Last week I heard from a woman who realized that her work supervisor was probably disordered.
The Lovefraud reader was hired by a school system to work one-on-one with a special needs child, but what she was directed to do made no sense. When she asked the school district’s “professionals” about the “therapy,” since, in her experience, it was inappropriate for the child’s needs, they seemed uncomfortable and never really answered her. The supervisor, in the meantime, became belligerent. The Lovefraud reader saw that the supervisor was controlling, the professionals were intimidated, and the child was not receiving the right care.
The Lovefraud reader was so upset that she took medical leave, and the supervisor asked her to resign. She is now unemployed.
After describing the experience, our Lovefraud reader asked: “Do we really just stand by and let these people hurt children, innocent disabled children, workers underneath them, and look the other way?”
This is the most frustrating and disheartening aspect of learning what sociopaths are: Now we can identify them. We know what they are doing. We know that whomever they are doing it to will be damaged. And we feel like we can’t stop the exploiters.
Sociopaths, through charm, deceit and ruthlessness, ensconce themselves in positions of power, whether it’s in a work environment, an organization, a social network or a family. Their objective is to maintain power and control.
Dr. George K. Simon explains this in his book, Character Disturbance. He writes:
Aggressive personalities strive for the dominant position at all times and in all circumstances. This premise is very hard for the average person, especially the neurotic individual, to understand, let alone accept. It’s incomprehensible for most of us to conceive that in every situation, every encounter, every engagement, the aggressive personality is predisposed to jockey with us for the superior position, even in situations with no recognizable need to do so. The failure to understand and accept this, however, is how aggressive personalities so often succeed in their quest to gain advantage over others.
Sociopaths manipulate their way into dominant positions, and then continue to manipulate in order to stay there. The longer they are in these dominant positions, the more power they accumulate, and the less others are willing to go up against them.
And then we come along, perceive the dynamic, see the damage, and want to do something about it.
Understand the reality
I am all for exposing sociopaths in any way possible. I want to hold them accountable. I want justice for the people they victimize. I want to prevent them from hurting anyone else. But before I suggest that you take any action, I want to make sure you understand what you are dealing with. Here are some points to keep in mind:
1. Sociopaths are ruthless in pursuit of their objective. They will cajole, lie, cheat or bully—whatever gets them what they want. They do not care about following the rules, protocol or even the law. If sociopaths decide it’s more convenient to stay within the law, they may go right to the edge but not break it. Sociopaths are experts at operating in the gray areas.
2. People around the sociopath are likely already compromised. The sociopath has probably lined up allies, or at least people who are afraid to go against him or her. These people have been brown-nosed, bought off or intimidated.
3. You may already be compromised. If a sociopath is preparing to discard you, or perceives you as a threat, he or she may have launched a smear campaign, convincingly expressing concern about your behavior or mental stability to everyone you know. By the time you approach them with your concerns, they are primed to discount whatever you say.
4. The authorities may not act. Unless a law has clearly been broken, the police won’t do anything. And unless a case can be proven and won in court, a prosecutor won’t file charges. Also, whether law enforcement or any other authority decides to look into a matter may depend on the organization’s politics.
5. Sociopaths relish confrontation, and view it as a game to win. Even if you manage to get the person in court or some other arbitration venue, he or she will put on an incredible performance—using tears, righteous indignation, whatever—in order to come out on top. They are very, very good at it.
You come first
This is all really depressing. Do we really just stand by watching sociopaths run rampant, from one victim to the next?
Here’s the most important thing to keep in mind when contemplating exposing a sociopath: Your first responsibility is to yourself.
Are you in a position of strength? Your physical safety is most important, but you also need to be concerned about your financial, reputational and legal safety. When the sociopath counterattacks, which he or she will do, can you withstand it?
If you can’t engage a sociopath head-on, can you do anything covertly? Perhaps you can quietly tell people what the sociopath is really like, and let word-of-mouth take over.
If you decide to take on the sociopath, you’ll need two things: irrefutable evidence of the sociopath’s behavior, and nerves of steel. Many Lovefraud readers have no choice but to face the sociopath in court. If you do, you’ll need to stay calm, collected and professional at all times. The sociopath will most likely try to get an emotional reaction out of you. Do not react — it’s like feeding the beast.
Spread the word
Perhaps it’s too dangerous for you to try to expose the particular sociopath that you tangled with. It doesn’t mean you have to stay totally silent on the subject.
Whenever an opportunity arises, teach people the basic truths about sociopaths: They exist, and they are destructive. Learn the signs of sociopathic behavior and explain them to others. If we raise the general awareness of these predators, there will be fewer people for them to victimize.