Theresa Byrne offers seven situations in which we might fall for a sociopath.
This is part two of a piece on sociopaths and their behaviors; part one can be found here.
Roughly one in 25 Americans is a sociopath, according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door. When you put together the psychopaths, sociopaths, borderlines or attachment disordered, with narcissists (what a weird room that would be) I’d estimate that number coming closer to 15-20 percent of Americans with a disordered pathology of empathy.
From “I Am a Sociopath”: Remorse is alien to me. I have a penchant for deceit. I am generally free of entangling and irrational emotions. I am strategic and canny, intelligent and confident, but I also struggle to react appropriately to other people’s confusing and emotion-driven social cues.
So why do we fall for the act when we know better?
1. Why would you go into business with a chameleon?
They make promises. Not just the regular kind; everything with them is bigger, better, shinier. You’ll be a millionaire. You’ll be a TV star. You’ll be everything you’ve ever wanted!
It’s like the genie in the bottle, “I’ll grant your wishes.”
They’ll have contacts; they’ll know people, very important people. Ones that you haven’t been ready to meet until they came into your life, they’ll tell you that you’re in the “big time now” and you have to “step up your game.” ‘Paths will sing your praises to everyone within earshot and will start building you up in public. They’ll talk as if they’ve ‘discovered’ you.
They’ll be the ones that have a million brilliant ideas, they’ll say they see your gifts and are ready to help you. When they use their logic, it’s hard not to imagine being in business with them; they make it sound like you’d be crazy not to join them! All the things that you find yourself weak at, they’ll pick up those pieces for you and help you find your way. They understand you, they want to help you; they want to make your life amazing because they are amazing.
They’ll speak your language, your lingo and be able to show you what’s missing from your success.
How great does that sound?
2. Why would you befriend a ‘path?
They’re fun. They can be the life of the party, always intelligent, funny, charming and understand a variety of subjects. They’ll let you in on secrets; they’ll pull at your heartstrings with stories of their vulnerability.
They’ll tell you about all the people that have betrayed them, telling you they find it hard to trust.
Had a tough childhood? They’ll find a way to turn around your understanding of yourself, and let you know how amazing you are. You’ll feel heard.
They’ll put poems, flowery compliments and love all over you publicly. Love, love, love.
They’ll tout your amazing talents, and say that they found you. You’ll feel like you are finally getting the recognition you deserve, and have found a true friend. A soul friend. They’ll be in constant contact, always knowing what your day holds and showing you how important you are to them.
And as long as you serve a purpose to them, you are an honored guest at the table. Sure you’ll have to make the food, and clean it up but still you get to sit at the Big Kid’s Table!
You’ll find that you see exactly what you need in them, the chameleon.
3. Why would you date a sociopath?
‘Paths have an eerie way of looking directly at you without blinking. Like you are the only person in the room. The intensity can feel like heat, and many associate it with chemistry. It can either come off as aggressive or seductive, and they are merely watching your face for reactions.
The pathology of their brain is processing information that you don’t know you’re giving off.
They’ll ask questions, looking for clues as to what makes your heart beat faster.
When your pupils dilate, they’ll know they’ve hit the mother-load. They’ll use those clues to get you to let your guard down. They’ll focus on talking about their own vulnerabilities, making promises of love within a short amount of time.
They will compliment you, and tell you how different you are; how all the “others” were never as understanding and wonderful as you. They’ll Love Bomb you (term from the book Psychopath Free by Peace). Facebook messages, tags, public statuses with your amazingness and beauty. They’ll text, message, call and be all over you.
They’ll go in with the “Soulmate” scenario. They will have an uncanny ability to seem like the person you’ve always wanted to be with, and the one you can’t live without.
You’ll hear the words “Me too!” a lot and “We have so much in common!”
4. How do they seem so sure?
They don’t scare or startle easily and there’s a certain attraction to their look of confidence. They seem arrogant, cocky, and sure of themselves. Which is equated with power in our society. We admire them for being so strong, and for being able to walk away from all those other harmful or dramatic relationships.
They aren’t stopped by risks or fears. They are impulsive and will act on the spur of the moment. Also expecting you to do the same, they’ll show you where you could be more courageous. In our society, that confidence equates to knowledge. But truly, this narcissist confidence equates to lack of ability to see themselves as anything other than the star of their own show—the most important person in the room.
They seem to have an endless amount of confidence, and in their heads they are the best at whatever they do.
They don’t put out “tells” or triggers of weakness unless they get very upset.
Ah, but when you go after the facts of a sociopath…
5. Why do you want to fact-check a sociopath carefully? Or say “no, thank you” to them very carefully?
Because they will attack. It’s what they do. Sociopaths will attack you if they think you don’t agree with them, 100 percent. They will not dispute the facts, they’ll dispute you. They’ll call your character into question, all the choices you’ve made.
You must be wiling to “drink the Kool-Aid” when you are in the throng. They will make up outrageous lies, stories that sound too good to be true, and often are. You will be attacked behind your back. You will be degraded for being a fraud, wanting something for nothing, your lack of gratitude, your inability to see what good thing is in front of you (them).
And do not ask for verification from those inside the circle, the followers or friends of a sociopath are almost convinced that the stories really did happen, even if they weren’t there. Coupled with the fact that no one likes to go against a ‘path, they fear their vengeance and what could be done to them.
6. How can they not feel what we feel?
‘Paths brains are wired differently and by having this one piece of information it may save you years of heartbreak or drama. They are built to win, to catch the next target, to change their persona and to morph into the next version of themselves. Nature’s chameleons.
They are built to enjoy the torment they see in others, because they can’t feel things like empathy, hurt, sadness or regret. They have a need to feel powerful and will do whatever it takes to feel it. Hurting others is one way, and it’s wired in them. Watching as they’ve caused someone sane and happy to act miserable and crazy is like candy to a ‘path.
They will often attack or bring down the most positive, successful, happy people they run across because they enjoy watching them fall.
We think that a certain amount of love, patience, understanding and care will help them “overcome” that mentality, but we think like the other 80 percent of the population.
They don’t think the ways we expect them to, they are different beings.
7. Shouldn’t we help them get over whatever caused this behavior?
There is no “getting over” the lack of emotion, there is only risk assessment. Not all of this pathology is caused by an abusive situation, or an awful childhood. Some ‘paths were born this way. They can make excellent trial lawyers, doctors and other profession where staying cool, calculated and cunning are an asset. Actors typically get to put on a new persona with each role and enjoy the roar of admiration from fans.
The only help a ‘path can get is with a trained professional, and even they are at risk for becoming a pawn in the game. I admire those in the counseling profession that work with these human beings knowing they could turn on them at any moment of disagreement. Threatening all kinds of damage professionally and personally if the ‘path feels threatened or seen as an imperfect person.
If you try to “help” a ‘path you will get dragged into the drama and feel drained and listless. Then you’ll need to seek help in books, websites, groups and professionals to get yourself back on track!
All in all, sociopaths or narcissists are looking for their idea of a good time. Which includes a need in their head for total domination of their field, their relationship, their friends, their business, whatever. It’s theirs.
And they love watching other people spin emotionally because it’s fun. They enjoy watching others fall on their faces. For their own amusement. They seek pleasure and attention. They must be the most important person in the game. And it is a game.
They look for the next goal, outcome, or achievement. They are not truly committed to you, or understanding your feelings. They want what they want. They’ll shift and change and recreate themselves to reach a new audience of admirers. And they’ll do whatever they need to get that admiration.
Not you see them, now you don’t.
For other input on relationships that aren’t healthy, please read Thomas G. Fiffer’s article here on the Seven Deadly Signs.
[photo: andronicusmax on flickr]