Theresa Byrne speaks from personal experience as she maps out some of the most destructive, telling signs of sociopaths.
When you meet a sociopath or narcissist, you see someone charming, witty and sure. We fall for the act.
Why am I writing this?
Because I want others to stay safe, sane and aware. We learn from each other’s experiences, and these ‘paths follow predictable patterns. Hey, I teach self-defense and I’ve been played! Even with a background in social work, psychology and defense, I’ve been taken—even by people claiming to be doing spiritual work and leaders in their fields.
I’ve counseled survivors of the aftermath and I’ve been in relationships with narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, energy suckers and toxic people. I have been in their circle of “friends,” their groups; they’ve been my co-workers. I’ve been introduced to them, dated them, and run across them in business opportunities, at networking events and in social media. I shudder to think how crazy they can make your life, how obsessive and dramatic.
For the sake of this article, I’ll use the term ‘path to encompass a wide range of pathologies. It’s a pathology without empathy.
It used to be more common to hear of ‘paths that were men, but in past few years I’ve seen more and more women exhibiting these characteristics. And experienced it directly.
How does it happen? And why does it happen?
With a firm handshake and a confident way of looking you directly in the eye, you feel drawn in. A ‘path is someone with a penchant for funny stories, quick wit, intelligent conversation, and an ability to talk about difficult subjects with seemingly heartfelt emotions. People admire them. They’re warm. And convincing. They’re fascinated by you. They ask you questions and wait for the answers. They listen.
Fantastic at storytelling, their stream-of-consciousness speaking is captivating. If it’s a business connection, it will be intense; a bigger connection than you could ever imagine. They’ll draw you in with how they can help you, bring you to the next level, and generously give you all the amazing contacts they have. You’ll get taken in by the pictures they paint, the possibilities they share.
They’ll tell you about all the fans that adore them, and how many crazy stalkers they have. The ‘path says they’ll help you be a better person. And how they are a better person just from being around you. They’ll fix all your weaknesses, take away all the struggles you’ve felt. All from the kindness of their heart.
And if you’re being romanced by a ‘path, look out. They will appear to be everything you think you’ve ever wanted. They will be the soulmate you’ve always dreamed about, and the answer to all your prayers. They will seem to be your everything, because they know what to look for.
They are nature’s survivors, the chameleons.
Adapted from Confessions of a Sociopath: You would like me if you met me. I have the kind of smile that is common among television show characters and rare in real life, perfect in its sparkly teeth dimensions and ability to express pleasant invitation. I’m the sort of date you would love to take to your ex’s wedding—fun, exciting, the perfect office escort. And I’m just the right amount of successful so that your parents would be thrilled if you brought me home.
Until… you question them. Until you disagree with them. Until you stand up to them. Until you see their true colors. Until you don’t give them what they need/want or you say “no.”
You call them on facts that don’t seem real, facts that seem too farfetched to be real. Stories that seem too crazy to be true often are. You ask them about behavior that doesn’t mesh with who they say they are, or you question their negative opinion about someone or something.
In that moment, if you aren’t a believer, a follower, a disciple, a friend or a fan, then you are an obstacle. They no longer see you as a person. If you don’t buy into whatever they are selling, you are not important and you don’t matter. They need affirmation. Attention. Importance. A stage. And you’re keeping them from it.
Then you will be discarded as so much human trash—a hindrance. Written off. If you aren’t important to them, can’t help them or fall all over them to stay enmeshed tightly in the relationship or the circle of friends, you will be dispatched.
If you can’t admire their pretty colors, these chameleons will turn on you.
And turn others against you. You become less than useless. You become an object, a thing. You will be questioned; your integrity, your motives, they’ll turn anything that happened into you using them. They’ll call you names. They’ll resort to smear campaigns, rumors and triangulations. And it brings them pleasure to do it. They feel vindicated, powerful. They feel a sense of victory.
“I helped you, for God’s sake! Everything I did was for you! You used me!” They’ll scream.
“You were nothing before I came along. I made you! I will destroy you!” They’ll only see their side of the story, any story.
“I did what I did for you, can’t you see that? It was all because I am so kind. So generous. All I do is help people. For their benefit. You are a user, like all those other people. You’re a nobody. You just wanted something from me. You’re just like all the rest.”
It is you who is now called “crazy.” Jealous. Misguided. Delusional. Needy. You’ll be like all those people the chameleon put down. They’ll call you a “stalker” or a “psycho.” They’ll call you needy, unhinged and pathetic. And people won’t see what you’ve seen, so they’ll believe the ‘path.
You’ll be attacked. Either outright or covertly. Covertly only those in the ‘inner circle’ will know who the ‘path is referencing, but they’ll all know. It’s you. Overtly they’ll mention your name as they drag you down to anyone that will listen. You know it, you heard it about others.
With the invention of social media ‘paths can wreak havoc on your reputation without you seeing a word, if you’ve been “blocked.”
At best you’ll just be removed.
At worst, you’ll be threatened with lawsuits, slander, libel, disbarring, unfriended, blocked and disparaged. Mutual contacts will get to bear witness to the ‘path saying cruel things about you. Silly human things like emotions of empathy, shame or regret don’t enter their scene. ‘Paths don’t feel bad. They’ll feel pity, they’ll feel sorry for you, but never empathy.
You may even suddenly find friendships you’ve had for years blown apart by the drama and negativity.
All the while that charming chameleon you first met just smiles at the path of destruction that somehow always shows up around them. Certainly they aren’t at fault. There’s no way they could be to blame. It was they who were betrayed. They are the perennial victims.
That sunshiny chameleon will morph into a very cold, dark, unfeeling shell.
You will see the deadness behind their eyes.
You will see their cunning machinations: lies, deceit and a pleasure in hurting others on purpose. Causing intentional pain just for fun. They do it without a care, because they can’t care. That bears repeating: they don’t have feelings like you or I. Do not imagine you’ll be able to rationalize with them, or get them to “see the light.”
Now you see me, watch out when you don’t.
Learn more about signs of a dangerous relationship here.
[photo: Andi Jetaime on flickr]