Sanctuary for the Abused

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Communication & the Functional Sociopath

By William Polowniak, Ph.D.

Fritz Perls a famous Jewish psychotherapist known for his founding of Gestalt therapy once said that refusal to communicate is the most toxic human behavior. I am convinced that he is right. Refusal to communicate really means refusal to listen and to enter into dialogue especially when we disagree. Usually people who refuse to communicate live their lives as “functional sociopaths.” That is, they are self-centered, they do as they please with total disregard for others and they indulge in subterfuge, self-delusion and see themselves as persecuted. Their delusions of self-persecution cause them to become angry manipulators.

So why label people in “either or” categories as “toxic” or “nourishing” people? Labels themselves are dangerous and often unfair, but for the wise person they do help us see what to avoid. They help us to invest our energies in more productive ways. When we use labels, however, we must be aware that labeling others without caution is in itself a toxic behavior. Let us “be aware” when we choose to label others or ourselves.

Action speaks louder than words Everyone’s mother has probably said this during our childhood more than once. My father used to say “Talk is cheap, whiskey costs money.” The typical behaviors of those who refuse to communicate are labeled by psychologists as the “fight?flight” response. Those who refuse to communicate are usually adept at manipulation, they have toxic behavior in general and when confronted by circumstances that proves their position is faulty, they will attack or run away, or they will attack and run away. "Toxic people are adept at pushing our buttons and provoking an over-reaction in others. But the up side of that is that they challenge us to remain centered and be a positive influence even if there is no reward to us directly. Our efforts to not add to the pain and suffering toxic people use to justify their emotional cruelty and brutal behavior is our best strategy. If they do not run they will not listen using a variety of tyrannical behaviors. They begin by raising their voices, then will shout, scream and rant and rave often appearing to be a raving lunatic. They typically indulge in anger, condemnation and blame. They are adept at interrupting and often will not allow their adversary to finish even one sentence. We often see people like this on TV talk shows."

So how does a person deal with those who refuse to communicate? The best defense is listening, in silence, and adopting the posture of a detective. While listening, try to discover what is really at the root of the problem. All the while, if you must communicate, focus on short, simple and clear statements using "I" statements frequently; that is, if your adversary permits any pauses in their onslaught of anger, condemnation and blame. At the very least, actively listening in silence and non-judgment will provide your adversary with needed catharsis, will often defuse their anger and will not add to their fear of retaliation.

Another thing that helps is to rely on trust and the great healer—time. We’ve all heard the biblical quote “Vengeance in mine, sayeth the Lord.” The fact is that time and life will usually bite these kinds of people in the behind when they least expect it. They sabotage their own life by alienating others, when in fact they desperately need and want love and affection.

Another helpful thing to realize is that to the wise person, knowing that “not communicating” can often communicate more than we realize. Not retaliating, not interrupting the interrupter, but listening in silence or basically allowing the adversary to wallow in their own delusions of persecution will ultimately allow the TRUTH to emerge. Reality is the second best teacher. Do you know what the best teacher is? Pain. Very often only pain and suffering can communicate to the person who refuses to communicate.

A final thing that is helpful is to remember that “help is not always helpful.” Recently I tried to help a person who was wallowing in her anger and hostility. Her remark to me was “I don’t need your help.” Often it is wise to avoid unnecessary contact with people who seem to be waiting to pick a fight or to blow up. If communication is really necessary it should be done in writing (and keep a copy) so that it is less likely to elicit a reaction or temper tantrum. And in the worse cases, if a toxic person retaliates and legal action becomes necessary to remedy the situation, what you have in writing may be valuable. In addition if a toxic person acts out threats they will thereby create the proof you will need to legally prosecute for blackmail and malicious mischief. Those of us who believe in community do not like to think of things like legal action or legal defense but the reality is that sometimes legal remedies do in fact create community and can force a more healthy emotional situation to prevail. Legal remedies can show the bully and the emotional tyrant that you are not afraid.

Whenever a person threatens to take me to court and to sue me, my response is that “I love to go to court with people like you. Please sue me. Do it now.” You would be surprised at how this defuses the pompous threats of manipulating tyrants. And, the truth is that I really do love to go to court with people who think that their threats can frighten me into submitting to their demands. In court your adversary will show the judge their irrational behavior and you can force them to listen to reason when it is your turn to speak. You can also ask a judge to admonish your adversary and you can ask for and receive legal costs and punitive damages. But remember, your best defense is to always be honest, fair and loving and kind— especially when it is difficult.

It seems paradoxical but genuine communication begins and ends with listening. Silence is golden. Words are often useless and unnecessary.

I collect quotes. One of my favorites is from the Dhammapada. “Better than a thousand useless words is one word that gives peace.” Another favorite quote states, “Must we waste this moment on words?”

One benefit of silence is that it allows the body and the being to relax into a natural meditative state of being. In this state of mind, we learn to listen to our bodies. More than that, we learn the difference between our cravings and what our body really needs for health.

I hope these thoughts find you well and healthy, and I hope I can learn from my own advice by listening more and improving my communication through active listening. I sometimes forget.

something to think about when your abuser just stops talking to you, says he/she "needs time" or "its no longer a matter for discussion and I am never speaking to you again" and gives you the silent treatment.

Turning their back on you and not allowing you to work thru your hurt and anger with them can be a form of cowardice & sadism.

The behavior also ties into seductive mind-control. Distancing yourself at critical moments makes your 'target' want you more and then the hunter becomes the hunted. (i.e. The Art of Seduction - Greene)

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shared by Barbara at 12:58 AM



I lived abroad for many years and met a man who convinced me that he was a wonderful person, get the jist. Over a year later, I saw who he really was and I was horrified. Strangely enough, the worst part just came out of nowhere! He never complained or tried to speak to me about being unhappy, he just kind of exploded one day and then came the manipulation galore and then the over the top abuse for no real reason with no remorse. I guess I should have really recognized how messed up he was when I saw how he treated his three kids. He was going through a divorce so he just kept telling me that he was unbelievably stressed and then he would go into grandiose apologies. He was a smooth talker and very convincing.

He told me one lie after another and one after another and then the abuse came in towards the end of the relationship, strangely enough after he asked to see my stock portfolio that he had so obsessively asked for so he could see if my bank was doing a good job investing my money. Apparently two million dollars and a steady income on top of that is not enough money to continue to stay nice to me. I knew then that something had snapped in him after the disappointed look in his eye. I said, well, what do you think? He sneered at me, gave me a indignant half laugh and told me that I needed to start saving. Not a, oh, well, this looks good here and this looks good there. In under two minutes, he had discovered that I was not the cash cow he had so obsessively tried to charm. I shrugged off the though that he was after me only for what he could gain or use because this would be ridiculous! This crazy making behavior is no joke. He made me feel crazy by purposely setting up situations that would make me look stupid in front of other people just at the right moment, so he could continue his "victimhood". It was so odd for him to whisper to me to take care of this or that so I couldn't join a group of people going on a day trip and then right in front of them in a loud voice, he would ask me why I didn't go and that I really disappointed everyone and how could I just dump them for the day. It was bizarre!

He left me with tens of thousands of dollars worth of bills, a string of girls on the side, he called my friends and family up saying the most outrageous things trying to get me to pay bills that I had already paid but he had spent the cash already. He told people the most outrageous lies and I was left wondering who this person was exactly! Well, they do slip up and when you are this evil, sooner or later, you get it back. He got fired from his CEO job for highly inappropriate behavior and horrible misuse of company funds.

The thing that shocked me was, he had absolutely NO remorse what so ever about anything that he had ever done to anyone. He would laugh it off and get off on other people's pain. I only saw this at the end. I could never have imagined a person who "got extreme pleasure" at the expense of other people's misfortunes, who were also innocent. If there is a God, which I think there is, these people will have a judgement day. I can't imagine that a person who is so evil could possibly be happy inside. It must be impossible.

6:00 PM  

Punishing the abuser by walking away and living your own life is still the sweetest revenge. :) Seeing the look on their face when you succeed is amazing. Being away from them for good, is Priceless!

1:48 PM  

um...why don't we have brain scans "stores" to check for psychopathy in every major city? "Hey, this guy who asked me out is cute, let's just be sure he has a functioning conscience and hit the brain scan place on our first date! They're having a two for one special!"
Or, are we there yet on just getting a spit test for this? Did you know you can do a spit test to check for bipolar, schizophrenia, tourette's syndrome, and a few others through a company called Lumigenix? Another one of these spit test companies is called "23 and me" and is a brain child of one of the founders of Google wife. (Maybe this is why Google has been rated one of the best places to work. I wonder....) Just check it out. Read the legal info on this site. This alone will blow your mind! The videos are very easy to understand and informative.
When I typed in "spit test for psychopaths" a few weeks ago I did find an article that said this should be possible soon and something about hormone levels. Come on people, get there faster! This is major, life changing stuff!
Wouldn't it be cool to work for a company that had a strict "no hire for psychopaths" clause? Knowing the danger they pose to people who can feel love and pain? I want to apply to work there!

10:05 PM  

But I don't want to communicate with non-caring people - that's insanity.

"Another thing that helps is to rely on trust and the great healer—time. We’ve all heard the biblical quote “Vengeance in mine, sayeth the Lord.” The fact is that time and life will usually bite these kinds of people in the behind when they least expect it. They sabotage their own life by alienating others, when in fact they desperately need and want love and affection."

Maybe the above quotation is true with me, but it also says: "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."
Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)

The Bible also says: 1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3-5 (NIV)

Although I'm far from perfect, I believe these are the last days before the return of Jesus, and didn't he sometimes communicate through silence? Or choose not to make a situation worse by not talking?

Maybe I'm not getting the message that the Doctor is trying to get to me.

12:55 AM  

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