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Luann
Luann, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 158
Experience:  Licensed Psychologist, 24 years experience working with children, adolescents, families and adults.
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Although there is a good bit to read about sociopaths online

Resolved Question:

Although there is a good bit to read about sociopaths online I have not been able to find much that relates to dealing with a sociopath who is one's parent -- or worse -- step parent. My step mother controls all the money in our family and I imagine you know that this role is a dream-come-true for someone who fulfills almost all of the sociopath criteria. Clearly the advice given to get as far away from a sociopath as possible would be the way to deal with her except that my daughter and I cannot survive without the funds she occasionally disburses. On the other hand whether I can survive my step mother's lies, games, abuse and neglect is yet to be known.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Luann replied 3 years ago.

Luann :

Hello

Luann :

What a distressing situation for you. You are right, creating distance between yourself and your stepmother is the best approach. This distance does not need to be physical, although limiting your physical exposure to her is recommended. Set time limits for visits, get togethers. Have a reason that you have to leave family gatherings after a certain lenght of time. However, emotional distance is most important. You need to work on creating an emotional barrier between you and her. Be realistic about who she is and adjust your expectations to what she can give in a relationship. Imagine a cloak around you where whatever she says and does bounces off and can not penetrate. If you continue to be effected by her words and actions, you may want to consider individual counseling to get support and increase coping skills. You do not deserve to be treated badly or to feel crazy. Take care of yourself first and foremost!

Luann :

A book that addresses the issues you are dealing with is - "The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us" by Martha Stout.

Customer :

It is more complicated than that as I mentioned she controls not just occasional money but major money. She is an heiress and I spent the last two years on welfare after losing my business in the economic collapse. She controls the money the keeps my daughter in (or out) of school and the ability we will have (or not) to have an apartment. I am the ultimate Pollyanna I guess and it did not even occur to me until I discovered a series of lies she had been telling that there was anything "behind" her behavior. I literally Googled "lies" and that took me on a chain of links until I came to "sociopath" and virtually read her biography. Now I am seriously concerned about how to deal with her knowing I have been clueless until now and ...

Customer :

I don't think that I need ongoing counseling as much as a plan. I read Martha Stout online but again felt that , while excellent for the most part, her guidance titled more toward bosses, boyfriends etc. I see such a huge gap in the area of parents and wonder why that is.

Customer :

Sorry tilted not titled!

Luann :

Wow, you really are in an incredibly difficult spot. You need to grab what options you have and feel like you have some choices. If you are feeling helpless, that is exactly what she wants and will give her more power and control. The reason their is more information geared towards relationships with boyfriends & bosses is because it is more common. Your situation, being financially tied to a parent as an adult, is less common.

Luann :

I recommend you talk to an attorney to see what your legal options are. If finances are a problem, find a legal aid office. Their website might be helpful, www.legal-aid.org. Talking with a counselor/therapist would help you keep your sanity in dealing with your step mother. Having an objective person telling you you are not crazy can be quite powerful.

Customer :

But even if I were not financially tied it would be a problem. What really made her whole problem apparent (no pun intended) at this point was my finding out that she turned my whole family (and her friends) against me by telling them that I had not lost my investment when my business collapsed but rather that I had simply spent it and then gone hat in hand to them. Because she controls everyones financial perks -- or more -- no one ever questions her.

Customer :

I have done both. Step parents and grandparents have no legal obligation whatsoever -- although that has not stopped her from trying to "disown" my daughter/her granddaughter. And legal aid/welfare have been worse than my stepmother.

Luann :

She is probably expert at dividing family members and keeping you from talking to each other. Talk to each other, support each other, this will empower all of you.

Customer :

But can you just tell me -- is there any way to deal with the (huge) lies she tells? Her lies are so damning that in most cases one would never have the nerve to go to another family member and ask (i.e. did you really collapse again and again from alcohol so that you child was going to be taken away from you?) she said this about my sister-in-laws mothers -- I mean -- I would never have gone to the woman or her daughter and questioned them about that story -- how could I?

Customer :

Yes she is an expert -- but as I wrote -- what she says/does it too extreme to question -- and no one wants to talk -- everyone believes -- everyone is beholden -- everyone is afraid!

Luann :

Take whatever she tells you and cut it in half. Don't believe anything she says. You don't want other family members to believe what she says about you, so just accept that most things she says are not true or are partial truths. Work on your financial independence so you can increase your emotional independence. As long as you feel tied to her for your financial wellbeing, you will be miserable. As distressing as it is, you may need to accept that you will not see much of the inheritance, unless you are willing to sacrifice your emotional welfare.

Customer :

There is no inheritance -- I'm just trying to keep my daughter in school and out of public housing.

Luann :

You may need to get your support outside the family - friends, counseling. But you need support and validation. You may need to weigh which is more harmful, her or public housing? These are tough questions and I think your fear may be influencing your ability to make good decisions for yourself and your daughter.

Customer :

And now I know -- not half -- I don't think there is ANY truth to anything she says. But one thing I read said NEVER try to accuse a sociopath of lying. So is there anything to do --except work & get away?

Luann :

I would not confront her, what is the point? She will never admit to lies, she may not even see her lies as lies. She believes what she says. Stay out of any confrontations. Work and get away. Develop a strong support system.

Customer :

Thanks -- ironically this all felt much worse before I learned all the things I read this morning -- because I could not understand why I couldn't understand. Understanding may be 90% of the battle.

Luann :

Absolutely! The sociopath will make you feel at fault and crazy, so realizing it isn't you is huge! But to keep that perspective get the support you deserve. Otherwise she will suck you back into her web of craziness.

Luann, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 158
Experience: Licensed Psychologist, 24 years experience working with children, adolescents, families and adults.
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