Portrait of a sociopath, part 1 of 4

The basics

Looking below the surface
In this post, our portrait of a sociopath is more figurative than literal, because sociopaths look like we do. The ones I know dress well, speak well, smile well, are well-educated, participate actively in their church, do good things in the community, and are quite skilled in the chatty/friendly/magnetic personality department. Sociopaths don’t have a particular look, physically-speaking. They look like us.

Let’s dig deeper.

Reading Lisa Wolcott’s article, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” gave me the insights I needed to move forward with information and confidence. I’ve read it multiple times, printed it out, shared it with my husband Brandon and with several close friends, and it’s still my go-to article on this subject. Read it today.

Sociopaths aren’t what they appear to be. What you see on the outside doesn’t match what’s on the inside at all. The casual observer thinks very highly of your sociopath. Most people believe your sociopath to be an accomplished, caring, vivacious person, but they don’t have any idea who your sociopath really is.

The Titanic
Let’s think about sociopaths like the Titanic. Beautiful. Stately. Impressive. Very full of themselves. Puffed up, you could say. But the truth and the flaws are catastrophic. Dangerous. And, for some, deadly.

After the Titanic hit that iceberg, the danger was evident below the surface, but no one could see it. All that the passengers could see was the same strength and sparkle they saw the day before. So they kept drinking, dancing, laughing, sleeping, gliding through the water, believing that everything was just fine. Perfect, even. Unsinkable.

Here’s the thing about the Titanic. It was dangerous before it ever left on its maiden voyage because of its hull, its insufficient life boats, and its lack of safety training. What made it dangerous was this lie—the lie that it was unsinkable. That lie led to other lies, like the lie that they didn’t need enough life boats for all of the passengers and crew, and the lie that they didn’t need to conduct safety training. Lies multiply.

Your sociopath is just like the Titanic: puffed up, dangerous and filled with lies.

If you’re dealing with a sociopath, it’s time to gather information, look below the surface, and prepare for the battles ahead. When you decide to walk away peacefully, the sociopath in your life won’t take that lying down. No way.

A person, not a possession
As a matter of fact, refusing to take no for an answer is one of the hallmark characteristics of a sociopath. They have to win. If they want it, they have to have it. And the it that your sociopath has to have may be you, because every sociopath needs someone to hurt and control. That’s what they live for. But you aren’t a possession or a pawn for a sadistic nightmare to toy with. You’re a person.

You. Are. A. Person. A person who needs peace. A person who’s on a journey to experience peace. A person who’s choosing peace. Those are concepts that a sociopath doesn’t understand.

Cat and mouse
A sociopath is like a cat toying with a mouse. If there’s a sociopath actively impacting your life, you’re either another cat—an accomplice in the sociopath’s gang or you’re the mouse—the target/victim. It’s no fun for the Top Cat to play with a mouse that’s dead (i.e., no longer in the game). It’s much more fun to play with a mouse that’s struggling to get away, running, panting (do mice pant?), scrambling, frantic, hurt, confused….

Teeter-tottering games, the Hooking Pattern and the gang
That’s why sociopaths employ the constant teeter-tottering games of niceness and cruelty, hateful “honesty,” asking questions to appear interested in you (in order to use anything and everything you say against you), making fun of you, lying (in a variety of ways, including when they say “I love you,” “I miss you,” etc.), gossiping, name-calling, trying to buy your time and attention with gifts, starting arguments with you for sport/entertainment, complaining constantly to make you feel sorry for them, insulting you publicly and privately, with flattery and compliments thrown in for good measure, pretending they’re the victims, etc. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Sociopaths seem to know instinctively how much abuse and how many “good deeds” to toss at their victims to keep them on the hook. My mother-in-law’s Hooking Pattern involves making nice-nice with one of us while attacking the other one of us for months or years at a time. She’s never attacked us both simultaneously. That would endanger her well-formed and controlled family system. When my husband Brandon’s not being attacked, he feels relieved, and vice versa.

You’ll also find that some sociopaths gather and train a gang of accomplices so their gang can blast the chosen victims as a group. Strength in numbers, birds of a feather flock together, and so on. When the gang/accomplices/minions believe and dutifully recite the sociopath’s lies, the sociopath—our Top Cat—gains more power, validation and attackers.

As a matter of fact, the sociopath claims to be innocent of all the hateful things the accomplices do—the things that the sociopath role modeled for them to do, trained them to do, and celebrates with the accomplices for doing. Your sociopath, the Top Cat, can be very much like a mafia boss.

Sociopaths are experts at doing evil. What’s at the heart of all evil? Lies.

The lies
What are the lies behind all of this? You know them…. The lie that you’re bad and they’re good. The lie that you’re trouble and you deserve what they’re doing to you. The lie that they’re smart and you’re stupid. The lie that you don’t matter….

Your healing comes from the truth.

Until next time
Well, Peaceful Readers, I needed to split this post into four parts since I had so much to say about my in-laws. Same diagnosis—sociopath. Very different flavors.

If my mother-in-law were a dessert, she’d be French Silk Pie. Very smooth. Ahhh, yes. Decadently, deceptively smooth and very bad for your health.

My father-in-law? He’s Rocky Road.

Stay tuned.

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 23

Song for Healing: “How Sweet the Sound” by Citizen Way