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Understanding and Healing from Sociopaths in Our Midst

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Habitual liars and cheaters, con artists and swindlers are extremely self-centered and controlling people. They focus on manipulating other people simply as a way of life, for their own benefit.

People like Donna Andersen clearly know what this kind of evil looks like. They know because they once trusted people who turned out to be sociopaths -- people who deceived them intentionally, who took from them both tangible and intangible things of value, through encounters in romantic, familial or business relationships, whether over a period of hours, days, weeks, months or years.

Now, with the publication of her new book, Love Fraud: How Marriage to a Sociopath Fulfilled my Spiritual Plan, Donna Andersen tells the full and intimate story of how she slowly learned harsh truths about sociopaths and the consequences from relationships with them. "I thought I was marrying a successful businessman, James Montgomery. It turned out I was his business. He took all my money and left me seriously in debt. I found out, far too late, that my husband had a history of defrauding women. I also found out he's not alone. Experts estimate that 1% to 4% of the population are sociopaths, depending upon whom you ask. That means there may be 3 to 12 million sociopaths in the United States, and 68 million to 272 million sociopaths worldwide," Andersen writes.

Andersen had previously shared parts of her story through blogs on the Lovefraud.com website she launched on July 19, 2005, which now helps thousands across the globe who've been devastated by sociopaths, to realize they are not crazy after all. Lovefraud.com also featured a review of Mary Jo Buttafuoco's 2009 book about life with Joey Buttafuoco, whose dalliances with a teenager, Amy Fisher, became a sensational media story after Fisher shot Mary Jo in the head.

Both Andersen and Mary Jo Buttafuoco, though not licensed as professionals in the field of psychology, did significant research on sociopathy. In recollections of living with men who brought too much turmoil into their lives, both staunchly refer to their exes as "sociopaths."

Andersen's book is a meticulous compilation of factual details, with narratives and anecdotal evidence. Personal journals she kept provide a rich source of information and reflections on a life shattered during the two-and-a-half years she was enmeshed through marriage to Montgomery. Her book recalls both horrendous and routine events, including high and low points in relationships with men, visceral scenery from various geographical destinations interspersed with moments of intimacy with traveling companions, challenging experiences in maintaining her professional reputation and financial solvency, both supportive and sometimes strained interactions with family and friends, and the intrusion of unwanted anxiety-ridden thoughts, feelings and behaviors, before she found her way back from the depths of despair. Andersen's story becomes even more intriguing as she goes out on a limb with an in-depth exploration of the inner journey she traveled through chaos, cruelty and ultimately clarity that led to her own spiritual renewal.

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. - Richard Feynman, 1918-1988

As Andersen explains in her book, the behaviors exhibited by sociopaths suggest they are primarily interested in power, control and pleasure. "Sociopaths have no heart, no conscience and no remorse," she writes. Such individuals lack substance at their core, like an empty shell.

A chief characteristic is being devoid of empathy, lacking concern for the well-being of others. The Montgomery and other true stories of male and female sociopaths cited in the book or on Lovefraud.com show the inhumane extremes to which some people will go to get what they want. They'll claim to be in love, while juggling multiple partners or operating with ulterior motives. They'll fake credentials, and pit people against each other. They will lie, cheat and steal. They will deny or minimize how they intimidate and abuse others mentally, psychologically, physically or financially.

Andersen's courageous work helps readers comprehend the reality of sociopaths in our midst beyond what is normally covered in mainstream media. It's one thing to understand sociopaths in generalized or academic terms, and quite another to experience them in real life. It's in the day-to-day details of living where both their blatant and subtle impact is felt most, and can become life-threatening or life-changing for most people entangled with a sociopath.

For someone who can't fathom that some people refuse to honor basic courtesies or follow normal rules for living in a civilized society, it can be a shock to the psychic system. To slowly realize that individuals who regularly deceive others exist, justify their actions and simply do not care, flies in the face of conventional wisdom. In fact, the often-unquestioned belief that good can be found in everyone is one reason many people continuously accept or make excuses for bad behavior from toxic people across the board.

M. Scott Peck, M.D., who explored the psychology of evil in his 1983 book, People of the Lie, wrote that deliberately deceiving others and also building layer upon layer of self-deception is characteristic of those who not the same as us average sinners who make mistakes and must learn to live with our imperfections -- can be described as evil. "Lies confuse," Peck wrote, indicating that it is those directly affected by evil people whether relative, spouse, friend, co-worker, etc. -- who suffer the most.

"Evil is in opposition to life. Evil is also that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life particularly human life such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without destroying the body. Thus we may "break" a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head." - M. Scott Peck, M.D.

What Andersen does best is clearly show how sociopaths are defined by underlying pathological narcissism -- evident in their pattern of treating other people with little to no regard. Everyday behaviors by sociopaths often result in victims subjected to unfair criticism, unpredictable outbursts, direct and indirect threats of abandonment or violence, humiliation and gas-lighting, and routine betrayals even when lying about big and small things makes no sense. These patterns of interactions can contribute to "crazy-making" that result in losing touch with reality or spiritual crisis for many victims. The potential for "murder-by-suicide" also exists when someone subjected to abuse over time harms him- or herself due to constant belittling and invalidation by, or commit suicide due to "encouragement" from, a sociopath.

Research on traumatic bonding explains how victims become more attached to sociopaths as a result of feeling powerless, anxious and fearful, due to lacking assertiveness or feeling a sense of obligation or martyrdom as a result of unresolved issues from their own upbringing.

This helps in part shed light on why people on the outside of some exploitive and abusive relationships generally blame the real victims, or express impatience by suggesting victims should just leave a bad relationship right away or should at least have known what someone else was doing behind their back.

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Fannie LeFlore, MS, LPC, CADC-D, is Owner/President of LeFlore Communications, LLC (www.leflorecommunications.com). She has over 20 years of combined professional experience in the fields of Writing/Editing/Corporate Communications and (more...)
 

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And I cannot apologize enough to the people he has... by FAITHCARR on Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010 at 4:16:02 PM
I did some web research on sociopaths a while back... by Richard Pietrasz on Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010 at 5:27:11 PM
Positions of power, wealth, and prestige will alwa... by Adam Smith on Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010 at 8:37:45 PM
Thanks for the article, Fannie, and welcome to OEN... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010 at 9:28:07 PM
For over twenty years I have been married to a soc... by Mary MacElveen on Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010 at 10:56:30 PM
Isn't it just amazing how charming, funny, engaged... by FAITHCARR on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 8:31:58 AM
I think this is a scam to sell your book and in fa... by David Chester on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 7:46:04 AM
I'm going to have to read your articles and commen... by FAITHCARR on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 8:34:17 AM
Mr. Chester -- Healthy skepticism is fine, but get... by Fannie LeFlore on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 8:53:39 AM
TO FAITHCARR, Richard Pietrasz, Adam Smith, Mikhai... by Fannie LeFlore on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 9:02:11 AM
When I read the first sentence, "Habitual liars a... by Paul Kruger on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 9:03:59 AM
Hello Joe -- Nothing like injecting a little humor... by Fannie LeFlore on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 9:19:36 AM
Thank you Fannie for this well-written, researched... by Fay Paxton on Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012 at 8:32:49 AM