Someone once told me that they’d never seen a family like mine who was always engaged in some sort of self-induced chaos. She noted that we were like a soap opera by the way we would divide into teams and charge into battles of anger, distrust, rumors, gossip and lies with each other. Then, we’d all forgive each other and get back together—until we would suddenly divide into new alliances and launch another frivolous, stressful, unnecessary war with each other again. She commented that she’d never seen a family repeat this soap opera of chaos over and over and over again, year after year after year.
But that person, as observant as she thought she was, never took a close enough look at her own assessment. While it was true that my family was always breaking into teams to attack each other over everything from suspicion of favoritism, to who didn’t deserve what they had, to out-and-out thievery, there was always one common denominator—one single sibling—planted firmly in the center of each and every family battle. It was not by accident that she was always there in the center of all the repeated chaos because in hindsight, she was, pretty much without exception, always the instigator. The rest of us siblings, our parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews were repeatedly tricked into going to battle, always per her plan.
The Socio-pathway to chaotic life
I share this story from my own upbringing because it is the perfect example of how sociopaths use chaos as a tool for their own enjoyment and personal gain. And believe me when I say that my family was not the only family to practice this. I hear stories from my friends and readers, all the time, about their own families who suffer the same battle scenes, year after year, and again at the direction of just one parent or sibling.
Statistically only 4% of people are born sociopaths. That’s the equivalent of 1 person in 25, or 2 people in any full city bus. So the one frustrating question that each of us must ask ourselves is; Why do we allow this 4% to keep the 96% of us good, peace-loving people in constant chaos and turmoil?
Getting back to what I know, from the many years I’ve spent in The School of Hard Knocks of which I am a graduate, I spent the first 50 years of my life under the spell of not only the sociopathic sibling herself, but of the entire family whose pressure on me to was constantly forgive the instigator for every evil she could propagate. In order to repeatedly forgive the instigator, I was encouraged to question myself by having to answer the age-old question, “Oh now, why would she say/do something like that?”
So why would he/she say something like that?
Have you ever been shushed or minimized after an atrocious attack by someone asking you that question? “Oh now, why would he/she say something like that?” Their question completely disarms you, leaving you vulnerable to the lies that were told and at the mercy of those who choose to believe that you are “making it all up in your head.” All too often, that question makes you look like the crazy person after you’ve tried to expose what the insane sociopath really, truly did say or do. This is Gaslighting. Too many people are driven crazy through the act of Gaslighting, not so much by the sociopath’s evil tricks, but by the scores of supporters that surround them and who transform the lies and gossip into a new twisted “truth” just because they choose to believe “He/she wouldn’t say/do that, now would they?” The truth is the sociopath would do it and they did do it and they’re going to do it again. They are going to succeed again too, because their supporters are still firmly holding to their act of minimizing the eyewitness testimonies and, rather than help the victim, they choose instead to help spread the distrust, and the lies and half-truths.
My time in the Gaslighting trap lasted for fifty years, during which time any effort I’d ever made to remove this sibling from my life was met with an intervention in which our mother would set a trap to lure us into a room together so she could encourage me to forgive the sibling again, kiss again, and makeup again. Mom would put on her pouty face and whine “I just want all my children to get along.” In reality, her version of loving me was to tie me to a monster and shame me into accepting whatever dishonest torture I’d been subjected to. Siblings and cousins offered me no support and left me feeling as if I’d been ganged up on by the entire family until I “chose to be a nicer person to my poor evil sister.”
Just like any other victim of Gaslighting, I was not fighting the mental illness of my sibling, I was fighting the social structure of my entire family, which was centered around responding to the lies that oozed from one of our five sibling’s mental illness. My parents or other siblings would never stand together to make her behave with civility, so to avoid being kicked out of the family myself, I ended up having to forgive the monster thousands of times over the fifty years I’d stayed in that family.
Who else walks this path?
Does any of this sound familiar? Has it happened to you at home or at work? Has a sociopathic boss or cubemate repeatedly accused you or your teammates of wrongs that can’t be defended against, or have they planted seeds of distrust into each teammate so that the whole team can’t function anymore? If so, then you are one of the millions who has found yourself lost in the chaos of a sociopath’s playground.
When a sociopath starts a gossip storm, and accuses an innocent teammate of something, most teams tend to place the burden of proof onto the innocent person who has been falsely accused. Other teammates respond by shushing and minimize the testimony of the victim with questions like “Oh, now why would he/she say that about her/him if it wasn’t true?” Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE MENTALLY ILL! THAT’S WHY! They will continue to commit bizarre acts on individuals until we stop trying to apply our dearly beloved rules of decency, honesty and civility onto their twisted manipulations of social trust and peace. They don’t understand civility the way we do so they don’t behave the way we would so we must stop trying to believe that sociopaths behave just like us. Their behaviors are nothing like ours.
Do you swim with alligators?
Sociopaths are humans also, so since we are all one body of conscious humanity, (What Christians call The Body of Christ) they too deserve to be loved and forgiven, but their motive and words are not to be trusted. I personally fear alligators, but I don’t hate them. I don’t want them to be punished for being alligators, but I keep a distance. I won’t swim in their pond, and I warn others to not swim in their ponds also. I feel this same way about sociopaths. I don’t hate them. I fear them. I recognize them as mentally ill evil-doers because that’s what they are. They were born with damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, where conscience exists for the rest of us. In today’s psychological world there exists no cure for them. I don’t hate them, but I recognize the dangers they intentionally pose for the rest of us. So I stay out of their reach if I can.
Bring healing to the world by trusting the victims more than the perpetrators
While not hating sociopaths, I have learned, through thousands of scars and bruises, to simply stay away from them. To not listen to them. To go a step further, I support their victims by more quickly trusting the rantings of their testimonies—as crazy as the rantings may sound. I know that sociopaths do things that sound crazy to the rest of us, so when someone who is at the end of their rope rants on to me about some insane thing someone did to them, I don’t shush or minimize their testimony. I give them the respect they deserve by considering they may be actual victims of insane Gaslighting—a fate I’ve suffered too many times to count in just my own lifetime. I go even one more step further and share what I know to the public, in hopes I can show others how to stay out of the pond with the alligators. I wish to convince my fellow humans to recognize the tricks and traps of the sociopath and to stay away from those sociopaths and to pray for them from a safe distance.
Sociopaths hate themselves. We know this because they hate us, and hate does not come from love any quicker than bananas come from apple trees. These 4% need to find self-love before they can give love out to others. But I can’t grant self-love to a sociopath any quicker than I can convince an alligator to not eat me, so, in both cases, I just stay away from them.
We all need to stop enabling the lies and tricks
My solution to the infestation of sociopaths in our lives is: Stop empowering them by believing their lies. You don’t have to mortally hate them. Just know that if they are speaking, they’re probably lying and that they’re dangerous and incurable. Chaos is a sport to them. They go home feeling energized by knowing they’d had the power to ruin someone’s life today. That’s literally the reason they do it! Sociopaths are miserable human beings with no self-love in their hearts. They get no joy out of watching us live happy, loving lives with families and friends who trust us, so to cool their burning jealousy they need a dopamine boost to make up for their lack of self-love. Causing chaos gives them the same adrenaline rush as does jumping out of a plane with a parachute. It’s exhilarating to them, and because it’s a dopamine addiction, it needs no other reason to happen but that it gives the sociopath the rush they need to get through another boring, loveless day. Once we stop believing their lies, they lose their motivation to keep lying to us and they move on.
Immeasurable cost to the innocent
On the largest scale I would be willing to bet that sociopaths cost families, corporations and countries more in money, cohesiveness, confidence and productivity than every other mental illness combined by first undermining a team’s ability to trust each other and then by forcing innocent teammates to stop being productive and organized, forcing them instead to spend days, weeks, months or years trying to build a defense against false accusations they are totally innocent of.
Gaslighting teaches us to not trust ourselves
For me, the 4th in a line of 5 siblings, two parents and a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, I had simply accepted the lifelong fact that, because of the repeated scenarios of lies and gossip, I would never be able to trust anyone in my family. Because of the whole family’s blind faith in the hateful speak of the demon at the center of all chaos, I never knew what any family member thought they knew about me. So even when I was talking one-on-one with one or some of them, I didn’t know if they were secretly viewing me as a liar or a thief or—just about any other bad thing you can imagine.
My sociopathic sibling knew how to plant seeds of distrust into each and every one of us, to the point that we were so used to not trusting each other that most of us didn’t even realize it was a problem. That’s Gaslighting. We all just thought that “all families fight” but I know many families who fight very seldom. Ours fought constantly and always over nothing. I can’t count how many times she and my brother, her closest ally, would randomly call me a liar to my face when they didn’t agree with whatever I was saying. And to them, I either accepted their word as pure gold, or, again, I was either stupid or a liar.
Disagreement wasn’t something they had enough maturity or self-love to handle. Having my elder siblings constantly calling me a liar, or stupid, for fifty years conditioned me to the point that after having been raised by them I didn’t know how to trust my own perceptions of life. That’s what Gaslighting is intended to do to its victims. First you lose faith in the people around you, then, after years of being convinced that you were wrong…or lying…or stupid…you lose the ability to trust even your own thoughts, memories or ideas.
Distance. The only cure
It became obvious at fifty years of age, that the only solution was distance, and from the whole clan. Almost everyone in my family or who knew my family had become puppets to the puppet master’s lies and tricks, so I truly couldn’t trust anyone. For my own survival, I finally walked away from almost all of them. I changed phone numbers, email addresses, and have never made a single attempt at talking to any relative who knew them. That was over ten years ago and I am happy to report that my life has been chaos-free for over ten years now. I’ve also learned to trust myself. Surprise, surprise, I’m not an idiot just because I don’t blindly agree with everything some uneducated sociopath blurts out of her uncontrolled mouth. Not one single person has called me a liar, or stupid in over ten years and I no longer question every thought or memory I have.
Why can’t sociopaths live in peace?
Peace doesn’t give a sociopath the unfair spoils that they crave. Sociopaths create chaos because following the rules of civility doesn’t allow them to steal and cheat with the ease that chaos allows. For example, a sociopathic boss or leader will fire people willy-nilly, so that the rest of us employees can’t trust that we won’t be next. Unable to trust that we will keep our jobs for another day by following the rules of truth and honesty turns our world to chaos. Once we are in chaos, and focused on daily survival, we change our priorities from doing what is fair and right, to doing whatever we hope will appease our sociopathic monster of a boss long enough to let us keep our jobs for one more chaotic day.
During the time that we are in this trap, psychologists call us “Flying Monkeys.” As we recall, when Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch of the West, the Flying Monkeys, who had been willingly performing the acts of her evil for her, cheered. It was then discovered that they’d hated the witch all along but did as she directed anyway. The Flying Monkeys were her power. The sociopath is the Wicked Witch who breaks all the rules and creates chaos and fear where there is ample space for peace. Why? Because through chaos and fear, the rules of productivity no longer apply. To us, the rule becomes eat-or-be-eaten, rather than work together toward team goals and company profits.
All’s fair in love and war
In my novels I call this technique “crisis rules” or “the rules of crisis.” In the rules of civility, I would be punished for pouring water on your brand-new couch. But if that couch were on fire—or in crisis—then I would be praised for pouring that same water on that same couch. Sociopaths know this better than we do. They know that if they want to take something from someone who earned it fairly, they need to create a crisis, which creates fear, which prompts us to take drastic measures. They know the old saying “All’s fair in love and war” better than we do and they’ve learned how to use it to their advantage.
An example of how chaos benefits the liar
A man married to a sociopath, might one day find out that she had been running up credit cards behind his back or had somehow gotten him into a financial bind so severe that he was now, suddenly, willing to cash in his 401k to pay off the crisis. He had been following the rules of civility by properly saving for his retirement, but because of the crisis his spouse had gotten him into, he was now willing to do what he’d promised himself he’d never do, leaving him to start over on his original plan from ground zero. But that’s okay, right? All’s fair in love and war, right? It was a crisis, so he did what he had to do. By giving up everything he’d worked for, he became the hero who saved the day. What a clever manipulation!
The problem is that the sociopath had created the crisis intentionally just to get him to release his grip on his own future and give it all to her. And, to go a step further, if he didn’t divorce her over it, he might as well prepare for it to happen again. Sociopaths know the tricks but they’re not as intelligent as we give them credit for. They’re driven by raw primal instinct to do whatever it takes to get what they want. They say evil things like “the ends justify the means.” What I’m trying to say here is, it worked, so like little robots they’re going to do it again, exactly the same way, as soon as an opportunity arises. They know we’ll eventually forgive them and then put ourselves right back into the trap just like before.
When will the 4% of people who are sociopaths stop controlling the 96% with their evil?
When we stop listening to them.
We don’t need to hate them. We just need to stop listening to their lies and clever war cries. Sociopaths have but one single power, words. Not the words they say, but their words that we let ourselves respond to. The Flying Monkeys far outnumbered the Wicked Witch, but for some social reason, they let her jerk them around until the day came that someone else stepped in and removed the Witch altogether. Why did they obey the sociopath in the movie? Why do we obey sociopaths in real life? Are we the cause of sociopathic rule in this world?
My family collectively allowed one single sibling to destroy the entire clan, and for no reason more complex than to appease the daily addiction to chaos that gripped one single person.
We allow sociopaths rule us by not turning off their mic, or rolling our eyes and moving along whenever they speak lies. On deep levels, we usually know they’re liars and thieves, but we would rather say “Oh, now why would they say that?” than tell them to behave themselves like adults.