The headline screams: How to tell if your boyfriend is a sociopath!
Nah, couldn’t happen with Catholic folks like us, right?
When we hear the word sociopath, we think Ted Bundy-like murderers and maybe high-rolling conman. In fact, twelve-million Americans are sociopaths. And one study of 17,000 college students showed that two-thirds scored high on a measure of narcissism.
In Escaping the Boy, author Paula Carrasquillo discreetly veils as fiction her own true story of being abused by her socipathic narcissistic boyfriend.
He had no empathy or conscience, she says. He lied—a lot. He began by abusing her emotionally and verbally and eventually, physically. She says that one of the red flags was that he wanted to get on her phone plan (he claimed it was to save money) but it was actually so that he could monitor all her calls and texts.
Would you recognize a sociopath if you met one, Carrasquillo asks. Probably not, she tells us.
“In romance, narcissistic sociopaths often appear too good to be true. They are charming, agreeable, and engaging. The narcissistic sociopath loves (or seems to love) everything about you. He (or she) hooks you. Then he breaks you. His emotional abuse is very subtle. The victim may not know she is being victimized until it is nearly too late.”
All sociopaths are narcissists. Narcissists view themselves as unique, special, “above the law.” They are grandiose and require excessive amounts of adulation, admiration, and attention. They behave arrogantly and haughtily. In addition to these traits, sociopathic narcissists are well versed in the art of deception. They lie. They appear to be devoid of empathy, even conscience-less.
As Catholics we believe everyone has a conscience. Nonetheless, consciences can become deformed. In fact, a conscience may be so deformed as to appear non-existent or non-functioning.
We may think this cannot happen to Catholics.
“Erin,” a college senior attending a Catholic college, dated a young man whom she (and many of her peers) found incredibly charismatic, charming, and persuasive. He was especially persuasive when he was pursuing her. Once she became his girlfriend, however, he subtly (so subtle that she wasn’t aware of it till much later) began manipulating her. He became quite domineering: requiring her to shop at certain stores, to avoid certain franchises he deemed unacceptable, to read books he considered indispensable, and even to attend a certain type of liturgy for Sunday Mass. Of course, Erin, being in love, was more than eager to follow his lead.
But Erin’s family began to worry: they saw her change; she became less confident, she was dependent on his assessment of her, she obediently followed his lead, and she even began questioning her own conscience.
Later, when friends asked her: why did you let him do that to you? She told them: “I really thought he was always right, and I was in the wrong.”
He berated her judgment, questioned her morality, made her feel guilty, and scoffed at anyone who disagreed with him. He was in control.
This is not to suggest that everyone who is manipulative, deceptive, and arrogant is a narcissist or a sociopath. A serious diagnosis of a personality disorder must be made by a qualified professional psychologist. Nonetheless, it would be wise to be wary of people who exhibit an excess of such negative character traits. And several studies indicate that narcissism is on the rise.
If you are in a relationship in which you are feeling constantly degraded and manipulated; in which you question your own intuition and conscience, begin to doubt that you can make a wise decision on your own, or even begin to doubt your worthiness as an individual…get out of this relationship! Talk to those who love you and know you: your parents, siblings, long-time friends. Discuss this relationship with a holy priest or spiritual director.
God does not want you demeaned, beaten down, subjugated. You are worthy of dignity because you are created in His image and likeness. He wants the best for you. You are called to a mission. God calls you to love, of the highest order.