Sociopaths learn what makes you “tick” and then experiment with how much they can get away with doing it. Then they punish you with silence for reacting.
Normally when you tell a partner that something is upsetting you, they work on doing less of it. But with a sociopath or narcissist, they’ll start doing more of it. Sociopaths learn what makes you “tick” and then experiment with how much they can get away with doing it.
You’ll think you’re dealing with the most emotionally dense human being on the planet. How can someone possibly do the exact same hurtful thing a day after you had a long discussion about how it hurts your feelings?
Right. That’s not dense, it’s intentional.
The more they do it, the more you react and start to doubt your own sanity. When you react, they’ll typically punish you with silence so you learn to blame yourself. They will often worsen this anxiety by triangulating you with other people, so you know you’re replaceable if you don’t clean up your act.
Need more proof that it’s intentional? If they sense you backing away, they know just how long to pause their games and switch to idealization. Then once you’re hooked again, they go back to the same hurtful behavior.
Narcissists and sociopaths are obsessed with control and attention (their own ego replacement for a lack of heartfelt love), and pushing your buttons accomplishes both of those things. It keeps you under their power, so they can treat you badly and you can’t complain. It also keeps you busy scurrying around, competing for their affection.
I bolded the lack of heartfelt love thing above, because it’s really important. So often survivors get stuck seeing the abuser as this all-powerful suave cool person, which puts you in the “victim” position. But the thing is, people with love in their hearts do not treat others this way. This person wasn’t powerful or cool. They were acting out a set of behaviors that are indicative of severe unresolved psychological damage.
They are basically passing along their wound of unfelt shame and inner-defectiveness (numbed out and experienced as constant “boredom”). Your only goal is to find and release these messages, so you can restore the love in your heart.
There is nothing you could have done when someone is trying to screw with your head like that. Even if you were the most flexible easy-going person the planet (a lot of targets are), sociopaths will always be seeking new ways to push your buttons until they finally find something that works.
You may look back on your relationship and think: “If only I had been more easy-going, then they wouldn’t have left me”. This is an extremely damaging inner belief that will lead to you attracting more toxic and selfish energy drainers, and blaming yourself for it.
Often times, this inner belief is unfelt and numbed from consciousness, but it lives in our bodies. Instead, the wound manifests itself in behavior: people-pleasing, being overly nice, being overly flexible, perfectionism, over accomplishing, rescuing others, fantasizing about a perfect partner… These are all signs of an extremely damaged inner world. The message is that you are somehow “not enough” without those things. That you are somehow separate from love.
Turning our focus from external (perpetrator, resentment, obsession) to internal (self, mindfulness, love) can help us find this core wound and release it.