The Everyday Sociopath

Sociopathic behaviour is not limited only to those who physically attack or kill their vicitms.  In fact, the notion of extreme sociopaths serves as a smoke screen hindering us recognizing the more common, “Everyday Sociopath”.

Through innumerable life experiences, I have met and interacted with a large number of people who seem to have little measurable conscience or compassion for others in their everyday interractions.  They don’t necessarily manifest their sociopathic behaviour in violence or murder.  Instead, they seem to slowly but persistently hurt, bother, control, manipulate, deceive, use, annoy, or badger their victims over years, decades or in many cases, entire lifetimes.  They never kill, but they constantly wound.  Most of us have at least one Everyday Sociopath our lives diguised as everyday people.

They often have just enough conscience and functionality to remain in relationship with us as family members, friends, colleagues, employers, religious leaders, and professionals, just to name a few.  Yet seemingly, they use this functionality to hold their victims within arm’s reach with one hand, so they can remain close enough to use or abuse us with their other hand.

They want us close enough so they can take from us what they need.  They often seek to keep us in a positions of dependence or lack.  They manipulate us to stay in these relational dynamics.  They often lead us to believe we are valued.  We are, but only to fulfill and perpetuate their sick needs.

Who is the Everyday Sociopath?  He/she can be …

The family member who helps us in our time of need, but just enough to keep us in a place where they can maintain control over us.  We are kept in a suspended state so we can fill a need in their life, but never helped to regain our independence.

The employer who paints us false pictures of the success that await us one day so we will continue to work for him/her while the ship sinks with us on it.

The recovery-house director who rescues us at our most desperate and vulnerable moment only to showcase us so he can attract more clients or funding.  He helps us with one hand while sabotaging our lives and reputations with the other hand so he can again play the hero in the eyes of onlookers.

The verbally and emotionally abusive spouse who berates and belittles us in private then shows us off in public.  He/she apologizes and appeases just enough to keep us in the relationship.  Yet is really all about him/her.  Their cycle is is typically: abuse –> regret –> apologize –> repeat.

The religious leader who guilts us into volounteering or making donations to help “God’s Work” when all along its his/her own personal agenda of fame and financial gain.

The colleague who cleverly taints our boss’s perspective to his own favour through subtle suggestions and disclosures about us or others.

The ex-spouse who speaks highly of us to the children, yet plays subtle control cards over us such as avoidance of communication, booking our childrens’ schedule without consultation with us then telling our kids we are disrupting their plans when we speak up, allowing kids to overhear demeaning conversations and suggestions about us, and/or taking the childrens’ side when we are having an issue with them without ever having an adult-to-adult dialogue with us as the other parent. 

The “Family Stager” who puts the appearance of the family ahead of truth and fair or kind treatment of the family members, including but not limited to children.  They obsessively hide, deny, or rationalize harms and abuses in the family in order to keep up appearances.  As a result, they help perpetuate the harm.

The person in any relationship who controls us with anger or threat of anger.  If they don’t get their way, they may rage, go silent, huff, roll their eyes, scowl, or send us some other small communication.  Either way, they project some form of controlling anger and are used to us responding by giving in to them.  The more subtle their anger-manipulation, the sicker they probably are.

The tricky part of the everyday sociopath is that they aren’t necessarily doing anything illegal.  So their behaviour can go on for a long, long time.  They are usually very subtle.  In fact, they are often so self-deceived, they aren’t fully aware they are being this way.

How did they become this way?  Probably by example, desperation, and practice. They are likely to be people who are sick or where at one time harmed in such a way that they create these coping mechanisms and embed them into how they treat others.

The longer I live, the more I become aware that any of us can slip in the direction of such roles.  Yet the longer I live, the less I am willing to be affected by Everyday Sociopaths.  In my experience, there is little I can do to help them, esepcially if they have been rehearsing these behaviours for many years.

Unless they hit a hard, painful bottom, they will not likely change.  So I make it my priority to avoid and protect myself and others from them.  As sad as it may sound, I personally leave such people behind.  This is the best thing I can do for me, them, and others.

Ciao.

Chaz

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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21 Responses to The Everyday Sociopath

  1. Cyndi says:

    yes, you’re right chaz. i had recently a ‘friend’ who i should have never allowed in my life again and it is a wonder that he held the same job for many years until he got caught forging a signature–he worked as a financial advisor and they had contests and such, so the forging was of a client of his to meet a quota for one of these contests. anyway, in my whole life i have never met someone with such a ‘split’ in personality–when angry he refers to himself in the third person and sound like a child throwing a tantrum–his contrasting ‘normalness’ and gregariousness is the net he caught me with six years ago and i made the mistake of allowing him into my life again–as a friend; it was a vulnerable time, my sister having just passed away and he asked to meet for coffee. it never turned back into a dating relationship, but i fear he was biding his time to see if i would change my mind–it was a big mistake on my part–i thought perhaps because it was a stressful time six years ago it and his behaviour was some reaction to that and thinking maybe he was ‘okay’ now. you right exactly. we cannot expect someone to change if they have no awareness of their own behaviour. thank you for this and for the way you categorized each one–again well done.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Cyndy… thanks for stopping by.

      Sad as it may be, in my experience, I find no alternative than to buffer myself from such people.

      The one non-negotiable ingredient for change as far as I have seen it is a vivid awakening of one’s harmful ways. Harmful to self and others. This awakening only seems to come about through calamity, pain, and loss. Yet those I have come to know as Everyday Sociopaths seem to have formed a well-fortified wall of oblivion around themselves. They are so lost in self-deception and denial that they are largely unreachable.

      As part of my journey moving forward with life, I have stopped assuming the role of missionary to the unreachable. Instead, I find it better to just be obedient to what you believe you should be doing in life and if God uses you to influence someone, he will make it known and make you effective in that moment.

      As we grow and move forward, we begin to weed out these types of people in our lives and migrate more to healthier people. We raise the bar of the company we keep and grow with them. In my experience, we cannot do this with too many millstones shackled to us dragging us down. Again, sounds cruel but I am convinced that some people we need to leave to their contorted ways.

      So much health and fullness awaits us in better company. And who knows, the sickest of sick may indeed one day hit bottom, have an awakening, and one day be a miraculously changed person too. But thats in God’s hands.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  2. kweenmama says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you state that these types of people are self-deceived. I have experienced that over and over with a certain two people in my life. I am recently experiencing some hurt from one of them. Your post is just what I needed to realize that I need to leave this person behind…I need to protect my heart.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks KM…

      I realize it is a tough decision cutting loose from certain people. There was a time where I didnt and paid the consequence.

      It does not mean we shut the door on them for all time. It just means we make a decisioin to no longer invest today’s energy into them as they are today.

      We can remain positive from a distance. The mere act of remaining healthy and getting on with our lives can have a positive impact on them. And under no circumstances should we switch our energy from spending active time with them to inactively resenting or judging them.

      We are available if they ever come back and genuinely need our help for genuine growth and change.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  3. Piper Bayard says:

    I love this post, Chaz. You are spot on.

    I just had to cut loose another Everyday Sociopath from my life. It breaks my heart, but I had to draw the line. She was my mother’s best friend, and she’d known me all my life. She was there for me through many of life’s major changes, but she also regularly subjected me to her spontaneous opinionated criticism. Not in subtle ways, but in savage ways that brought me to tears, and often at times when I needed her most. When she only did it once or twice a year, I made excuses for her and let it go. “She’s getting old. . . . She was my mom’s best friend. . . . She’s the only person left in my life who’s known me from the beginning. . . .” But in the last year, ever since she lost her husband, she started doing it every time I saw her. I have suffered losses and so have tried to be patient, but I reached a point when my heart sank if I saw that she had called. I knew I had to say something. As kindly as possible, I told her that I’m not here for her to kick at will. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was being unfair. I was being mean. I was being unstable and crazy to accuse her of such a thing. How dare me? I’m sorry I could not save the good parts. She was a very good to me many times over the years in spite of that underlying streak of manipulation that runs deeper than breath in those folks. Let’s face it. If they were 100% evil, they would be easy to leave behind, and we would have done it long ago.

    I always love your blog, Chaz. Thank you for your consistent, uninterrupted insights.

  4. Chaz says:

    Hi Piper…. wow…. sounds like a tough but perhaps necessary decision. The situation you describe typifies what I have experienced to be the aforementioned Everyday Sociopath.

    Sounds like this family friend did the classic, hold you close with one hand seemingly for the purpose of keeping you conveniently close enough to punch you with the other. Sorry you went through this and that it was as prolonged as it was. Many of us have.

    I too have let similar people go. The challenge from that point is to then not resent them. And even more important to not become like them. Especially if we have been treated this way since childhood. We will not realize that this modelling, even though we dispised it, is likely to be programmed into us in some way. Not unlike my dispise for my Dad’s alcoholism and moods…. and my vow against ever becoming such… yet finding myself exactly there, but cleverly disguised from myself given that I carried out my own version of his negative traits.

    My wife was in a similar dynamic as yours but with a childhood friend. My wife did not realize til adulthood that all along, it appears that the friend kept her close and helped her out largely so she could then criticize and tease her… seemingly to feel better about herself.

    When my wife matured and prospered (career-wise, family-wise, and realtionally), the friendship dissolved. My wife was no longer the needier one in the friendship and therefore could not longer be controlled and used.

    Sad eh? Yet a common dynamic.

    Nice to hear from you Piper as always. I have been a little dormant lately on the blogging front due to other commitments. But will be around.

    See ya on the blogs and thanks as always for your insightful reflections.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  5. Keri Lynn says:

    Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, it’s hard to see that a person is a sociopath. After all, their skill is in manipulating others. A great book that helps you understand the thinking and actions of a sociopath, while weaving a fascinating story, is Lis Wiehl’s newest suspense novel, Heart of Ice. The female villain is a beautiful, successful woman, who actually is a murderous sociopath. Just reading it may remind you of someone you know, and help you to recognize an unhealthy relationship. I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to the amazon page: http://dld.bz/S8Jr

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Keri Lynn…

      Too close is a big part of the problem of many of us staying in relationship with sociopaths. The relational dynamics become familiar and we are numb to the mistreatment. We even contribute to the dynamic. We may even reciprocate with unknowingly cruel treatment of our own. We ought never assume we are immune ourselves to oblivious harm to others.

      Thanks for the recommendation of the novel. Will check the link.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  6. Hi Chaz,

    This post made me realize how much I allow ‘everyday sociopaths’ in, and reflect on what I should do regarding a co-worker with whom I have partnered with on a long term project, and how I should go about disentangling myself. I am in therapy and recovery to attempt to break up my pattern of surrounding myself with such personalities. It was helpful to look at the various manifestations.

    • Chaz says:

      Hey Running…. thanks for stopping by…

      It is indeed a repeating pattern many of us get into…. that of regularly weaving sociopaths like these through our lives.

      Why do we do it? Perhaps because they are easy to attract? Maybe we find it effortless because they so quickly draw to us so they can then draw from us. Knowingly or unknowingly on our part and theirs. Perhaps, and I can say this for myself at various times of my life, we let it happen so that we are not alone. We try to ignore the painful shortcomings of their hurtful, toxic ways.

      Or any number of reasons for why we get in the pattern of allowing these kinds of people in our lives. But we can be certain, most will seek out opportunities to be in relationships wit willing parties.

      Sounds pretty sick when I re-read what I just typed. But it isnt exaggeration in my experience.

      Glad to hear you are getting some enlightenment and support in your own situation. I am a big advocate of seeking help. If we only try to figure things out on our own, we are limited by our own perspectives and weaknesses.

      Keep seeking and linking with good people who can speak into your life.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  7. Heidi says:

    You nailed it! I’m sending this to friends.

  8. Heidi says:

    Thanks. I love what you say. I’d like to read more from you in the future!

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks for your feedback Heidi…. glad the post was helpful. Feel free to pass around. More to come as inspirations arrive. See ya on the blogs!

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  9. Debbie says:

    Interesting post, Chaz. While I’ve never categorized these as sociopathic behaviors, I see you point. There seems to certainly be a hardened conscience involved in each instance you describe. At this point in my life, I’ve been able to extricate myself from most of the above. I do tend to still get tripped up the subtleties: the mean spirit that manifests mostly through innuendo and raised eyebrows. In the manipulation via disapproval that is ever present in just a few throw away sentences and momentary hardening of the eyes; and in their desire to help solve and fix what I don’t consider broken.

    • Chaz says:

      Debbie…. innuendo, raised eyebrows, disappoval through throw away sentances…. these are all strategies I too have experienced by everyday sociopaths. Sadly, these are little practices that are all too frequent and can easily enough become habitual in a relationship. Then our reaction to them… often giving the desired result to the instigator… forms the sick dynamic that can be practiced to perfection.

      The tough thing is these are not obvious brutalities. They can however, if prolonged or taken to an extreme, be silent killers that eat away at us and our relationships until its dead… often leaving only an appearance of function.

      The wake-up moment here is that they are so subtle, any of us can engage in them to one degree or another. To me, these sociopath carry them to extremes and are oblivious to their effects on others… hidden by seared consciences and the fact that nobody is being physically brutalized.

      We ought all be aware of our own use of such subtlties before they get out of hand. And also, be prepared to detach from those who are sickly blind to their extreme use of them.

      Life can be better lived without them.

  10. Jenny says:

    Thank you, this was a great post, Chaz. I’ve recently made the decision to distance myself from an Everyday Sociopath in my life, but I’m scared of the consequences. This person could really mess up my life because our relationship has been very intimate and long-term. Actually, I’ve opened myself up intimately…it was never mutual…and I see that now. I need some advice on how I can safely loosen their grip on me so that they won’t use my friends against me or harass me at work, etc… because as you said, what they’re doing isn’t illegal at all…it’ll just wreck my life. Sadly, this person is very manipulative and deceptive so they don’t appear to be a threat at all. My friends don’t know how to be careful around this person (they don’t think they need to) and so I feel like I don’t have any allies. Help!

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Jenny…. sorry for being so long to reply. I have been away from my blog for a few weeks. Glad you found the post of some value.

      As for advice, that is not my strong suit. I can only say what I might do in a similar situation.

      It sounds like you are seeing vividly the complexity of the everyday sociopath and how stealthily they operate. They are mainly indistinguishable from anyone else which is how they are able to weave themselves into our lives. We of course let them and even help them because we have weaknesses of our own that we at some point hope or beileve they can remedy.

      In my experience, I found that in whatever circumstance I am in in life, that if I, rather than focus on the task, or another person’s part, if I instead focus on improving some aspect of myself, answers begin to unfold. Often from the most unlikely or unexpected sources.

      Especially when problems are too big or too complex for us to get a handle on. Or we find them intimidating or overwhelming. If I simply start working on some aspect of myself that I can clearly see is a weakness, I begin to attract good things and good people through whom more is revealed. It is a wonderful journey.

      I also use the weapon of surrender. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesnt it? Let me venture to give one piece of advice…. you can’t control the sociopath in your life. The socio path himself cant even control himself. He is by definition, out of control. So what can we do other than surrender the problem. What do I mean by that? To me it means giving up the fight in the way we have always fought. Refocus time and effort instead on being the best you you can be. By being an ever-improving you, you will learn to make small choices in better directions that will invariably leave the sociopath behind. You will outgrow him. I am not saying to not protect or defend yourself… I am simply saying stop trying to solve the problem in the way you may always have done in the past.

      This may sound like it is weaving a bit, but this is what I have applied to many aspects of my life and got fabulous results. Surrender is powerful. I stopped letting people and cirumstances that I did not like rob me of time and energy. Instead, time and energy were poured into things that made me stronger. And out of that new strength, new answers came.

      In any case, I hope you are doing well and finding some solutions. Please feel welcome to post back … am happy to dialogue.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  11. heartbroke says:

    Hi I’ve just got a wake up call. My mom died just 2years ago and the unreasonable way my sister behaved I was so caught off guard the cruel things she did made me realize that when she told me that she was one sick individual the things she would think of to get back at someone if they hurt her well she scared me with her tone of vioce.. So now she made a believer out of me. She’s very everything you describe and more. I had to get away from her I would get very sick just being in her presence I love her but I had to let her go.I learned she is a liar which her friend told me and I said a liar is not what I saw her being wrong. I was a fool but no more there everywhere even a sister.she’s in Gods hands now .Thank you ,you helped me to get over the feelings of guilt for moveing on.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Heartbroke…. glad to hear you gained some insights. Amazing how we get tangled in the web of others who need us to fulfill some sick agenda… an angend they are often even unaware of themselves. This proves out the saying, “Hurt people hurt people”. The important thing for me when I see this phenomenon in others is to quickly ask myself, do I do this same thing on any level? I often seek help of healthy people around me to help me answer this question, because rest assured, self-deception is impossible to spot on my own.

      The sick people in our lives can still offer us something…. self-reflection. But of course, it is hard to self-reflect when we are tangled in their web of sickness that manifests itself in manipulation and control of us. Always remembering, we may have allwed them to infect us. Our remedy in my experience is to get around the healthy and let them infect us for the positive. Make sure we are not under-mining ourselves with parallel versions of what they trapped us with. And also to fall into the equally ensnaring trap of bitterness. We will undoubtedly hurt, yet it is our responsibility to not allow the hurt to ferment into bitterness that ends up poisoning us.

      We just broke free from one web, we best not jump into another.

      Glad you cruised by. The healthy blogs have always been part of my well of strength for healing and recovery.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  12. Rudi says:

    Your final statement is one of a sociopath. You make an assessment of the best personal outcome of a given situation , and make the move that best suits your own life, without concern for the well being of the contrasting person. Without empathy , and with only self interest as requiem . To say that those with sociopathic behaviors are only “one way” is quite broad a statement and in my opinion a bigoted mindset.

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