The sneak attack, part 2 of 6

Uncle Henry’s letter, paragraph 1

Intro
Peaceful Readers, in this six-part post, I’ll continue using the new nicknames that go along with the analogy of war.

♦ The Dictator = My sociopathic mother-in-law, Delia
(usually known as Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak)
♦ The Other General = My sociopathic father-in-law, Andrew
♦ The New Recruit = Delia’s brother, Uncle Henry


Red flags for sociopaths
In her blog, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,” Lisa Wolcott shares warning signs for violence… “a menu of sociopathic characteristics” from a book she recommends. I’ve summarized most of the descriptions below. We need to become really familiar with this list. Study it. Think about the times when people have used these tactics against you.

1. Forced teaming
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.”

4. Too many details
“If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.”

5. Typecasting
Sociopaths insult their intended victims to get them entangled in conversation to prove the sociopath wrong.

6. Loan sharking
Sociopaths will “help” victims even when they haven’t asked for help so victims will feel obligated to reciprocate. Sociopaths frequently say “You owe me” in various ways.

7. The unsolicited promise
“A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.”

8. Discounting the word “No”
“Refusing to accept rejection. “No thanks, I don’t need help,” the victim says. “Nonsense—it’s no trouble, we’re almost here!” says the sociopath.”


From feelings to findings
Before we start digging through the sneak attack, let’s talk about feelings that lead to findings. When I first read The New Recruit’s letter all the way through, I was seriously chapped. It was rude. It was full of lies and ridiculous presumptions. It was catastrophically inappropriate, given the fact that we have no relationship with Uncle Henry. But I didn’t understand what it indicated about him. I wasn’t putting two and two together. I wasn’t really familiar with the list from Lisa Wolcott’s blog. I’d read it, but I didn’t know it yet. Know what I mean?

The letter: paragraph 1
Now let’s see how the sneak attack from Uncle Henry, The New Recruit, matches up with the Red Flags for Sociopaths list. Here’s the first paragraph. It’s a doozy. I’ve numbered each sentence to prepare for a little matching game (i.e., mission) that’s coming next.

“Brandon,
(1) After considerable thought, reflection and prayer, I choose to not allow you to truncate communication by just not being open/willing to respond. (2) My relationship with you and with Frankie Ann has always been cordial and open. (3) I do not deserve to be shunned. (4) Shunning never works. (5) It is like pouting in a 4 year old—it reflects a sense of powerlessness and a plaintive hope that others will come back, admit their travesties and beg forgiveness. (6) In the adult world, that rarely happens. (7) What does happen is an ever-widening tear in the family fabric that may, at some point become irreparable. (8) I have chosen to reach out to you in an attempt to understand what negative event may have happened during the last Reunion, take any responsibility that may be mine, and to, perhaps, initiate a dialogue that could help you and Frankie Ann work through this rather than withdraw—as it seems you have chosen to do.”


Match up
Let’s see how the eight sentences from The New Recruit’s first paragraph match up with what I call the Red Flags for Sociopaths list. Every sentence in the paragraph has a match in the list. Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not.

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

Crashing a problem
Forced Teaming makes me think of this line: “Houston, we have a problem” (from the movie Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks). The reason for the word Forced is that the sociopath isn’t a part of the we or the problem. We’ve all heard the expression crashing a party (i.e., showing up uninvited). I like to call Forced Teaming by this nickname: Crashing a Problem.

Sociopaths want you to view them as caring problem-solvers, when—in fact—they’re skilled problem creators, facilitators and exaggerators. Sociopaths live for chaos and drama—the more, the better. Their favorite place to be is in the middle of mayhem—theirs, mine or yours—anyone’s mayhem will do. Why? Because, where there’s mayhem (i.e., drama/problems/chaos), there’s the opportunity to control, to tell people what to do and to save the day, so sociopaths can become trusted and indispensable to their victims.

Warning
There’s a very good reason why Forced Teaming is the first item on the Red Flags for Sociopaths list. Think about that. Forced Teaming—Crashing a Problem—gets the sociopath’s foot in the door. Beware of anyone who’s on the fringes of your life and suddenly starts acting like your new best friend when you have a problem. Kind of like Uncle Henry/The New Recruit and this letter….

Examples
Check out sentences 7 and 8 as examples of Forced Teaming. “(7) What does happen is an ever-widening tear in the family fabric that may, at some point become irreparable. (8) I have chosen to reach out to you in an attempt to understand what negative event may have happened during the last Reunion, take any responsibility that may be mine, and to, perhaps, initiate a dialogue that could help you and Frankie Ann work through this rather than withdraw—as it seems you have chosen to do.”

Comments from Little Miss Sassy Pants
(i.e., Frankie Ann, yours truly, me)
(Sentence 7) Family fabric.
What a lovely phrase. Goodness sakes. Give that man a creative writing award. We, the evil victims, are tearing apart this beautiful, amazing, one-of-a-kind masterpiece tapestry. That must be utterly heart-breaking for The New Recruit. Where’s the trash can? I need to throw up yet again. Family fabric implies a deep inter-connectedness, meaningful involvement in each others’ lives, and (dare I say?) friendship. We don’t have any of those.

(Sentence 8.a) I have chosen to reach out to you in an attempt to understand. Right…. And I’m a famous Russian super-model. Since when did The New Recruit receive an entitlement to understand people and relationships that he’s been totally disinterested in for 48 years (i.e., his nephew Brandon’s whole life)? Like I said in the last post, Uncle Henry/The New Recruit has never called Brandon to say hi, to check in on him, to get to know him, to chat, etc.

The three-way pass
What we have here is the Three-way Pass. When you pass on (1) spending quality time with someone and (2) getting to know them on a sincere, meaningful level, you get an automatic pass on (3) the privilege to positively influence their lives (not that sociopaths are capable of that part). In normal society, what The New Recruit is doing here is casually referred to as gettin’ up in somebody’s business. In Sociopathville or The War Zone, it’s called Forced Teaming or Crashing a Problem.

What did or didn’t happen between us and Brandon’s parents at the family reunion is absolutely none of The New Recruit’s business because it didn’t involve him (and he has no relationship with us). Yes, he and his wife very generously and hospitably hosted the reunion, but the problems didn’t involve the location or the facilities—and he knows that. So do we. Time for a deep, cleansing breath. Whew. Let’s move on.

(Sentence 8.b) [I have chosen to reach out to you in an attempt to]…take any responsibility that may be mine, and to, perhaps, initiate a dialogue that could help you and Frankie Ann. The New Recruit is obviously not responsible for the behavior of his sociopathic sister, The Dictator, or her sociopathic husband, The Other General. That is ridiculous and manipulative—feigned responsibility masquerading as justification to control and “help” The Dictator’s and The Other General’s victims. Also, the offer to “help” us is an invitation for us to naïvely set ourselves up for future Loan Sharking. (More on Loan Sharking when we get to number 6.) No can do, pal. Can you see all the head-shaking I’m doing? I need a piece of chocolate.


5. Typecasting
Sociopaths insult their intended victims to get them entangled in conversation to prove the sociopath wrong.

To me, typecasting is an extremely popular attack vector of sociopaths—to see if we’ll take the bait. Because—truth be told—our natural reaction is to dive into the mess right then and there to correct the insult, to clear our good name, to set things straight. Don’t do it.

Here’s The New Recruit’s stellar attempt. “(4) Shunning never works. (5) It is like pouting in a 4 year old—it reflects a sense of powerlessness and a plaintive hope that others will come back, admit their travesties and beg forgiveness. (6) In the adult world, that rarely happens.”

Comments from Little Miss Sassy Pants
(i.e., Frankie Ann, yours truly, me)
(Sentence 4) Shunning.
That sounds like a fancy word for ignoring. And in the healthy world, ignoring is a well-tested and successfully-used technique for dealing with bad behavior—from a toddler’s theatrical temper tantrum to The New Recruit’s theatrical temper tantrum; I mean carefully-crafted letter.

There are times to address problems (right time, right place, right person) and there are times to accept and act on the truth—that (1) the nature of the problem is outside your wheelhouse, and/or (2) the person you’re dealing with just tossed a baited fish hook your way; bite it at your peril.

Peaceful Readers, we can’t fix everything. There are many people who do not wish to be fixed. They won’t leave The War Zone. The question is this. Will you?

This reminds me of the questions we went over in Boundaries, part 3.

A simple answer: No.
♦ Can you fix your sociopath? No.
♦ Can you experience a healthy, peaceful, mutually-gratifying relationship with a sociopath? No.
♦ Can you be emotionally safe while maintaining contact with a sociopath? No.

Miss Mean…
Accusing us of shunning him is The New Recruit’s fancy way of calling us mean, which reminds me of a funny parenting truism. Often, when your child calls you mean, you know you’re getting it right. When our son asked me if he could have chips for breakfast, I said no. Did it hurt my feelings when he called me mean? No. Not in the least. What he really meant was “Rats; I didn’t get my way.”

…and Miss Manipulative
A group of ladies from our life group at church (i.e., Sunday school class) went to this monstrously-big flea market this past weekend. During the drive, my wise friend Meagan talked about how people who don’t have healthy boundaries will criticize those of us who do. She told this story—one worth remembering and living—especially when you first encounter a sociopath or any other boundary-phobe. A boundary-phobe named Tricia was gossiping about Meagan, and said “She’s mean.” (You’ll find that sociopaths and other boundary-phobes are extremely fond of gossiping. More on that subject in a future series.) Meagan’s response? “Of course she thinks I’m mean, because I don’t let her manipulate me into doing what she wants.”

A double P.S.
Remember, Peaceful Readers: No is a complete sentence. It’s the Perfect Sentence and also a Power-play Shut-down—successful with a would-be abuser. Go, Meagan.

Back to our examples of typecasting.

(Sentence 5.a) It is like pouting in a 4 year old. Is The New Recruit accusing my husband of acting like a 4-year-old? Where’s that cast iron skillet? Seriously. I think, more than any other sentence in The New Recruit’s dissertation, this one really burns me up. The New Recruit admittedly has no idea what happened at the family reunion. Why, then, is Brandon obliged to barf up all the details to a man he doesn’t even know? Having relatives in common and knowing the names of someone’s family members doesn’t mean you know, like or trust each other. Can I get a You go, girl with that?

(Sentence 5.b) …[shunning] reflects a sense of powerlessness and a plaintive hope that others will come back…. Au contraire, Pierre; I mean Mr. U.R. Mistaken. Our decisions have nothing to do with powerlessness or plaintive hopes that sociopaths will re-plant themselves in our lives. In your dreams, control freak. What we’re doing is called ignoring bad behavior. It’s also called natural consequences and healthy boundaries. In our case, it represents a clear expression of “bug off, wacko,” also known as “please leave us alone” or “nice try, Stanley Sociopath.”

(Sentence 6) In the adult world, that rarely happens. Thanks for the relationship lesson, Stanley Sociopath; I mean The New Recruit. Being so intellectually- and relationally-challenged, we didn’t have the foggiest idea how things operate “in the adult world.” You are so kind and thoughtful to set us straight. Really. We’re eternally grateful to you. We must owe you something of great value for imparting such wisdom on our lowly, worthless, stupid selves. Oops; I’ve segued to the next section. Loan sharking. My bad.


6. Loan sharking
Sociopaths will “help” victims even when they haven’t asked for help so victims will feel obligated to reciprocate. Sociopaths frequently say “You owe me” in various ways.

“(Sentence 2) My relationship with you and with Frankie Ann has always been cordial and open. (Sentence 3) I do not deserve to be shunned.”

Translation: “You owe me.” Peaceful Readers, what say you? What do you think The New Recruit—Uncle Henry—deserves? I have some ideas….

8. Discounting the word “No”
“Refusing to accept rejection. “No thanks, I don’t need help,” the victim says. “Nonsense—it’s no trouble, we’re almost here!” says the sociopath.”

Here’s our example of the last item on the Red Flags for Sociopaths list. “(Sentence 1) After considerable thought, reflection and prayer, I choose to not allow you to truncate communication by just not being open/willing to respond.”

Doesn’t he sound smart? Translation: “Not hanging out in The War Zone is not an option for you, buddy. Why? Because I said so. And—unbeknownst to you—I’m the boss of you.” Voila. Sounds like a control freak to me, but what do I know.


Coming next: In part 3 of this post, we’ll continue our analysis of the attack vectors (i.e., tactics) in The New Recruit’s sneak attack/letter. You be the judge. Sociopath or not?

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 33:3-5

Song for Healing: It took me a while to choose the right song for this post, and then I saw this song on a list. I decided that just because someone else is acting badly, that doesn’t mean I should stop singing and dancing. Why not? Because sociopaths aren’t the boss of me (or you!). Here you go.

“I Sing” by Bradley Bridges

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