According to the psychotherapist Christine Louise de Canonville, sociopaths tend to follow a particular pattern in their relationship with others, manipulatively guiding the relationship through three specific phases in a Machiavellian manner. These three stages are as follows:
PHASE 1: The Idealization Phase
PHASE 2: The Devaluation Phase
PHASE 3: The Discarding Phase
Let’s briefly look at each of these phases in turn:
In this phase, the sociopath presents herself in a positive manner, in order to gain favour and admiration. She may use techniques such as extreme flattery.
If she can make the person she is targeting love and admire her, or, better still, as in the case of a child, become psychologically and emotionally dependent upon her, this makes that person highly vulnerable and gives the sociopath great power to hurt and control him/her.
Once the sociopath has successfully completed phase one, phase two may begin the devaluation phase. In this stage, the sociopath undermines the person’s self-esteem and confidence. She may deride and mock him/her, treat him/her with contempt and disdain, call him/her hurtful and insulting names, humiliate him/her, and become utterly cold, hostile and aggressive towards the person.
Having psychologically destroyed her victim, and the victim is of no further use to her, she loses interest and discards him/her like a plastic disposable razor
Case Study From Personal Experience:
Whilst my mother has never been diagnosed as a sociopath (to the best of my knowledge), my relationship with her as a child followed the above pattern so closely that it is somewhat disconcerting, to put it mildly; I illustrate this, briefly, below:
1) Idealizing: soon after my parents divorced, my mother started to use me as a kind of personal counsellor. She manipulatively reinforced this behaviour by telling me how caring, compassionate, sensitive and loving I was. She even proudly declared that I was her own, private, ‘Little Psychiatrist.’
2) Devaluing: however, my mother was highly unstable, unpredictable and prone to fly into terrifying rages as a result of the most trivial ‘provocations’ (as she perceived them to be).
As I entered puberty, to defend myself against her random, devastating psychological assaults (trying to pacify her, even if I was in floods of tears as I did so, made her worse – indeed, I used to get the strong impression she derived some perverse thrill from my ‘snivelling’, as she would term it).
In a vain attempt to avoid being psychologically crushed, I started to argue with her and stand up for myself. This she could not tolerate. She began to refer to me as ‘scabby’ (I had started to self-harm by picking at my skin), ‘poof’ (I was extremely sensitive) or simply, ‘that little bastard.’
On my thirteenth birthday, in the morning as I got ready for school, she completely ignored me.
Not a syllable was uttered to me (even an insulting one, but somehow being treated as invisible/non-existent, was, if it’s possible, even worse).
She would also often tell me she wished I’d never been born or that she would throw me out of the house.
3) Discarding: indeed, she did throw me out of the house when I was about thirteen and a half. I was forced to go and live with my father and his new wife. I almost immediately intuited I was not wanted there either.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).