50 Shades of Sociopath: Invisible Abuse
Recently, I have been recovering from a minor operation, so a friend suggested that I read the Fifty Shades trilogy to keep me entertained during the day. I also kept myself entertained by seeing how many things I could stack on my cat as she lay beside me, but that is the subject of another post. My reading of the Fifty Shades trilogy did keep me entertained, but probably not for the reasons that it was created. It has motivated me to dispel some myths and to spread a little bit of awareness about sociopaths (read: narcissists and psychopaths).
Believe it or not, sociopaths usually do not come in the handy guise of serial killers or genocidal tyrants. No. They would be easier to spot if they did. Typically, they are in fact, the very type of person being glorified by the Fifty Shades trilogy – controlling, pity-seeking and manipulative emotional predators, masked as passionate and exciting lovers.
The problem with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it fails to understand the pathology of the personality that it tries to depict. You have got your charming sociopath and he’s sooooo sexy. He is kinky, wild, exciting. He is oh so charming and alluring in the beginning, and he focuses all of his attention on you. It feels like there’s no one else in the world and you feel so special and loved. So far, so accurate. It always starts off with idealisation.
Then the mask begins to slip. You move into the controlling, threatening and very unpredictable phase. You find that you feel constantly on edge around him and you never know where you stand. One minute up and the next minute down. You feel dizzy and confused. Your entire life starts to revolve around him as you spend all of your time trying to placate, to please and to get back to the euphoric feeling that you once experienced. The magic is fading and you don’t know why. You blame yourself. Slowly but surely, you begin to lose your sense of who you are and what you need. Having needs in a loving relationship is not wrong, but a sociopath will tell you it is. Why? There is no room for your needs as well.
Yep, different phase, but same sociopath. We are still on track because as with all sociopaths, the idealisation always comes to an end. Next up in the trilogy, we start digging into the abuser’s past. Well, what do you know – turns out he had a tragic childhood, which explains all of the unacceptable behaviour mentioned above! Fortunately, the victim has a superpower. She can cure sociopathy! That makes everything alright then.
Yes, that’s right. Sociopaths come from abusive backgrounds but they can be fixed with the right kind of lover who understands them and with the right kind of love, that no one has been able to offer to them – except you! A steamy, broken sort of romance. Society might say no, but that’s because they’re just so caught up in their conventional ways. What would they know anyway?! They’re all too vanilla and boring to get the kind of connection that you have. They could never understand childhood abuse survivors and their sexual needs. All you need is love. Love, love, love to cure everything.
The behaviour of a sociopath is not about BDSM. Look a little closer. It is about manipulation and coercion. It is about abuse of the kind that does not leave physical scars, but deeper psychological ones. BDSM is a set of sexual practices. And those other words? They are indicative of a serious, incurable personality disorder. Those qualities are not things you can “fix” by throwing love all over the place or smothering someone with your affection and attention. That is the very line you were sold and brought into and that they use to keep you believing and fixated on being the exception and the one to fix them. At some point, the tables turn and this will be used against you. Perhaps it already is.
Sociopaths love pity. They use it constantly. They use it to justify their abuse, to make you feel sorry for them, instead of thinking about your own boundaries and needs. They are pathological liars who will say anything and everything to convince you that their toxic behaviour is fine and you and all of the others before you are the ones who are wrong. In much the same way as a parasite, the goal is to do whatever it takes to keep you as a source of supply.
This is one of the most common tactics of a sociopath, “You’re the only one who understands me. I’ve never felt this way in my life.” Everyone else has failed them, but you… You are the one. The exception. Your heart leaps because this feels so right, this is the missing piece of you.
This is precisely why I shuddered whilst reading Fifty Shades of Grey. It perpetuates the idea that sociopathic relationships are sexy. In reality, they will completely destroy every bit of your self esteem and sense of self worth. Moreover, it perpetuates a fantasy that abusive people can be fixed by the “right” person. No matter how right you might think you are, and tell the world that you are, you will never be the solution. Why? Because no one is. There is no solution.
You cannot fix a sociopath. They do not have a conscience. They’re not secretly insecure and tragic. They understand human nature and how to play on it. They manipulate your own perception so that it becomes a point of pride and/or vanity to you to be “the one” who fixes them. This is why clinging and hanging on becomes all consuming. You must win at any cost to prove to everyone (including yourself) that you are good enough.
These things may feel good at first, in an addictive way. Again, that’s the point. Sociopaths know how to manufacture intense desperation and desire. These toxic shortcuts to “love” are not actually love. To the abuser, they are ways to ensure their power over others.
Regardless of your sexual fantasies, below are some qualities that can be found in any genuine, healthy sort of love. My guess would be that most if not all, of these qualities are missing in any relationship with a sociopath. Even in the heady days of idealisation, you may feel these, but it is highly unlikely that they were reciprocated.
If you want real, genuine love and someone who will love and appreciate you, find someone who can feel the same things as you feel, and not someone who masquerades and uses those same qualities that they told you they adored to exploit you.
Or, try stacking things on your cat. My current record is six books, a pair of tweezers and an avocado. 🙂