Last Friday Robin Hoffman interviewed me again on her radio show, The Feminine Soul. We discussed recovering from a relationship with a sociopath. She asked two very important questions, “How do we avoid picking another sociopath in the future?” and “How can we ever trust our instincts again?”
Coincidentally, yesterday I received this letter from a reader:
I got involved recently with a man who seemed to be the opposite of my previous psychopath. All the traits I like, strong, dominant, etc but seemed to have a good heart, and importantly a good history. I checked him out, he had a long service in the police force and a voluntary youth organization, was widely respected and successful.
Recognizing my vulnerability, I kept my eyes and ears open, and my heart guarded.
After 3 weeks I started to spot inconsistencies, tested a bit, and noticed the feeling of cognitive dissonance and didn’t ignore it.
After 6 weeks I ended the relationship, even though part of me was screaming inside “no, don’t do it”. Only afterwards did I discover that not only was he cheating on a wife who had cancer, but he was also cheating on a long term girlfriend, who genuinely loved him and is devastated. He was playing with fire by putting us both on the same webpage and we got chatting without having any idea of the relationships involved and it all came out. I’ve given her a link to saferelationships.com and can only hope she learns from the experience.
I SO proud of myself. I got out before getting involved, so it didn’t hurt. The experience was positive in that I made a different choice, for me. My stop light is starting to work and I’m learning I can trust my instincts again.
There are three parts of ourselves that are “taken” by the sociopath. The first part is the conscious mind. The sociopath fools the conscious mind by lies. It can be very difficult to detect these lies because skilled sociopaths use willing and unknowing accomplices to back up their lies. (This is why it is important for family members to distance themselves from the sociopath and his/her relationships.)
Sociopaths know to pick on trusting people. In general trusting people are loyal and trustworthy. These are good qualities so when your conscious mind is taken, you can be left with a lot of self-doubts. The strategy of carefully checking out people’s claims is a good one but it often takes time to uncover a sociopath’s lies.
Our unconscious minds also get “taken” in the sociopath’s con. Sociopaths are dominant and seductive. These traits may be arousing and attractive. I think that this may be in born. We may be attracted to these traits instinctively just like certain body parts are arousing for some.
Even though the attraction to the dominance and seductiveness of sociopaths may be instinctual, I don’t think we are stuck with it. I was able to train myself to be different and I want to share with you how I did it.
I am somewhat ashamed to say it took me too long to understand that I was drawn to sociopaths because of their dominance behavior. Once I understood this, I set out to find a way to feel differently about them. I wanted to like them less. I had always observed that there were some mental health professionals who were instinctively repulsed by sociopaths and I wanted to know what was different about them.
In studying the literature on dominance behavior and personality I discovered that dominance and empathy are opposed to each other. When dominance motives are in play empathy is turned off. The hormones of dominance also turn off empathy. The opposite is also true empathy and affection also suppress dominance motives.
Armed with this knowledge I set out to study men I knew who had long track records of loving empathetic behavior. I spent hours talking with them about their views of love, life and life’s purpose. I did this until the lesson had sunk in emotionally not just intellectually. A fully human person, male or female is loving and devoted. He or she is able to control dominance motives and express them only when appropriate.
Since this emotional lesson sunk in, I have found myself actually repulsed by dominant people. I no longer admire them or find them entertaining. Instead, I emotionally experience them as they are, shallow and lacking in important qualities.
Sociopaths also “take us” on another level. They manipulate us into forming bonds with them. These bonds are unconscious and chemical- whether the sociopath is a family member or lover. Breaking a bond with a sociopath is very painful. We do not have to be enslaved by our human bonds, we can acknowledge them and realize that at times these bonds have to be broken even though doing so is painful and difficult.
To sum it up then your new wiser mindset may have many aspects to it. Wisdom is a practice as well as a state of mind.