This week I will propose a strategy for helping a family member break free from a con artist/sociopath. The conclusions I have come to about how best to do this are based on the information regarding the techniques these people employ that I explained last week in Coercive persuasion, mind control and brain washing.
Sociopaths establish control over a person little by little, BITE by BITE. Remember, BITE stands for behavior, information, thoughts and emotions. To help your loved one, you have to BITE back. Take a look at the situation and see how you can gently facilitate your loved one gaining back autonomy over his/her daily behavior. Try to always appear affirming and loving so that it will be difficult for the sociopath to come up with an excuse to exclude you from their lives. See your loved one as frequently as possible. Be a source of real information, in contrast to the lies your loved one is being told by the sociopath.
The sociopath will set up situations that narrow, yet intensify, the range of emotions your loved one feels. Be as much of a source of warmth and encouragement that you can. Try to resist any temptation to disparage the sociopath. The responsibility for recognizing the evil in the sociopath has to come from the person him or herself. If the person complains about his/her life, do not react emotionally, instead be a good listener and point out the feelings you see. If you become angry and say to the effect, “How dare he/she treat you this way!” You will see your loved one defend the sociopath, and make you shoulder the emotions he/she should be having about the situation. Instead, your loved one has to personally own all the negative feelings about the sociopath.
While you should be loving and supportive, don’t render any practical aid as long as the person is still with the sociopath. For example, do not give or lend money or take your loved one in until you are sure the relationship is over. The only exception to this rule is in regards to your loved one’s children. Do not stop babysitting even though this is rendering aid. Chances are the children need a break away from the sociopath.
Realize that your loved one may be subjected to these coercive influence tactics:
• Selective reward/punishment
• Denigration of self and of critical thinking
• Dissociative states to suppress doubt and critical thinking
• Alternation of harshness/threats and leniency/love
• Control-oriented guilt induction
• Active promotion of dependency
• Physical restraint/punishment
Combat these tactics by bringing up the good you see in your loved one. Talk about his/her past successes. Help your loved one reconnect with a sense of autonomy and competency. Encourage your loved one to be more independent. For example, women often stop driving. If this has happened, say something like, “I always thought you were a good driver.” Use compliments and other supportive comments as much as you can genuinely do so. If you do, the contrast between you and the sociopath will eventually be felt by your loved one.
Patiently wait for the honeymoon phase of the relationship to be over. Since Sociopaths, at first, don’t act like jerks you will have to wait for the “jerk” phase to begin. When the situation escalates and you feel the time is right, you can chance talking to your loved one about the sociopath. Instead of labeling the sociopath, I think you might have more success if you point out that some people “love by control.” You can then name the above tactics that these people use to gain control over others, and give examples of what you have observed here. You can say, “I’ve heard that people who love by control aren’t capable of real love…tough spot to be in.” It is very likely that, in the beginning, you will not be able to convince your loved one that the sociopath doesn’t love him/her and is a complete fraud. That is why I suggest you not try to do that. Instead point out the harmful dynamics of control. People need some amount of freedom in order to be healthy and happy.
If you are in this very difficult situation and your loved one is in the grip of a sociopath, don’t give up hope. Every one of us here at Lovefraud was once in that situation. I will be forever thankful that my dear parents were there for me when I needed them most. May that also be your happy ending.