Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Sociopaths Deceive Others

By: Christine Hammond

Ever wonder how a person was able to earn trust so quickly and then exploit it for their own benefit? Perhaps they stole money, took over a business, or openly violated ethical conduct codes. One day they were a best friend and now for no apparent reason, they make themselves an enemy. Even now, it is hard to imagine that they were not the person they presented. How were they able to be so deceptive?
Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) is the technical definition for sociopathic and psychopathic behavior. Imagine ASPD as a spectrum where there is evidence of subtle to extreme versions of the behavioral dysfunction. Sociopaths are generally thought of as a milder type than psychopaths. This makes them harder to recognize in the average work environment. So how do they do it?

1.       Survey - Sociopaths begin their deception by carefully observing their new environment. Since most sociopath burn up relationships fast, they are frequently forced into new surroundings in order to survive. They look for potential targets: those with money, power, position or anything the other person has that the sociopath wants. Sociopaths scrutinize the target’s friends, work habits, routines, family, strengths, weaknesses, and social affairs. Basically, they are stalking their prey.
2.      Scoping – After choosing the target, sociopaths scope out an informant. This person usually has the dirt on everyone, likes to gossip, and puts themselves in the middle of things. The sociopath will quickly become best buddies with this person in an effort to glean as much information as possible. In the future, they will use this relationship to disseminate bad intelligence about others.
3.      Chameleon - Sociopaths literally transform themselves into the most attractive version of self for their target and the informant. For instance, if their prey likes to rescue people, the sociopath will need to be rescued. If their victim likes independent gregarious people, they will become that. The interesting part is that sociopaths can be two completely different personalities within the same environment.
4.      Seducing – Once the sociopath feels they understand their target, they begin a seduction. It usually begins with making small talk about a hobby or other interest. Then they use that incident to initiate further contact alternating between praising the target and asking for their advice. Shortly thereafter, the sociopath shares some made-up secret personal fear or anxiety to draw the target further in. If the victim responds with any degree of kindness, they proceed to the next step. If the prey repels the sociopath, one of two things happens: either the sociopath will move on or they will refine and intensify their approach.
5.      Courting – This is a one-way dance where the sociopath does all of the work. They magically appear where the victim is, they seem to be friends with the same people, and they often invite themselves to meetings, projects and events. The sociopath escalates the praise to a level of adoration which draws in the target even more. Their charm is enticing and disarming so the prey begins to feel at ease with the sociopath.
6.      Isolating – The sociopath begins to use the data gathered from the informant to isolate the target from friends or co-workers who may try to protect them one day. These are subtle non-flattering comments made about the friends or co-workers which are easily countered if confronted. The intent is for the victim to feel betrayed by their friends while learning to solely rely on the false loyalty of the sociopath.
7.      Vengeance - Anyone who tries to stop the sociopath along the way will be met with swift and severe revenge, threats, or punishment. They will use tactics such as inappropriate rage, the silent treatment, intimidating stares, twisting the truth, and playing the victim card to manipulate others into compliance. By this point, the sociopath has too much invested in the deception to walk away. So instead, they push away protectors while pulling in the target.
8.      Projection – Here is where things become tricky. The sociopath now secretly turns on the victim to the victim’s friends and co-workers by projecting the sociopath’s selfish motives onto the victim. This completes the betrayal cycle. When the sociopath removes themselves from the environment, everyone’s fingers will be pointed at each other with none pointed at the sociopath. This sets the stage for the final act.
9.      Deceit – Now the sociopath is free to embezzle, exploit, take over a business, and/or commit acts of fraud or felony. Because all eyes will be on the fight between each other and not on the sociopath. By the time the dust has settled, the sociopath will be long gone with whatever money, power, position, or prestige they desired.

At any point in the game, this can be stopped. But it usually takes an outsider looking in on the situation to bring about clarity. Sociopaths should be taken seriously and treated as potentially dangerous.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Living Someone Who Has Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

By: Christine Hammond

From the outside looking in, things look perfect. That is precisely the impression a person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) intends to give. They seem to be the model spouse, parent, friend, and most especially employee. And they have many rewards, honors, recognitions, and promotions to prove it. But things are not what they seem from the inside looking out.
OCPD is not the same thing as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This article explains the difference: For those living with a person who has OCPD, life is frustrating. There is a sense that nothing the spouse or children can do is ever good enough for the OCPD. The constant nitpicking, exactness, narrowmindedness, and rigidity over insignificant matters can cause family members to feel as though they were going crazy. Here are twelve ways that make them insufferable:

1.       Well-groomed and dressed. The first evidence of an OCPD is their appearance. They are meticulous about how they are groomed and dressed. They don’t need to be in the latest style (that is frivolous spending) but they do strictly adhere to dress codes, even ones that are unspoken.
2.      Black and white thinking. There is no area of grey for OCPD. Things are either one way or another. This often manifests in comparing meals, children, vacations, discussions, projects, and many other areas. It is as if they need things to only be black and white and therefore move anything that appears grey to one side or the other.
3.      Need to be “right”. OCPDs believe there is a right way to do things and a wrong way, and they do the right way. The difficulty is they tend to be analytical and therefore do evaluate until they find the better method. Their primary love language is to be told, “You were right.”
4.      Inflexible values. The black and white thinking frequently results in an inflexible value system which is designed by OCPDs. This is forced tightly on family members without any regard for their opinions because they are “right”. They might listen for a minute but then will lecture for hours explaining why their values are preferred.
5.      Interrogates for meaningless details. OCPDs are obsessed with details. They tend to put little bits of random details together to draw conclusions that are frequently inaccurate. But trying to tell them their perception is in error will only result in more interrogation to prove their point.
6.      Obsessed with rules and order. If a rule exists, there must be a good reason for it and OCPDs expect everyone to live by it. This includes non-spoken social rules, religious guidelines, dress codes, and body language. There is little to no grace for the individuality of another person because their rule is best.
7.      Workaholic. Work is a place for OCPDs to excel especially if their job demands attention to detail and strict adherence to standards. The more positive feedback they get, the more time they invest. If they are unsatisfied at work, this same process can be transferred to a hobby or special interest. Nearly all of their conversations center on this area.
8.      Miserly spending habits. OCPDs will spend money on things they want, but are miserly when it comes to other members of the family. They frequently do budgets to the penny and like to account for every dollar spent. Any unnecessary spending will be met with an intense discussion.
9.      Combs trashcans for things discarded. This is the most interesting aspect of OCPDs because it seems so counterintuitive. They hate to throw things out for fear of needing them again and border on hoarder mentality. In their obsessive thinking and miserly spending, nothing can go to waste. A family member throwing out a worn out item will frequently find it has returned “just in case they change their mind.”
10.   Perfectionist. They insist on doing things so precisely that frequently they are unable to complete tasks for which they cannot do exactly right. The result is unfinished projects all over the house. There is always some excuse for not completing it but they will never admit that it is their own impossible standards that prohibit them from moving forward.
11.    Micromanages. If an OCPD delegates a task, they insist that it be done their way or not at all. Every aspect of a project is micromanaged by OCPDs to the point that others give up. This then justifies the hidden desire to do everything themselves because no one can do it as good as them.
12.   Stubborn. Trying to get an OCPD to see that the above areas are problematic is nearly impossible. They literally have to be on the verge of losing a job, marriage, or child before they are willing to see things through another lens. Their stubbornness is so ingrained that all they can see is their rightness.

All hope is not lost. Just because someone displays these symptoms does not mean things can’t be different. It can be but it literally is a process of one small area at a time. OCPDs cannot change everything at once (their ego cannot handle that blow), rather it must be done incrementally.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Narcissists and People Pleasers Have in Common

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Narcissists and people pleasers seem to be drawn towards each other. While opposites do attract, there are some similarities that keep the connection powerful.

Priorities. Narcissists think of themselves first and very little of others; people pleasers think of others and very little of themselves. Both however believe that their way of prioritizing is right. It is not. The neglect of others (narcissism) is selfish and causes unnecessary distance, confrontation and lack of intimacy. The neglect of self (people pleasing) creates unwanted exhaustion, increased anxiety and also contributes to a lack of intimacy. Without a balance of self and others, a person cannot be fully intimate.

Rescuing. Narcissists and people pleasers love to rescue others however, they do it for very different reasons. Narcissists gain a sense of superiority from saving others because they were able to solve something the other person could not do on their own. In exchange for the help, narcissists demand unending loyalty. People pleasers gain a natural high from the same act as they love to feel needed. This strokes their ego and impression of self as a selfless person. In exchange, people pleasers expect friendship.

Admiration. This is the key to both personalities: the need to be admired by others. Narcissists believe they should be adored because of their expertise, superiority, beauty, intelligence, or accomplishments. It does not matter if they have achieved anything special, narcissists believe they are above others and deserve constant admiration. The term people pleasers defines the essential need for satisfying others and seeking their approval. Without admiration, people pleasers and narcissists  become starved usually resulting in an emotional explosion.

Affection. Affection is not intimacy. Sex is not intimacy. Affection is not sex. However, narcissists and people pleasers are unable to make these distinctions. They see all three as the same thing. Affection is showing tenderness, kindness, and gentleness towards another person. Sex is a physical act which is designed to bring pleasure to both parties. Intimacy is a deep connection between two people where they are equally transparent with one another. Narcissists and people pleasers crave affection but are frequently willing to settle for sex. Often the sex is one way: narcissists seek to satisfy themselves and aren’t concerned with pleasing others. People pleasers want to satisfy the other person and sacrifice themselves. Neither are comfortable being transparent with another person.

Control. Both parties have control issues. Narcissists control through demands, manipulation, and abuse. They are often very aggressive about insisting on their own way and expecting others to fall in line because they said so. Controlling others feeds their self righteous ego. Because people pleasers cannot be seen as aggressive or assertive, they often use others ways to control such as guilt trips, excessive kindness or passive-aggressive behavior. They are masters at concealing the need to control through niceness. But they must control others as well to feed the desire to be liked by everyone.
Unforgiveness. Narcissists won’t ask for forgiveness instead they expect others to make excuses for their poor behavior. They also don’t grant forgiveness to others, even for the same offense,  and instead tend to be very vindictive.  People pleasers grant forgiveness without being asked and ask for forgiveness even when it is not their fault. However, they are unwilling to forgive themselves for similar offenses. This unequal scale for both the narcissist and people pleaser stem from a belief that they are different then everyone else. The narcissist believes they are better and the people pleaser believes they not worthy.

Understanding the similarities between narcissism and people pleasing helps to comprehend the strong and powerful attraction. In each of the mentioned areas, they feed off each other in unhealthy ways and reinforce the dysfunction. 

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

7 Tactics Narcissists Use to Escape Responsibility

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Ask a narcissist if they are dependable and they will say, “I’m the most responsible person you know, you can always count on me.” And they can be. But when the rubber meets the road (an old saying about being put to the test), narcissists seem to wiggle out of accountability. Why?
Narcissists will gladly be responsible for the things they deem worthy, especially when it provides an opportunity to be the center of attention. However, when others place responsibility on the narcissist, the narcissist sees this as an attempt to control them. This violates one of their personal mantras: no one will have power over them. So they escape from all liability. How?

1.       Intimidate/Blame. The narcissist begins by bullying the person endeavoring to hold them accountable. Frequently they resort to name calling and belittling to assert dominance over the other person. Once a subordinate position has been established, they blame the person for attempting to make the narcissist look less than superior.
2.      Accuse/Project. To circumvent any accountability, the narcissist preempts the attack by accusing another person. Usually they pick an overly responsible, co-dependent person who idolizes the narcissist. Then the narcissist projects the things they are answerable for onto the other person. Thus escaping before the attack.
3.      Argue/Exhaust. This is the simplest tactic with great immediate results. When confronted, the narcissist picks one small detail and argues it to the umpteenth degree. If the other person argues back, they pick another tiny point and persistently wear down their opponent. Exhausted, frustrated, and annoyed, the other person gives up holding the narcissist liable.
4.      Deny/Rewrite. One way of avoiding responsibility is for the narcissist to deny they have any. Even if the item is written down, the narcissist will make excuses and rewrite history. Frequently they take the victim role by saying they were forced into being held accountable when in actuality they willingly did so. This tactic often leaves the other person questioning themselves and their memory.
5.      Divert/Attack. This method begins with an outburst over something very insignificant. Then, the narcissist exaggerates the point to incite the other person and draw their attention away from what really is happening. Whenever the narcissist is fueling a small fire, it is to keep the focus off the inferno somewhere else. The diversion is done to drain resources, energy, and time so the narcissist can attack when the other person is vulnerable.
6.      Fear/Avoid. Narcissists have the ability to take a person’s small fear and turn it into paranoia. Their charisma is put to destructive uses as they weave a believable story with an intense dreadful outcome. Once the other person is frightened, the narcissist uses the other person’s terror as justification for avoiding responsibility. They often cite that the other person is reactionary and therefore any requests from the other person should be discounted.
7.      Rescue/Retreat. This tactic is the most manipulative of bunch. First the narcissist rescues the other person from a dreadful situation. Having gained the other person’s loyalty, the narcissist waits. Eventually the other person confronts the narcissist about a lack of responsibility and then the narcissist retreats. The withholding of love/attention/time is so dramatic that the other person becomes horrified and assumes responsibility so that the narcissist will return. Once secured, the narcissist then accuses the other person of not appreciating the rescue. The other person feels bad and succumbs to the wishes of the narcissist even further.

While this article was written with narcissists in mind, several other personality disorders use a couple of these tactics as well. Anti-social (sociopaths and psychopaths), histrionic, borderline, obsessive compulsive, paranoid and passive-aggressive personality disorders all utilize portions of these methods as well.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

The 7 Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Wrongdoing

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Everyone does something wrong. It could be gossiping about a friend, belittling a spouse, inappropriate punishment of a kid, lying to a neighbor, or stealing from work. Regardless of the offense, there are steps that a person must take to demonstrate they have accepted responsibility for their wrongdoing.

1.       Acknowledge Internally. The first step a person takes is to admit what they did was wrong internally. This is the most critical step because it is not about what others see rather it is a condition of the heart. The person must recognize that their behavior was wrong or hurtful to another person and then choose to amend. Many people fake this first step in order to look good in front of others but without it, no real positive change can occur. 
2.      Confess to Another. This step can be embarrassing and is often skipped for that reason. When a person has done wrong to a victim, confessing their behavior to another person allows there to be a level of accountability. This other person could be a close friend, mentor, counselor, or spouse. Doing it before confronting the victim, allows the offender a greater understanding of the severity of the transgression.
3.      Admit to Victim. There are two good ways to confess wrongdoing to a victim: writing a letter/email or verbally declaring. Making general statements like, “I’m sorry for all the hurt I caused you,” however is not sufficient. This is a way to dodge responsibility because there is nothing specific to hold the person accountable. Rather the statement should be, “I’m sorry for verbally assaulting you by calling you a name.”
4.      Declare Understanding. During the confession, it is important to state how the offense hurt the victim. For instance, “You looked sad when I called you that name,” accepts responsibility for a hurtful emotional response. Refusing to state that a painful remark caused unnecessary sadness opens the door for the wrongdoing to be blamed on someone or something else. This step demonstrates a level of empathy for the victim that is essential to repairing the relationship.
5.      Erect a Boundary. “If I do this again, I understand that you will…” demonstrates a grasp of the potential future consequences for any further wrongdoing. It is also a way of showing awareness for the severity of the offense. However, some people use this step as a way to control the outcome. Just because an offender states a natural consequence does not mean the victim has to accept it as offered.
6.      Give Time. After any offense/confession, the victim needs adequate time to believe the change is real. The offender has lost the right to state how long that time frame needs to be, rather it is the victim that now has that control. Real change, like new habits, takes time to absorb into a person. Usually, several incidents of anger, anxiety, depression or fear need to occur to see if the change is permanent.
7.      Be Accountable. Both the victim and the person from step two have the right to question the offender to see if they are following through. A willingness to be accountable to other people for actions and behavior demonstrates maturity and responsibility. A break in this step indicates a person who has not truly changed.

Note that in all of the steps, nothing is required of the victim. It is not the responsibility of the victim to do anything after having been offended. They can choose to forgive or not as they see fit. Instead, all of the steps focus on the actions/behavior/attitude of the offender.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How to Confront an Abusive Person

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

It is hard to confront an abusive person, especially when it is a spouse, parent, employer, or child and the relationship is not easily banished. Sometimes the abuse is so intense, that the relationship must be dissolved for the safety of the victim. Other times, the abuse may be mild but nonetheless is hurtful and harmful in several ways. Here are some suggestions for handling abusive people:

1.       See it. There are seven main ways a person can be abused: physically, mentally, verbally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and sexually. Begin to see the different types of abuse for what they are. At the beginning, this is done long after the abuse has occurred. Eventually, awareness can happen while it is occurring. Here are a few examples from each category.
a.      Physical abuse includes: intimidating body language, isolating person from others, restraining to keep from leaving, being aggressive and endangering another life.
b.      Mental abuse includes: gaslighting (changing the story to make someone think they are crazy), threatening stare, silent treatment, twisting the truth, manipulating, and playing the victim card.
c.       Verbal abuse includes: raging, screaming, swearing, talking over, sarcasm, interrogating, making personal attacks, browbeating, and playing the blame game.
d.      Emotional abuse includes: nitpicking, embarrassing someone to cause shame, guilt tripping, alienation from friends and family, and excessive use of anxiety, anger, fear or rejection.
e.      Financial abuse includes: stealing, forbidding access to funds, canceling policies without warning, falsifying tax records, restricting the other person’s career progress and interfering with work environments.
f.        Spiritual abuse includes: dichotomous thinking, elitist beliefs, forcing submission, legalistic standards, segregation from others, blind obedience and abuse of authority.
g.      Sexual abuse includes: jealous rages, coercion tactics to insist on sex, threatening infidelity, inciting fear before or during sex, sexual withdraw, degrading acts, ultimatums on the other person’s body, and rape.

2.      Speak it. This step requires quite a bit of courage and strength. It first begins by having the victim speak the type of abuse tactic being used in their mind. Repeat this exercise over and over to gain the necessary bravery before addressing an abuser. This is not a harsh speak (there is no benefit to be gaining by being just as abusive as an abuser), rather it is a soft approach. The intent is to bring awareness to the abuser that they are being abusive and allow them to back off or save face. If this method does not work, move on to the next step. Here are a few examples of how to address the abuse.
a.      Physical. “You are physically restraining me by blocking the door.”
b.      Mental. “That stare is not going to intimidate me.”
c.       Verbal. “It is not ok for you to call me that name.”
d.      Emotional. “I am not embarrassed by that story.”
e.      Financial. “When the taxes aren’t paid, that is stealing.”
f.        Spiritual. “I don’t agree with those legalistic standards.”
g.      Sexual. “I won’t be coerced into doing a sexual act that I’m not comfortable with.”

3.      Stress it. The soft approach did not work and the abuse is continuing. As the abuser shatters boundaries, the victim needs to begin by saying, “I’m not going to take this anymore.” Now is the time to add more weight to the statements by letting the abuser know there are consequences for violating personal boundaries. Of course, this means the victim must be aware of their own boundaries first. Here are a couple of examples:
a.      Physical boundary: “No one is going to touch me in a threatening manner.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “This relationship is over if you physically try to harm me.”
b.      Mental boundary: “I’m not going to tolerate an implication that I’m crazy.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “I’m not listening to this revisionism and I’m walking away.”
c.       Verbal boundary: “I’m not going to shout just because someone else is.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “Either you speak to me in a normal tone or we will not speak at all.”
d.      Emotional boundary: “I won’t be guilt tripped into doing something.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “You cannot make me feel guilty and I will not do something out of fear.”
e.      Financial boundary: “No one is going to harm my ability to work.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “My work environment is off limits to you.”
f.        Spiritual boundary: “No one is going to tell me what to believe.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “I will not engage in discussions about this subject with you.”
g.      Sexual boundary: “I won’t be forced into performing sexual acts.”
                                                              i.      Consequence: “I am not having sex when I’m uncomfortable.”

4.      Stand by it. Once a consequence has been stated, it must be carried out if the abuse continues. Otherwise, the abuser will just intensify the abuse next time. It is important to have someone hold the victim accountable for their boundary setting and enforcement. This gives the much needed support when the victim is again being attacked by the abuser.

The only way abuse stops is for people to stand up to it. While this is difficult, it is not impossible. It is possible to have a relationship that is free from abusive behavior.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, or for more helpful resources, please visit us at