Boundaries, part 1 of 3

Merry Christmas, Peaceful Readers!

Yesterday, my husband Brandon and I skipped our first Christmas gathering (i.e., nightmare) planned by… (say it with me, please) Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak, my sociopathic mother-in-law, Delia. As we all know, Christmas is the event of the year. We call it Sociopathic Christmas Chaos. If she were capable of telling the truth, Delia would call it My Big, Fat Sociopathic Event.

Remember from an earlier post: “The fireworks will be loud, high and sparkly when we miss our first Christmas this year.” Well, Peaceful Readers, we did it! We enjoyed a peaceful, non-sociopathic day. (Can you see me doing my Charlie Brown-like Happy Dance?) I’ll keep you posted on the post-apocalyptic drama-fest fall-out in future posts.

A different perspective
In part 2 of the last post, Processing the Painful Emotions, we covered some questions and answers. Today, as we approach Christmas Day, let’s think about questions from a different perspective, because those of us who’ve been dealing with sociopaths (or people with other personality disorders) can find ourselves in unnatural, bizarre territory—Sociopathville.

Changing the questions
Brandon and I have learned that we can’t deal with sociopaths in the same way that we deal with normal, reasonably-healthy people. We can’t ask ourselves “What is the polite or respectful thing to do in this circumstance?” We have to ask ourselves this question instead: “Knowing who we’re dealing with and how they operate, how do we need to proceed?”

No, no, no to the ho, ho, ho
Here’s our current events example. For the first time in our 18-year marriage, we didn’t participate in the Sociopathic Christmas Chaos this year. When discussing how we were going to tell Brandon’s sociopathic parents, Andrew and Delia, we didn’t ask ourselves this question: “What would be the polite, respectful thing to do?” Obviously, the polite, respectful thing to do would be to speak the truth in a timely manner, like this: “We won’t be there for Christmas and other holidays anymore. Those events don’t go well for our family. It would be best for us to be removed from the invitation list moving forward. We hope you all have a nice Christmas.”

Polite? No can do
Unfortunately, we can’t display politeness in a timely manner when we’re summoned by Her Majesty, my sociopathic mother-in-law, because we’re dealing with sociopaths. An early decline to the Sociopathic Christmas Chaos would’ve resulted in extreme harassment of our family throughout the month of December via multiple contact methods from multiple sociopaths and their accomplices. Our Christmas and the whole season would’ve been ruined (i.e., controlled) by them, which is exactly what they want.

Two problems
In her article, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” Lisa Wolcott addresses what I call The Problem with Politeness (and its disturbing relationship to The Problem with Pity).

Question your tendency to pity too easily. Evoking pity is a classic sociopathic tool. If you find yourself pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, chances are close to 100% that you are dealing with a sociopath. Related to this: challenge your need to be polite in all situations. Sociopaths take full advantage of our social reflexes. Remember: “No.” is a complete sentence.

Two options
Since we’re dealing with sociopaths, not normal people, we had two reasonable options when we were summoned to the Sociopathic Christmas Chaos, knowing that we wouldn’t be going: (1) say nothing at all, or (2) tell them we weren’t coming literally the day of the event, so our Friendly Neighborhood Sociopaths wouldn’t have time to coordinate and launch a massive counter-attack. We opted to say nothing at all.

Frankie Ann’s “Jingle Bells”
I’m feeling so dog-gone fabulous about a sociopath-free Christmas that I wrote a little ditty. How about a new take on “Jingle Bells”?

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it was to miss their party yesterday!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it was to miss their party yesterday!

Staying home in peace, no sociopaths around,
Sleeping well at night, where all is safe and sound;
Learning to relax, to hope and dream again,
Thank you for the courage that brought the chaos to an end!

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it was to miss their party yesterday!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh what fun it was to miss their party yesterday!

Here’s my advice, Peaceful Readers: Sing it. Live it!

A new way
Maintaining even extremely-limited contact with a sociopath requires a type of communication that some well-meaning, naïve people would describe as rude. It requires extremely pointed, curt, matter-of-fact communication, including the ability to hold up your hand and say no when the sociopath tries to take control of the conversation; I mean power-play. Actually, this type of communication is truthful, and shows strength, discernment, wisdom and respect for all of the people involved.

Spelling correctly
Most importantly, it’s the loving thing to do. Allowing people (including ourselves) to act badly isn’t loving and isn’t good for anyone. I’ve learned the hard way that saying what other people want to hear doesn’t work. Love is not spelled Y-E-S (or N-I-C-E). I think Lisa Wolcott says it best: “Challenge your need to be polite in all situations.” When you’re dealing with a dangerous person, like a sociopath, politeness can be translated “willing victim.”

Right (times two)
One important facet of love is saying and doing the right things for the right reasons. Some people call it speaking the truth in love. And that, Peaceful Readers, is very hard to do when you’re dealing with a sociopath—a professional manipulator with a very controlling and abusive personality, often with whining and complaining thrown in to draw pity from victims as a means to control them.

Best + Sociopath = No
Notice that I didn’t say “speaking the truth sweetly.” Love is truthful. It isn’t necessarily sweet. Love is motivated by what’s best, not what’s easy or what will be well-received. Often, when dealing with sociopaths, the truth is a simple, one-word sentence: No. Sometimes no means “I’m not available for your power-play, manipulation and chaos.” Sometimes no means “I’m not available for your lies.” But—really—the most-appropriate translation for the word no is “I’m done with your garbage. Buzz off.”

Peace to you for Christmas…
Peaceful Readers, I pray that you and your non-sociopathic loved ones enjoy a very peaceful, joyful Christmas!

Coming next: After Christmas, we’ll be taking another stroll down Boundaries Boulevard, where we’ll meet The Essential Relationship Threesome.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: James 1:5, about seeking wisdom

Song for Healing: “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

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