How a sociopath’s victim feels, part 1 of 6

Shocked, sick and broken

What do a roller coaster, a funeral and a report card have in common? You’re about to find out.

Have you been a sociopath’s victim? If so, you know how many emotions you’ve felt in this strange, chaotic, painful, lonely, exhausting relationship.

The roller coaster
Emotionally-speaking, it feels like riding a roller coaster in the dark. You’re strapped into an uncomfortable seat for your protection, and you never know what’s coming next—high, low, fast, slow, smooth, jolting, exciting, frightening. And you don’t know where or when each ride or encounter will end until it does. Then you stumble out of your seat, unbalanced, bruised from the seatbelt, feeling like your brain and your body have just been shaken around in a snow globe by a crazy person. You may even feel like throwing up.

One of the most common feelings is total shock. Brandon and I frequently look at each other on the way home from an extended family gathering, saying “Can you believe she said that?” We spend the entire ride home (75 minutes) trying to process and detox from what just happened. The processing and detoxing sometimes go on for many weeks afterwards, while the dread before each event can press on us for months.

Throw-up and a funeral
Check out this bizarre encounter at Sadistic Shelly’s funeral. (Sadistic Shelly, the poster child for HPD, was my husband Brandon’s older, very-abusive sister.) My mother-in-law’s best friend, let’s call her Elizabeth, came up to me in the church foyer before the funeral and gushed on me about how wonderful it must feel to be so loved by my mother-in-law. I’m sure I had this bizarre, puzzled look on my face, as I awkwardly smiled and maybe nodded my head. I can’t even remember if I said anything. I was so completely disgusted by her comment—sincere as she was—that I felt like throwing up right there, all over the carpet, my shoes and everything. I felt physically sick.

And the throw-up went both ways. I felt like someone had just thrown up all over me.

Brief and disturbing
Why was this brief encounter so incredibly disturbing? My sociopathic mother-in-law, Delia, had terrorized me for more than 15 years at that point, including treating me like the girl who stole her boyfriend for the first five years of our marriage. Ewww. She had gossiped and lied about me tirelessly with her gang of accomplices, The We Hate Frankie Ann Crew. I don’t have the foggiest idea what Delia said about me to her friend Elizabeth. If she said anything nice about me, it was only to make herself look like an adoring mother-in-law, all evidence to the contrary.

Precious Marie
Then, in true sociopathic fashion, during Delia’s speech at the funeral luncheon in the church fellowship hall, my mother-in-law introduced the precious lady, Marie, who had coordinated and served all the food, describing her to the crowd as “the ugly one over there.” You should have seen the humiliated, horrified look on Marie’s face. That’s the way Delia rolls. If you show yourself to be an honorable person, she kicks you in the teeth and throws you into shock.

Ouch. Enough of that funeral stuff. Those memories hurt.

Let’s change gears and look at families and sociopaths from a School Days kind of perspective.

The sociopath’s family life report card
I don’t know how your school experiences went. Mine were pretty good in general. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that I totally loved grammar. Yes, you can call me Grammar Geek any day and it won’t hurt my feelings. I learned the basics, made good grades and didn’t get in any serious trouble.

Peaceful Readers, some of you grew up in a family with one or more people with personality disorders, maybe even a sociopath or two. Let’s look at the reason for family life and put our sociopaths (and similar, personality-disordered kin) to the test.

What is the family’s purpose?
The family was created as the essential, cohesive group
needed to enhance life by providing
(1) a safe, nurturing environment to sustain and grow that life,
and (2) the people and the place to experience, practice and learn
how to live the way our creator intended—
giving and receiving love and truth (simultaneously).

Love without truth fails. Truth without love fails. That’s a philosophical discussion for another time and place. Or, if you’re interested in diving into it, I highly recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s masterpiece book, The Meaning of Marriage.

How would you grade your sociopath in those Family Life areas? Here’s how yours truly grades one. I’ll call this imaginary student Susie Sociopath.


The Sociopath’s Family Life Report Card

School: Family Life Academy
Student: Susie Sociopath
School Year: Every Single One
Assignment: Motherhood

Family Life Subjects
Provides a safe environment: F
Provides a nurturing environment: F
Sustains life*: F
Grows life*: F
Gives and receives love: F
Gives and receives truth: F


The justification for the grades in most subjects is obvious.

*Why the failing grades in Sustains Life and Grows Life? While the children of most sociopaths are fed, clothed, grow up and live to tell their disturbing tales, I justify giving Susie Sociopath an F in both Sustains Life and Grows Life because we aren’t just physical bodies. We’re emotional, social, spiritual beings, and much more. Since the emotional, social and spiritual needs of Susie’s victims were subjected to chronic abuse (not to mention their physical bodies in many cases), Susie gets an F. A big, fat, flying F.

Sociopaths’ children—the ones chosen as the designated victims—don’t thrive during childhood. They just try to survive, all-the-while feeling catastrophically broken.

Coming next
In part 2 of this post, we’ll dive deeper into the subject of parents and what their job assignment was. Some passed. Some failed. Some excelled. Some barely slid by. And some did a lot of damage. We’ll also meet a redneck sociopath named Bubba. He may remind you of someone you know, or someone you used to know.

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: Psalm 46

Song for Healing: “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman

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