let him abuse me) wells up, and i loathe him all over again, and i’m okay.
it’s a journey. not one we asked for, not one we deserve. but already, it’s a far better road than the one i was on with him!



One thing you might want to add to your list of common criteria in a future article is why the mask slips for so many of them at month three in a relationship. I was having drinks with a friend two nights ago who is involved with his second S in a row (obviously he hasn’t learned the lesson yet). When I asked him when the trouble started he said “month three.”

I can remember when I first posted the number of bloggers who wondered if a bell went off in their heads since 3 months seemed to be the common denominator on when the D & D began.


matt: you’re right on; they’re not human. they don’t act human, or look human (when you really get to know them … you can see the scales and the third eyelid and such). i think they should test the DNA of these vermin, or scan their bodies for metals that have no earthly origin.


matt: 3 months, huh? i thought about that, and interestingly, when i moved back to the city to be with him — AGAIN — it was the third month when i caught him in the first lie. hmmm …
is three the mystical symbol of the demon?



Let’s see — Cerebrus, the 3 headed dog guarded the entrance to hell. Does that do it for you?


As I struggle with THE flu, I face my forced loneliness. I realize that I have no one to help me or nurture me through fevers. I continue to try to be a good mother to my kids. A thought creeped into my mind: He should be the one with the flu instead. Immediately, I imagined him sick, running fever, coughing, not able to get up to make himself tea. The tears welled up in my eyes, and so much love and compassion filled my heart that it was almost like I’d never been hurt by him, never been betrayed, never knew that he’s never ever alone… All I thought was – protecting my family. My brain still fails to realize the horrific truth of the disaster that took place in my life: He was never my family. And – his brain continues to drive him to hurt me, reaching for every button he knows I have. What a strange dichotomy. The interaction Steve used is so typical of what I had gone through. Somehow, the tables ALWAYS turned against me. it made no sense to bring anything up. I quickly learned that it was my fault anyway. And it did make sense – that IS so strange.


Matt, YES predators do lie! It’s called camouflage. They behave as if they are human but they aren’t. They are mythological creatures.
The three-headed dog! LOL! I think Medusa is what I see when he’s raging. The head with snakes for hair!
Don’t look directly at him or you will turn to stone.

PInow, it must be the fever affecting your thinking. Is there anyway you could take advantage of this time and go give him a nice french kiss? Make it last as long as possible and exchange as much saliva as possible. Tell him you’re feeling hot and bothered? Then, when you’re all better and you imagine him being sick, it will actually be true.

You’re going to feel better soon. I use 3 supplements that are miraculous for the flu: Gigartina (a red marine algae), Oscillococcinum Flu Remedy, and Echinacea with Astragalus & Reishi. I hope you can find one or more of these to help you.


cerebrus … yes … that will do …



So good to see you here – and thanks for your words. I am getting better at recognizing the behaviors – but my temper still gets the better of me sometimes……still have a lot of anger.

I get so much out of Steve’s writings – I have read soooo many books and sites – but Steve has a way of expressing the mind and workings of an N/S – he’s brilliant , knows his subject and he is a healing soul.

And , MR Matt – how are things with you??????

I don’t see you here much so I am hoping you have other things to occupy you……….


Wow … yes … Steve – how are you able to write this stuff? It is funny but scarily accurate. That is exactly what he did to me … would turn everything around so it was no longer about him and what he did but about the problems I had that were far more urgent and impacting on the relationship much more. Crazy stuff. Crazy Crazy. No wonder I started to believe I was going mad – he was driving me there deliberately – bastard!

Slimone … like you I at first analysed the crap out of his behaviour and read and researched and tried to understand it. But no theory fit it – nothing could explain it and of course he was always full of his bullshit excuses and lies. I think when I realised I couldn’t understand it I abdicated my mind as well and let him do the driving. When I woke up he had blown tens of thousands of dollars of joint money behind my back. But he honestly thought there should be no consequence for it. I told him to go – you should have seen the oscar show he put on – ‘Don’t do this’ – pretending to cry even! I said ‘When should I wait for? Till you bankrupt me and lose the house? Till your behaviour drives me mad or kills me? Did you really think there would be no consequence to this?’

I often likened it to a spell and said to him when I woke and saw it would never change and he would never change ‘The spell is finally broken’ – there definitely was something ‘otherworldly’ about the whole relationship. It felt archetypal – I was always looking for the ‘spiritual lesson’ in it for me. I wish I hadn’t had that kind of learning – could have done without it.

It is so unbelievable to me that we all have experienced these similar things in our own respective corners of the world. And though our stories are very different they are alike in the most important aspects. Each of us at some point was sitting feeling totally alone and totally at the mercy of these bastards who were telling us white was black and night was day and laughing as we sobbed on the floor. TOWANDA! (Love that saying !!!)

The contempt is both present in the physical act of communication and in the implied action of consistently lying and deceiving. That shows more contempt than any curled lip to me. Lying and hiding things from me showed he thought I was not enough of a person to deserve the whole truth and I was dumb enough to buy his distorted version of reality every time he sold it to me. Coincidentally today I was thinking about this contempt implicit in lies – it just shows total lack of respect for the other person on so many levels.
Arohanui = please keep writing – we need your words to heal our wounds 🙂



Good to hear from you. In my world the relationship front has neve been better — newguy (is he still new after 4+ months?) is wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me when I think of the crap I put up with S and how well I am treated by newguy. When I was running down STeve’s checklist I thought S had every one of these traits — new guy is the exact opposite. Starting with the fact that he likes to spend time with me. We’re generally together 4-5 nights a week. No big nights out on the town — just cooking or spending time together. It’s nice not feeling like I’m walking on eggshells and not having to deal with that ill-defined sense of dread where I used to wonder who S was cheating on me with or what bad activities he was engaging in behind my back. As I’m fond of saying these days, “gee, if I had known how easy it was to date someone like newguy, I would have stopped dating Ss years ago.”

As for the job front, still nothing to report. There have been a few nibbles, but everything moves so slowly. The recruiters say things are starting to move a bit in one of my speciality areas, but very slowly. I just find myself getting so frustrated at times. To say nothing of dying everytime I have more money flow out the door and no money flowing in through the door. Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful S didn’t go through all my money and I have some to carry myself with for awhile. But, the idea of old-age security seems to get more and more insecure with each passing month. So, I try to deal with the anxiety by shoving food into my face followed by going to the gym to burn off the calories. Circular logic at its best.

Any progress getting rid of S via divorce court?


This is all so familiar…especially that dialogue, have had so many of those. Most ended with me backing off when he threw a big enough hissy fit that I just couldn’t deal anymore.

I will say that the casual lies that would’ve looked like truth had I not known otherwise were worse. Sneaky little bullets.

Or when I’d call him on a lie and he’d just abandon it and switch to some new version of the story without looking back and expect me to buy it. I’d expect this from a 4-year old, but a man in his 50s…wow.

Great article, thank you Steve.


have you ever considered hanging up your own shingle?

The guy who “saved me” was a lawyer I met in a sushi bar, Greg. He was trying to pick me up I guess. Nice guy, athlete, 50yo, (I thought he was about 38yo) never married. I was still stunned and confused by my X’s behavior and just blurted out my story to him. He said, “Oh, that’s a malignant narcissist.” Then he proceeded to tell me about the woman (lawyer) who stalked him and how he learned to be “boring”. His dad was a P and mom is n-lite (as he called her) Brothers are also n’s but he overlooks it.

He is in bankruptcy law and has his own shingle. He said that in the law profession, knowing how to tell a P has saved his ass many times. The P will come in asking for advice and then do the exact opposite. He has to be alert for this type of behavior so that he doesn’t end up compromising himself because a client thought he could do whatever he wants instead of following Greg’s instructions.

I imagine that as a criminal lawyer you have more than your share of P’s, but your knowledge of P’s could be your ace. Just a thought.


I’ve been reading these posts for some time now and am really grateful to have found this website. The last several years have been absolutely heartbreaking for me because
of things S/N/P in my life have done. I wish I’d known how they react to the setting of healthy boundaries before I’d done so. As what has been done by them has changed who I
am irrevocably and much of it has not been good in the short term. What I do know is that in the long term, if I stick with this process, then I have a clear shot at serenity.

So many of the things that you all have shared have been healing for me just in the knowledge that others have lived through this hell and are working toward healing. Your kindness and regard and support to and of one another is so heartwarming. It’s been an extremely isolated time for me.
Reading the blog articles and your comments have kept me
on an even keel through what has to be undeniably one of the most painful chapters in my life. Thanks for being here.

I wrote a poem tonite because so much feeling about what has happened has needed an outlet for expression. Tears are healing and very cathartic, unfortunately I’m unable to cry.
Writing about this has been helpful and has helped to define
in words some, my experience with them (N/S//P) as what
has been done to my life by them has left little in the way of
what I once called my life. I call this poem REALIZATION.

I have been stripped to the bone
By the words you so casually hurl.
YOU cannot know how many times
I’ve braced against them in the past.
But today is different.
I’ve found something in this wave of grief
I wasn’t willing to discover when grief
Last washed upon the barren shore
I call my life.

It is my self I found.
Through the cruelty of your words
Filled with the only emotion you can afford to share.
Your anger laid bare my aching soul and
In that moment I ceased to care.
Ceased to care as I gathered my shattered dignity
And self-esteem, barely recognizable
After all these years.
Your contempt for me and mine for myself
Is finally enough.

This wave of grief you are
Is no stranger to me, yet unlike the waves
On the sea that recede and bring calm,
Your wave washes continuously over me.
Wave of anger that brings my fear,
Sorrow and regret.
Waves of my own emotions.
Sadly, the only ones left elicited by you.

What is it in your face I scan so desparately for
In recognition? A familiarity no longer there?
With my eyes I search your face, once a beloved
Terrain. Your lips, the line of your jaw, the color of
Your hair and eyes.
Your eyes like empty hallways that echo in their emptiness
And it is always the refrain of contempt in your voice
That sends reverberations of their emptiness through me.
A stranger you are to me and a stranger still am I to myself
For loving one that I now clearly see, will never
Know or feel my love, let alone be able to
Return that love to me.

I am a blind man feeling my way around
Terrain, I once called myself. I’m unable to
Recognize and name the broken pieces of my Self
That I so graciously allowed you to shatter.
And yet who is to blame for my brokenness?
Did I WELCOME YOU into the WHOLENESS of my Being?
Or did you sense, as your kind always do,
Fervent desire for another to create completion?

YOU are only a mirror. One that’s become fogged
With time. Time that entrapped within its reflection,
Desires and hopes I so deeply cherish.
I refused to wipe it clean,
Refused to gaze directly into YOU and see that nothing,
No redemptive value even now remains.

This wave of grief is what you are to me.
This is all that is left of you.
One day you will cease to wash over the shore
Of my Being.
You shall have washed me clean of illusions.
I, in turn, will have discovered my sight, my SELF,
Repaired through painful yet honest self reflection.
No longer will your kind be able to approach
Bearing nothing and taking without any reciprocity.

I WILL SEE you and recognize that which is
Broken and beyond repair, only to turn away
As you approach, eloquent in my silent explanation.
Silent and in strength discovered, through the pain and sorrow
That your kind come bearing.


H.B. Copyright October 2009

Peace and thank you to everyone here walking the path to healing and healthy self love.


thanks for sharing your feelings and welcome to posting on LF.
Anytime you need to share about your experiences we are here to listen.

super chic

keensight, WOW, you just wrote that tonight? I think it is wonderful, your screen name is perfect, you do have keen sight into yoursef and the S. I hope you will post more. Thank you for sharing this, I hope you don’t mind it I copy and paste it into my journal!


Hauntingly Beautiful – well written Keensight – welcome.

Steve, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are so acute, and so funny.

I have a friend right now who is simultaneously extricating herself from a toxic-parents situation and dealing with a new boss who is a raging narcissist. And from both fronts, she brings these stories of her attempts to set boundaries or hold onto her ethics or just her right to think for herself at all. And they’re all alike. Attacking her. Belittling her. Telling her she’s mentally ill. Then throwing in a dose of “concern” about whether she’s sleeping enough or if she’s considered taking antidepressants. And winding up with long rages designed to wear her down.

She’s been working on herself for years, just to learn how to defend herself from parents and a brutal corporate culture at work. Unlike most of us, she can’t get away from the sociopaths in her life (or felt she couldn’t because of ethical responsibilities). But recently she’s moved into a new kind of thinking about what she wants and doesn’t want in her life. It’s kind of amazing to see what that’s done for her. What used to pierce her is becoming noise. Just repetitive performances by people with emotional issues who want to control her.

Formerly all her energy went to strategizing about how to minimize the punishment and developing better self-defense skills for the inevitable daily rounds of personal abuse. Now suddenly she’s beginning to say things like “I don’t want all this abuse of me and other people in my environment” and she’s thinking seriously about where she’s found pleasure and satisfaction in recent years, so she can understand what she really wants in her life.

If someone asked me what “awe” means, I’d probably think about some of the best sunsets I’ve seen. But watching this woman discover this idea of choice is one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen. She’s been coming to me for advice for years. But now I’m just shutting up, because I have nothing to add to what she’s doing for herself.

I’m not sure why I’m telling this story here, except maybe to say that it is possible to eventually see through the flim-flam, even the residue that’s taken residence in our heads. They are the weenies, the ones who can’t survive on their own and have to parasite off other people to survive. If they were involved with us, it’s because we were stronger and more competent and more resourceful. They leave us feeling the opposite, but it’s only because they’ve been draining us or putting us down to make us afraid we can’t survive without them.

That’s the big lie. Not what they tell us about themselves and all their phony emotions or secret activities. It’s what they make us think about ourselves. That’s what Steve’s funny, perfect dialog was really about. A weak, incompetent parasite trying desperately to hold onto its source.

Again, thank you, Steve. I hope you do more radio. I hope someday to see you on Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show. If you ever decide to get famous and need some PR, let me know.


PS — keensight, I LOVE your poem.



WOW!… Exactly!

You have an amazing talent. Thank you for sharing it with us.


I love it here…

I used to write, and write trying to understand. Here, I read, and read, receiving affirmation. How beautiful is that?

Steve… the timing of your article blows me away. Just yesterday, my daughter had me listen to cell phone video recordings of conflicts she’s having with her dad, my ex. There are 64 recordings. She was confronting him on why he hung up on her, and how it made her feel, when the began darting off into different directions.

She’s only 15, but could be a lawyer with her concrete reasoning, and ability to stay focused. As he deflected, projected, blamed, these were like softballs for her (she’s an athlete), and she knows the rules of the game, always aware of every position. She’d catch his lie, and serve it back, demanding explination.

What became profoundly intersting, as he was dodging her questions about “their” relationship, he exposed hidden truths about things he’s done to defraud me financially. He exposed his true intentions regarding visitation and custody. Much of which was lost on my daughter, because she doesn’t know the details of our case. She was quite amused at my reactions to his unintentional confessions. Hehee

When she served back his line of bull, with the force of truth, he regressed to childish taunting, that equaled to “Nanner, nanner, Nanner.” And, he’s a 50 year old man.

As I listened to these, at some point, I began to feel that fog thing. I began to question what I thought I heard. Especially when he validates his claim by insisting one of the experts in our case sanctioned his belief system (the court appointed therapist). My daughter, on the other hand, could freeze the recording, remind me of a previous claim, then start the recording where he contradicted himself. She’s good.

I hope it is ok to print the articles. I want my daughter to read this.

I’ll wait for the ok, before I print.

Thank you, Steve. Wonderfully accurate.


we all know that the P’s are parasites because they take out money, our love, and anything else that isn’t nailed down. Today it occurred to me that they are also parasites of our imaginations. A mythological creature can’t exist unless our imaginations allow him to exist. He needs US to imagine him as he projects himself. Without this validation he doesn’t exist.

Maybe the word parasite is the best description of a P.


Steve thanks for all the fine articles you’ve written. They’ve given a great deal of insight into what was previously obscured about the disorder. I’ve read most of the articles on here from the regular contributors and derived a great deal from reading the posted comments and stories.
Finding the website filled in many gaps because the personal stories illustrate the complexities and nuanced differences in each persons life and how they are learning to speak the language of the sociopath so that they will understand that
Letting go means really detaching from them permanently. Skylar thanks for the offer to listen and the kind comments from everyone else.

Much of my previous knowledge centered around my own codependency issues from years back. Enmeshment and the toleration of inexcusable behavior and treatment provided the need for a foundation of truth about what was mine and
What their issues were. I attended a 12 step program for codependency and learned a great deal from others and biblio
Therapy. I didn’t know much about Narcissism as it is presented here. The closest I got to naming it was reading a very helpful book by an author/therapist by the name of Pia Mellody. The book, entitled Love Addiction, breaks down the
Components of unhealthy relationship dynamics of Love Addicts and Love Avoidants and illustrates how they attract
To one another and what the parties are actually trying to resolve or work out in the relationship.

She focuses on the Love Addict and how the person in this position repetitively tries to get needs met through an unavailable or Love Avoidant partner. I don’t remember the word Narcissist being used, but the dynamics sure do
Describe the Love Avoidant partners.

My first real romantic relationship encounter with a Narcissist left me unable to trust myself to make good assessment of the character of any individual, but in hindsight I know he moved everything along much too fast. Matt was correct when he stated the mask starts slipping at about the third month. I actually felt it in my gut the first time he told what I
Believed to be a major lie, but just couldn’t bring myself to believe someone so romantic and warm appearing would do that. It wasn’t until he later revealed the truth in a cold and brutal way that I got my first look at him with his mask
Down. I’ve had trust issues ever since. Once I knew he was cheating I was outta there, no explanations needed or wanted. I was grateful to get out. Keen sight? Maybe. More like Hypervigilant Sight, but keen sight is shorter!

That was many years ago. I know I have much better understanding about how they operate now. I’ve had to learn through very painful recent experiences that you don’t share what you know about them with anyone, especially another one of their victims. I’d no idea the extent to which they will go to punish and destroy you for this. I am aware now and acutely so. Thanks again for letting me share with you my experiences of this.



“they are also parasites of our imaginations. A mythological creature can’t exist unless our imaginations allow him to exist. He needs US to imagine him as he projects himself. Without this validation he doesn’t exist.”

Wow… OMG! That’s it!

Whew..I’m going to have to ponder this for awhile.





Lost the whole post !!!!!

Divorce has to get back on the calendar – waiting for the forensics report and more info from him – and then he probably won’t pay them and so they won’t release the report.

My lawyer actually got into a shouting match with me last week because I won’t take a crap settlement.

He says it is safer to get out now – with basically nothing.

That my priority should be to just get away from him.

I tell him my settlement has to be a priority because what if I have to chase him for support?

He is self-employed-minimally-so there is nothing to garnish.

Continuing to fight him for years in court -I won’t have money for that.

I am burning out on this divorce but I don’t know what else to do.

any pearls of wisdom-drop ’em on me, Matt.

So glad to hear you are in a good relationship and I’ll keep you in my prayers for the right job !!!!!



Well, it was my turn to lose my whole post. Here are a couple of thoughts on trying to drive this to a settlemtn.

First, what is the expected child support per child per month (X dollars/month times # of months until child is 18) I agree that you will be chasing him for support, but maybe you could make him an offer for a cash settlement for each child up front. To sweeten the offer (in his eyes) offer to discount the amount to present value.

In connection with this, were you planning to try for him to pay for your children’s college tuition? I suspect this falls into the good luck category. However, you might be able to make this work to your advantage in getting him to lump sum the payment — offer to let him off the hook for that ON THE CONDITION that you have a certified check in your hands before the judge issues his decree.

As for the property settlement, how is his restaurant doing? I now you said his construction business was flat-backed and flat-lined. Is the business viable or is it on the ropes like so many restaurants here in NYC? The reason I am asking is that if the restaurant tanks are you on the hook for the debts related to it — especially since he was leveraging marital assets to build the rsstaurant. If the restaurant going to go down and the creditors are going to be seizing real estate, etc, I would grab what cash you can now. Cash can be hidden, unlike real estate. If you can keep him out of bankruptcy 6 months to a year do you think you take another run at him for the summer house and your home? End of the day, you have to decide how much resources it is worth shelling out if the creditors are going to be seizing assets at the end of the day.


Thank you so much Steve. I always get so much from your posts. These traits were VERY validating for me. Bingo times seven!


I don’t know if this will work. It is such a funny song on UTube about letting go of the N. A must see.



I don’t know if this applies, everywhere, but I’ve been told by my attorney that the foriensics CANNOT withhold the findings to the court due to non-payment.

I had foriensics done our mine and my ex’s business, to which the foriensic just copied what I had already produced (in previous posts I’ve explained my hyper focus to detail). My ex had not produced anything, no ledgers, no chart of accounts, nothing other then bank statements. Not even tax returns. The foriensic had to prepare these records based on the bank statements. I refused to pay for this. Now, we need the records. I told my attorney that I had not paid the final bill. He told me that it is unethical for the findings to be held hostage for payment. And, he also told me the particular foriensic was a court.. “whore.” He believes my ex’s father paid him off, and that’s the reason we copies of what I had already produced.

We have to start over with another foriensic. :-/ No matter, I have discovered more.

Anyway, find out what the laws are in your area.

Good luck.


Thank you so much Steve for your post. I can’t express to you enough how your postings help me to be freer each time I read them. The dialouge you presented helped me to step outside of myself and look at the situation objectively. It has been almost 4 years that my SP has been out of my life. But I am haunted by him. I still have these replays of conversations that I had with him in my head and I question myself as to whether I caused it all. I didn’t. I really didn’t. That is what I took from your postings. All of the twisting. Everything being my faut, always, that’s what he told me.

I could tell he was “getting off” on twisting me. I could feel it, but I just couldn’t believe it. A book that has been suggested to me by the members of this site is “Betrayal Bonds” It has been really helping me as I go through and do the excercizes. But I must truly say, your posts help to re-ground me when I get off track. Thank you so much because you are helping me to save my life.

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