There comes a time when nurture becomes nature.
This is the time when nurture and nature become inextricable, inseparable.
I suspect nobody knows precisely when this point arrives in the development of a given individual, but the immediate ramification is this: When you are involved specifically with a sociopath, or any exploitative personality, it is imperative that you stop asking how this person became who he is?
Sure, he likely endured—and was shaped by—some form of neglect or abuse growing up, and if this wasn’t obvious in the history, it was still likely there.
But here’s the point: it doesn’t matter. Not one bit.
Instead, you must relinquish your empathy, compassion and curiosity—in short, every emotion that supports your obsession to understand the genesis and evolution of your exploiter’s pathology—and confront the reality that you are dealing with (as I propose) a case of nurture becoming nature, about which there’s not a damned thing, at this point, to be done.
The damage, in other words, was baked into his character a long time ago. There is no ameliorating it now. Not all the love in the world—nothing that you have, or think you have, or thought you had to give him—will dent the petrification of his psychopathology.
His diseased personality disease is immutable, as good as etched in his DNA. Case closed.
And so what you do is this: You run for the hills, just as you’d run from a rabid dog that perhaps once was innocent and gentle. Now the dog is rabid: it no longer matters how it became rabid. And so you run, fast, and you don’t look back, because every second you allow false hope to delay you increases your risk of grievous harm.
You may have loved that dog; maybe loved it before it became rabid, or maybe it was rabid all along and you just didn’t know it. And maybe you even still love that rabid dog, or the persisting fantasy of it as unrabid.
But the dog is rabid, and a rabid dog doesn’t love you, and it was probably rabid going way back and never really loved you as you once imagined, but again…it makes no difference.
There are rabid animals, and there are rabid people, and neither loves you.
And so the time for analysis, of him, is up.
To be clear: I appreciate the need to make sense of trauma. But at some point, the analysis of exploiters can assume an obsessive desperation that subverts, rather than supports, the processing of trauma.
I speak here from the position of having worked with many victims of exploitive personalities who are very much like stunned deer caught, and as if suspended indefinitely, in the headlights.
One of the vital tasks is to unstun them.
And sometimes the dogged determination to “make sense” of, to “analyze” the exploitive traumatizer can be a disguised obsession with discovering something in the history (his or yours) that you insist on imagining would have made a difference…would have made him different?
We can search this angle interminably. And unless we call off the search, we will.
And it’s a search we’re wise to call off because it can effectively bring us to a standstill, forever.
(My use of “he” in this article was a convenience, not meant to imply that women aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed. This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)