The hug request, Name That Tune and The Name Game
In part 3 of this series, How a Sociopath’s Victim Feels, we talked about the recurring, calendar-based macro storms in the sociopathic Family Cycles, and in part 4, we talked about the micro storms or sneak attacks.
One of the most common aspects of sociopathic family life is the customary up-and-down, back-and-forth interactions that vary so dramatically, from the sociopath oozing “I just adore you!” to snarly venom (e.g., “I need to have a word with you…”), from “We’re so thankful you’re married to our son” to “You’re not really a part of this family.”
If you’d like to read more about those back-and-forth victim-forming tactics, look for the Teeter-tottering Games… section in part 1 of my Portrait of a Sociopath post.
The most notable characteristic of a sociopath-victim relationship, in my experience, is the chaotic, unpredictable nature of a sociopath’s interactions with his or her victims—from very attentive/doting (i.e., controlling) to very hostile to very complimentary (i.e., controlling) to very rude to very generous (i.e., controlling) to very detached.
Yes, whenever your sociopath is pretending to like you, via attention, compliments, gift-giving, etc., your sociopath is actually playing a skillful game to manipulate you into thinking the sociopath actually likes you.
Sociopaths don’t like people.
They control people. They toy with people.
They get people to do what they want.
They use people as part of their public persona.
Sunday sneak attack
Here’s a recent example of all of the above (“Sociopaths don’t like people….”).
The first hug request
When my sociopathic father-in-law, Andrew, showed up on our doorstep not long ago, he asked me to hug him for the first time in the 18 years that I’ve been his daughter-in-law. Spontaneously, without thinking, I gave him one. I thought at the time: “How nice. Finally!” It felt good, normal, but only for a moment. Then I felt creeped-out, ensnared, fooled. Duh, sister.
Did Andrew ask me for a hug because he cares about me? No. Did he ask me for a hug because, for all these years, he’s actually wanted a hug from me and he finally got up the courage to ask for one? No. Did he ask me for a hug as a sort of apology for his chaotic, sociopathic behavior in recent months (during a macro-cycle family reunion and aftermath)? No.
Shame on me
Why did my father-in-law do this seemingly caring, warm, friendly thing for the first time in 18 years? He did it to control me. He did it to get what he wanted—him in my good graces. He got the hug. Shame on me. But he didn’t get what he really came for—reinstatement of “the way things have always been” (i.e., us making nice-nice with sociopaths and their accomplices) so my sociopathic in-laws can maintain their public persona, “We have a normal, happy family, and we all get together regularly to prove it.”
Wearing down the victim
Andrew pulled out all the stops—driving 80 miles each way for a sneak attack on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, feigned caring and camaraderie via a hug request, hours of talking to wear my husband Brandon down, plus dramatic emotions to get Brandon to feel sorry for him.
Check this out. During his sneak attack, Andrew accused Brandon of “turning” on him (i.e., betraying or being disloyal to him). What an interesting expression from an abusive father who’s never once been on his son’s side. Hmmm. What do you make of a father who chronically ignored his own parental responsibilities and dramatically demands that his son reward him with loyalty? Brandon rightly describes it as “a remorseless attempt to continue the abuse.” Sounds to me like a sociopath who doesn’t want his son getting so uppity that he thinks he’s entitled to protect himself and his own family from our Friendly Neighborhood Sociopaths.
Name that tune
Call it one of my father-in-law’s favorite tunes; I mean tactics: “The Sociopath’s Loyalty Propaganda” (a la Bubba, our Southern Sociopath in part 2). Let’s have some fun, Peaceful Readers. Did you ever watch “Gomer Pyle”? If you did, say this with me with that good ol’ Southern twang: “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” What an impressive performance—that old favorite, “The Sociopath’s Loyalty Propaganda,” with a lilting descant of “Please Feel Sorry for The Sociopath,” contrasted by the pounding bass line of “How Dare You Think You’re Entitled to Protect Yourself and Your Own Family.”
Shame on him
Siphoning pity from victims is one of the Top 10 Tools of the Trade in Sociopathville, because when we pity someone, we let our guard down.
My father-in-law worked a long list of manipulative techniques during his Sunday sneak attack. Shame on him. Despite his strong sociopathic performance, it didn’t work, but not for lack of trying.
The Hug Incident you just read about left me feeling creeped-out and more. I was angry with myself for being duped, for not being more on-the-ball.
I’ve been thinking about how our family sociopaths have impacted me on a deeper, more long-term level. Here’s what I’ve realized. Sociopaths leave you feeling like they’ve just stolen from you.
What do sociopaths and their abusive tactics steal from us?
♦ They steal our sense of security.
♦ They steal our peace and our happiness, temporarily or long-term.
♦ They steal our reputation.
♦ They steal our confidence.
♦ They steal our trust in people and in our own judgment.
♦ They steal our time, and during certain periods of time, our lives.
♦ They steal our sleep, our energy and our ability to focus.
Perception of permanence—another piece of powerful propaganda
This steady stealing leaves us less capable of protecting ourselves as time passes, further solidifying the Perception of Permanence in the abuser-victim relationship. We feel—sometimes or most of the time—like we can’t get away. That’s how sociopaths want us to feel. But the Perception of Permanence is a lie, just like all of the sociopathic propaganda.
The name game
Along a similar vein, sociopaths are fond of a particular piece of propaganda that I affectionately call The Name Game. It goes like this: “You’re a Smythe” (or whatever the family’s last name is). In other words, “You belong to us.”
In non-sociopathic, non-controlling families, that’s an okay thing to say. It’s probably, actually, a really wonderful thing to say in a healthy family… camaraderie, feeling a part of something good, belonging, healthy connections and strong, supportive bonds, etc. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know about that—where family’s concerned.
In sociopathic families, The Name Game is controlling propaganda that attempts to solidify the Perception of Permanence, so victims won’t get any wild ideas about making a getaway from The Best Family in America—the Super-Stellar Smythe Social System of Sociopaths, Sidekicks and Sub-standard Servants.
When I hear that “You’re a Smythe” garbage oozing out of one of our sociopaths’ mouths, I start thinking “It’s getaway time.” And I don’t mean a getaway to a B&B for a weekend. I mean a getaway from Sociopathville. Say it with me, Peaceful Readers. I’m not a piece of furniture. You don’t own me.
Coming next: Stay tuned for the final post of this series, How a Sociopath’s Victim Feels, which includes a list of sociopath-induced feelings and details about a victim’s isolation.
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 36
Song for Healing: “One Thing Remains” by Kristian Stanfill