How is it that empathetic human beings can be so easily manipulated by NPD's or sociopaths? Chances are, we've all run up against someone that, in hindsight, gave us plenty of indications with regard to their true intents.
The current culture climate is cultivating (love that aliteration?) a societal explosion of NPD and sociopaths/psychopaths that use and abuse empathetic human beings like snot rags and leave a wake of emotional, financial, spiritual, and sexual devastation behind them. Innovative research suggests that NPD and socipath/psychopath individuals appear to be neurologically deficient, and that there also may be a genetic predisposition, though this theory remains inconclusive. Still other researches beleive that full-blown NPD/sociopathy can be learned behavior, i.e.: coping mechanisms developed during childhood. Only a minute percentage of diagnosed NPD/sociopath/psychopath individuals are truly incapable of discerning right from wrong. Having said that, it reasonably follows that the damage that is caused by NPD/sociopath is largely deliberate and malicious, and there are means to identify possible NPD/socipaths, as well as take proactive steps to avoid them. Although the term, "sociopath," is often considered synonymous with "psychopath," only a qualified professional has the ability to discern one from the other with specific criteria.
For purposes of this post, a "source target" is any individual who is used and/or abused by another individual who lacks conscience or empathy. "NPD" refers to an individual who fits the psychological definition of "narcissistic personality disorder," which is a malignant self-absorption, and does not fall within the normal boundaries of narcissism. "Sociopath," or, "S," refers to an individual who is completely devoid of conscience evident through their actions and subsequent damage that is inflicted, as a result.
Here is some information that may help empathetic people to avoid becoming an easy source target:
* Avoid disclosing personal details - personal finances, bonuses, tips, investment assets (and potential), salary income, previous relationship experiences, divorce, personal childhood issues, phobias, eating disorders, etc. The NPD or S can "read" a person better than any professional poker player. The more information that the source target provides, the more that the NPD or S has to work with. Self-esteem, finances, loneliness, and other personal information only provides an open vector for them to enter our lives and use that information to their gain.
* Beware of The Stare - as is typical with NPD or S, the look-you-directly-in-the-eye tactic is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a clear indication of sincerity. It is not "good" eye contact, but more of a predatory stare. Overtly locking eye-to-eye contact is predatory (or, a challenge) in the animal kingdom, and this holds true for humans, as well.
* Overblown status - beware of the person who claims to have friends in high places, engages in name dropping, claims to have ties with law enforcement agencies, or claims that they, themselves, are a person of high regard. A predatory S goes to great pains to either amplify or concoct their own self-importance and, in many cases, falsifies documentation to back up their claims. If someone begins discussing their past accomplishments with grandiosity, consider yourself targeted and cut them off at the knees.
* Divide and conquer - NPD and S individuals rarely gather all of their "friends" together at one time because chances are that everyone will discuss accounts by the NPD or S and expose incosnistencies. Although source targets have no control over this, it is VERY typical of NPD or S to inappropriately insert themselves as a "friend" of family, friends, colleagues, or business associates of the source target. BEWARE of someone who wants to know all about YOUR friends, family, etc. Avoid answering questions, even if they seem to be benign. "So, what do you think the chances are that I could get a job at your friend's company?" seems like a harmless inquiry, especially in the current economic climate. What the NPD or S really wants to know is what, and how much you know about the friend that can be used to their advantage. Too many questions without reciprocal information is a flapping RED FLAG.
* Beware of disclosre - take this as a screaming, waving, flapping RED FLAG when interacting with someone. The NPD or S will "disclose" certain aspects of their lives that cause the source target to feel flattered by their confidence, especially at the outset. This is particularly important when the person tries to discuss the lives of other people, as if they, alone, are privvy to sensitive information, and the source target is valued enough to confide in. "I really shouldn't be telling you this, but ______ " should be a clear indication that this person is setting a trap. The response should always be, "Then, don't tell me." If the person persists, then run the other way. Again, keep your Self to yourself and only make disclosures of any kind if a person has earned your trust.
* Pity - this is one of the most effective tools of the NPD or S, and not enough can be written about this tactic. They often discuss how horrible their childhood was, or how it seems that they just can't seem to get a fair break, or that the moon is rising in Jupiter and, therefore, the Universe has it out for them. Drama and trauma is the lure and the desire for the source target to render assistance is the reel that drags them in. A regular life event is often warped into the most catastrophic event, and only the source target can understand how devastating the event was. Or, the NPD or S has suffered horrible events from years ago and still seems to be living in the "now" of that event, real or fabricated. Female NPD or S will often use pregnancy, miscarriage, abuse, rape, and other emotional catastrophes as their lure. Once the source target is hooked with pity, the rest follows, without fail.
* Physical contact - my ex read, somewhere, that placing one's hand on another's arm or shoulder suggests intimacy, trust, and comfort, and attempted to use that tactic to his advantage. Normal, interactive touch is not the same as excessive touching, and the latter will instantly cause a source target to experience conflicting responses. Yes, it appears to be a gesture of intimacy, but the gesture makes the source target feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. Entering into personal space is another tactic used to suggest intimacy. If someone moves into your personal space that you have defined, step (or, move) back to assert your boundaries.
* Finances, income, and credit - a constant reference to personal finances is extremely inappropriate. The NPD or S will often refer to the state of their finances, as well as others', with an eye to, again, promote that feeling of confidence. The source target is made to feel a false sense of trust and are urged to reveal their financial information, in turn. NEVER allow the conversation to head in this direction. Always keep your income, taxes, credit history, banking information, etc., strictly private. STRICTLY private. If someone opens up with their salary, make it very clear that you're not interested. It doesn't matter that everyone's discussing their finances, these days - there was once a time in our culture that personal financial information was OFF LIMITS. That someone is in financial difficulty is not the same as disclosing account balances, grocery bills, medical bills, etc. Don't be afraid to lose someone's attention by saying, "I'd rather not discuss that." If they are not predatory, they'll accept that boundary and move on.
* Claims of abuse - as a Survivor who has also assisted other Survivors in their healing, consistent patterns of behavior among the abused are evident. For those without training and/or experience, it's almost impossible to discern whether a person is truly a victim/survivor, or inventing a scenario for their own purposes. The NPD or S will often make claims of childhood abuse that generate pity and empathy from the source target, especially if the source target is a bona fide Survivor - it provides a sense of false comraderie. This goes back to avoiding disclosure of personal details. The heinous aspect of this claim is that it minimizes those who are truly victims and Survivors. Often, the NPD or S will seize the opportuntity to use the victim/survivor vector the instant it arises in conversation, "I know what you mean, my dad was a raging alcoholic and beat me during blackouts," and the conversation moves (almost elegantly) from the source target's painful disclosure to the all-about-me of the NPD or S.
* Loyalty and enabling - NPD or S will often compel their source target to either actively participate, or support them, in "getting even" with someone that they claim has slighted them. Boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parent, coworker, it doesn't matter. An example of this taken from personal experience could be: NPD/S, "The bank fouled up my account, again! I'm changing banks because they are always doing this and I know you bank at the same place. You might want to think about changing banks, too," which was an attempt to require proof of "loyalty." Or, "You know, someone (meaning, the source target) should really tell Melissa about herself, after what she did to me!" If you are being made to feel compelled to take up someone's banner and, more importantly, take action on their behalf, RUN (do not walk) away.
The NPD or S will often engage in enabling a source target, as well - a sinister and ugly game, this. The source target has a drinking issue or eating disorder and the NPD or S will bitterly complain about it, and purchase or provide the source target with the materials to further a downward spiral. Enabling give the NPD or S power, control, and tools to exact suffering, at their pleasure.
* Lending money - do not, under any circumstances, LEND or GIVE anyone money without researching the person (credit/criminal/civil background check) or the situation (names, dates, valid documentation), thoroughly! Whether the person is family, coworker, boss, churchgoer, or "best friend," never, ever allow them to believe that you will "help" then using your own funds. Under no circumstances should you ever, ever, EVER pay someone else's bail, fines, legal fees, or penalties, no matter who it is. Once that financial door is open, a NPD or S will drain your resources until you're bone dry. Again, keeping your personal and/or business finances a forbidden topic will help prevent catastrophe. Often, the NPD or S will bemoan their situation - lost job, kids in need, etc., and deliberately avoid approaching the source target with, "Listen, I'm in some trouble, and I'd like to borrow from you." They typically wear down the source target with their woes until the source target OFFERS. When conversation starts going down this path, it is not cruel to cut it off with a simple, "That's unfortunate, but I'm sure things will work out," and END that topic of conversation. Predators will persist while empathetics will accept the boundary.
* Excessive flattery - take extreme caution if someone is overly flattering. Compliments are not the same as flattery. "That's a lovely painting" is not the same as "My GOD, but I wish I could do that! You are so talented!" and so forth. Flattery feeds our ego with two forks and two spoons, so we are made to believe that this person really values our abilities. As flawed human beings, we eat it up especially if we have given the NPD or S information about our personal issues. Excessive flattery is meant to disarm the source target because they are needy, lonely, lack confidence, etc. Disallow excessive flattery with a simple, "Thank you," and direct the conversation to something that does not involve discussion of talents, abilities, etc. "Thank you, but, you're good at..." is the jaws of the source target snapping onto the baited lure. It's always about feeding the NPD or S monkey.
* Glibness - remarks that are inappropriate, or humor attempted at the expense of another person is not acceptable. Remarks like, "I hate my mother - I can't wait until she dies," or, "Who cares if she had a miscarriage, they can always make another one," or similar off-color remarks are another screaming, waving, flapping RED FLAG. Perhaps, the source target is meant to accept such remarks as humor or the NPD or S being "open" with their feelings, but it provides a glaring picture of the NPD or S's true nature, and one which they are unable to hide.
* Beware of excessive sympathy and helpfulness - excessive and false sympathy cause the source target to feel that their emotional feelings are understood and appreciated. Pay close attention to subsequent responses, as an NPD or S will rarely offer rational or sound suggestions on how to deal with the source target's traumatizing situations. Rather, they will often play the game of "one-upmanship." Certainly, the source target's nose has been broken, but the NPD or S has a sore knee and had to miss 3 days of work, which means that the car payment will be late, and blah-blah-blah. This is another clear indication that the source target's event is recognized and acknowleged, but diminished in comparison to the NPD or S's. And, any assistance rendered by the NPD or S comes at a steep price. The source target is made to feel that they are indebted, for life, even though the NPD or S "offered" to help. An empathetic human being will render assistance or empathy because it is in their nature to do so. The NPD or S only renders assistance if there is something to be gained.
* Sexual innuendo - a constant reference to sexual prowess, appetite, or other sexual matter is another of the biggest screaming, waving, flapping RED FLAGS. Source targets are often ensnared through sexual means. The argument is always, "Sexuality is out in the open, now, so discussion about every aspect of sex is appropriate." From personal experience, I disagree, comnpletely. Sex is a very personal and sensitive issue, and detailed discussion about a person's sexual activity is not only unnecessary, but an overt ploy to play the "Let's Share Information Game." Once again, the more information that the source target provides, the more material the NPD or S has to work with and sensitive, intimate sexual information will be used against the source target if the NPD or S realizes that they are going to lose (or, have lost) their source target. A human being's sexual history or sex life is sacred, and this should be the #2 brick in the boundary foundation after personal details.
* Gifting and obligating - DO NOT allow someone lavish you with gifts if you are made to feel that you "owe" them. "I was out and just got this for you. Do you like it?" Gifting someone should be done without an expectation of reward with the exception of a sincere, "Thank you." If the source target is dealing with a NPD or S, following up with, "You really didn't have to do that," is an open invitation to the NPD or S to create a sense of obligation. This is often a tactic used, especially, if the NPD or S has a clear understanding that the source target may be in need or financially unable to purchase what they have been gifted. Again, keep personal information and issues strictly off limits. If excessive gifting begins, put an end to it, immediately, no matter how much you like what is being given. It's never a true sacrifice for NPD or S, as they will not (under any circumstance) cut into their own budgets out of kindness - there is always an ulterior motive for excessive gifting. If the person is not NPD or S, they will gracefully accept the boundary and move on.
*Maintain your boundaries - as empathetic human beings, source targets are hesitant to construct and maintain personal boundaries for various reasons. They are feeling lonely, abused, tired, needy, insecure, frightened, etc., and they want to feel wanted, protected, and valued. If we fail to maintain our personal boundaries, we provide open vectors for NPD or S to not only enter our lives, but to file away personal information that they will use and/or abuse to their advantage. Regardless of who the person is, maintaining strict personal boundaries not only keeps us safe, but compels others to earn our trust and confidence and respect. Being an open book, while admirable, rings the "Open Season" bell for NPD or S.
* No fuss, no muss, no retribution - if someone recongnizes that they have become a source target, the only way to end it is to walk away without looking back. "But, I want to tell this person what they've done to me!" is not valid or fruitful with NPD or S individuals - EVER. Because they lack empathy with regard to other human beings, nothing the former source target can say will cause the NPD or S to be accountable or compel them to get professional help. Similarily, running around town, calling up mutual friends, and telling the store clerk about the things that the NPD or S has done only makes the former source target look like a lunatic. Is it fair? Of course, it's not fair, but neither is Life. The people that should be told are those human beings who are vitally important in our lives: coworkers, friends, family, etc. The former source target should discuss what they've experienced, personally, and make NO judgements, random diagnoses, or engage in vicious gossip. "Yeah? Well, I heard that she ...." is not appropriate, and should not be permitted. The discussion ONLY remains within the boundaries of accurately recounting what happened to the former source target. If the person to whom you're making the disclosure wishes to share their experiences, allow them to do so ONLY in reference to themselves. There is no closure, there are no guarantees, and there is no such thing as "justice" with regard to the damage that is created by NPD or S individuals. Accepting that is the first, and biggest, step toward healing. NEVER confront the NPD or S, unless you are participating in a criminal/civil law action. NEVER offer your suspicions as a diagnosis. ALWAYS count yourself blessed that you were able to get out with your life, and ALWAYS remember that living a life without a conscience is not "living" but, rather, "existing."
An excellent website that addresses NPD and sociopathy is http://www.lovefraud.com
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