Sociopaths are 4% of the population according to Martha Stout in her important book The Sociopath Next Door, so on the rare occasion that I suspect I’m talking to a sociopath, I trust my instincts. It’s not that I think everyone is a sociopath, but when I do encounter that one in 25 people, they stand out very clearly. It’s not a case of just disliking someone, it’s a case of recognizing the thought processes that a sociopathic person has. They show contempt for weaker people, they lack empathy, and they rationalize bad behavior. And if you’ve been though it and spent some time thinking about it, you (hopefully) will recognize the patterns even if the person isn’t overt.
I’m pretty sure I just had a conversation with a sociopath on Facebook. My “psychopath-dar” was on high alert!
It was in a Facebook group for singles and the topic was “background checks on new dates.” One woman was very much against them saying things like “only people with trust issues” needed them. Another woman pointed out that women who have been in an abusive relationship might take the steps to order a background check on a new boyfriend. The first women responded with very dismissive, contemptuous words about any woman who might feel a need to order a background check. She repeatedly referred to “baggage,” “issues,” “drama,” “damage,” and the idea that a woman who orders a background check isn’t healed and shouldn’t be dating.
The other woman was empathetic and pointed out that it has nothing to do with “issues,” and everything to do with being safe and wise.
I joined in to agree. Wanting to be safe about your date is not crazy, it’s practical. I pointed out that the most psychopathic people are always charming and they are not obvious, so it is smart for any woman to be alert rather than assuming she’s going to be able to tell who is safe just by superficial qualities.
As is usual when you try to warn people about psychopaths, the woman was defensive and insistent that SHE would KNOW if she met one, and any woman who was fooled by a sociopath “obviously” wasn’t paying attention. Uggh. We all know that is the furthest thing from the truth. Of course, those who haven’t lived it have not gained the life wisdom that we have gained if we have lived through it.
Anyway, the debate on whether or not a woman should order a background check was not necessarily the red flag. The red flag was the way the woman talked about abuse survivors. As I mentioned before, it was with pure contempt. An attitude of “she should have known better,” “she shouldn’t be dating if she is so insecure and paranoid,” “she has trust issues,” “she shouldn’t bring baggage into a new relationship.”
I want to tell women that being SMART about the person you bring into your life is not having “issues.” The woman that set off my red flags seemed very dismissive of the dangers of predators and very dismissive of a person’s right to have boundaries. She wanted to portray a woman who protects herself as someone who is “damaged” and “crazy.” Her word choices and attitude were very much like that of a gas lighting abuser. Just before I blocked her, she began getting more aggressive and said my opinions were meaningless, accused me of having “issues,” and then said she didn’t have a big ego so she knew my points didn’t matter. It was projection. Then she started twisting my words. I had been getting some red flags, but that was the finale. To tell someone their opinions are meaningless while claiming not to have a big ego…well, that doesn’t actually make sense. It wasn’t her opinion on the topic that led me to think something was wrong. It was her attitude and her conversation patterns–specifically towards other women, and women who’ve been abused.
My take away from this conversation was this:
Anyone who tries to make you feel guilty about protecting yourself or having boundaries has the problem. You do NOT have a problem. Safe people do not vilify you or get mad at you for taking steps to ensure your safety.
Anyone who dismisses or minimizes domestic violence and tries to blame the victim for not “knowing” something was wrong, is not a safe person. They are uninformed at best and lack empathy.
People who hold contempt for someone who was victimized are potentially dangerous.
If someone speaks coldly about a person who was “weak,” that’s a huge red flag.
Never feel guilty for looking out for yourself–especially if you have children. Anyone who pushes you not to be safe does not have your best interests at heart.