Category Archives: Dealing with Sociopaths
The old saying “if something seems too good to be true it probably is” is difficult to apply to assessing whether or not someone you’re involved with is a bit off because sociopaths are great at discouraging communication with accurate sources. There’s always a good explanation for why some guy has 4 ex-wives or can’t keep a job and if they play the game well you’ll probably find yourself feeling sorry for him and thinking that those awful ex-wives and bosses are the ones in the wrong. There’s an explanation for this called the Just-world hypothesis which states that we tend “to attribute consequences to, or expect consequences as the result of, an unspecified power that restores moral balance”. We don’t want to believe that there are bad people out there.
Some people have great intuition when it comes to picking out someone who has intentions other than what is immediately apparent based entirely on a vibe they get. I’m not one of those people at all, I tend to side with facts over feelings which is helpful most of the time but sometimes lands me married to a sociopath. When I divorced mine, I had several people tell me that they never felt right about my husband, that something was off but they couldn’t put their finger on it and didn’t want to tell me.
When my ex-husband was in town last week, I brought him to my daughter’s preschool when we dropped her off. One of the other mama’s noticed something seemed off with him and asked me who that person was. She said there was something about his eyes that seemed very unusual. I was surprised someone could pick this up from being around him for just seconds.
I read a great book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker who discusses the importance of going with these tiny little observations we make but write off: “We don’t have the sharpest claws and strongest jaws–but we do have the biggest brains, and intuition is the most impressive process of these brains. It might be hard to accept its importance because intuition is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.”
De Becker says that living in the moment and analyzing all of the present circumstances can help up tune into this intuition: “All focus on anything outside the Now (the past, memory, the future, fantasy) detracts focus from what’s actually happening in your environment”. I have learned to apply this and the “looks too good to be true, it isn’t” rule to situations and can pretty accurately predict a scam. It’s easier to figure out situations than people by leaps and bounds. People can justify things that seem off.
If you’re friends tell you someone seems off, if they say someone seems like a creep, it would be doing yourself a huge favor to check out some sources. We live in the golden age of accessible information, it would be easy to get a hold of someone’s ex or sister or even a friend on the facebook and ask them a few questions before you get too involved with someone, especially if there are feelings or money on the line, whatever is important to you. You might come across as a lunatic but you’re the most important person you need to look out for. People are surprisingly understanding and helpful. The best resource you have when dealing with a potential sociopath are people who have dealt with him in the past. In retrospect I had all of the indicators that something was not right but chose to ignore them.
My ex-husband just left town after visiting with us for four days. It was the first time since we got divorced and he moved to a different city that he had been back.
We had a great time with him! He didn’t eat or terrorize our baby, he acted as sweet as he could, he sat next to her at restaurants, taught her how to throw sugar packets at mommy’s face, played in the leaves and at the park and acted just like any other dad.
When he left my daughter asked me why he moved away from us and why he doesn’t live here. This is the hardest part about everything, having to explain to her what went on without sugar coating it or villainizing him. I appreciate the effort he puts into being sweet because I know that he doesn’t get to that point the way most of us do. I’m fortunate that he doesn’t feel like he needs to put on an act with me and I can see what he’s really like. He’s certainly not bad, he’s just flat. He does not get excited about very much but it also takes a lot for him to get upset. When other people are around he becomes an actor and creates a custom fit personality for whoever the audience is. He can be the life of the party, a go-getter, snooty, trashy, anything you need. It must be exhausting. This is all hard to explain to a 4 year-old.
People who know what goes on ask me if I worry that my daughter will turn out the same way. She certainly has some of his traits like his sense of humor she’s greedy with her bacon but her personality is very concrete. I have been around children who I am so sure will grow up to be sociopaths although I would call them that as I see them because I think this shit starts way before the age of 18. These kids look at people like they are things they can get something from and can switch emotions at the drop of a Kanye West hit song because they haven’t learned the fine art of faking it yet. They have an uncanny adult-like feel to them when you talk to them. So far it appears that my daughter has more empathy for others than my ex-husband and I put together. When she was a year and a half old my dad shoved his hand in the mouth of the pumpkin she had carved and pretended it bit him. She went into hysterics, I thought she was terrified of the pumpkin but she was more concerned about my dad’s hand. She looked at his hand and then went right up to the pumpkin to see if the finger he was pretending to be missing was in the pumpkin’s mouth. I don’t know much about child development but I don’t think you can pick up on empathy at that age. I think she was born with it.
I am very happy with how my broken little family gets along. It takes effort on everyone’s part, ex-husband pays his child support and takes time out from his busy day to make time for his far-away family and I have had to learn not to get upset by the things he does/did that really don’t matter in the end.
“Emotions don’t have any power unless you attend to them.”
Doctor Newman says the reason that psychopaths don’t act like us is because they have an attention disorder. They hyper focus on one thing and ignore all of the other information that is coming their way, like other people’s emotions and reactions and even their own. Psychopaths have emotions and consciences. They are too caught up in trying to get whatever they want that they are unable to pay attention to them but “If you can get them to pay attention to this important information they’ll use it.”
He is very hopeful about treating psychopaths by redirecting their attention early on. I like his idea but I wonder if having more information is just going to make them better at what they do? With the way the world is going, I think that those who have low empathy are going to be more at an advantage than a disadvantage. I like Dr. Newman because he is taking the evil stigma off of these types and offering a method to broaden their tunnel vision, should they want to do so.