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By December 3, 2015 64 Comments Read More →

Sociopaths—How They Lie and Why We Fall For It: Part 2

Sociopath Toolkit 2

Sociopaths have many tools in their deceptive toolkit. Last week, in Part 1, I explored three techniques “Paul,” my husband of about 20 years who I now believe is a sociopath, used the day after our honeymoon.  (This is taken from my book, Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned , available via Amazon.com).  The three techniques were:

 1) framing the conversation to blind me to what was in clear view,

2) creating cognitive dissonance that I would likely resolve in his favor,

3) deceiving without uttering a single word that was untrue.

 A barrage of other deceptive techniques, likely common to other liars and sociopaths, followed.

“Our Honeymoon Isn’t Over Until I Say It’s Over!” 

It all started the night we returned from our honeymoon; Paul became furious with me when I needed to make a business-related call.  He snapped, “Our honeymoon isn’t over until I say it’s over!”  His remark and anger upset me and I discussed the unsettling interaction with Paul the next day.  I started by repeating his comment and letting him know how I’d felt.

Answering A Question With A Question And Putting Me On The Defensive

After the first three techniques (above) did not get me to drop the subject, Paul added, “Do you really think I would say that?” This is the technique of answering a question with a question. And it was not just any question but a question that redirected my focus away from Paul’s behavior to defending my character (i.e., Am I the kind of person who accuses my husband of being purposely hurtful?).

Without being aware of this tactic, I was immobilized. Paul succeeded in getting me to feel defensive, as if I needed to explain and justify my words. Now, I felt guilty for doubting him.

Imperfect Memory and Gaslighting

Imperfect memory is another technique Paul used to obfuscate. When I pressed the point, he countered with, “I don’t remember saying that …” Again, that was true, technically. Neither Paul nor I have a photographic memory. Absent a recording, neither of us could have remembered exactly what was said the previous day. Gaslighting, named after the movie Gaslight, also involves simply denying facts that one knows to be true. As memory is imperfect, getting someone to question his or her own memory is easier than most of us think.

I Was Just Joking 

When I persisted and commented that I remembered him saying something like that, Paul employed the “I was just joking” defense.

In other words, if I was correct that Paul had said anything even close to what I thought he’d said, it could only have been a joke, because Paul was such a nice person that he would never have done something hurtful on purpose.

Bullies use the “I was just joking defense” a lot. They assert that any normal person, who is not neurotically over sensitive, would have known they were joking. So, if you persist in the perception that they were not joking, it could only mean that you are a terribly flawed person, with no sense of humor. To avoid appearing too oversensitive, those bullied often renege on the original assertion that the bully’s behavior was caustic and hurtful.

Score one for sociopaths and bullies everywhere!

Character Assassination

When I clung to my correct perception that Paul had not been kidding, Paul’s defense turned to subtle character assassination that made me question myself by suggesting that I was oversensitive. “You were clearly over sensitive last night,” he said.  Again, this diverted my focus to defending my character, and away from Paul’s behavior and his lies.

Typecasting

To buy a little extra insurance, Paul added, “It seems you’re calling me a liar.” Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, calls this type of subtle character assassination “typecasting.” By labeling me again in an unflattering way—as someone who would call her new husband a liar—Paul set me up to prove an unflattering label untrue.

The ultimate irony here was that, although he had lied, I had not called him a liar.

By accusing me of doing so, he distracted me yet again from his lie and put me on my heels as I sought to reassure my new husband that, as a kind person who loved him, I would never call him a liar.

Pity

When none of these approaches sealed the deal, Paul used the pity play. By employing this tactic, Paul seduced me into feeling badly for him. “But now, you’re getting me upset,” he said. By design, this pulled at my heart strings and got me to disengage.

Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, regards the pity play as a key tool in the sociopath’s toolkit.

Distracting And Discrediting With Irrelevant Details

Although Paul did not use the technique in this particular conversation, another ploy he often used was to distract and discredit with irrelevant details.

As if in a court of law, once he established that he believed I had misremembered something trivial (like recalling that we had started dinner at 6:30 p.m. when he was sure, whether or not he was actually correct, it was closer to 6:10) then, by implication, the rest of my memory was also flawed, rendering all of my concerns and observations moot.

It’s Crazy Making—By Design

Many sociopaths are wordsmith wizards, skilled storytellers, and expert debaters. Beware, because the yarns they spin and the arguments they win tie you up in knots, divert you from the truth and leave you deflated, but they have nothing to do with a healthy discussion or productive conflict resolution.

Your negative feelings are an internal alarm signal that “something’s wrong here,” yet you are being encouraged to disconnect that internal warning system, as the sociopath gets you to associate the negative feelings with your own failings, not something wrong with the sociopath or relationship.

Are you necessarily aware of this dynamic? Probably not.

Over time you are likely to become increasingly unsure of your own observations and judgements as well as to give up trying to engage in a productive discussion, since trying to do that only makes you feel worse.  After all, when you do, your observations are invalidated and your negative feelings are twisted around so that your character flaws are the source of them all. The end result is that the sociopath is honest and perfect but that you are over sensitive, insensitive, accusatory, have a terrible memory, have no sense of humor, make your partner feel bad, etc.

Now that was fun!

Keep A Journal

If this is how you feel after trying to resolve conflicts with your partner, start keeping a journal, because befuddling, unsatisfying, and chronically one-sided resolutions to conflicts may be a strong indicator you are dealing with a sociopath. Your written record will help establish that fact long after your memory of past events begins to fade or is distorted.

BUT, it’s best to keep your journaling private and the journal itself safe.  Sociopaths live to control and manipulate others.  Your own journal will provide the sociopath with powerful weaponry to use against you.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.  As a “happy divorce” present, my ex-husband sent me a copy of my own journal.  Apparently, he surreptitiously gained access to my home months earlier, copied the journal and replaced it without me ever knowing he’d been there. Nice man!

(Identifying names, places, events and characteristics of “Paul”—not his real name—and others I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect their and my identity.)



64 Comments on "Sociopaths—How They Lie and Why We Fall For It: Part 2"

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  1. still waiting to get my lifeback says:

    Everyone goes through hell, but not everyone stays there. Stop tormenting yourself by reliving the pain over and over. Good people go through terrible things, but wise people know when and how to let it go. Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness. Love a person for who they are and how they treat you, not by how they look or what they give you. You can recover from financial loss buy it’s worse too lose something or someone money can’t buy.



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  2. stronginthecity says:

    Stillwaiting,
    This site has been my lifeline since 2013.
    I still remember the day I found it during a time I was so confused and I just typed what I was feeling into the google search bar and within a few days was on the phone having a consultation with Donna during my lunch break.
    I still have the hand written notes I took during the phone call.
    I just looked at them a few days ago.
    I have always been the type of person who needs to understand what happened and why before I can move on.
    This “journey” if you will has opened my eyes and my faith in God to a level I have never experienced.
    I never thought I would be starting over..again at my age but feel it’s necessary to do.
    Watching someone you love die before your eyes will do that to you.
    I will never change me..I have just inserted boundaries into my caring nature and will implement the when the warning bells start ringing.
    I am still working on that little word “no”
    Something changed, and it’s because I started loving myself instead of seeking it in others.
    Hugs to you all.
    XOXO,
    Stronginthecity



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    • still waiting to get my lifeback says:

      Strong,
      You are paying it forward. I watched the videos on YouTube that you suggested to another person. That guy is really good and on point. I like that he post from his car and is a straight shooter. Also, I signed up for the free webinar. I didn’t purchase because right now is not a good and she had a YouTube video as well. I was reading a post on Facebook about and this one lady left a comment and her story sounded like mine another person commented and told her to come to this site and of course I click on it. I literally was reading for like 5 or 6 hours straight. I felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t losing my mind. That in itself was comforting and process begun.



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      • stronginthecity says:

        still waiting,
        Thank you! I try.
        When I see something that has helped me I want to share because was like a recipe; a little of this a little of that.
        The webinar..Melanie’s?
        Did you do it yet?
        I have done 2 because i wanted to see if they were all the same and they were not.
        The first one was July I think and was a little better than the recent one about a month ago.
        I did purchase the silver program and was disappointed they were all mp3’s and they are all the same principle so she did refund my money.
        I did experience a hugh shift during the first one.
        Another youtube I highly recommend is inner child healing I love Jason Stephensons meditations.
        Assc Direct on you tube answered my questions in an email which I thought was so nice of him to take the time.
        I stay off FB, never was a fan so thats easy for me!
        The meditations were paid forward to me by remembertoforget and keepingon.
        I go through my times when I dont look up anything for awhile and just do other stuff, like look for jobs!
        I love Melanies videos, she says “theres nothing more to do”
        I love that!
        This does get better, I promise.
        SITC



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        • still waiting to get my lifeback says:

          Thank you the webinar and the video was by Melanie. How cool of AssocDirec to respond to your email. He tell you in some of the videos to contact him if you have any questions. Happy to hear he responded. I will look for Jason meditation videos. Again, thanks for sharing.



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