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Meaning from Madness
the Hidden Patterns that Motivate Abusers: Narcissists, Borderlines, and Sociopaths
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Living with a Sociopath? You're not Crazy.
Learn the disease. Stop the Abuse
(this essay adapted from Tears and Healing Reflections
with selected pages from Tears and Healing)
Is your partner a sociopath? You may not know how to tell, but even worse, you may
be thinking that you are the crazy one. Sociopaths' minds don't work
like yours or mine, yet they feel perfectly confident about what they are doing.
Something is clearly wrong, and we often question our own sanity.
So what is a sociopath? A serial killer that strolls from one victim to another?
Possibly, but not often. Ask yourself this: is the person you're
concerned about unable to form any kind of emotional bond with another person? Does
he or she seem to be always without empathy for others, even their own family?
Does he or she do things that to you seem beyond comprehension; and then carry on
as if those actions made no difference? Does she/he lie without compunction? Is
he or she in trouble with the law and other authorities? Does he or she like dangerous,
outrageous or socially/sexually unacceptable activities that provide a thrill? If
you see this dynamic in your partner, family member, coworker, or friend, you are
very probably dealing with a sociopath.
If that isn't bad enough, most people who show sociopathic behavior aren't
just sociopathic. They often also have narcissistic tendencies, sometimes
intensely angered by anything that seems to suggest that he or she might have a
flaw. In this mode, they will do anything, including brutalizing their own
family, to maintain their own feeling that others see them as without any flaws.
The combination is terribly painful to live with.
You're not Crazy
For many of us, struggling to live with this kind of abusive partner, the first
handhold we need to grasp is that we are not crazy.
Whether the person we live with has narcissistic personality disorder, borderline
personality disorder, sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder), alcoholism,
or some mix of any of these, people who suffer from these disorders have extreme
emotions, which lead them to actions that can range from puzzling to brutal. Living
with them is painful and confusing. Personality disorders are aptly named, because
the minds of people who suffer from these disorders work differently than healthy
It is only by understanding how you and your partner function, how his or her personality
disorder affects his or her behavior, and how you interact, that you can begin to
really judge what is happening. To figure out what you should do, you need
to understand your own emotions and how to handle the decisions you face. Tears and
Healing deals with your situation, while Meaning from Madness explains
a disordered partner. Both are written by a man who survived a violent relationship
with a narcissistic/borderline/alcoholic wife and has been engaged helping others
through these situations for the past 6 years.
They Spin our Reality: Disordered people can't deal with the reality of their
behaviors. On some level they realize how hurtful they are, yet accepting this major
flaw in themselves is just too painful. So disordered abusers spin our reality to
make theirs less painful. One of the most common defense mechanism they use is projection. In projection, a characteristic of themselves
that they find just too painful to accept is projected
onto us. And the most frequently projected characteristic is mental illness. "I'm
not a sociopath. You're the crazy one." Another common and
difficult defense mechanism is blame shifting. It's your
fault this happened because blah, blah blah blah...
After a while it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what is being projected
and what is being distorted. We begin to doubt our reality and question whether
we're the crazy ones, or whether our disordered SO's (significant others) are really
right about what they say.
The truth is, THEY'RE NOT RIGHT. But they feel better when they can get us to carry
the burden of their illness and their behavior.
What's more, disordered people hide their problems very effectively. People with
all of these personality disorders - narcissistic personality disorder, borderline
personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder - have serious maladjustments
in coping with life. Thus, they live in emotional turmoil. They seek to present
a very together appearance, hiding their disease from most people. It is only when
we get into a close and private relationship with someone with these personality
disorders that the abusive behavior comes out. And because their lives are wracked
with emotional turmoil, there is a lot of pent-up emotion that can be focused on
us. Yet those around us don't see it, causing us further confusion.
The different disorders have different underlying themes. People suffering from
narcissistic personality disorder respond with extreme defensive actions to events
which they feel threaten their perception as special and privileged. Similarly,
those suffering with borderline personality disorder respond to some events with
extreme fear of abandonment - events that would have little meaning to a healthy
person. Those with antisocial personality disorder lack normal feelings of
responsibility and compassion and thus have little motivation to restrain their
reactions. And alcoholics can show any of these, while at the same time their natural
inhibitions from hurtful behavior are suppressed by the intoxication.
All of this leads a lot of confusion for those of us unlucky enough to be in committed
relationships with someone with a personality disorder. My own experience was with
someone who probably would have barely diagnosed at her worst - and definitely not
at her best - with borderline personality disorder. What I have learned, as I have
begun helping people with broader experiences, is that much of what I learned about
abuse and borderline personality disorder also applies to narcissistic personality
disorder and even antisocial personality disorder.
Another thing I've observed over time is the link to alcoholism. AA and Al-Anon
have a culture that treats alcoholism as a disease alone and apart. Thus, people
getting support through these channels tend to think that there is nothing more
to learn beyond alcoholism. At the same time, this approach leaves some things unexplained.
They talk about "dry drunks" and problems that persist long after alcoholics
get sober. Why is this so? If addictive use of alcohol is the problem, why don't
things improve when the alcohol abuse stops?
The reality is more likely that alcoholism and other addictions, like pot/marijuana,
prescriptions drugs, cocaine, etc, are the result of a personality disorder. In
the case of my ex-wife, a mixed addictions to alcohol and prescription psych meds
was the result of self-medication to deal with the emotional pain of her disorder.
Addiction is extremely toxic, and greatly worsens the effects of a personality disorder.
But if the substance abuse stops, the underlying personality disorder is still there.
Thus, understanding how a partner borderline personality disorder, narcissistic
personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, alcoholism, and substance
abuse will interact with us is essential if we are to get a handle on our situations
and our own lives. And to begin with, we have to realize that even though
we are victims a prolonged distortion campaign and may feel very confused about
WE ARE NOT CRAZY.
What is a Sociopath?
Meaning from Madness - Understanding the Hidden Patterns that Motivate Abusers: Narcissists, Borderlines, and Sociopaths
explains the simple psychological driving force that defines this disease; the callous indifference of sociopaths,
their treatment prospects, and the impact
of alcohol abuse. It explains how sociopathy fits in with the raging and controlling behvaior of borderline personality disorder and narcissism.
More about this book.
Books are available in
packages at a savings.
About the Author
Richard Skerritt is a writer, inventor, engineer, and athlete. A survivor of a marriage
that turned abusive, he forged a path through confusion, love, obligation, and emotional
damage to safety and truer life. His experience and insight, shared in Tears and
Healing, originated in his contributions to online support groups for people
in relationships with a partner who has borderline personality disorder. He has
been a respected contributor and mentor in these groups for the past four years.
His writing and publishing work now includes six books
(see them all here)and
he continues to help people through books, daily
, and phone consultation. Not a mental health professional, his perspectives and
guidance "from the inside out" have been especially relevant for people
in abusive relationships. More information is
Selected pages from Tears and Healing
Editorial Reviews of Tears and Healing
Reviewer: J. Paul Shirley, MSW - Co-Author:
Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook
I highly recommend Richard's book,
Tears and Healing. His writing is clear, and although his words
are written with gentleness, he pulls absolutely no punches about
dealing with the hard facts about BPD and its effects on everyone.
Some people say there is a reason for the pain we go through having
a partner with BPD, and in Richard's case I agree. He has a gift
for lending a helping hand for others trying to walk that painful
path. I don't generally get excited about new books on BPD, but
Richard's left me feeling good & that's a rare gift for a writer
Reviewer: Sam Vaknin - Author:
Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
There are bookshelves upon bookshelves
of professional, scholarly, and utterly inaccessible literature
about abusive relationships. Those who need it the most - the traumatized
victims - are locked out by the jargon and the lack of practical
advice. Recently, survivors and victims have taken matters into
their own hands and have published their own books, replete with
first hand experiences and tips. Tears and Healing is a fine specimen
of such writing: sensitive, attuned to the emotional and pragmatic
needs of the survivors, both deep and accessible, a helpful guide
to the traumatic aftermath of abuse.
Reviewer: Randi Kreger - Coauthor:
Stop Walking on Eggshells and the
Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook; Owner:
In Tears and Healing, Richard21CP
takes us along on his personal journey from his “lightbulb experience”
to making painful decisions about his marriage to a woman with borderline
personality disorder. It takes courage for non-BP partners to understand
and take responsibility for their own role in the “borderline dance,”
and even more courage to write about it. Richard has done both.
Reviewer: Darla Boughton, Manager
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery/Psychopath forum
Tears and Healing is a must read
for anyone involved in a devastating relationship with a personality
disordered partner. It is a must-have, top-notch, first-aid kit
to understanding the emotional devastation such a relationship causes.
The author reveals his first-hand experience and knowledge. Let
Richard's words reveal how to reclaim your sanity in an insane interaction
with a disordered partner.
Reader Reviews of Tears and Healing
I just started reading Richard's
book, Tears and Healing. It is excellent. Over the years I have
been in and out of the mental health offices of many professionals.
I kept wanting to know how to get beyond the hurt, the heart over-ruling
my head...how to say enough is enough. As I started reading the
pages of this book...for the first time I felt a weight being lifted
off of me. Those mental health people hadn't lived with someone
with a personality disorder. They couldn't identify with me. So...here's
to you Richard. Your book is excellent and I recommend it to anyone
who wants to get off this merry-go-round and to start healing their
Reviewer: Lynn from Massachusetts
I wanted to let you know how much
I have appreciated your book, Tears and Healing. It is written with
such insight, reflection, and courage. Once I started reading it,
I couldn't put it down- I just received it Thursday afternoon, and
was finished with it by Friday morning. My close friend has been
trying to "tough it out" with his BPD (borderline personality disorder)
wife until the kids are grown. Your book has shed so much light
on her condition, the way he has been treated, and the way he has
been coping. It also shows that there can be light at the end of
the tunnel, if he lets himself listen to his Soul's messages to
After reading your book, and seeing
that you were able to start a new life away from the stress and
abuse of your marriage, my heart feels lighter. My spirit knows
what kind of positive intention to hold for my friend- that he listen
to his Soul's messages. Again, thank you for the candor, wisdom,
and openness of your beautiful and empowering book. I know that
many lives have been and are going to be touched, healed, and inspired
because of it.
I originally hesitated to buy your
book, because I thought it was geared to those ready to leave their
borderline (personality disorder) partner. I think I feared being
influenced to leave when I wasn't ready, a sure sign of my shaky
boundaries. But I bought it, read it and feel I have benefited tremendously.
A wet noodle, such as I, needed to hear it laid out plain: you're
being abused and this is what happens to your psyche while you're
being abused!. As a result of reading your book, other boundaries
books, and my support group, that little washed out me is starting
to stand up. I am working toward becoming the person I want to be
in OR out of this relationship. There has been no miracle here,
just a firmer awareness that I can teach him how I want to be treated.
If he can't accept the stronger me, then so be it. At least I will
know I have done everything I could to stay healthy while staying
with my borderline husband. Thank you for writing your book, Richard.
It is empathic and inspiring.
I received your book on Friday. I
began reading and finished it Saturday. It was absolutely wonderful!
My husband and I are both dedicated Christians. I have been abused
for over 23 years of the marriage but I was "committed" and "obligated"
due to religious reasons as you addressed. Finally, I heard on a
Christian radio station that if sex between a couple was not mutual
then it wasn't right. I thought I had been the "submissive" dutiful
Christian wife, but I had not had anyone to talk to and so did not
know. I began seeing a therapist who was great and validated my
feelings. She was a Christian, too. I found out that my husband
had a personality disorder. After gallons of tears over the years
- like you, I tear up over simple things, music, the National Anthem,
tender things - I finally became strong enough to see an attorney.
I filed for divorce in May of this year. I am now seeing another
therapist (a Christian, too) who is supportive as well.
I know it will take a lot of time to heal. I have begun, but
true healing will only begin when I can finally be totally away
from him. Thank you so much for your book. I have highlighted so
many of the pages. And I will be reading them over and over again.
Richard, Gratefully, I found
your book using a search for Al-Anon. I have done extensive forms
of inner-work and am intimately familiar with 12-step recovery programs. Yet,
I have found myself experiencing feelings in my current, soon to
be past, relationship that I have not been able to understand or
reference.The excerpts from your book, unlike most, reached out
and grabbed a part of my soul that is searching for answers and understanding.The
depth, as well as the honesty, with which you address the issues
and feelings of living in an abusive relationship spoke to me in
a way I haven't heard in a while.What I appreciated the most is
the level of responsibility you encourage your reader to take in
the journey of healing.Thank you for that.Amidst the anger and the
anxiety, I hear the calling to learn more and love myself on a much
deeper level than I have in the 13 years I have been on the path
to wholeness.Thank you for your resonating messages of truth and
wisdom, support and care.
Are you in love with someone
In Love and Loving it - Or Not! - A User's Guide to Love and Being In-Love
explains not just why we fall in love, but why we fall in love with the
people we do, the difference between love and being in-love. You can't choose your
feelings, but you can set the stage for them to develop with a healthier,
happier person. This book explains how.
More about this book.
Get it in the
the Relationship Pack, or
the Big Storm Pack.
Books are available in
packages at a savings.
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Madness - $20
Healing - $20
In Love and Loving
It - or Not! - $14
Tears & Healing
Reflections - $24
Storm - $24
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