I recently received a review copy of The Sociopath at the Breakfast Table — Recognizing and dealing with antisocial and manipulative people. The book was written by Dr. Jane McGregor, a lecturer at Nottingham University Institute of Mental Health, and Tim McGregor, a consultant, writer and mental health practitioner.
This is a slender volume, only 111 pages, plus appendix, index and resource listing. It provides a good overview of the sociopathic disorder, how sociopaths affect their targets, and what targets can do to recover. However, if you’re looking for a thorough discussion of these topics, you’ll need to augment your reading with other sources.
The sociopathic transaction
One of concepts proposed by the authors was very interesting — the “Sociopath-Empath-Apath Triad.” The term describes three types of people:
- Sociopath — the one with the personality disorder
- Empath — an individual who is highly perceptive, insightful and sensitive to another’s emotions
- Apath — someone who is apathetic and likely to do the sociopath’s bidding
The authors describe an incident or exchange involving a sociopath as a “sociopathic transaction.” Here’s what they say about it:
For a sociopathic transaction to be effective it requires the following threesome: a sociopath, an empath and an apath. … The usual setup goes something like this: On seeing the sociopath say or do something underhanded, the empath is forced to make a stand. The empath challenges the sociopath, who throws others off the scent by shifting the blame to the empath. The empath becomes an object of abuse when the apath corroborates the sociopath’s perspective. Ultimately the situation usually ends badly for the empath, and sometimes also for the apath (if his conscience comes back to haunt him or subsequently he becomes and object of abuse himself). Frustratingly, however, the sociopath often gets off scot-free.
I’m sure there are many, many cases in which the scenario described above is exactly what occurs. However, I wouldn’t say this is a global pattern. Often times — especially in romantic involvements — the sociopath doesn’t need the tacit cooperation of an apath in order to exploit his target. Sociopaths are quite capable of doing this all by themselves. Still, the idea that bystanders enable the sociopath, if only by remaining quiet, is useful.
Another concept in the book that I liked was the “enlightened witness.” The authors attribute this term to author and child abuse expert Alice Miller, who wrote Banished Knowledge: Facing childhood injuries. An enlightened witness is someone who is willing to support a harmed individual and help him gain understanding of his past experiences.
When an individual has been harmed by a sociopath, enlightened witnesses can be hard to come by. As we’ve discussed here on Lovefraud, finding anyone who understands what we’ve experienced, even among trained professionals, is difficult.
If a target has trouble finding support, the book authors suggest looking on the Internet. They write:
In this context an enlightened witness is anyone who is insightful and empathetic enough to help you face up to your difficulties and regain your autonomy. If you are isolated and no such witness is immediately available, social media and the Inernet can prove a helpful route to finding support. The change process is often messy, so if you become engaged in peer support you may find yourself flitting between roles, from acting helpless to engaging in the act of helping others. This is entirely normal and healthy given the tentative nature of the recovery process.
So here we are. Lovefraud is an online community full of enlightened witnesses, helping each other through the healing process.
A Lovefraud reader recently sent me a link to an article written by Dr. Jane McGregor and Tim McGregor that touches on more of the topics in their book. Here it is:
Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths — protect yourself, on AddictionToday.org.
If you’d like to know more, their book is available on Amazon.com: