One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to explain what happens when you’re involved with a sociopath is that you don’t have the words.
Because of the general lack of awareness about personality disorders in society, and the lack of education about it, there is no generally accepted terminology to describe various aspects of the experience.
But descriptive language has evolved among online communities of survivors. Here is a vocabulary to help you name what you experienced. When you can name it, you can begin to recover from it.
1. Love Bombing
When sociopaths set about reeling you in, a key seduction strategy is love bombing. They shower you with attention and affection, want to be with you all the time, make you feel like the most important person in the world.
Not all sociopaths engage in love bombing, but many do. In fact, they may use the strategy even when a relationship isn’t romantic, for example, flattering you if you’re the boss.
That would be you. Sociopaths don’t look at you as a friend, colleague or romantic partner, they look at you as a target to be exploited.
When sociopaths meet you, they first evaluate you to determine if you have anything that they want, then figure out what your vulnerabilities are, and then use your vulnerabilities to get you to give them what they want.
3. Pity Play
Here’s another key sociopathic seduction strategy: the pity play. Sociopaths try to make you feel sorry for them. They will tell you about their abusive childhood, or their cheating exes, or their dictatorial bosses. Of course, they lie a lot, so the stories may or may not be true.
The bottom line is that sociopaths intentionally use your empathy against you.
4. Jekyll and Hyde
This classic story of a man who turns from mild-mannered to monster perfectly describes the behavior of sociopaths. One minute they love you, the next minute they hate you. They change like flipping a switch, and you have absolutely no idea what triggered it.
In the 1944 movie called Gaslight, the villain intentionally tries to make his wife feel like she’s losing her mind. If you watch the movie, you might wonder, who does that? Sociopaths do.
Sociopaths will tell you something, and then deny they ever said the words. They will hide objects and ask you what you did with them. They will ask you to do something, and then after you do it, ask you why you did it. Their goal is to make you doubt your own perceptions.
6. Flying Monkeys
Here’s another movie reference — The Wizard of Oz. In this film, the flying monkeys do the bidding of the Wicked Witch of the West. Sociopaths often find their own flying monkeys people who do their dirty work.
Some of these stooges gleefully go along with the sociopaths’ schemes. But others are manipulated themselves and have no idea that they are part of a plot. For example, sociopaths are capable of turning your own family members against you without them even knowing it.
7. Devalue and Discard
Once upon a time, you were the most important person in the world. But sooner or later, sociopaths are finished with you. They’ve taken all your love, money or whatever it was that they wanted, and you are totally depleted.
Now you are no longer useful, so the sociopaths rationalize that there is no reason to keep you around. You are discarded.
8. Smear Campaign
As your involvement with the sociopaths deteriorates, you may look for support among your friends and family. To your shock, nobody believes you.
Long before you realize that the sociopaths are toxic, they start undermining you with everyone you know. They wonder aloud about your mental or emotional stability. They tell outrageous stories about how you have wronged them all lies. But they are so convincing that their accusations stick, and your support system is gone.
Finally, it’s over. Either you escape from the sociopaths or you are discarded either way, you are doing your best to move on.
Then they’re back. The sociopaths are hoovering, as in the vacuum cleaner, trying to suck you back in. They tell you they realize they made a mistake, they treated you badly, they’re sorry, they’ll never do it again. Don’t fall for it. It’s just the same scam, the sequel.
10. No Contact
To escape and recover from sociopaths, the best strategy is No Contact. Get away and stay away. Do not see them, do not talk to them, do not text them, do not visit their Facebook page. Time and distance will help you clear the fog from your head and regain your footing.
When No Contact isn’t possible — perhaps if you share children with the sociopath — pursue Emotional No Contact. That means you understand what they are, that they will not change, and you no longer let them get under your skin.