Just Walk Away

VW Beater

And keep on walking.

In the end, it’s easy to say sociopaths don’t really matter. The rest of us go on with our lives. We fall in love and marry and have children. We see our friends through the deaths of loved ones. We plant gardens.

Life goes on.

It’s comfortable to say that.

But with this latest sociopath I’ve stumbled upon–

It would be a lie.

In the wake of her destruction, she’s left two co-workers with some serious scars.

One, a young woman heartbroken after her boyfriend left her. The sociopath saw the distrust that followed such abandonment. And she decided to dig that hole a little deeper. Three months ago, that young woman smiled at strangers, was warm and open with everyone.

Now she looks darkly out at the world. Her eyes harden at other human beings. She suspects customers of theft, co-workers of double dealing. She sees unfairness, treachery, deception everywhere. Distrusts everyone but old men.

Another, a young man who was too open-hearted. A little too trusting. Confessed his crush all over the workplace and, being shy, enlisted help. The sociopath volunteered. And she strung him along for four months. Dropping little details about the crush she knew he’d like. Hooked him in further. Drew his heart down deeper. Promising Oh just a little longer, and you’ll get to talk to her.

But she never set up any such thing. He had been sidelined. Eternally.

And in the end, this guy was not the man I met last August. Sweet. Incredibly gentle. A dreamer. Idealistic. Shy. One of those people who seem almost too good. But then they smile, and it’s like sunshine. And you know it’s for real.

Like that.

But after the sociopath got to him, he darkened. This torrent of rage surfaced. And paranoia. The rich, imaginative inner life that gave him the capacity to conjure such goodness–it turned on him. He started to suspect his crush had designed all this to torment him. He started to think maybe all women are like this. Maybe everyone is out to get him. He glared. He became suspicious, isolated, angry.

Seeing this debris field, it’s not so easy to tell myself that sociopaths don’t really matter. I want to. After all, I got out alive. I can still smile. I still pluck lilac blossoms, crushing them between fingertips, and inhale the fragrance.

But two people didn’t. And that changes the board.

I don’t think there’s a perfect defense against sociopaths. But sociopaths depend on games in order to do their damage. They never take the most direct route. They work, Iago-like, through suggestion and implication. They invite you to think terrible things of others.

A better offensive position is to address interpersonal problems and misunderstandings head-on.

What if the young man had simply stepped over the sociopath and approached his crush directly? What if the young woman had refused to believe those little doubts planted in her mind?

No go-betweens. No roundabout campaigns to deal with people. Be direct, and the sociopaths will have a harder time getting to you. Desdemona might have still had a chance–if only Othello had gone straight to her at his first doubts.

So next time, keep an eye out for Iago. And once you spot him, just walk away. Take care of your business yourself.

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