It is apparent that something is out of sorts. At first the person who was extremely charming, almost too good to be real has now become intimidating, demanding and even threatening. The pathological lying over trivial matters, even when caught, can no longer be ignored. They are unreliable, unrelenting, irresponsible, disruptive, outrageous, traumatizing, insincere, unrepentant, lawless, and shameless. It appears they are sociopathic.
What can be done? Here are ten tips for the victims of sociopathic behavior.
- Name the type of abuse. All sociopaths use some form of abuse to manipulate victims. Abuse can be emotional, physical, mental, verbal, financial, sexual and spiritual. Begin by reviewing examples of each to identify the abuse. For instance, gaslighting is a popular form of mental abuse where the abuser, through a series of lies and deceptions, gets the victim to believe they (the victim) are going crazy.
- Diagnosis the behavior. Search the web for descriptions on sociopaths and read blogs written by them. Most sociopaths are unashamed of their behavior and willingly admit to harming others emotionally, physically, or financially. Some even justify criminal behavior by blaming the victim for being too naïve. This will further assist in understanding the disorder and its’ impact on victims.
- Recognize their patterns. Now is the time to put the first and second tip together. Even sociopaths are creatures of habit. When they find an abusive pattern that works in one environment, they tend to repeat it over and over. Because they tend to be master seducers, they might use sex as a distraction whenever they are caught in a lie. Or they might seduce superiors at work to advance their career.
- Think of this as a game of chess. In order to be successful, defensive and offensive maneuvers must be well thought out. Sociopaths love to place a person on the defensive; it is a way to avoid responsibility. Decide in advance that when cornered by a verbal assault, use a non-emotional response such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Plan ahead of time several short responses that can be utilized instead of responding protectively.
- Set boundaries. These boundaries are not for the sociopath because they won’t follow them. Rather the boundaries are for the victim. Know in advance the limits of tolerance for each area of abuse mentioned. For instance, aggressive shoving, secret bank accounts, theft, adulterous relationships, or forced sexual contact may all be a boundary. Once this is crossed, it is time to move on.
- Have an exit plan. Sociopaths are very cunning and can smell fear. So the exit plan might have to be done in secret. This should not be a momentary decision, rather a well-thought out scheme to escape. Stash money, passport, clothes, keys, and any other important documents aside before departure. Carefully plan the time to leave and have a safe location to go to in advance.
- Tell a close friend or relative. Sociopaths isolate their prey from family and friends to create a dependency on them. It might take some effort to re-establish a safe relationship but it is essential for accountability and healing. Having a perspective outside of the relationship helps to see things more clearly.
- Move away if possible. Sometimes the best way to get a sociopath out of a victim’s life is to suggest they move away. Sociopaths tend to take the path of least resistance so the effort to follow a person and continue the abusive behavior requires too much work. In addition, the fresh start for the victim can be transforming as they have a chance to shed the trauma.
- Be reflective. Once the victim is safe, it is time to be more reflective about the experience. More than likely, they ignored several warning signs and didn’t follow their own instincts. Now having gone through this experience, the instincts have a chance to grow stronger with greater knowledge and understanding.
- New relationships need to be checked. Anxiety over future relationships is a common feeling after being with a sociopath. This is very understandable given the past. Have a close friend who knows of the sociopathic behavior check new relationships. This double check provides some security that the same mistake will not be made in the future.
Victims can recover from the abuse of a sociopath and go on to live very full lives.