13 Common Mind Games Sociopaths Play In Everyday Life To Watch Out For
While not every charming person in your life is a sociopath, if you feel like you're being manipulated, gaslighted, or otherwise messed with by an exceedingly lovely (read: cunning) person, it is possible you're becoming the victim of a sociopath's mind games. Or, at the very least, you're being strung along by someone with those tendencies. This can be an incredibly disorienting experience, whether it's happening in your relationship, at work, or in a friendship. So the more signs you can recognize, and the faster you can get out of that situation, the better.
But first, what, exactly, is a true sociopath? "A sociopath falls into the category of cluster-B personality disorders," therapist Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW tells Bustle, adding that they're similar to psychopaths, but tend to be less savvy and less polished — and thus easier to identify.
That doesn't mean that they can't put you through the proverbial ringer, however. "Sociopaths are master manipulators and have a way of controlling others around them," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "The way you dress to who you associate with can all be influenced by a sociopath."
Below, some common mind games sociopaths play, all in the name of getting their way. Watch out for these signs, and you should be able to avoid getting sucked into the unhealthy situations and patterns this type of person can perpetuate.
1. They're A Little Too Charming
As board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan L. Edelman says, "Sociopaths use charm and manipulation in order to get what they want." But because they aren't actually being kind — and are only saying sweet things as a means to an end — their kindness will feel a bit... strange. "At first, you may feel charmed, while later you'll feel scared or confused."
2. They Show Zero Remorse
Let's say you were to catch a sociopath in a lie. While most people would admit their wrongdoing and apologize, a true sociopath will go to great lengths to convince you you're wrong. "Over time, you'll notice that this person is very comfortable lying to people and has little or no empathy for other's feelings," Edelman says. "They also don't show remorse when they hurt others as they have no conscience."
3. They Blame You For Everything
If you're being blamed for everything — for example, a partner tells you it's your fault for misunderstanding a situation — take it as a sign. As Heller says, "If the sociopath is psychologically savvy, s/he may use psychological concepts to innocently pathologize the target and characterize him or her as the unintentional instigator of their disturbing dynamics."
4. They Try To Confuse You
In other words, he or she may try to confuse you every chance they get. "A sociopath might say something, then insist he didn’t say it. As a husband, he might deny that he confided a fear he confided and accuse you of making it up. As a boss, he might claim credit for your successful work. As a colleague, he might spread a rumor about you and act shocked that you would think he’d do something like that," therapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW tell Bustle.
5. They Seem To Enjoy Messing With Your Head
Again, a sociopath will show no remorse whilst messing with your head — and may even seem to enjoy doing so. As Koenig says, "A sociopath might cause you pain, then enjoy seeing you turn to him for comfort. For example, he might provoke you to speak your mind to your best friend by saying you’re too soft and need to be more direct with your feelings. Then when your friend becomes offended, he might act all sympathetic and take your side on how awfully your friend treated you." See the manipulation?
6. You Are Made To Feel "Crazy" During Arguments
If you feel like you can't ever "win" an argument, that could be a sign of gaslighting, which is a tactic many sociopaths use. "Gaslighters manipulate your words, then use them against you, so you end up saying, 'But I didn’t mean…' and keep trying to defend yourself," Koenig says. "The goal is to invalidate you and make you question your sanity."
7. They're A Little Bit Threatening
In an effort to control you, a sociopath might even dish out a threat or two. "Sociopaths often use threats to keep you in their control, such as threats of suicide or saying 'you'll be sorry' for your behavior," Hershenson says. Again, it's all in an effort to get their way.
8. They Flatter You Endlessly
A sociopath will likely do whatever he or she can do to win you over, often by dishing out compliments and flattering remarks. But it'll likely come off as totally and completely fake.
As Hershenson says, "Compliments feel good, but [their] flattery feels like too much. Instead of saying they enjoy being with you, a sociopath may say, 'You are the most amazing person I've ever met and I can't imagine life without you,' even though you've only known them a short time."
9. They Lie And Cheat
Again, casual and blatant, yet totally incessant lying is a huge sign of sociopathy, especially when it's helping them reach a goal. As clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, host of The Web radio show says, "Someone who has sociopathic tendencies has a lack of remorse or regard for others. They are driven by what gets them towards a goal, and they are not going to play by the same rules of morality and 'right and wrong' as you are. So expect things like lying, cheating, and emotional manipulation."
10. They Justify Breaking The Law
Because sociopaths (and even people with sociopathic tendencies) think it's fine to break the law, don't be surprised if they try to convince you it's OK over and over again. "They will break rules and laws with strong justification and try to make you believe that if you can't see how it is OK, something is wrong with you. They may undercut you in a business setting, for example, with no regard for your personal well-being," Klapow says.
11. They'll Seem Oh So Very Sincere
The tricky thing, with sociopaths, is they're really good at lying, and thus really good at coming off as totally sincere when trying to get their way. "They can be quite sophisticated in their approach," Klapow says. "You may feel they are being sincere and then turn around and find out they have manipulated your good will and trust. Lying, manipulation, and seduction to get you connected with them are all games the sociopath will play."
12. They Treat You Differently
If someone is being extra sweet to you, but has a horrible reputation with everyone else, take note. "If you get a sense that a person is repeatedly lying ... If they seem to be engaging you deeply and emotionally, but have a bad reputation with others, these are all warning signs," Klapow says. "Keep your eyes open and focused not just on how they are treating you and what your interactions with them are like, but how do others see them?" This can be a big clue.
13. Something Doesn't "Feel Right"
When dealing with a sociopath, you might not be able to put your finger on what, exactly, is "off" about them. But that feeling, that gut instinct that something's wrong, will be there. "With a sociopath, that 'something is not right' feeling could be your first and only warning sign," Klapow says. "Trust it."
Because if something feels weird, and you think you're being lied to, manipulated, or gaslighted, it might be true.
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