To deal with sociopaths effectively, you first need to open your eyes. In The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson, two weavers promise the emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are stupid and unfit for their positions.
When the emperor parades before his subjects, all the adults, not wishing to be seen in a negative light, pretend they can see the clothes. The only truthful person is a child who cries “But he isn’t wearing any clothes!”.
You, too, need to see sociopaths as they really are. We are conditioned to keep quiet, which often means turning a blind eye to or putting up with abuse.
The boy in the tale represents those who see the problem behavior for what it is and find the courage of their convictions to make a stand. Sight becomes insight, which turns into action. Awareness is the first step in limiting the negative effects of contact with a sociopath.
All abusers are in denial and they tend to be comfortable lying. With a lifetime of practice (and no qualms) they have developed the skill to sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser presents himself as a sincere, respectable person; which gains him credibility and makes people feel uncomfortable about asking for substantiation. They may fail to look closely at evidence—if not ignore it—because of his charm and convincing manner. He may show a hint of aggression to intimidate others from challenging his position. The liar also benefits when people are overly self-confident and believe they can “just tell” who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate. The confidence of the duped believers then has the power of convincing others who are more uncertain … and the lie becomes “truth.”
“Twisting of meanings is a clue to psychopathy. They’re masters of doublespeak*, creating verbal traps and impossible situations that leave non-psychopaths bewildered.”
Harrison Koehli Red Pill Press, Publisher of Political Ponerology
*Doublespeak = Evasive, ambiguous language
that is intended to deceive or confuse.
Disordered people can’t deal with the reality of their behaviors. On some level they may realize how hurtful they are or how inappropriately they behave, yet they are unable to accept any kind of major flaw in themselves. So disordered abusers spin our reality to protect their delusions.
Projection, a commonly used defense mechanism, serves that purpose. In projection, a characteristic of themselves that they find unacceptable is projected onto us. The most frequently projected characteristic is mental illness or disorder. “I’m not a sociopath. You’re the [crazy, irrational, mentally disturbed, narcissistic, etc.] one.”
Another common defense mechanism is blame shifting. “It’s your fault this happened because [fill in the blank].” Their rationalizations can be elaborate and far-fetched but their convictions are firm. Attempting to disprove them will get you nowhere, or worse, confirm your guilt in their eyes. Bystanders, who cannot fathom that someone they like and respect would deviously craft a convincing blame shifting scheme or be making it all up, are easily won over by the sociopath.
By David Robson
7 September 2015
This story is part of BBC Future’s “Best of 2015” list, the greatest hits of the year. Browse the full list.
How does one go about detecting a liar? One approach would be to focus on body language or eye movements, right? It would have been a bad idea. Study after study has found that attempts – even by trained police officers – to read lies from body language and facial expressions are more often little better than chance. You might as well just flip a coin.
According to one study, just 50 out of 20,000 people managed to make a correct judgement with more than 80% accuracy.
There are other more effective ways to identify the fakers in the vast majority of cases. The secret? To throw away many of the accepted cues to deception and start anew with some startlingly straightforward techniques.
When it comes to spotting liars, the eyes don’t have it.
Most previous work had focused on reading a liar’s intentions via their body language or from their face – blushing cheeks, a nervous laugh, darting eyes. Bill Clinton touching his nose when he denied his affair with Monica Lewinsky is a famous example – taken at the time to be a sure sign he was lying. The belief was that the act of lying provokes emotions – nervousness, guilt, perhaps even exhilaration at the challenge – that trigger unavoidable tiny flickers of movement known as “micro-expressions” that might give the game away. The problem is the huge variety of human behaviour – there is no universal dictionary of body language.
Even if toxic people came with a warning tattooed on their skin, they might still be difficult to avoid. We can always decide who we allow close to us but it’s not always that easy to cut out the toxics from other parts of our lives. They might be colleagues, bosses, in-laws, step-someones, family, co-parents … and the list goes on.
We live our lives in groups and unless we’re willing to go it alone – work alone, live alone, be alone (which is sometimes tempting, but comes with its own costs) – we’re going to cross paths with those we would rather cross out.
Continue reading the article for some powerful, practical ways to ease co-existence with toxics:
Individuals with psychopathic traits are often attracted to affinity groups—religious, atheist, political, or social groups of people who share common values, beliefs, or interests. The collective trust that members of these groups have in one another and their common belief system provides a perfect cover for the psychopathic person. A psychopathic individual can be highly skilled at accurately mimicking the group’s beliefs or values while in the presence of its members. As a result, trust is easily gained and his or her true motives or covert activities are less likely to be discovered or recognized as malicious.
An affinity group that has been victimized may have members who are unable to face the truth about a covert bully. Often, they will rationalize his or her behaviors and continue to believe that the person is basically good at heart.
Unfortunately, it is common for the group to side with the psychopathic person if he or she has targeted an individual member to exploit, abuse, or ostracize. With a well established virtuous public persona and respect from the group, skillful manipulation and deceit, and a careful choice of target, the aggressor will turn the tables and have others believe the victim is the guilty party.
Dr. Sam Vaknin explains: “Even the victim’s relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills.”
“In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.”
Rosa says: Isn’t it amazing how sociopaths can run around smearing people, telling insidious lies with impunity…THEN…when WE try to warn others (with the TRUTH) about possible danger of the socio, it’s “Kill the Messenger” time…and we are the “Messenger”. What’s up with that?
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What you are describing is the standard abuser protocol called DARVO, an acronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse roles of Victim and Offender. Your question and your righteous outrage are about psycho/sociopaths’ ability to harm others easily and repeatedly—with impunity—sometimes with devastating consequences for their victim. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the victim’s friends and family may withhold support or reject him/her at the worst of times because the abuser had the evil foresight to secure their sympathy and support, and at the same time, destroy the victim’s reputation and credibility.
The reason why pathological aggressors are so successful with this cunning scheme is quite simple: they are exceptionally skilled actors with a lifetime of practice in lying, manipulating, persuading, and deceiving. The psycho/sociopath will callously aim to crush his victim, unperturbed by any ethical concerns. The victim’s moral standards will limit his options, and lacking the persuasive powers of a psychopath, he may fail to convince others of the truth of the matter.
Another reason why many of us are conned again and again is because we cannot fathom that a friendly, intelligent, respectable person to whom we may have extended exceptional kindness, trust, and generosity; would be capable of acting so atrociously. It is incomprehensible to most of us that there really are human beings who don’t have a conscience and we fail to see the patterns in our experiences that verify the ‘unpleasant’ facts that challenge or contradict our long held beliefs.
Don’t be fooled by nice manners. What looks like politeness may be pretense to sugarcoat aggressive, manipulative, or false communication. Look at the content; not merely the cover. Pay close attention to what the person is saying and don’t be fooled by his position or the eloquence of his expression.
The Official Etiquette Rules for the Vintage Advice Group (Photo: Ann Douglas)
In The Lies of Sarah Palin, Geoffrey Dunnprovides the first full-scale and in-depth political biography of the controversial Republican vice-presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska.
Based on more than two-hundred interviews—many of them with Republican colleagues and one-time political allies of Palin’s—and more than forty-thousand pages of uncovered documents, Dunn chronicles Palin’s troubling penchant for duplicity in grim detail. The Lies of Sarah Palin is a journalistic tour de force that vividly reveals the Queen of the Tea Party movement as a vengeful and manipulative empress without clothes.
A sociopathic person is walled off from their inner core. How they present themselves to the world is a facade. Their operational system is power. To relate to them by playing the power game is a losing proposition because they are masters of the game and they will win at all cost.
The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt
to Clarify Some Issues About the
So-Called Psychopathic Personality
is a book by American psychiatristHervey M. Cleckley, first published in 1941. It is considered a seminal work and the most influential clinical description of psychopathy in the twentieth century.
Cleckley, a pioneer in psychopathy research, coined the phrase mask of sanityto describe the psychopath’s ability to perfectly mimic a normally functioning person and to mask or disguise the disorder; a fundamental lack of moral conscience and internal personality structure. Despite the seemingly sincere, intelligent, even charming external presentation, internally the psychopathic person does not have the ability to experience genuine emotions.
Paul Babiak: Corporate culture today seems ideal for the psychopath.
The very things we’re looking for in our leaders, the psychopath can mimic. Their natural tendency is to be charming. Take that charm and couch it in the right business language and it sounds like charismatic leadership.
Psychopaths and sociopaths are likely to appear friendly and generous. They are masters of deception, adept at faking emotions they don’t actually have—compassion, remorse, or humility—to win trust or gain power over others. Behind a convincing facade of respectability, intelligence, and high moral standards, they operate outside of standard ethical boundaries; recruiting lower-level psychopaths to do their bidding and manipulating normal, “good” people into accepting or supporting their shady agendas.
At every court appearance or evaluator session I noticed that the opposition would present crazy evidence, accusations or witness declarations that were complete exaggerations or outright lies. I asked myself how it was that they were able to so often present this stuff and get away with it?
The answer was simple: They appeared confident and believable, their stories combined with their appearance made others think there could be truth to their version of events, especially when contrasted against my own outward appearance. I was, in short, a valuable tool in helping them look better.