When it comes to sociopaths, education is the key

Lovefraud spent the weekend at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference in Albany, New York. Quite frankly, it was depressing.

This was a conference of worst-case scenarios.

I spoke to a woman whose story sounded like the Clark Rockefeller case, only worse. Her ex-husband was an illegal alien from Germany. He was also a doctor who had a hard time getting licensed because of “missing documents,” but eventually did get licensed. Once he got his American residency and license, he dumped the woman and got their 5-year-old daughter in an emergency custody hearing—the woman believes he paid off the judge. The woman knows her daughter is being sexually abused—she screams when anyone touches her. But the mother has been barred from contact, and hasn’t seen her daughter in seven months.

I spoke to another woman who has two girls with two different fathers. She admits that she has bipolar disorder, but says she takes her medication, and if she starts to feel bad, seeks treatment. The father of the younger daughter, who sounds like a sociopath, convinced the court she was an unfit mother, even though she has custody of the older daughter and everything is fine. The woman is limited to an hour a week of supervised visitation with her daughter, for which she must pay $60. Or, she can see the daughter in the presence of the father. The father frequently calls her and offers to bring the girl over for a visit. She knows what that means—the guy wants sex. “I do it because I want to see my girl,” she says.

The most moving story I heard was presented by Mildred Muhammad, the former wife of the convicted Beltway sniper, John Allen Muhammad, who killed 10 people during three traumatic weeks in October 2002. I didn’t know this, but the case was originally a custody battle. John Muhammad had kidnapped the couple’s three children and threatened to kill his wife. For months, Mildred Muhammad hid in a women’s shelter and did not know where here children were. She received little help from authorities. Eventually the kids were located, custody was given to the mother, and authorities helped her flee across the country to the Washington, D.C. area. John Muhammad later followed. Mildred Muhammad says his intention was to shoot her, but make it look like just another random killing.

Lovefraud workshops

Dr. Liane Leedom and I both presented workshops at the conference. Dr. Leedom spoke on Addressing the needs of genetically at-risk children. She explained that the temperamental traits that lead to sociopathy were highly heritable. If a parent has had a child with a person whom he or she later realizes is a sociopath, they need to do their best to provide parenting that may overcome the genetic predisposition.

I presented a workshop called Love fraud and how to avoid it. I explained the traits of a sociopath, how sociopaths seduce their victims, the warning signs that someone may be a sociopath, and the dangers of Internet dating. I could tell by the nods of people in the audience that they had experienced what I described.

High school students

Before the conference, I invited some friends to hear a rehearsal of my presentation. Among them were two women who were happily married and lucky enough not to experience what I described, although both of their daughters had been involved with guys who sounded like sociopaths.

Two other women were teachers who worked in local high schools. They thought my presentation was something that their students needed to hear and invited me to speak to the kids.

I’m going to do it.

My message will be, if you only learn one thing about psychology, learn about sociopaths. Understanding that these people exist, and knowing the warning signs of sociopathic behavior, could save their lives.

I’m sure all of the victims at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference wished they had learned about sociopaths in high school.

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19 Comments on "When it comes to sociopaths, education is the key"

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A few years ago I briefly became involved with a very sweet, kind, funny, witty, creative man. He adored me; I delighted in his charm. And then, in a situation of small stress, he became a nasty, insulting, threatening person. I wondered what on earth was going on.

A week or so later, in a bizarre event, he got up, walked to a corner, turned his face to the wall, and folded into a fetal position. Several minutes later he got up as if nothing had happened and challenged me while I was puzzling over what I had seen. Several more things happened over the following weeks, including me discovering notes he had written to himself about when he had last taken the trash out and what other chores he should do. He lived in a studio apartment with one trash can — it wasn’t like one should write notes to oneself about whether the trash can was full. I asked him some questions: some answers were clear, some were bizarrely disconnected from reality.

Many years before I had researched multiple personality disorder (DID in the DSM-IV), and I went back to the research. I concluded that I had met a very troubled person whose issues went way beyond what I could heal.

But I cared about him — at least the part of him that I had come to love. I had to accept that the “individual” I loved was not the whole picture, and that I had no capability of dealing with his fractured personality and all the other issues that went along with that. I had no money, no insurance, not even a formal role in his life. With tears, but with resolve, I had to choose to let him go. A very, very hard time, but it would have been my own sanity at risk if I had tried to stay with him.

With your ex, it’s not such a clear-cut mental dysfunction, but you have to look at it the same way. This is not the person you would hope for, and truly choose to love, now that you know the facts. He can’t give back to you in anything like the way that you give your love.

Good for you for being strong. And, yes, you are fabulous!


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