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Are You the Target of a Sociopath? Part I of 2

Anti-social personalities want to dominate people. Don’t let it be you.

Have you ever wondered if someone purposefully wants to take advantage of you, maybe someone you don’t even know or just recently met?

There are many people with difficult personalities who can impact your life. But sociopaths have one of the most hidden personality disorders (antisocial personality disorder), and one of the most dangerous. They slip under our radar because they put so much energy into deceiving us. But most people don’t know what to watch out for and are shocked at how they can be manipulated. Anyone can be a target.

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For the past 30 years, I have worked with clients who were dealing with people with difficult personalities, as a therapist, lawyer and high-conflict consultant. I am still surprised and concerned about how many people are shocked by the behavior of people they thought they knew. In my posts and my books, I want to warn you about dangerous personalities, let you know how to identify them quickly, and share what to do if you have to deal with them.

Masters of Deception

People with antisocial personalities can be highly effective at getting you to overlook the warning signs you see or sense. That’s why they’re called con artists: They take you into their confidence. You doubt yourself and trust them.

In a dating relationship, a sociopath may be the most loving, charming, affectionate and giving person you have ever met. But it’s too good to be true: They may be secretly dating several other women or men. They may use one person’s credit card to buy flowers for another. They can be promiscuous and loyal to no one.

They are also fast talkers. To cover up secret activities, they may say, “I do some contract work for the CIA, but I can’t tell you anything about it. I’ll be gone all next week on a secret mission. I really, really wish I could tell you about it, but I can’t. And don’t ever ask me.” Or they may quickly lose interest in you, but keep you hanging on with a few words of love, so that they can still have sex with you, borrow money from you (which won’t be returned) and maintain access to your house or car.

They may even marry several women (or men) at the same time. (While most sociopaths are men, approximately 25 percent are women.) In marriage, they may pretend they are going to work at the office, when they’re actually going out to deal drugs. Or they may be stealing money from your father’s company. They may be seeing several other women (or men) for sex, or secretly using an escort service. Or gambling away their paycheck, then saying they were robbed. All of these activities have gone on under the radar for hundreds of people in these relationships. The targets are always shocked, because the sociopath was so good at living a lie. But that’s what they do.

In some cases, they have married in order to have access to a teenage daughter for sex while mom is at work. In at least one case, the teenage daughter fell in love with her abuser because he was so persuasive. Finally, she helped put him in jail, so that no one else would go through what she did.

At work, they may steal inventory and re-sell it. They may cook up lucrative schemes as a business owner. As a supervisor, they may bully employees until they quit. Or they may bully their new supervisor, especially if they are older and more experienced at the job and think they can get away with it. If confronted about it by upper management, they will often successfully claim innocence.

In a neighborhood, one woman resented losing out to another couple on a bid to buy a new house. So she placed an ad saying that she had a secret fantasy of having a stranger come to her house and aggressively seducing her in the front doorway. She gave the address of the house she wanted to buy and gave the best times when the new woman owner would be home alone. Then a man who saw the ad attempted to fulfill this “fantasy,” by assaulting the woman who answered the door. Somehow it was traced back to the neighbor and she gave the excuse that she was under stress because she had a disabled adult child. The jury didn’t buy it and sent her to prison.

Any Occupation

They can be criminals, con artists, drug dealers, human traffickers, or serial rapists. But they can also be politicians, Wall Street traders, CEOs, business owners, lawyers, police, soldiers, housewives, doctors, teachers, priests, contractors, therapists, or social workers. They can be extremely smart, like serial killer Ted Bundy, or extremely not smart. And they could be one of your family members. They represent as much as 4 percent of the U.S. population, which would be one in 25 people.

Playing the Victim

Many sociopaths will tell you a story about how someone else took advantage of them, or life circumstances treated them very badly. You will feel sorry for them. You will want to help them. But this is a ploy to help them prey on normal, healthy people who naturally care and want to help a stranger. For example, Bundy used to put a fake cast on his arm or leg, then drop a bunch of books by an isolated young woman on a college campus. He would ask them to help him carry his books back to his car, then when they leaned into the car to put the books in the back seat, he would shove them inside.

Getting Revenge

Sociopaths who are also high-conflict people (HCPs) can be especially dangerous. HCPs are preoccupied with blaming others, have all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions that drive their behavior and engage in extreme behavior that 90 percent of people would never do. Sociopathic HCPs are preoccupied with blaming a “Target of Blame” for not accepting their dominance. They may seek to punish them in ways that are particularly vicious and sometimes fatal. While some sociopaths do not have Targets of Blame (their targets may be banks, art museums, or internet sites), most are potential HCPs because they can become so outraged at anyone who stands in the way of something they want. For example, a teenage sociopath wanted the coat that another teenager was wearing. When the owner wouldn’t give it up, the sociopath killed her and took it.

Two of the worst stories I have read, which surely involved sociopaths, took place in marriages. In one case, a wife had an affair and apparently was thinking of leaving her sociopathic husband. He was furious, so he decided to pour on the charm to keep her in the marriage. Then, he told her he wanted to have a child with her, and they did. Then, when the child was 2, he killed the child as his punishment for her affair and for wanting independence from his control.

In one divorce case, a sociopathic woman decided that she needed to get sole custody of her 3-year old son. She lured her separated husband to have sex with her one day. After he left, she scooped out some of his semen and put it in the boy’s anus. A medical exam and DNA test quickly discovered the father’s “sexual abuse” of the child, and his life was ruined.


I don’t want to scare you, but rather inform you of this pattern of deception, lies, and extreme behavior without remorse. Awareness and a healthy skepticism will help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

In Part 2, I share tips for identifying them quickly and dealing with them if you must.

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