Downton Abbey was on TV last night, and Terry and I are among the millions of fans. Last night’s episode (Season 3, Episode 4) ended in tragedy because of behavior that looked so familiar to me.
(Spoiler Alert: The following description gives away the story.)
Lord Grantham’s daughter, Lady Sybil, is about to give birth. Rather than depend on the local country doctor, Dr. Clarkson, Lord Grantham has imported a more socially acceptable obstetrician, Sir Philip Tapsell, to deliver the baby. As the birth approaches, both doctors are in attendance at the estate.
Lady Sybil starts acting incoherently. Dr Clarkson fears that she may be toxemic. He recommends that they rush to the hospital so the baby can be delivered immediately by C-section. Sir Philip insists that nothing is wrong—Lady Sybil is experiencing a normal childbirth. The two doctors argue in front of the entire family — and the nature of the argument is why I’m describing the show.
Dr. Clarkson worries that Lady Sybil may be in grave danger, but admits that he doesn’t know for sure. Sir Philip, on the other hand, is totally confident that nothing is wrong. He never wavers. He is pompous in his confidence. He practically sneers at the country bumpkin doctor for being an alarmist, and actually tells him to shut up.
Lord Grantham notes that Dr. Clarkson isn’t sure about the possible danger, whereas Sir Philip is 100% confident that everything is fine. He sides with Sir Philip, and they do not go to the hospital.
Lady Sybil goes into labor and the baby is born. But a short time later, she goes into convulsions and dies.
Argued like a sociopath
Dr. Clarkson was right all along. But Sir Philip spoke with unshakeable self-confidence, unwaveringly certain that he knew best. He argued like a sociopath.
I am not saying that the Sir Philip character is a sociopath. But I am saying that his extreme confidence, his self-righteousness and his hubris are all traits that sociopaths display when they are pushing to get their way.
I write about this in my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud:
How do they do it? How do sociopaths convince you to go along with their agendas, even to your own detriment?
They command it. This is a function of their charisma — because they command unflinchingly, with complete self-confidence, they get results. Now, this doesn’t mean sociopaths are always barking orders. Often the commands are delivered on cushions of sweetness, or camouflaged as appeals for sympathy. But in their minds, whatever sociopaths want, they are totally entitled to have. Therefore, when they make their desires known, they show no doubt, only certainty. Compliance is demanded, and targets respond.
Those of us who are not disordered usually aren’t as adamant in expressing our views, opinions or desires. We may think we’re right, but recognize that we could be wrong. We may know what we want, but we’re willing to compromise. So when we come across people who communicate vociferously and forcefully — well, we tend to be bowled over. Because of the sheer force of their words, we tell ourselves that they must know what they’re talking about, they’re telling the truth, and they’re right.
My ex-husband’s convincing lies
I’m soon going to be on another TV show — I’ll tell you all more when I have details. The producer asked me if I had any more video or audio of my ex, James Montgomery. Well, I found some tapes that I had forgotten about — recordings of voice mails, and a recording of our first telephone conversation when I arrived home after leaving him. The tapes illustrate the steamroller tactics with which he argued — even when he was lying.
Let me set the scene. James Montgomery swept into my life, portraying himself as a successful entrepreneur. He invited me to be part of his business plans, which, if I could help him get started, were sure to make us fabulously wealthy. He pressured me to lease a car for him — it was in my name, and I made all the payments. To feed his unending need for money, I drained my savings and loaded about $60,000 in debt to my previously zero-balance credit cards.
Montgomery also told me he was a member of the Australian military who had heroically served in Vietnam, and still acted as a consultant, particularly on terrorism. He often flew to Florida, telling me he was stopping by MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, home of the Special Operations Command. While there, he was able to get around by borrowing the cars of other military members that were parked at the base.
In December 1998, Montgomery dragged me to Florida, saying he had a contract to open a Titanic show in Orlando. We spent money we didn’t have to move down there. A few weeks later Montgomery admitted he never had a contract. Then, while he was flying to yet another business meeting, I discovered that he had fathered a child with another woman during our marriage. I left Florida, and took the car that he had been driving.
So, here’s part of my conversation with James Montgomery when I was back at my home in New Jersey. (Warning: Contains some profanity.)
Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know during the conversation. My entire marriage was a financial scam. James Montgomery was never in the military. When he travelled to Florida, he was visiting other women — including, but not limited to, the mother of the child., who probably owned the car he drove.
Yet listen to how he argued about the car. I was wrong for taking the car back to New Jersey, which inconvenienced him. I was wrong about him using cars from the base. And I was stupidly ignorant about the policy for using military cars. Montgomery was adamant and self-righteous in his argument — even though everything he said was a lie.
At the time, the conversation was terribly upsetting. He threw many more accusations and threats at me, which, because of the conviction of his words, made me wonder if he was right.
Later, I discovered that everything he said that day, and practically everything he said during our marriage, was a lie — no matter how convincingly the words were stated.
I didn’t know someone could lie with such confidence and conviction. And that’s how I got into the entire mess.