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Is your stonewaller a sociopath, or someone else? Stonewalling, Part II

I wrote in my last article about stonewalling, that nefarious process (and pattern) of shutting down a partner’s communication either aggressively, or passive aggressively, the effect of which is to leave the “stonewalled” partner feeling voiceless, alone, dismissed, negated as a person.

Many sociopathic personalities stonewall, but many stonewallers aren’t sociopaths, so how do you tell the difference? What are some signs that your partner’s stonewalling is an aspect of his “sociopathy” versus, say, his high “conflict-avoidant” personality?

Clearly some individuals are terrible at dealing with communication in general and conflict in particular. Their stonewalling may be mainly avoidant. Their wish to “deny” that trouble is afoot, their deep discomfort with emotional sensitivity and vulnerability, their high levels of defensiveness, their sense of incompetence and even hopelessness to contribute to the resolution of differences and meet confrontation effectively, may cause them to retreat, shut down, or “stonewall,” less from an attitude of indifference, disinterest and dismissiveness than from anxiety and fear.

Some individuals “freeze” in the face of perceived conflict and take “flight” literally in closing the communication hatches. Their intent may be less to hurt you than to protect themselves, and even you, fearing as they do that danger could ensue from an engagement of your concerns.

This is still stonewalling, and its effect is still perfidious, make no mistake. But its origins may come from a less malign place.

While stonewalling, then, can arise from less malign motives, sometimes, too often, it expresses serious pathological aggression, passive-aggression, hostility, contempt and callousness.

Clearly when “stonewalling” is accompanied by cold indifference—any form of cold indifference—to the stonewalled party’s wounded response to being “shut down,” this is a sign of serious insensitivity.

To state it differently: when the stonewaller, as a pattern, shows contempt towards the stonewalled party’s disturbed reaction to his stonewalling, this alerts us that we are dealing with a deficiently sensitive individual who almost certainly can be located high up on the narcissistic continuum, if not in the range of the “sociopath.”

This isn’t to say that the non-sociopathic stonewaller will react with sensitivity to your experience of his stonewalling. That’s a bit oxymoronic—if he were particularly sensitive to his stonewalling, by definition he wouldn’t be a stonewaller. But his reaction will typically express discomfort with the impact his stonewalling has on you.

He won’t, for instance, like the more sociopathic stonewaller, characteristically lash out at you with blatant hostility and nasty, hurtful, degrading accusations in response to your complaints of his stonewalling. He won’t typically blame you.

More likely he’ll shirk away, convey a perhaps somewhat sincere sense of helplessness to offer up anything more than the inadequate silence he’s offering up, as if to say, “What can I say? I have nothing to say. I’m not trying to hurt you. I just don’t want to, or can’t, deal with this. Leave me alone. Give me a break. I’m sorry you’re so exasperated and hurt. That’s the way it is.”

You will feel shut down, but you will feel shut down by someone who can’t deal, who himself seems, and perhaps is, in a sense, paralysed and helpless to deal responsibly, thoughtfully, engagingly.

In contrast, you will have a different feeling with the more sociopathic stonewaller. When he shuts down your communication, you will feel yourself—I can’t stress this enough—the object of his contempt.

You will feel palpably, viscerally, his indifference to the impact his stonewalling has on you; his indifference will feel as traumatizing as the stonewalling itself, leaving you, in effect, doubly traumatized by the interaction.

There is a sense of shock—that is, his emotional indifference, his callousness, his devaluation of your emotional experience will feel “shocking.”

As I suggested, you are likely to feel his scorn, his scoffing; are at high risk to endure his insulting, degrading comments, along the lines you are making trouble, talk too much, always looking for problems, don’t know when to “shut up,” always have to “over-analyse” everything; that you are mental, miserable; but the key thing that will accompany these, and similarly patronizing remarks, will be, as I keep emphasizing, the “contempt” for your experience that will be dripping shamelessly from his mouth.

These are some of the red flags to heed that you aren’t dealing merely with an incompetent communicator who stonewalls, which is bad enough, but with a seriously, hostilely disturbed communicator from whom you need protection, and most likely, escape.

(This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake only, not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)



59 Comments on "Is your stonewaller a sociopath, or someone else? Stonewalling, Part II"

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  1. elsa says:

    I have just seen him this morning, for the first time in over a week. He said “hello” and , like a fool, I said ” are you speaking then?” He said “I just did” the. Said “I am just trying distance myself for a while but you keep texting me”
    I said ” yeah, and you refuse to hear me”
    He wouldn’t stay and chat, rushed off!
    His whole demeanour towards me has changed and I feel like I can’t bear it!
    Common sense tells me I should block HIM…… Why doesn’t he block me if he doesn’t want me to contact him? it’s easy enough to do!
    I feel sick when I think of all we supposedly shared. He woudl never admit it meant nothing but his behaviour is saying that!
    All the times he built me up, telling me I should have confidence etc and he has knocked me down so hard I can’t get back up!
    It’s the suddenness of it that has hit me so bad. And the fact that he was too weak ( or ?) to communicate that to me. He just decided to drop me, no clues, no closure, just off overnight! All I want is to talk to him. I don’t want back with him, not even to meet him. He is a prize bastard, selfish, arrogant etc etc. And now I am another of his victims!



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  2. elsa says:

    I really feel so sad! I am sure many people who post on here can relate to that. I feel sick at the thought of all we shared, realising that he used and abused my good nature.
    I know that I will see him on numerous occasions. My friend invited me to the pub tonight but I daren’t go incase he is there! That is where he has put me. Feeling trapped , isolated and scared.
    What the hell can I do??



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  3. Jan7 says:

    Hi Elsa, what you are feeling sadly is normal when leaving a abuser. The best advise I can give you is to keep educating yourself on his disorder. When you feel sad come to Lovefraud and read, read, read, when you feel mad same thing. It will open your mind up from his manipulation/brain washing. Ask your friends to do the same, education your family/friends will help you when you need support from them. I would suggest additionally you find a knowledgeable counselor who understands sociopathic/narcissistic abuse to help guide you. You can call your local abuse center for free counseling and also they can give you an outside counselor recommendation.

    I am sorry that you were abused. So many victims at the hands of these evil people. You have found your way to a wonderful site full of advise, support & comfort. Come here and vent when your emotions are to much for you to handle alone.

    Take care.



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  4. Jan7 says:

    hi Elsa, post a comment on the thread “Getting back on track after the ruin of a sociopath “ or “No Remorse”…you will find them posted on the main page left side under Donna Anderson’s pictures, then advertisements, then you will see “resent post”. Click on those post. That’s were most of the victims are currently posting their discussions. Please know you are not alone hon!!



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  5. elsa says:

    Thank you. I have. Posted a comment.
    I want to be free and to be able to sleep!! I have been waking every night at 1am and I am so annoyed with myself !!



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