By Paula Carrasquillo
Editor’s note: Paula Carrasquillo is author of “Escaping the Boy — My Life with a Sociopath.” Read Lovefraud’s book review.
A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship with a man who demonstrated zero empathy, zero remorse, zero compassion and seemed to lack any inkling of a conscience.
He lashed out at me often, raged and accused me of doing things I never did and of being a person I could never imagine being.
I tried desperately to make him “see the light” of his negative thinking and paranoia. But all of my pleadings and attempts to convince him that he was wrong about my intentions proved futile. The emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse he inflicted simply became more intense as time passed. And once he started emotionally abusing and harming my five-year-old son, I knew I had no choice but to abandon this man.
It was hard for me to give up on him. He seemed so lost and desperate. He was like an infant who had yet to learn the lessons of life and love.
Little did I know that he was a sociopath whose only usefulness was to teach me how not to be in this world.
What kind of crazy person would date a sociopath?
Many of you may be scratching your heads and wondering how I ended up in a relationship with such a person in the first place. It must have been my fault—I chose him after all.
Rest assured, I am not a masochist; if I had known from the onset of the relationship that I would lose myself, I would have stepped away at first glance.
Sociopaths are very charming, manipulative and cunning. As Martha Stout, Ph.D., notes in her book, The Sociopath Next Door, sociopaths are also narcissistic. Like their namesake of myth, Narcissus, narcissists appear to always and forever be gazing lovingly at themselves.
If you interpret Narcissus this way, you would be half correct. Narcissus is always and forever gazing loving at his reflection, not at himself—there is a difference.
A reflection of a person is a distortion; it is not the inner reality and nuances that reveal our nature. The narcissistic sociopath falls in love with a distorted self-image, not his spirit.
Sociopaths hide their true nature from themselves and from everybody else. Instead of being real and sharing their inner fears and shame, sociopaths present to the world an idealized reflection, a projection of who they want us to think they are and of who they desperately wish to be. These projections are mere shadows and imaginings of their surroundings and are composed of nothing real or tangible.
Just as we fail to grasp the ebbing and flowing tides, we fail to grasp the true nature of the sociopath. From victim to victim, the sociopath changes to fit the world’s expectations of him.
How does the sociopath project a self-image to the world that seems so real to us? Although the sociopath commits no time to self-reflection, the sociopath studies and mocks our nature, the nature of good people, daily. Our surface nature, the things we say and do, are what the sociopath uses to fool us.
When we first meet a sociopath, we would never guess he/she is a sociopath. They seem to act like us and think like us and have the same drive as us. We think the sociopath is normal and healthy and filled with the same wonders and imaginings we have.
Why would we ever think the sociopath was a sociopath?
We are easily fooled, because the sociopath has mastered the art of mimicking and reflecting back onto us our behaviors and conditionings, good and bad. We have unknowingly been the personal and collective Pavlov’s dog for all of the millions of sociopaths in the world today. (Think Jodi Arias, Drew Peterson, Scott Peterson, Michelle Michael and Josh Powell; all excellent examples of how society has been fooled by sociopaths who toss our ability to relate and empathize back at us in order to gain our pity and understanding.)
However, the tide is shifting. More and more victims and survivors of sociopaths are coming forward, sharing their stories and bringing awareness to the masses of the existence and prevalence of sociopaths among us. We are learning how to spot these predators, and they aren’t who and what we have been conditioned to believe.
What is a sociopath, exactly?
According to Stout, sociopaths make up 4% of western society. That’s about 1 in 25 people walking around among us without a conscience, without the ability to measure, or care to measure, the morality of their decisions and actions.
Unlike what we read on the television news or see in Hollywood movies, sociopaths aren’t just serial killers and murderers. Rather, they are members of our communities, possibly our mothers and fathers, our doctors, our lawyers, our judges and even our lovers, who seamlessly blend into society with the rest of us.
Dr. Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us , has developed a list of 20 sociopathic traits (available on the Key Symptoms page of Lovefraud.com).
Keep in mind that in order for someone to be suspected of being a sociopath and accurately diagnosed, at least 10 of these traits must occur as an all-pervasive, repeated pattern of behavior. More importantly, if and when the individual is called out on any one of these negative behaviors, that person is unaffected by any hurt or harm they have caused. In their minds, their behavior is justified and everyone else is just a bunch of suckers for having been fooled.
Why didn’t you just leave?
I did leave. I left him twice, but both times I was wracked with guilt for abandoning him, so I returned. Regardless of my gut repeatedly telling me to get out and stay out, I ignored my instincts, because I honestly thought he could be “fixed” and that I was the one who could help him.
I was clueless about Hare’s list and had no knowledge of Stout’s book. I did not understand that, as a sociopath, he was incapable of changing his behavior.
I tried. But regardless of my many attempts to meet the demands he placed on me in the relationship, I failed.
He repeatedly accused me of not loving him enough, of cheating on him, of choosing my son before him (like that’s a bad thing), of not paying enough attention to him, of not needing him the way he needed me to need him and of behaving as if I mattered. (But I do matter, right?)
I was a bad mother, a hateful girlfriend, and a disrespectful human being. Imagine the most hateful word you could call someone, and that’s what he called me.
I gave up.
I avoided social situations in which I had to introduce him to people as my boyfriend. Although no one was able to see through his mask upon first meeting this man, I knew a mask existed and desperately wanted to keep others from the inevitable harm he would cause them once he decided to unmask himself. I wanted to protect others more than I wanted to save myself.
I blamed myself.
As time passed and I listened less and less to my instincts, I became more and more isolated and ashamed of myself. I was ashamed to be with someone who I allowed to control me, someone who lacked care and empathy and who hurt others with impunity. At the same time, I allowed this shame to define my self-worth and self-identity.
Like Narcissus, we see ourselves as a reflection of what and who we are surrounded. When I gazed at my reflection, I could only see the ugliness and darkness inside of me that came from this man’s projections onto me.
Fortunately, unlike Narcissus, we have the ability to change our perspective and unburden ourselves from eternally gazing upon a false sense of self that the sociopath created and presented before us. We have the power within ourselves to reach through the material waters and grasp our spirit and bring it to the surface.
I have no idea what finally took over me and guided me (other than my instincts and the need to keep my son safe), but I finally escaped this man. I left and never returned.
It has taken me nearly two years to regain what was lost: my ability to love myself so I can love others completely.
Along the journey of discovering myself, I gained clarity about life and love that had eluded me my whole life:
The most difficult place to get to in life is a place of self-love. Self-love requires you to care for yourself, respect yourself, take responsibility for yourself, and know yourself. With self-love, we find peace within, which leads to peace without.
I understand now that I needed to experience the sociopath’s darkness in order to find self-love and learn to appreciate the lightness of being.
It’s a lesson I hope I never forget.