A time to prepare, a time to practice and a time to prevail
Writing this post has been mind-boggling. I don’t really do statistics or anything like that, but these lists had me doing some counting and dropping my jaw.
The lists came first and then came the counting.
You’ll read about three challenges and three things we needed—to prepare, to practice and to prevail. And the post ends with three piles of threes. Hey! This post is part 3 of 3. I didn’t plan any of it ahead of time…. The phrase To God Be the Glory comes to mind, and I do love that old hymn.
Challenge #1: The family reunion
During the family reunion in July, my mother-in-law Delia showed her true, sociopathic colors six times, and my father-in-law Andrew showed his sociopathic colors once (although his demonstration lasted a very long time).
A time to prepare, level 1
The first and most important level of preparation came from The Tearing Down events listed in Preparing for The Sneak Attack, part 1 (the flood, the retreat, the letters to Brandon, etc.). Something very big happened each month from January to June, for six consecutive months. Each event took away something that needed to go, moving us from The Way Things Are to A Better Way. And the Lord provided a new, skillful guide to help us, our counselor Matt.
The Tearing Down impacted our home; the way I view myself; boundaries and expectations in our marriage; our time and transportation; the way Brandon views me; and—interestingly enough—our camper, which would serve as our home-away-from-home at the family reunion. The events in The Tearing Down straightened out our physical environments—at home and away from home, our time, our transportation, and—most importantly—our marriage, which resulted in some very important, positive changes in our parenting.
We changed from A Family Divided—made up of separate individuals—to A Family United—a supportive team.
A time to prepare, level 2
What came just before the family reunion to prepare us for all this bad behavior?
♦ July 5: Truth revealed. Brandon’s parents are both sociopaths. Source: Matt, our counselor.
♦ July 6: Truth expanded on/clarified. I found lists describing the characteristics of sociopaths. Source: a Google search on my phone.
♦ July 7: A dream. Brandon had a dream about breaking out of jail, going home and then to a local restaurant where his friends were, and then peacefully returning to jail when the prison guards showed up to get him. None of the people or places were familiar.
♦ July 9: Perspective/encouragement. I read a beautiful prayer written during the Civil War. Source: a devotional book I received at the retreat in February.
♦ July 11: Perspective/encouragement. My close friend Charlene asked the right questions to help me prepare for the family reunion. Source: a true, trusted friend.
♦ July 12: Encouragement/truth. My close friend Isobel and I talked about how God is giving me courage and is calling me to be courageous in speaking the truth. Source: a true, trusted friend.
And there were six…
…the number of months in The Tearing Down
…the number of distinct experiences to prepare us
…the number of times my sociopathic mother-in-law worked her mayhem at the family reunion
And there was one…
…the experienced counselor added to our lives
…the turning point in our marriage (the separation at Camp Charlene)
…the long talk by my sociopathic father-in-law, trying to get Brandon back in line at the family reunion
Challenge #2: The aftermath
After the reunion, the drama and chaos continued. I journaled about six contacts from my in-laws—four phone messages from Andrew, one email from Delia and one envelope filled with sociopathic drama (four pages from her and four pages from him).
This time period gave us lots of practice in three crucial areas: (1) seeing, receiving and speaking important truths; (2) recognizing sociopathic tactics; and (3) establishing healthy boundaries. And we really needed the practice. We really did. Sociopaths are masters at what they do and at making you question yourself. Have I mentioned that sociopaths are very intense, dramatic and don’t take no for an answer? Yep. They push and push and push, hammering away at you, again and again and again, with such persistence that their victims usually give up or give in and say, “Fine, we’ll do it your way.” But we knew we made the right choice. We knew we had to leave Sociopathville—The War Zone—in order to choose peace. We saw the truth about where we’d been all this time and about where we needed to be. Peace matters. Parental approval doesn’t.
So we needed to practice, practice, practice.
A time to practice
♦ July 19: Encouragement/validation. Counseling with Matt.
♦ July 20: Recognizing a sociopathic tactic. Decision: We will not return Andrew’s phone call, and we’re not available to be bought off by a dinner invitation from the sociopaths.
♦ July 21: Recognizing sociopathic tactics. Decision: We will not reply to the sociopathic email.
♦ July 22: Boundary established. Brandon blocked Delia from my email.
♦ Week of July 17 to 23: Boundary established. I unplugged our home answering machine.
♦ August 1/ Happy Anniversary to Us: Recognizing sociopathic tactics. Decision: We will not reply to the sociopathic letters, printed emails, photos or the attempted buy-off.
♦ August 7: Boundary established. Brandon decided that we needed to take down Delia’s paintings from around our home, so I did.
♦ August 7: Recognizing a sociopathic tactic. Decision: We will not return Andrew’s phone call, and we’re not available to visit with the sociopaths.
♦ August 13: Truth/epiphany. Brandon identified his primary Love Language—Quality Time. He’d been mistaken about this in the past.
♦ August 13: Truth. I told Brandon that we left The War Zone and that his mom is The Sniper.
♦ August 14: Truth/boundaries communicated with the sociopaths. Brandon called his parents….
♦ August 16: Boundary confirmation. Matt gave us the proper response when our boundaries are violated by Brandon’s parents. “This is what we talked about on the phone and it’s not okay.” Nothing short of an acknowledgement and apology are acceptable.
♦ August 16: Truth/epiphany. Brandon realized that his aversion to vacations comes from his fear of peaceful quality time. Growing up, those two things never coincided (peace and quality time).
♦ August 19: Truth. I gave up my anger and embraced the truth that the Lord will fight for me. I started sleeping soundly again.
♦ August 21: Truth/epiphany. I shared an epiphany with Brandon about his fear of interactive play/fun (i.e., why he chose parallel—side-by-side—play/hobbies).
♦ September 1: Truth. Brandon admitted that he’s afraid to grieve.
♦ September 2: New beginning/the blessing/the boat. After much research and a number of viewings, Brandon brought home our first sailboat. It’s time for Brandon to experience his primary Love Language—Quality Time—in a non-competitive, interactive way. He’s always wanted to sail, so now we will.
And there were 15…
Six contacts + eight pages + one buy-off attempt (using money) = 15 hits from my sociopathic in-laws.
A Time to Practice began with encouragement and validation from Matt and ended with a blessing—our first sailboat. In between those two very good things, I journaled about 15 incidents of truth, recognizing sociopathic tactics, and establishing new, healthy boundaries.
Challenge #3: Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter
Three days after we ignored his sister Delia’s birthday, we started hearing from Uncle Henry. Coincidence? I think not.
A time to prevail
♦ September 5: Phone message from Uncle Henry to Brandon on my phone. Attempted sneak attack. Response: Silence.
♦ September 6: Email from Uncle Henry to Brandon. Brandon asked for the topic. Uncle Henry replied Family. Response: Silence.
♦ September 7: Revelation. I awoke at 2:30 in the morning. The still, small voice gave me these words: “Those who do evil and call it good are not to be trifled with.”
♦ September 9: Truth. During my morning Bible reading, I read Proverbs 6:16-19, which describes the things that are detestable to the Lord. It matches my mother-in-law. This reading was very encouraging.
♦ September 10: Revelation/truth. After Brandon and Logan went to sleep, the still, small voice told me to get up and research sociopaths. I sought, I found, I printed. I put a set of printouts on my bedside table, not knowing when the right time would come for me to share them with Brandon.
♦ September 11: The sneak attack, the revelation and the truth. Brandon told me this morning that he received an email attack from Uncle Henry. I handed him the printouts about sociopaths and he started reading them. After much discussion that afternoon, we agreed to respond with silence. The Lord gave me our new mantra: You play, you lose. Brandon realized that we can’t attend any of the three upcoming family weddings since they’ll simply be opportunities for sociopaths to attack us. We told our son Logan that Granny (i.e., Delia) is a sociopath and gave him a copy of Lisa Wolcott’s blog to read. I gave a copy of the printouts to my close friend Isobel, who realized that her first husband is a sociopath.
And there were three…
Uncle Henry initiated three contacts with us: a phone call, an email requesting a phone call, and the sneak attack letter (sent as an email).
I was given three revelations from the Holy Spirit.
♦ The truth: “Those who do evil and call it good are not to be trifled with.”
♦ The teaching: The instruction to get up, go to my computer and get information on sociopaths.
♦ The truism—our mantra: “You play, you lose.”
Also, I journaled about how I was shown truth three times.
♦ Through God’s Word: Proverbs 6:16-19
♦ Through a Google search and what I found about sociopaths
♦ Through Uncle Henry’s sneak attack—the truth that he is also dangerous, like my in-laws
As I look at this chain of events, I see the hand of God in so many ways. To me, I see him most profoundly in the foreknowledge and the timing of it all. He knew what was coming, when it was coming, and he knew what we needed in order to experience healing and peace.
We needed (1) to become A Family United; (2) to receive truth and encouragement from many people and places—our counselor Matt, friends, a dream, a prayer written during the Civil War, many epiphanies/revelations, the Bible and the Holy Spirit; and, last but not least, we needed (3) practice at identifying sociopathic tactics, responding with silence and establishing healthy boundaries.
Coming next: In the next post, you’ll find out what happened after we received Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter. The made-up word sparklerama comes to mind.
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: 2 Corinthians 4:6-18
Song for Healing: “The Way” by Jeremy Camp