Healing from a relationship with a sociopath is hard, often brutally hard. Don’t add to that by being hard on yourself if your own path is filled with dark days and setbacks–even setbacks you may have caused by diverting from a path of “no contact.” We are human. We are imperfect. Seek support from those who understand and will not judge. It’s okay. All we can ever do in life is to move forward.
No Contact/No Emotion
Yet, as soon as possible, no contact with a sociopath is important. If no contact isn’t possible for legal, custody or other reasons, keeping the contact minimal and totally devoid of emotion is critical.
Why? Because sociopaths feed on emotion. I just finished reading a book published by a self-proclaimed sociopath, and he described it as needing “fuel.” Just as we all need oxygen to breathe, food to eat, and shelter to keep us at a comfortable temperature, sociopaths need to trigger emotions in others because sociopaths are fueled by controlling others. Your emotion (just knowing you will react emotionally even if the sociopath cannot witness it) is evidence of that control. They are truly emotional vampires.
Our Emotion is Like a Drug to The Sociopath—It Fuels Them
That’s one of the reasons sociopaths strive for continued contact with former victims. Just as the sociopath is like a drug to you (you know the relationship is toxic, yet you crave it anyway), the fuel your emotional reaction provides for the sociopath (positive or negative) is like a drug to the sociopath. To get it, they need people in their lives–they need you. At first, during the love-bombing stage, the emotion they created in you is positive and that’s fuel for them, too. But as your feelings naturally evolve from giddy, over-the-moon being in love to more mature love, it’s not enough to keep the sociopath fueled. At this stage, they purposely trigger negative emotions and ruminations in you to create the fuel they crave.
Yes, They are Setting You Up
Why was he so nasty to me this morning? Was she really flirting with my best friend? Was I really being inconsiderate by going out with friends after work? And so it goes. Their subtle and sometimes not so subtle behavior triggers a reaction in you. That reaction fuels them, as it is testament to their power and control.
Will the sociopath ever admit to doing this. Heck no, because if you realize you are no more than a puppet to them, then you might leave and the puppet master would be without his/her primary source of fuel, fun, and satisfaction. Why ruin a good thing? To keep the game going, there has to be “deniability” and they put the onus on you–you really are too sensitive, you didn’t understand, you can’t take a joke, you really were flirting, etc. See where this is going? In the end the only conclusion is that you really are a horrible, incompetent, neurotic, fill-in-the-blank, person.
Please Don’t Feed the Animals!
If you live in the country, you’ve probably learned not to put food out for wild animals, because they’ll just keep coming back for more. A sociopath is the same way. Provide him or her with fuel, and the sociopath will keep coming back for more. For your health and sanity, you cannot feed their hunger for your emotional reaction. Just like a wild raccoon that once found a tasty tidbit in your backyard, a sociopath will keep revisiting a potential fuel source. Again, please don’t feed the animals. You want them to stop coming around. They are dangerous—they bite and carry diseases.
Don’t Make the Sociopath Addicted to Your Emotional Pain.
As discussed in my post last week and in my book, intermittent reinforcement (i.e., random acts) of love and attention by the sociopath is part of what makes you “addicted” to the relationship with the sociopath. I’m guessing that probably works in reverse.
If we are inconsistent–contact, no contact…. contact, no contact, no contact, contact etc.–with the sociopath, aren’t we training the sociopath to be addicted to us as a source of something that fuels them–emotional pain? You don’t want this.
Perhaps I’m over simplifying it, but there may be the only two ways out once a sociopath considers you a great source of fuel for them. Either:
- you go “no contact/no emotion,” knowing you will be tested, and the tests will be both brutal frontal attacks as well as sneaky Trojan-horse attempts, and you endure without reacting until the sociopath is convinced there is no more fuel/emotion to be extracted from you, or
- The sociopath drains you so profoundly that you become so depressed that you are no longer capable of emotion. At that point you are discarded, as you are no longer a useful source of fuel to the sociopath.
Neither road is easy, but if those are really your only two choices isn’t the first option a whole lot better? I don’t mean to be harsh, but perhaps framing it this way will help us stay on the no contact/no emotion path no matter what.
My own sad tale of unwittingly investing almost twenty years of my life into a relationship with a sociopath and sometimes diverting from the best path, is chronicled in my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via Amazon.com). It is a cautionary tale of how much one’s life can be train wrecked and one’s soul can be depleted. As I don’t get a “do over,” hopefully some of my painful lessons can help others impacted by these masked vultures.
Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.