By Joanie Bentz, B.S., M.ED, BSC/MT
If you have had the misfortune of dealing with a sociopath in your life, you are well acquainted with many of their abuse strategies that left you feeling you are like a deer in the headlights, taken by surprise and knocked off your feet.
However, there are times when sociopaths do not come straight at you on their own, but employ third parties to carry out their control tactics to ensure you are complying with their demands on a continual basis. This is called abuse by proxy.
Why does the sociopath employ third parties?
There may be several reasons why the sociopath doesn’t use direct tactics with you. You may have inflicted narcissistic injury by calling the sociopath out — which is interpreted as a direct attack. Perhaps you are catching on to the sociopath’s schemes, and blowing the cover of the false image projected through pathological deception.
These accomplices may be unaware that they were recruited for the purposes of harassing you, but some, the flying monkeys, may be more than willing to carry out the sociopath’s manipulative machinations.
Others, on the other hand, have no idea that they are unwitting henchmen in the sociopath’s scheme to enact their revenge upon you. And some may know it is wrong, but still serve the sociopath out of fear or perceived familial obligation.
Let’s examine ways that a sociopath engages in abuse by proxy:
1 . Constant court battles
Seen frequently in divorce cases, the sociopathic ex-spouse continues to petition against you in court for years after the divorce is over. In this way, the sociopath uses the law and the system to gain supply. When the ex-spouse happens to have disposable income to continue this charade, it can go on and on without an end in sight. Usually it is over modifying custody orders for financial gain and/or to win 100% custody. These battles having nothing to do with the welfare of the children. It is all about winning, and gaining additional source of supply.
2. Friends and family
The sociopath will manufacture triangulations and see who will bite the worm. Usually, friends and family never hear the truth and succumb to the sociopath’s lies and gossip about you, and in turn, become abusers as well.
The sociopath will initiate an aggressive smear campaign against you, especially when you are breaking free from the fog of cognitive dissonance. This is a particularly sadistic behavior indicative of Machiavellianism and commonly seen with the Dark Triad sociopaths. Dark Triad refers to someone who has the personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. It is referred to as “dark” due to the malevolent nature of a person with these three traits.
3. Law enforcement
Also seen often in domestic situations, the sociopath may contact police over trivial matters and false allegations with the intent of provoking social sanctions against you. This is particularly difficult in that you may have go to extreme financial and emotional lengths to defend your good name. Some sociopaths will even file a false order of protection against you, to create a record of abuse that will remain searchable in the system for years.
4. The children
If the sociopath is married or divorced with young children, they will be used as leverage against you. The sociopath will attempt to alienate the children from you by exclusion, undermining and manufacturing chaos. The sociopath will erode the children’s positive bonds with you, so that only the sociopath is viewed as the balanced, loving parent.
5. The clergy
Leaders of the church are particularly vulnerable to manipulative schemes by the sociopath. The sociopath can appear “concerned” about your mental health and attempt to convince the leaders that you are in need of serious spiritual help. We can only hope that the clergy can discern the truth of the matter, and discover that it is really the sociopath using projection as a tool to deflect away from their own disorder.
Abuse by Proxy seems more credible
There are times when the sociopath is not very successful in abusing you directly. Many covert narcissists need third parties, because let’s face it, they are not too creative. They are one-trick ponies. They are fully aware that what they are doing is wrong, and they proceed to hide behind others to follow through with their abusive dirty work. This makes them feel better about themselves, since the possibility of you being condemned by others seems far more legitimate and valid. As long as they are obtaining supply, the empty hole inside of them will continue to be filled, at all costs.