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Actions speak louder than words… or do they?

This week two people contacted me, both adult daughters of sociopaths. In one case her father and in the other case her mother has psychopathic personality traits. Interestingly, both disordered parents claim to be “Christian” and the theme of our discussions was the disparity between what the parent says and what they do. Both women shared the belief that this disconnect between words and action is particularly damaging to children. I agree with this assertion because I have also seen it in other cases.

Why would the disconnect between words and actions be so damaging to children?

Consciousness develops gradually during childhood. Consciousness means connecting words, thoughts and feelings to what is happening in reality. Many children naturally idealize their parents and so are inclined to believe the version of reality their parents present in words. But what if the words and reality don’t in fact match? Consider the following example a father wrote to his daughter from prison. Keep in mind this father is a repeat offender who has defrauded and ruined many including family members:

I have a lot of time to sit here and ponder the course of my life. I know I have wronged the family, and for that I am truly sorry. I have been so selfish and stubborn… I haven’t seen or talked to you in well over a year and I can’t help but wonder the rippling effect that sends into the demonic realm. I hope all is well. I love you with the perfect love of the Father.

This is a perfect example of the way a sociopath communicates. His agenda isn’t apparent until the third to the last sentence. His agenda is to manipulate her into having contact with him. But unless you are aware of how a person with psychopathic personality traits operates, you wouldn’t necessarily get that. He starts out stating a fact, he has unlimited time in prison to think. Then it’s progressively out of reality from there. He also connects her failure to contact him with something demonic, suggesting that things might not “be well.” He concludes by proclaiming he has “perfect love.”

I have been chatting with the recipient of this letter for some time and can tell you the father, in addition to ruining her mother’s life was extremely verbally abusive. A parent who abuses while saying, “I love you with the perfect love of the Father,” inflicts wounds that are hard to heal. How can a child make any sense of this experience?

Dissociation- dealing with the disconnect

The different parts of our brains that perform different functions are functionally connected. Experiences we have during childhood but also throughout our lives, determine the functional connectivity of our brains. When reality doesn’t make sense our brains automatically compensate to create a coherent whole. So for example, a child whose parent abuses and says “I love you” may deny the abuse or blame it on themselves. Children whose parents, and adults whose partners continually do one thing while speaking the opposite experience a form of hypnosis. In this hypnotic state they only focus attention on the parts of reality that support the version of reality given to them by the sociopath. (If you have a lot of time read my story and see how this happened to me with disastrous consequences.) But what are the consequences of a childhood or adulthood habit of self-hypnosis? We don’t really know the full answer to that question.

How to heal

The first step in healing is realizing what happened to you and understanding that self-hypnosis or dissociation doesn’t mean you are crazy. It is a functional response to differing inputs. The next step is to fight the hypnosis. Stop having contact with the sociopath. If you do have to have communication, do not listen to the words, try to keep present in your mind the real actions of the sociopath. Tell yourself, “actions speak louder than words.”

Lingering questions

If you have experienced the disconnect between words and actions, I discuss here, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, “Do they do this on purpose?” or “Do they know what they are doing?” The answer is some do and some don’t. The ones that know what they are doing are perhaps more evil and the ones who don’t know what they are doing are perhaps more affected with psychopathy. No matter what, the sociopath makes a choice about what he/she does.

100 Comments on "Actions speak louder than words… or do they?"

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  1. blossom4th says:

    I was thinking similarly to kaya48;I liked Stargazer’s expression that”it seems easier staying with the devil you know”.At that point I would change the rest to say,”over WHAT you don’t know”.I was always timid and feared my abilities might not be ‘good enough’ to make things work out.A left-over from my childhood that suffered immensely at the hands of my husband.Leaving him made me stronger than ever;and yet I realize I could have never done it in my own strength!

  2. kaya48 says:

    I came across a very interesting statement: “I stayed married to him, because I didn’t know how to take care of myself financially and I was able to “hide” behind his ability to portray the “loving provider”. In truth, I was terrified to be alone. Terrified to spend my life without a sociopath or the addictive pull it had on me. In reality there was no happiness, no trust, it was empty, abusive and cold. I truly believed I loved him, it was far from love, it was a lack of love for myself. So true.

    • Stargazer says:

      You know, Kaya, I was thinking about this “the devil you know” stuff, and it made me realize how many people are very complacent in their lives because they are afraid to take risks and face the unknown. How many people stay in mediocre marriages, even if their spouses are not evil? Most people are afraid to change because the unknown is pretty scary. If there is any silver lining to being with a sociopath, you have no choice but to leave because it’s leave or die. And when you leave, you reinvent yourself. You grow. You learn who you are and what you want. You wake up and you really live your life maybe for the first time. Believe it or not, this is more than what the majority of people do. Most people find a comfort zone and stay in it. Most people sleepwalk through life. If you have a sociopath in your life, you are forced to wake up because you don’t really have a choice. And waking up is a good thing. Most people don’t do it until some earth-shattering thing happens in life that forces them to.

      And the only thing you are required to do is feel your feelings. The only thing that can stop your healing/growth is if you refuse to feel your feelings. Going back to the sociopath (and into denial) is one way to avoid the feelings.

  3. kaya48 says:

    You are so right. I would have ended up dead if I stayed. And now I continue to learn how to love myself. Something I was not able to do while being with him. Because I thought so “little” of me because he kept telling me that. My new goal is to not going back thinking about my past. I live in the present. Yes, I was a victim of this absurd “crazy making” but I ended this addiction by filing for divorce. I can honestly say I have not cried in 6 months. What an improvement from daily crying while I was with him. Today he sent my son a text message “I cannot believe you refuse talking to me”. Doesn’t he get it? We don’t want him in our life anymore. Of course my son never responded because he does not need to. WE are in control now :)

  4. Stargazer says:

    From what you are all saying, the sociopath was a wake-up call. In this way they are catalysts in our lives. It doesn’t seem like a great gift at the time. We don’t realize till later the role they played in our lives – helping us to wake up. That is really the ultimate revenge against a sociopath – that they tried to destroy us but instead, we turned their sour lemons into lemonade. We go on to have better lives than we had before we met them. We don’t let them bring us down.

    Do whatever you have to do to move on with your life. Sometimes it requires a heroic effort. Sometimes it just means having the courage to feel and release rage or grief. Maybe see a trauma therapist for the PTSD. Whatever it takes, just do it because you are all worth it. Your healing is not about them – it is about you. They were just the catalyst – the ones who brought it to your attention that a change is needed.

    In the process of breaking free from my abusive parents, I became very free in many other ways, and I developed a kind of spiritual joy reserved for those who have been through immense pain. I consider the freedom and joy a gift they gave me because when I look around I see that not many people have it.

  5. jenni marie says:

    Miss Donna,

    Learning about sociopaths and what happened to me and the rest of us, is starting to feel a little exhausting for me. I first learned about them in March 2012 and have spent my time from then until now trying to convince myself that what was happening to me was not a dream or my imagination, and was the stark reality of being in a relationship with one of them and that I was dying with him and had to get away from him. He was here again last night at 12:30am knocking on my door, and at 4:00am the night before. I ignored him.

    If it’s not too personal of a question for you, may I ask how it is that you still want to use your energy on sociopaths, and more curious to me is how your new husband feels about the time you spend educating and trying to help other victims of sociopaths?

    Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you want to just forget about the whole thing and stop having any focus whatsoever on disordered people? They make us sick and tired and confused. How do you find the strength to keep going for us here in cyberspace-land?

    I’m in the middle of the final break-up with him and he keeps coming around and I can’t call the police because of the kind of people he knows, no matter what anyone says about getting the police involved. I can’t and won’t unless I am being physically threatened and I’m being careful not to give him any chance to be alone with me. I know this discard phase will end and he will eventually stay away, but I am so tired of the info that is rolling around in my head about what he did to me and how these people are, and just want it all to stop now, which is not how it works with them. It takes so long to get over them and the stuff we let happen to us as I have read, and I’m a little scared that he might have messed me up permanently in my ability to believe what anyone says.

    So, why does Miss Donna want to stay in this sociopathic world of hurt and evidence of pain now that she was able to get her sociopath out of her life? Don’t you sometimes feel that you just want to stop it and move on to a life with your new husband without the traits and sadness that come from dealing with sociopaths?

    I want to give Kudos to your husband because I feel that it might not be easy having to continually deal with the sociopathic influence, and Kudos to you for what is your blessed, obvious daily desire to help the rest of us with them.

    Thank you both,
    Jenni Marie

    • Delores says:

      Do not be so sure that the discard phase will end and he will stay away, especially if you have children. I believed that and he reappeared like a vampire to seize our daughter and alienate her from me after 20 years and his third divorce.

  6. crackofnoon says:

    I am the adult daughter of psychopathic father. I was in my 30′s before I started to understand what was wrong with him. I studied and studied and then read “Boundaries” by Henry McCloud. It was an eye opener. I learned that my father is classic mimic. He cannot feel emotions, but he knows how to mimic them expertly. When it served his purpose, he would play the role of loving father. My brother and I were told, and still are told, how much he loves us. Every card we ever got from him were full of underlined mushy text, and always signed with many “I’m proud of you’s” and “I love you’s.” Every phone call or voice message was full of “I love you’s.” We both knew it was pure B.S. For one thing, he didn’t know us well enough to be proud of us. And secondly, his actions never backed up his words…not ever.

    Does a loving father emotionally and verbally eviscerate his family?

    Does a loving father demand love and not give it?

    Does a loving father try to involve his children in his schemes and manipulations?

    Does a loving father lie, manipulate and fail to provide for his children, and all the while he is out living the good life?


    The only option for me and my brother has been complete and total No Contact. That is the only way for us to have peace. Prior to this, any contact with our father was predicated with anxiety, fear, dread, and knowing we would be required to be fake, to be role players. We had spent our childhoods play acting the roles of expectation in order to avoid the violent outbursts we knew would come if his toys (us) weren’t playing nice. In recent times (10 years ago before going No Contact) I was even accused of being “cold” and unfeeling. Really?! That is rich.

    So, my point is this, pay attention to words vs. actions. They mean everything!!! Whether it’s a parent or partner, pay attention. Don’t allow yourself to be love-bombed into thinking you are dealing with a nice, yet misunderstood person. Evil comes masked as a prince.

  7. crackofnoon – so true. thank you for sharing. I’m glad you and your brother have No Contact with him.

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