Sociopaths and Narcissists
How to deal with sociopaths and narcissists, in other words, how to deal with difficult people in your life. This is an important topic because sometimes people don’t see it if they weren’t taught about narcissists or sociopaths or provided the tools to see the red flags.
The difference mainly between sociopaths and narcissists are sociopaths are equated to monsters and narcissists are equated to full of themselves or stuck-up and this is somewhat true. The proper term for a sociopath is an antisocial personality disorder, that does not mean you don’t like to go to parties. Antisocial personality disorder means essentially that you’re a criminal. Sociopath is the layperson’s term for that.
Basically, it’s somebody who doesn’t just break the law but breaking the law is a way for them to get distance from people. They can’t do relationships. This is a truism that a lot of people don’t understand, not everybody can do relationships. They don’t realize it, it’s unconscious. This is not them saying they’re going to fake a relationship, it is unconscious. That terminology is personality disorder when someone has difficulty or impossibility to create a substantial, healthy, intimate relationship. We call it a personality disorder and then there are different flavors.
Closeness feels threatening.
Narcissism is when the closeness gets to be too much for these people. Closeness feels threatening. If your healthy, closeness feels good but to people with personality disorders it feels threatening; so they break the closeness. Again, not consciously but they’ll break the closeness by putting another person down and putting themselves up. Narcissists have to break that closeness by belittling a person or being mean. In a relationship they can’t both be good at something, it has to be “I’m better and you’re not.” They have to do this to break the closeness.
Sociopaths break the law to break the closeness or keep secrets from you. So breaking the law is a way of breaking any tie with society. “I’m not going to follow
the societal rules, I do it my way.” So they break the societal rules and they break the closeness with you because they have a secret. It’s a way of pushing everybody out and to keep himself from feeling close.
So the problem is people think if someone really can’t handle closeness then they’d be a hermit, right?
If someone is a hermit, they don’t have a personality disorder, although they could. It’s a little different because what happens is they get the distance and then they feel abandoned, then they need to find that closeness again.
This is why you feel like a yo-yo when you’re in a relationship with these people. They want in and they break it and they want back in and they break it, and then they want it. Usually, when the narcissist breaks it, they come back with all the compliments and making you feel great because they are trying to get back in with you. It may seem like they’re overdoing it or pretending but they’re scrambling to get back in because they feel abandoned. Or they act out and they have to do something to make up for their acting out. Because they feel guilty, abandoned, or sad; they feel the loss and they got to come back in.
The difference is sociopaths, in general, aren’t going to change. They’re not treatable, I know there are exceptions but in general, the main difference is sociopaths aren’t treatable and narcissists are. There’s a lot of people in the mental health that feel narcissist aren’t or other personality disorders aren’t but that’s because insurance typically won’t pay for them to get help. It takes a long time, a long time for a narcissist to improve but there’s different gradations, different levels. There can be someone who has narcissistic traits for instance
but they don’t have that push-pull to that degree. Then there’s an extreme narcissist who probably aren’t treatable and everything in between.
What do you do, how do you handle someone if you think they’re a narcissist?
When it comes to trying to decipher which one is which, you discuss your own boundaries with the person you may think is narcissistic. Bring up your concerns,
your feelings and if they dismiss you completely or don’t believe it’s an issue, there’s a flag right there. We call that a test. That’s a test you can use with anybody in your life who has mistreated you or made a mistake. We talk about red flags a lot and what we’re talking about is the difference between a red flag person and the person who’s made a mistake. So is this the narcissist who is not treatable
or not amenable to work things out or is this a narcissist who is?
I feel X when you do Y
If you’ve talked about your boundaries (I feel X when you do Y), “I get really irritated when you’re late for our dates all the time.” And they blame you, that’s
a bad sign. If they dismiss you entirely, by telling you to get over it or it shouldn’t bother you, that’s a bad sign. If they say, “oh my gosh, it’s a habit I’m trying to break and I’m so sorry, I am working on it, I’ll try not to do it in the future.” Then okay, that seems workable.
It’s good to note that it could take years to help someone. If you do have that
conversation and say “I feel X when you’re late,” and they try, try, try and then they mess up again, that’s not the end of the world. As long as they’re trying, that sustains a commitment to wanting to be better. That’s a big positive sign that this person might be willing to make the changes for the relationship. Yes, you’re going to have to stick up for your boundaries in the relationship more than once.
A lot of people come in and say, “but I’ve already told him that and he did it again it’s a bad sign, they’re a narcissist.” Not necessarily, you may have to tell them 10 times, just because it’s on your agenda doesn’t mean it’s on their agenda. They’re doing it temporarily because it hurt you and that’s a good sign but it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay on their radar. So you’re going to have to stick up for your self; what you need, what you want more than once.
You’re going to have to stick up for your self; what you need, what you want more than once.
That’s where the narcissist has their problems, with a sociopath you probably want to put up a boundary and leave. If it’s that egregious that they’re not working with you and the societal rules, therapy can’t change them, you’re not going to change them. It’s not worth even putting the effort in frankly.
Sociopaths you’ll want to say goodbye and with narcissists, test them out with a boundary, and see how they respond. Otherwise, it might just be a mistake that you have to address and it’s a good sign if they want to work with you.
If you have any questions, you can always call us at (757)340-8800.