Sincere or insincere?
Counting up to an apology
What events led up to this unexpected apology?
(1) Uncle Henry launched his sneak attack—emailing Brandon a long, skillfully-crafted letter filled with sociopathic tactics.
(2) We responded with our secret weapon: Silence.
(3) Two weeks later, my sociopathic father-in-law Andrew showed up at our house for his sneak attack.
(4) Brandon told Andrew that we wouldn’t be at the family wedding the next month or at any other extended family group events, thanks to Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter.
(5) Andrew left without accomplishing any of his objectives—completely defeated.
(6) Delia, my sociopathic mother-in-law, called Brandon that night, freaking out (on his voice mail).
Talk about drama; I mean sociopaths.
Demanded by Delia—The Dictator
Why did Uncle Henry send Brandon an apology? We can write the transcript from that colorful conversation, can’t we, Peaceful Readers? The Dictator, my mother-in-law, demanded it after she realized that Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter gave her very negative results—less contact with us, not more; less control, not more. The New Recruit (i.e., Uncle Henry) failed in his first mission—the Get-the-Victims-Back-in-Line Mission. We certainly hope it was his first and last mission. Time will tell….
What do I make of Uncle Henry’s apology? Hmmm. Here it is.
“Don’t know where to start except to ask forgiveness
for a presumptive email and intrusion.
Praying for your weekend meetings.”
We found the last sentence very disturbing indeed. What “weekend meetings,” pray tell? We haven’t received or accepted any invitations to “weekend meetings.” “Weekend sneak attacks” is more like it.
The keyboard and the bazooka (a new take on the pen and the sword)
Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter was 559 words long. His apology was 20 words long. Does that mean Uncle Henry felt substantially more enthusiastic about crafting the sneak attack than the apology? Yes, I think we can safely come to that conclusion. Personally, I found the sneak attack letter to be quite a bit more than an “intrusion.” It was an assault—a full-on, bazooka-blasting assault.
Let’s return to the issue of apologies. It would be highly unusual for a control freak to actually give a sincere apology. To be even more blunt, Peaceful Readers, I’ve been closely related to control freaks my entire life, and I’ve never seen or heard one—a sincere apology from a control freak, that is. Never. Not one. Not. A. Single. One.
Why not? Sociopaths and other control freaks are addicted to controlling others, while actually possessing a broken control panel over important aspects of their own lives. This strange reality—one of the many secrets they’re trying desperately to hide—keeps non-sociopathic control freaks fearful and insecure. Yes, the Bully Extraordinaire may actually be fearful and insecure. And dangerous. Please remember that part. (Sociopaths don’t experience fear, but they are feverishly dedicated to keeping others from finding out that they’re sociopaths.)
Protecting the persona
To apologize sincerely means to admit the obvious: I’m not perfect. I’m flawed. I’m human. I was wrong. Control freaks can’t say those things sincerely because those truths would ravage their Persistently-Practiced and Perfected Public Persona—their sick belief that they are god-like: I’m perfect and powerful and you will obey and worship me. So they aggressively protect their lies/persona to keep others from discovering the truth about who they really are.
Personality disorder + apology = non-apology + violence
I received a forced, teeth-clenching, angry apology from my narcissistic sister Pam on the phone one time. I think her husband pressured her into saying it. Not long after that, she totally wigged out and hasn’t spoken to me for nine years. She didn’t give me an apology, did she. In reality, she said words she didn’t mean.
Then she went ballistic, put on her You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet hat, and dropped an atomic bomb. Wow. People with personality disorders wreak havoc again and again and again. They live for it—the power plays, the control, the punishment. If you won’t do what they say (which includes bowing down and worshiping them), the reaction is violent. Very violent. Kind of like Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter.
Three possible motives
Like all apologies, there are three possible motives where Uncle Henry’s short apology is concerned. (1) It’s not sincere, Type 1 (i.e., “Please don’t be mad at me;” I mean “I’m sorry I got caught”). (2) It’s not sincere, Type 2 (i.e., “So-and-so told me to apologize to you;” I mean “I need to get you-know-who off my back”). Or, last but not least, (3) it’s sincere (i.e., “I really regret what I did”). If I were a betting person—and I’m not—I’d bet on Door #2—the I’m Doing This to Placate My Very Angry Sister option.
What I know and what it means
Based on what I know about (1) the Apology Author—Uncle Henry, (2) the timing of the apology, and (3) the brevity of the apology, I call this apology a non-apology—one that was forced by… say it with me, Peaceful Readers—Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak.
Here’s one of the very disturbing things about this apology; I mean non-apology. When I first read it, I thought That’s nice. I was shocked that he sent it. It was certainly unexpected and out of character. It may have sounded nice, but it didn’t feel nice. I didn’t start smiling, thinking I’m looking forward to seeing Uncle Henry again. I felt conflicted. It was confusing. Even now when I read it, I furrow my brow and think What?
This quote from Lisa Wolcott’s article, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” gives sound advice.
Always listen to your gut and prioritize what it tells you. “In a contest between your instincts and what is implied by the role a person has taken on—educator, doctor, leader, animal lover, policeman, humanist, parent—go with your instincts,” Stout urges.
Did Uncle Henry choose one or more of those roles? Yes he did. Doctor, leader, parent. Hmmm.
Early in her article, Lisa wrote: “Have you ever known someone who left you feeling confused, devastated, or chilled—maybe all at once?” Yes I have. I sure have.
There’s one distinct difficulty in following your feelings and instincts. I call it muffling. If you were raised by parents who (1) abused you and lied to you, (2) didn’t ever talk about or acknowledge feelings, (3) told you your feelings were wrong, (4) told you that you were feeling things you weren’t, and/or (5) only acknowledged you when you exaggerated your feelings, you likely lost—to some extent—the ability to experience and understand your own feelings with both accuracy and confidence. Your feelings as a child were muffled, muted, ignored, rejected, replaced, mixed-up and/or exaggerated.
It takes a certain amount of healing to reclaim and experience the ability to feel your own feelings and to know what they mean. Your experienced counselor can help in this area. While you talk about your experiences and your feelings about them, you’ll re-learn (1) how to feel and (2) that it’s safe to feel. There may have been times in your life when your feelings were overwhelming, and rightly so. Maybe you opted to shut down certain feelings or aspects of yourself to protect yourself—as a coping mechanism.
Feelings = temperature
We need our feelings to help us identify or take our temperature, so to speak—our own temperature, the temperature of our circumstances (safe or not safe), and more. Ideally, when I take my own temperature (i.e., feel my current feelings), my temperature is accurate and isn’t impacted by what happened 5, 10, 20 or 40 years ago. My temperature is accurate and current, not muffled or exaggerated because of unfinished business.
If you need help in this area, see your great counselor. We discussed the value of counseling in this post.
Ownership, not enslavement
Many people who appear to be adults will use their feelings as an excuse or justification for bad behavior/choices, a la the toddler’s hysterical tantrum I mentioned in an earlier post. “I’m just being true to my feelings.” “I’m just being true to myself.” “I’m just being real.” Those are simply modern-day cop-outs for being irresponsible and/or selfish. We can do better than that.
Thoughts, memories and impressions precede feelings. Don’t be enslaved by your feelings like a loud, attention-seeking toddler. Healthy adults are the masters of our feelings. We don’t ignore our feelings, but we aren’t controlled or ruled by them either. We consider our thoughts first—and whether they’re based on truth—and we listen to our feelings as valuable input for responsible, healthy decision-making.
I didn’t feel quite right about Uncle Henry’s apology when I first read it, but I wasn’t sure why. I needed to dig deeper.
Coming next: Stay tuned for part 2 of The Apology. We’ll learn to focus on the “who” and the “why,” not the “what.”
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 51:1-17
Song for Healing: Enjoy this beautiful bluegrass song… “Come Back to Me” by Dailey & Vincent.