By Ox Drover
What’s the most important thing the sociopath took from you? Money? Love? Your home? Your self-esteem? Sex? Or, is it something else, which in my opinion may be even more important than just about anything?
The most important thing I think I lost from every sociopath I ever dealt with was my own confidence in myself to make assessments about people and then, reasonable choices about those people, based on those accurate assessments.
Many former victims have said that they just have trouble “trusting others” again after being totally hoodwinked and ripped off for so many important things in their lives by the sociopath. Is it others that they don’t trust, though, or are they unable to trust themselves to make accurate assessments of others they may meet in the future? I think it isn’t so much others we don’t trust, as it is ourselves we don’t trust to make good judgments of the intentions and sincerity of others.
Dr. Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” says that the first thing we are concerned with in our lives is out biological needs for oxygen, water, food and relatively constant body temperature. These are the strongest needs we have, about in that order, because if we don’t have these things not much else matters.
The next need we have, according to Maslow, when the physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling out thoughts and behaviors, is the need for safety and security. We (adults) don’t usually think about “safety” until we feel threatened. Of course after we have been injured by a sociopath, we really don’t feel safe at all. Our world of safety is upside down.
The next highest need of mankind, according to Maslow, is the need for love, affection and belongingness. We seek to overcome feelings of alienation and loneliness by both giving and receiving affection.
If our need for “safety” is not satisfied, it is very difficult for us to seek affection, because we feel threatened.
However, because we had difficulty “seeing” from the looks or behaviors of past encounters with sociopaths that these people were “dangerous” to us, we become “paranoid” of others, especially new others. We want the affection of others, but because we have failed in the past to correctly assess the dangerousness of previous people we felt affection for, we are afraid to get too close to others. It is not so much the others that we don’t trust, as we don’t trust ourselves to make good choices.
Not feeling safe makes it very difficult for us to advance on to the “higher needs” such as affection and connectedness with others when we fear that we may make another poor assessment of another’s sincerity and motives with will lead to more pain and injury.
Rather than working on trying to trust others, I suggest we should work on learning to trust ourselves and our ability to make valid and correct assessments of others. This may seem that it is the same thing, but I actually don’t think it is at all.
How do we learn to trust ourselves again? How do we put our past mistakes in assessment of others we have sought to have mutual affection with behind us?
I think we do it slowly by forming new friendships, first of all, rather than looking for a lifetime mate. We meet new people in our environment, or go out and seek to interact with new people. We keep our distance at first from these new people, and we look at them, watching their behavior, and watching for the red flags of deception in their words and actions.
We educate ourselves on what we believe makes a good friend, and we accept nothing less in those that we allow to become closer friends.
We look at people who are already in our “circle” and assess them by what we know about their past and current behavior. Does this person now, or have they in the past, shown less than stellar respect for us? What are the benefits versus the liabilities of having this person in our lives? Maybe we decide that this person doesn’t fit well within our circle of people we think we can trust and we distance ourselves from them.
Just as a child slowly learns whom they can trust by observation, or just as an animal learns that certain people are liable to hurt them, or that certain people will reward them for approaching, we need to reeducate ourselves slowly and carefully, and learn to trust ourselves. If we trust ourselves, it will be much easier to trust ourselves to keep us safe when we venture into “unknown” territory, because we will know that we will keep ourselves safe by our valid and good observations.
We will also know that caution with others is a good thing to have. We will validate that we respect ourselves and love ourselves enough to keep ourselves safe without depriving ourselves of the opportunity to have the love, affection and connectedness that we, as humans, need and want.