Some sociopaths are really, really good at maintaining their charade. They can present themselves as an honest, caring, loving, church-going, salt-of-the-earth man or woman — as long as they deem it necessary to hook you.
H.G. Beverly referred to this in her recent post, Gut instinct is not enough. She described the way her ex, Wyatt, treated her during the seduction stage. With the sweet words that came out of his mouth, who would not interpret his behavior as authentic love? She writes:
The red flags we expect — like little signs of a deceitful nature or callousness or flakiness, or even what we call love-bombing — these red flags are not always going to be there right away.
The key is the last part of her statement — red flags are not always going to be there right away.
Warnings — early or later
I’ve heard stories of people who instinctively knew an individual was a predator immediately. One woman told me she had an overwhelming sense of fear and danger the moment she met a man who turned out to be a sociopath. She derided herself for being judgmental and disregarded her instincts — much to her later regret.
But early warnings do not always happen. Many times the sociopath’s performance is flawless in the beginning, and it’s only later on that you start to see inconsistencies and discrepancies, and feel those internal messages that something isn’t right.
Then the phenomenon that O.N. Ward described in her recent post, Sociopaths are superb natural psychologists, kicks in.
Because in the beginning the sociopath appeared to be so honest, loving, kind and romantic, you come to believe that these are his or her true traits. Your belief becomes the framework for how you interpret his or her behavior.
Later on, when you do see the red flags — lies, callousness, manipulation — you assume that they are aberrations, because they don’t fit with the framework you have in your mind about who this person is.
So when your instincts do finally warn you, you are at risk of discounting the warnings, because the discordant behavior conflicts with the view you hold of the person.
Trust your perceptions
Here’s what you need to understand: Generally your instincts will warn you that someone is dangerous, but this won’t always happen right away. Sometimes you may need to interact with a sociopath for a while — perhaps even date the person for a while — before the mask slips.
Sooner or later, however, it will, and you’ll see behavior that, at the very least, makes you say, “Huh? What was that?”
This is a critical moment. When you see something that gives you pause, it is very important that you do not ignore your perception.
Never, ever, disregard a perception.
That’s when you get in trouble. You see or sense that something is off, but you talk yourself out of it, or you allow the sociopath to talk you out of it.
It may be really, really difficult to act on a perception. You may have already made a commitment to the person. Many people have told me that the sociopath’s behavior was perfect until the wedding — and then it changed, either slowly or dramatically.
So what do you do? You just got married. Do you file for divorce already? Well, all of the people I spoke to wish they had done exactly that.
Instincts are a form of perception. If you can trust your perceptions whenever they arise, even if you don’t avoid a sociopath completely, you’ll have a better chance of getting out of a bad situation more damage is done.