Remember, part 1 of 2

The bit

Well, Peaceful Readers, I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned a lot since I began writing this series about sociopaths. This two-part post—Remember—will be the final post in this series.

We’ll encounter some more sociopathic behavior, we’ll see how it matches up with what we’ve learned, and we’ll review many of the core truths that we’ve learned about sociopaths in this first series of Choosing Peace.

And we’ll remember… who we’re dealing with, how they operate and how to respond to their sociopathic ways.

We’ll remember these three truths:

You play, you lose.

Those who do evil and call it good
are not to be trifled with.

Stay away and pray.

When, what and why
I understand that you may not be in a place where you’re the least bit interested in praying for the sociopaths and their accomplices. I get that, big time. Pray for yourself and for your own healing.

As you heal and experience your new life with No Sociopaths Allowed, someday you may feel ready to pray for the sociopaths and their accomplices. We don’t pray for God to bless them and their evil ways. We pray for them to see the truth of what they are and what they’ve done, and we pray for them to seek true healing—so the evil will end.

One bit or another
The subheading of this post, The Bit, could be taken several different ways. Sometimes we call a comedian’s or performer’s act, mannerisms or shtick his bit. And sociopaths are definitely professional performers, regardless of their chosen career paths.

In this post, The Bit refers to a strange gift.

White elephant gifts and games
Think about the funniest gift you ever received (whether it was meant to be funny or not)….

Through the years, I’ve enjoyed many different Christmas gift-giving games with groups—church groups, work groups and ladies’ groups. Some of the most hilarious gifts come from White Elephant games where people bring various bizarre items from home and wrap them. Some participants in the game get toilet paper, others get old shoes, records or VHS tapes that they can’t play because the technology is so old, car parts, velvet Elvis artwork, etc. The sky (or the junk room) is the limit.

If you were going to a Christmas party with a White Elephant gift game, think about something strange or funny that you could bring. Is there something in your home that you’d like to get rid of? (Don’t say “my spouse”—too difficult to box and wrap. Ha!)

The gift
Speaking of gifts, have you ever received a gift that left you speechless—not in a good way?

A number of years ago at a family reunion at Uncle Henry’s ranch, he gave an unusual gift to each family there—an antique horse bit with a message tied to it.

Brandon mentioned it one weekend in January as a classic example of forced teaming—one of the warning signs for violence (i.e., sociopaths). Even though the horse bit had been hanging on our large gas fireplace key for years, I’d forgotten about what it said and where it came from. It quickly and silently morphed into a part of our home’s décor. I needed to look at it again and spend some time reflecting on what it really means.

The horse bit isn’t really a gift. And it isn’t just an unusual, decorative antique. It speaks lies. Many, many lies.

The message
What do you think of this message tied to Uncle Henry’s “gift”?

This is a snaffle bit. This type was used as part of the harness of pulling teams.

♦ Strong and simply made
♦ Functional, not fancy
♦ Different parts with different functions work together as a unit

This bit seems representative of the Douglas Family and its heritage. From rural and agrarian roots, this family has always worked; headstrong, but domesticated enough to take the bit; goal oriented and, when put to the task, will pull like [expletive].

When we received these horse bits at the family reunion years ago, I noticed some strange looks on people’s faces after they read the message—furrowed brows that communicated perplexed thoughts. Huh? What is this about? Uhhh, I’m not sure how to respond to this….

Matching game
Let’s think about this gift in light of the first three Red Flags for Sociopaths from The Sneak Attack.

Red flags for sociopaths
In her article, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” Lisa Wolcott shares warning signs for violence… “a menu of sociopathic characteristics” from a book she recommends….

1. Forced teaming (i.e., Crashing a problem)
Sociopaths lie to their victims, claiming to have a predicament or problem in common with them.

2. Speaking in “we” terms
Sociopaths use the word “we” to manipulate their victims and pretend to be connected in some way.

3. Charm and niceness
Sociopaths use charm/niceness to manipulate their victims and “to disarm their mistrust.”

Let’s focus on the last paragraph: “This bit seems representative of the Douglas Family and its heritage. From rural and agrarian roots, this family has always worked; headstrong, but domesticated enough to take the bit; goal oriented and, when put to the task, will pull like [expletive].”

I’ll make it short this time, Peaceful Readers. (Don’t fall out of your chair.)

Forced teaming: “When put to the task” can be translated “when we have a problem” or “when we face a task that must be completed” (i.e., forced teaming). The extended family is being likened to a team of horses. The horses are tied together by their owner and do not have any choice in the matter. They are physically and psychologically controlled by their owner. In my book, this is not a good thing where people are concerned.

Speaking in “we” terms: Uncle Henry didn’t use the word we, but “this family” = “we.” Actually, the last paragraph is one big, fat sociopathic “we”-statement. The “domesticating” of horses is called breaking for a reason—just like sociopaths live to break/control their victims. There’s one particular phrase that I find to be extremely disturbing: “…domesticated enough to take the bit.” Could that be translated “naïve enough to be controlled” or “well-trained enough to embrace the role of victim”?

Charm and niceness: The message can be summarized like this: “We work hard, we work together, and we get the job done.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it. Sounds really nice. But is it true?

The first lie
Uncle Henry’s message reminds me of this part of The Sneak Attack, part 3:

The New Recruit waxed eloquently about the “family fabric” in the first paragraph that we examined in the last post, implying poetically that the extended family is something to be preserved, protected and cherished. And that’s where the army’s roadblock stops us dead in our tracks. If “the family” is worthy of preserving, protecting and cherishing, why wasn’t Brandon worthy of those things? That is the lie. The lie that “the family” fabric or system has value, but the people in it don’t. The New Recruit’s lie takes us back very nostalgically to the propaganda we discussed in How a Sociopath’s Victim Feels, part 2 (remember Bubba Goes Shopping?) and part 5 (The Name Game).

More lies
Does this gift communicate other lies? The truth of the matter is this. We aren’t a team. We don’t work together. We don’t face problems together. We get together once a year for a reunion and someone coordinates the meals. This gift tries to stretch that truth—“We have an annual family reunion”—into something it isn’t.

The true heritage
We do have a common heritage; but it’s a heritage of severe abuse, not of love. It’s a heritage of lies, not truth. It’s a heritage of putting on a façade—a persona—not reality. It’s a heritage of fear, not safety. It’s a heritage of gossip, not respect. It’s a heritage of pretending that the obvious, catastrophic problems don’t exist (i.e., ignoring the elephants in the room), not a heritage of problem-acknowledging and problem-solving. It’s a sick heritage, not a healthy heritage. It’s a heritage of detachment, not connection. It’s a heritage of sociopaths (and people with other personality disorders).

The motive
Was this unusual gift given to us to bless us or to manipulate and control us? Peaceful Readers, you know the answer.

It was given to manipulate and control our thinking, to convince us that we have something—an effective team—that we obviously don’t have.

Saying something doesn’t make it true. Wishing for something doesn’t make it true. Giving creative gifts labeled with nostalgic narrative doesn’t make any of it true.

Reflecting on the giv-er and the giv-ee
The key to responding rightly to any gift offered or accepted is to consider, very carefully, who is doing the giving, what we know about the gift-giver, and why the gift is being given. Also, as we consider the gift-giver’s motivation, we need to reflect on what role we play in the giver’s life, if any. Our role in Uncle Henry’s life? No-name subordinates, worthy of an annual face-to-face hello and good-bye and not much else. We learned through Uncle Henry’s first personal letter to his nephew Brandon—The Sneak Attack—that Uncle Henry skillfully wields sociopathic tactics. And not just any sociopathic tactics—warning signs for violence.

Similar to the evaluation of The Sneak Attack in part 6 of that long post, this gift was given by a control freak who feels entitled to control relatives that he doesn’t know for the purpose of keeping them in line by controlling their thinking.

It’s all about control.

What now
I usually get rid of gifts from sociopaths to minimize The Sociopathic Presence in our home. But I think I’ll deal with this particular item differently, for now. I’m planning to put the bit into a box with a copy of this post on top of it. In this case, I don’t want the message—the manipulation and lies—to disappear entirely. I want to put it all away and cover it with the truth.

Coming next: In the final post of this series on sociopaths, we’ll take a look at two recent texts Brandon received from my mother-in-law, Delia, more commonly known as… (please say it with me)… Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak. You’ll also learn my other favorite saying about her. I dig it. Maybe it’ll remind you of your ex-sociopath.

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: Ephesians 6:10-18

Song for Healing: “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant

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